Sunday, December 30, 2007

Camping in Taiwan

After spending almost a month in Taichung it was time to get out of the city and enjoy the great outdoors, and see what Taiwan can offer. There is a place that we heard of from many teachers and locals that is called "Sun Moon Lake". It is about a two hour bus ride from Taichung and has some really good camping.

That is about all that we knew before going on the trip. We did not even know where the Taichung bus station was. We had a piece of paper that Allie's manager wrote the Chinese characters down for and we caught a taxi and we were off. Everything worked out and our friends that came with us found the bus station too. The fare was 150 NT per person which is about five US dollars, and no we were not on a bus with caged animals nor stow aways. It was a nice bus just a little bumpy but I think that was just the road. We first went to Puli which is a city that has a world famous winery. The winery makes a rice wine (yes also known as sake if we were in Japan) we didn't have time because we had to catch another bus that took us to the lake. Before we got on the bus our friend Mike and I got some bettle nut. Bettle nut is what the locals chew to get a buzz or something. It is a small nut that looks just like an acorn. I have been thinking about trying it and I could not think of a better time than camping.

We caught the bus to Sun Moon Lake, this bus ride was only thirty minutes. It was about 6:30 pm and already getting dark. We knew we would be dropped off on the opposite side of the lake not near the campsite at all. We just kept that information between Allie and I because we told our friends that we could take care of everything and figure things out since it was our idea. I think they already knew how Allie and I plan trips (just that we want to do something even though we don't have everything worked out like most people would do) because they did not have a tent or sleeping bags and everyonce in a while someone would ask "where or when are we getting our tents" or "oh yeah we need a sleeping bag".

When we got into the largest town (not a city) by the lake we stood out. A guy came over to us and saw that Allie and I had our big packs on and asked if we wanting to go to the camp site. If we did the last bus for the day was right there and leaving like now. So we all jumped on the bus, I mean if we were 30 secounds later we would of had to walk about ten miles on a windy road to the camp site. When we got to the camp site we were able to rent a nice tent for our friends and also sleeping bags. We had a campsite away from other people, well as far away as possible. We all were really excited and ready for a relaxful night, so we set up our tents and gathered firewood. After that we were a little parched and needed some fluides so we went back to the front of the camp where a really nice guy who gave us the tents and I think he was the owner or at least the manager of the campsite and asked where we could get something to drink or eat. He had a litte small store but he had what we were looking for. A case of beer and of course a bottle of wine for the girls.

Camping here is unlike any other that I have seen. They have every thing they need and here is a picture to prove it. Here is a group of children watching a big screen TV. (Enough said)

So we started a fire and had a few drinks. It was a lot of fun just to talk around a fire and really good to get to know our friends better. Mike is someone from New York but has lots of family in NC and he has been living in Hawaii for the last 6 months, David is from England and makes us laugh every time we get around him, this was his first camping experience in his entire life, and Heather is from California. Mike and I broke out the bettle nut to try. It is not something I recommend. It looks like an acorn and tastes like one too, and of course I had red teeth for about two days. It was nice to be in the mountains again, but there were some down falls to the weekend. There was a big group of kids that went camping, and of course they were all around us playing games and just seeing how close they could get. We of course were really nice and talked to them. The kids were the same age as the kids we teach, so we could not get away from that. Oh and Allie and the other girl were trying to teach the kids songs. That is when we knew it was enough and time for the kids to go home.

Alright Allie here, Jay is a tad long winded so its time for me to wrap up the blog. The next day we packed up our stuff and walked around the aboriginal village that we were camping in. Then we found some random guy that knew English to take his very rickity old boat out on the very foggy lake. We could hardly see anything in front of us. He was extremely nice and gave us a very good tour for the lack of visibility. I felt like I was in some Chinese movie wear a dragon was going to pop out at any moment.

We explored the area and had a really amazing time. We will definately be going back there.

WE hope everyone has a Happy New Years and just remember we will be in 2008 before some of you even wake up in 2007. Please write on our guestbook we would love to have your questions and see who is reading out blog. It is very nice to get comments.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day in Taiwan

Today is Christmas so first let me wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope everyone is enjoying it with their friends and family. We wish we could spend it with our families but at least we have the both of us to spend it together, because I know we are a family of our own.

Yep, the first Christmas of this new family of Jay and Allie. So let me share our memorable Christmas day. It all started around 3 a.m. when I awoke to a loud clash of windows rattling and the bed shaking, no it was not Santa, unless he stole all our presents, but it was an earthquake. This one was actualy something that we could feel and hear, unlike the one in Peru. I awoke and turned to Allie and tried to wake her up to make sure I was not dreaming but if anyone knows Allie she is a hard person to wake up. In the morning I told her about the earthquake and how much noice it made and her words were, "why didn't you wake me up." I told her, "for one, I did tried to wake you up, and second if an earthquake shaking our aparment and making a sound of a train coming through our apartment did not wake you up then nothing will."

