Friday, March 28, 2008

Visit from home

Well we have just finished a week with a visit from Anna my best friend from back home. Before she came of course we started off the week with the Hash run... it kicked our butt.. it was a 12k run with the usual hillyness/mountains. She arrived on Sunday evening and left today Saturday..... A fairly short trip but of course she came to visit me and Jay so we tried to cram as much things into 6 days as we could. It was nice getting a little reminder of back home exspecially the southern drawl... her accent was very noticible to our South African and British friends. They were quite entertained by her and she them. Anyways she arrived in Taipei on Sunday and of course Jay and I can never do anything right so we were late picking her up by about 20 minutes because our bus was rediculously slow. After I almost had a nervouse breakdown and leaving my best friend stranded in the airport I was pleasantly surprised how put together Anna was.. she wasn't panicking at all... I have taught her to be a very good traveler..... unfortunately I think she has taken all the traveling genes from me and now I am the nervous one. In the past I have taken Anna to Cozumel, Cancun, Amersterdam, Brussels, and Paris...... so coming to Taiwan should be no problem. That night I took her to snake alley and Longshan Temple, which all of you have heard about many times so I won't go into anymore detail. The next day we went to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and Taipei 101 before heading south the Taichung where unfortunately Jay and I both had to work. We had to work all week but I called in sick on Thursday to hang out with her a little more. The week consisted of going to the night market multiple times so that Anna could spend as much money as possible and me being very jealous because Jay and I are on a very tight budget, we ate all different food, Anna and I went on a hike outside of the city, scooter driving. On Wednesday night we had a get together at our apartment our first one since we have moved in, we bought a barbecue that looks like a baseball and had a roof party, we had a good amount of people show up and we all had a really nice time.. eating and drinking. One day also Anna and I went to a salon to get our head shampoed it was called the "better shampoo" We had our head washed and massaged for about 20 minutes and then they styled it for us.... probably one of the highlights of her trip and it only cost 200NT which is about $6 and they spent at least 45 minutes on us. It was great to have her come visit and I think she had a fairly good time.... I think Jay and I are going to have a relaxing week because we have next weekend off for Tomb Sweeping Day and we need time to prepare for our next adventure, who knows where we will go this time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Becoming a Legal Driver

This Wednesday, Allie, I, another teacher named Brian, and one of our Chinese Teachers named Kevin went to the DMV to try and get our scooter lincense. Kevin came along to help figure things out for us since nobody there spoke English. First we had to walk across the street of the DMV to get a sheet of paper from a doctor (or man in a white jacket) that said we could bend down and come back up and also squeeze our hands together. The first part was easy, now the fun starts.

We go back into the DMV to pay some money before we take a written test. There is a English version which some of the questions were lost in transalation (which means take a guess). Before we started Brian could not take the test because something was not right on his visa and he had to also bring his passport also before he could take the test. So one person down two still remaining. While waiting to take the test I somehow figured a way to break the water dispenser. I pressed the button for cold water but the water would not stop coming out. After drink as much water as I could I went for help and got Kevin. He asked which button I pushed. Of course the button that I pushed had a big sign that read "do not push me" just in Chinese, so one of the DMV ladies help to turn off the machine, and gave me one of those looks that you got from your mom when you were like four or five.
Allie and I finally went in a room to take your written test. These test questions are not easy. The first part is signs. Which none of the signs are the same as in the states. My favorite sign question was the normal square sign with only chinese characters on it..... for Allie and I that meant just take a guess. I did study the signs for about an hour the night before. After the signs then it was just random true and false and multible choice. Here are some examples
A huge motorbikes (50cc and above) which are 5 years old should.... A) be inspected annually B) don't have to be inspected C) should be inspected twice a year
answer B. I don't know how that has to do with driving.
If blood continuously gushes out, this means A) vein blooding B) capillary blooding C) artery blooding.
Answer C. I don't even think the doctor next to the DMV would know that one.
When you have doubt toward local judgment of accident responsibility A) you have to obey it anyway B) you can apply for another judgment C) sue the local judgment.
Answer B
So there are some questions that are not lost in translation but are weird questions for a driving exam. Allie finished first and left with a good laugh. I finished right behind her with a score of 85 which I am proud of. Allie scored two more questions wrong and got a 77 but not passing. My full proof plan of "eeni meeni mini mo" I guessed worked. So two down one to go.
Next was a driving test. The first test is to drive 10 meters in over 7 secounds which tests your slow driving skills. You have to do this without touching the sides of about one foot path. We practiced this before we went to the DMV and all three of us could do it about 1 in every 4 tries. You only get two chances. I had a lot of pressure with about 15 on lookers around plus our group. I got through it on my first try which was amazing. Then without stopping you have to drive around a fake city with stop lights and pededstrian crossing which goes off right when you get about 5 feet from it. Kevin almost got kicked out because he top me to stop in English and the people working there told him to be quiet and he could not help me. I passed and went to the parking lot which I put the kick stand down and turned away from the bike and right then the bike feel over if the test people saw that it would of been a automatic fail, but luckly I was too far away.
So to make a long story short, I got my drivers license so know if I get into another wreck or get pulled over by random I won't have to pay a large fine. Allie will go back in two weeks to try her hand at it again. We are looking forward to another hash run this Saturday and picking up Anna from the airport in Taipei. Next week will be a lot of fun showing Anna around. We have it all planned out.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back into the groove

