Happy Birthday to Me

I know, I know, I haven’t posted about my birthday. Honestly it wasn’t much to talk about.

Taipei Birthday

I was in Taipei the night before for a concert of the choir that I had almost joined but had no time for. I was so tired that I nearly fell asleep the entire time, but it still was wonderful to hear classical choral music. I remembered some of the songs from my brief time rehearsing with them, so I sang along under my breath. The little girl a few seats over copied the conductor with broad, sweeping gestures of her arms. I smiled, thinking of how this is something I would have done at her age. My feet were suddenly very hot, so I took off my shoes and covered my bare feet with a scarf, hoping no one would notice. It was hardly the airplane, but I couldn’t sit there for two hours wearing shoes. No way.

Immediately after we taxied home and I went right to sleep. I could not stay awake. I was a bit put off that my hosts put on the television loudly in the next room and continued to thump around the house, but I get the feeling that they stay up later than me anyhow. Surprisingly, as they are older, I often get calls or texts from them as late as 11pm at night!

The morning brought a typical delicious breakfast. I love meals at this house because they are just my style, simple, steamed, and lots from which to choose. This morning had a fruit plate of apples, guava, and mango, and a vegetable plate of broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and sweet potato. I am a fan of everything, so it makes a lovely breakfast. At home I wouldn’t usually have vegetables for breakfast, but somehow here it seems to be okay to me.

Genial and I set off to the market, at my request, and she proceeded to buy me everything! I was again embarrassed, though thankful, since I haven’t quite figured out how the market works yet in terms of getting a good price. I think they still try to swindle me. I came across a tangerine seller who was also from Yilan, upon hearing it was my birthday he thrust three juicy tangerines into my hands and began talking at me rapidly in Taiwanese. The tangerines were purely orange, more orange than any standard American orange and surprisingly not the mottled green-orange shared by all citrus fruits here. The stems and leaves were still intact, as if he had just plucked them from the trees just for me. Tangerines are a happy, lucky fruit.

We bought a beet, a kabocha squash (!), some spinach, a loofa, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, a taro, a large dragon fruit, apples, a guava, and something else I can’t quite remember. My bags were laden down, but I was happy that I had bought from the market which is somehow better than that in Yilan.

As usual, I fell asleep on the bus home from Taipei (me and busses….it just happens) and was rather dreading the walk home with my bags stuffed full like a vegetable-gifting santa claus. As I was crossing the street, the woman who had been sitting next to me on the bus turned to me and led me to a car across the street. Thinking it was some sort of unofficial taxi, I asked her who it was in the car. Learning it was her mother, I accepted the offer of a ride, and began trying to explain in Mandarin where I lived while they spoke Taiwanese back to me. Thankfully my veggies and I arrived home intact and I had yet another story to tell. This is the second time I’ve accepted a ride from kind Yilaners. I know you may all balk at this, but I’ve got the intuition to tell whether it might be a bad idea. At least one would hope so, right?

School Birthday

The thursday before my actual birthday, my LET and the Dean presented me with a strange japanese cheesecake and had the teachers sing to me during the staff meeting. Ellen gave me a package which contained some fuzzy socks and some man’s leather gloves which I probably wouldn’t wear if I didn’t actually have cold hands in the brisk 6:30am air.

Later, the second grade teacher who so very much loves to talk to me was blathering on about something or another and mentioned the tradition of red eggs on birthdays. If you’re unfamiliar, as I was:

Eggs hold a special symbolic significance in many cultures, and China is no exception. The Chinese believe eggs symbolize fertility. After a baby is born, parents may hold a “red egg and ginger party,” where they pass out hard boiled eggs to announce the birth. (In some regions of China the number of eggs presented depends on the sex of the child: an even number for a girl, and an odd number if a boy has been born). (from Wikipedia)
Saying I could eat eggs, the teacher quickly dispatched Tom the Multipurpose guy to get eggs (or so I supposed) and he quickly rushed out the door. Soon he returned with a bag full of eggs. I pretended not to have seen and promptly forgot about the whole exchange. Later a call came to the classroom asking me to come to the office. The teacher, full of the enthusiasm one has when about to let out a pent up surprise, dragged me outside the other door and there, on some newspaper, was a red egg.

In all its glory

It had been a group effort between the teachers presently in the office, and I smiled. Warning me, in Mandarin, not to eat this certain egg, Tom brought me over to a metal container that was filled with hard boiled eggs. The teacher started bundling these into a food-safe plastic bag for me to take home. I ended up taking home about two dozen hard boiled eggs that day. Currently my fridge is stuffed to the brim. The absolute brim.

