Friday, January 30, 2009

Wo De Sheng Ri (My Birthday!)

What a fantastic birthday!

January 27th was not only my birthday but also the second day of the Chinese New Year, when traditionally families go to the mother's side of the family. This worked out perfectly because Angel invited Nick and I to her father's house for my birthday.

Including Nick and I there were 10 people at the feast, Angel and her husband and two daughters, Natalie (10) and Lucy (17) and Chris and Rachel and Angels father and his wife.

Angel's dad is 89 years old and he's awesome. He's in very good shape (although he may have a bit of a memory problem). The whole night he was telling us his stories from when he was in the Taiwanese Air force. He was a fighter jet crew chief and he inspected planes before they took off. He learned all of his English from American soldiers during WWII.

He was Nick's new BFF and kept raising his glass of whisky for Nick to drink with him! Finally, Nick had to stop drinking whisky because he wanted to make sure that he didn't get the old man too drunk! Haha.

Dinner was fantastic, the BEST meal by far that we've had yet. There were more than 10 different dishes, three kinds of fish, amazing dumplings (or pot stickers as we call them at home), soup, beef stir fry, some potato dish that I've never had before, shrimp... It was fantastic. Their dinner table was a big round table with a Lazy Susan in the middle that all of the food was on. So throughout the meal, you just turn the platform in the middle of the table and pick what you want out of the dishes. I think their family style of eating here is awesome, it's a much more communal experience than western dining. Plus, I think it helps you to eat less.

Chatting at dinner was also quite the cultural exchange. Chris speaks pretty good English, but the rest of the family has trouble expressing themselves (still almost everyone at the table speaks more English than either of us speak Chinese), so conversations that would probably be pretty short at home, were long and drawn out as the whole family worked together to find the English words for what they wanted to say. Throughout we were teaching them English and they were teaching us some Chinese. It was really fun; I was laughing and smiling the whole dinner.

After dinner it was time for Karaoke (or KTV as they call it here. Short for Karaoke TV). Angel and her daughter Lucy are both very good singers, so I was a little embarrassed by my singing, but it was good times. I even did a duet with Angel (My Endless Love) and one with Chris (You Give Love a Bad Name, by Bon Jovi) and Angel's dad sang a couple songs including one A'Capella version of an old Chinese opera song. It was fantastic.

Finally about 5 ½ hours after we arrived, it was time for the last event of the night: Singing Happy Birthday to ME!! Angel bought a cake and some candles and they all sang to me in Chinese and then in English and I blew out the candles. Chris and Rachel even gave me a Chinese-English dictionary for a present.

I hope they invite us back again! It was the best night in Taiwan thus far.

Fishing for Shrimp on New Years Day

Day one of the year of the Ox was pretty good for us. Chris (Nancy's cousin) and Rachel (his fiance) invited us to go fishing for shrimp with them.

I had no idea what to expect for
this event, but I have to admit, I was pretty excited. Angel picked us up around 2 in the afternoon and drove us to the fishing spot: a big building connected to a shopping mall in down town Taichung! There she left us to go fishing w/ Chris and Rachel while she went shopping.

Inside of the building was something that looked kind of like a swimming pool with a bunch of people sitting around it fishing. It cost $100NT (about $3 US) an hour to partake in the fishing. This fee included a pole, some chicken liver and some shrimp (for bait), and some hooks. Every hour the pool is re-stocked with new shrimp and you can catch as many as you want while you are there.

Almost right away, Rachel caught our first (and her only shrimp). It definitely took some patience, but between the four of us we caught 8 shrimp in 3 hours (I caught 4 of them!!). I have to say it was lots of fun and definitely requires some skill and patience. I had quite a few nibblers that got away. You have to wait for about a minute after they first start nibbling until you're sure that they're hooked and you won't loose them, then you pull them quickly out of the water and they're yours to keep!

One thing I definitely had a problem with was getting the hook out of the shrimp's mouth. I just could not do it. First of all, the live shrimp completely grossed me out (it's just like a huge water bug...GROSS!) and you really have to work to get the hook out. I felt like I was torturing this big, fleshy bug, so I had to have Chris help me every time. (Nick wouldn't help because he thought it was funny to make me suffer through getting the hook out myself).

After we were done catching them, it was time to eat them! First you rinse them off (because the water that you catch them in is pretty gross). Next you cut off their tentacles and legs (while they're still alive) and salt them to taste.