Getting back into our normal schedual of working, and hanging around Taichung. Allie and I both had a pretty busy week of teaching and trainings that went on, but we still had a good time. My highlite of the week was my one and a half hour hair cut. I went to just a normal hair place, not the cheap looking barber shop but not a fancy place. After they washed my hair they started cutting it extremly carefully and slowly. The lady was very good, plus the three other employees that watched her every move behind her taking notes. It was extremly weird to have three people watching your hair cut so closely. One of them would brush the hair out of my face with one of those brushes like a hair dusters thing ( I really don't know the name sorry). The hair cut took three times as long as any hair cut I had ever had, and I walked out of there looking like a local. My hair was combed down in the front and the back was spiked up like a peacock. Allie got a good kick out of it and so did everyone else that walked by.

We got back into our Chinese class which it seems like we missed a lot. The week went as any other normal week. This weekend we went to Sun Moon Lake for the second time. This time it was a free trip that our school put on for their employees. We left Saturday afternoon, first stopping in Puli ( a well sized city). It is best known for it's famous brewery of rice wine and chew (a cross between wine and whisky really not good). The place was real big and for some reason there was nothing looking like a brewery that we could find, who would of thought.

(Allie here...jay writes too slow) We got to our nice hotel that was walking distance to the lake but in the woods far enough to feel distance from the action. The action was a great abiriganal ballet show. We went to the sow that night carrying lanterns which was really cool and of course about 10 of us foreigners were brought on stage.. jay and I included... in front of about 1000 people and made fools of. They told us to pretend we were part of the ballet.... bad idea.... but at least the crowd seemed to get a good laugh out of it.

The next day consisted of the Hess group heading to an aboriginal amuesment park...equivilant to something you might see in Cherokee... just like they have tribal stuff and then a casino here they have tribal stuff and then an amusement park.... It was a beautiful day and we got to enjoy a lot of nice rides... roller coaster.... water rides... and what not.... Then it was back to Taichung to get ready for our long week of teaching. Jay and I went to see the Kite Runner very good movie by the way but of course a little disturbing now I am in the process of reading the book which Jay has already finished. On Monday we had our 3 month training for work..... which was a waste of our time since we don't get paid for it. Very frusterating. Oh and I found out this week...that a drink that I love here called Pearl Milk Tea or Bubble Milk Tea... which is milk and tea and these little ball things at the bottom is approximately 1200 calories.... needless to say I am not drinking that for a very long time...... Classes have been good and Jay and I are waiting for the arrival of my best friend Anna on Sunday she will be here for a week. Good times.... Well we will report back later.... Keep reading the blog and hope you enjoy the pictures.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Keever Mom's trip..

