How to go on a Field Trip!

It’s the day that every student waits for: field trip day.

Little do they know, however, that teachers also await such days with great anticipation. Nothing could be more pleasing than being outside, learning something that isn’t your standard faire.

This explains my excitement when my coteacher, Ellen, told me a few weeks ago that we would be going on a field trip to the Yilan Green Expo with the first graders the next week. Anxiously anticipating this date, I really had no idea what to expect. Would we be charged with chaperoning certain groups? Would I be able to see the whole expo? Would it be big or small? What would the weather be like? None of these thoughts were unfounded, it turns out, because up until we got there, I really had no idea of any of the answers.

Tuesday came, and I packed myself up a lunch in my little green bento and tied it into a plastic bag. I have bad luck when it comes to..well…a lot of things, so I wanted to make sure the balsamic vinegar didn’t get everywhere. I took my normal 40 minute bus ride to school, nodding off as usual, and nothing seemed different until 9:00 rolled around and the  tour busses rolled into the driveway of the school.

First graders getting ready to board the bus

Ellen hastily handed me a hand made identification card (sadly, we don’t wear them at our school) and we raced out to join the first graders.

Don’t laugh, I know it’s a wretched picture that looks nothing like me.

It turns out that the sixth graders were also taking their trip this day, and as we boarded our pink bus, they boarded another. 

Did you ever see such a bus?

Inside, the bus reminded me of my first trip to Taiwan and our trip up the mountain in a tour bus much like this one with its plush seats and frilly curtains that made it look more like a gypsy caravan than a big bus.

Note the curtains

Riding a bus with first graders brings to mind what sort of environment? I bet you’d expect screaming and scampering about but these were surprisingly well behaved.

Helllloooo

I sat with this Cutie

We said ‘bye-bye’ to the school and we were off to Su’Ao.

Bye-bye Kai Xuan!

Passing countrysides so green I almost wanted to put on my sunglasses, the teacher passed out fish flavored snack crackers to everyone riding the bus. I tucked mine into my bag, mentally noting to give them to our Soldier boy, Tony. 

Graveyard, Taiwan style

Green and growing gardens

The entrance to the Expo was through a huge gardening basket complete with tools. How’s that for interesting!

Excuse Tony’s face, he got in the way.

I was surprised to find that there were no discipline, safety or precautionary procedures or rules in place. Or rather, none that I could pick out from what I could understand. Already wearing their purple and gold school uniforms, our students did not need matching hats or tshirts, but other than there, there was no supervision that I could see. I was surprised not to be assigned to a group of kids and given the whistle and a clip board I had grown used to during my time as a summer camp counselor a few summers ago. Grasping at these loose ends, we entered the park. 

Presentation hall and surrounding garden

First off we all headed to the presentation hall for a show before exploring. I usually skip out on shows like this, finding it much more relaxing to explore exhibitions and parks on my own time, but as I was still unsure of what my role for the day was, I tagged along.

What it ended up begin was considerably frightening; sincerely the stuff of nightmares.

giant costumes with large lips.

I did my best to look away, but eventually had to get up and leave. I dragged Tony with me, although I suspect he was also glad to quit the scene. 

Tiny cuties!

We walked around a bunch, up to the top of the sprawling Expo and back down again, ending at some picnic tables for lunch. I’ll give you some pictures first, then explain the unfortunate happenstance of leaking balsamic vinegar.

the exterior of some building

recycled autos

The green space around the Expo was phenomenal. I was jealous of all the gardens. When I get to New York City, I’m going to see how I can get involved with a CSA- you never who who you’ll meet while on your hands and knees weeding onions 🙂

We ran into some 6th graders and I made them pose for a photo.

I pretended not to know them, and made them laugh by saying, ‘Oh hello, I am the English teacher from Kai Xuan. How are you?’ 

Giant nature book and camera

Scattered with students from any number of schools, the Expo was brightly colored and vibrant.

children playing under Yilan’s famous green onions!

If I had this in my back yard, I’d sit beneath it in a nice chair and read for hours.

This little stream ran the length of the Expo

Aways up the path, we passed some expo tents and checked out some of the local fare inside. Each section of the park was modeled after a section of the Aboriginal tribes, although I couldn’t read the map or brochure so can’t tell you any more.

Wooden bugs in the trees!

