Thursday, June 23, 2011

Notes on Returning "Home"

It feels so good to be back in America. It is a feeling I don't understand. I have left and returned 4 times in the last year and each time that my plane set down on U.S. soil I felt a physical sense of well-being. Strange, I think.

It is picture-perfect in Idaho. Clear blue skies which seem clearer and bluer coming from Taiwan. It was 95 degrees yesterday, and that feels oh-so-much cooler than Taiwan due to the incredibly low humidity.

As I was riding to my Dad's house I could smell Russian Olive trees. I have always loved their scent but never been as keenly aware of it as I was yesterday. It is as though all of my senses are reawakened now that I am home. Or perhaps it is just the lack of the overwhelming smell of stinky tofu.

Going to the grocery store yesterday was even amazing. It reminded me of stories I've heard of people who grow up in extremely poor countries such as Africa where they eat one thing day after day, year after year. I've heard that when they walk into an American grocery store they are overwhelmed by the plethora of choices. While certainly nowhere near that extreme experience, I nevertheless was in awe of all of the things I could choose to buy. I was hard pressed not to fill 3 shopping carts full of all of the things I've missed since moving to Taiwan. Thankfully, Anna was with me and she kept me on track for the most part.

Speaking of Anna and the grocery store, I realized while there how much she has grown and matured. She was actually helpful. And cheerful. It was wonderful. I told her how much I appreciated her help and the checkout lady also told her how helpful she was. Nice for her to hear it from both of us, I think.

Recovering from jet lag seems to be a particularly challenging obstacle this time. If, as in the past, it was just me it would be okay because I am quite good at functioning with little to no sleep. But the kids are really putting a new wrinkle in the process for me. We all fell asleep early last evening (Anna at 6:00, Ethan and I about 8:00) and we were all awake by 11:30 - p.m.! We all got up and ate something and now the kids are playing in the back room - as far from Grandpa as I can get them. Every few minutes I remind them to PLEASE be as quiet as possible. For once I am hoping that my Dad's hearing is poor.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

No pictures today...

...just boring words! Here are my random thoughts:

In less than 24 hours the kids and I will be on an airplane headed to the States. We have what I hope will be an excellent packing strategy: we are each filling 1 small suitcase which is being packed into a larger suitcase. This means we can fill 3 large suitcases full of stuff to bring back to Taiwan. I hope that will be enough space - seriously! While we are in the States Anna will have her birthday (I plan to buy all of her gifts while there.). Ethan has outgrown ALL of his clothes so needs a whole new wardrobe, I will be resupplying my craft room and picking up a few new bits of clothing, etc., etc.

I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival in Taiwan of a sort of old friend. Our husbands work together, our families moved to Virginia within 1 day of each other and they were supposed to be moving here tomorrow. However, last week my friend discovered she has breast cancer so the move is cancelled. I have to say I am sad for me. She is one of those people everybody loves - full of life. I was looking forward to spending time with her again. But of course that is all very selfish. Of course I am more sad for my friend who is facing some major stuff. Scary times.

The weather has been perfect here lately. Well, perfect if you love to spend your days in the pool, which I do. It is hot and sunny. The air mattresses are being put to good use, and the squirt guns are getting a bit of use too!

The gardener was here today and he made me very happy. Most of the flowers I've planted have been languishing and I had all but given up on them. The gardener speaks only about 5 words of English, but today he managed to communicate to me that: 1) next time I buy flowers I should let him plant them, 2) some of my flowers were not getting enough sun. If I would give him permission to cut off a couple of tree branches they would get sun. "More beautiful", he said. No problem! Cut away. He pulled weeds, pruned everything I've planted, and watered. I THOUGHT he was pruning and throwing his cuttings, which made me happy. But when he left and I went out to look around I was shocked to see that he had planted MANY of his cuttings, including 2 pieces of a rose bush. I cannot wait to see if these things will grow. My expectation is that they will, I mean, he makes his living as a gardener so he probably knows what he is doing. I cannot wait to see what happens! And then...I found that he added in some news plants! Things I hadn't bought. I don't know what they are or where they came from, but I am reasonably sure they will flower. I told Eric the gardener is my new best friend. Then I changed my mind and said I may have to marry the gardener. That is how happy all of this made me! Ok, so I won't marry him, but...WOW!

Tomorrow Eric is taking the kids and the dogs to the beach. I asked Jacqueline not to come. I plan (hope) to sleep during the day. I have been 100% unsuccessful sleeping on airplanes in the past so this time my plan is not to try to sleep. I will sleep first. We are leaving late at night so the kids ought to sleep. I have downloaded some new movies onto my iPad which I plan to watch while the kids sleep. Eric even bought me BOSE noise canceling headphones for this purpose! (The cheap headphones I used in the past were useless in the airplane. The roar of the engines made it impossible to hear the movies.).

So I think I'm set. I hope so! Haven't packed the gizmo which allows me to load photos from my camera to my iPad for blogging purposes. I would do that right now but it's 1:22 a.m. And Eric is sleeping and he probably wouldn't appreciate me turning on lights and rummaging around for gizmos.. Hopefully I remember to rummage tomorrow.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Which We Search for Dragon Boats

Last weekend was Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan. I thought we ought to watch a Dragon Boat race since it is part of the culture here. I asked a local where we should go to see the races and I thought she told me to go to Danshui. And so we did.

