Sunday, August 8, 2010

Don't forget...

to follow me on my new blog. A

ll of my updates about my trip so far are there. I've already had some interesting experiences in Vietnam.

Check it out: Tales of a Traveling Texan

Monday, August 2, 2010

When do you feel like a grown up?

It's nearly 2 a.m. on my last night in Taiwan and I'm no where near ready to go to bed. 

I should be but my brain is going too crazy for that, so I thought I would take this time to reflect a little on the past 14 months in Taiwan and the upcoming months of travel ahead of me.

Many of you may remember I cried when I left America and came to Taiwan. I was excited and nervous, but a lot of that was alleviated by the fact that I would at least know someone who was here already. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Exciting news!

Apparently Texan in Taiwan has been listed as one of the Top 10 blogs in Taiwan by Go! Overseas

It's really exciting to know that people are finding my blog and enjoying the content. I hope that I can get this kind of feedback at my new blog Tales of a Traveling Texan

The new blog already has all of my Taiwan content and I will discontinue updates here at Texan in Taiwan once I leave the country.

T-4 days, folks!

Coming up, goodbyes with all my classes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Do you need a receipt?

I keep forgetting if I've been back in Taiwan for one week or two since Thailand. That's how blurry everything is. (It's been two by the way.)

There is just so much going on.

I told all my classes this week that I'm leaving. I've been reading my Southeast Asia on a Shoestring book like crazy. I actually read the entire Cambodia chapter and most of the Laos chapter. 

My first cooking camp is over. I loved it and hated it all at the same time. And I get to do it all over again next week. Yay!

I finally broke down and went to buy new luggage today. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's your name?

So I went to play Killer Pizza yesterday and found out that a girl in my class didn't have a name yet.

First things first, Killer Pizza is a super easy game in which you draw a circle on the board and divide it into slices like you would a pizza. Then you label each slice with a player's name. Then you throw a sticky ball at the circle. Whoever it hits is out (dead if you will) and the two people on either side have to paper-scissor-stone (rock-paper-scissors for all you Americans and Canadians out there). The loser now has a larger piece of pizza because they are occupying their own slice plus the dead person's slice.

Monday, July 19, 2010

When are you nervous?

I woke up today not feeling very well. Initially, I thought I ate something bad last night at the movie theater. But considering it came and went all day, I think I've just got a huge case of the nerves.

As Leila said, it's only Monday and I've already had a crappy week.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Who gets the world's worst blogger award?

I know I'm the world's worst blogger.

I went to Thailand for 10 days and came back a week ago and you guys haven't heard anything about it.

To be honest, it's not my fault. Well, not entirely at least. We don't have Internet at our new apartment so I've only been getting online to check my e-mail, peruse Facebook quickly and pay my bills. You know, the necessary things in life.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How does a person accumulate this much junk in just a year?

I hate packing.

I managed to get almost all of the clothes I want to keep in one bag along with two pairs of shoes, my documents and a Texas snuggie.

Monday, June 28, 2010

So what's your travel plan again?

I'm moving this week... out of my apartment that is.

Our lease agreement ends while I'm in Thailand on vacation next week so I have to move out now. I'm having trouble getting up the motivation to actually get my stuff together, though, so I'm blogging as procrastination.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Was this your last time teaching our class?

So before Dragon Boat Festival we were having all this terrible weather and my co-teachers and Taiwanese friends all kept saying that once we got passed Dragon Boat Festival it would be super hot out and we would get all the sun we could handle plus some.

They weren't lying. Except I'm a Texas girl, so I can totally handle it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What's that stinging feeling?

I woke up at 5 a.m. today.

Not because I wanted to. I wanted to wake up at about 5:40 a.m. That would have been plenty of time to get my stuff together. But the sun wanted to have its way, so I gave in.

Don't worry, I had a purpose for getting up so early. I went back to Fulong to finish up my certification.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What do they mean the road is broken?

After my adventure at Jade Mountain I'm not entirely sure where to begin, so I'll just go chronologically. 

Note: This is an exceptionally long post, but I assure you it is worth it.

 The weather looked like this pretty much the whole time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

When was the last time you used pen and paper?

I wrote my entire recollection of the "Jade Mountain" adventure with Leila with a pen on paper. It was weird actually writing something again and I think I actually prefer it.

Seems my brain actually processes all the junk I'm thinking and puts out the best possible combination rather than the jumbled mess of strung together incomplete thoughts I tend to get when I write on the computer.

Either way, you can't read it if it's still on paper. I'm being lazy though because I caught a big, fat cold while we spent two days in the rain in the mountains. 

That and because it's really really long. I'll get it up before the end of the week. 

Meanwhile, I'm going to go be a teacher.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What is a monsoon?

So just a quick update.

It's been raining pretty much constantly here in Taiwan. We're in the middle of a pretty heavy monsoon, I guess.

We thought it was going to be terrible weather last Sunday so we canceled our second trip to Fulong for our diving session. Of course, then the weather turned out to be amazing. We didn't know until it was too late to head out there and be productive though.

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's not a volcano is it?

It's funny the little tidbits of information that get home and how. 

When I lived in Austin I didn't see my mom every day even though she only lived 20 minutes away, but I talked to her almost every single day on the phone at least once. Sometimes multiple times per day. 

