About dinamschwartz

Writer. Photographer. Bibliophile. Traveler. Teacher. Student. Daughter. Sister. Friend.

Yang Shin: A Review

Yang Shin – I am about to rave about Yang Shin. If you are looking for a delicious, unique vegetarian restaurant in Taipei then go to Yang Shin. If you are not vegetarian and you want some good dim sum, go to Yang Shin. Since I am not the only person who has discovered how good the food, the service, and the ambiance are at Yang Shin, make a reservation or you won’t get in to enjoy the deliciousness.

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Yang Shin is located near the SongJiang Nanjing MRT Station. It was easy to get to but took us a minute to figure out to get into the restaurant as it is on the second floor of another building and the entrance in at the end of narrow hallway through a bakery. Once you see the sign outside, just go in and look around, and you’ll figure it out.

We arrived a few minutes before our reservation, and they seated us on time. We sat and looked through the menu book – and it is a book, I kid you not. The menu is in English as well as Mandarin with plenty of pictures. Unfortunately, there were only two of us which was so difficult because we wanted to try so many different things and only had two stomachs to fill. *sigh*

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We finally settled on five dishes: kung pao deep fried spicy stinky tofu, baked shaobing  with ji-cai, vegetarian xiao long bao, steamed vegetarian dumpling, and steamed rice noodle roll with day lily and lily bulb.

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Kung pao deep fried spicy stinky tofu: The tofu was fried on the outside and soft on the inside, slightly sweet and a little spicy served with cashews and peppers. There was a lot of this, and we couldn’t finish it.

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Baked shaobing with ji-cai: There were three buttery, flaky pastries with sesame seeds on top and a buttery, salty spinach filling. Truthfully, these were my favorite.

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Vegetarian xiao long bao: There were three tiny, perfect dumplings that were made of silky, soft pasta with a savory, juicy mushroom filling.

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Steamed vegetarian dumpling: There were three of these as well. They were slightly bigger than the shaobing and beautifully made in a shell shape with the same silky, soft pasta and a filling of greens (not sure what kind exactly but very good).

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Steamed rice noodle roll with day lily and lily bulb: These were long, soft rice noodle rolls with the day lilies and lily bulbs inside. The texture was nice, but there was very little flavor. Out of the five dishes, this was my least favorite and the only one I wouldn’t order again or recommend.

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Even though we were quite full, we still decided to get a dessert so we tried the pan fried pumpkin flannel cake. If you are looking for something really sweet, this is not for you. It is very good but only slightly sweet on the fried bottom with sesame seeds, a light pumpkin flavor to the dough, and a taro filling.

The texture and taste was very satisfying once I got past the expectation of a super sweet dessert. It does not resemble what I consider cake in any way but is more of a gooey, chewy mochi texture. I probably wouldn’t get it again only because there are so many other things to try, but it was very good.

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Fortunately, I have a good friend here who is great at research and loves me! So when I did the 30-Day Vegetarian Challenge, she looked up interesting places to go. We didn’t make it to Yang Shin during that time frame, but it looked so good that we decided to make a reservation and go last night. It was such a treat. Thank you, Blair!

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Taiwan: Taitung and Dulan

My time here in Taiwan is going very quickly. A part of me didn’t expect to find a job in a different country for next year, and I thought I’d have another year to explore this beautiful country. As excited as I am about my new job and moving to a new country, I am just as sad to be leaving a country I have come to love.

With only a little bit of time left, I am attempting to see places I’ve already seen and loved and visit a few more of the places I haven’t been to yet. The rain thwarted my efforts this past weekend although I did find a new market (so fun!), but my fingers are crossed that I’ll have another chance to do some of the things on my list before I go.

One of the trips I took last year that I haven’t yet written took me to two of the few places I’ve been to outside of Taipei and the furthest south I’ve been – Taitung and Dulan. Jon and I planned to visit Taitung, Dulan, and Green Island, but we only made it to two out of the three.

We flew out of Songshan Airport to Taitung on Friday night. It’s a short and easy flight, but we still arrived pretty late. Our hotel was out of the town proper near a fishing port. It was a rainy, dreary night, and we were so hungry!

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View from the balcony of our room

We went looking in a misty rain on a dark night down alleys and around temples and discovered that, at 7:45 pm, everything was closed or closing except a tiny, local restaurant. When I say restaurant, I mean wooden shack. When I say tiny, I mean a room filled by with three little tables that seated two in front of a cooking area and a glass case with seafood for us to select for them to fry up.

Additional seating outside was occupied by a few people, but we bypassed them and went in. One of the young ladies followed us in a few minutes after we ordered and informed us that the place was owned by a husband and wife team who were incredibly sweet. I’m not sure where our new friend was from (I can’t remember now), but she spoke both English and Mandarin. The wife whom we had ordered from using the point and mime method did not speak any English, but the husband whom we had not yet met spoke a little.

