Showing posts with label taipei_life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taipei_life. Show all posts

Saturday, June 8, 2019

My favorite Taipei cafes: 2019 rundown


In the past I've done reduxes of my favorite cafes for atmosphere - which is mostly accurate still, though a few places have moved (such as Nancy), rebranded as restaurants (Anhe 65), are now noisy tea shops (Red House Theater), or closed (Mono Cafe). I've done one for good coffee in Taipei as well - though that's a bit more outdated: My Sweetie Pie is long gone and there is now more than one George House in the Yongkang Street area. I don't think Naruwan Indigenous People's Market is still a thing anymore, either, though I haven't been in awhile.

Both posts are now badly in need of an update - most of the places I mentioned are still open, but I've found new haunts that I like just as much.

To deal with that, I'll leave those old posts as they are (links above) and provide here a new redux of where I'm imbibing right now. This isn't just for folks who live here - when I've traveled to other cities with hopping cafe scenes, I've found blogs in English by committed residents of those cities to be helpful guides as to where to go. So I want to be one of the people who does that for Taipei. Plus, as a grad student, I spend a lot of time in cafes getting reading done or writing papers so my list of good spots has grown.

You'll see some of my old entries repeated here, with new ones added, and I've prioritized places with outdoor seating, as that's so hard to find in Taipei. I've also noted where some cafes are near other good options, as seating can be so hard to come by. There's also a bias towards southern Taipei because that's where I live and hang out. Overall there's simply a lot of bias for "places I actually go to", so there's not much more to unite them thematically than that. No pretension to "the best" or "the top 10" or whatever - just my real world.

Instead of looking up each address like it's still 2010, I've gone ahead and made a Google Maps list, which you can access here. (I realized after I'd made it that I could actually create a map rather than just a list, but I'm too lazy to go back and re-do it, so this'll do for now.) 

Heritage Bakery and Cafe


This 'newcomer' (opened in 2016) has quickly become a go-to spot in the Taipei Main Station/Ximen area. Pretty much everything about it is excellent - you feel as you walk in that you're somewhere in New York being exceedingly posh in that middle-class hipster sort of way. If that doesn't sound appealing to you - a bit to gentrificationy - don't let that deter you (you're not gentrifying much here - the neighborhood is much the same as it always was). Go for the bright, attractive upstairs seating with exposed brick walls, the very good coffee and other drinks (non-coffee drinkers can choose a variety of teas or fizzy drinks, or beer) and most of all, the desserts.

Oh, the desserts.
Westerners who complain that Taipei doesn't have good dessert options can shove some of this cake in their cakehole - from fluffy, perfect, cinnamony cinnamon rolls which sell out quickly to pink guava cheesecake to sea salt caramel Belgian chocolate cake all in generous or even huge servings, this place knows how to do Western-style desserts. The foccaccia sandwiches are quite good too - try the chicken avocado club.

It's not particularly cheap - drinks, sandwiches and a cinnamon roll for 2 will cost you NT$900 and change - but it's not insane. 90-minute limit on holidays and weekends. Otherwise, pretty much the only downside is that the air conditioner is often on full-blast, which makes it a bit chilly. Bring a cardigan.


This Cafe ((這間咖啡)


This is quickly becoming one of my favorite work cafes. Very strong social movement bent (check out the "I Support Taiwan Independence" banner in the back), good wifi and lots of plugs - it's quiet and you can usually get a seat. It's a little dimly lit but that just adds to the charm and isn't a problem if you're on a computer, and the table in back is set under antique Taiwanese milk glass hanging lamps. They have non-coffee drinks including beer, and a small selection of sandwiches and salads which are reasonably priced. I think I also like it because the guy who most often works there knows me on sight and knows my order by heart now. Plus they're open pretty late. There are other cafes nearby, such as Perch (nice, but often crowded) and PuiBui, which I haven't tried yet. 

Cafe Le Zinc

Set in the back of an old Dihua Street shophouse, Le Zinc can be accessed through the Art Yard ceramics shop from Dihua, or directly from a little lane that snakes around the back. Seating is limited but I've never had a problem, and the well-lit long table has plugs. There's also strong wifi. Windows look out into the narrow courtyard of the old house, where the bathroom is. There's an extensive (but expensive) wine list - house wine by the glass is more affordable - beer, coffee and light food. Music leans toward the jazzy and old-fashioned, which I like. It's a good place to work (on account of the big table, wifi and plugs) and also a good place to meet friends just to chat.