And despite being halfway around the world, we have the digital era to thank for the almost instantaneous assurance that all is well with our loved ones. We were talking constantly when I first got here, but now we pretty much just e-mail a few times a week.

Here's a little snippet of today's conversation:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

When do you feel pressed for time?

I've had my nose in my Southeast Asia on a Shoestring from the Lonely Planet for about a week now. I actually lent it to a friend for the next few days so that I'll stop reading it constantly.

While doing my homework is a good idea, I get kind of obsessive and then really anxious. I don't know how I'm going to survive five weeks out of a backpack if I can't just go with the flow of things.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Can you SCUBA dive in the rain?

Today we went to Fulong to do our first dives of the dive course. 

Initially we intended to do the two pool dives and then one (mayyyybe two) dive in the ocean. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

When are you busy?

So I definitely dropped a big bomb on you guys and then haven't been back since. I apologize, but in my defense, I've been working a lot.

I picked up a lot of extra hours and privates, so I've been working something like 40 hours a week — nearly double my usual schedule.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Do you have any secrets?

OK, I have to admit, I've been keeping a secret from you.

Don't hate me. It was honestly for the protection of my job, but now the cat is out of the bag, so I can tell you.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When does the sun come up?

For the record, the sun comes up ridiculously early.

That's a good thing though. I can't really sleep when it's bright out, so I've been waking up a bit earlier lately. Granted I'll stay in my bed and read or play on the Internet until my stomach starts yelling at me furiously about food, but waking up earlier is better.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Who knows what is going on in this head of mine?

Let's play catch-up first. My birthday was super fun.

I went to Debbie's for breakfast with a few of the girls. Then I went home and researched vacations for about four hours. Then I went to the book store at Taipei 101, Page One, for three hours.

I love book stores and I wish I could go to them more often. Unfortunately, the book store in Taoyuan that I know only has one shelf of English books and they're almost all books that have been made into movies. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why are these people paying so much attention to me just because it's my birthday?

This week has been one heck of a roller coaster ride.

I've been happy and the sad and angry and depressed and excited. I've experienced a plethora of emotions and I'm not even sure where all of them came from.

Though I think I have decided that I would suck at living alone. It's nice to have a little alone time, but I don't like having too much alone time. Honestly, that's kind of what I thought would happen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Do you take your camera everywhere with you?

I do take my camera with me everywhere. At least most of the time. 

Unfortunately, that two months that I went without a battery charger for my camera really killed my habit to automatically shove my camera into whatever bag I'm taking with me when I leave. Now, even when I do have it with me, I often forget. 

This has caused me to miss a million amazing — or at the very least hilarious — pictures. 

That said, here are a few picture from the past month or so. Some are from teaching. Some are just pretty places in Taiwan.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

What do you use chopsticks for?

So I'm at the end of my super busy week and my first week alone in the apartment.

The timing actually couldn't have been more perfect. I worked 40 hours this week and when you add in travel time I basically did nothing at home but sleep, eat and shower. I didn't really have time for anyone (or anything) else. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Are you a good driver?

OK, I've been trying to get around to writing for a few days now, but I've just been so busy.

The extra work was enough to keep me going all day, but add in having a bunch of extra foreigners around and you can understand why I haven't been able to find much of a free moment.

I'll just give you the basic highlights of the past few days plus a lengthy description of Sunday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What kind of mood are you in today?

I was super cranky all day.

Well, the first 20 minutes of my day I was pretty aloof... and that's when everything went downhill.

I sort of dawdled when I was getting ready this morning and I ended up not leaving the apartment until 10 minutes before I was supposed to be catching a train.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What would it be like to live alone?

So today began Tess' last week in Taiwan.

It's totally bizarre to think about because not very many people have left since I got here last summer. Which is weird considering this is generally a pretty high turnover job.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

When are you absent-minded?

The past week has been insane.

Saturday night we went out for Angela's birthday. Of course we went to our usual club — Search — but this time Angela reserved tables. That put a nice twist on things and we all had a blast. (Except for when that super creepy Taiwanese guy kept following me around the dance floor and literally tried to kiss me at one point...)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Who needs a $200 bill?

So I have apparently been teaching for nine months now, if you take out the vacation time that is.

According to our contract, they hold the first two weeks of our pay. Then when you've stuck it out for nine months, they give you back a week of it. They hold on to that other week to make sure you stick around for the next three months.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What's a tostada?

Yesterday was simply amazing.

I leaped out of bed at 11:30 a.m. which is incredibly early for me, especially once you consider I didn't go to sleep until 5 a.m.

I was so excited I couldn't sleep. All I could think was: "Today, I'm making a Tex-Mex feast."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How do you make aboriginal culture "amusing"?

Having a long weekend is always welcome no matter where you are, but especially when you're the kind of person who works six days a week.

I constantly think of places I want to go but it would take more than a simple day to travel, do the things you go there to do, and then come back home. 

It sucks only having one day a week to yourself.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Where are we going?

So the Tomb-Sweeping Day holiday is this weekend. 

We get a whole three-day weekend out of it — both Saturday and Monday off work — which means that I obviously have to get out of Taoyuan so I can go do some exploring.

Monday, March 29, 2010

How do you do that backwards?

