2014年10月24日 星期五

Kapibarasan, kawaii ne!

I first met Kapibarasan when I went to Japan about 8 years ago. I thought it was adorable and I brought home a medium sized plush toy, which I later used as my napping pillow, but after being told my furry friend harboured millions of dust mites that made me allergic, I gave it away. BIG MISTAKE. I still miss it to the day until......I came across a huge Kapibarasan sale!

I actually learned of the sale a week before, but decided to skip it to avoid doing further damage to my already busted budget (winter coats! boots! grownup id renewal!). As fate would have it, I ended up dining at the same mall with my family, and I just couldn't walk away after laying eyes on the dozens of brown-faced merchandise! The Japanese sure are experts at creating and marketing cartoon characters, and I oohed and aahed over every single item I saw. However, being the reasonable shopper I am, I took quite some time debating on whether I should actually make the purchase and which items I should buy. With a little financial support from boyfriend (he said consider it my birthday present!yay!), I ended up buying two things that I don't necessarily need but would find practical.

The first is a Japanese school bag, usually carried by Japanese high school girls. I'm not Japanese and I'm not in high school (I'm a girl though!), but I do love structured bags. The inconspicuous mark at the bottom right corner is a plus, and so is the detachable card holder.
I only realized the magic of these type of bags when I further examined it at home. Besides patterned lining that makes my heart flutter, this bag is packed with practical compartments: there is a place for notebooks, cell phone, keys, secret love notes, and even a place to keep your water bottle upright! So impressed.

The other thing I bought is this, my napping pillow reincarnated! Just like the bag, this one is full of surprises too......
It can actually expand into a blanket! Various buttons and loops means it can be worn a number of ways, and another plus is I can wash it to avoid the dust mite problem, win win!

Though I loved my purchases, they were priced rather steeply even after the sale discount. This is a common phenomenon in Taiwan because suckers like me will still buy anything made in Japan even if it's three times the original price. However, I was quite lucky that day and I came home with all the extras shown above! I won the giraffe-camouflaged Kapibarasan in the centre through the sweepstake and all the rest are gift with purchases. I was so happy I almost shed tears of joy when the host announce my name.

All in all, I was happy with my buys and believe they will accompany me for a very long time. Now, I just have to unsubscribe from all shopping emails......

Have you ever heard of Kapibarasan? What is your favourite Japanese cartoon character?

2014年10月21日 星期二

Blood Donation in Taiwan

Blood donation is one of the easiest ways to give back to the society. The process is fast, requires little to no financial contribution and can be done by any healthy person. Did I mention it saves lives too?

In Taiwan, blood donation takes place in donation centres and specially designed buses as shown above. The buses provide mobility and great advertisement, appearing in schools and country fairs. Some buses are parked semi-permanently in popular tourism spots, e.g. Ximen and Taipei Main Station, to draw from the shopping crowd and nearby activity goers.

Amongst all the signs on the bus, the big A and O are the most prominent and they represent the blood types that are running low in the blood bank.

Sometimes organisations will sponsor gifts for the blood centre to give to donors. In this particular instance, the Taipei Blood Center collaborated with Taipei Hot Springs Association and Rotary Club to give donors coupons for hot springs in Beitou 北投. (I found it to be a bit unpractical since you are advised not to go to hot springs within 24 hour of your donation!)

When I approached the bus I was lucky to be the only one in the waiting line. After showing my ID to prove I'm a citizen I quickly got to filling out the required form/questionnaire, which I had to sign at the bottom. The form serves to prove that I do not have HIV or any conditions unsuitable to donate blood. The most common reasons for not being able to donate blood include not getting enough sleep the night before, having a cold, have taken medicine in the recent week, or being underweight. HIV is specifically mentioned because there had been cases where people used the blood donating process to test for HIV (shame on them!!!).

