Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coming Home

Coming home this Saturday. I'm excited, but not looking forward to the long trip.... Hope I'll sleep the whole way.

Whew....

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Craziness before Going Home

So it's Wednesday and I'm really happy because I get to wash my hair today!!! Saturday I got it permanently straightened and they said not to wash or get it wet for 3 days. It got pretty oily the 2nd day so I'm super glad now.


This weekend I don't get to pack for America because we're going on a company trip to Gukeng county to see the biggest amusement park in Taiwan. Originally we were going to Hualien (really beautiful nature) but now I'm not so enthusiastic. We have to meet at 6:30am on Saturday. UGH! And a 4 hour bus ride, as opposed to a much shorter train ride there. Then on Sunday I have to lead the whole group in an exercise dance. I'm working on my "vacation!!!!" AAAAH! Sorry, I'm complaining. I need to let it out somewhere. I'm really worried I won't have fun because it doesn't sound like all the activities we'll be doing will be relaxing, plus I would never want to go to an amusement park.

Okay, end of that shpeal. On another cool note, it turns out my Chinese has REALLY improved fast at least in the last two months. Two Taiwanese people commented on it to me. I'm super happy. I feel like I have a lot more vocab and grammar constructions up my sleeve. And even if I don't know the word I can either explain it or make one up that fits. Coming here really paid off!

So long story short, I have to pack and make sure the substitute teachers have enough to do by the end of next week. I'm a little stressed. Urgh. And nervous about the flight. It will be LONG and I'll be doing it twice. I'm really afraid of getting turbulence again. I literally felt like I was dying. EEEEEEEK!!!

Peace. Going to bed late again today.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Breaking News

So it's not a surprise to some, but I've decided to stay in Taiwan for another year. I'm nowhere near being fluent in Chinese and I haven't seen all the cool places in Taiwan. So I'm postponing grad school and staying at my current job. I'm going back to America for Christmas and I'll be there until New Years. So if you're free and in my area (you should know where), let me know so we can visit! :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

I had a nice Thanksgiving with my fellow teachers at Xin Hu this past Sunday. We ordered turkey, gravy, and stuffing from a local hotel. Everyone brought a dish to share: mashed potatoes, pies, cranberry sauce... It was pretty good. The week before I was smell-hallucinating about turkey and gravy.

After we gorged ourselves, we played charades and talked about what we were thankful for. :) So I helped me feel better about missing Thanksgiving at home.


(crescent rolls, green bean casserole!!!!!)

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Real Scoop on Taroko Gorge

Friday evening we took a High Speed Rail Train to Hualien City and checked into our hotel for the night. I got to feel my first earthquake ever in the shower. It was so small I thought I was just remembering what it felt like in the train.

Early the next morning we rented a scooter drove to Taroko gorge! It was raining since the day before so we wore ponchos and still got soaked. Here's the gate to the gorge:

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Our first stop was the Eternal Springs Shrine, dedicated to the many people who lost their lives building the road through the gorge. It was really pretty (but small). A spring runs underneath it, and it's had to be rebuilt three times because of rockslides.

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Then we headed to Bulowan, the aboriginal settlement in the gorge. It's all commercialized now, but the idea was still good.

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The tribe is called Atayal and they're famous for their weaving techniques. We got to see an old woman weaving inside their museum. Out behind the lower village we went on the Swallow Grotto trail. It was gorgeous but tiring. Ick. I'm out of shape!

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Next we stopped by the Nine Turns, supposedly the most beautiful part of the gorge. It's where the road goes in and out through a mountain. A section was closed off because of rockslides. Luckily we kept our scooter helmets on! ;)

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In fact, there was a recent rockslide, from the looks of it. I stole a shard of rock as a souvenir!

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Then we got to our destination: Tienxiang, the only town in the gorge. We stayed at the Grand Formosa Hotel (five stars!!!)
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We tried for the Hsiang Te temple nearby because it had a pretty pagoda, but it was closed for the night. We checked out the famous Catholic hostel where Albert stayed a few times instead. Then we went for a swim, ate dinner, and got to see a performance of A-mei aboriginal dances. The guy group dances were hot to watch! They were very masculine and loud and looked like they were showing off hunting skills. The leader's dancing was really good, and he wasn't bad looking either. ;) They asked the audience to come up and learn a dance so we got up and I won a prize for the dance. ;) Then it was off to bed. I woke up the next morning to see a huge pile of sunflower seed shells on our porch!!! Haha!

Sunday was another early rise and we went back to the Catholic hostel to take pictures and hopefully meet the priest. Albert told me he was American and lived in Taiwan most of his life. I thought it would be really cool to meet him and see what he was like. It seemed like a really peaceful life living in the mountains like this with a small church to tend to. When we got there we saw three cats sitting on someone's scooter. It was very cute!