Backwards week just started and I'm already a little tired of it.

In some aspects it's a lot of fun, but it can also be really annoying/frustrating/confusing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why don't you speak Chinese more often?

Every day is just back and forth, back and forth.

The weather is crazy. My energy levels are crazy. My level of motivation is also crazy.

Oh well.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Catching Up: What makes someone a real teacher?

OK now that we've gotten health care out of the way, I can talk more about Taiwan. 

Sunday we had a girls' day. A bunch of us got on the bus to Taipei around 11 a.m. and eventually made it to Pinglin by 1:30 p.m. 

There was an incredible amount of traffic.

Catching Up: How do you feel about your health care system?

Saturday night I stayed in.

It was good after a week of craziness and being sick on and off. I haven't had it nearly as bad as other people, but I was seriously not happy about having a cold/allergies/whatever.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Are you wearing green?

I ended up spending the entire day Wednesday in bed so that I could sleep off the headache and the remains of my sickness. The idea was that I would be nice and rested up for the St. Paddy's Day celebration.

I can't miss St. Paddy's Day. I love being around all the people. Everyone is just so darn happy for this holiday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How's the weather today?

Mother nature has been super bi-polar lately making a simple question about the weather super complicated.

This week we've experience weather typical of every season of the year at least once, some multiple times.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What's in the mail?

Taiwanese people are easily the most honest people I ever met.

Sometimes that can be brutal — like when your students tell you you're fat even though you're pretty comfortable with your weight — and sometimes that can be the best gift ever.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What do you do when you feel tired?

Thankfully it's quite a bit warmer out now. No more of that 6º Celsius crap.

At least I hope not. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why is it so cold?

Well, it looked like we were working our way into summer and what would eventually be amazing waterfall/beach weather.

Apparently not though.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Have you ever lost anything important?

This weekend was rather eventful, maybe a little too much even.

Saturday night we went out in Taipei for Jacob's 25th birthday. We started out the night with a reserved table at a super classy nightclub called Barcode. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why won't my scooter work?

I woke up super early this morning, rushed to get ready so that I would have time to get breakfast only to get on my scooter and have it not start. 

I tried EVERYTHING but nothing responded. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What's going on?

By the way, I'm tooling around with the look of the blog. Trying to go for something a bit cleaner.

Let me know what you think.

What's your favorite day of the week?

So yesterday was a super eventful day and every Tuesday from now until the end of May will follow in its footsteps.

I started an outside class at a local junior high school today. Just me and 28 teenagers ages 14-to-15 years old. It was probably the best class I've ever taught.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How can you make your hopes and dreams come true?

So I know I promised I would post the whole story on Lantern Festival yesterday but I was still recovering from the longest day of my life.

I have to say that despite the nightmare it was to travel there, it was totally a worthwhile experience, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why the heck isn't this train moving?

Photo from the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan Web site.

I would have been home four hours ago if Taiwan had the presence of mind to increase transportation in areas that are to be inundated with a flood of people during a festival.

That said, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival was still totally worth it.

I'll write all about the day in which we spent 5 hours to get somewhere to play for 3 hours and then another 5 hours to come back.

But, for now, I'm exhausted.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Can your life get turned upside-down in a good way?

Because I'm pretty sure mine has.

It's going to mean a lot of work between now and then, but I think I've figured out the next chapter of my life... after Taiwan.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What would you write a book about?

The great thing about getting a country-wide vacation is that no one is really ready to come back to work.

So this has been review week and I really like that.

It basically means going back to work consists of literally doing nothing but playing games and goofing around with my kids.

Love it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How would you describe Taroko Gorge?

Well, our New Year vacation remained fairly uneventful in that there were no major crisis (other than my camera batteries dying and my charger being the wrong one).

I got pictures of Taroko Gorge on the first day, but unfortunately that's it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How do you travel lightly?

It's been raining pretty much non-stop on the East Coast, but we've been dawning our rain gear and going out hiking anyway.

Taroko is still as pretty as I imagined it would be despite the rain.

I didn't bring my memory card reader or I would just show you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why does time seem to slow down when you're excited?

I'm counting down 'til my train leaves for Hualien.

Three hours left to go.

How do you play Mahjong?

I was invited to join my co-teacher Angela at her grandmother's house for a traditional Chinese New Year's Eve celebration.

I had a lot of fun.

Friday, February 12, 2010

How do people celebrate Chinese New Year?

With a ton of fireworks, every thing you can possibly imagine covered in red, and nine days off work.

I could totally get used to this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What do you do when your baboo breaks?

We're zeroing in on Chinese New Year vacation and tomorrow is seriously going to be the busiest day ever.

Today was already pretty busy.

What makes you laugh?

Couple of tidbits about today.

My alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. I hit my alarm every 15 minutes until 8:30 a.m.

Still way better than dragging myself out of bed at 2 or 3 p.m.

I was teaching these tiny kids today and they're hilarious and adorable. I want to steal them — but I will control myself.

Me: OK, Everyone say, 'I like your jacket.'
Children in Chorus: I like your jacket.
Me: Good. Say, 'I like your shoes.'
Children: I like your shoes.
Me: Good. Say, 'I like your eyes.'
Children: I like your eyes.
Me: Say, 'I like your nose.'
Children: I like your nose.
Little munchkin named Danny: Teacher, Teacher. I like your...

and then he pointed at his bum-bum. He's maybe four years old.