After completing the form, I was led into a small room in the back of the bus. A healthcare professional went through every single item on the form with me to make sure I didn't lie or misunderstand any questions. Then, she took my blood pressure and body temperature. Since I have lower than average blood pressure and barely made the mark, there were several attempts to drive it up. Finally,  for the hemoglobin level test, she pricked my finger with a needle and extracted a drop of blood, then dropped it into a bottle of blue liquid. My blood drop sank to the bottom, meaning I was good to go. The test looked like a lava lamp and was very fascinating!

When all that is done, I was finally led to my chair. Sanitised and prepared, the needle went in. I was given a blanket, a conscience callback notice, a juice box and a toothpaste and toothbrush set. The blanket was to keep me warm during the 30 minutes I'll be sitting there, and the rest I could take home.

From where I lay, not much of a view, but I found the promo video to be interesting, detailing the history of blood donation in Taiwan.

A piece of gauze was placed over the needle, perhaps to keep me from freaking out from the sight of the ginormous needle? 
Taiwan_blooddonation_vew3As my blood goes into the bag, it is rocked ever so gently to distribute it evenly. I think they also put some of the blood into the test tubes on the side so they could run tests without tempering with the whole bag. (4 colours for 4 blood types, right?)
I was not aware of the time I spent in the chair, but the Taipei Blood Center says it take about 30 minutes for the entire donation process, not including lineups. After the nurse removed the needle and wrapped up my arm, she told me not to lift heavy things, exercise or take hot baths in the next 24 hours. I was also advised to rest for 10 minutes but I was feeling okay so I just upped and left. If you feel dizzy, you can ask for more juice boxes and cookies.
Fortunately I wasn't planning on visiting the famous hot springs nearby or I would have been reeeeeeellly annoyed. Instead, I went to feast on a buffet right after, the waiter saw my bounded arm and he told me to eat more :)

Here is the conscience call back notice I mentioned earlier. If there is any information that might jeopardise the safety of the blood that the donor did not disclose or happened after the donation, they can call the centre who will then destroy the blood. I blacked out the number because it can be used to pull pranks against me should it fall into the wrong hands (eyes?)
A tube of toothpaste as a small token of appreciation for the donor, something practical, but not so expensive that it turns blood donation into a non-gratuitous act.

Overall, I feel like the blood donation process was pleasant and the blood centres are doing wonderful jobs at promoting and maintaining the practice. This was my fourth time donating blood, and I certainly need to do it more often!

When is the last time you donated blood? If you've never done it, would you consider it?

2014年10月9日 星期四

25 before 25

Seeing how I am fast approaching being 25 and how 25 is the perfect number, I took inspiration from Joëlle from La Petite Noob and decided to make my own 25 before 25 list. This list also serves the purpose of reassuring people that I actually do have a plan and that I'm not just an unemployed bum, promise!

Appearance and Health
1. Stretch everyday.
2. Set a simple skincare routine and stick to it.
3. Have several go-to hairstyles that don't involve all-back hair.
4. Have a makeup routine I can do in 20 minutes.
5. Have uniforms for all occasions.
Grown up tasks
6. Learn Excel. 
7. Have a concrete financial plan.
8. Learn how to meal plan for one.
9. Be able to drive a car.
10. Be able to ride a motorcycle in Taipei.
11. Make 5 new friends. 

12. Start a tradition (or two) with my significant other.
13. Host a dinner party.
14. Know my neighbourhood better.

15. Nurture relationship with my juniors from ALSA.
16. Write. 
17. Read all the books I own.
18. Be in a dance recital.
19. Take fashion illustration classes.
20. Learn to take photos manually.

21. Be able to carry out simple conversations in Japanese.
22. Be able to read and write simple sentences in French.
23. Take a solo trip to Japan.
24. Take a more minimalistic approach toward life.
25. Plan out my next five years.

All of these items are things I consider to be of benefit to my mental health, physical health and/or future career. I might be documenting my attempts and accomplishments here, but either way, a friendly nudge is always welcomed! (I lie, don't talk me on bad days please.)