One tend had a machine that made extruded brown rice sticks. Into a slot at the top you put the brown rice, and turned a crank, and ba-boom- rice sticks!

Tony with our rice sticks

I bought a bag for NT 50 (which is about USD 1.50) and happily crunched my way through last week….eventually getting to the bottom of the bag all too soon.

Beautiful gardens abound

Here I’ll leave you, and tomorrow I’ll post about the rest of the Expo.

Don’t you just love Field trips? Comment and let me know which field trip sticks out most in your mind? What kind of security for the kiddies do you think is essential?

Love, Hannah

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Keeping Busy

I have developed such a fear of writing something disorganized and inarticulate that every time I sit down to write out a blog post, I find myself faltering and becoming quite unable to put any thoughts down at all. Most frustrating.

We are closing in on Spring here although thankfully the weather remains as chilly and wet as ever. While it has warmed a bit and I no longer need to wear eleven layers inside the house, I am keenly aware that one day I will wake up and BAM- HEAT. I do not look forward to this day. If you know anything about me, you will probably know that among all four seasons, I like Summer the least. I’ll get into this in another post in which I discuss the future and how I only have four months left! But for now I’m still sitting in bed wearing my jacket, as I would be if I were in the States, as I hear you all are being dumped upon with yet more ice and snow. Would you groan if I told you I were jealous?

The best thing about this spring semester is that I’m much more busy. Here’s what I’ve currently got going on:

1. Weekly English on Tuesdays-this continues from last semester. Basically I present three English sentences at the Tuesday assembly

2. English Club- I finally was asked by my school to do a friday afternoon English club. I had asked a few times to do something of the sort, but was always told there was no time. This is even better, because it’s paid because it’s outside of work hours. Next post will be on the first session, which was last week!

3. English Easy Go Preparations- EEG (not to be confused with the Brain one) I am coaching the Song aspect (that has a dance to go with it) and the Reader’s Theatre, the script for which I adapted from Jan Brett’s ‘The Mitten’ story, a family favorite. The song/dance bit is to ‘The Lazy Song’ and ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ which are both, I kid you not, my least favorite songs. Go figure, right? For RT, the kids do not seem to give a flying fish about cracking down to business, which worries me, because KX (our school) has apparently done quite well in past years.

4. Contest Judging- I judged two speech/recitation contests in December, and since then have been judging anything English related at my school. While I have fun doing this, it’s mostly to see the kids take something in earnest. I throughly dislike ranking students and find this immensely difficult.

5. Yilan Project- Well you know what? I would explain this to you all if I had any idea what we were exactly doing. None of us ETAs really do. We are supposed to create something which is (from what I can gather) basically a tourist thing promoting Yilan in the form of connecting it to the US. Not blatantly touristy, but basically I think you could sort of say that, as we are covering food, family, environment, etc. We are responsible for the content, and Fulbright will hire professional people to put together pamphlets and exhibition books. Should be interesting.

6. Tutoring- I tutor one of my 6th grade students for an hour every week. His Mom said that towards finals she’d want to make it every day if he could deal with it. I balked a little. Not sure what to make of this.

7. Reach the World-First semester I was blogging for Reach the World, an organization that connects world travelers with inner city classrooms, particularly in NYC. I wrote all my posts in the fall only to be informed in December that the entire semester they had been unable to match me with a school.  This semester I have supposedly been matched and they are using my content from last semester which is great because I’m a bit busy and haven’t been doing anything THAT exciting and new.

8. Weekly Reports- We have biweekly reports due to Fulbright in which we talk about classroom life and cultural exploration. These typically don’t take extraordinary amounts of time, but they merit mention.

9. Storytelling at the Library- This began with my volunteering to take over for a fellow ETA and morphed into my being asked to do it again. I just went for the second time yesterday, reading, ‘Mama, Do You Love Me?’ do a bunch of bouncy Taiwanese children. I taught them a modified version of Mother May I? and drew some feelings on the board. Then we drew pictures. I had a blast.

So that’s my life right now.

Guess what?

96 days left!

Love, Hannah

Fortunes and Temples

My room mate, Danielle has a very active host family. They are always inviting her here and there, and sometimes she invites me. I described our last outing with the matching sisters, well this outing found me in the tiny Nissan again, wedged this time on the side of the brother and sister, answering another onslaught of questions.

