Sunday, December 26, 2010

Working backwards.

I Am skipping ahead to nearly the end of our trip due to boring technical reasons. I hope to backtrack to other pictures soon.

Our intention on the vacation was to spend the entire time relaxing on the beach. I seem not to be able to relax right now for some reason, and I began to get frustrated by the idea that there was an island to be explored and we were just sitting in one spot. So one day we hired a driver to take us to a small town not too far from our resort. It wasn't much to see; it was not touristy or quaint, but I really enjoy seeing how real people live.

Bintan is part of Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim. Although these girls look too old to me to be in school, they were in the same uniform as many others so they must still be students. I love the pretty lace under their headscarves.

Likewise, these guys look too old for school. I thought they were policemen but maybe they are high school students. They were acting a little too silly to be policemen.

We drove past what our driver told us was a Muslim wedding. I was fascinated and wished we could stop. But if we stopped every time I wanted, well, we would probably still be there! I had to take a lot of pictures from the (very rapidly) moving van. I spotted these women and children leaving the wedding. Many of the guests were attired in bright outfits. These were more subdued.

While walking we passed a construction site and I just had to take pictures because their methods were so rudimentary. These guys filled their bucket with sand at the street then carried it to the cement mixer. I guess I can understand not having cement trucks on the island (sort of!) but what about a wheel barrow?

Generally the people were friendly. We were sort of nervous because we had no idea how safe the town was, but a lot of people said hi. As in Taiwan, they don't speak English but they do know hello and seemed excited to see white people with whom they could use their English vocabulary. There was one family we walked past and they were pointing at us and trying to get their little girl (about 2 or 3 years old) to say hi. She was too afraid of the scary, strange looking people and hid behind a cart.

I am getting more sensitive about taking pictures of people so I generally ask if they mind. These people were also excited and pointing at us so I asked (through gestures) if I could take their picture. When they said yes I first snapped everyone, then I tried to get just the 2 young girls. I wasn't quick enough though, and the older girl shyly moved behind one of the older women. They tried to coax her out but she refused. So I took only the little girl. She was precious. I would have liked a better photo but I was afraid she was going to bolt like the older girl so I just took the one.

A somewhat typical house in the town:

I saw 2 churches with crosses, which surprised me. I assume they are Christian churches and the area seemed full of Muslims so I cannot imagine there are enough Christians to fill TWO churches!

This was one of the nicest houses we saw:

Windows on a different house:

I took the above picture to show the window detail. I looked closely and the cutouts above the windows did not have screens, so all manner of critters would have free access into the homes!

I LOVE this column!

I guess you could call this the suburbs!

As we were driving back there were some incredible beach vistas and I was wanting so badly to stop. I didn't say anything, but Eric read my mind and asked the driver to stop so I could take some pictures. He pulled off at a public beach. It was lined with these little huts. I assume each group that visits the beach lays claim to a hut for the day. Rather a good idea I think, although they sort of remind me of something from Gilligan's Island.

This is my favorite picture from the trip:

Back in the car, I snapped this as we passed by:

This picture doesn't belong with the rest, but I accidentally included it and I have to leave it here, with the story. It was an advertisement inside the ferry boat and I thought it was very ironically funny. On the ferry ride from Singapore to Bintan many passengers were making use of the barf bags, so I thought it was funny that the food service area on the ferry was called the BRF Deli. I laugh every time I see this picture. Sick humor, I know.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Well That Didn't Go So Well

Here is a brief synopsis of our Christamas:
we bought kids gifts
kids wrote letters to Santa with long lists of requests
none of their requests were part of our earlier buying
we drove ourselves mental trying to find something, ANYTHING, from their lists
We failed (except my brother and sister-in-law did take time from their busy lives to shop for one
Desperate request and ship it to us in time for Christmas)
We gave the kids perfectly wonderful, albeit not requested, gifts
I found Ethan in tears. He told me he wondered what he had done wrong to cause Santa to not give him
Anything from his list 2 years in a row
I told Eric we HAD to tell the kids the truth about Santa because I couldn't have Ethan thinking
He was doing something bad and not able to figure out what it was
Eric broke the news to the kids
Ethan cried worse. He is, in his words, so disappointed to know that we lied to them for 7 and 9 years.

Tomorrow has to be better.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Checking In

To those of you who check to see if I'm still around - I am! I brought my camera and my iPad on vacation and I even remembered my camera connector kit. Unfortunately I forgot the USB cord for my camera so no pictures! I can load from my phone and perhaps I will tomorrow, but those aren't the best pictures. So here I am, reduced to words with no pictures!

We flew to Singapore last Friday. We had to leave home at 5:00 a.m., so I ordered everyone to take a nap upon arrival so that we could look at Christmas lights that night without any meltdowns. The evening was fairly uneventful; at least nothing blog-worthy happened.

On Saturday we went to Universal Studios. Our last visit to an amusement park was 2 years ago. At that time Anna proved quite fearful of rides while Ethan rode one sort of scary ride repeatedly. Upon entering Universal Studios Ethan chose to head straight for one of their scariest rides - "Revenge of the Mummy". I thought Anna's fears might have subsided in 2 years so we all headed for it. However, Anna had seen the ride advertised and the closer we got the louder she whined and the stronger she pulled back. Eventually I realized forcing her onto the ride would do more harm than good so she and I got out of line and waited for the boys. I must admit, I threw something of a hissy-fit. I was MAD that she chickened out and I let her know it. When Eric and Ethan emerged neither of them looked too great. I guess the ride was too much for Ethan and he almost cried. (But only almost! He's getting braver and/or tougher with age.) Eric said Anna had made the right choice and she gloated. She was right, I was wrong. I hate it when that happens! That ride ruined much of the day for Ethan. He refused to try a ride that he should have loved. He and Anna rode one tame ride 3 times and I have pictures of them looking completely joyful on it. That was the highlight of the day.