After waking up and getting ready for our day we jumped on our motorcycle (the scooter) and took off for the mountains of Taichung called Dakeng. We drove to a hiking trail about one hour from our apartment. The trail starts by a boy scout camp in the mountains. It really is a boy scout camp, who would of known that the boy scouts are a world wide phenomenon. The trail basicaly goes up a mountain allowing you to get a great view of Taichung, which is a lot bigger than we thought. The trail was not too tough but it is the first trail that I have been on that you never touch the ground. Really from the first step until the last you are walking on logs that are about two feet off the ground and put together like a ladder. It made the trail a lot harder than normal. This picture below of Allie and I on the scooter. Yes I am the scooter driver and the photographer all in one. If you notice I am holding the camera with my left hand the hand that also holds the back break. The right hand is on the throddle, plus we are going down a mountain so if my smile is not perfect as Allie;s happy waving picture I am sorry I will try harder next time.

After the hike we kept driving around the mountains untill we popped out by a beautiful golf course right outside of the city. We drove around for about thirty minutes hoping we were going the right way, and of course the man compass was right and we ended up heading directly home. We cleaned up and went out to a great steak place that we found last week. It was amazing (not amazing just for Taiwan but for an American steak house). After a great Christmas dinner we met some friends at one of thier apartments for a few glasses of wine and some stories. It was not like hanging out with the family, but at least these people understand what Christmas is about, and that they are in the same boat as us. Before we came home we did have to stop by a lonely friend and give her a gift. So we stopped by our down stairs neighbors apartment and gave a bowl of milk to Drama, the cat that we are watching for a week. Drama is not really a cat but a kitten. She loved the milk that we brought and showed her affection with a couple of bites to our fingures and some scratches to our arms.

It was a really nice Christmas Day, their are some traditions that we have started and some that were fun but that we will leave here in Taiwan for the people that take our place:)

To everyone Merry Christmas, Allie and I miss you all and wish we could be at home for another Christmas Day! We want to hear about your Christmas Day stories too, so please put them on the guest book, it will make us feel like we were there.

We attached some pictures of things we saw today and finally Allie got a picture of a parrot on a scooter, WOW!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas on the other side of the world

Since this country is mainly Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucianist....Christmas is not really much of a holiday that is celebrated. For this part of the world they use it as a commercial gimic...well actually that sounds a lot like the States. We hear the typical Christmas music and see the decorations. I love Christmas music though, so I rather enjoy it. On Saturday Jay and I had sort of an early Christmas. We had a Christmas party at our school for the little kiddies. It was so much fun. We gave out presents..but in this culture it is very rude to open your present in front of the person who gives it to you, so unlike American children who would have ripped it open as soon as they got their hands on it...They all held their toy looking at it trying to use their X-Ray vision to see inside. Christmas here seems to be a mix of real Christmas and Halloween which is rather strange. Some of the children were dressed up as devils.
Then that night, Jay and I actually had a fairly American Christmas dinner, with Turkey, mashed potatos, pumpkin pie and of course hummus and egg rolls. Today we enjoyed our day off and went to a movie we saw I am Legend, the movie theatre was really nice and much larger than the ones in the States. Even though Christmas day is not a day off in Taiwan we are taking it off and taking a trip to the mountains, which I am excited about. Today we saw an interesting thing on a scooter, not the usual unprotected child, or dog, but a parrot on the handlebars of one guys scooter, very impressive. I couldn't get my camera out in time.
I have started to make a list of the little frusteration of this country, they might be frustrations but it really gives this country character and gives both Jay and I the occasional laugh. The lack of napkins when you eat a meal. I guess peoples chopstick skills are so above ours that they never get anything on their mouth or hands when they eat. The lack of lines, normally if you are going up to a cash register to pay for something you will wait behind the person in front of you.....oh no it is first come first serve, and no it is not rude to butt in front of someone...if that happened in NC everyone would let you have it.
THe joys of beattle nut...if some of you thought dipping tobacco was gross there is nothing compared to the beattle nut that men chew here. It comes from a tree and it is a red berry like thing that they wrap in some sort of leaf. They are sold by either really old women or sexy young girls wearing barely anything at all.....The chew and they chew it, nothing is swallowed and then they spit up tons of red juice onto the streets which leaves a big stain for who knows how long......And you can tell when someone has been chewing it because it leaves a huge red stain on their teeth...not very attractive....I am sure Jay is going to try some I just hope he doesn't like it.
Anyways I hope everyone has an amazing Christmas....... we will let you know how ours goes.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I am here too.