We were on our way to see a ‘psychic’ although by their use of the word, Danielle and I had no idea what to expect. We only knew where we were going, south to Nanao, but nothing much other than that we were going to see a ‘psychic.’ Riding along, I looked straight in front of me as we began the drive through the mountains, trying not to be sick,

‘If you do not feel well, you can just sleep’ the matching aunts told me, so sleep I did. By sleeping I also avoided two hours of questioning inside the tiny car.

We arrived and piled out of the car. I breathed the fresh mountain air deeply into my lungs, steading my slightly car sick head, and stretching my legs which had been cramped in the same position for a while. Adding to our confusion, there seemed to be a ritual going on; all numbers of crashing and banging drums and firecrackers. We took the steps up into the temple and found it to look much like a usual temple. This one was dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of the sea:

Mazu (traditional Chinese: 媽祖; simplified Chinese: 妈祖; pinyinMāzǔ), also spelt Matsu and Ma-tsu, is the Chinesegoddess of the sea who is said to protect fishermen and sailors. The worship of Mazu began in the Song Dynasty. Mazu is widely worshiped in the southeastern coastal regions of China, especially in ZhejiangFujianGuangdong and Hainan. She is also an important deity in Taiwan. Mazu is also worshiped in East and Southeast Asia.

Her birthplace was Meizhou (湄州) in Putian County (莆田縣), Fujian Province.[1] She was born in the year 960.[1] Her family had the surname Lin (林).[1][2] She had the name Lin Moniang (Chinese: 林默娘). She died on 4 October 987.[1]After her death, she was remembered as a young lady in a red dress, who would forever roam over the seas.[1] (wikipedia)

Eva and incense

We walked around the interior although it wasn’t spacious, so that didn’t take us long. We each got some incense and baibai’d to the goddess. 

We looked into the corner and saw a regular looking woman sitting at a table. ‘She must be the psychic’ I whispered to Danielle, ‘but she’s not that old!’ she whispered back. 

We were just along for the ride, so when Roger, the host Dad suggested we take a picture with her, we went with it.

Smile before you get told something awful!

I wouldn’t help but wonder and hope if she didn’t find us terrible and touristy.

This is one of the aunts, just picture another one exactly looking like this and you’ll know what the other one looks like.

The insides of the temple were interesting. I found this next picture to be an architectural style that resembled that of the honeycomb arches in the Alhambra I studied in my Islamic Art and Architecture class.

Matsu Temple

Alhambra

There were other similarities as well, including stories on the walls.

Not sure about this meaning.

and of course many offerings were there.

Someone had offered what seemed to be dried Lychee, and a little girl was eating them. Roger offered them to us, thanking Matsu first, and upon peeling it I found a delightful little jellied fruit with a pit inside. I used my teeth to eat the sticky meat, and looked around in vain for a paper towel before wiping my hands awkwardly on my socks.

Danielle and I began the fortune telling process by asking Matsu if she would even communicate with the psychic to begin with.

Asking the question

she said no at first. if they face different directions it means yes.

Finally she ‘agreed’ to both of us and we got yellow protection necklaces.

circle three times over the incense.

We cannot open these or get them wet or ruin them, otherwise it is a desecration. If we want to get rid of it, we must burn it and sweep the ashes into a corner os no one can step over or on them. I enjoyed telling Roger about the term ‘desecration’ and discussing grammar with him.

Soon it was our turn with the psychic.

many business cards

I went first, and after telling her my birthday was 11/24/1990, she changed it to 11/23/1990 because ‘4’ is an unlucky number, as the word sounds like the word for ‘death.’ (both are ‘si’ with different tones). Did you know that hospitals will not have a 4th floor because no one wants their relatives to be on the ‘death’ floor?

She wrote my numbers beneath a bunch of others.

While she thought, I had some tea.

I dislike this picture, but it illustrates what I was doing.

What she told me I have taken with a grain of salt, but it is fun to think about, much like astrology and all that stuff. Apparently the gods talked through her since she couldn’t read. 

The two aunts had been scheming to ask about a boyfriend for me since last time we were together, so that was the first question. Her answer? (obviously not in English.)

‘You will meet your boyfriend next year in America. He will be an American.’

Sounds plausible. Given that a year is a long time and I’ll also be at Columbia. I asked about a career.

