Crazy Cold

 But not today. 

I can probably say this is the worst winter in the whole duration of my stay in Taipei. It was 3 degrees last Sunday and people were flocking to Yangmingshan (mountainous area 45 minutes away from Taipei) to see the snow. I wanted to see how Yangmingshan looks like with snow but it was below zero over there so I didn't bother. Some of my church friends went and had a hard time looking for a ride back to the downtown area. They arrived home close to midnight with most buses to the main station filled to the brim. As for me, I was knocked out by 9:30pm with a painful, throbbing migraine.

The crazy-cold weather lasted until Monday night and so did my migraine. I really wanted to call in sick to work but they might need a medical certificate so I quickly popped a painkiller and braved the 7-degree weather outside. I felt slightly better after work. I downed a cup of hot brown sugar milk tea, bundled up in my fleece blanket and a think layer of comforter around 9pm and I was off to dreamland. The next day, it was a sunshine-y 22 degrees. Hay Taipei, you've got to be kidding me.

It will be rainy again for the rest of the week until I leave for my short vacation. I have yet to buy some stuff for my aunt and cousins, and then start packing. I'm excited, but there is a terrible pang of guilt inside of me for taking this trip.

Anyhow, drama aside, these are some of the highlights of my week:
We visited a friend in Wugu last Saturday and they prepared a simple but delish Filipino feast consisting of arroz caldo, guinataan, maja blanca, and cassava cake. My contribution was the surprise home-baked chocolate cake (the one with green M&Ms) and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. A good meal shared with friends truly warms even the coldest of hearts... like mine mwahaha!

We threw a surprise birthday gathering for our dearest Ate Emma and Auntie Belen on Sunday. They are part of my Sunday family and have always been looking after me since I started going to Holy Family. During our dinner celebration, we were able to video call Peter, Agnes and my goddaughters in Japan. I cant believe how fast these two girls have grown in so short a time! Emi was asking Ninang if she can enter the phone screen so we can bake again together. Awwww I miss these two babies.

That's all I have for now. Offices here will be on holiday from Feb 6-14 for Chinese New Year. I'll extend my leave for a couple of days to enjoy some solitude. Wishing you all a happy MONKEY year! 恭賀新禧!!! 萬事如意!!!

Taipei Series: Yoga Studio Review

A screen cap of the feature story I wrote few years ago

This is the first post of my "Taipei Life" Series that I aim to blog in the next couple of months. I thought of writing about where to find this and that, how to go about things, and my general reflections on Taipei life to help fellow expats/readers know more about this little island I call my second home.

Tomorrow marks my second month with Pure Yoga. It's been two months of joy and pain! I'm grateful that every day for at least an hour, I get to be at peace with myself, not worrying about anything, and just focusing on my breath and balance (although sometimes I think of what to eat after class). There are frustrating days when I dread the pain of maximum stretching, but I love pushing myself and knowing my limits. My yoga instructor Robert would often say "Indulge your muscles! Invite every emotion, feel the pain, the joy!"

Yoga sparked my curiosity in 2012 after stumbling upon a magazine write-up discussing its health benefits. I started researching about yoga in Taiwan and came across a blog written in Chinese, which contained all the things I needed to know about yoga in Taipei. I benefited so much from that blog even with my then limited Chinese reading ability (a little less limited now haha!), so I would like to return the favor by writing an English version of my own experiences.

Royal Yoga
Royal opened in 2012, during the period of my heightened interest in yoga. I bought Groupon coupons (when Groupon was still operating in Taiwan, they closed down last year) worth NT$400+ for four classes. I was impressed then because it was very new and the lockers were spanking clean. They have 3 studios in total, 2 regular and 1 heated room. Classes are conducted in English with Indian teachers (but some do try to mumble in Chinese), and Chinese with Taiwanese teachers.

I signed up for a one year contract. I had one favorite teacher, an Indian named Master Sun, who taught very well and would always try his best to guide each student. I also frequently attended the classes of other Indian teachers, who were all okay. Master Sun left after several months and it was never the same again.

I cancelled my contract mid-2013. I did not enjoy it the way I used to, perhaps because I lacked motivation, and the studio was looking a little unkempt. Maybe they were too busy attracting students that they forgot to maintain the studio. I'm not sure how it looks now, but they opened another branch along Roosevelt Road.

How to get there:
2F #150, Fuxing North Road, Taipei (MRT Nanjing Fuxing Station)
B1 #91, Roosevelt Rd Sec. 2, Taipei (MRT Guting Station) 

Hatha Yoga Taipei
While contemplating if I should sign up for a gym membership or another yoga studio, I ended up trying Hatha Yoga Taipei because of their pay-per-class system. You can try one 90-minute class for NT$500, an 8-class pack for NT$3000 (good for 6 months), or one-month pack (one class daily) for NT$3500.

They only offer Bikram classes- hot hatha, for 90 minutes. They have one spacious studio with infrared heating, but very few showers which can be a concern to those who want to take a bath right after a crazy hot Bikram session. I think I tried their class once or twice and found 90 minutes in a hot atmosphere a little too much for me so I didn't get any of the packages. The classes I attended were in Chinese, although you can tell them if you're more comfortable in English.