The young lady told us she was staying nearby, had been to Green Island the day before and ahd gotten badly bitten by a stray dog. This was not reassuring to me since we were planning to go there Sunday, but she said it was an unusual thing to have happen. She’d had to extend her stay in Taitung, though, because of the bite and this couple had been very kind to her.

She sat and talked to us while we ate one of the most delicious meals of fried food, and the owner brought us the most delicious Taiwan beer I’d ever had. I wish now that I’d taken a picture of everything, but I was too tired that night to think of it. For a spontaneous meal on a night when we thought we’d be eating 7-11, we were off to a great start. We walked back to our hotel room – a suite on the top floor (three stories) with a huge bathtub where I planned to soak for the next hour.

Taitung:

The next day we took a taxi cab to Taitung Forest Park then walked around Taitung City, visited the Taitung Railway Art Village then had an amazing meal made specifically for us at a restaurant where one of Jon’s co-workers had a friend.

The park was lovely! There were so many different kinds of plants with everything labelled and described

The Taitung Railway Art Village was adorable. It had hot air balloons everywhere, little shops, an outdoor area with vendors selling crafts and t-shirts and jewelry, and, of course, an old railway station with trains!

We left there completely stuffed and wandered around the night market. For such a smallish city, the night market was packed! I took a million pictures and drove Jon crazy then we headed back to the hotel where I almost immediately began vomiting. Jon slept while I spent the night by the toilet throwing up every morsel of once-delicious food. Let me tell you, it was not as good coming back up.

We were supposed to leave for Green Island the next morning, but the boat trip over is notoriously rough. Having spent the night vomiting, I was still feeling queasy and definitely not up for a rough boat ride. I spent the morning in bed while Jon went out and explored some rock park in Taitung. By early evening, I finally made it out of bed, and we took a walk by the water near the hotel.

The ocean is so calming and always awe-inspiring. This area had people fishing and large fishing boats and lots of rocks which made it difficult to walk.

Dulan:

We hitchhiked the next day to Dulan, getting picked up within 10 minutes of putting out our thumbs. The couple who picked us up spoke a little English, were willing to drive us anywhere, and were disappointed we didn’t speak Chinese. We got our picture taken so they could post it on Facebook, presumably entitled “The Disappointing Foreigners.” They dropped us off at the Dulan Sugar Factory and continued on their way back to Taipei.

We took pictures, wandered into and out of a few shops, walked through the one-street shopping/restaurant area of town, got directions to the beach, and headed down. The beach was stunning. We spent a few hours in the water before hunger drove us back to the one-street town where we ate at a vegetarian Mexican restaurant, Pink Rosa. It was good, not great, but filling and the closest thing I’d had to Mexican food since I’d arrived in Taiwan in August!

After lunch, we decided to hike off our food and headed up the mountain. It was rural and awesome with fields of crops and fields of cows and the occasional truck or scooter passing us on the two-lane road. We were still in our bathing suits and getting burnt and getting chafed by our wet clothes. We found a clearing with some benches in the woods and quickly changed before heading back down.

We found our way back to the abandoned sugar factory and hitchhiked home. It took us a little longer this time to get a ride. A car pulled up with a little bit of room in the backseat with fishing gear, and we climbed in. We had a male driver with a female passenger again, but the female passenger spoke fluent English and talked our ears off the entire way back to our hotel, spending part of the time berating us for not knowing Mandarin and the other part promoting the driver’s band.

It was our last night in Taitung and, by now, we were exhausted. We showered, found another local restaurant to eat in, and fell into bed.

Living in Taipei doesn’t begin to give you a taste of what it’s like outside the city. In the city, there are places I can’t eat because I don’t speak the language but I can find another place a block over that does. I have many choices, and it’s easy to live here without speaking Mandarin. Also – public transportation is easy and takes me within walking distance of all the important places.

Outside of Taipei, it’s different. In the rural areas, it’s hard to find people who speak English and it’s harder to get around and there is no public transportation. We basically relied on taxis and the patience of people to understand our halting Chinese coupled with their usually slightly better English, Google translations, and hand gestures.

Keep all of this in mind when you decide to venture outside of Taipei. It’s worth it, but it’s definitely harder.

Wrap-Up:

Taitung is a cute, small town that is challenging to navigate on limited Chinese skills. We easily saw almost everything there was to see in one day.

Dulan is an even smaller beach town that has a beautiful beach and beautiful scenery, but that’s it. Go if you want to spend time relaxing at the beach with no other agenda.