Next, you skewer them (or impale them) so that they’re easy to handle. After they’re firmly placed on the skewer, you stick them into the grill (mind you, they are still alive at this point and while they cook you can see their legs squirming!!) And once they turn pink all over they are ready to eat. It's the freshest thing I've ever eaten.
They were delicious, but I wouldn't be able to go there without someone who was willing to do the dirty work for me (i.e. impaling them, and getting the hook out).

Chris even showed us how to eat their eggs: You carefully rip the head off and then suck out the red and yellow liquid that in the head cavity. It's actually very tasty.

They have a pretty good business model going on. Between the three of us we paid about $25USD for only 8 shrimp and then they also serve dinner, so on top of the $800NT for fishing we spent more money there to eat dinner, I'm sure its very profitable and it makes for a great afternoon activity!

Here are some more pictures of my fishing experience!

My first shrimp!

Me trying to get the shrimp off of the hook!

oops! I dropped it in the garbage can!!

To Do List

get a job... check
get an apartment... check
gym membership... check
scooter... check

figure out how to order food....
learn Chinese...
get Internet at our place...
finalize visa...
find some additional income sources (aka tutoring)...
find a mattress pad for our hard-as-a-rock bed...

but the most pressing of all right now:

learn how to wash our clothes....

(i'm quickly running out of underwear!!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

And I'm Back!


Well, today was a very exciting day. 1st, Nick and I got a scooter (we rented one for a month and hopefully by the end of the rental period we will have our Alien Resident Cards and be able to buy our own scooters)!! and 2nd, I found an Internet cafe (thanks to cruising on our scooter) where I can use my flash drive, so now I can post some fun stuff.

So, for now I'm just going to back-date the couple of posts that I have written so they'll appear below this one and you can read them at your leisure!

I'll be in touch hopefully a little more often now, I have all kinds of fun things to share with you. Most likely my next post will be on how CRAZY driving around here is! AHHHHHHHHH!!!

The Food

(Written on 1/25/09)

Here is something you take for granted when you're in your own country: for the most part, every time you sit down to eat, you know what to expect. You know what it is that you're about to eat and what it tastes like, and if you're about to eat it, you're pretty sure that you like it.

Imagine this: You don't know what anything is, so you just point to some things on the menu (not pictures, just Chinese characters) and you just hope for the best.

Once your meal comes out, you can only guess at what it is you're seeing in front of you, so you move on to the blind taste test. And since most dishes consist of a bunch of things mixed together (various vegetables and meats or other unknown things) basically every bite is unknown territory. If you're lucky, you may know what meat is in the dish, but that information is not always available.

This has been our life for the last week! As a result, we've encountered some pretty interesting food (see "stinky tofu" post).

Taiwanese food in general is very sweet. It has made me realize how salty American food is, and you know what... I'll take salty over sweet any day. Even things that you would think are the same anywhere (peanut butter on white bread) tastes a little off and much sweeter than you'd expect. But I definitely eat less when all the food is sweet, so that's probably a good thing!

One of our first mishaps happened the first time we ordered at a restaurant without Angel's assistance. For this trip we picked three things off of the menu, one was under the category of rice dishes. I know the character for rice, so I figured this was a relatively safe bet (and it turned out to be pretty good). The second thing we ordered was a total crap shoot and we definitely did not hit the bulls eye with this one. We later found out that what we ordered is called a "hot pot."

Basically we got a big bowl of broth over a small burning fire accompanied by some frozen meat (see picture). At first we were very confused by the platter of frozen meat, but it didn't take Nick long to figure out that the meat goes into the boiling soup. Let's just say, this was definitely not what we were expecting to get, it wasn't very good, and its something we will try not to order again.

We thought the third thing on the menu that we ordered was tea, but it turned out to be candied sausage! Imagine candied nuts (the kind you buy around the holidays) but instead of nuts its spicy sausage...hmmm very interesting to say the least.

Our next culinary adventure came when we stumbled upon a Japanese restaurant. This got me very excited because I love sushi! Unfortunately, the entire menu was in Chinese (of course) and the waitress didn't know the Japanese words for any of the sushi. So after fumbling around for a while, I asked her what she recommends and she ordered us what I assumed were two different sushi platters... but it definitely was not. This was by far the most expensive and worst tasting meal we've eaten thus far (minus the stinky tofu).