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It was more of a chapel, than a church. It felt very peaceful, only three rows of pews...As we were leaving a man came out to talk and we found out the priest had died a few years ago, and that now a priest comes from out of town only once a week to give mass. It was very depressing to hear that. I almost wish I could have stayed and helped keep up the place...

We went to the Hsiang Te Temple next. One minute outside of Tienxiang. It's on a mini-mountain in the middle of the gorge. Two big buddhasavas (sp), a pagoda, and a temple. The gold Buddha is apparently at the highest altitude in the world.

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Then we went on a couple of trails. First was Lushui trail. I pretty much snacked on sunflower seeds the whole way (I was starving!!!).

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Then Baiyang trail... which was closed. So we went partway up the Meiyuan/Jhucun trail... at least up to the scary suspension bridge. You could seen through the planks to the bottom of the gorge. It was terrifying!!!!

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Then we headed back to Hualien to grab some mochis (a popular dessert here) and start out return trip to Taipei. All in all, an awesome trip! I would definitely take my family there if they came to visit! ;) Hint hint.











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Monday, November 15, 2010

Post Taroko Update

This weekend was awesome! Very relaxing. I'm just really tired from the traveling. I'll tell you all about it in a day or two! :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Raid Adventure

So today at my school there was a raid from the government, and, for some reason, it's illegal for foreigners to teach kindergarten in Taiwan. So everytime this happens, the teachers have to book it outside the back and wait until it's safe to come back inside. I didn't hear the announcement because I was in the bathroom so I come downstairs and someone gives me the hand motion that means-- go back upstairs there's a raid!!! So I hid in the bathroom for a while... and then I snuck over to an empty classroom and hid in the sliding cupboards where they have spare cots...and I took a nap. ;) Pretty crazy, huh? I love playing hide and seek.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pottery-making in Ying Ge

Two weekends ago (I know I'm late to update!!!) Albert and I went to Ying Ge, a small town that's famous for ceramics and pottery. We went to a workshop where we got to glaze cups and actually use a pottery wheel! It was AMAZING! I've always wanted to try it! I tried to make a bowl and it was good until I kept experimenting. So the teacher kinda redid it for me. I love some cool pictures I'll post later!!

The weather is really nice here right now. It's fall and it's cool but not cold. The rain's let up a little bit so I'm happy! This weekend we're going to Taroko Gorge (look it up on google!). It's really beautiful! Lots of hiking and nature. We've been meaning to go since mid-October so I'm glad we're finally getting there!

Gotta run! Chinese class!
Love,
Rachel

Halloween at Hsin Hu School

So this past Halloween our school went ALL out to throw a party for the children and parents. We transformed each classroom into different acitvity rooms, such as eat a donut from a string, haunted house, DIY activites, etc. And the English teachers all had to dress up and dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller. It turned out pretty well I think! I'll upload the video once I get it finished. But for now, here are some pictures!!! Enjoy!
Teacher Ted, our host, as a pilot
Teacher Kate as a donut queen!
Me, as a candy girl
Me and my Chinese co-teachers
All of us after the show
Teacher Katannya as the mummy in the haunted house
Teacher Kate, Teacher Leanne (knigth in shining armor), and me
Teacher Catherine as a pirate (sorry I didn't get the orientation right!)
Teacher James as a sexy vampire, and Teacher Leanne

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Things I miss in Taiwain

(besides family and friends- that's obvious ;) )

 * Good ice cream (Breyers)
* Convenient Ballroom dancing
* PBS
* VS
* Driving cars
* Better selection of English books
* More to add later


Things I Love About Taiwan

* Hearing a foreign language everywhere I go
* CHEAP food
* CHEAP clothes
* Being able to hug my students
* Hot weather
* Interesting food
.... more to add later!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Evening in Ying Ge

This past Sunday we went to Ying Ge to check out some pottery and ceramics. We went pretty late in the day so we have to go back to finish, but we walked around the inside of the Ceramics museum. We saw some nice teacups and sets in the giftshop and we ended up buying one.... It looks like jade! Really cool!

Hopefully in a few weeks we might be able to go back! Albert is going on a business trip for a week so I'll be a homebody!

I'll post pictures when I can use a computer with java. (Right now it's too much of a hassle.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adele Blanc-Sec

This weekend was pretty fun! It didn't end up raining (luckily) and I got to do something  both days. Saturday I worked and saw a french film with Albert! Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adele Blanc-Sec! It was super crazy and funny and I loved it! It's set in the 20th century with teradaktyls (sp), and French speaking mummies and a whole bunch of quirky people. It's worth seeing! especially if you love French.


