Back to the drawing board

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Now that Formosa Moon has been turned into the publisher I have time to sew again. In preparation for designing new costumes I’ve also been practicing drawing. The above is Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. I always liked her patchwork dress.

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Next up is Wonder Woman from the summer blockbuster. Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman was my first crush and my hero as a little girl. Seeing this new version of Wonder Woman was incredible and I sobbed through all the action scenes.

Grad school is starting next week so I’ve been getting more sightseeing in before I’m in class every week.

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Taipei has great public art. This whimsical piece is in a park by Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

Last week I got to go to the Keelong Ghost Festival with Josh and travel blogger Chelsea Pearl who’s here Living Like A Local. You can read his recap here.

Lost In Taipei

What should have been a ten minute bus ride ended up being a two and a half hour misadventure. My language exchange partner Albert had brought me to a polyglot meeting across town. It was fun meeting new people and when we parted ways at the MRT station I was positive I could get home. All of the MRT’s signs and maps are translated into English so is easily navigated.

My subway trip was uneventful. At the bus top I hopped on a bus that I regularly ride to school, certain it would pass our apartment on its route to campus. It was after nine, quite dark and I was tired from a night of socializing. By the time I realized I wasn’t on the road to my house the bus was in another neighborhood. I still recognized landmarks and soon we were pulling into a familiar MRT/bus station.

Perhaps the bus was making a loop before heading to campus? It made sense at the time so I stayed seated. Familiar landmarks soon disappeared as the bus traveled further into the outer stretches of Taipei. Buildings become smaller and large stretches of bare land appeared. By this point most of the passengers had departed and there were only two other people on board. As traffic dramatically thinned I doubted I could hop off and easily hail a taxi.

I asked the bus driver in Mandarin if he was going to my road. He didn’t understand me so I tried in English hoping he’d understand. “Oh God,” he replied in English which I took as a bad sign. He held up a finger and thought for a moment. A few minutes later he pulled over and gestured towards a bus stop, telling me which bus to get on next. I pulled out my MRT card to pay but he shook his head telling me “bu, bu”. I thanked him and walked to the bus stop. The driver drove up a small hill into a parking lot lined with buses. Apparently I had ridden to the end of its route.

My new stop was pretty remote and dark. The area had lots of trees but only a few lights on the main road. The side road to the parking lot was lined with tall metal fencing, piles of random metal and chunks of cement. A stone table and bench was nestled in the shadows but I didn’t dare sit down, worried the new driver wouldn’t see me and would drive on past. A lone bulb shone down on the actual bus sign. The big city noises I have grown accustomed to were conspicuously absent. Across the street three dogs sat in their driveway which was lined by a metal sheeting fence, obscuring any structure behind. The dogs paced and took turns barking in my direciton. Was I still in Taipei? Google Maps told me no.

A man soon came jogging down the hill. It was my bus driver and he came to tell me the bus I wanted was coming in 45. It was 10:34pm. Was it coming at 10:45 or in another 45 minutes? I tried to ask in Mandarin and he nodded, saying “45, you wait here” in English. I was grateful for his help. Determined not to whine to Josh that I was lost yet again I had avoided texting him. He guessed though and after I sent him a screenshot of the map told me I was pretty far outside the city and would be lucky to get home by midnight.

I had been so sure of how to get home! But a bus was coming in either 10 or 45 minutes. I just had to be patient. The dogs across the street started creeping closer, their barks taking on a menacing tone. I hissed back and they slowly went back to their side of the street. They sprang back into action when a motorcycle drove out of the parking lot, chasing it down the hill until it turned onto the main road. As the bike drove out of sight the dogs turned and ran straight towards me.

Taipei is a safe city and while this bus mix up was frustrating I hadn’t felt scared despite being stranded in the countryside. But as there dogs came rushing towards me I felt a surge of fear. They were growling and suddenly their teeth seemed quite large. I didn’t dare try to outrun them in an unknown neighborhood. Plus my bus was due any minute!

Years ago I lived in a notoriously rough neighborhood in Northern New Mexico. (The Mesa has such a reputation that it boasts it’s own disturbing documentary that features some of my ex-neighbors.) My Mesa years were grueling ones and I spent many hours walking remote dirt roads where a stray dog could jump you any moment. Despite my fear, I knew just what to do.

The dogs surrounded me growling. One chomped its jaws menacingly. Growling bark I swung my purse around widely. It had my phone, wallet and a bottle of water-if they got any closer they’d get smacked with enough weight to sting. Then I started jumping in the air while swinging my arms to appear as large as possible. I screamed barked at the dogs until they backed down. They slowly made their way across the street as we barked at each other. I continued jumping and swinging my purse until they were back in their driveway. The three continued to growl but kept their distance.