How to get there:
3F #33, JinShan South Road Section 2, Taipei (MRT Dongmen Station)

Pure Yoga
After more than a year of yoga hiatus, of constant slouching, sluggishness and almost close to zero physical activity (save for some evening brisk walking around Sun Yat Sen Memorial), I decided it's time to get back on the mat... and to get back in shape. I went to Pure's free trial class after our two big events November of last year and signed up for a one-year membership.

There are two Pure Yoga branches in Taipei- I go to Pure Tower. I love this studio. It is very well maintained even after several years in business. The staff are very courteous, and the teachers topnotch. Quite a number of them are foreigners, so the medium of instruction is not a problem.

Among my favorite teachers are TJ, Una, Jun and Robert. TJ is a Taiwanese who grew up in the US. He teaches really well. There is always an interaction between him and the students, maybe because he is also a doctor by profession? He likes using props like belts, bolsters and blocks which makes the class really fun. Una is Taiwanese and a former dancer. Her classes are very entertaining but challenging! Jun on the other hand is more strict than the rest, but her classes although a little strenuous, are very engaging. She has a beautiful voice too and sings/chants for us during final shavasana.  Robert from the US has his own "touch" when teaching. He pushes you until you can no longer stand and motivates you to focus and never lose balance. I don't know how he does it, but even if I feel like dying after his class, I get out of the studio happy and full of energy!

How to get there:

3-9F, #151 Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 4, Taipei (MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station)
4F, #1 Qingcheng Street, Taipei (MRT Nanjing Fuxing Station)

Other yoga studios in Taipei:
True Yoga #563 Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 4 (MRT Taipei City Hall Station)
Space Yoga #27 Anhe Road, Section 1, Taipei (MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station)

Most yoga studios offer free trial classes, but expect a "sales talk" right after your ommm session. Don't be too gullible though. I told the sales person in charge that I needed some time to think about it and he respected my request. You can also ask if you can take additional one to two free classes to help you decide. I think it is important that you enjoy your classes and you like what your yoga studio offers before you read thoroughly and sign the membership contract. Hope this helps! Drop me a line using the "Contact Me" box to your right if you need more information!

UPDATE (2/2019) After 12 years of operation, Pure Yoga Taiwan closed its doors on January 25, 2019. 

Baby Steps

Happy new year! I hope your first week of the year 2016 went well. I'm back to regular programming and my boss just handed me my proposed work schedule for 2016 yesterday. We went through the list of events lined up and all the work that will be assigned to me. I'm starting to write down some of my goals for this year, wishing I'd be able to accomplish them, one baby step at a time.

Travel and family time

My travels for the first quarter of the year have been sorted out. I had no vacation days since the second half of 2015 (yes, that long already) so I'm making use of the Chinese New Year holiday next month to visit my aunt in the US. PAL had a 50% off Independence Day sale last year so I grabbed the opportunity to buy a roundtrip ticket to LA. I'm really excited to see my aunt and tell her so many things about my life. 

My dihia- my second elder brother- will be home in April. I'm looking forward to spend time with my brothers again. Virtual togetherness through Viber and Facetime can get boring and tedious at times. He said it will be an easy vacation, no need to go somewhere else. Although I really want to visit Palawan with the family, we all decided to let it go and just enjoy the company of each other at home. We haven't done that for so long. I also plan to give my mom a trip to Bali as a birthday gift, perhaps during the second half of the year. Still crossing my fingers on this.

Faith, hope and love
Each year presents challenges that will lead us closer to Him. I remember kneeling in prayer and lifting all my fears and worries on New Year Eve's Mass. And until now I can still feel that peace inside of me- peace in knowing that He is in control of everything in my life.

I'll share one funny anecdote: My mom and I are very close, but I don't tell her about my love life (because there really is nothing to tell haha!) or dating life. So one afternoon out of nowhere, I sent my bestfriend a message which went something like this "I think this is the year I will fall in love, and this is the year you will give love another chance." I pushed send. I got a funny reply which didn't sound like my bestfriend at all. It said, "I'm so happy to hear that from you!" I double checked the message. It was from my mom. Daaaaang. I accidentally sent the message to her. How can I be so stupid?! But I hope that made my mom happy hahaha. Well, bahala na po kayo, Lord. 

Health and financial well-being
After a bout of illness last month, I realized how important it is to seek professional medical help and to find a doctor you are truly comfortable with. I've learned to take care of myself more and to prioritize my health above anything. I'm still scared to visit hospitals and schedule a doctor's appointment, but I'm getting there! Health is wealth so take your multivitamins daily!

And speaking of wealth, I think I did relatively okay financially the previous year. I wish I could have done better but 2015- specially the last quarter- taught me to be good with money.  My small goals for 2016 include adding a substantial amount to my PH and TW savings account, to finish building my PH emergency fund, and to continue funding my COL, VUL and AXA accounts.

I hope these goals will remind me each day to work hard and never stop dreaming. May 2016 be our best year- a year to love, to hope, to dream!