Sunday I went to San Xia to visit a friend and we had a photoshoot at a hotel.We did our own makeup and hair and clothes and another friend took pictures. I'll post a few when I get the chance.

Oh! and I bought a baby bonsai tree! :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Moon Festival in Danshui

So yesterday was a national holiday for the Moon and I went to Danshui for the first time! It's a large port city. I got to see the famous Dutch fort San Domingo, the old British Consulate office, and walked around the Old Streets. I tried iron eggs and a-gei. They were both interesting but not my favorites:

"Iron eggs (鐵蛋) are eggs which have been repeatedly stewed in a mix of spices and air dried. The resulting eggs are dark brown, chewy and, about half its initial size. The famous Iron eggs store is Grandma's Tiedan (阿婆鐵蛋) - 135 Zhongzheng Road (Old Street).


A-Gei (阿給) are deep fried tofu that have been stuff with flavoured crystal noodles and sealed with fish paste (surimi). It is often served with a spicy sauce. Many places serve this, but one of the original A-Gei restaurants is on Zhenli St. (真理街) - the last one on the right as you walk up this steep, narrow street." Wikipedia
 
I'll upload pictures later when I have more time on the computer! It was really fun! I got some gorgeous sun dresses and Chinese paintings.
 
http://wikitravel.org/en/Danshui

Monday, September 20, 2010

Typhoon This Weekend

This weekend I had my first ever typhoon! I was SO excited. I wanted rain and wind and thunderstorms and blackouts, and a nice relaxing day indoors. (Plus a day off on Monday) But... in Taipei it didn't happen. I guess the mountains surrounding the city kept us from most of the damage. I got to see some rain and some winds. So I'm a little disappointed on that account.
 
The South really got it bad and it created a LOT of damage, so I feel really sorry for them. Here's the story in our newspaper if you want to read more. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2010/09/20/2003483316

Other than that, I feel really swamped, because I want to do a good job, especially now that I only have to go to one school. There's just a lot to be done. EEEK! But anyways, it's looking nasty outside and I should be going home before it starts raining!!!

Why Sometimes I'm Ashamed to be An Foreigner in Taiwan

(Written Weeks Ago)

So today I encountered a brand new English teacher from America, and, because of him, I'm reminded why we are sometimes called "foreign devils" here. It's because for some people egocentrism gets in the way of cultural sensitivity. This guy was telling a story to a group of English teachers wherein he saw a lizard fall out of a Taiwanese lady's umbrella and into her shirt. She tries to get the lizard out frantically, and this guy's reaction was to stop and laugh. So he tells this story and ends it saying that she now gives him an evil look every time she sees him, but he feels no remorse because, "It was funny."

Now I can't help but get really annoyed at hearing this, because laughing out loud at someone's discomfort is rude in American culture as well as Taiwanese. A mature person should know better, and as a brand new foreigner to the island a little sensitivity and respect for Taiwanese people is a must.

In Taiwan there's a concept known as "face" where you basically have the social obligation to save any and every person from embarrassment. It's really important here. By laughing at someone you don't know whose country you are visiting, you take that person's "face." "Guanxi" is also another important element in the social structure where you basically build up "brownie-points" (to put it in simple terms) with everyone around you by how you act towards them. Saying hi to your neighbors, helping someone, smiling at people who look at you builds up your guanxi and in return the people with whom you've interacted will give back the good karma one way or another. Laughing at that poor woman destroyed this guy's hope of getting guanxi from her and her friends, which really does gives you benefits.

So at this point of listening to the story I can't help myself and I tell him how rude he is, not denying the fact that it's funny and very laughable if it was in a movie. "You could laugh silently at least," I said. "Well it's not laughing if it's silent," he replies. "You would've laughed too."

And here's the part where I feel embarrassed that I'm associated with this guy. The worst thing you could do when visiting a foreign place (in my opinion) is believe you're better than the native people. What's more is he did not want to look at the situation from another point of view- I doubt he would think it funny if he was in the lady's situation.

Young children don't have the mental capability to understand that other people might have different opinions and beliefs from themselves. Piaget called it egocentrism. Perhaps some people are unable to grow out of it. That's really quite sad.

Don't get me wrong. I love that I'm American and I am so fortunate to have grown up there, but sometimes I wish I wasn't related to egocentric people like that.

If you see the movie Ip Man 2 you will get a perfect example of the insensitivity and cockiness of a "foreign devil." I felt really horrible seeing how the boxer in the movie was so disrepectful and I thought that foreigners really can't be like that anymore. That was so long ago. Well, today I found out I'm wrong.

Moral of the story: Please be respectful to other people. The end.

Last Weekend- Picasso and Manet Art Exhibit

So this happened not last weekend, but a few weekends ago. My computer has been fussy so I couldn't get the pictures up till now. Albert and I went to the Picasso- Manet Art Exhibit in Taipei. It was pretty good! I love going to art exhibits!

