Friday, May 30, 2008


I've been in France for a few days spending time with my nieces and nephew. They are a bundle of energy as usual and it's interesting to see how they've developed in the last year. However, today's post is about my frustration in acquiring visas.

I've gone into Paris twice already. Twice to the China embassy and once to the Taiwan embassy-equivalent. The China one denied visa services to me because I don't have a French ID card. "Go back to the US. It's not our problem, it's your problem." Thanks. That's really helpful. Also really helpful are their office hours - only 2.5 hours in the morning.

The Taiwan office was much nicer. My not having a French ID card meant I wasn't eligible for the multi-entry visa. I could only get a single entry...which for the hefty 89 euro price, really isn't worth it. I could fly to the Philippines with that money and just do a visa run and combine a beach vacation into one.

The difference in the offices wasn't about what visa they could offer but in their method of communication. The China office was just plain rude. The Taiwan office was firm, but polite. It's another reminder about why I'm glad I live in Taiwan now.

I've been researching ways to get a China visa - my last one I got in Australia. Turns out I can't use France, Japan, or Taiwan. One option is Hong Kong, but their website says as an American, I have to go to my home country. So, I can definitely use the US, but even then the hassle of getting a flight ticket (why would I buy an expensive air ticket when I could just go in by ferry/bus/train from HK as I originally planned) and hotel bookings is enough to make me just want to go back to Taiwan early instead of heading into China. Plus there's no way I'm flying back to the US to get a visa...and I can't think of anyone unemployed in SF that could do me this favor.

Here's a blog all about the China Visa policy changes and the effect on business people. And another blog entry about how one guy fooled the system.

In case you need to go the Paris offices, here's the info...

France Consular Office for China
18-20, rue de Washington, 75008 Paris
2 min walk from the George V metro stop, off of Ave Champs Elysees across from Louis Vuitton
Visa hours: 9:30 am - noon M-F
On a Wed at 10:30 am I was behind 50 other people. There is a separate line for Olympics visas.
Services only available to those with French identification.

Bureau de Représentation de Taipei en France
78, rue de l'Université, 75007 Paris
Close to the Solferino metro and Musee d'Orsay RER stops
Visa hours: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm - 4pm M-F
The woman I talked to spoke Mandarin, French and English fluently. There are publications about Taiwan in English, French and Chinese that you can read while you're there or take away. There were 3 people in front of me and the office only had 4 desks and two chairs, so I don't expect it ever really gets all that busy.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chick Night

I hosted a chick night the other night and decided to make cream puffs for dessert. I just about always work on dessert first before entrees and appetizers. I find that if you've got a dessert ready and everything else sucks, well at least you can end on success. It's a bit of an Amelia Bedelia safety net. The first time I made cream puffs was for our Greenlake housewarming party with Theresa and Julie. They were surprisingly easy to make and tasty, too. So I gave another go of it.

My camera ran out of batteries and after recharging I forgot to snap a picture. But they were OK looking. Just trust me.

Cream Puffs
Custard Filling
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 5 T all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 c milk
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 4 eggs
Chocolate Topping
  • 1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
For the custard
You can make this a day ahead to chill in the refrigerator.
  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, flour and a pinch of salt.
  2. Stir in milk, a little at a time, until smooth.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 60 seconds, then pour a small amount of hot liquid into the 2 egg yolks, and stir.
  4. Return now heated egg yolks to saucepan and stir, over heat, until mixture starts to bubble again.
  5. Remove from heat, add vanilla. Cover and chill in refrigerator.
How do you get the space in the center? The dough rises by itself! At a high temperature, the pastry rises, and then the rest of the time is drying it out so it holds its shape. Easy peazy!
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C)
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and water and bring to a boil.
  3. Sift together 1 cup flour and a pinch of salt and pour all at once into boiling mixture.
  4. Stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat, let sit 5 minutse.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition.
  6. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto baking sheet, or pipe into desired shape.
  7. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce heat to 400F/200C and bake 20 minutes more, or until golden.
  8. Cool completely.
Chocolate Topping
This step is optional, but seriously, who wouldn't want their puff with chocolate?
  1. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or slowly over low heat.
Cream Puff Assembly
  1. Use a chopstick to poke a hole in the pastry.
  2. Pipe the custard in. You can use a ziplock bag and cut off a tiny bit of the corner.
  3. Optionally, you can cut off the top of the pastry, use a spoon to fill it with custard and replace the top.
  4. Cover with melted chocolate.
  5. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

I also made homemade burger buns (see below), burger patties (ground beef, chopped onions, worcestershire sauce, dried chili powder, fresh ground black pepper, salt), sesame noodles, and a fresh mozzarella salad.