The first thing they brought out was some sashimi, ok good start! It went sharply down hill from there. One of the things we got was a plate of a huge shrimp and oyster and some other things on a bed of crushed ice. Which I ate (although it was not very good) and then 5 minutes later a hot pot came out and we realized that the food on the ice was supposed to go in the hot pot. But now it was all gone! Another thing we got was some pieces of beef in a fishy smelling/tasting broth...very gross.

I can't even describe the meal because we had no idea what any of it was but it was not good. Food just kept coming out, a never ending stream of bizarre dishes. Finally we both decided to throw in the towel, we were totally overwhelmed by the meal and figured by this point it had to be over, and then this showed up!

A huge shrimp head in my soup. WTF!!! We just burst out laughing… what else could we do!? There wasn't even the part of the shrimp that you eat in the soup, JUST THE HEAD!!!

But that still wasn't it, next this came out:
And Nick said it wasn't even cooked all the way! Geeze Louise! This is a restaurant we will not be returning to!

And this is our every day life right now. We never know what we're ordering and so far we haven't really found anything (on our own at least) that we've really liked. For now, the search for good food continues!

Waiguo Ren

(Written on 1/23/09)

Waiguo Ren... that is what we are: Foreigners!

How has it been for us being foreigners in a foreign land for the last week? In one word: Exhausting. Don't get me wrong, we're enjoying every moment and I think we'll really be able to make a nice home for ourselves here, but this first week has been quite the whirlwind.

Its one thing to be a tourist in a country where you don't speak the language… but trying to live in a place where not only do you not speak the language, but you can't read anything is quite a different story.

In France, for example, you might not understand what you're reading,
but at least you can sound out the words. You can read street signs, even if you butcher the pronunciation, at least you have a sign that you can read and a word that you can remember…. This is not the case here. Characters are a whole nother story!

We've been going to bed pretty early ever since we got here, one excuse is the jet lag, but what I really think is that its the mental overload that we're experiencing every moment. Back in the US, our brains are used to the surroundings and we can just tune out most of what is around us and focus on whatever happens to be important at that time.

Here, everything is new. Our brains have no idea what is and is not important, so we are constantly processing all this extra information. Not to mention all of the work we're doing trying to figure things out that actually are important (like: what is this person trying to say to me, or what the hell am I eating right now, or how much is this is US$... the list goes on an on...) It's actually a mental relief to be at work because then we get to be around a bunch of English-speaking colleagues!

I have experienced something like this before. When I was living in South Africa I dealt with things being different (spongy bread, soggy everything, driving on the left side of the road...) and I got used to never really feeling completely at home, but throwing Chinese on top of that really adds a whole new dimension to it all. I have to say... its pretty intense. It makes even the most mundane things become an adventure.

I'm sure after a month or two, we will settle into a routine and become much more comfortable, so I'm looking forward to that.

Fortunately, our job offers free Chinese lessons! As soon as the holiday is over, Nick and I plan to start with the classes. I really can't wait learn Chinese. Right now I can speak a little, and what I can say does help us out a lot, but I really am at a loss most of the time.

So... until I can speak Chinese, I'm just a waigou ren hoping I bump into some one who can speak a little English!

Stinky Tofu

(Written 1/23/09)

On our second night in Taiwan, Nick and I were walking to our first night market when we encountered a smell that smacked us right in the face.

What the HELL is THAT!? We said to each other. It was a very distinct smell, we both guessed that it was a bad sewage problem, and I forgot about it. Then last night we went back to another night market and we smelled it again. By this time we'd done a lot of walking around the city and I realized that we only smell this smell during night markets. Nick had the revelation: its stinky tofu.

Stinky tofu is something that the Taiwanese are famous for. It's basically fermented tofu that is (as the name suggests) very stinky, and for some reason it is loved by all here. But I'm thinking this smell cannot be tofu. NO WAY do people eat something that smells like that. It must be garbage or sewage, or maybe people like to urinate in the alleys around night markets... I don't know what it is, but its definitely not edible.

(If Nancy had smelled it she would say something like "it smells like I ate bad meat, threw it up, my dog ate that, and pooped it out and let it sit for a couple of days”She always had a special way with words, haha)

So we walk through the night market and finally pick out some things to eat. First we picked out fried mushrooms: yummy. Then we found a little sushi place and we picked out about 6 pieces to go and continued walking along the market until we came across some tables to sit down and eat at. This area had a pretty strong odor (the odor), but we paid no mind and sat down to eat anyway.