In fact, this whole area is bursting with cafes - if you can't get a seat at Le Zinc, you can surely get a seat somewhere. There are so many that I can't possibly put them all on my map.



Dihua Street is actually bursting with cafes these days - a huge change from my first few years here when it was a somewhat forgotten corner of the city where you could do a little fabric or dry-goods shopping and check out the old buildings, but not much else. If anywhere in Taipei has gentrified, it's here - and yet the fabric and dry-goods sellers still mostly seem to be in business. Where Le Zinc stands out for its table space and wine/beer list, Fleisch has some unique coffee drinks - my favorite being a latte with dried Mandarin orange (dried citrus slices are fairly common dried goods in Taiwan - they make a nice drink steeped in boiling water.)



A very new addition to the Dihua Street cafe scene, Hakkafe was opened by an entrepreneurial Hakka guy named Terry who is friendly and enthusiastic about his mission to create a modern cafe space with a traditional Hakka twist. The space is large, minimalist and quiet, done in shades of black, white, gray and wood. We especially liked the Hakka BLT (with Taiwanese pickled green chilis), and the brownie was wonderful. I highly recommend the Hakka breakfast tea - Terry noticed that England has a 'breakfast tea' culture but Taiwan, another tea-drinking nation, does not. So he set out to blend his own. The results are stunning.

This is the only place on the list that doesn't actually serve coffee, but you won't miss it if you try the Hakka Breakfast Tea.

It's also near funky-looking Chance Cafe (
一線牽), which I haven't tried yet. 

The Lightened

Formerly Backstage Cafe, which had a student activist/social movement theme (yes, a theme, but the former owner was apparently active in those circles), The Lightened is now associated with Anmesty International Taiwan. Located on Fuxing South Road near the back gate of National Taiwan University, The Lightened is unpretentious, well-lit, there are lots of plugs and good wifi, and you can always get a seat. The coffee is good (and fair trade), there's a small selection of beer and the desserts are homemade. On weekends a spunky black-and-white cat might be around.

Rufous Coffee

Almost directly across the street from The Lightened, Rufous is a bit darker, more famous, and is known for having top-notch coffee. Any of the single origin choices are good, and the Irish coffee is spectacular. That said, non-coffee drinkers won't find much here, and they don't have much in the way of food, either. I like it for its cozy, friendly atmosphere, though it can be hard to get a seat sometimes. Not far away there's a 2nd branch, which is quite close to URBN Culture. 

Shake House (雪可屋)


 I simply cannot write a post about coffee without including my long-time hangout. I don't know why I go to Shake House. There's no wifi, nor any plugs. The bathroom is tiny and through a dilapidated passageway. Lamps are hanging flower pots with ribbons. The chairs are ancient. But I just love the place - it's like, in every city I live in, I need my student hangout in some old building that's falling apart, and I just get attached to it. That's how it is. The coffee is good, the chicken sandwiches above average, the beer selection excellent (and affordable as cafes go), they're open very late and the music is...eclectic. From odd movie soundtracks to church music to Johnny Cash to John Coltrane to whatever. You just literally never know what you'll get. Also, I know the owners and they know me.

If you really need plugs and wifi, Cafe Bastille is just across the lane (and there are other cafes in the area, including Drop Coffee and its new neighbor).

Drop Coffee (滴咖啡)

Drop is another coffeeshop I always include. On Xinsheng Road just across the street from NTU, the space is a renovated Japanese wooden house. The owner is passionate about coffee and does a mean siphon brew. The dog - 橘子 (Orange, although he is black) - is unfriendly in a comical way. There are a few teas on the menu as well as some desserts but really you come here for the coffee. A new place has opened across the lane which has more space, but I haven't checked it out yet.

Cafe Philo

If you go to any sort of political or activist talks or activities, you know Cafe Philo. They have a space downstairs just for that. Upstairs, they have generous space and a wide menu which includes food. I've been going there recently as I'm taking a course (not related to my Master's - because I'm insane) and I can always get a seat.



This large black-and-white space on Yongkang Park advertises itself as an ice cream shop, but you can absolutely get coffee here. They have a good deck if you want to sit outside, and the coffee is high-quality. You can get some interesting coffee drinks here that you may not find elsewhere - I had iced coffee in a glass flask that I could pour over a giant ice ball, and my friend had a huge ball of iced coffee that melted as he poured foamed milk over it.

Caffe Libero

Another classic, I've found myself going here less ever since Red On Tree left (they used to sell excellent French-style pastry confections on-site), and they close early on Sundays. But I still love the place for its outdoor seating, quirky indoor decor, cigar selection and more.