I nearly fell on the floor I was laughing so hard.

I <3>

Monday, February 8, 2010

What is too much fun?

It's funny to me that I've developed this mild terror of small children. I'm talking like really little children.

The kind that you could break by poking them.

It doesn't take long for me to get over it and just start playing with them, but every time I get around super little kids, I get a little freaked out.

That multiplies by a million when they can barely understand me because they don't speak very much English. Then again, they're also the easiest to gauge how much their learning.

I mean, when you go from zero to spelling and reading, that's just awesome.

That said, I had a demo in one of my classes today. They started in the summer and Tess was their first teacher. She had them for two months over the summer in which I subbed twice. Then after the summer was over, I ended up with the class.

So I've been teaching them for about four months.

They're super smart kids and I love showing that off.

I like that we were able to just have fun in the demo. I honestly wasn't stressed out about it in the least bit.

I remember my very first demo I was freaking out because there were only 10 kids in the class and that makes it so hard to fill up 75 minutes.

Today, we were perfect. Our timing was awesome. We had just enough fun, but not too much fun. I know what you're thinking, "What the heck is 'too much fun.'"

Well, there is a level between "having fun and learning" and "just having fun."

Something tells me parents like to see that we're learning.

Anyway, I'm waking up early every day this week. Friday and Saturday we don't have to work at Gloria so I'll have two chill days off before heading out to Hualien.

I swear it's like that last week before the end of the semester. All I want to do is play games and nothing else!

Friday, February 5, 2010

What do you get excited about?

It wasn't until the end of my first class today that I realized I wouldn't see my Friday students next week. Chinese New Year is one week away!

I know it's not really my holiday but I'm super excited.

I think it's a mixture of having a week off and everything looking so festive.

I'm pretty excited about learning more about what CNY is all about and how people celebrate it.

That and I am totally psyched about going to Taroko Gorge and Kenting.

I bought our train tickets the other day and put down the deposit on our hostel in Hualien and Leila put down the deposit on the hostel in Kenting so we are all set.

Every where you look there is something red. The staff in our apartment complex put up red lights (not really like Christmas lights because they're cylindrical) above all of the doors. Apparently if you put up red in the doors and windows it keeps out bad luck.

Again, I still have a lot to learn about CNY but I can't wait to report what I've learned.

I also spent the whole day booking things for our Thailand trip. I can almost smell the beaches. I keep thinking back to The Philippines and then I think, "Man, this is going to be even better."

Don't get me wrong — I thoroughly enjoyed myself in The Philippines — but I'm going diving for four days, snorkeling one day and kite boarding and/or surfing one day.

I'm going to be all water-sported out, if such a thing is even possible.

Of course that is all still six months away and there are a million other things to do between now and then.

For instance: What should I do on the 3-day weekend I get for Tomb Sweeping Day? I'm thinking maybe a mini-trip to Hong Kong?

Man, I know sometimes I complain about my job, but — I have to admit — it certainly has perks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What are you doing for Chinese New Year?

My sleep schedule is all messed up again after all the celebrating we had going on this weekend.

I'm going to try to reset myself tomorrow since I only have one class so it won't be too terrible if I'm a little sleepy during it.

I'm also going tomorrow to try to buy train tickets to Haulien!

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but since Chinese New Year is coming up, we have a whole week off — nine days if you count our weekends.

My friend Leila and I are hoping to go to Taroko Gorge for a few days and then Kenting for a few days. I'm really excited but I'm also a little worried.

Chinese New Year is a big time for everyone to travel. Foreigners can't buy ticket until 12-days in advance, so we're running the risk of not being able to get a train ticket. And since we haven't bought train tickets yet, we haven't booked the hostel yet.

As you can see, this is snowballing into the possibility of not being able to go.

I'm sure we'll be able to make something work. I'm certainly not going to just hang around Taoyuan the entire week.

Other things to look forward to:

My Chinese teacher said tonight that she thinks we'll be finished with my textbook by Chinese New Year! I added a day and then switched my schedule around so that now I'm going on Tuesday and Thursdays instead of just the Wednesday night. I'm pretty excited about that.

She said she's really impressed with my ability to read, but that it still takes me too long to put my thoughts into actual words. She wants us to work a little more on conversation and I totally agree. Reading isn't really going to do me that much good.

Also, I booked my trip to Thailand with my sister!

This is way in advance considering we're not going until July — just in time for her birthday — but that's just how we do things. Unfortunately we don't have a ton of time so we can't really just go with the flow, but that's OK because my sister and I are big planners. We're planning a day in Bangkok and then four days diving in Koh Tao and another two just lazing around the beach before heading back to Bangkok for a night so she can catch and early flight back to America the next morning.

If anyone has any suggestions on must-see/must-do things in Bangkok let me know.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Have you ever won a prize?

Gloria hosted its Chinese New Year banquet last night.

The room was gigantic and there were SO many people. It's amazing how many people work for Gloria. I honestly didn't even realize there were so many of us.

The food was very authentic and basically disgusting. I tried to eat, but nothing was appealing except for a little bit of sashimi.

