Saturday, September 25, 2010

Settled At Last

It's official...

we are aliens.

Alien residents of Taiwan, that is!

Over the past several months, we have made some wonderful new friends. Without them, we never would have survived moving to a new country.

friends from Truth Church

Hanging out during Moon Festival

Moon Festival Barbecue

Kayt and Beatrice

Last night we had a party for everyone who has helped us settle into life here. We are so thankful for this new community God has blessed us with.

Ice cream sundae bar

Typhoon Fanapi

Last weekend we weathered our first typhoon. The storm was scheduled to hit the island early Sunday morning, so on Saturday we headed to the beach to check out the waves. Unfortunately, no swimming was allowed due to the strong currents. Many surfers were waiting patiently with hopes that the beach patrol would leave so they could catch some waves. Others took advantage of the strong winds and flew colorful kites.

Since we couldn't swim, we went for a walk and then settled at a little beach front cafe. With cold drinks in hand, we wrote in our journals, read our books, and studied Chinese.

After that, we headed back to the Fishermen's Wharf to explore. Squid on a stick, candied fruit, fresh lobster, and other seaside wares were in abundance.

We stopped to listen to some traditional Taiwanese musicians, too.

Early Sunday morning, Typhoon Fanapi hit Taipei. Wind speeds were reported at 195 km/hour. It wasn't as bad as we anticipated, though I definitely had trouble sleeping with all the noise of the rain and wind. Several times I was awakened by the sound of breaking glass or by dust/tile particles falling from our shifting ceiling.

By Sunday, the worst was over, but church and Chinese class were still cancelled due to high winds and hard rain. We spent the day relaxing in our flat.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Moon Festival!

One of the perks of living in a foreign country is that we get to celebrate twice the number of holidays. Today is the Moon Festival (or Mid-Autumn Festival), which is one of the biggest holidays in Taiwan (it's right up there with the Dragon Boat Festival and Chinese New Year). Traditionally this festival was to celebrate the year's harvest. Today people celebrate by holding family barbecues, eating moon cakes and pomelo fruits, and hanging out all afternoon and evening while gazing at the moon (which is supposed to be the biggest it will get all year).

Above: a pomelo

Over the past week, we have received several varieties of moon cakes plus two cases of pomelos as gifts from friends and students. Needless to say, we have been eating pomelos everyday for breakfast and dessert! They are kind of like a drier and sweeter grapefruit.

Another tradition, which Kalan is modeling below, is wearing the pomelo peel on your head like a hat. Not sure where this idea came from, but it's popular with the kids. :-)

Today we are enjoying the day off work. Tonight a friend from church invited us to a moon festival barbecue.

Maybe we will wear our new hats.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Games Are More Than Just Playing Around

Today I thought we could play Duck, Duck, Goose for our 10 minute exercise time at the beginning of class. I didn't have enough students to play. Instead I threw a nerf ball at each student in turn while the others ran to pick it up and give it back to me. I don't really know what to make of the situation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

San Jhih Retreat

This past weekend we headed up to San Jhih for a missionary retreat. Highlights included preparing and eating a traditional Taiwanese "hot-pot" meal (火鍋), going to the beach, and just hanging out together. Our new Taiwanese friends shared about their culture and how it is different from Western cultures, and our experienced ex-pat friends shared about adjusting to life in Taiwan. These sessions were very helpful for me (Kayt), as I am still experiencing culture shock. Also, new insights into Asian culture have already helped me at work, especially when it comes to communicating with my boss and my students.

Rhys and Ellie Mumford, new friends from Britain

On the way home, Ethan (a new Taiwanese friend) took us to the fisherman's wharf in Danshui. This picturesque spot, just a short MRT ride away from Taipei city, is one of my favorite places here.

fishing nets

Monday morning we got right back into the swing of things with Chinese class and work. Our language study is going is so rewarding to communicate at the market, even if it's only, "How much is this?" Learning to write the characters is a bit more challenging, but I enjoy practicing because each character is like a little piece of art. Right now we have flashcards littering our coffee table.

Next week is the New Moon Festival...more to come on that...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Variety is the spice of lunch

Like lunchrooms throughout America, many in my school could easily make a case that the lunch provided for kids (and teachers) lacks variety. Instead of processed chicken parts and randomly shaped potato snacks, we get rice and clam soup-almost every day. I like Taiwanese food in general and my gratitude for this free meal quickly pushes back any complaints.

Today, to my great pleasure, the usual tofu, fried beef, or grilled chicken did not come with my rice and soup. Fried squid graced my plate. There it sat, right on top of the rice. I know, I know, children of America, you wish you could experience such true variety in your government-sponsored, deep fried, chemically altered, antibiotic coated school lunch. I will put in a good word for you when I come back. Until then, I will do my best to enjoy the fried squid tenticles for those everyone back home.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Day at the Beach

As Kalan mentioned earlier, last Saturday we went the beach with Ben and Beth. It was a refreshing day for all of us.

Also, last week, we received our first package from our Green Bay family! I was SO excited when it arrived!

Contents included popcorn, rice cakes, and coffee nips (some favorites I had been missing), a sun dress I had forgotten at home, pictures of our families and friends, letters from both my sisters, and some plastic forks (which really made us laugh, and actually have been quite useful!) It was packed in a nice black and white box that I am using for storage. Thanks Dad, Mom, Natalie, and Grace!

As I type this, I can hear Kalan in the other room trying to catch our newest pet...a little lizard that has found his way into our bedroom. The other day, one also jumped out of my bicycle basket as I was riding. They are really small and rather cute.

This coming weekend, we are going on a missionary retreat with some other foreign workers as well as Taiwanese believers. The purpose of the retreat is to learn more about Taiwanese culture and increase unity among the foreigners and Taiwanese people in our church. I am really looking forward to it. More stories and pictures to come!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Finally Sick of Taiwan

This weekend treated me (Kalan) rather like a skitzophrenic. On Friday night, Kayt and I hung out with Ben and Beth for a late dinner, made plans to lead the English Prayer Meeting on Sunday and hit up the night market for a 12:30 a.m. bubble tea-I still love the night life. The adventures continued on Saturday with a day at the beach. We traveled as far north as possible on the Metro before catching a bus to a coastal town.

I have never loved the beach because I always leave feeling dirty, sweaty and sunburned. This beach trip proved the exception to the rule. Large-grain sand kept sand out of unwanted places, a nice breeze and cool day helped me enjoy the water as more than an escape from scorching sand and Taiwanese sunscreen could protect an albino in the Sahara.

Mood-swings took full effect the next day. The highs of Friday and Saturday disappeared and a brutal Sunday took their place. I woke up with a headache, fever, sore throat and runny nose: Hello sinus infection, glad you could join us today! We proceeded to attend church, lead the English Prayer meeting, have lunch and two hours of Chinese class. Other than my awesome wife and the $6 prescription drugs I purchased (without a prescription) from the pharmacy, the day gave few highlights.

But, a morning off of work and numerous "prescription" pills later, I find myself greatly improved.