But what if another motorcycle drove by? Would my strategy work a second time? I was mulling over defense strategies when two headlights appeared at the top of the hill. My bus! It had only been ten minutes but if felt like an hour. The other driver waved me aboard and as I sat down a wave of exhaustion hit me. The ride home was long but uneventful. The new driver even told me when to get off which I appreciated though by then I recognized our neighborhood. Safely back home I sank into bed next to Josh a few minutes before midnight. Taiwan has excellent public transportation but clearly I need to spend some more time learning the bus system.

Two Shirts, Two Skirts

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I had two other pieces of ill fitting clothes from a Taiwan shopping trip. This tank top looked like it would fit but had ruffles that ended up being too scratchy to wear and elastic that made the fabric bunch up at an unflattering angle. My trusty seam ripper soon fixed things.

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Now I have a lightweight skirt that’s great to wear in this hot weather. Next up was this blue top:

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The fabric is a soft t-shirt material but off the shoulder sleeves with tight elastic made wearing it quite uncomfortable. I turned the sleeves inside out, sewed the bottom edge to create two pockets.

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This skirt is one of my new faves-soft, comfortable and light enough for summer wear.

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Selfie skirt pic

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Clothing mods are now done. Now it’s time to buy a sewing machine to make some new clothes!

Puppet Repair

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One of our puppets recently had an injury-the puppet landlord’s body separated from his head in a loud clunk. It was dramatic but thankfully there was no permanent damage. The rubber bands that held the body core to the neck had dried out and split. It didn’t take long to repair but Chad moved fast and tried to claim the puppet throne for himself.

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Head surgery a success, the puppet landlord took back his place in the puppet hierarchy.

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Our puppet drama is heavily influenced by Game of Thrones. (Floyd talks smack like Little Finger and Hazel is in charge of finances.)

Pants Transformation

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There’s a lot of clothing stores in Taiwan and while shopping here is fun there are some challenges. A lot of the stores don’t have dressing rooms so I can’t try on items before buying and many of the clothes are too small for me. I now take a measuring tape which helps tremendously. These pants had a nice stretch waist and cool pleated legs but when I tried them on at home I realized the pants were too tapered for a comfortable fit.

What to do? My trusty seam ripper saved the day! I took out the inner seams, laid out the open pants and realized I now had an excellent skirt.

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The open seams make excellent side splits which give the skirt an excellent drape. Plus it gives some extra ventilation, much needed in this hot Taiwan weather. Drapey scarves are easy to find here and I bought one in a soft lavender. Rebuilding my wardrobe feels so good.

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Josh and I love the new apartment and the abundance of nearby restaurants. We still cook at home too. The other day I made an easy lunch by frying up tofu and veggies with kimchi. So spicy and delicious!

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World Stage Design Conference

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I had my first visitor since moving to Taiwan! My Portland State professor Alison came to Taipei for the World Stage Design Conference. We toured the Dihua neighborhood and I got to take her to my favorite fiber building to explore several floors of fabric stores. She shopped for gifts to bring back home and we found this great gallery of paper crafts where we took the photo above.

The World Stage Design Conference was outstanding! Designers from around the world presented work in the exhibition hall and I was left tingling with inspiration. There were set, lighting and sound designs present but of course my faves were the costumes.

This paper creation was for a production of The Tempest. I didn’t take a picture of the designer info-ahh. But isn’t it stunning?!

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Sofia Pantouvaki created these Tempest costumes below by creating the material using dying and felting techniques.

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Designer Gino Gonzales created this costume for Hakbang Sa Hakbang Measure For Measure. The design concept was a subversion of a “Western ideal”-the costume silhouettes were kept but the materials used were locally produced materials in the Philippines. The piece below is made from muslin, simamay, raffia, coconut shells, hemp and wooden beads.

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Angelina Atlagic created this costume for The Libation Bearers.

Qin Wenbao created this fabric sculpture costume for Maguhu Dream which has layers and layers of folded fabric.

After months on the road and months sequestered writing it was wonderful to be immersed in the world of theater again. The book is almost done so now I can finally start setting up a sewing workspace. I picked up a notebook and colored pencils to start costume designing again. It feels deeply gratifying to return to designing. I’ve missed it!

Kyoto, Japan

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Josh and I recently got back from a trip to Kyoto, Japan. It’s a city known for temples and they were indeed all over.

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These statues were outside a store selling prayer beads.

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It’s stifling hot in Taipei so I was particularly happy that Kyoto was cool when we were there. Josh and I rented bikes and rode next to the river.

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The mochi was plentiful and delicious.

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Floyd enjoyed the visit.

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We found several small temples while riding our bikes.

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Japanese street art.

It was a quick visit but we managed to pack in a lot of sightseeing. And of course the sushi was delicious.