Monday, May 16, 2011

Flower Market

The kids are off school today and Eric took the day off. The intention was for the family to visit WuLai, which I saw a couple of weeks ago. However, because it is this kind of day today:

we decided to wait until another time.

Instead, Eric and I got up fairly early (actually I got up REALLY early - 5:00 on a day off - yuck!) and we went to the flower market. (Yes, again.) I remembered my camera this time so I can give you a bit of a tour.

This is the front of the market. Every 6 feet or so is a separate vendor's stall. You cannot tell from the picture, but also every 6 feet or so there is an aisle leading inside. Each aisle is intersected by many other aisles. It goes on and on and on. I love this place.

I tried to take a picture to show the aisles, but it is fairly dark inside the market so you cannot see much.

There are many vendors selling bamboo tied up with red ribbon. I am sure it has some special significance to the Taiwanese people but I don't know what it is. Sorry! Sometime if I remember I will ask a local friend to see if I can discover the story.

There are lots of places that sell various containers, garden implements and other things necessary for growing or selling flowers. There are booths of ribbon and trinkets to stick in a vase with flowers. This market is actually a wholesale market. I do not know why the public is allowed in, but I'm sure glad we are!

There are many types of flowering outdoor plants for sale.

I haven't been there regularly enough to know how often things change, but I have been there enough to know that what is available does change. On my first trip there were several vendors selling Cosmos. I delightedly bought half a dozen of them and promptly planted them in my yard. However, that was in our brand new puppy days and the puppies ate every last Cosmos. "No problem," I thought, "I'll just buy more". Alas, I have never found more Cosmos to purchase.

On my second trip I was shocked to find Petunias. I didn't expect what I think of as an American flower in Taiwan. They have never been my favorite flower because they seem so common. When I was a child it seemed every home had Petunias in their front garden. Nevertheless, they do come in beautiful colors so I bought several. Since they don't have the ultra-fabulous Wave Petunias here I thought I would buy more on my next trip and boost the color quotient. Nope, they are gone.

What they currently have a lot of is flowering bushes. I don't want those since I don't live here permanently. (Actually I don't live anywhere permanently, but that's another story.)

It's impossible to be too disappointed though, because there are always plenty of beautiful things to choose from.

There are always orchids. Lots and lots and LOTS of orchids. They seem to grow like weeds in Taiwan. We actually bought 3 on this trip, to use as a centerpiece. It is difficult to choose which ones to purchase because there are so many beautiful varieties.

Just across from the market is this greenhouse which looks to be a stopping off point for all of the orchids. I assume they are kept here between field and flower stall.

Yesterday there were a lot of hydrangeas. I have planted two already. They were also purchased in the new-puppy days and the puppies did eat them, however they began again from the ground up and I am hoping they will be left alone this time. I love hydrangeas. They just might be my new favorite flower.

My original hope, long ago, the first reason I went to the flower market, was to purchase cut flowers. But the second I arrived and saw all of the things that could be planted outside I shifted focus and have been buying and planting, buying and planting. But today I finally decided it was time for some cut flowers to put inside the house. Once again, the task is daunting because there are so many, many beautiful choices.

In addition there are a myriad of options for greenery with which to make a beautiful arrangement. I am no good at arranging flowers so I pass on the greens and just stick some flowers in a container. But I am thinking I should look for a class while I am living here, because it seems to be one of many arts that the Taiwanese people are exceptionally good at.

And if I could find a way to incorporate these puffy things into a flower arrangement I would be thrilled.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The... Beach?

Last Sunday we went to the beach. Except, it didn't look much like a beach.

Beautiful in a way, just not the sort of look that inspires you to lay out your mat and work on your tan. Not the sort of look that makes you want to splash in the waves.

It was good for catching puffer fish, which is what the locals were doing. Anna immediately made friends and joined in the fun. (The next day Ethan read a book to me which said that puffer fish are poisonous!)

Anna likes to cover herself in sand at the beach.

Ethan does not.

We took the dogs to the beach for the first time ever. Actually, our dog trainer invited us to accompany him and his wife and 1 dog. It was one part training exercise and one part socializing with new friends.

Jade is at the end of the leash in the next picture. She actually swam in the ocean!

We actually know that the beach doesn't always look like this. Or, it DIDN'T always look like this. We were there last year and it was not covered in seaweed. Hopefully it was just some seasonal thing and will be cleared up in the summer. However, I do think the seaweed covered rocks make pretty pictures.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Catching Up with This and That

I take so many pictures that I mean to post but instead leave languishing on my hard drive. Here are just a few from the past month. (They are all in backward order because I forgot, again, that I have to load everything last to first and I'm too lazy to rearrange them - it's an ordeal.)

We had a birthday dinner for one of our good Taiwanese friends, Ray. He has become very special to us. When Eric was hospitalized Ray was the first person to visit and he was there several times. He brought lots of food, he interpreted for us, he visited with Eric and much more. Besides that, he is a really intelligent guy (currently he is defending his - thesis? - for his Doctorate), he is super friendly to our kids, loves our dogs, etc. etc. We love Ray.

Easter morning, I actually remembered to have the kids dress nice and take pictures. Believe it or not that is not a fact to be taken lightly as I was badly "in a funk".

They of course wanted to include Jasper in the pictures. She was in her Easter best - she had a new haircut!

And both of the kids were baptized on Easter! (This is where the backwards picture order matters - you see them coming out of the water and THEN dry.)