‘As long as you follow your heart, everything is good’

Sounds like a cop out answer, but okay. I was almost looking forward to hearing her tell me I should actually be a doctor or something. I then asked about where I should live.

‘As long as it is a western country, everything is good.’

Can you guess what she said when I asked her about anything bad that would happen or things to be careful of?

‘Everything is good’

Figures. 

Danielle’s fortune was much the same. Afterwards we skirted off to a corner and talked about how general our fortunes seemed. We walked outside to talk some more.

the temple in the middle of nowhere.

The ride home was little short of unbearable. The winding mountain roads finally got to me and I ended up requesting all sorts of things I would normally have shut up about out of politeness like ‘could you please move over/pull over/open the windows/drive more slowly’ We sat at the side of the road while I had space to sit with my head between my knees and stuff Danielle’s peanuts into my mouth in hopes to quell the rolls of nausea and spinning vision.

I thought the car ride would never end and I had to go lie down the moment I got home. I don’t even remember saying goodbye to my ‘host’ family, as I just sort of exited the car with my head tipped to the side and slid into the house and into bed. I felt sick for the next two days. Well, now I know why people go to Nan Ao by train.

And to think I brought a book to read in the car.

Love, Hannah

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?

Wow!

yum.

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

Taiwanese Hospitality Strikes Again

After a brief hiatus, I’m back with another wordy post. I bet you’ve missed my effusive writings 🙂

A few weekends ago I was sitting on my bed as usual, reveling in the weekend and the fact that it is just a time for my to recline on my full bed under my duvet and listen to music, read, or write in my journal (yes, and go on the internet), when my phone began to ring. 

‘Wei?’ I answered with the typical Mandarin greeting.
‘Hi! I am Ivy, we are in Yilan’ replied the voice on the other end of the line, ‘where can we meet you?’

Ivy is the other adult daughter of my ‘Taipei family’ and her husband’s family lives in Su’ao, which is a town or two over from Yilan City. They were on their way home and wanted to see me.

‘Of course,’ I replied, and began the complicated process of trying to decide where to meet. She didn’t really know the city, so I tried to think of a popular and central location: McDonalds at the Luna Mall.

As usually happens, I had just missed the once hourly bus, so I set about to walk. The weather was that of mid-November Taiwan; mild and sunny, so I left the house simply wearing my slightly awkward fleece jacket borrowed to me by my LET. Since my iPod was broken, I walked to the sounds of traffic, barking dogs, and yelling children. Not a bad tune, actually.

I arrived early, as usual, and stood awkwardly in front of McDonalds for a bit until a van parked at the other side of the road began to roll down its windows and George, Ivy’s husband waved at me and shouted my name.

I crossed, and popped into the car. I haven’t seen them for at least 13 years, so this was a special surprise. To them, I looked much older, and perhaps much changed, although I am sure I haven’t changed much, just gotten taller and technically older. The two boys, Eugene and Alan were in the back. As usual, the elder boy Eugene was plugged into the iPad and Alan gave me his usual smile and snuggled up against my fleece covered arms. As a first grader, he is still ‘allowed’ to find me interesting. I met them before, if you remember.

We went out for lunch, because they had been driving. We were going to go to hot pot, but the wait was an hour, so we went to Rain City Grille, which is a restaurant in town run by a Canadian expat. My friends go there every friday after English Village, but I hadn’t been as of yet. Unfortunately, the menu did not cater to vegetarians, so I ended up with the most sad lunch that broke my ‘I hate ordering salad at restaurants’ rule, but I was mostly along for the company. Ivy and her family had what seemed like a really difficult time ordering their food, I think maybe they weren’t expecting western style food. I apologized again and again if it wasn’t to their liking, but they assured me it was okay.

The cell phone rang. It was George’s mother who had gotten in a minor car mishap and George had to go help her. Just a casual day in Taiwan. Getting in an accident in Taiwan is tricky because of the culture around accidents and helping people. Many times you will get swindled if you attempt to help people, so many onlookers do just that- look. If you were to help, you might be sued or wrongly blamed, and people would rather walk away then have to pay a fine or deal with someone who was feigning helplessness. Better to call someone you know, I suppose, right? I’ll go into this in a future post, because it’s an interesting conversation I had with my friends lately.