Promptly we were told that we had to buy something from a particular booth in order to be allowed to sit at the table. So Nick went up to the counter and bought some fried tofu. I think he must have said something about it possibly being stinky tofu because I did smell it first to be safe and it smelled pretty benign to me. So, I ate it.

At first it was just kind of sour or a little off tasting, but as I ate it, it got worse. It didn't take me too long to realize that I was actually tasting that smell. It was so bad that I can actually taste it in my throat now as I write about it. And it was so bad that I had to (discreetly) spit it out.

I cannot believe that people eat this stuff!!!! It is literally one of the most vial smells I have ever encountered in my entire life... And I ate it!

Well, at least I can say I've been there, done that... and I won't be doing it again. Ever!!

January 23, 2009 update

Where to begin...

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote: I got a job and an apartment! We actually got both on our third day here, can you believe that!? Angel is pretty amazing! She got us a pretty awesome job (and good thing too, because out of the 10 jobs we sent our resumes to, only one replied to tell us that they already found someone!)

We work for Columbia as "Language Consultants" which is basically an English teacher but our students are called "clients" and our classes range from only 1 to 6 students, mostly adults. Apparently it's the most expensive place to learn English on the island. There are 6 levels of ability and with the higher levels, we basically pick news articles or any short reading sample and have everyone read it out loud, taking turns. Then we use it as a start point to generate discussion, learn new vocabulary, and help them with advanced grammer and sentence structure, etc. With the lower levels we focus more on basic grammar and vocab using material out of various ESL books.

It's pretty chill and its right up my alley; I'm all about it. We also already had our first day of work (on Thursday) and then went straight into a 10-day vacation. Its
Chinese New Year! So that's pretty nice.

Our apartment is also nice. It’s a two-bedroom place in the North District, just north of the city center. People call it the "suburb" but by US standards, its definitely the city.

This is a street just a couple blocks from us... out in the "suburbs" of Taichung City!

There's TONS of stuff within walking distance including this temple, a cute little coffee shop where we have breakfast every day, several night markets, karaoke, a couple grocery stores, the “Ho-Easy” which is a home store where we bought our dresser and some other things, and tons of other stuff.

It's definitely bigger than what we need, but it's within our price range and Angel found it for us so we couldn't turn it down (how would we find anything else anyway!?) but it ended up being pretty great and we even have AC in the bedroom which I know we will really appreciate this summer.

All in all it's been a VERY productive week. Still on the to-do list are getting our scooters and the internet (hence my being so out of touch)… but those will have to wait until after the 9-day holiday because apparently EVERYTHING shuts down during the New Year.

Well, Happy New Year Everyone!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Well I've written like four blogs in the last week, two on food, one on being a foreigner, and one that's just a general update... AND.... this freaking Internet cafe won't let me open up my flash drive!!! BOOOOOOO!!

So I guess it'll have to wait until God knows when I can get the Internet on my own computer. This is a total bummer. I'm very displeased with the whole thing.

In the mean time,


Last night our friend (Nancy's cousin, Chris who is about 27 years old) came over for our first visitors in our new apartment! When he realized that we didn't have anything to do on Chinese New Year's eve, he went to the store and bought us spaghetti which he cooked for us before he went to his father's house for the holiday. He said that its a very special night and we needed to have a good dinner! how sweet!

Today, I think he's taking us fishing for shrimp and to get Thai massages.... but who knows? We're never quite sure what is going to happen.

I hope all is well with you, hopefully I'll be able to put some more interesting cultural notes up here soon.

~ Rach

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Where have I been!?

Well, life has been quite exciting these last couple of days.

Nick and I both now have jobs (at the same company, Columbia) and we have a two bedroom apartment in the northern area of Taichung! We have been spending a considerable amount of time trying to find an Internet cafe and FINALLY succeeded!! (hopefully after the New Year we will finally figure out how to get Internet in our apartment... and our own SCOOTERS!!)

Anyway, I have written a couple of blogs over the last week and once I go home and put them on my flash drive I will come back to this lovely (read dingy) Internet gaming cafe and post them here (hopefully soon!).

Just wanted to let you know that we're alive and well and having a hell of a time figuring things out here, but its good!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day Two!

WOW.... what a day!

