it is the chinese lunar new year, and the year of the dog is upon us. i spent the day today visiting the sites, and paying homage to buddha at a couple of taipei's more well-known temples. actually, at the temples, you can pray to different, um, deities i guess (i don't actually know what they're considered, whether they are like saints, spirits or gods) for specific things. i visited the one for scholarly pursuits and asked to get my phd within 5 years. regina, one of my roomates here in tian mu, was my guide. i learned a fair amount of new things, and had a good time seeing the sites. one thing that constantly surprises me here is getting pushed around by other people in just about any situation... beit on the streets, in the subway, or... yes.... even praying in a temple. today is basically the one day when anyone who cares is out at the temples, hoping for good health and more wealth. getting into the temple takes about 20 minutes of just being jostled around amongst a throng of temple-goers. i was literally shoved out of the way by about 5 different little old ladies because apparently i was in their way, and they had some important praying to do right away. i have to be honest... i have never, ever, been pushed or even brushed up against in a catholic or christian church. not to be judgmental in any way, but it's just an interesting experience to take part in what i would basically describe as full-contact religion. another interesting thing i've found out today is that i was not actually born during the lunar year of the monkey. in just about any american-chinese restaurant worth its soy-sauce, the paper place-mats will tell you what lunar sign correspondes to your year of birth. 1980, as far as the place-mats are concerned, is the year of the monkey. what the place-mats don't tell you is that the actual lunar year is offset by as much as a few months from the gregorian or western calendar so even if you are born in 1980, but your birthday falls before february 15th, you were actually born in the year of the ram! argh! ... all those years i though i was intelligent and motivated, it turns out im actually emotional and unable to work under pressure... humph. oh well, at least i can take comfort in knowing that a couple of my friends are in the same boat.