Near 8% and Libero, Yaboo has decent sandwiches and - most importantly - cats! Also a nice atmosphere, but it fills up on weekends. A seat is not guaranteed. But the cats are sweet and friendly.


Another minimalist place, I like it for its weird shape and good coffee (though all they really have are coffee and a small dessert selection). Big windows let the light in, and it's called Angle because it's set in a weird triangular building outcrop on Rui'an Street (Pillow Cafe, which is also good and used to have a corgi, is nearby. They're under new ownership - hence no more corgi - and friendly.) I find myself here on the occasional Sunday as one can usually get a seat, and there are good views from the bar seats.

Slo-mo Cafe

This place has generous indoor seating and an outdoor area partitioned off from the lane - although smoking is allowed outdoors, it's never too overwhelming. The lane is not particularly busy (except at rush hour) - you may know it as the shortcut between Keelung Road where the gas station is and the Far Eastern Hotel or Carnegie's. The only real downside to sitting outside is that there are some mosquitoes - but that's an issue with all of the outdoor options listed. The desserts are standard cafe fare - though I like the lemon cake - and the glass of white wine I once got on a scorching day was pretty good. Even better? This place never seems to fill up.

Beautiful Tree Coffee (美樹咖啡館)


This place is tiny and odd, run by a friendly older man. I absolutely love it. There's something of a rainforest theme going on, with a little outdoor area that has birds. And a ceiling with faux stained glass skylights! I'm not sure how to describe this place beyond that, it sort of defies description and, like many quirky spots, is in a gussied-up old building. The coffee was fine, and I genuinely liked their ham and cheese sandwich. Not too expensive, either. It's very close to Slo-mo as well as another place called Kaldi that I haven't tried yet. 

A8 Cafe

A8 is one of my favorite workspaces. It was opened by world-famous Taiwanese indigenous pop star A-mei and employs indigenous staff. The space has a sort of industrial decor (concrete floor, warehouse windows, exposed brick) with good lighting, big shared tables as well as individual tables and couch areas (one of which is set under a real potted tree - my favorite spot), quirky decorative elements, plugs and good wifi. They have a full menu of cafe standards as well as meals and alcohol, but they close a bit early (around 9pm, but they'll let you stick around until they really pack up for the night.) They're closed on Mondays and sometimes take business breaks, but nearby 青沐, which is technically a restaurant, will let you order a drink and just hang out if they're not too busy. There's also a nearby place called Pachamama which I haven't been to, but looks cool. 


I go here because it's near my home - it's not really a workspace but you can sit outside on the little deck, and it's basically a cool, bare-bones espresso bar in a quiet lane. 

Cafe Costumice

The Big Mama of cafes where you can sit outside, Costumice is that cafe everyone knows about, and yet you can usually get a seat (not always outside, though). Its major selling point is the huge front deck (bring bug repellent) which feels like an outdoor urban oasis. Though they are a little expensive, they're worth a splurge. There's a modest but pretty good food menu, wine (including a sparkling white which makes for a decent champagne on a hot brunch-y day) and beer.

The Key

I'm including The Key's cafe - The Key is my gym - because I've been spending a lot of time there, and they make a real effort to provide quality fare at good prices (and members get discounts). Strong wifi, plugs, a range of sandwiches and a protein-rich chicken meal if you're keto and a good range of drinks beyond coffee make it a fine place to hang out. It's been useful for me to go to the gym, do a short session on one of the cardio machines, and then head to the cafe to get some grad school work done. There are a few tables outside as well. Just down the road is another cafe decorated with hanging plants which looks promising as well - I think it's where the churro place used to be - but I haven't checked it out yet. 

Coffee Tree (咖啡樹)

This spot near Zhongxiao Dunhua has a range of fattening desserts, beer, coffee and more. The interior decor is interesting, but we go because they have outdoor seating along a lane popular with pedestrians. It's near Quay Cafe which I haven't been to but would like to try. 


My go-to spot when I'm in the Taipei Arena neighborhood. Coffeeology has truly excellent coffee at great prices. No food - just some cookie-like snacks - but you can get a large latte with Irish cream (real Irish cream, not just a flavor syrup) for very little money by coffeeshop standards. There are a few chairs outside, but the whole space is fairly open so you feel like you're outdoors even though you're technically not. Great beans to bring home at good prices, too. 

