Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home sweet home

We're home and having a great time with friends and family! Here are some of our pictures so far:

We hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Over the mountains and through the woods

We're heading home for christmas break on Wednesday and I'm so excited! Knowing this trip was coming up got me through a weekend of homesickness a few weeks ago. Coming here I was braced for more nights of tears over being away from home, but it hadn't really happened until this one Saturday morning when all I wanted was to be around family, eat food I know I love and be surrounded with english. It's funny what can bring on the desire to be transported home - sometimes it is the lack of anything familiar, but sometimes it's the most familiar things that do it. Equally, what brings you out of the funk can be one of two opposites - adding or removing the familiarity. In my case, Jeremiah made me tofu scramble for brunch and we watched a favorite movie. I also made a few calls home.

As Christmas approaches we navigate incorporating new traditions with the old and making adjustments to fit our new home. This is big for me because I have been pretty rigid in my holiday traditions in the past. I think I've done a good job of loosening up in recent years but those things can run pretty deep and all this change just invites homesickness. I love this holiday - making cookies (bone of contention in our marriage, I say Santa likes sugar cookies, Jeremiah holds firm that he likes chocolate chip) and gingerbread houses, decorating the house and the tree, reading christmas stories the night before and eating cinnamon rolls in the morning. So, going home for christmas was a good call on Jeremiah's part - he knew I would need this. And in the meantime, we've got our artificial 1 foot tall tree complete with lights, favorite christmas movies and music.

One christmas song that comes on every once in awhile is To Heck With Ole Santa Claus. Very unchristmasy and Jeremiah balked at me when I asked him to play it. I can understand why, I mean, it doesn't exactly evoke feelings of cheer and happiness. So why do I like it? Because every time I hear it, I think of sitting in front of my grandpa's stereo system while he transferred the song from record to tape for my mom, sister and me. I remember singing it with him, along with a number of other funny songs at other times of the year ("sometimes you are the windshield, sometimes you're the bug", "I'm married to a waitress, I don't even know her name"). This year when the song came on it was one of those instant homesick moments.

I'll leave you with the lyrics in case you've never experienced this doozy of a song.

Loretta Lynn - 1966

(To heck with ole Santa Claus)
Last year I hung my stockings by the chimney
and ole Santa didn't bring me anything
Well I wrote a note and I told him what to bring me
But I didn't even hear his sleigh bells ring

So to heck with ole Santa Clause
When he goes dashin' through the snow I hope he falls
I like to hit him (ho ho ho) with a bunch of big snowballs
To heck with ole Santa Claus

(Instrumental Break)

This year I'll built a big fire in the fireplace
I'll be like a little pig I read about
If that big bad wolf in red comes down my chimney
He's a gonna scorch his whiskers there's no doubt

So to heck with ole Santa Clause
When he goes dashin' through the snow I hope he falls
I like to hit him (ho ho ho) with a bunch of big snowballs
To heck with ole Santa Claus

Yeah to heck with ole Santa Claus

Sunday, December 20, 2009


6.4 earthquake hit the east side of the island this evening. More info here and at the Central Weather Bureau. I didn't think it was as bad as the last one, but we were sitting on the second floor loft of a store and I had to fight the urge to run down the stairs.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Push here for english

Our bank has this amazing addition to their ATM - it sucks in your bank book and prints on it all your transactions. I love it. If you have more than one page worth it spits it back out and waits for you to turn the page. Great for people who can't read their online bank site because it's in chinese.

At first we couldn't figure out how it worked, but we were told we need to do this at least every 100 transactions. Jeremiah asked the nice guy next to us if he would just do it for us thinking maybe the english version of the ATM instructions didn't include this option. Turns out you don't even have to stick your debit card in the ATM like we were trying to do, just put the bank book in the slot and it knows what to do. Xie xie to that nice guy who helped us!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is that the ice cream truck?

You know when you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you forgot to take the garbage and recycling out to the street? Or you hear the truck at 6am passing your house and it hits you that you have to go another week with garbage piling up? Taiwan has come up with an idea to solve this problem. Good thing too, because when you live on a small island with lots of people in a subtropical weather system piling garbage can be a nuisance to say the least.

Taiwan's solution? To let people bring their own garbage out to the truck daily. But, how do people know when the garbage truck is coming you ask? Well they play classical music of course. It's kind of like the ice cream man - kids hear the song and come running with their money, only it's adults with their garbage. You can see a video here. It's genius, but a bit loud.