Ivy, the kids, and I walked back to Luna and perused the bookstore until I had to walk home because George was not going to return with the car for a while. They ended up dropping off the vegetables later. Oh the vegetables! George’s mother apparently has a garden and they brought me two very large plastic bags full of vegetables; they almost did not fit in our small fridge! I had to cook some right then so that they would fit.

See shoes for size comparison

I dragged the bags upstairs and opened them up on our little table in the kitchen. Here is what was inside.

lots of spinach or cabbage something, a cabbage, and some strange purple vegetable that makes crazy purple juice and tastes a bit seaweed but isn’t from the sea.

Promptly made a stir fry for dinner. Thanks to these veggies, I didn’t have to go shopping this week!

that spinach, golden enoki mushrooms, onion, sesame oil, cumin, probably something else.

Sometimes I bring food home from school too. Taiwan has these nifty bags that are apparently okay to put hot food into, so I use those. It’s only a year, right?

carrots, daikon radish, sautéed spinach, sweet potato

the last meal I made this was was a bit insane and just too pretty not to photograph. I wish all my food were this color.

steamed purple mystery vegetable sautéed with balsamic vinegar and sesame oil, rice noodles boiled in the steamed juice. Best idea I’ve ever had.

Be back tomorrow with the second half of the post that will deal with weather and the remedy to cold, damp weather that came in a box!

Love, Hannah

Taipei Thanksgiving: Part Two

Welcome back to my Thanksgiving series, which will be in three parts, the third of which hasn’t happened yet so I can’t tell you whether it will happen at all. As you know, we work on holidays here, so Thanksgiving might just be another boring day at work. 

I woke up, popped down to breakfast the second it opened (perks of being an early riser!) and finished all before my room mate (and I imagine everyone in the hotel but the other five people at breakfast) were even out of bed. The air conditioning in our room was broken so that it kept blowing freezing air all night no matter how much I tried to turn it up, so I’d slept fitfully in my coat and was eager for a nice cup of warm tea.

After my room mate, Taylor, had showered and breakfasted, Mary Kate came over and we chatted for a few hours about life. I haven’t had this experience so it was really nice just to bond with some friends. We lost track of time even, and had to scoop our belongings into bags to check out in time! Off we set for the Longshan temple, after checking our bags at the hotel.

Longshan Temple, first stop. 

We got off of the MRT and somehow ended up being led by a woman towards the temple. I wasn’t sure where she was leading us, but she didn’t seem to want to let us go. Chattering on and on, she turned around, grabbed our arms, eager to steer us in the right direction although we did know where we were headed.

This waterfall is supposed to purify your heart.

Making faces, as ever.

Mary Kate, my lovely friend.

typical Taylor pose-ugh stretched again.

Inside the temple were many people milling around, each with their individual agenda. There were huge tables piled with offerings of fruits, incense, and cakes.

The detailing on the temple was ornate and beautiful.

Beautiful as the temple was, I failed to get the etherial feeling I get when I enter a Church or Cathedral.

Still, with so many people around me devoutly ‘baibai’-ing (as they call the devotions with incense) I felt something had to be around me, it couldn’t just be all the incense. 

Can you spot Mary Kate? We couldn’t either!

typical Hannah contrast picture

I wandered around, taking pictures. Somehow got separated from the other two girls, but not feeling lost.

Finding them again, Mary Kate had bought some incense for NT 10 and handed us each three sticks. Taylor and I proceeded to stand with ours for a very.long.time.

After the temple, we moved to lunch. We walked past this strange TV area in the MRT underground walkway. Many old people watching TV and eating lunch. The TVs weren’t even playing the same programme!

Walking down the street, we ran into Samantha and Allison, who we were going to meet for lunch at Macho Taco, somewhere they’d been wanting to eat forever. Although I’d pledged not to eat a) with a fork or b) anything eatable not Chinese this year, I relented for social graces.

It actually ended up being delicious.

We all had a super wonderful time. Stretched?

A tiny hole in the wall place.

Allison and Mary Kate.

burrito bowl with black beans (to die for), guar, sour cream, pico, salsa, tomatoes, pickled veggies, and cabbage.

I usually dislike guacamole and detest sour cream, but I’d forgotten to ask for it without it and just rolled with the punches. Surprisingly, they added a delicious dimension to the meal.

Clearly I disliked it 🙂

YUM.

We moved from being utterly stuffed to walk to the Huashan Culture Park. I had looked this up online, decided it was a bit odd looking, but followed along with the pack. I was so glad I did, because it ended up being amazing and reminiscent of home.