Zabu (in its new location)

I actually haven't been in ages because it's quite far from where I live, but if I'm in the north Tienmu area, this is my spot. It's the same Japanese-influenced hipster haven it's always been, with great rice balls, cats, and student-funky decor that it used to be in Shi-da all those years ago before the jerks made that neighborhood boring. 


Every few months, I teach a six-week course at the Shi-da school of continuing education, on the campus that Yongkang Street hits as it ends. During one of these classes, I have to give my trainees their final exam and then stick around to pick it up, so I go to cat.jpg while they work.

You'll find cat.jpg one lane behind that Shi-da campus, where are a small klatch of cool places, including Bea's Bistro (friendly, but more of a restaurant), Nom Nom (below) and cat.jpg. There's also a local population of yellow-and-white street cats and an urban garden, some of whom are friendly and all of whom seem to be kept healthy and fed by the local community.

cat.jpg has two of their own cats who are sociable enough (one is firiendlier than the other). They have wifi, a big work table and sandwiches on the menu. 

Nom Nom


Nom Nom is not only a great cafe (and place where you can buy ceramic ware), but also a decent brunch spot. Sandwiches and fried chicken are served with luscious little salads, and there's French Toast on the menu. Try the cumin chicken sandwich with apple and honey for sure. Their milkshakes are straight-up luxurious, served overflowing on lipped coasters so they don't mess up the table. The mint chocolate milkshake is garnished with mint leaves and a dried orange slice and then sprinkled with chocolate bits. Also, the place is Peak Taiwanese Hipster.


Classic Coffee (品客經典咖啡)

Classic Coffee, in the Shi-da Road neighborhood which used to be fun, doesn't look like anything special. There's food and perfectly good coffee. But this place has a major selling point - a super friendly old cat who will aggressively love you, and a similarly friendly fat corgi who gets jealous of the cat. It's my favorite cat cafe because that cat is just so in-your-face with the cuddles and snuggles, and it's a fluffy cat, too. 

Notch (Front Station)

I don't typically expect funky, studenty coffeeshops in the Taipei Main Station neighborhood - it's an area loaded with cram schools, cheap shopping, a few government buildings...not a place where students really hang out. But this particular branch of Notch brings it. It's also not particularly far from the Legislative Yuan, so if you need a place to go after a good hearty protest, this is a great choice. When the same-sex marriage bill was passed last month, I spent a period of time here out of the pouring rain, watching the deliberations at the Legislative Yuan on their good wifi (far better than trying to connect alongside 20,000 other people standing outside in bad weather). 

Look Upstairs (上樓看看)

An excellent 'work cafe' in Xinyi near City Hall Station, this place has good drinks and beer. There's food too, but it's a little expensive. Lots of space, good light, wifi and plugs - you can settle in here to get things done, especially upstairs. Some tables and countertops even have desk lamps. 

2730 Cafe

Another cat cafe! This little place in a tiny shack-like building is very close to Liquid Bread and is attached to a vintage store (of which there are not too many in Taipei). I've only had the beer and coffee - they have a DPP beer! Which...odd, but tasted fine! But a big selling point here are the two cats, one black and the other white. It's also easy to get to from Xinyi, an area that isn't exactly known for its great cafes, so it's a solid choice in that neighborhood.

BreakFirst Cafe & Studio (棗點咖啡)

Sometimes we take care of a friend's pets in the Dazhi area, and this is our go-to when we're around there. The main selling point (beyond seats usually being available) is that they have several cats! 

Lion / LineUp Dessert


I ended up liking this place because I reviewed it for FunNow - but it's a funky little spot in an area not known for cafes (the Zhongshan Elementary School MRT area), with great desserts and solid croque sandwiches. The coffee is just OK, but I go for the desserts.

Jing Xin Cafe (晶心咖啡館)

To be honest, this isn't a place I go to hang out - it's sort of a hybrid coffeeshop and crystal shop in an odd corner of Taipei. But, they roast Taiwanese coffee beans which make great gifts (and they sell them at a reasonable price), so I wanted to include them for this reason. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cool MRT Art (For Once)

I know that's a little unfair - I do kind of like the art at NTU Hospital Station, after all, especially the weird entwined-fingers-and-palms bench.

But otherwise, the MRT seems to be a repository for weird hanging things, fiberglass primary color sculptures without much hidden meaning, sometimes-good, sometimes-not art from winners of local contests, terribly-photoshopped advertisements, and occasional poetry (again from some local contest), most of which I don't particularly care for.

I passed one small bit of public art, though, at Zhongxiao Fuxing Station on the mezzanine above the blue line, that I really liked. 


