Saturday, October 23, 2010

If You're Happy and You Know It, Read Church Doctrine

Some people like to play basketball. Others draw, paint or create music. The way a person spends their free time tells a lot about that person.

I am not sure what I say to people by diving into Jaroslav Pelikan’s The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol 1-The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition during my break between “If You’re Happy and You Know it” and “Essentials of Writing: 4th Grade Level.”

Regardless of what my actions are communicating, or what people say about me for that matter, I have enjoyed and have finished hanging out with good old Jaroslav for a while.

In addition to the information presented on specific topics, some more general insights I took away include:

--how indebted I am to the thousands of years of Christian study that came before me. The doctrine of the Trinity took a few centuries to hammer out, but for a person to abandon it now would likely jettison them from Christendom.

--I also feel like I see the struggle between Eastern and Western Christianity more clearly. We are all one team, but each team is trying to preserve specific aspects of the faith that they believe are important. These priorities shaped their development from the beginning.

--Finally, I am humbled and reminded that no one has a corner on the market for doctrinal truth. Later generations declared almost all of the church fathers heretical on some idea or another a few centuries (or decades) after the respective fathers published their ideas.

I will pick up the next book in the series soon, but first I need to spend some time brushing up on my “Rain, Rain, Go Away” hand motions.

Thus far, I have limited my posts to narrative accounts of my life in Taiwan. What have I done recently? What interesting things do I see in Taiwan? Where have my travels taken me?

I wanted to avoid wearing my heart on my digital sleeve and boring readers with things like personal observations about Asian culture, thoughts from books I have read, or experiences that impact me. After encouragement by my wife, inspiration from other blogs I read (most notably and, and a healthy push from a fellow ex-pat, I will torture some and tantalize others with a new element on the blog.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ponchos, Panties, and Pizza

It has been a rainy week here in Taipei.

I like rain. I especially like rain when I can curl up in a comfy chair with a hot cup of tea and a good book.

However, I started liking rain less after trying to steer my bicycle with one hand while holding my umbrella with the other.

Until I discovered this 50-cent purple poncho at our local convenience store.

Now the rain and I are back on good terms.

Last night, as Kalan opened up the window so we could enjoy some fresh air and the sound of the rain, he looked down toward the street and casually asked, "Hey Kayt, is that a pair of your underwear?"
"What?!" I exclaimed, rushing over to lean out the window.
Sure enough, a pair of gray underwear had fallen off our makeshift "drying rack" and landed on the second-story awning below our flat.
Out came the umbrella, the broom, and a hanger, all in an attempt to rescue the lost pair of panties.
Finally, Kalan succeeded to retreiving them and placed them directly in the washing machine.
Perhaps I will start drying our underwear in the kitchen again.

Kalan never ceases to amaze me with his dinner creations.
Last week, he surprised me with homemade veggie pizza! Now, this might not sound impressive, but remember that we do not have an oven, while cheese and tomato sauce are hard to come by and quite expensive.
How did he do it? He made a rice flour flat bread crust in a pan, whipped up a delicious white cream sauce, and topped it with veggies. Amazing!

With homemade food like that, who needs an "American Style Restaurant"? :-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pay Day

A day never passes without an adventure in Taiwan.

For almost all teachers in Taiwan, payday comes the 5th of every month. For me however, the day came without any pay. Well…only 50% of it.

Over the recent months I have become increasingly aware that the Kindergarten portion of my school is failing. Not in a “the school system is letting our children down” type of failing, but a “we don’t have enough students to pay rent” failing.

To make a long (although rather entertaining) story short, today was the climax of my ultimatum: pay the rest of my salary, or continue offering classes without a teacher. I wouldn’t be quitting, just removing the English portion of their “all-English” immersion classes until I got my money.

Although my stand frustrated the school-owner, I received my money today. I think he tried to communicate something like “I don’t know why all the teachers are so upset, I am going to pay them sooner or later” to my boss, but its all Chinese to me. Ha.

“What now?” you ask. Kaytlin splurged and bought plastic cups for our apartment since we broke all 3 of our glasses.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fireworks and New Foods

Sunday we celebrated Taiwan's National Celebration Day or "Double Ten Day" (雙十節). (It's kind of like the 4th of July in America). That evening I went with some Taiwanese friends to the best fireworks show I've ever seen. After that, we went to a local restaurant famous for its "ginger duck hot pot." (Hot pot is the Taiwanese version of fondue). We all sat on low stools around a table with a hole in the middle. In the hole was a fire and a boiling pot of broth. Nearby men cut up ducks and placed the various organs and pieces of meat on serving platters. Along with raw cabbage, we used our chopsticks to cook the meat in the pot.

Now here comes the exciting part. During the meal, one of my friends placed a reddish blob of gelatin in my bowl and said, "Here, Kayt. You should try this."

"Okay. What is it?"

"It's duck blood."

Coagulated duck blood?! Really?! But since I have a personal rule to "always try everything at least once," I took a bite with a little smile. "Delicious," I managed to say in Chinese. Everyone got a big kick out of that. Next, they offered me the pig blood cake (pig's blood mixed with sticky rice). Again, I sampled a bite. Really, it didn't taste bad at all...I just tried not to think about what I was eating.

The whole night was really fun. I made some new friends and had lots of opportunities to practice Chinese. And while I don't think I'll be making pig blood cake anytime soon, at least I can say I tried it.

Happy double ten day!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I have a new favorite Chinese phrase: 加油! (jiā yóu!) It is what people say at the gas station, and it literally means "add fuel" or "add oil." However, in everyday life people use it to mean, "You can do it! Don't give up! Keep pressing on!" According to the dictionary it means "to make an extra effort; to cheer somebody on."

For example...

Teacher Kayt: Annie, here is your writing project. You did a great job! I made some corrections. Please re-write a second draft.

Student Annie (eyes growing large as she looks at all the red pen markings): Ooohhh, difficult!!!

Teacher Kayt: 加油, Annie!

This phrase often comes to mind when I am feeling discouraged. So whether busyness at work, stress at school, or anxiety about the economy has got you down...加油!


Friday, October 1, 2010

You know you live in Taiwan if... start your day with black rice and fungus paste...part of a complete breakfast can't name at least half of the fruits and vegetables in the market

...your kitchen boasts an enormous gas tank

...for after-dinner entertainment, you and your husband take turns reading your ESL students' "quick write" essays take showers in your bathroom sink

...when the temperature drops to 75, you pull out a sweater and wonder if it will be too cold to go the beach this weekend

...a relaxing Saturday afternoon involves bubble tea and writing Chinese characters over and over eat from the 7-11 buffet at least once a week do not find it strange to carry an umbrella on a perfectly sunny day can't remember the last time you used a microwave or an oven enjoy eating sweetened red beans and taro (a root vegetable) for dessert carry your own personal chopsticks with you at all times believe that if a meal doesn't include rice, it must only be a snack frequently forget common English words you used to know think that any restaurant dish costing more than $3 US is expensive

...your trash truck sounds just like the ice cream truck

...your favorite kitchen appliances are your Brita water filter and your rice cooker ride your bicycle everywhere

...for extra spending money, you teach a three-year-old the English alphabet smile and feel a little excited whenever you see another white face on the street

...your toilet is located right next to your washing machine invite a friend over for dinner and plan for at least five people to come

...everyone at your church attends weekly prayer meetings and has read the Bible at least three times more than you have