All in all, it was a relaxing weekend, but I still regret that we didn’t make it to Green Island. *sigh* I guess there is no way to predict getting sick – and maybe I’ll be back here on vacation one day to see all the places I didn’t make it to while living here!

The Hard Stuff

There are times in my life when I feel like I’m losing my mind and that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Okay, there are lot of times in my life that I feel this way. Sometimes I feel this way when the day before I was completely sure of where I was headed and what I wanted to accomplish.

Today is one of those days. It is pouring down rain outside. I’ve spent a crazy week trying to get the paperwork together for the visa for my next move, figure out the logistics of the steps for my move, do my current job which is fortunately not too terribly stressful, and not completely freak out about moving in less than seven weeks.

I’ve been trying to relax today, but a part of me is so excited and another part is trying not to fall apart in panic. This is me: two conflicting sides. This is my life and what I do to myself. I think part of it is that I’m alone. I do all of this alone. And I never stick with any one thing so I’m constantly learning new things, changing things, and complicating my life. I exhaust myself sometimes.

I don’t know if this sounds like I’m bragging or if I’m having a pity party, but it’s neither. It’s just who I am. It’s not better or worse than others. It’s simply the way my moods swing and my brain works and it’s how I’ve chosen to live my life. I don’t regret anything except that life is probably not long enough for me to do everything I want to do, but I’m okay with that as well. I plan on plowing ahead until I can’t or don’t want to anymore. Then I’ll stop and settle and be grateful I did as much as I did.

But there are moments like now when I want to bury myself under the covers and never leave. However, I know that’s not an option and that, when I finally come out from under the covers, the option I will wish for is the one that takes all the work. So I may as well do it and finish the hard stuff as soon as possible so I can get on with enjoying the good stuff.

Isn’t that just the way?

There’s no easy path to get the life you want.

Learning Mandarin

Learning Mandarin Chinese is hard. I’ve read it. I’ve heard it. I’ve experienced it.

Learning another language is always difficult, but Mandarin takes it to a whole new level. For one thing, the characters look different. They sound different. Then throw in tones, and it’s on, baby. The same word can have different meanings depending on how you pronounce it – and some of the sounds are nothing like the sounds we use in English!

Needless to say, I’ve lived in Taiwan for two years where the primary language is Mandarin Chinese, and I’ve barely gotten past a few words and phrases. The only thing I consistently order in Chinese is coffee. The rest I point and motion to explain what I need.

I’ve been lucky living here in Taiwan because enough people speak English or, at least, have enough English skills to help me that I haven’t had to learn Mandarin. I’ve tried. I’ve half-heartedly tried. When it started making me feel stupid, I quit. Then I would try again a few months later and so on.

I haven’t made much progress.

However, I got a job in China.

Yes! I got a job!

And it’s in Shenzhen, China.

From what I’ve read about China, English is not as readily spoken. So I’ve started trying to learn Mandarin. Again.

It’s still hard. But this time I’m more motivated because I have a feeling I’m going to need it. I feel like I’m picking it up faster than before because of my past sporadic studying. It’s somewhat familiar. I’m trying to study at least once a day.

After my lesson today, I was feeling really good about it.

Until I went to a restaurant I go to a lot and tried to order my usual salad in a different way. *sigh* I had no idea how to explain it in Chinese and resorted to lots of pointing and hand gestures until the owner figured it out. I immediately felt like a failure.

But this is what learning something new is like. The progress is slow. And you may feel stupid at times. But you can’t quit. If you quit, you definitely won’t learn it, but, if you keep trying, you will eventually get better.

I mean, how else will you spend your time? If the choice is between watching television and learning something new, pick the learning something new option. Ask yourself: at the end of the day, which one is going to be more memorable, not to mention more useful and, quite frankly, more interesting?

So what skill have you been putting off learning?

Maybe now is a good time to start.

Taiwan Dragon Boat Festival

This weekend was the Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan. This is a Chinese holiday that is attached to three different legends, all of which involve a dead body in a river and of which dragon boat racing came from.

The most popular legend surrounds the suicide of a famous poet in China, Qu Yuan. When people found out about his death, they got in boats to search the river for his body, feeding rice to the fish to keep them from feeding on his body. Now we have dragon boat racing and zhonzi (sticky rice dumplings) to commemorate the day.

I didn’t go last year so I made sure to visit Dajia Riverside Park today for the last day of races to see what it’s all about.

I walked there from my house which took almost an hour and wound up being more of an adventure than I anticipated as I was propositioned on the way by a man. This is the first time in the almost two years that I’ve lived here that I was treated this way by a man so I was rather shocked. I guess it happens everywhere. *sigh*

Anyway, I moved quickly away from him once I realized what he wanted, made it to the park, and got absorbed into the festivities and festive atmosphere.