It's a cartoonish MRT train (eh), but in each window is a lovely diorama depicting different scenes of life in Taipei, with both modern and historical street scenes - in some cases intertwined. There's a night market:


A school building rife with Chiang Kai-shek iconography:


A Dihua-like Old Street:


A shadowbox of evolution from mom-and-pop midcentury store to convenience store:


...and more.

I often lament that the East District, which feels like it's slowly taking over Taipei with its shiny storefronts and air-conditioned department stores, has little of interest. Little to no good public art, few if any historical buildings, and a lot of expensive crap I don't want or need (and a lot of expensive bars I don't care for). I've always preferred looking westward in Taipei - West of Xinsheng/Songjiang and I may like it, east of Xinsheng and I probably don't.

This little smidge of public art proved that it's not all doom and gloom - there are still occasionally bits of actual culture as you head east. It's not all Sogos and Luxys.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Best I Can

from here
Those of you who are my friends on Facebook know that I'm currently trying my hand at a windowsill potted herb garden. I bought two kinds of thyme, rosemary, basil, sage, two kinds of mint, catnip, a raspberry bush, bergamot, tea tree, verbena, chamomile, two kinds of lavender and oregano. This in addition to the plants already out there: two orchids, a huge bougainvillea, a small poinsettia and two plants I can't identify that the former tenant left us along with aforementioned bougainvillea.

I'm not much of a gardener, but I try to check them every day and add a bit of water whenever the soil looks too dry or they look a bit wilted, and am cautiously beginning the task of learning how to add fertilizer - which kinds, how much and how often. I'm not very good at it, but generally speaking, I've been able to keep my plants more or less alive. I figured it would be like expat life - a bit shaky at first, a few brown leaves and wilted stems here and there. Then it would get a little easier and require less watchfulness. Then a bit easier after that, and then something approximating normal and natural. Living in Taiwan has become like that. Most things do. Gardening should follow that paradigm too, no?

Not many of you know that my mother is an excellent gardener. Growing up we always had fresh produce mixed among the staples from the grocery store, herbs growing like weeds, profusions of flowers and a landscaped front and side garden. Lilacs would perfume the breeze blowing into the kitchen window. I loved it, even as I chided my mother for doing things like running outside in a rainstorm brandishing a knife because "I need to get a squash for dinner!" I felt, growing up, that all she had to do was look at those plants and they'd just sprout for her, like fecund, green little servants. She knew exactly how much and how often to water them and while she had failures, she had enough successes that we didn't notice.

But all of you do know that we're currently dealing with a serious family illness, and now I feel I can say that the illness we're facing is my mother's. I'm going to reveal a bit here, not because I'm generally in the habit of talking about family illnesses but for two other reasons: first, it will help you better understand what I'm going to write below; and second, this might be useful for anyone reading who is dealing with the reality of living on the other side of the globe while a close family member faces illness, and the reality of how to approach expat life in such a situation.

So, basically, my mother has cancer, it's not the kind you can "cure", it's metastasized, and while chemo is working for now, eventually all cancers become immune to any available chemo drug after it's been used long enough on the patient. She's healthy now, and things are basically OK...for now...but as you can probably extrapolate from the above information, it's not going to be OK forever, and not even necessarily for very long. The only bright side is that it's not one of those "you have six months" types of cancer.

While, of course, my mother's health is first priority, it does raise the question of what we should do.

My sister has a cram school job that she doesn't even like and a pre-furnished apartment - although she adores Taiwan - and she's 25. So, when she's ready, she can chuck the job and move back home without any major or long-term life consequences. My career is here, my cat is here, my entire social life (except for a smallish group of good friends in DC, New York and Boston whom I've hung on to) is here, my wage earning potential and strongest employability is, if not here, then in a country where English is not the native language. I'm thinking of this also in terms of disposable income. I could possibly find work in the USA, but would have significantly less to spend after taking care of the essentials, and disposable income is, honestly, a very useful thing to have when dealing with a family illness and the reality of visiting often.

After a long conversation with my parents - perfectly ready for my mom to say "please come home as soon as you can", and perfectly ready to act on that, because she's my mom and we're now talking years, not decades - we all agreed that for now, we'd stay.

I would not have made this decision without the blessing of my family. I simply would not have. I could not have, as much as I really do want to stay in Taipei. As much as it's my home - really my home. As in a home I like rather than merely tolerate as so many expats seem to. This is the only thing that keeps me from leaping into a pit of "Jenna, you are so selfish". We all agree that this is what's right for my and Brendan's lives and careers, and that visiting every six months, especially for the holidays, is an acceptable solution for now. This is why disposable income is so important: we can afford it. This is why tending to your career is important: I have the flexibility to do this.

