Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fire In the Sky

Back in February we went to a Chinese Lantern Festival. It is an annual event that takes place around the celebration of Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is different from our New Year. They go by a Lunar calendar and so the "new year" does not begin on the same date every year and it is certainly not January 1st.

A friend talked me into going and I, in turn, talked Eric into it. We did not relish the idea of joining the crowds that we knew would be there, but we decided this was a unique, not-to-be-missed event. The crowds were unbelievable - the worst I have ever experienced. But I guess my feeling about crowds is not universal since my friend and her family thought the crowd was part of the fun. Leaving the venue took at least (at LEAST) 30 minutes. The entire time we were in the middle of a crowd packed so tight that you had to shuffle you feet to move and the people behind you had their hands on your back PUSHING you. Ah yes, what fun!

Anyhow... Here is where we were:

I knew when I left home that I should bring my tripod but I didn't want to hassle with it. Not a bad choice really, because it probably would have been trampled at some point. Nevertheless, the fact that I didn't bring it left me with photos like this:

And while I think that last picture is cool in a way, no one would ever look at it and guess I had been to a Chinese Lantern Festival!

As long as I stuck to close targets I did okay.
So shall I share a little of the process of the Lantern Festival? Because it isn't just about going and watching lanterns; you actually purchase and send off your own.

First you follow the crowds (as if you have a choice!) to the shop that sells lanterns.
If they don't have the color you want (red, of course!) then you yell at one of the workers (thankfully the kids have learned colors in Mandarin, so they could tell him what they wanted) and then you stand firmly in place while getting jostled back and forth by everyone in the country until someone finally comes out with the color you've been waiting for.
Once you have your lanterns firmly in hand you raise them above your head, pivot in place and work your way against the tide of people toward the area where the fun begins. Oh wait, I forgot, this is part of the fun!

The lanterns must be carried above your head the entire time or they will be crushed by the crowd. I kid you not.

Don't let that last picture fool you. It only LOOKS like there is open space between people. A couple of people must have just fallen dead or something. Ok, I'm kidding a bit, but only a bit. If you look close you can see little arms holding on to the back of my friend - they belong to her son. And my daughter has her arms on her friends shoulders. They were not being funny. If you don't hold on to the people you are with you will be separated forever. Ah yes, we're having fun now!

Now the real insanity begins. Have you ever wondered what makes a Chinese lantern float? Probably not. I hadn't given it 2 seconds of thought prior to this evening. But just in case you want to know, I'll tell you. Fire. You light a fire inside of a PAPER lantern. Perfectly safe. Don't worry. What's the worst thing that can happen with a little fire and 2 billion people packed into 1 square block?
Once the fire is lit you and a few friends hold the lantern in place until it gets good and hot.
Then you let go and step away and the lantern begins to float up into the air!
And it really is rather magical.

Did you think I was kidding about the fire?
Nope. I wasn't kidding. Fire inside of paper. Crazy if you ask me!

So what do you do next? You repeat the process.

And you try not to think all those crazy thoughts about fire and your innocent little children and what will happen if something explodes or fire comes raining down out of the sky.
Because as far as I can tell nothing ever explodes or comes raining from the sky.

So if you are someone NOT like me you don't think all those crazy thoughts. You just have fun.

And if you're lucky, you get one sort of good picture of one of the orchestrated send-offs that happens every 30 minutes. what we went for.

Thankfully I'm moving back to the States so I won't have to do that again next year!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Holy Hanoi, Batman!

Because I think every blog post ought to have a picture, here is a picture:

It has absolutely nothing to do with anything I'm about to say. I just decided to show you one of our little visitors. (Not so little actually, but there's no way to convey size via a photograph.)

I am in a bit of shock at the moment. I have just agreed to a little trip with a friend and possibly other "friends" who I don't know. A girl's weekend. To... Vietnam! How weird is that? I'm excited and scared at the same time. All I know of Vietnam is we (America) fought a war there when I was a young child. We lost. Lots of people were killed. In my mind Vietnam is a war zone, and I'm going there. On "vacation". Weird.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Surprise News

Wow, what a week we've had!

Remember that back in January I traveled to Virginia to look at schools for the kids? We put in applications at 3 schools. I had to fill out a fair amount of paperwork, the kids had to answer essay questions, teachers and staff at their current school had to fill out forms and/or oversee kids writing essays. So now do you want to know which school they will be attending? The answer is....none of them. What? That doesn't sound like very exciting news?

Well then, how about the REASON why they won't be attending any of them? Because we won't be moving to Virginia after all!

