Monday, February 18, 2008

Back to School

Allie and I are back to the normal schedual of teaching. There are some new things going on for this new year. Allie and I started chinese classes which are twice a week, and I know that it will help us out since we know almost nothing. Plus we picked up another class, which it is teaching at one of the local public junior high schools. The school looks like a small college because it is so big, and the kids are really smart. So our week is getting alittle busier but we still have plenty of time to go to the gym and enjoy life overseas.

We went to our weekly retreat with our fellow hashers. The run was up in the mountains of Fungua (about 35 minutes northeast of Taichung). It started in a orchard of orange trees, this is where Allie took a hard fall on some sharp broken bricks and rocks. She is OK now but she has a nice bruise on her knee and a cool blood drip down her leg. Then went straight down all the way to the valley. We ran along a river at times crossing it and running on the submurged rock bed. At about three fourths of the way done we had to go back up. That consisted of walking (no running) straight up the mountain for a good 30 to 40 minutes. We went through another orchard while the famers where wearing oxygen masks because they were spraying pesticides.... makes you wonder. After a good run not to hard but just hard enough we circled up for a round of dobbing. This was our fifth run and Allie has already been named. The naming process includes Allie bending over like she is about to me knighted and flour, dirt, and beer is poured and dumped over her. (A little degraded but entertaining) We had some towls and some other hashers gave her some dry and clean clothes to wear for the rest of the day.

Allie's mom is coming in a week, so we have been trying to buy the normal amenities so that her stay will be comfortable, so Sunday we bought a coffee press. It is really nice to wake up and have hot coffee right then. It makes those tired mornings a little easier.

Lately Allie and I have been trying small local stands on the side of the street, with a small sitting area the resturants that are around our house. We have been amazed at the quality of food and how cheap it is. More importantly we have been shocked about the hospitality of the people that work and own these stores. Just tonight we tried a little place right down the road. No one could speak English which is something that we have just grown accustomed to but we ordered their noodle dish (every stand has a basic dish that is a little different than the stand a few blocks down). The people were very nice saying all of their English and Allie and I were saying all of our Chinese just to see if the other person would be impressed. Right before we left a man that was working in the resturant came up with some tea from a local tea shop a few stores down. He would not let us leave until we took the tea that he bought for us. I know the tea was more than what we paid for the food. It was just a normal red tea, which red tea tastes like Lipton tea just with a kick. Everyday Allie and I are impressed with people here. I can't tell you how friendly people are and how much they love to help out. When we go back to the states I know that is something that I will miss. Pictures will be coming soon.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Seen Nian Quai Lu

Happy Chinese New Year.....that was the phrase we used the entire week. We are back from a very enjoyable vacation down to the south of the island. Our last day of work was last Tuesday and we left early Wednesday morning to go to a place called Kaohsiung... which is the second largest city in Taiwan. WE were meeting another couple there (Mike and Miranda) She is from Toronto and he is from Milwauke. WE spent the day there going to the harbor and went to a military fort and saw a great view of the city from there. That night we had some more people join us for a birthday bash party..... It seems that about 4 of us had a birthday all around the same time. Also the day after Chinese New Year is considered all dogs birthdays which I thought was awesome. So every dog we saw we said happy birthday to. WE noticed that some of the strays had red collars on with a red envelope was so sweet that they celebrated Chinese New Year also...People are supposed to feed the dogs on their birthday.. I think we should start celebrating that everywhere. Almost everything was closed on Tuesday night because of the holiday so we stocked up on wine and beer and had a nice apartment party. We stayed up a little late playing poker and dealing with fireworks all night long... After waking up the next day we all got on a bus and headed down even further south. The weather got progressively better as the bus ride went on. We finally arrived in Kenting where the sun was shining and the beach was much better than I expected. Jay and I and the couple had to walk about 45 minutes past where the bus dropped us off to find out campsite. IT was perfect ...right across from a nice little harbor away from the hustle and bustle of the town... where we made friends with some locals who went fishing every morning and where we picked out most of our dinner for the next two nights, some very nice fish and fried oysters to die for. It seemed as if we had the place to ourselves... but if you walked about 20 minutes one way there was a crowd of people. The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast right on the water and headed for the beach. Some of the coastline was very rocky and beautiful, because this is a volcanic island... then there was also perfect sand where we spent most of the day laying out and swimming for short periods of time because the surf was very rough. WE were planning on surfing but the waves crashed a little close to the beach so we will come another time when the season is right. The water was so beautiful and blue. For lunches we just walked to the food stands that lined the street and had some of the cheapest and best food.....corn on the cob, wild boar (which i have never had but some of the best meat that I have ever had), dumplings, squid on a stick, snails, soft shell crab, donuts, and fresh juice was amazing. It was great to relax and enjoy the beach and sun... and we finally met some really cool people that we would like to to hang out with more often.
There was a very interesting culture at the beach...much different than any other beach you would go to back home. The city would be packed and then you would go to the beach and it would be empty, that is because people here don't particularly like water and they won't go in at all because they believe in the spirits or monsters in the sea that will take them out and drown them... aka the undertow that is very strong. They hate the sun and carry umbrellas around with them constantly so of course they don't lay out. Then there is the issue of bikinis... oh wow the bathing suits that we saw looked our of a 40's catalog... long sleeves and shorts.... I was definatley a minority and got a lot of stares. But of well I got a great tan. Another intersting thing was since they were so scared of the water you were not aloud to go out without some sort of floating device otherwise the lifeguards would yell at you. Back home it is swim at your own risk but here it is not allowed. Also when we walked the streets tons of people would stop and say hello, take our picture...some even seem to risk their lives driving on a scooter to say "hello how are you" while they were driving. We had an amazing time and will definately be back because there is much more to explore around there.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Happy New Year