Nancy's Aunt, Angel, really is an angel. She has taken us under her wing and it giving us the royal treatment. Yesterday, at noon she picked us up from our hotel with her friend Eric. Eric is a colleague of hers who speaks pretty good English (hence, his reason for joining us) and he is great. His English is very good and he's a very outgoing person.

They took us to a Japanese place for lunch to meet up with Nancy's cousin, Chris. Chris actually lived in Philadelphia for two years with Nancy's family when he was in high school, so his English is pretty good as well. And, he's 27 years old! So, it looks like we have a friend! He gave me his cell number and told us we could call him whenever we need any help. He also told us that he can go out w/ us this weekend and introduce us to some other people, including some foreigners that he knows. So... it looks like we're on the way to having some friends in Taiwan!

After lunch, it was off to the job search! Angel took it upon herself to look up some job postings on the Internet and took us around town for interviews. We had no idea that that was the plan for the day, so we were dressed like bums and didn't have our resumes or anything else with us. The first place we ended up at was called Columbia Consulting Company. We spent some time there filling out the applications and were on our way out the door when a guy named Rob stopped us. He's a South African guy who is the director of the office and asked us if we could come back at 5:00 wearing some "smart" clothes for an interview.

WOW, Angel gets us a job interview on our SECOND DAY in Taiwan! This woman is on top of things! So we hurried back to the hotel to change. While we were there we asked for an iron to iron our clothes and instead of giving us an iron, they took the clothes down stairs and ironed them for us in 30 minutes! For free! So we changed and were out the door on a job interview, just like that!

The job interview was less like an interview and more like an introduction to the company. They told us about the job and said that they could tell right away that we'd be a good fit. Basically he said that all they had to do was make a phone call to the owner of the company and we were as good as hired. So hopefully they'll get in touch with us today and then we'll know more.

If we got the job our title would be "language consultants" and we would be teaching mostly adults in very small classes (3-6 people). The idea is for it to be a give and take, like guided discussions with instruction mixed in and a focus on conversational English. It sounded pretty cool and with the business flair it seems right up my alley (Let's be serious... I'm not exactly a huge fan of children!) I think Nick would rather really be teaching kids, since he is a teacher in the states, so it may not be exactly right for him, but we're still trying to figure things out and at this point a job is a job.

Today, Angel is going to take us on some more interviews, so who knows what will happen! I think she is going to be a huge help since we haven't heard back from any of the jobs we applied to over the internet yet. I can't even believe the hospitality she has shown us. We just showed up and she dropped everything and is now spending three whole days with us helping us out. From lunch to dinner. It's awesome! She's fantastic, and she is definitely a sharp lady.

So, it looks like Taichung may be the place we settle. It has its perks (the best weather out of all three cities) and some downfalls (the worst public transportation) but Taichung also has Angel and I can't imagine finding a replacement for her anywhere on the island.

Taiwan Water

Here is a fun fact about the water in Taiwan:

Tap water is NOT safe to drink even after boiling vigorously because boiling doesn’t remove any chemicals or heavy metals. However, buying bottled water or a water filter is advisable.... One thing to think about is that every two or three years the government gets samples of all the bottled water on sale in supermarkets and tests them. As to date not a single sample of Taiwanese bottled water has passed the standards the government has in place. The only bottled waters that have passed the standards test are foreign bottled waters from countries where their governments enforce standards.

well... so far I haven't gotten sick, so lets hope it stays that way!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Our First Dinner

Tonight we went to the night market, and I'm too tired to describe it now, but I'm sure I'll write about it at some point down the line. It's quite the experience.

For now, I just wanted to give you a little picture of the first dinner that Nick and I picked out for ourselves: an array of dumplings from a street vendor.
They were pretty good! There wasn't one that we didn't like.

In the months leading up to this trip, I had been looking forward to trying out Taiwanese food (especially the weird stuff), but I have to admit that being in the night market was a little intimidating. I was really hungry and didn't know what any of the food was or how it would taste (or make my stomach feel)... so I chose something a little bit safe: dumplings. Baby steps, I guess! We need to find a friend to take us out to help us decide what to try and what to skip and what to try.

And here are a couple more fun things we saw at the market:

Who knows what a Bloody Cake is? Not me, and I wasn't quite ready to find out!

and this last picture was taken for one special person named Jamie Hammer! We miss you!!

Day One!

Where do I start?

Well, we were lucky that we got into Taiwan late last night because we were able to go to bed at a (mostly) normal hour and wake up in the morning. We're a little tired today, but I think by tomorrow we'll be completely on schedule.