2014年10月1日 星期三

Graduating University

September marks the beginning of a new academic semester in Taiwan, what better way to celebrate it than to look back and reminisce about my graduation?

I graduated from university in June. The graduation season had filled my social calendar with more events than I have ever had in a entire year, even though I'm usually not one for such events, I still managed to participate as much as I could, since it could very well be the last time I'll get to see my classmates again.

Kicking off the graduation season was the Teacher Appreciation Banquet (謝師宴). The original function of these events was for students to show appreciation for their teachers by treating them to a nice meal, but over the years it had evolved into something not unlike proms in western culture, where students get the rare opportunity to dress up and wine and dine in fine hotels. Guys who live in t-shirts and shorts their entire college life showed up in spanking new suits, and girls who never wore makeup were all dolled up with fluttery lashes and pouty lips. Some girls will go all out by showing off various body parts, which I'm glad I didn't see because how is it ever appropriate to show your underboobs to your professors? (Though one may argue it's a way of showing appreciation?)
Clearly I'm not the outrageous type.
Men in suits. Who are they?!
 The Teacher Appreciation Banquet was certainly not the only photo opportunity. In my school, we were able to borrow the academic dresses free of charge for a period of time, and  keep them longer for a small fee. I'm not the most creative when it comes to photos since I rarely take photos, but I did snap a few with friends and teachers.

It's just impossible to look good in something with a non-existent waistline...but look there is a fancy backdrop that the school spent tons of money on!

Besides the more formal banquet, another high light of grad season was the graduation party, Held at a nightclub, the party had me really stressed out because I didn't want to overdress, but didn't want to overdress either. I ended up with the look below and was quite satisfied! Special thanks go to my friend Shaoyu for braiding my unruly hair! As it turned out, people's dressing styles were all over the place, ranging from "Imma kill this night" to "I have no idea what I'm doing" to "I don't give a fuck, only here to drink."
Me and my bae <3 (I feel so on trend using "bae")
I now understand the importance of piling on heaps of makeup for clubbing upon seeing this brow-less photo. My legs look awesome though!  
I somehow ended up on stage for the party girl contest. I clearly stood no chance, cleavage always wins. 
How I looked for three consecutive days. I spent most of my five college years looking like bottom left.
All the exciting activities built up to  the most important part of graduation season, the Graduation Ceremony. Participation was not mandatory and while most graduating students showed up, I did have classmates who weren't able to make it or simply did not want to come.
The people in the back are family members, here to witness the most important moment of their kids life. It's all downhills from here folks! (Joking, heh heh.)
Like all ceremonies, this one began with lots of long speeches by government and school officials. Most of them were bureaucratic and cliche, I even heard some boos from the audience, but I maintained polite and awake like I always do during speeches. If I looked any bit discontent, that's just my resting bitch face.
I wasn't sure if it was impolite to keep my hat on, but decided not to take it off since I meticulously pinned it to my hair and wasn't specifically instructed to take it off anyway.
Running errands for my class paid off and I was chosen as representative for the Turning of the Tassel (撥穗儀式), a rite of passage where the school president changes the position of the tassel on the mortarboard cap from one side to another.
I was also awarded the Excellence in Services (服務優良) certificate for my work in student clubs and public services.
Besides certificates for the selected few, my school made sure that everyone went home with a gift bag to bid us farewell and good luck. My favourite item from the bag was the rice, which was practical and helped support Taiwan's agriculture scene.
Clockwise from top: a small pack of rice, a crystal stamp, a postcard with a maple leaf from campus, nougat, biscuit with school's motto, and a cute bag to hold it all.

All in all, I enjoyed my last days at school and thought the Graduation Student Committee did an excellent job planning all the events. Big thumbs up to you! Graduating from college certainly was a big moment in my life, and I was overcame by post-graduation anxiety, which was a part of the reasons why this post came on so late. I think I have my life somewhat figured out though, and I am planning on posting more, so stay tuned!