For all those people that might of thought Allie was just making up stories with me in them and photo shopping me into the pictures, well you are wrong. I am here and am sorry that I have not written on the blog as much. Allie is just a better writter and since people love to correct English teacher's grammar structures I just thought, 'keep the writing to the professional teacher.' Which I am becoming more and more a professional teacher other than a retirement specialist. I do love teaching with so many great kids from all different ages, it make everyday a challenge and a joy. For every crazy kid that would rather sit, lay, or just hide under their desk there are ten kids that would do anything for a high five.

Enough of just me. Allie and I have been trying to make Taichung feel more like home. Which we find hard because normaly during this time of year we would be spending a great deal of time with our families. So, we do miss our families and friends a great deal, and wish everyone a happy holiday! But today we took a big step to make us feel more at home..... we joined a gym. So sorry to all the people that thought we should of bought a refridgerator first. Allie and I are members to "The World's Gym" which is just like any gym in the States, it has all the weights, mechians that anyone could want, and a pool. So for Allie and I, Christmas came a little early. Today was also a good day because we made friends with the trash lady. I know earlier I was yelled at by the trash lady but today (which was recycling day) we took our trash out, when we got done, she said thank you, not in Chiniese but in English! (This is Allie now because Jay writes to slow and I have to correct too many spelling errors) The trash process is very interesting here. For Monday, Wed, Fri, Sat..we take our regular trash, its not like back home where you just leave it out and they pick it up. You actually have to be there when it is trash time, which for us is 12:30. The garbage truck has music that goes along with it. It sounds like an icecream truck...with the Fir Elise song. I can't imagine how annoying that would get to the poor person who has to drive that truck. Anyways, when we hear the music we have to run down to the street and throw our trash in it... the problem with that is you might hear it and it would actaully be 2 streets down (Thats how loud it is) Anyways we have had many false alarms ...of running down the stairs and then waiting for 20 minutes for it to actaully get to us. On Tuesday's and is recycling day and the garbage truck has different music...I haven't seemed to have identified the tune yet but I will get back to you.

This weekend we went to the National Science Museum in Taichung and it was awesome, botanical gardens, dinasaur exhibit, Chinese history, medicine, evolution of human life are some pictures.

Another success of the the day was...after we got done with teaching at about 10pm we went out for dinner. WE have this one Japanese place down the street from our apartment that we have dined at for 3 meals now. They cook in front of you and the States' Japanese restuarants have nothing on these guys. WOW the food is awesome. Anyways this was our third time at this place and we exchanged some Chinese for teaching the cook some English. It was a lot of fun and he bought us both a coke. I think that will definately be a regular place. THey love us...before we even got off our scooter they had our place sat and they were already fixing our food. We are working on obtaining Gwanshi there, which means we both have good 'face'..which means we have an extremely great relationship ...Face is something that the Taiwanes call a great friendship. and high respect....that is the first step gaining face...Relationships is the most important thing in Taiwanese culture. So, if you have good face... the 2nd step is keeping that face and doing things for that person..then you might gain Gwanshi which is like the ultimate face and the best relationship of all...this is where you might get things for free or have them do things for you and help you out that probably no Westerner would even consider doing for someone. It is interesting to compare the priorities of WEstern lifestyle and Taiwanese lifestyle. For Westerners I think the order of most importance is...1. Law 2 Logic 3 Relationships
For Taiwanese 1. Relationship 2 Law 3. Logic And because of this it changes more things that you can imagine..

Each day we are feeling more confitable and making Thaichung more like home. We can't wait to work out tomorrow. Here are some pictures of our apartment.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Taiwan's everyday differences