Home Birthday

Also this week came a birthday package from my lovely family! And since I’m writing this at a later date, I can also tell you that my wonderful aunties Margie and Sue sent me packages as did both sets of grandparents. There is no better way to feel loved at such a distance. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

My parents sent…well…my Mom obviously put it together when my Dad wasn’t there, because there was nothing from him inside 🙂

shaker bottle for smoothies (the cups here are small!), some chipy/crackery things, bars, earrings (owls!), chocolate!!

and a chocolate advent calendar! Our house has at least 30 different advent calendars but I’ve ever had a chocolate one.


The cars came first. My sister is such an artist 🙂 and my brother’s cartoon made me laugh. It looks a bit like Uncle Tom’s Ed, doesn’t it anyone who knows?



My Auntie Sue sent me a neat Owl cut out that is now on my wall keeping me safe, Auntie Margie sent me a large photo of her and all my cousins which is also on my wall, and a scarf that I’ve already worn numerous times and gotten complements on, Grammie and Grampie sent a little notebook I used on sunday for taking blog notes on the train, and Mimaw and Pop sent me a warm Owl scarf that will go with me to my as of yet undisclosed lunar new year holiday location.

Thank you loving family.

Yilan Fulbright Birthday

I had arranged to go to the all you can eat (chi dao bao-literally eat until full) hot pot place that I love so much. Everyone showed up, which made me incredibly happy! Even our coordinator, Kelly came. We took up two tables and chatted and ate for hours until it was time to close.

Because we were so many people there, I am the owner of a VIP membership card at the restaurant and am now entitled to 15% off all purchases. 

All in all, it was a lovely birthday and well spent with lots of love from all sides. Thank goodness. The only thing that could have made it better would be if I were home with family love all around me.

Love, Hannah


A Taiwanese ‘Family’

Being away from home is tough, especially when you’re closest people are your family. Thank goodness for my Taiwanese family! The Dengs are the most wonderful home away from home in Taipei, just an hour away by bus. I  常常 go there (frequently, chang chang)

It’s a long story that I’ll attempt to make short. We know them from my great grandparents who taught at their university. They are family friends and we first met when I was 10, visiting to adopt Grace. Here are G and IY

Grandmother and Grandfather Taipei

The first time they visited me driving through Yilan. We met for dinner at the restaurant I’d visited first with Kevin in NYC and then with Aria and Mary Kate earlier in the month, Loving Hut. If you’re keen on good quality vegan food, I’d say check this place out, it’s got places all over the world, each run by an independent person so the food isn’t shipped in like many chains.

Allen and I

I got to know the grandsons a little, but their English wasn’t good enough that my poor Chinese couldn’t meet well enough. We still had a great time playing an hour of 5 person baseball before dinner, in Yilan Sports Park.


I brought some gifts for them, namely some nice magazines for the boys and some pot holders for the family. G read to the kids and they tried the Highlights word search while we waited for our food to arrive.


I ordered my favourite, mushroom hot pot, which I hadn’t had before here, but looked promising. I’ve discovered that hot pot is simply a favorite and I wasn’t disappointed with this one. Both the boys ordered this too.

G’s meal

I loved the different mushrooms in the hot pot, but wasn’t so keen on the glass noodles inside. I’m just not a noodle person I guess. They could have easily substituted more squash/pumpkin and other veggies for those. Maybe next time I’ll ask to have that done.

It was such a lovely time that we promised to see each other soon, this time with me going to Taipei. It wasn’t many weeks until I was seeing this:

My bed.

G had called me up and asked whether I wanted to participate in her choir that friday evening- did I EVER!

Everything was like I remember when I visited as a child.

My bedroom

The living room

While G prepared dinner, I plucked out notes of the choir songs on their piano.

I hear this song and immediately think Josh Groban.

ebony and ivory

I had to sneak a few pictures of her cooking.

look at her go!

They really do have a nice kitchen by Taiwan’s standards. Mostly made so by the Vitamix. I’m still in love.


She cooked soup, which I’ve started making for myself here. It’s so simple and so delicious. I usually have countless bowls.

I think this one is water, a bit of oil, bamboo, and dried mushrooms?

Our tin openers used as….magnets? Not sure….

Dinner night one: egg and scallion pancake, some sort of tofu thing, sauces, eggplant, bamboo, and broccoli.

I can’t get enough of this food.

mi fan.

Except the rice. So kill me. I don’t like rice.

Yellow Kiwi, Red Dragonfruit, and Mango

Always fresh fruit plates for dessert.


I’ll be going here often, methinks.

That’s as far as I’ll get for now. Next post will be all about Saturday, the first. Pictures of breakfast on the mountain, walking around, etc.

Love, Hannah