The first challenge I had today was trying to get in touch with Nancy's family. When I first called, her Aunt's daughter answered and just getting her to put an adult on the phone was a challenge. Then her father got on the phone and I think I was able to tell him who I was and he was able to tell me that he didn't speak English... that was about it! After about 5 minutes of both of us attempting the other's language and neither of us understanding, he managed to tell me to call back in an hour when his wife got home.

My first thought after the phone call (and then again later, after driving around the city) was "how the hell did I think I was going to do this without speaking any Chinese?!" Over the last month and a half I haven't even had any time to work on my Chinese, so I'm really not up to speed on anything. Seeing all of the characters everywhere is pretty overwhelming, but I REALLY want to learn Chinese while I'm here, and I know it will get easier as time goes on.

Once we checked out, I asked the guy at the front desk (who spoke both English and Chinese)to help us out. He called Nancy's Aunt whose name is Angel, and acted as our translator. Next thing we knew, we were on a train to Taichung where Angel was waiting to pick us up. Because she doesn't speak much English, she asked her friend to come with her. He has a green card for the US and although he was pretty difficult to understand, he was a big help in opening up the lines of communication.

Nick and I were planning on staying in a hostel tonight, but instead, they took us straight to a hotel to check in. (I guess one more night in a hotel won't hurt) The hotel is near a night market, so we're going to check that out a little later, which should be pretty cool. After check-in they took us to lunch to eat steak... it was quite a big lunch, but it was good. The food came out on a sizzeling skillet with an egg that was still frying, a steak, and some noodles. It was Angel's treat, which was very nice.

Tomorrow the plan is for Angel to meet us in the lobby and help us look for a house. Talk about jumping in head first! I don't think she quite understood that first we wanted to find a job before we find a place to live. At this point we're not even sure if we want to live in Taichung, but I guess we're going house hunting anyway! I think it would be really great to live here because we know someone here, but from what I hear, Taipei is the place to be. I guess we'll see how tomorrow goes. I did send our resumes out to some jobs posted for Taichung (and in Taipei!). If we find a job and have some "family" here, this might be the best place. Plus, Angel said that if I help her with English, she'll help me with Chinese, so that's pretty great. But I guess we'll just have to wait to see where we can get a job.

One thing I really don't like about Taichung is that it doesn't have any good public transportation in this city. For that, Kaosiung or Taipei are supposed to be much better. From what I've read, you basically have to have a car or scooter to get around, and we can't get a scooter till we get a job.... At this point there are just so many variables, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. It's good that Nick is here though, he is much more relaxed and is helping me chill out.

The downturn in the economy has hit Taiwan just as it's hit the rest of the world. Before we left the states, I wasn't concerned about finding a job, but now that I'm here, it does have me a bit worried. There are a lot of jobs posted online, so hopefully we won't have a problem. (and if so, we can always use that return ticket we have...) Nick is very optimistic though, so that helps.

I am a bit worried because I drank some tap water and I'm definitely not supposed to be doing that... so everyone cross your fingers that I don't get sick!!! hmmmmm..... I'm definitely a bit worried about that!!!

Anyway.... I think its time to hit the night market... more from me later!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We're Here!

Ni Hao from Taoyuan, Taiwan!

After over 24 hours of travelling, we finally made it! The flights were long (over 5 hours from the east coast to SFO, over 10 hours from SFO to Tokyo, Japan, and then another 3 1/2 hour flight to Taiwan plus layovers!) but it wasn't that bad and I really have no complaints about the trip.

Once we arrived, we went through customs, grabbed our bags and got a taxi to our hotel: the Holiday Inn Express in Taoyuan! Now its about 12am here and 11am at home and we have to try to go to bed because we need to check out of our hotel in 12 hours. Hopefully we won't have too much trouble falling asleep, although neither of us are very tired at this point.

Right now, I really have no idea what tomorrow brings. I think our first priority is to go to Taichung because my college roommate, Nancy, has some family there. We're hoping that her aunt will let us store our big suitcases (one each) at her place until we get a bit more settled. We aren't very mobile dragging all of this luggage around. Other than that, we really don't have any plans at this point. So.... We'll see!

I'm so excited to finally be here, across the world, and starting something totally new for both of us... I've wanted to do this for so long, that I still can't really believe I'm here.