It seems that most of the foreigners found the food pretty bad and didn't really eat.

It was really funny to see everyone super drunk though. Even the people from head office were pretty tipsy.

Also, I won $1000NT in a red envelope! Yay for some good luck in the new year!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How long does maintenance take?

I am seriously far too attached to my computer. I almost went into shock without it for the past 10 days.

On that note, dumplings are never allowed near my computer again. I don't know if I could make it through that again.

Long story short: I was eating dumplings a couple of weeks ago. My computer was sitting off on the chair next to me playing music and I reading a book. As I bit into one of those juicy (though not even that tasty) dumplings, the juice and grease from inside shot out across the room and landed on my keyboard!

I was momentarily frozen and then I kicked into high gear grabbing a towel and trying to sop up what I could.

My computer continued working for the next 30 minutes or so, but then the keys slowly stopped working. It started with the 3edc-row. Then the 2wsx-row started acting up and next thing I knew the 4rfv-row, the space bar and the Apple button all stopped working.

Unfortunately, there are something like 18 Studio As (Apple reseller in Taiwan) and only one service center for them to all go to. It took them three days to decide what was wrong with the computer (though it was obvious) and then another week to fix it.

But I have it back now and that's all behind me.

Things of note for the time that has passed:

Taipei in the middle of the day in the middle of the week is actually a lot of fun. I'm thinking I might make myself go into the city during the week more often so I can spend my one day off going somewhere a little more adventurous.

The weather here reminds me of Texas mostly in that it's cold and rainy one day and then 70º F, sunny and gorgeous the next. It's a little frustrating because it's difficult to make plans or to simply get dressed in the morning. (Well, if we're being serious then the afternoon...)

My Chinese is coming along really nicely. I've been pretty good about stuyding about four days a week for a couple of hours (but at least one hour) at a time. I'm almost all caught up on the homework exercises in the book. It's nice being able to read things and understand stuff when people talk to me. Oh and starting next week, Linda and I will be meeting twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays after my classes instead of just the one Wednesday. We should finish my book in about three weeks and then I think I'm going to shift gears into using a book once a week and having homework and then doing conversational stuff on the second class of the week.

I'm starting to get a pretty good grasp of the grammar, I just need to beef up my vocab. A lot of my kids are thoroughly impressed with the fact that I'm even trying to learn, specifically my students who like to talk Chinese a lot in class. I've gotten to the point that I'll just translate something I heard them say and then tell them to say it in English. They just look at me in shock.

Of course, now one of my classes just keeps calling me waiguo laoshr (foreign teacher) because Sam was talking about me to my co-teacher and I cut him off saying, "Waiguo laoshr did what?"

That class just likes to give me a hard time.

I've decided I need a hobby. Writing doesn't take up enough of my time and honestly I haven't been feeling all that inspired to write lately. I think I might take up scrap-booking.

Oh! Best news of all:

I'm going to Taroko Gorge for four days and then Kenting for four days for Chinese New Year. Also, I'm spending the actual Chinese New Year celebration days with one of my co-teachers and her family.

She said they basically spend the day cooking and playing games. I like both food and games, so I think that ought to be really interesting and fun. I'll finally get a little bit of that Taiwan perspective.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where are you?

FYI, my computer is under maintenance and I won't have it back for another week or so.

I'm periodically checking my e-mail from friends' computers but I don't really have time to blog.

But, I didn't fall off the face of the Earth and as soon as I get my computer back I'll write up what's been going on.

Thanks for you patience!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Want to hear all about my vacation? (I know this is a week late)

So I guess I promised you information about my stellar North American vacation and I never gave it to you.

I'm sorry to have strung you along, but here we go (Warning: This is a long one).

Mei Guo, ahoy!

So getting to America was easy and great. I sat next to this Chinese girl and I had a window seat. The girl and I never talked because every time I so much as looked at her she turned the other way. Some people just aren't down for trying to talk to strangers.

My sister and her husband picked me up from the airport, immediately bought me coffee and then took me home where they made me eggs and bacon. Have I ever told you how much I love bacon (or my sister)?

You can buy bacon in Taiwan, but it's expensive and not the best quality. Meat in general is difficult to buy here. I think I just have particular expectations about how to buy meat. It's the Texan in me.

Anyway, I spent quite a bit of time reading and eating while in Seattle. When my niece came home she didn't immediately see me in the living room. Apparently she had "forgotten" I would be there, but when she finally saw me she pounced.

It was a hug I could not escape.

My second day in Seattle I got to meet a reader and his family. He is a very nice Taiwanese man married to a woman from Queens, NY and they have two very polite sons. We met for lunch and talked about Taiwan and living abroad and health care and China.

It was a very illuminating conversation to say the least. I find that many of the Taiwanese people I know here either don't care to talk about these things with a foreigner or simply aren't confident enough in their English ability to try. I always want to learn more about Taiwan (and especially Cross-Straight relations) but I'd like to hear it from people instead of Wiki.

The land of Tex-Mex, BBQ and Joy

Then I went to Texas for nine days. Oh how I missed Texas.

Madison (my sister's daughter) and I boarded a flight which headed for D/FW. From there we grabbed my niece Lauren (my brother's daughter) at the boarding gate and rushed onto the plane which took us to Austin.

