Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan


Flying Visit to Penghu and the Museum of World Religion

Our friends are over from the UK, so for the past few days we have been showing them the delights of Taipei.  They have also been exploring other parts of the island by themselves. Last week we all got the plane to Penghu, and then from there we took a boat tour and scooter ride around the small sparsely populated outer island of Wangan.

We were almost not going to go based of bad weather reports, but the weather couldn’t have been better. Blue skies, blazing sun, a fresh and strong wind free from the constant Taipei humidity, it felt like another country. Our friends got quite burnt thinking their factor 20 British sunscreen would be enough for the Taiwan sun, it wasn’t.  Sadly Fiona got struck down with some sort of bug  while we were visiting the green turtle conservation centre on Wangan, and was expelling liquids out of each end. Continue reading


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We Sold TalkEasy: A Summary of Last Year, and The Year Ahead

[A TalkEasy tour from last year]

A little over a year ago we managed to finally find a place suitable for a school which passed the stringent fire regulations that every other building had failed. After a month of so of scrubbing and sanding we were ready to launch the brand “TalkEasy” and within the first week got enough students to cover all our running costs and pay each of us a modest wage. We always kept wages low knowing that the most important thing was to make sure our costs were covered first, but with rent being so low, and the only commodity being our own teaching, our monthly expenses were relatively little. Trying to open a school in England would have been a no go (for one thing, no one goes to cram school in England) and secondly, the initial investment and subsequent insurance costs would have been too high without investors. Continue reading

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Outtakes From Our Competition Winning Film

The short movie that we made about Penghu tourism won the top prize and crushed every other competitor.

We will be doing some sort of prize ceremony in Taipei in the New Year but for now here is a short video of outtakes.  You might not understand most of it, but it’s only short and features both Fiona Potter and Gwilym James.  

Thanks for all the votes.  The video hit 10,000 views in 4 days, and currently stands at ~24,000, (not quite Gangnam Style).



Penghu Residents Become Internet Sensation

Fiona and I went for lunch today at the Vietnamese restaurant for a French baguette. Upon walking in I knew instantly that we had been recognised. Two full tables of high school /uni students were giggling and poking each other to look at us. Considering this movie that we made has had over 10,000 views, it’s not surprising that we are minor celebrities in penghu,especially among the thousands of teenager who spend their evening glued to facebook chat. We returned home and found that we were on the front of the newspaper. Fiona dictated and I transcribed the following article article which remains true to the original translation Continue reading


Day 3 of Filming

Read Part 1, Part 1.5 and Part 2 first.

Click the pictures for true HD, pockmarked, freckled, wrinkled, wizened old faces.  

Hair and makeup was booked for 6am, but since Fiona takes an hour or so I decided to sleep until 730. We headed into Magong city for the first time and changed into our wedding clothes. Filming was taking place in the old town and when we arrived the crew had already set-up the camera and mics.

The first scene was of us having our wedding pictures taken, which involved filming an expensive camera with an even more expensive camera. We had to stop and move aside every few minutes to allow tourists and scooters to pass.

The next scene involved Fiona running down the narrow street, scribble something on a postcard, and me run after her while the proprietor shouted something. By this time the sun was high in the sky and the 8 or 9 takes that It took meant that I was baking, and kept requesting for tissues to mop my brow with.

After a few more scenes or running down passages, we arrived at the oldest well in Taiwan. It had previously been quiet, but as we set up, a coach-load of people and tour guides arrived and so filming was paused.

They didn’t look to be moving off anytime soon so the director decided we would film with people in-shot, and so I had to push through the crowd saying “excuse me”, pause, look around, and continue running. Not the hardest scene to do, but when 60 or so pairs of eyes are watching your every move it’s not easy.

In-between takes, people were asking to take pictures with me, and so up until the word Action! I was hugging tourist and flicking peach signs. Morning shooting was a wrap and we headed to lunch together.


In the afternoon we headed back out of town to pick up the child actor. At 2 o’clock we reconvened outside the Penghu County Government and filmed a scene where Fiona steals an electric bike while it’s being re-charged. Luckily my scene of stealing the childs bike to chase here was done in just two takes, so I went inside the Government building to borrow some conditioned air. Our friend Chloe came along to watch and brough us some fresh lemonade and took some fun pictures while we waited in the shade.

In the afternoon re re-returned to Gunyinting, where the final scenes was to take place. I finally caught up with Fiona who has been running from me all day. We were eventually happy with the take, but sadly the school nearby was being demolished so that the sound was unusable. We attempted to dub it there and then while looking at the playback of our selves onscreen, but this proved to be almost impossible, so we may have to go back and re-dub this at home.  I can’t imagine how this will look in the final cut, and could end up looking terrible. We took a final picture of us all together then changed into civilians and headed out to a celebratory meal courtesy of the director.