We tried a new strategy with the kids to try to reduce the begging for useless junk: at the beginning of the day we gave them each a sum of money and told them they could buy whatever they wanted. It worked well with Anna; she was able to say no to some junk when she realized it would take all of her money. The strategy didn't exactly backfir with Ethan, but he couldn't find anything to buy. I hadn't noticed before how everything seems to be geared towards girls. Ethan was very disappointed that he couldn't find anything to buy. He and Eric left the park early while Anna and I stayed for several more hours. She and I had a good time together eating cotton candy and riding a few rides.

To be continued...

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a LITTLE like Christmas

I hear from my family across the U.S. that it's beginning to look a LOT like Christmas. Minnesota has had a good old fashioned blizzard. (The roof of the Metrodome collapsed from the weight of the snow!) My Dad reports more snow than ever before in his 15 years in Idaho, and rather unusually cold.

But in Taiwan I am having a hard time remembering that Christmas is coming. The weather here could not be more perfect. We have had several weeks of temperatures in the 70's and beautiful sunny skies. I love it! I have to remind myself that Christmas is coming because I need to get some gifts for the kids!

We did buy a Christmas tree. I call it Taiwan Tacky style.

And I did remember to hang Christmas stockings. Three of them I made and, since we had company yesterday, I wanted them out being seen rather than tucked away in a cabinet.

And, oh yeah, I put a couple of decorations on the mantel along with the TWO Christmas cards we've received. (BTW, they are from total strangers - internet friends. Get with the program friends and family! Oh wait, I didn't send you any either.)

Today I get to laze around the house. The next 3 days are BUSY and then on Friday we fly out early in the morning. I'll post when I can.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Market

Recently I went on a field trip with Ethan's class. We toured the neighborhood around the school. One area we went through was the market. It was small but fascinating.

I will warn you that there are some pictures that will gross some people out. I will start with some NOT gross pictures so that you can choose not to scroll down. (Really there is nothing horribly gross, but for those of us who are picky eaters they are pretty bad.)

First, some of the vendors.

This man was happy to have his picture taken.

This man didn't look happy about anything.
And this woman, I don't know if she was annoyed that I thought her everyday life was photo-worthy or if she was shy, but she happened to turn toward me as I lifted my camera and her head snapped away so quickly that this is all I got.
And now for the local delicacies. I wouldn't eat this for all the tea in China, but I do like it's color.

Part of me thinks they just put this out for effect, but we were not in a tourist area so more likely they actually eat this. Honestly, I don't want to know.
That's it, gross part over. On to something pretty.

I went back looking for this store the following Sunday because I wanted to buy some baskets. The shop was closed.
There were some pretty vegetables. I don't eat eggplant but, again, I love it's color.
I don't know what this is and I'm pretty sure I don't want to eat it (although if the choice was this or the octopus or bird head I would easily choose this) but I think it looks very interesting.
Back to fish. These are far more normal but I'm still not interested in eating them.

Another happy vendor. He was proudly showing off his fish for me. If I was going to buy fish I would have bought them from him.

Bon apetite!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

While the kids were on Thanksgiving vacation we visited a park that I've been wanting to see ever since we moved in August. We drive by it frequently on the way home and I knew I could get to it easily by bus. The fact that there is an art supply store just across from the entrance made me think it must be very picturesque. I was not disappointed. It did have many picturesque Asian vignettes. I was a little disappointed in the fact that it was not as peaceful as I expected, owing to the fact that it is surrounded on all sides by busy Taiwan streets. Oh well, in the pictures you cannot hear the traffic, so enjoy!

The park entrance. I suppose the name is over the arch but of course I cannot read it.

The park begins with paths leading in several directions.

Many paths lead to bridges which cross a pond and lead to various structures.

The path the kids chose led to this cave. Sorry, I told them, I am NOT going in there. They went in without me. Very quickly Ethan came back to say it is just a short path with another opening into the park and it is NOT scary and I must go in with him. I took a deep breath and plunged in. He was right. It wasn't too bad.

This was on the other side of the cave-path. It is the restrooms! Quite pretty.

Much of the park is made up of covered or shaded walkways. It was an extremely pleasant day so I preferred the sun, but in the hot, humid summer I am sure these shaded areas are a blessing.
Over a bridge and up some stairs to another cave. I refused to go in that one. I'm sure it was fine, but caves are not my thing and there were too many beautiful things outside to look at, I didn't want to waste my time in a dingy cave.

Around the back of the cave there were scenes like this:

And as I was walking around the cave I found this one leaf which was turning color.

There are a lot of arches and circular entrances and windows in Chinese architecture. I suppose it has some significance. If I had to guess I would say it has something to do with keeping evil spirits out since their culture is so permeated with that. I haven't asked anyone about it yet, but I will.

This walkway was painted gold with red and green accents. Those are the colors you see most often. Nothing is done just because they like it; every choice has a purpose. If I remember correctly red and gold symbolize royalty or wealth. I think purple is used for funerals so you don't see purple in decorating here. Too bad, it's my favorite color!

It would be difficult for me to pick one favorite feature of the park as there were many beautiful areas. But if I had to choose just one I think it would be this arched bridge. It seems to me very representative of Asian landscapes.

If only I knew how to paint...