Picture taken from video

Our apartment has its own garbage collection, so we aren't a part of this neighbor bonding time, but we hear it in the evenings along side the trucks that blast audio advertising and kids practicing violin, piano and recorders.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Taichung christmas

Walking around Taichung there are a lot more christmas decorations and items than I expected. A lot of it seems a bit... well... odd or out of place. There are trees in the 7-11s and OKmarts. Malls have "x-mas" signs hanging (most references to christmas are written as "x-mas"). Stores are stocking christmas foods like these "broiled rib" santa and "crispy salmon" snowman chips. Interesting, no?

It's fun to see the differences in christmas decor, but I'm not sure how many people actually celebrate this holiday. Maybe somebody knows?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Santa claus is coming to...

Thailand! Here's a Nancy Chandler card we picked up in Bangkok (her maps are amazing too!):

Curry anyone?

Been reading so much about food in India, it inspired us and we made curry last night. Is it making your mouth water? It should be, because it was delicious! The hardest part was the rice because we don't have a rice cooker yet and the gas stove doesn't do well on a low setting. It was boiling over, the flame kept going out, rice was everywhere. Anyway, despite the fight it turned out wonderful. We added broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and fake meat.
And now, the next day, I'm going to have leftovers. Yum!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We're dreaming of a white christmas

But maybe not quite as white as last year...

Here is a picture of our weather today:

We are looking forward to weather that actually makes it feel like it is winter!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby it's cold outside

Ok, so maybe it isn't "cold", but it has been getting cooler. We've also acclimated to the warm weather so what used to feel comfortable is now chilly. What better way to warm up and feel in the christmas spirit than enjoying a cup of hot chocolate?

Unfortunately we don't have chocolate soy milk at the store down the street to heat up. But when I remembered my mom used to make us hot chocolate on the stove sometimes with cocoa power I knew we could improvise. With soy milk, hershey's cocoa powder from the import section of our grocery store, left over sugar packets and a pot on the stove we made our own hot chocolate - vegan style.

With warm mugs and A Christmas Carol on the tv we are well on our way to feeling "christmasy" in our new home away from home, though counting down the days until we spend christmas with our family and friends!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

And the oscar goes to....

Did you know there are awards for Taiwan blogs? I didn't either until last week. If you feel so inclined, you can vote for ours. Just click here or on the icon above. On this page there is a pink box with our vote count, right under that number is a plus sign. Just click on that plus sign to vote for us. And even though I know you all love us so much you want to keep clicking that plus sign, there are rules that say you can only do it once a day :)

Thanks so much for following our adventures in Taiwan!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gecko love

I have a gecko family that shares my office with me. Normally they stick to the window area and hide when I get close, but lately they've been getting more adventurous. I saw one the other day sitting on my couch (maybe ready for his therapy session?) and this one stuck to the blinds despite my moving them and getting up on a chair to take his picture.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

don't go to bangkok for three days

**flickr page is updated**

go for 13.  or 33.  we decided to head over to bangkok for thanksgiving with a couple of teachers from school and had an amazing time.  we were actually there for more than three, but it was three full days.  we got in wednesday night at 11pm and then left our hotel at 10am on sunday.  our trip was amazing, but way too short.  it took us a day to get acquainted with the city and then we had two full days to try and relax, site see, have drinks, eat, listen to music, and visit as many markets as we could.  next time we plan on going for a few extra days and getting out of the city.  when you go (not if, when), please please please buy nancy chandler's map as soon as you get there.  we didn't have it the first day and the people we were with weren't sure where we were going, so we spent a few hours walking around looking for temples and getting harassed by the ever so nice tuk tuk drivers.  alright.  here are too many pictures and if you want to see even more, click on the flickr link at the bottom of the pictures.

(click to enlarge)
instead of a bible in the drawer, we found a guide to southeast asia.  i like it.

water taxi was crazy.  wasn't sure what the plastic was for...

until the guy left and i looked over the side.

random temple while looking for the grand palace.  (i'm assuming it is a temple)

i love naps and so does this guy.  never pulled off the tree nap, but it is on the list.

at the grand palace.

these guys were allison's favorites.  they came in all different sizes.

more grand palace.  so much shiny gold.  too bad i forgot my sunglasses.

more grand palace

allison's favorite picture of the day.

more of allison's favorite little guys.

 fooling around with the color settings.

random statue

 we always forget to take pictures of the two of us.  not this trip.  no sir.

my delicious bananas soaked in sugar for 48 hours to the point where you can't tell they are bananas.

largest lying buddha in the world at wat pho.