Upon landing, we immediately went to Taco Cabana. Madi and I hadn't eaten since leaving Seattle that morning so we were starved. Beef tacos, queso, and flour tortillas never tasted so good. Oh!, did I mention the Dr. Pepper?

While in Texas, I replaced green tea with Dr. Pepper. Obviously slightly less healthy, but acceptable in the levels of caffeine and tastiness.

I spent the first four days in Texas with just my family. So Dec. 22 to Dec. 25 was just me, the girls, mom and dad and then Christmas Eve my brother, his wife and his son came as well as a family friend who I just consider family. Not sure if I would consider him more of a brother or an uncle, but it's family none the less.

I had a BLAST playing with the kids. Before I left Evan was only 8 months old and I was a little afraid to hold him because he was squirmy. The irony in this is that when Madison and my older two nephews were born I was 10 and 12 and had zero issues with holding a baby. The difference — I wasn't anywhere near the age of motherhood.

I think the fact that half my friends from high school are married or getting married and on the brink of childbearing kind of freaks me out.

But now Evan is 14 months old and I can throw him in the air and chase him around the room and tickle him and dance with him. Oh my goodness, can I just start with a toddler and skip all that infant nonsense? I know they're cute and all, but toddlers are way more entertaining.

But after four days with just the family, no matter how much I love them, I was a bit overwhelmed and I needed to get out of the house. Don't get me wrong, it was good to see everyone, but I'm not around people now nearly as often as I used to be. It gets to be too much.

So I went out with friends to one of our old hang out spots. It was weird being back at the Hole in the Wall just across the street from (old) The Daily Texan office again.

The next night, I couldn't hack it and I ended up staying in. I guess after just over a week of constantly being around people I was a bit exhausted. I passed out at something like 9 o'clock. The next few nights were off and on going out with friends, having drinks at our old hang outs, going to lunch at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, etc.

Even hanging out with my friends got to be a little exhausting at times that we were in big groups though. Again, I love them, but I can't handle being around so many people at once anymore.

It was good to see everyone and thats when I realized I would be happy living in Austin again, but only if I had a real job that allowed and afforded me the time and ability to do enjoy myself. That said, there's only so much I can do to make someone give me a job, so until then, I'll keep doing this whole visiting thing.

I also went to Fredericksburg with Flannery where I bought Chili mix and raspberry jalapeno jelly. I have no idea what to do with raspberry jalapeno jelly, but it tastes awesome and I'll figure it out.

New Years Eve was great. It was like a Daily Texan staff party circa 2005. Half the people on staff from my first year or two at the Texan were there. Luckily, a lot of those people are really good friends of mine, so all in all, a great way to bring in the new year.

Back to traveling

Then it was back to traveling. Madison and I had to be at the airport bright and early (10 a.m.) New Years Day and we both insisted on eating breakfast. We grabbed some breakfast tacos at Taco Cabana on our way (mmm chorizo, egg and cheese...). We learned our lesson from the previous time and bought some Schlotzsky's (it's an Austin-born sandwich joint) for on the flight while we were waiting to board the plane.... which had mechanical issues.

Apparently there was something wrong with the air-conditioner so they spent an hour trying to fix it. Unfortunately, our lay-over in Houston was only supposed to be an hour so we were certain to miss out connecting flight which would make us late to Seattle which would make our subsequent drive to Whistler even later.

I panicked a little.

Luckily, our connecting flight also had maintenance problems (and so did several of the other flights that were also connecting to it). Doesn't that make you feel great about flying Continental Airlines?

We boarded the plane at the same time as the other passengers, but then the plane sat there waiting for a few passengers connecting from a flight coming from Atlanta. Now, my only comment about this is that if it had come down to it, they would not have asked the plane to wait for me, Madi and the other woman on our flight from Austin who was going to Seattle. We just would have been out of luck.

We ended up arriving in Seattle almost on time. I think the pilot seriously laid down on the accelerator here.

Then it was off the Canada!

Oh Canada!

We arrived at Whistler at around 10:30 or 11 p.m. New Years Day only to have to walk up a million stairs with all of out stuff. For the first time ever, Gwen found us a cute little ski-in-ski-out condo about a five minute walk from the Creekside Gondola. This was our first time at Whistler, but not our first time snowboarding.

We've been going skiing and snowboarding since I was 15 or 16.

I have to tell you, I think I prefer the snow in the Rockies. Don't get me wrong, I loved that there was so much terrain and all the paths were super wide open, but that snow hurt.

At the top of the mountain, it was a little powdery and it was pretty nice. In the middle of the mountain, you were surrounded by clouds — so visibility was low — and the snow was packed super hard. Since the snow in Canada is really wet (unlike the Rockies) it packed like ice.

Falling hurt. Falling hurt a lot. There were actually a couple times that I fell and just kept sliding because the side of my board wouldn't dig in enough to stop me.

I tried to have fun, but I ended up coming out exhausted and beat up instead. I will keep trying to like it though. No worries though, Gwenny and I spent the next day doing a Whistler pub crawl.

My sister and I don't get a whole lot of opportunities to go out drinking together and this in particular was unique because there was a bus that would take us back to the condo once we were sufficiently buzzed.