I had my last Bible Study Fellowship meeting of the year, after which I had some of the group to my house for a fellowship lunch. This is about half of the group:

I took a picture of some of the food they brought. I don't know what any of it is called, but I actually ate some of it!!!!

One of the things I ate was Tofu. (The dark brown cubes pictures above. They didn't call it Tofu but I don't remember what they called it.) I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. I hope I can say this so you understand: it tasted like Taiwan smells. Does that make sense? Whatever the flavor was, I often smell it as I walk along the streets of Taipei.

I also ate the green bean-looking things. They were actually peas, I think. It was the comedic moment of the day. I began cutting a pea in half with my knife and fork (it was very tough) and one of the ladies said "No Laura, we don't cut it" but I began my defense with "I always cut everything". "No NO! You don't eat the outside!! Just the inside!" They all laughed at me because I had been about to eat the whole thing.

About half of the group could not come that day. I think those who could not come worried about offending me, which is sad because I don't get offended that easily. One woman, with great apologies, gave me this gift before she left:

I photographed it because it represents one of the unique things about Taiwan, or Taiwanese people. Presentation is everything. Nothing is ever plain. The woman bought a box of chocolates and I suppose the store gave it to her in a brown paper bag. My guess is she would have been embarrassed to give it to me in that plain bag, so she managed to tear the bag up and tie it into a bow!

Finally, I was in the front yard one morning and thought the view was beautiful so I tried to capture it. The clouds were below us, and just the top of the Taipei 101 tower was peaking out of the clouds:

I, of course, have many, MANY flower pictures which I am dying to post. Maybe someday soon...

Friday, May 6, 2011


Last week I visited WuLai, which is a beautiful aboriginal village. To get there we rode the MRT to the end of the line and then took a 40 minute bus ride up curvy mountain roads. If I was new here the bus ride would have been a frightening adventure but I've gotten used to crazy rides.

The bus drops you off near this red suspension bridge. It is for pedestrian traffic only. We were on a short time schedule so didn't get to try it, but I would like to take my family back one day and MAYBE go up there. I like the idea in theory, but my fear of heights might kick in. Beautiful though, don't you think?

Not far from the bridge is the ubiquitous temple.

Throughout the day I noticed many crosses. A rather unusual sight in Taiwan. I asked Sylvia, our Taiwanese friend, if there was a strong Christian presence in this area and she told us that yes, some of the first missionaries to Taiwan bypassed the cities and went to the mountains, to the aboriginal people. The percentage of Christians is higher among the aboriginals than amongst the rest of the Taiwan population.

Sylvia translated this sign for us but I cannot remember exactly. It was something like Jesus loves you and is the Saviour of the world. How cool!

I could take this picture on practically any street in Taiwan, but since I took it in WuLai I will include it here. This is called "Pearl Tea". It is tea with tapioca in it. I am constantly told that American's love it. I have not tried it of course! I only know of one American who tried it and he was a little freaked out by the tapioca. Of course he was 11 so he is probably not a good judge, but I eat sort of like an 11 year old so neither am I!

Honestly I took the next picture just because I thought the stuff looked so cool - black and white. Sylvia told me is it something like mushrooms - basically some type of fungus. The locals steep it in water and drink it. It is supposed to work miracles in your body.

Ditto the next picture - miraculous if you drink it. The locals say that about everything.

We walked past this 3D painting on the side of a building. I loved it.

A larger than life statue that I loved. I guess I like folk art.

Next we had to climb many stairs...

...and take a "logging train" a little further up the mountain. The scenery was BEAUTIFUL!

The train was a tiny bit like an amusement park ride. As we neared the end of the ride and I saw the destination station ahead the train very suddenly veered to the right and entered a tunnel. The point of the turn was simply to turn the train around so that it would be ready to return to the starting point.

On the wall near the tunnel there was a large mural - a sort of advertisement for the train. More folk art I suppose.

Now we found ourselves in the main tourist trap area. As I was admiring some girls in beautiful costumes, a woman came out of a shop and asked if we would like to watch a show with native costumes, dances and explanations of the native handcrafts. We all decided it would be fun.

The dancers all had many bells on their costumes and I really enjoyed the sound. Overall I enjoyed the performance. although I told my friends no American man would be caught dead in the outfit the lone man was wearing. (He is the one in the pink skirt!)

There was no translation so I'm not sure what was happening in the next 2 pictures, however my feeling was it was a depiction of a marriage ceremony. If I am correct, then I think I married some Chinese man because after this dance I was pulled out of the audience (of about 15 people) along with a Chinese man, dressed in some sort of head dress and made to dance around and eventually do what you see these dancers doing.

When the performance was over we were shown to the restrooms. Instead of signs that said "Men" and "Women" these figures were over the doors!

Next we were encouraged to visit the shop where women were weaving some traditional cloths. They were later sewn into placemats and table runners which they were hoping we would buy. It wasn't extremely high pressure, but they were really encouraging us to buy something. Since I didn't want to purchase anything I said perhaps next time I would bring more cash. Normally vendors in Taiwan work on a cash only basis. But the woman quickly told me they take credit cards!

Finally we went to view a waterfall in the distance. It was pretty but not amazingly so; therefore I am including this picture which focuses on the old fence rather than the waterfall in the background. I liked the fence!

On our way back down we stopped at a charming outdoor coffeehouse.

The coffeehouse appeared to have a resident cat.

I had an iced coffee with caramel and ice cream in it! A lovely surprise.

Finally, a picture of our small group back at the waterfall:

This was the most enjoyable day I've had in a long, long time. I hope you enjoy the photo tour!