Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Check Out Our Apartment

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hiking in the Mountains

(Post by Alisha)

Mmmmm... sweat face.

The humidity soaked us almost instantly as we began our little trek up the beautiful mountains in our own city, Sanxia. A small breeze carried the scent of the flowers and the damp, earthy odor of the trees. As we followed the winding road up and up, we paused to take in all the beauty around us: the tall, stiff bamboo stalks, the bright orange and pink lilies, and a butterfly with red, black, and white wings that was the size of a hummingbird. As a coworker of mine commented, after living in Taiwan, it would be hard to go back living somewhere without the ever-present beauty and tranquility of the mountains.

We stopped a little further on the way at a stony oasis to down some water and munch on the cashews, jerky, and fruit we brought with (Bacon also enjoyed a marshmallow choco pie). When we finally arrived at the peak, we were rewarded with an amazing mountain-top view of the city and the other lush mountains looming in the distance. The tropical plant life here is just one more thing that is so different from anything we can experience back home.

As you can probably tell, we love the mountains here—especially after coming from the Midwest. More mountain trips are definitely on the agenda :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Muppers the Dog

This is our dog, Muppers- also referred to as The Mupp Master. Technically he is not so much ours as he is a random stray, but he sticks around our neighborhood and we see him everywhere we go. In the picture above, he made himself a nice little spot to lay in a beautiful Taiwanese flower bed. Needless to say, we like his style and keep an eye on him.

UPDATE 2/7/2010 - It's been almost a year and we still see Muppers. He has moved over a couple blocks so we don't see him as much, but whenever we go to Carrefour (the grocery store) we see him. We've tried to give him food several times, but he refuses it. We are pretty sure he doesn't like us.
Saturday, April 11, 2009

Teaching in Taiwan

(Post by Alisha)

I teach four classes at Uncle Sam School, but my homeroom classroom is the Dolphins- I love them! They are around 3 or 4 years old, but extremely bright for their age and they get so excited about learning. When you talk to the students here, everything is in very simple English because too much wordiness would confuse them, but they are able to understand and speak quite a bit of English. It's a lot of conversations like, "Uh-oh Sandra, sit back down. No star for you unless you sit so nice! Hands back, no talking- if you are so good, you can come help Teacher Alisha write the number six!"

We both like teaching, but find it requires a lot of energy and hard work. The older children can be pretty naughty; they will talk in Chinese, get out of their seats, push each other, etc. The thing that works the most to keep them in line is taking away their points/stars or giving them more Vocab homework. There are also cameras in each classroom that stream online so the parents can watch their kids and see if they're misbehaving.

Going from college students to elementary teachers was a big switch, but I think we're adjusting to it pretty well.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Traffic and Trying Not to Die

(Post by Bacon and Alisha)

Trying to describe the traffic here is like trying to describe pure and utter chaos. There seems to be no set standard of rule; people do as they please. Any street sign or traffic light is just a mere suggestion in the minds of 99% of drivers here. These "unrules" do not only apply to the road, but to pedestrians as well. It is not an uncommon sight to see a car or moped on the sidewalk or turning on the street when they do not have the right of way. In fact, it is more uncommon to actually see someone wait their turn at traffic lights. Also, street lines have NO PURPOSE here at all, if there's "space" for three cars, three cars will be there- and a moped as well. If you're a pedestrian and trying to cross the street, cars and mopeds will zoom in front of you while taking left hand turns- they will only pause momentarily if they are going to hit you head on. Needless to say, it is an adventure walking to school every day. This wouldn't be a problem, but when talking a leisurely stroll in downtown Sansia the other day, we almost got hit about 20 times while trying to take in all the sights around us. You get used to it, but I don't think we'll be driving a moped any time soon.

Right before rush hour.
Sunday, April 5, 2009

Painting a Picture of Taiwan

(Post by Alisha)
Hello everyone! There is so much to tell about our first days in Taiwan, but for now I'm just going to try and give you all a general feeling of what it's like and how our first trip to Taipei was:

Warm, humid air sticks to our skin, the way the rice is thick and sticks to our insides. The smells and sounds of Sansia rise around us: foreign voices are starting to blend with the chirp of the exotic birds and the daily song of the street-sweeper, creating a new language of the city, the Taiwanese--home. Some words still feel clumsy on my tongue, but my attempts bring a smile from the locals, some of the nicest people you will meet. As we awkwardly try to decipher our way through this new environment, people continue to surprise us with their willingness to teach.

Taiwan is a land of contradictions- the beauty of the landscaping clashes with the grainy feel of the smog in our lungs. The streets and subways are impeccable, but we can't drink the water from the tap. Our apartments have six locks, two doors, and a security-guarded building, but people leave their shoes on mats outside their doors. People walk around with their own pampered pets, but shoo away the many homeless dogs that roam the streets.

Our first trip into Taipei found that it is vibrant, full of color- literally- and alive with the movements of the culture. The smells of the fried street foods and sushi bars mingle with the traffic and hundreds of little shops in the trendy Ximen area. The staggering presence of Taipei 101 matches the ritzy vibe of its downtown area, where the beautiful people flock. Little benches and parks, palm trees and clean-cut architecture dot this part of the city. In contrast, the Longshan Temple area is an entirely different view of Taipei. Completely non-Westernized, it beats with the pulse of traditional Taiwan culture. The actual Longshan Temple is beautiful, intricate, and a great example of authentic Taiwanese architecture, though it has been renovated and rebuilt countless times due to natural disasters.

While we are finding foods we enjoy, like the meat-filled dumplings, sticky rice, sesame balls (their sweetness dissolves in your mouth) and a crunchy red fruit, after a long day of walking around, it was nice to come home to some delicious Taiwan Beer and Pizza Hut :)
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We Arrived

Just to let everyone know we have safely arrived in Taiwan. We will have full updates once we have recovered from our extreme jet lag.

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