The park had rides for the children, food and drink vendors, games for adults, music, and, of course, the main attraction with the races on the river. The teams wore matching shirts and many of them were warming up in the fields and open concrete spaces to get ready to row. As the teams would walk in front of the spectators, they would cheer them on.

The boats all look the same, but each team carries a flag with their team name and logo. They have a person in front with the flag, a drummer who drums the timing of the strokes, and a person at the back who uses an oar to directionally steer. When the gun would go off to start a race, the beat of the drums and the chants accompanied the rowers’ efforts. They were drowned out a bit by the music and announcements going on, but I could imagine what they were like when they first began.

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It was a hot, hot, hot day. The races were short and fast. I couldn’t imagine preparing for the race only to have it over so quickly, but it still looked fun!

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Today, all of the races were local teams, a few races with high school teams, but, on Sunday, there were expat races where everyone entered had to have a foreign passport. The races ran all day from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Someone told me that the later the day and the later the time, the better the racers. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but the racers I saw Sunday morning looked pretty good!

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While I took pictures, this guy drew the races and looked so absorbed in his work. It was a pleasure watching him.

I can’t wait to compare the races here to the ones in China. From what I’ve read, the dragon boats vary greatly in appearance from region to region and country to country in addition to the way they celebrate. I look forward to seeing the races in another place next year.

Taiwan: Fulong Beach

Since Taiwan is an island, I thought I’d be going to the beach a lot when I moved here. Um…no…because Taipei isn’t that close to any of the beaches and the trip to any of the beaches can be challenging with crowds. I’ve only been to a beach here three or four times now. Fulong Beach this past weekend was the best one I’ve been to so far because of the 2017 Taiwan Sand Sculpting Competition.

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Up until this weekend, I had only seen sand castles built on the beach by families. This was so far beyond that. This was art.

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I had the privilege of watching two men work on Spiderman, but I wish more people had been working. It was great. Sand sculpting is the right term, for sure. They treat sand like stone and sculpt it into shapes and figures and buildings.

They use water to make sure the sand if firm and stays in place then use a flat knife, a brush, and assorted other tools. The detail is amazing.

 

Like the eyes on this figure –

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And this angel’s wings and hair –

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Fulong, though, is more than just a sand sculpting competition. It is a beautiful beach with kayaks, sailboats, canoes, hiking trails, biking trails, fishing, surfing, paddle boarding, temples (this is Asia, after all!), people-watching, and a few restaurants. We got rained out so didn’t get to do much outside, but it is worth the hour or hour and a half trip from Taipei even to spend a few hours there. It’s also very inexpensive so it won’t break you to spend a weekend at a lovely and relaxing beach.

Check it out if you get a chance. It’s very quiet so don’t go there expecting a party! Go if you are looking for a quiet weekend surrounded by friendly people, the ocean, and the mountains.

Oh – and don’t forget the sunsets.

Job Hunting and Dating

Job hunting is like dating – and I hate both. I haven’t written in what feels like forever because I’ve been busy looking for a job for the coming up school year. I’ve interviewed with five schools, trying to find the right fit and what I discovered is that I feel like I’m dating.

There’s the search for a good fit. You want to be open-minded, though, because it may be different once you speak to someone about everything you see so you decide it’s worth a shot.

You send them an email to let them know you’re interested and attach your resume to give them a chance to review your qualifications and decide if they want to give you a chance as well.

You wait by the phone and check your email every five minutes hoping for a response.

Then they contact you! You get excited then nervous and wonder if you really want it badly enough. But now you’re stuck so you get ready for the interview.

You get dressed up, butterflies in the stomach, hoping it’s a good match.

You arrive early for the interview, not too early because you don’t want to look desperate, but you feel a little desperate because you want it so badly or you think you do or you at least want them to like you and want you on their team.

Then the interview. You’re nervous at first then you relax as you start talking and get a sense of the interviewer and the job.

Then it’s over and, once again, you’re waiting by the phone and checking email to see if you get another chance to impress.

They reach out and you have to decide: Is this the one? Do I continue or move on to the next one? Is it fair to go for a second interview if I’m not sure I want it? Is it fair when I know I have a second interview with a job I’d rather have?

It’s exhausting.

For now, I hope the job hunt is over and I’ve found The One (for the next two years anyway).  I’m waiting on a contract…still constantly checking email.

Unfortunately, I still have to put myself out there on the dating scene. But I actually think I learned a few things about dating from this interview process!

  1. It’s important to be yourself because, otherwise, it’s not the right job. You both have to be honest to make a good fit.
  2. It’s okay to say “no” if it’s not the right one for you and no one will get hurt. The sooner you say “no,” the better so they can move to the next one.
  3. You will absolutely feel it in your gut when it’s the right one.

Fingers crossed that the contract arrives soon so I can stop checking my email.