Well, off to bed (I hope!)

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Our Way.....

So here we are, at our layover in San Fransisco! So far, so good. We left my sister's apartment at 4:20 am (only got 3 hours of sleep!) so we slept almost the whole way to SF. Now we have a 3 hour lay over (which is over 1/2 way over at this point) and then we'll be onto the last and VERY VERY long leg of our trip.

So far, I don't think it has really sunk in with either of us what we are about to do. Obviously we're aware of it, but it feels like its still in the far-off future. But, I'm sure once land and everything is in Chinese and no one is speaking English, it will kick in real fast!

Saying goodbye to my parents wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I guess every time I leave for a long time I think it isn't a big deal to say goodbye to them, but then when I do, I always get a little choked up and shed some tears. They're just awesome and its sad to know I won't see them for such a long time. I love my mom and dad... so yeah, that was hard. BUT the good thing was that I said goodbye to them on Wednesday so now today I don't have to deal with the emotions of that now, on the big travel day. I'm glad I had one day in between saying good bye to them and leaving to kind of let the dust settle. I wouldn't want to be an emotional wreck on a 15 hour plane ride!

Anyway, I guess I should try to do something productive while I have the Internet and then its on to the airplane.... AHHHH!!!

Zai Jian everyone!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Ok, So here I am on my last full day in Pittsburgh. Tomorrow I will be flying to Philadelphia to spend a couple of days at my sister's house (actually its a studio apartment) before heading to Taiwan. As you may have read, I've been a busy busy beaver the last couple of weeks, BUT I have managed to finish everything on my to-do list.... except packing!

Packing will be a feat in and of itself, and a very stressful one at that, but for now, before I start packing, I'm taking a moment to appreciate the fact that all is good in life and I'm done running around like a chicken with it's head cut off.

Tonight, my dad has a gig at Pizza Milano's with his band "The Contenders" so I'm hoping to have everything done before I head out for my last night in the Burgh. Then tomorrow I don't really have to worry about anything except finishing up my work for Bruker and getting on a short plane to Philly.

At this point, I have a mix of emotions and thoughts. The first one is "damn it, I'm ready to get on a plane and get over there already!" that is followed immediately by "how the hell am I going to get around without speaking Chinese!" and a thousand other questions about what it will be like and how we're going to do it.

I'm very excited and a more that just a little nervous. But mostly I'm just ready for all of the preparing to be over (I've been preparing for 7 months!) and to just dive in and check it all out.

So, here I go! Hopefully, the next blog I write will be from Taiwan!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Busy Busy Beaver

So here I am about a week from leaving the country for a year and how am I doing... well it will be a small miracle if I don't have a nervous breakdown between now and then.

Ok ok, I exaggerate. I'm not much of a worrier,and I know it will all work out, but right now I am getting very caught up in the minutia of what has to be done to get ready and its a bit overwhelming. I'm getting butterflies in my stomach about 6 - 10 times a day (basically whenever I think about leaving). It's not that I'm particularly nervous about doing it, but I just have a lot more to deal with now than I have when taking trips in the past.

The last two times I've left for long period of times to go abroad, I was in college and had almost no affairs that had to be dealt with. Now, I'm not just leaving for 3 months or 6 months, I'm leaving for at least a year... I'm literally MOVING. I'm not taking a trip, I'm moving to another country! And I have loans, and a storage unit, and a car payment, and three bank accounts, and a 401K that needs rolled over somewhere, bank transfers that need to be made and automatic debits that need to be cancelled and transferred to new accounts... and it goes on and on and on...

On top of the financials that have to be taken care of, I have a car that I'm trying to sell (anyone interested in a 2006 Nissan Sentra for $10k?) which needs to be completely cleaned out. I have to pack, I have to get travelers checks, and medicine, and toiletries, and moisture wicking underwear, and shoes! Yes I have no shoes!! (and I can't figure out what the hell kind of shoes I will want to wear there... Its rainy there... do I need rain boots? should I get some type of trail shoe, or gortex??? Holy crap, I DON'T KNOW! can I wear clogs in a tropical country during the winter?? should I even be wearing clogs anymore as a general principal... probably not!

And I've realized over the last two weeks that I have no clothes and I HATE my wardrobe. (This is a quarterly revelation for me). So now, do I buy clothes, only to shove them in a backpack and most likely wear the same clothes everyday for the first month? That sounds pretty stupid... Do I need a jacket? It is winter there, but it's a sub-tropical climate... will a fleece be enough? (and I don't even like fleece... it makes me sweat!)