OK prepare youself for maybe a little bit of an overload since we haven't written on here in so long and there has been a lot going on and a lot of tell. So if you don't have time to finish it we understand. My mom started her journey here on February 27th and the trip ended today. First off, Jay and I traveled to Taipei to make sure my mom would see a familiar face as she exited the airplane after over 24 hours of traveling it is always nice to know there is actually someone there to pick you up. Unfortunately before heading to the airport in Taipei, we had to locate our hotel in a mass of confusion with no address to the hotel and no one speaking English to help us find it. Obviously this was all my fault and Jay let it be known that I shouldve printed off the address and of course I already knew that after 2 hours of walking around the same block and passing the alley way that our hotel was located with a Chinese sign that of course we completely overlooked. Anyways we finally found it and had to catch a bus to the airport in the nick of time for my mom to come off the plane. WE were very excited to see eachother. After getting a little settled at the hotel we took her to the famous night market in Taipei to get a real feel for authintic Taiwan and try the typical cusine, Hot pot. Maybe a little much for the first night. We all felt a little sick the next day. Which we caught a 7 hour train ride to Taitung, a small town on the east coast where we were hopeful to catch a ferry to Green Island from. When we arrived exhausted from a long day of traveling (more for my mom) Even though we saw beautiful scenery along the way. It was late afternoon and the weather wasn't looking too good. We found out that the ferry wasn't running that day and fortunately a very nice man from the visitors center drove us to a very nice hotel to stay for the night so we could catch it in the morning. BY the way he speaks absolutely to English. The next day we caught the ferry but this is where it started my mothers sickness. The ferry was very rough... people leaning over the side and very big waves... fortunately we did fairly well to the island and we saw about 100 dolphins swimming and jumping right next to the boat..very impressive. We arrived on Green Island...very green... and of course it starts our trouble with a major language problem with the scooter lady that was renting us two scooters. As she was chewing her bettle nut I was trying to convey to her that we needed it for two nights but for some reason she thought there was 30 days in February so as I am writing notes on my hand to show her how many days I want. I finally give up and just take it for 1 night... which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We headed to our campsite with our big bags on the scooter and my mom riding behind Jay for her first of many terrifying expereinces of the scooter. Luckily there wasn;t really any traffic on the island so she was able to ease into the whole scooter thing. We went our campsite which was amazing and of course we were the only ones there... which we found out why later on that night. The island was amazingly beautiful..very volcanic and green of course..and only about 18 kilometers around the entire thing. The sickness started to set in that night for my mom and unfortunately she was feeling bad and the weather was getting worse by the minutes. We got settled in our campsite and then the storm came. The rain poured...fortunatly there were covered tent areas other wise we might of slept in the bathroom. Then after the torential downpours stopped the wind gusts began.... blowing our tents all around... sounding like bears shaking it and trying to lift it up. So after a very restless night and my mom feeling very sick.... our plan was to go scuba diving which is supposed to be spectacular on the island but since the storm had come the water was extremely rough and for Jay;s first dive and my mother being sick we made an executive decision to just head back to Taichung (jay and I's city) that day so my mom could get some rest a begin to feel better. So unfortunatly our plans were a little ruined. But before we left we went to the hot springs on the island... which are one of three salt water hot springs in the world there is one in Italy, Japan and here in Taiwan... They were imazignly hot for the cold winds and temperatures outside.. They had a beautiful view of the ocean. After that we took the train back down south and around to Taichung..... Or luck seemed to be going pretty bad because the further we went away from Green Island the weather began to get beautiful... At least when we arrived at our place the weather was beautiful and it stayed beautiful.
OUr adventures in Taichung consisted of a lot of different food... scooter ride to the mountains (Dakeng).... dangerous scooter ride to Art Street....she was able to observe both Jay and I now at least she knows that we have a legitimate job..... the jade market.... meeting some of our crazy friends which my mom really liked..... playing cards almost every night..... Feng Jia night market where we had the wonderful expeirience of trying stinky tofu because of the pressure of my mom.... very stinky but actaully not so bad... don't get me wrong we all only tried two bites and we threw it away.
Then it was time for my sister. Leslie and her husband Pete to come and of course finally meeting our handsome nephew Henry (4 months old)... Jay is trying to weed in calling him Hank occassionally. They came on Thursday and we spent most of the day with them on Friday until we had to teach... we went to an amazing little tea house where we sat on the floor had tea and a very nice lunch. Then on Saturday we all headed to Taipei in the luxurious busses that Jay and I love. I couldn't get over how cute Henry was and I was able to hold him almost the entire time on the bus whithout him crying and we both actaully slept a little. So We are now Uncle Jay and Aunt Allie seems so weird. But we love him to death. We went up Taipei 101 when we got to Taipei... tallest building in the world at the moment until the one in Dubai and Malaysia are finsihed. It also had the fastest elevator in the world we went up 90 floors in 35 seconds.. so you do the math.... pretty darn fast. The view from the top wasn't that impressive because Tiapei is always cloudy and rainy I sure it would be during better weather. After that Leslie went back to the hotel with the baby and my mom, Jay, Pete and I went walking and had a few drinks out in the town. Then my mom , Jay and I went to Longhand temple the most famous temple in Taipei and they had beautiful lanters out.. and then we proceeded to snake alley with the usual venemous snakes on display and of course the family event of watching the boa eat a bunny. Today we got my mom of successfully to the airport at least I hope I haven't heard back about her travels. And then Jay Leslie, Pete and I went to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial now called Peace Plaza where there was a big event going on ......... It was a wonderful trip seeing everyone.... and now I have to dredfully say we go back to our boring lives in Taiwan but no so boring. Hope that wasn't too much of an overload and hope you enjoy all the pictures.