Right now my hair is CRAZY. It's so thick and poofy on tip and on the bottom layers it's still super straight from when I got it permanently done.
After the museum we discovered only the best bookstore: Caves Books! There were a lot of English books about language learning- learning English or Chinese. I bought one on teaching a second language to children.
This sculpture was on the way to the museum. It's for the Taipei Flora Exhibition. Every year there's a big show all about flowers. It's going to be awesome!!!
Peace out!

Friday, September 17, 2010

My computer is D-E-A-D dead

My battery fried the motherboard so I don't know when I'll be able to have regular access to a computer again. Albert might let me use his under supervision. :fingers crossed: I'm not really trustworthy with electronics.

Love to everyone,
Rachel

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chinese Class

I've been taking Chinese class Tuesdays and Thursdays 7-9pm and it's awesome!! Learning a lot! :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Super Junior

On Saturdays I teach teenagers and I learned a little bit about a popular boy band they like. At first I wasn't that interested. I had my NSync and Backstreet Boys phase in high school, but when I saw some of their videos and listened to their music I changed my mind a little bit.

They're called Super Junior, a band from S. Korea (which is producing a lot of the popular entertainment in Taiwan right now). 13 reallly metro guys. I thought you might like to check them out to see what some guys in Taiwan look like (hair and fashion-wise).





This next song and video really made me warm up to them. I know in real-life no guy is that romantic but it's fun to watch!





PS- The dancing is pretty cool. Despite what Albert says.

Last Friday was Bodily Functions Day At School

So this past Friday was pretty exciting toward the end of the day. Here's what happened: two of my kids threw up. One threw up on a teacher. Another one farted on me, and when I was helping them in the bathroom a little girl came in and peed all over the floor through her clothes!!! It was pretty crazy!

PS- Rachel it was one of your hippos! :'( "Eli-buh-buh"

For real this time- My Birthday in Kenting

Friday night we packed and cleaned the apartment a little before the trip.

Saturday we left bright and early:
9am left the apartment
MRT to HSR Train Station (High Speed Rail)
HSR to Zuoying 2 hours
Bus from Zuoying to Kenting 2 1/2 hours

We saw a really cool temple with lanterns on the bus ride!

Now we're starting to see the beach!!! It was really exciting!



When we got to the hotel we were STARVING. So we checked in and ordered lunch at the cafe. THIS was the salad: a work of art!
We didn't know the portions would be HUGE so we were a little daunted. I got a really yummy rice-beef dish. Albert got beef noodles. Next stop was the beach (pictures a little later) and soon it was time for dinner.

We had a free dinner with the hotel package at their Chinese restaurant. Again, it was really a meal for 5 people. Here's a dish with shrimp, beans, flower petals, and a special kind of seed.

Albert tricked me into eating this one. It's squid!!! Yuck! With a dipping sauce and some seaweed.
Had to take a picture with this mannekin because I love the swim suit and it was too expensive to buy.

Alright, the next thing on the list was to go to the Kenting night market. About 10-15 minutes walk.

We saw pizza rolled into a cone!

Coconut juice!
Seafood. Squid again...
More seafood and a whole bird.
Clams and oysters.
I ended up getting some really cute sundresses ($3 each) and some bracelets with seashells. It was a nice place! Also, we saw a crossdresser come out of a restaurant and do a dance for everyone.

Albert surprised me at the end of the night with a little birthday celebration. It was very sweet! :)

Our room!

Now come the beach pictures! Looking at this just makes me feel relaxed! It was so nice!
There were lots of little crabs on the shore. We saw a hermit crab! It looked like a spider!!
There were bungaloos to sit under. The sand was unbearably hot on Sunday!
The waves here were HUGE so close to the shore!





This was the pool overlooking the ocean. We swam in it Saturday at night, and Albert taught me how to do the breaststroke properly.
Sunday afternoon we played on the beach and get this: FLOATED in the ocean!!! There was an enclosed area safe of jellyfish and undercurrents where we could put on life-jackets and float near the shore. It was super scary and amazing! At first I clung to Albert's life-jacket and then I ended up being comfortable floating by myself! It was so cool to move with the waves! PS- Mom, Dad, it was really safe- don't worry!!!
We had a really good time! We might go back for Albert's birthday.
Then came the 4 1/2 hour ride back home. The clouds were magnificent. This formation really made me think of God!
All in all it was an amazing trip! The hotel we stayed at was incredible! Lots of nice outdoor areas. Four or five pools. Nice places to sit down on the porch! And many cool things to do on the beach (which we didn't have time for). However, we really paid for all that finery- it was pretty expensive.

But still, I hope we go again!! :D