Inside one of the buildings were many little stations showcasing Chinese arts and crafts. I had my name drawn by a guy who wasn’t very good at it. I’d been hoping to get the other lady, but my paper was passed to him first. Oh well.

Messy.

artsy sushi. I wouldn’t eat this. Notwithstanding that I also dislike rice.

mini rock statues?

We are National Geographic’s best and newest cover.

We heard there was a building in which they sold spiked cider and my friends wanted some, so off we headed to try to find it. 

Eventually we came upon this lovely vintage inspired fair type thing. They did indeed have cider and my friends left happy. I was filled up by the fact that it felt like a Waldorf Christmas fair. 

Samantha sneakily captured my face at discovering hand dipper candles.

A little bit of a farmer’s market thing made me miss London. It’s everywhere I’d rather be. 

shoemaker boy

Here’s where it really began to remind me of the holiday fair at Waldorf school.

A fuzzy friend

While I was meandering around taking pictures and drinking in the cosy, holiday cheer, my friends were waiting for the home made spiced spiked cider.

The man made each individual cup by hand adding the brandy, apple juice, slivers of apple, cinnamon sticks, and sugar together in a pot, then boiling it unitl piping hot and steaming of fragrance.

He had a little bowl for everything, just like Martha Stewart.

99 bottles of brandy on the wall…

I marveled at the atmosphere. and my beautiful friends.

All in all, a wonderful weekend that made me miss home more than ever.

Love, Hannah

Dapo Does it Right-cooking, garbage and Bricks (Picture Heavy!)

Our address is on Dapo Lu (road) and it’s a long one. I won’t post it here on the internet, but let me just say that it’s got lots of…parts to it.

I’ve really lucked out with flat mates and not having to move. Sure, I have to take a 40 minute bus ride every morning, but it’s worth it to be able to stay here. One of the LETs, Nancy, likes to help us out. She came over one sunday and helped Rebekah and I cook dinner with some of the skinny eggplants the Dengs gave me.

Nancy and Rebekah zuo fan.

skinny eggplant CHOP

Not sure what it was, but it involved eggplant, garlic, olive oil, and a bit too much salt and sugar for my liking.

garlic a choppin’

She’d have added ketchup too she said, and I’m not sure where she was going with that, but the end product was fine without it.

adding some sugar

flower onions Yilan is famous for, from the garden of the Deng’s friend.

Me and Nancy

It’s so nice to have a local friend who knows the ins and outs of everything.

One thing we’ve had to figure out on our own is the trash. Taiwan is particular about the separation and when you hear that music, you’d better go running, because you have to throw your bags on the truck as it goes by.

‘trash bridge’ as Michael calls it, by our house.

I’ve mentioned the river that runs across from our house. We don’t throw our garbage into it like SOME neighbors I’ve observed doing that, but it does get cloudy when it rains.

river run!

Sometimes you have to wait for the truck to arrive. It’s deceiving when you hear it, then it dips down another road.

Rebekah and Michael wait for the truck.

It makes me thankful for the bins we have in the states; a good 10 minutes could be wasted waiting for the darn truck to come.

waiting and waiting.

But while you wait, you can see pictures of my neighborhood!

A look up one of the side streets.

Out the front into Dapo Road. Our little alleyway.

As I mentioned, it’s really nice to have LET Nancy as a friend. I’ve been riding around on the back of her scooter a lot, which isn’t as scary as I’d feared (except the first time!) She took Rebekah, Michael, and I to the Brick Kiln after our supper.

Historic Brick Kiln in our neighborhood

I had no idea what it was, but it turned out to be interesting, if not completely reminiscent of a type of place I wouldn’t want it to remind me of. I’ll just add some pictures now. 

Did I mentioned I’m gorgeous?

New shirt. How fab.

Nancy gave me a few of her old shirts.

Moving on. I’m sorry, I just have a lot to tell you before my life begins to be something different and more school oriented.

We made dinner together as a flat.

delicious spread.

and while everyone else took outrageous photos of their typhoonness (remember?) we countered it after having begun it with this:

We began the mayhem

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know about the Hello Kitty video…I’ll try to get it on here, it’s really worth seeing. So much so, in fact, that a group from Kaosiung copied it.

That’s all I have, Love, Hannah