I can’t believe this is my 5th day in Taiwan already. The flight over was long and uneventful (just the way I like it) and we were served two substantial but mediocre meals. I didn’t even use a whole Gravol pill, which tells you that the flight was unusually smooth. When I arrived in Taipei on Sunday, I was packed into a cab with all my stuff and off we went for a 4 hour cab ride to Tainan College.
I have been checking the weather reports in Winnipeg everyday and hesitate to tell you that I’m struggling with the heat and extreme humidity here. The nights are starting to cool off nicely, but during the day, the heat is still stifling. I know I shouldn’t complain — I’d better absorb as much of it as I can. Fortunately nearly every space is air conditioned, except for some reason, not the washrooms. Toilet paper is scarce and I’m really glad I thought to bring some with me! So far, I’ve managed to avoid the squat toilets, but I marvel at how fit and agile everyone here must be.
So far I am enjoying the workshop and everyone in it. There was a bit of misery and angst at first because many of the supplies we requested were not available when we arrived. It wasn’t until one of the participants flipped out that we started to get some action. We all have a student assistant (we are working at a graduate level college) and mine is totally sweet and hard working. Her name in English means Beautiful Moon. She keeps me on track, giving me deadlines for glaze testing and kiln firings. The school is relatively well equipped and seems to have most of the materials I need; however, I haven’t seen the results of my glaze tests yet, so we’ll see how they compare with things back home.
Everyone is experiencing anxiety about the Taiwanese clay bodies (there are 2 to choose from) and for those of you who me, you may be shocked to here that I chose the red clay! My assistance has been busy pugging paper pulp into the clay to make it easier to work with. And, oh yes, did I happen to mention that when I arrived I discovered that our ceramic lanterns had to measure 2 metres in at least one direction. Yikes! Somehow I missed that little detail. Had I known — perhaps it’s best I didn’t. I had to make a quick change in plans — it’s certainly going to be challenging, but I guess we’re all in the same boat. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Other than settling in and working, we’ve made one trip to the market in Tainan, which is the largest city near us. It’s hard to describe the experience — the heat, the humidity, the smells, the people, the scooters (everywhere!) and all the exotic fruits, vegetables and meats — well you had to be there. It’s amazing! We will also be treated to a whole series of concerts played on traditional instruments here at the college, since the college has a large music program. On the weekend we are hoping to take a little break and get back to Tainan. It’s about 20 minutes from the college.
Anyway, time to get back to work. We have to finish constructing our pieces by October 12th. Then they dry, while we make some extra pieces for a show in Tainan (they just sprung that one on us). During drying week, they will also be taking us on a tour of eastern Taiwan, which apparently is the most beautiful part of the island. Can’t wait! Then back to the college to fire our pieces. This is an extremely tight schedule for such large works! Wish me luck.
Hope everyone at home is doing well and not shivering too much. I am doing fine. Finally getting over the jet lag! There are some amazingly talented people here — a fun and inspiring group. It should be good! Bye for now.
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Just noticed in this weekends globe and mail (sat oct 4) the announcement that Walter Ostrum is receiving the 2003 Saidye Bronfman Award.
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