We rode the MRT... Danshui, the end of the line. It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day. (Unlike my previous visit which was cold and cloudy.)

Not knowing anything about where dragon boat races would be we decided to just walk into the main tourist area. Our plan was to enjoy our time and browse Danshui and if we found the races that would be a great bonus. (Good plan!)

We saw these set up next to the river. We hoped they had something to do with Dragon Boat Races, but we didn't know what they were.

We saw this, which has nothing to do with anything. At least nothing to do with anything related to Dragon Boat races. But I thought it was a little quirky that a picture of a British Royal Wedding was on display in the heart of Asia. And I, of course, was enthralled by the wedding, so it was necessary to take a picture.

But back to our quest.

We saw this figure all over town. I would guess he represents some god. He was handing out cookies with one hand and holding out a basket in the other. You were supposed to take the cookie and put coins in the basket. We politely declined. I am sure the funds would go toward building a new temple and we don't care to contribute to that.

We saw a cage full of Angry Birds.
The kids played carnival games.

(The first 2 blocks of the tourist area next to the river are reminiscent of a carnival or fair in America. Every stall houses either a game or a food vendor. In America the people in the game booths call out to you to come play their game while the food vendors quietly serve their food to throngs of people. Here the game booth employees were rather quiet but the food vendors all had microphones and loudspeakers and they all yelled incessantly.)

In a quieter, prettier part of town we saw a "round-about". I had to have pictures for my Dad because he loves round-abouts. Dad, you need to come to Taiwan! You could drive on a round-about!!

Back in the carnival area Eric and I decided to try a bit of something. Lots of vendors sold squid on a stick (I am not kidding) and we were obviously not about to try that. But when we saw a potato chip on a stick we thought we would give it a try.

I didn't like it. It was flavored with garlic powder and, though I am a huge fan of garlic and a fan of potato chips, for some reason the two together did not taste good to me.

We went on to a lovely riverside restaurant.

I had a coffee and ice cream beverage, the kids had ice cream sundaes and Eric had a meal. After my experience the previous weekend in Yingge I decided not to waste my money on a meal. I tried a bite of Eric's chicken dish and knew I had made the right decision.

We never did see anything hinting at Dragon Boat races.

After returning home I saw on Facebook that friends had attended races in other parts of Taipei and they posted pictures. The boats were nothing like the elaborate things I had envisioned. I am glad we spent our day wandering Danshui rather than watching a race someplace. We had a really nice day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Sunny Day in Yingge

I've been to Yingge 4 or 5 times in the past year. The first 3 or 4 times it was raining and cold. But on our last trip the sun was shining which made everything about the day seem wonderful.

I've probably posted a picture of this street before, but I needed another picture with BLUE SKIES!

This visit was the first time we were able to get into a restaurant we had been wanting to try. This interesting pond is at the entrance.

Everything inside was lovely, although I'm afraid I didn't capture the beauty very well. I took this photo of a curtain partition.

And I tried to photograph the table because it was so unique. It had ceramic inset at various places across the top. Fitting, since Yingge is where you go to purchase ceramics. In the middle of the table there was a large inset ceramic piece which looked rather like it should hold a tissue box.

But inside there was a a bit of water and a "frog" to display flowers.

I photographed nearly all of our food because the presentation was beautiful. As is typical in Taiwan, you get a "set" meal which includes a few courses and a drink. Our appetizers were mozzarella and tomato. Since I usually detest tomatoes I didn't expect to like it. However I decided to try it because I am usually unable to eat meat here due to the difference in preparation from what I am used to in America. To my surprise I thought it tasted quite good. I was so pleased with myself for actually eating tomatoes!

Each beverage was served on an individual little tray. Coke came in these very rustic glasses:

We let the kids order banana splits because we knew they wouldn't like any of the regular meals. They were very fancy!

We also ordered a fruit platter for the kids so that they would have something besides ice cream. Doesn't it look amazing? I thought of my Mom, who loved fruit salad for lunch. She would have loved this.

As it turned out it was a good thing I enjoyed the mozzarella and tomato because, as usual, I was unable to eat the main course. The presentation was, again, lovely, but the shrimp was cooked whole. Trying to be brave, I thought I would just cut off the head, peel and eat the body and everything would be fine. But somehow when I cut the head of I saw inside of it and... ugh. I forced myself to eat the body of one shrimp but that was all I could do. I was done.

I honestly did not mind that I was unable to eat. Everything was so beautiful that I was happy just to soak in the beauty. I would go again, although I would stick to fruit and ice cream next time!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I am trying to catch up with photos (again) but blogger is having issues with loading my photos. So here is all I have managed to load for tonight:

Over the weekend we got the kids some new "China jammies". As I've said before, they don't like having their pictures taken anymore. First I got this with grudging smiles.

Then when I asked for poses like they used to do, with Anna's arm around Ethan, they got crazy and this is what I got:

I'll try to post more interesting pictures soon.