Burger Buns
  • 2 1/4 t yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried onion flakes or 1 tsp.onion powder -- optional
  • 2 tablespoons butter -- melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup warm water (100-105 deg.)
  1. Place ingredients into bread machine in the order required by the manufacturer. Run the Dough cycle.
  2. Turn out onto floured surface and knead by hand 1-2 minutes. Add more flour if too sticky.
  3. Divide the dough into 10 pieces. Slap the dough into bun shape -- flattened balls, 4-7" in diameter. Put buns on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and let rise about 30-40 minutes.
  4. Optional: Glaze the buns with the egg yolk and 1 t water mixture, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  5. Bake in 375F/190C oven 12-15 minutes or until golden.

Last Week of Shida

This was my last week at Shida for the quarter. Our class finished up Chapter 9 in Book 3, 2nd edition and got started on 10. During the week I ran into 3 out of my 4 previous teachers. One of them just got a job at Mt Holyoke. She'll be gone for 3 years...which is good for them, but bad for us. She was an excellent teacher for the time I had her as a substitute.

Today we watched a strange movie in class. The morning class had leftover fruit and Pringles. One of the Jimmy's brought in peanut treats from Jinmen, and another brought in bags of popcorn and tea. Since I woke up late and missed breakfast I pigged out quite a bit. Just before class ended my left eye started getting a blind spot in the middle. Sign of an oncoming migraine. I was pissed because, well, migraines pretty much always suck. But also b/c I was going to meet my language exchange partner and have lunch at one of my favorite beef noodle shops. Instead I went to bed and tried to sleep it off. I woke up at 5 feeling better. My head still has the leftover pounding feeling, but nothing like the intense part during the peak of the migraine. It should be gone in 24 hours.

Earlier in the week I went in with a friend to inquire about signing up for classes. Jenny, the English speaking office worker, told us that they were no longer accepting new students and were even having trouble finding enough teachers to fulfill all the private tutoring requests.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Last weekend, I went to YangMingShan to celebrate Dan's birthday. We had a beautiful guest house to ourselves overlooking the mountain. We spent the night soaking in the hot springs (diverted into a small tub in the house), eating burgers and cake, and even playing one of my favorite games - Twister. In the morning, we enjoyed the clean air, fresh fruit and yummy bagels. We did a short hike to a waterfall and cooled off in the water. It was quite chilly but in a nice refreshing way.

Note: Catch Bus 260 from across Jiantan MRT station to the terminal station.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Mangoes are back in season! Geoff got me some from Costco that were monstrous in size.

I took these pictures to show my dad. From the first pictures you can see one part cut off from the's definitely bigger than my hand. And in the third, look how thin the seed is! I love mangoes that are all meat.

There are "regular" type mangoes in the fruit markets - these are hit or miss in terms of sweetness but always juicy. And by regular I mean what's normal for Taiwan but nothing you'd ever find in America.

On my way home from Xiaonanmen tonight, I was waiting for the train to come back from Ximen. A young woman asked me something in Chinese and I couldn't understand. I asked her to repeat and still didn't understand. I told her that my Chinese wasn't that good. Usually at this point, a questioner will move on to find someone else to ask. But to my surprise, and delight, she stuck with me. It turns out she was new to taking the MRT and was trying to get to Chang Kai Shek (whose Chinese name I can never remember or recognize which is why I didn't understand her in the first place). And then I found out she was actually trying to get to Nanshijiao and had gotten on at CKS and realized she was going the wrong way and got off where I was. I've made the same mistake before, getting on going in the wrong direction, so I tried my best in Chinese to make her feel better about her mistake. It's always nice to practice speaking with complete strangers. Turns out she is a junior in high school and planning on studying physics in college.

It's the last week of class and we are slightly behind the school's new schedule. They want us to get through chapter 10 but we're only just finishing 9. Most of my class opted to keep the same teacher and so 6 of them will be together again next quarter along with some other kids they found for the 8 person minimum. My plan is to review and forge ahead while I'm on vacation in June (Grr, maybe you can hold me to this by checking up on me like last time) and then come back and start classes again.

However nothing ever really seems to go to plan, so we'll see what happens.