And having most of your social network around you is important, too: I know my friends back home would be there when I needed them. My direct experience, though, has been here: and as upset as I have been these past few weeks, I can say that people have come through. All I've really needed recently is a few sympathetic ears (talking about it helps - this is what I learned from the last time we went through this and I was more secretive, and it affected my physical health), and I've gotten them. A friend cut out of work for a few hours to keep me company the day after I found out (I thought I'd be OK, so I hadn't asked my husband to take off work). Another friend, who is generally a difficult fellow in other respects, came through for me in the evening when I still needed company. A few friends have told me their own stories of family illness, reminding me that as horrible as I feel right now - as much as I fight back tears and my stomach sinks when I think of the future - that everyone has a sad story to tell. Nobody gets a perfectly green garden under a perfectly blue sky.

We also agree that the time will come when something may have to change. I don't fear this in terms of the changes it will bring to where I live and what I do (although I can't lie: those worry me too), but more in terms of knowing that when that time comes, it will be near the end. It fills me with tears, weeks after hearing the first bit of bad news, to think that I might reach that time, look back, and regret the decision we've made now. Will "every six months" seem like it was enough? Probably not.

All I can say is that we're making the best decision we can now, for the situation we're in now, and as much as I might regret it, I will at least have this. I'm doing the best I can.

I used to think of the Pacific Ocean as an annoyingly wide but otherwise surmountable thing. Now I think of it as a deep, unending pit of separation. And yet, I'm doing the best I can.

Students and local acquaintances tell me how great it is that I live here, and have this idea that expat life is this magical thing in which all foreigners are rich and happy and having adventures and have better lives. I say nothing, but there's tension right between my shoulder blades. Do they know the price I'm paying to stay? No, because I've chosen not to tell them. But it is a hefty price, and it sits right there in that knot below my neck. The one that hasn't gone away since all this started. And still, I'm doing the best I can.

I'm jealous of my sister - she can chuck it all and move back home. I can't do it nearly as easily and I'd suffer real consequences.

She's jealous of me because she can't afford to go home every six months, nor does she have the job flexibility. She doesn't have the luxury of choosing to stay. Choosing it, for her, brings consequences I can somewhat avoid.

Today dawned cool and lightly overcast - not the interminable dark gray of winter but a lighter, cleaner grayish blue. It was almost welcome after two days of sweating under a hot blue dome. I parted the sheer blue curtains on our living room window to see how my herb garden was holding up.

Well, it wasn't. My tea tree and bergamot are basically withered stalks (although the tea tree has some straggly hope). My raspberry bush and oregano have noticeably dead brown spots. My thyme is completely gone - this surprised me: isn't thyme a Mediterranean plant? Can it not survive heat spells? The other plants are dangerously wilted. Even the mint was very unhappy - I thought you had to basically actively kill mint to get it to die - what gives? My basil looked sad.  The sage was floppy and hanging off the edge of the pot rather than standing up straight. The chamomile is half gone, not looking like anything I want to harvest for cooking. Only the rosemary, orchids and lavender (surprisingly) are soldiering on, and one of the lavenders isn't quite happy.

I gave the whole lot a good watering, and I see some improvement, but all in all I'm worried. Will my plants make it? Will I be able to continue making pastas, drinks, sauteed meat dishes and stews with my own fresh harvest? I'm doing my best, but will my best efforts pay off?

Was I ever guaranteed a happy ending in which all my plants were luscious and green, and Taipei was eternally a great place to live, without having to worry about life back home? Could I ever really have counted on a green life under a blue sky - no brown spots, no bits that didn't quite work out, no issues that could not be resolved satisfactorily despite my best efforts? Did I really think I could do my best and that it would pay off, always, every time?

Finally, what makes me sad as I survey the blasted heath that is my window garden, is that I know deep down I started it in part because it's something my mother would do - not that she'd ever live in the middle of a big city as I so enjoy doing - but that she finds a way to grow plants wherever she is. She'd have the ability to make those plants thrive. I think I was hoping against all rational hope that I'd cultivate that ability too: a little piece of my mother in Taipei that lives on in the green thumb I am determined to inherit, whether it is my rightful legacy or not.

It really saddens me that, so far, I'm failing.

And yet I will continue to water my plants and hope hope hope - because I do not pray - because I'm doing the best I can.