Plate after plate of delicious food arrived at our 14 person round table and beer aplenty. The table across from us was having a birthday, and so the restaurant sang a verse in Chinese, and then in English which was strange. They kindly offered us a huge wedge of the cake which I could not enjoy because I was already stuffed.

The other table next to us was filled with burley,bald-headed men, all with their arms covered in tatoo sleeves. The director’s girlfriend and brother recognised them as a Mafia family from Taipei, and they yelled over for the younger brother to have a drink with the family. Then they spotted me. I was unaware of these Mafia ties, and happily made my way to their table, complaining that my glass was not full and asking for more beer off of them, and then joking that his glass was smaller than mine. His son took some pictures of us embracing, and then we downed the glass while the entire restaurant clapped. I may find a fish head in my bed if I’m not carefull about what I write here.

And that concluded my brief stint of stardom. It has been a pleasure being pampered and looked after, having all our meals brought to us and bought for us, and having every onlooker thinking we’re someone famous or that we’re actually getting married and saying  “gong1 xi3” 恭喜/congratulations.

I am quite aware that our acting skills are terrible and that the film could potentially contain highly cringe-worthy scenes, but we enjoyed it immensely and so it doesn’t matter either way. The final edit will not be out for a few months so you’ll have to sit tight, oh and please stop sending all that fan mail.


Day 2 of Filming

三 days of poor light and rain have prevented filming so far.  However, when we awoke at 5:30am, the sky was a deep dark blue free of clouds which meant that filming was to proceed and that we would have no lie-in.

We had to re-shoot the first scenes of me proposing on the beach because the initial takes were too dark.

We drove out of town into the countryside to pick up a new child actor who was replacing the initial one who had gone on holiday. We arrived at Lintou 林投公園 beach at about 8 o’clock.

Unlike the first day where I had been extremely nervous, I was very calm and a seasoned pro by now, and so the scenes went by quite smoothly. I was required to bend down in the water and propose to Fiona. While opening the box I was meant to fling it open by mistake and lose the ring in the water. We had to time our dialogue with the crashing of each wave, and the crew were having difficulty maintaining their footing with the tide bashing against them. I had to kneel down in the sand for extended periods of time which was intensely painful because it was mostly made up of coral.

Another scene was shot at the harbour while Fi was getting her hair and makeup done. After this, we relaxed in a nice cafe for an hour or two until the final scene of the day at Guanyinting.  Despite hours of doing her hair, Fiona only had one short scene of her washing her hands, and you would think this would be easy, but it took about 10 takes because the director wanted a very precise emotion that was part surprise,delight,relaxed, nonchalance.  Around this time in the evening Guanyinting is a lovely location. The bridge is very beautiful and underneath it is a small lagoon/sea lake? where people come and swim.  I was required to scream “WHERE ARE YOU!” across the water four times which was pretty embarrassing and not something  I enjoyed doing too much.

The final scene was completed  just as the sun dipped out of sight below the bridge.

Come back tomorrow for the final instalment of this epic saga.

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Day 1.5 of Filming

The very first day of filming had been a write off since the sky had become too overcast, and in the intervening days it rained non-stop. Eventually, the clouds parted and the blue skies returned. We drove for about an hour across to the other main islands to the impressive hexagonal basalt columns similar to those seen in Ireland. It was only about 8m when filming began but already my blue polo shirt was beginning to show sweat marks, and I was sweating from previously unsweated places, such that my chest and stomach began to resemble a Rorschach blot.

The scenery was lovely and just as the mics had all been set up, a team of 3 hedge strimmer people arrived to tend to the grass, and so we had to wait 20 minutes under umbrellas while they cut the grass. The crew eventually asked them to take a break and in their rest we filmed our scene.

Next we drove a bit further to another popular tourist hotspot. An ancient village filled with old houses. We had planned to shoot at midday thinking that people would be too afraid of the sun, but this had not deterred the crowds.

My scene involved cycling through the street searching desperately for my lost bride whilst looking concerned. Quite an easy scene, although it still took about 6 takes because I either cycled too quickly, didn’t look around enough, or looked too happy. The cast would block tourists off from the street for each take, so that each time we filmed a take, I would have tourists and tour guides watching my every move It was stupidly hot and there was no point in makeup because I was soaked and my shirt was wetter than a mermaid reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

With this scene nailed, we headed outside of the village to some old houses that had been renovated into guest houses. The crew had hired an actor to hand me some Fengru tea. This scene took quite some time because each time we began filming, either someone would scooter past, a plane would be heard in the distance, a door would creak or an ant would fart.  It was here that we took some impromptu gangsta photos in a doorway which are very cool.

A good days filming and an equally good celebratory meal after. We returned happy and all rather browner.