We went around to five or six bars including one that I think was supposed to be Texas-y (called The Longhorn, good burgers by the way) and an Irish pub I can't remember the name of. At the Irish pub, we listened to Celtic music (this guy with a guitar and this girl who was an amazing fiddler), ate perogies (OMG!), and talked to these old Irish and English men.

It was entertaining to say the least.

We spent the next day in Vancouver at China town. It was super exciting but we did get some Vietnamese food which I really enjoyed.

Traveling "home"

I've been using the word home sort of profusely. I think I generally use it for where I am at the time, but in all honesty, it's both Texas and Taiwan. "Home is where the heart is," but I think it's probably also where all your stuff is/where you spend all your time.

On January 5th, I went to the airport and boarded the plane like any other time. Only this time, I got to sit on the plane at the gate for three hours. After the first hour they told us there was a problem with the engine starter that they needed to fix and it would take about an hour.

OK, no biggie, I have a book and my iPod. I'm fine.

After they finished doing what they were doing, it still didn't work. Apparently it wasn't the starter, but "the box under the starter", which they also happen to have the part for, but it would also take an hour because they would have to remove the starter again.

Around hour three they decided to deboard the plane, at which point they handed us each a voucher for $5. Now you tell me, what the hell can you buy for $5 at an airport? Nothing.

I had a beer and put the $5 toward my quesadillas which cost $11. Thanks for nothing Northwest Airlines.

When deboarding they said we would be boarding another plane shortly. Well, two hours later they handed us vouchers for a hotel room and another $7 meal voucher to use at the restaurant next door to the hotel. Can you get anything there for $7? Nope, It's a steakhouse.

I arrived back at the airport at 5 a.m. waited two hours to board the plane, waited on the plane for another 1.5 hours and it finally took off at 8:30 a.m.

I was definitely going to miss my flight from Tokyo to Taipei not to mention my first night back to work.

Luckily I had already let my boss know that.

Upon arrival to Tokyo I found out they had put me on a China Airlines flight that didn't take off for another three hours so I was stuck there for quite a while. That flight ended up also taking off an hour late.

All in all, I got home at around 7 p.m. Thursday night in Taiwan. I took a shower, started to read and passed out to the garbage truck song around 8 p.m.

I was exhausted and that's why I'm never flying Northwest or Delta again... accept maybe to use that $100 voucher they gave me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's the plan?

I'm pretty proud of myself.

I know I've only been home five days or so, but I haven't slept passed 10 a.m. yet.

In fact, I've been waking up by 9 a.m. and then just kind of hanging out in bed until 9:30 checking the news and my e-mail. I think this is a good start to a new routine.

Going back to my Monday classes felt good and I'm really excited about my classes tonight. I get to see my babies! I love those kids.

I bought a new helmet the other day. It's blue (of course) and it covers my entire head and the visor covers my whole face so I don't have to worry about anymore rain-on-the-face-while-driving induced colds.

That said, it's only supposed to be around 9º C (48ishº F) and it's supposed to be raining all day. Somehow I don't think that's going to be the worst of it this season.

Even better, I was supposed to bring back my winter jacket with me, but in the flurry of over-night packing, I left it with all the rest of my ski stuff at my sister's. I'm debating asking her to send it to me or just buying a good jacket. I fear I'll end up getting one that's all puffy and some bright color with fur on it though. (Oh Taiwan fashion!)

So, a reader asked me if I would consider staying on at Gloria after my contract is up if I can't get a job at home and I thought I would answer here where I can really explain myself.

The answer is probably not, though keep in mind that's not a definitive no. I do love my students; it's a good job, I can't deny that; and I really like Taiwan, a lot.

That said, the point of coming here was to push myself outside the box (you know, aside from having an income that requires a degree). While I'm still learning things, I can already see that after six months, I'm comfortable here — really comfortable.

If I'm going to stay abroad — key word if — I think it would be valuable to keep pushing myself and keep learning. I've been toying with the idea of a 3-year around the world trip. Basically, living and working on every continent (except Antarctica, augh!).

I would pick a city in Europe where I could live and work and easily travel from — like the before mentioned Prague. Then do the same with Africa, then Australia (or New Zealand) and finally South America. Of course, I could abort that mission at any given time that I find a job or feel like I'm ready to come home.

The idea is that this is the best time of my life to travel. I have no major attachments to keep me in one place (husband, kids, etc).

This idea has it's positives (life experience, lots of travel, continued learning experiences, stories to tell my kids one day) and it's negatives (logistics, safety, stepping even further away from journalism) but nothing is set in stone yet and I will obviously weigh all my options and think really hard before I jump into anything.

Anyway, I hope that you all understand that I'm in my 20s and I'm trying to balance what is best for me in all the aspects of my life without turning myself into a tired old lady just yet.

Besides, if I keep going, you'll have something you can keep reading.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What are your New Years resolutions?

So I'm generally really bad at resolutions, but I see the ones I'm choosing for myself more as lifestyle choices. They're really less resolutions and more goals.

1. More exercising: OK, I know this is on everyone's list but I truly need to do this. I was happy to get home and find out that I haven't gained any weight, but I also haven't lost any.

I'm not saying I need to run so many times a week or do yoga this many days, but just getting up and doing something. A few push-ups. Walk around the park. Anything that gets my body moving a little.

