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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tea - it does the body good

My favorite day of the work week, aside from Friday of course, is Thursday, because we get tea. I am by no means a tea expert (though this guy is) but I'm also no novice. My mom drinks a lot of tea, and when Jeremiah and I lived in London for a study abroad and I had a lot of tea, but Taiwan tea is not your grandma's tea. First there are a lot of tea to-go stands around. And when I say a lot, I mean on our block there are 3. The tea shops have big cups of cold tea with all sorts of options for amounts of sugar and ice and probably a lot of things I don't even know because I can barely pronounce "green tea" in chinese, let alone understand any of the signs they point to. Luckily for what I like, lemon green tea, there doesn't seem to be a lot of complications and Jeremiah has mastered ordering his green tea. There are also many variations on bubble tea which was created here in Taiwan, but that's not exactly, well, my cup of tea (I just couldn't resist). So far we have had very little warm tea though as the weather cools I'm sure it will surface more.

From the shop right near our house - Ching Shin. Tea always comes with the top sealed; you poke your straw through the plastic.

níng méng chá (lemon green tea - not sure if that is correct?)

My favorite tea stand name because it's fun to say. Go ahead, try saying it out loud.

And in case plain ol' green tea isn't your thing, you can try beer flavor

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I spy

You almost couldn't see this grasshopper in the bush because of his color, but boy is he big!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pinwheels Galore

I'm not sure what these pinwheels are for, but they line this street and then cheer me up every time I see them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ni hui shuo Yingwen ma?

Yesterday we went on the same hike we went on last weekend, only this time we stopped every once in awhile to actually look up at the scenery. At the top we got some noodles with the assistance of a nice woman who, seeing our struggle with knowing what was available and how to communicate to the man what we wanted, explained what was in each pot and then ordered for us.

While it was delicious, we were hungry again by the time we reached home. We stopped at a stall that we walk by almost everyday but have never stopped at. Unlike the carts we go to, her food was not out so we couldn't just point at what we wanted. Nor did we know if she even had anything that we could eat. So, I used one of the two sentences I know in Chinese - do you speak English? I didn't expect her to, but it never hurts to ask. She responded with a bunch of words I didn't understand - it could have been "crazy lady, what are you talking about? What language are you speaking?" for all I know - because I have no clue if I pronounce anything correctly. I told her we didn't want meat, and she understood that. Jeremiah used the translate function on his iphone and asked her for no meat and no eggs, that we were vegetarian. Through lots of back and forth with the lady and another customer who knew a little english we got our food. The best part of this story for me is the end. It was time to pay, we just didn't know how much. This is the other of the two sentences I know - how much does it cost? - so from my seat where I was trying to talk to the other customer I said it in Chinese. And the lady I was talking to looked impressed and said "that was right!" and "very good!" This made my day. I felt like the kid who finally got an answer right in school. Maybe I'll up my Chinese knowledge to three sentences soon!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

hardly hiking

so, growing up in the NW with parents that are teachers and traveling to different national parks with allison's dad and di, we've done our fair share of hiking in the summer.  we'd heard about hiking in the dakeng area (still not sure about the use of that word.  when i tell people where i teach, they say, "oh, dakeng" which i think means hills and trees) and we were excited to get up there.  i talked with one of the guys i play ultimate with about hiking, so we decided that allison, another frisbee friend, he, and i (sounds wrong grammatically in my head, but it is correct, i think) would head out for a morning hike and then nom nom down some glorious indian food.  from what i had read, hiking was more about going up and down hills instead of switchbacks.  speaking of switchbacks, if you ever get a chance to hike around zion national park, head to angels landing and check out the 21 switchback, 1500 ft ascending trail that ends with a .5 mile death crab walk (most people hike the last part, but not me) to a nice landing area with a great view of the canyon.  well, hiking in taiwan is the exact opposite.

the hike started out near a bunch of fruit stands about 20 minutes from our house and right near the beginning of the trail was a huuuge playground/military training looking thing (will take more pics next time).  and right away, we're climbing up steps made out of branches.  we ended up walking/climbing/tripping/sliding down these bad boy branches most of the time.  one of the negatives about having to hike like that is that you end up looking at your feet 90% of the time.  i guess it would be one thing if you grew up there and were used to it, but since it was our first time, we kept wanting to look around us.  it was pretty smoggy up there, so the views weren't that great, but it was in the middle of the forest, so we were able to see lots of nice views, crazy lil caterpillars, and be in the shade.

we hiked trail 1 to the top and had a seat at the little noodle stand up there and had a super supau (which up until now, i thought was supau supau) that was warm because they don't believe in cold drinks here.  i probably lost about 7 lbs because of how much i was sweating.  as bjorn put it, "my nose is like a ski jump for sweat."  hung out there for a few minutes then headed down.  there are a few points on the hike that the trail is actually built out over the cliff just a bit, which is a little crazy because you can see down the steep face of the mountain.  at some points, i swear, your going down or up at a 75 degree angle.  we'll do a better job taking pictures next time, but for now, i took a few with my phone that are at the bottom of this post.  we ended up finishing around noon and as we were getting to our car, an older lady came up to us and our friends talked to her and she said she needed a ride down to the bottom of the hill.  i said yes (obviously) and she climbed into the backseat with allison and bjorn.  then we went to the glorious glorious indian food place, went home, showered, took a two hour nap, and then ended up going out for a few drinks with our hiker friends later that night.  fun times.
better pics next time!

heading down the steep part.  then right back up once you got to the bottom of the dip.

they keep it looking pretty nice.

one of the steeper parts.

ropes came in handy.

the view, 90% of the time.

allison's new best friend. (and no, i wasn't sneaky when i took that picture.  just turned around and said "smile!")

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hungry for a snack?

I bet aromatic salt flavored corn will hit the spot.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Home alone

I was home alone for this earthquake that just happened, and awake for that matter. The last earthquake happened in the middle of the night and when Jeremiah asked me what we should do, I replied: "wait and see if it gets worse." Apparently my desire for sleep took precedent over worrying. Today it felt exponentially worse because I was able to devote full mental capacity to the worse case scenario and no one was with me, so, I stood in the doorway. That's what you're supposed to do, right? Get under a desk or in a doorway. That's what I've practiced tons of times both as a child and as an adult in the drills at school. I went with instinct. Luckily the doorway wasn't needed, and after a few aftershocks everything is back to normal.

(picture added by jeremiah and found here)

Monday, November 2, 2009


For the first time since we've been here I walked outside, got goose bumps and said "it's cold out here!" Yup, I finally got cold by the actual weather and not just the air conditioning. Tomorrow night I may think about wearing jeans instead of shorts.