so big.

 getting my fill of good luck.

more palace.

 vegetable soup for breakfast everyday!

 i drove a tuk tuk at 3:30am (yes, you read that correctly, i drove a tuk tuk.)

chatuchak weekend market - the granddaddy of them all.

 animals were kept in pretty small cages/tanks though.

 we saw lots of turtles and quite a few bunnies, dogs, cats, and other buddies.  it was pretty sad after the first few.

 traffic was insane.

 and by insane, i mean it was rush hour every hour.

we made it to cabbages and condoms!  they have some restaurants and resorts throughout the country that help promote social development programs.
they love their king.  so much.

annnnnd, to top it all off, we were able to see leslie and bryce for 10 minutes.  they had just landed at BKK and were heading to laos for a year or five.  due to an hour wait at customs for them, we almost had to bail so we didn't miss our flight, but it all worked out.

best (and only) trip outside of taiwan so far.  fun times.  now we get to look forward to our trip home!  we leave in 22 days and we're getting excited.

if those pics weren't enough for you (then you're crazy and you should just go visit bangkok), check out the rest of them at our flickr account.


Monday, November 30, 2009

currently checking out...

our friends' blog.  if you like india/indian food/indian food recipes/great pictures you should check it out.  also, they post way more often than we do.  here she is: miss leela

the boy of the two is an artist and has been doing some grand work while he is over there: hello david kilpatrick

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

sometimes you want to go where nobody knows your name

man.  i need to post more.  quick story.  i came back from three hours of frisbee late last week and stopped off at a local fried food cart to partake in some spicy tofu and allison's favorite gelatin fries (students say they're made from flour).  i was planning on buying them real quick and heading back home for much needed sleep.  around 11:30pm i walked up to the food cart and the owner was sitting with two older guys drinking water and whiskey.  the wife was running the cart while the cute little five year old daughter was running around playing make believe something.  i ordered my food and noticed the three lads in the garage waving me over.  i'd already gotten out of it once when he tried to get me to drink his plum wine with him one day, so i figured i'd do my duty and sit with them.  they slapped a glass on the ratty tatty folding card table and smiled as they poured me a glass of their scotch.  now... it should be noted (again) that i only know how to say - spicy, hello, thanks, two, zero, green tea, lemon tea in chinese.  fortunately one of the guys (who sells the scotch that we were drinking) was able to translate every fifth word for me, so i could kind of keep up with the conversation.  and by keep up, i mean, i could nod my head and pretend like i understood what they were talking about.  i did have my iphone on me, so i was able to show them where portland is and i taught them how to say portland and oregon.  one thing i did learn was that you're supposed to only drink when you get someone else to drink with you, or if someone else nods at you.  i probably looked like an idiot the first few swigs i took because i flew solo.  i finally understood what was going on and ended up drinking with them on each sip.  by the end i think they were trying to play "get the foreigner drunk" because they kept saying something that sounded like "come by!" and would pound the rest of their drinks.  it wasn't really fair because mine was straight scotch and they kept watering their glasses down, but i played along for a little bit.  i think the owner (i should really know his name by now) thinks that it is his life goal to try and get me to smoke cigarettes with him because i've been offered one at least 30 times.  his wife always scolds him and tells me "no smoke," which doesn't really stop him.  overall, i think i brought in some extra business for them and they were able to tell people they had some drinks with a foreigner.  plus i was able to get some free scotch out of the deal, so i got that going for me.  which is nice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sun Moon Lake

Today we went on a group trip to Sun Moon Lake. Before exploring the lake we had high tea at a pretty swanky hotel on the lake. Not too unlike tea-time in England, accompanying tea was plates of small cookies, sandwiches, fruit, and something you'd never see at tea in the UK: various jello-like substances (we've had this in a few different places now, it's growing on me).

After tea we walked up to Wenwu Temple. To get up to the temple we walked the "Year of Steps" that replaced the stairs that long ago, before a road led up to the temple, used to be called the "stairway to heaven." Each step represents a day of the year and visitors can place wind chimes near their birthday to ask for blessings.

Just inside the temple are two large stone lions, which we have read are the biggest lions in Taiwan.

Inside the three buildings of the temple there are many places for different types of worship - incense, candles, praying.

From the top of the temple there is a great view of the lake, though the day was so hazy and the sun was on it's way down, so it was hard to see very far.

After we looked around the temple we went for a walk around part of the lake.

It was a nice day all around, and we enjoyed getting out of the city and seeing a bit more of Taiwan.