It is not officially official, but close enough that I can state with confidence that we will be moving instead to Idaho. You might not be shocked about that, but we are. Idaho was not on our radar. Not at all. But then someone from Idaho came knocking on Eric's door (in a manner of speaking) and - BOOM! - all of our plans have changed!

Now I have to look for schools again, and complete more applications and ask teachers to fill out more forms and counselors to supervise more essay writing (and the kids to write more essays!) And I will have to find a place for us to live and a car to drive! And we will have to move our things from Taiwan AND Virginia.

I feel a little anxious sometimes when I think about it. But overall this is a great thing. My Dad is so happy - he is in Idaho and he has been so lonely since my Mom died. I am so glad I will get to be near him again.

And I know, absolutely know, that this is where God wants us. A couple of weeks before this came up I was led by some internet friends to Acts 17:26 which says "He set the times and places where they should live." Yes, He does. And I could not have planned this if I had tried.

Thank you, God.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bali Wrap Up

Because it's been 2 months since we've been to Bali I have decided to do one final post with some of my favorite pictures all thrown together.

This picture reminds me of something that would appear in National Geographic. Never mind that the monkey was in a zoo. Just pretend you don't know that, and the picture will seem awesome.

Ethan hates this next picture and wanted me to delete it but I refused. It is one of my favorite pictures ever of him, because it captures one of the funny faces he makes.
Of course no list of my favorite photos would be complete without a flower picture or two! (Usually 10 or 20, but I think today there is only one.)
This next set of pictures was originally slated to have it's own blog post. It would have been titled either "I Love a Parade" or "A Happy Accident". One day as we were trying to get someplace in a car we hit a traffic jam. Everything stopped. Completely. Turns out the local villagers were on their way to the temple for a big ceremony. There were drums and lots of people carrying offerings in baskets on their heads. Fun to see.

Okay, maybe I have 2 favorite photos of flowers. I guess I didn't count this one, since it's not JUST a flower. It is a path with a beautiful flowering bush. I couldn't resist.
When I took the flower bush picture I was wandering about on my own, the rest of the family having gone on another little adventure. If this had been a blog post it would have been titled "Most Fun I Didn't Have". Eric, having been a submariner in the Navy, couldn't resist the chance to take the kids on a submarine ride. I had done this long ago on another island, so I passed. (It's an okay experience, just not fantastic enough for me to need to do it twice.)

As I was passing a large house (with it's own 2nd floor temple) this little boy spotted me:
And probably because I had a camera he called to all his playmates to come have a look. (There were more children then you see here. They were popping up and down so I couldn't get a picture of all of them.)
The post for these photos would be called something like "Bali: In Living Color". I cannot resist the local markets, even though I never buy anything. They are bursting with colors and strange-looking foods.

Thankfully I had my camera trained on this woman before she turned toward me, because she didn't look happy about being photographed. I guess I broke my rule of never photographing people without their permission. I had actually wanted a picture of the back of her head, because the headpiece she was wearing was made of beautiful lace. Somehow I didn't think she would agree, so I just moved on.
See the spiky thing at the bottom left? If you've never been to this side of the world my guess is you don't know what it is. If you have it is something you will never forget. It is called Durian. It is a hugely popular and somewhat controversial fruit. The smell will knock you over. Seriously! The buses in Taiwan (and I think the MRT stations, although I cannot remember for sure) have signs saying you are prohibited from bringing Durian aboard. It is that bad.
The market has bags of fresh spices. This must be heaven if you love to cook.

I do not know the name of this next fruit. It is one of the few things I agreed to try. It was actually quite good! You break open the outer skin (it breaks easily into 2 pieces). Inside there is a whitish fruit with a large pit in the middle. I don't plop things with pits into my mouth because I have a thing against spitting, so I just nibbled around the pit. It was exceedingly sweet which, of course, pretty much guaranteed I would like it!

Finally, we took a little side-trip to Git-Git Falls. You must pay to walk along the path to the falls.
The walk itself was full of interesting sights. I took this photo of a rooster, and wished I had been photographing more of the birds. They are everywhere in Bali and they come in such an array of colors and patterns. Before this trip I had no idea roosters were such a varied, colorful species.
A restaurant along the path. As with most places in Bali, it does not have walls.
The path led through the ubiquitous rice paddies which, I think, are always beautiful.
Bali has learned to capitalize on tourists. Along the serene path are huts full of vendors selling all manner of trinkets. Yes, we bought some things. How could we not? We had children with us after all. And actually, some friends had requested we bring back a specific item for them which we found here!
Finally we came to the waterfall.

In a few days I may have some surprise news. Be sure to check back!