This is less for weight control and more for getting myself on track to a healthier lifestyle. I eat way better than I used to, but I still worry about my future health. My extended family's health problems are ominous at the least.

2. Have some what of a sleep schedule: Being jet lagged is probably the best thing of my life right now. I woke up at 7 a.m. Saturday morning with absolutely zero problems and I have been super energetic in all of my classes. It's nice not to be dragging along every day. If I keep this up then it might help with my next goal.

3. Get out of the apartment more: By this, I mean during the day during the week. I want to make a goal of going and doing something each week, but I hesitate merely because sometimes it's nice just to sit and do nothing. As long as I go out and do something most of the time I'll be happy. This is also coupled with getting more exercise because walking around the park or neighborhood can count.

4. Drink less: This is for a number of reasons including the fact that it will help all of my above goals and it will help out with this whole money situation. Not that drinking in Taiwan is all that expensive, but it sure does add up. That and honestly I've been drinking less and less as the months have gone by anyway. I'm not cutting it out all together but I am going to stop drinking like a college student.

5. Practice Chinese more: OK, I guess this is actually kind of a resolution. I still speak quietly when it comes to Chinese; I don't study nearly as often as I should; and Tones just get kind of thrown out the window when it comes to basic survival sometimes.

Enough of that.

I'm feeling really good about being back in Taiwan. I bought a new (good quality) helmet today — for less than $30USD! — so driving in the rain shouldn't be quite as miserable.

I have been happy to see my kids and they've been happy to see me. That said, I'm glad I only have to work two days this week simply because it's a good way to transition back into everything.

I only intend to take one more vacation before my contract is up and that will be during Chinese New Year when we're all on break. I can't decide what I'm going to do yet, so if anyone has suggestions for things in Taiwan or things in countries that aren't very expensive, let me know.

Otherwise, I'm saving up for my big trip with my sister in July where she's coming to Taiwan and then we're going to Thailand and Cambodia together (and then I continue on to Vietnam and maybe Nepal).

From there I'm either moving to Europe to get my official TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification OR I'm going back to the States. This all depends on the outcome of my job search that will commence around May/June-ish.

So that's the plan for now. Can you see the little OCDs coming out in me? :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Are you jet lagged?

I'm glad to be back in Taiwan and my bed and with all my stuff.

I actually fell asleep to the garbage truck song last night. I got back, took a shower, read for a bit and as I could just barely hear the garbage truck song from the street, I started dozing off.

But despite all the things I missed (GREEN TEA!) I can't say I missed driving in the rain. In fact... I still kind of hate driving in the rain.

I still feel a little disconnected, but I also haven't seen any of my students yet and I'm not really back in the swing of things at all.

I just planned lessons again for the first time in about three weeks.

Later I'll give more details about my trip and my (ridiculously long) travels including why I will probably never fly Delta or Northwest again (at least after I've used the $100 voucher they gave me).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

When will she go back to Taiwan?

Well to answer that question, from this moment I will be back in Taiwan in about 22 hours, give or take a few minutes.

I have to say I kind of miss Taiwan, but that doesn't mean that I miss America or my family any less. I know it has only been six months, but it took coming home for me to see how much I've really changed.

I went in pretty independent — despite the fact that I bawled like a baby for 12.5 hours and everyday for the first week I was in the R.O.C. — but now I'm almost detached. I have people that I'm around everyday in Taiwan, but not for more than a few hours at a time.

It was weird being constantly surrounded by people (actually I did have a couple of meltdowns related to this).

Also, I had heard people say it before, but it really is difficult to tell people what it's like. Granted I write this blog and that helps. Telling the story as I go is a whole lot easier. Maybe if I looked back at all my blogs I could sum it up a little better, but as it goes, could you tell me exactly what your life has been like for the past six months without leaving out some details?

The way I see it, everything there is so normal now. And while strange things stand out at the time (and some continue to) they eventually pile into the category of "once was strange but now is normal."

That and conversations tend to circle around Taiwan and teaching abroad and such. Sometimes, believe it or not, I don't want to be the center of attention. I know that's hard to believe, but sometimes I just want to talk to everyone exactly how I used to. That's not to say I don't want to talk about it at all, but it's really difficult to just shift really easily in and out of that conversation.

Of course, given that my entire life the past six months has taken place in a foreign country, it's hard even for me not to talk about it all the time. It's like when you spend every waking moment with a particular friend or boyfriend. Most or your stories begin with "Oh well we went and did such and such..." rather than "I did..."

You just can't take the Taiwan out of my life.

Probably my biggest thing was seeing my nieces and nephew again.

They're all growing up so much and, especially when I look at Evan, I freak out a little about what I'm missing and whether or not they'll remember me. I know the girls will remember, but Evan is still so young that will be more difficult.

That's why I love Skype. As soon as I have extra cash I'm buying Webcams for my family and sending them all back to them. Then there is NO excuse (except the time change I suppose).

This time is also a little more indefinite. I'm getting more and more used to being abroad not to mention, it would be stupid to go home without a job.

Until I find a job in the States, I'm going to have to stay abroad. Maybe not in Taiwan the whole time, but somewhere.

More on this later. I have to go shower and finish packing so I can drag myself to the airport.

See you in Taiwan!