Well this entry is going to be more about all the differences that Taiwan has that we see everyday. And I was just realizing that there is some really crazy and unexplainable things that occur that Jay and I have incountered and will keep incountering without explanation. Lets first discuss scooters, they are a major part of everyday life in Taiwan, so I will give that our first attention. Scooters are very dangerous, thats all there is to it, but they are also pretty much an essential item if you want to do our get anywhere in Taiwan., and exspecially in Taichung. I have purchased pratically a motorcycle helmet, that covers my entire face and Jay will soon purchase a heavy duty helmet. Helmets are required for driving a scooter, it is the law BUT Taiwanses have not seemed to have grasped the importance of a decent helmet. They might have one on but if they did crash it would do absolutely no good. And sometimes they don't even buckle it under their chin....which I think they think looks cool because even when they aren't on their scooter they are walking around a store or down the street with an unbuckled scooter helmet. They have a variety of very stylish scooter helmets... so instead of a safety item I think it is more of a accessory. Even though it is the law to where helmets while you are driving a scooter I still haven't found out if it is illegal not to wear a helmet if you are just a passenger on a scooter. Children from the age of 1 to 14 are on scooters with no helmets. Jay and I have seen as many as 4 people on a scooter, which is a pretty impressive feat. Not only are they carrying their precious children on the scooter, they also carry their dogs on the scooter. I have seen about 3 to 5 dogs on a scooter with a person. WOw it is so impressive. THey are so well behaved, big and little dogs. I am looking for one to take a picture of be looking for that footage. In this country you are not allowed to take left hand turns....but of course you have to take lefts so you are allowed to basically do some sort of U-turn in the middle of an intersection, which for some reason I think they believe is safer...beyond my understanding. Also, there is some sort of strange concept that when you ride a scooter you have to wear your jacket backwards. I haven't found an explanation for that yet.
This country is also very fanatical about recycling, which is so great and every country should learn from it. I mean the garbage lady has yelled at Jay many times for trying to throw away something that could have been recycable. But you would think that they would have an abundance of recycle bins around the city...but you cannot find a single tashcan on the public streets, but yet their streets are very clean. You also would never find a public restrooms. If you go into a store you will find the regular restroom which is called the squater, basically a hole in the ground...but suprisingly very clean and really not that bad. You will also find a 7-11 on every corner of Taiwan, right now that is our refridgerator since we have not bought one yet. 7-11 really keeps everything so cold, it doesn;t seem like there is any need for a fridge.
THe people in Taiwan, really are afraid of the sun..they don't want to be tan at all. They want to be as white as possible. So they carry around umbrellas when it isn't raining. I don't know what they are going to do when it is 120 degrees outside.
Well things are good, teaching is getting easier and easier everyday. We get lost with the scooter everyday as well, which is great because we learn a new part of the city everytime. We have skype now which is great and if you would like to talk to us please download it, its free and you can talk over the computer for free, its awesome. if you have a camera you can also see us and we can see you. Anways hope all is well, please leave messages we love it, no matter who you are and who reads this. Hope all is well

Monday, December 10, 2007

We bought a computer...the blog is back in action!!!

Sorry it has been so long since we have last written on the blog but it has been a very busy time. I promise the blog will not go this long again without an entry. We are now living in Taichung(pronounced Taijung) We really like it. It is still a very large city but it is so spread out that you don't really notice how large it really is. WE are only about a 10 minute scooter ride away from the downtown area. There is so much to do around here. If we want to get out of the city and into the mountains is only takes about 30 minutes on a scooter and then to get to the coast in about the same amount of time. We got an apartment which has a living room, study room, very big bedroom, a very large kitchen (Taiwans standards..most kitchens are non-existent) our bathroom is awesom...most bathrooms in Taiwan have a single shower head in the middle of the bathroom, right next to the toilet. no shower curtain..only a drain in the middle of the bathroom....we fortunately found a regualr bathroom with a great tub but thats ok. We have a large deck and access to the roof since we are on the top floor of a 5 story building. We live on a nice quite street but still close to everything. Teaching is going really well. It was really tough at first but I think Jay and I are really getting the hang of it. I think the other teachers are impressed with us. THe kids are sooooo smart. We teach a class for two hours and w'e have only 2 classes a day but I think we are going to start picking up more. WE teach from 4:30 to 9pm. We have from about 7-14 year olds. It is amazing how much school these kids go to. They have regular school from 8 to 3 and then the go to cram school...for example a 9 year old will go to regular school then to a science cram class..chemistry...physics...and then to french class and then they might come to us for English class. So, we try to make it as fun as humanly possible. THe kids are so cute and they are sooooo smart. Some of the kids have the craziest names. Since they come to English class they don't have an English name, so they either name themselves of the teachers name them. Some of the more common names are, Yo Yo, Apple, Rock, Luck, Winner, and the 0n some of the not so popular names but still crazy, Pizza (because everyone loves Pizza he says, Godspeed we will update you on some of the others we hear. When we teach we have a CT (Chinese Teacher) in the classroom with us..they can help us out on making sure we get to all the kids. We teach a range from about 12 students to 22 students. Today we subed a junior high class and a public school. WE really enjoyed it and I think we might try and do that more often.
SCOOTER TIME... oh wow we have joined the dangerous yet fun world of scooters. Taiwan is the largest manufacturer of scooters in the world. It really is the only way to get around. We got one scooter but I think eventually we will get another because I can see Jay and I fighting over who gets to drive. You really have to be careful. We plan on taking scooter trips around the island which I think would be great and so much cheaper.