I've traveled before and I've certainly learned that if I don't wear it at home, I'm not going to wear it abroad... but that still isn't helping me here. I've never lived out of a backpack... o dear Lord! I really like hooded sweatshirts, but is it too bulky for my backpack? I think not, right?

Thinking about packing gets me a little flushed and my heart starts beating a little bit faster. Yesterday I talked to Nick about it "I'm freaking out, I don't know what to pack!?" I said, and he says "two T-shirts, a pair of pants, a jacket, a sweatshirt, and some underwear... whats the problem!?" yeah... that doesn't quite do it for me. I know that when backpacking, less is MORE. But if I'm packing less that means I have to think more about what exactly I need and what I don't need... ooo packing is the bane of my existence.

So, enough about packing lets move on to more that is freaking me out. There are the endless family members and friends to see. One day at each grandparent's house, my Aunt wants to hang out on Monday, my dad has a gig on Tuesday, I have to hang out w/ my cousin on Saturday, Brie's last day in town is tomorrow... AHHHH.

And on top of all of that... Work is VERY busy this week. oooooo boy is it busy. So that's not helping at all. I haven't had much time to myself these last couple of days.

But I need to just take a deep breath and realize that it will all work out, just like everything always does. What needs to get done will get done and the rest... well is just not that important. I will have Internet, I'm not going to a third world country, I'm sure I can buy almost anything I would need once I'm there.... I just need to chill out and remain calm. Inhale... Exhale....

Ok, well there's a little snap shot into my life right now. My brain is going about 10,000 miles a minute and its all I can do to slow it down at night and fall asleep. I am sure that my life will be much less hectic once I'm in Taiwan. All I'll have to do is focus on myself and taking it all in, and finding a job and a place to live and learning Chinese. Now that may sound stressful to you, but right now it sounds a lot less stressful that the preparation that I'm doing to make it all possible.

But, C'est la vie!

Monday, January 5, 2009

I'm Back!

Happy New Year Everyone!!
Did you miss me??

I apologize for my absence over the Holiday season, things in my life have been more than a bit crazy lately.

As most of you probably know, I will be moving to Taiwanto teach English in less than two weeks. I have been planning this for quite a while but wanted to keep it on the DL until I gave official notice to my employer of my departure. Today I gave my two weeks notice, so now I am able to finally talk freely about everything.

December was CRAZY. I have been living in Denver for the last two years have a really awesome group of friends there so it was definitely not easy to say goodbye to a city that I absolutely love filled with friends that I love even more. In addition to saying goodbye, I had to move all of my belongings into storage, so I spent tons of my time packing up and throwing out copious amounts of CRAP.

Right before Christmas Nick and I drove my car across the country to come home and spend our last couple of weeks in our home state of Pennsylvania. We were lucky and had completely dry roads for the entire drive home!

The holidays were crazier than the move was and that brings us to where we are right now.... less than two weeks from the biggest change either of us has EVER made in our lives!

At this point in time we do not have a job or a place to live. We actually have no idea where in the country we will end up. This is very exciting and also a bit nerve wracking!!! I'm nervous about the idea that we'll be flying by the seat of our pants, but also really excited to see were life takes us in the next year. Most likely we will end up in one of the three large cities on the island, but other than that we have not narrowed it down at all. We both plan to spend the next couple weeks doing some serious research and trying to get a better idea of what the plan will be. Teachers are in high demand in Taiwan and even with the slumping economy we shouldn't have too much trouble finding a job. (on the plus side we do have a round trip ticket, so if everything goes to hell, we can come back in a month... but don't hold your breath people!)

The plan as of now is to stay for one year. If things are really awesome (or if the economy is still really bad!) we may stay longer than a year, but that is yet to be determined. At this point, we're not counting anything out of the realm of possibility.

So this is my big news... now that I don't have a secret any more I can be much more open in my blog posts, so look forward to some new and exciting things in 2009!!

Soon this blog will turn into mostly a travel blog about my trip, I'd like to use it as a way to keep in touch with everyone at home and let you know about all of the fun and interesting things I learn and encounter in my new home.

So wish me luck and keep coming back to see where my travels take me!

p.s. I'm trying to sell my 2006 Nissan Sentra, so if you need a new car.... PLEASE BUY IT!!!