Yes, happy New Year all over again. It is now Chinese New Year, which is the biggest holiday for Taiwan and almost all other East Asain countries (except for Japan they don't celebrate it). We are really excited because we have a full week off of work! We are planning on going down south where there is white sand beaches and great surf. So when we get back we will post hopefully beautiful pictures that will make everyone that is dealing with white snow besides white beaches very jealous.

This past weekend it was both Allies and my Birthdays and a hash run inbetween, so there is a lot to talk about. After my birthday party of just Allie and I we had a hash run to look forward to. This run was pretty close to where we live (about 15 minute drive). It started at another fellow hashers house which is ontop of a mountian right out of the city. The run was a nice short run. We didn't have to bush wack through jungles or climb mountains by using ropes so it was what most people think of running. It was about 4.5 miles so Allie and I ran it twice. The run did have some great views of the city with the bigger mountains behind it and also you could see the coast. After the run the hash had a cookout and a little fire which Allie and I stayed longer than normal and sat around the fire with a few other hashers and got to know each other better. It was really nice, reminded me of hanging out with our friends and family just relaxing and talking. Allie finished first out of the girls so next hash she has to wear the beaver bottoms and I think they came up with a name for her so the next hash we might have some really good looking pictures of Allie:)

Sunday was Allies birthday so we slept in. Then went to a great Indian resturant for a birthday lunch. We went to the Jade market which has some really cool Chinese jewlers and antiques. The weather was really rainy so we went to the mall to see if there was any good movies playing (most of them are the same as back home they just come out maybe a week later here) but there was nothing we wanted to see. We ended up just laying around the house and taking it easy. The weather has been rainny and cold here in Taichung for about a week now.

Here is a quick history on Chinese New Year. February 6th is the eve (this year since it is a lunar calandar and depends on the moon). It lasts not just for a day or two but more like 5 to 6. It was first started during the Xia Dynasty which was between 2100B.C to 1600B.C. There first was different months and times when different types of Chinese people celebrated this holiday (some celebrated in the first month of the year, while others celebrated it during the tenth month). In 104B.C. Emperor Wu established the first month as the start of the new year. The tradition goes as followed: There is a human eating monster called Nian 年 that comes from the mountains, in other versions of the tale it comes form the sea( I think it just matters what you are closer to). The monster does not like loud noises and that is why people shot of fireworks all night long! Nian also does not like the color red, so people hang red signs up on the door, they used to put blood over their doors just like how the Israelites put blood over their door so the Tenth Plague or Angle of Death would "skip" over or "passover" and not kill their firstborn (check out the book of Exodus if you want more info of the Jewish holiday passover). The Chinese spends this holiday with their families. It is a time that large meals are prepared and people catch up with their family. They pass out gifts (mostly food) and also red envelopes are given to children which the envelopes are filled with money. Their was your short history leason for the day. Have a happy New Year and watch out for Nian!