It is 11 am and we have already taken one taxi, one high speed train, one bus, and one sky train.
We (and I don't mean me here) somehow left one really nice camera on the train and I am now hopping myself up on coffee to compensate for it.
We board the place for Beijing in about an hour.
We have no itenerary and other than knowing where we are sleeping tonight, everything is completely open.
Should I be freaking out??? Sure!
Am I??? No way!
I am on the 'Party Marty and Spawn Express'.. what more could a girl ask for???
Wish us luck!
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
A few weeks ago, one of my daughters was perusing an Atlas when she came across a map of the major seismic hotspots of the world. After studying it for a few minutes she beckoned me to join her and our conversation went something like this:
Mommy, look at this map.
Do you see Taiwan?
It is covered completely in red.
Those red dots are earthquakes.
TAIWAN SURE HAS A LOT OF RED DOTS!”
After a discussion about the Ring of Fire and of course an impromptu rendition of Johnny Cash’s version of the song we changed the subject and went on our merry way.
Then last week, after 11 months of living here, we got our first taste of noticeable earthquakes. We had felt slight tremors before, but the kinds that leave you wondering if you actually felt anything or perhaps it was a figment of your imagination. In the past week, we have had 7 earthquakes. The first one we felt was only about 15 miles north of us and was a 3.7. The latest one was Sunday morning, measuring 6.0. Sure it occurred relatively far away off the coast near Taipei, but after rocking back and forth in my bed for what seemed like an eternity, I was a tad unnerved. Being from Texas, earthquakes are not something that I have much familiarity with. I experienced one in Guatemala sixteen years ago, but apart from shaking tables and swinging lights, not much else happened.
Being a bit of a control freak with an active imagination, I am now a tad consumed with earthquake anxiety. I know it is just something I need to grow used to, but it still feels so odd to me. There is nothing quite like the Earth moving under your feet. It makes you feel so terribly small and insignificant… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I suppose it is just one more thing to add to the list of character building experiences.
It is now the rainy season, apparently a couple of months late, and school was cancelled today due to excessive rain and serious flooding in Tainan City. We took this day as a gift to get some work done and make a pilgrimage for coffee. It was a nice break and the rain brings a much-needed reprieve from the heat.
Two and a half weeks left until we embark on our summer vacation.
Posted by April at 7:40 PM
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
With a belly full of vegetarian food and a large coffee Frappuccino, I am sitting on the high-speed rail train, yet again, about to depart from Taipei. One might think that I like to skip work and take quick trips to Taipei, but alas, it is just another episode in the summer travel planning drama.
A few months ago when I began planning the mother of all trips (China, India, & USA in 8 weeks) I had no idea that for the next 5 months I would be consumed with travel planning. In my past life, traveling was quite the breeze… just book the ticket, get on the plane, and figure it all out once you land. I suppose I was thinking now that I am traveling with my family I should be better prepared so that all parties involved will have a lovely time. We have yet to see how it all pans out, but personally speaking, I am exhausted from our vacation and we haven’t even left yet.
In a nutshell…
I went to Taipei three weeks ago to get the India visas, but the passport photographs were 1 centimeter too small and they wouldn’t accept them. So, I had to return today and try again. (Mind you, this meant I had to get a sub for my classes, travel to Taipei again, and shell out more money than I cared to just for travel and sub fees.) Now that I have those pesky visas in my hot little hand, I can move on!
· I gave up trying to get train tickets in India after a series of failures and found a driver to take us around for a few days. BUT, my credit card wouldn’t go through because it does not have some Indian mandated level of fraud protection and now that I have to pay cash upon arrival, I haven’t heard from the travel agent again.
I think that I have come to the conclusion that the travel Gods are trying to send me a message and that message is:
Stop planning the damn trip already, hop on the plane, and figure it out once you land!
I mean seriously, how bad could it be? What better way to teach my girls how to be world travelers than to teach them to wing it? I am sure there will be plenty of beverages that rhyme with cheer and toffee to help me in my time of need.
I came across this quote in a book I am reading that just about sums it up:
“Any real adventure should contain a strong element of risk. After all, that is the only way we can test ourselves and become stronger characters.”
Seriously though, I know how lucky we are to be going on this trip and I thank my lucky stars every day that we have this opportunity.
All is well with the family. P found a baby bat on the sidewalk last week and that was super exciting. Of course, the girls wanted to take it home and raise it, but we convinced them that bats do not necessarily like apartment living and we returned it to the general area where it was found.
|We moved it into the grass so it wouldn't get stepped on.|
|Larry 2 - the little bat|
|Our Kung Fu buddies were excited too!|
We have three weeks of school left and my primary goal at this point is survival. I am perfecting a system of maintaining a steady flow of cold beverages throughout the day and most of my time is consumed with thinking of creative ways to beat the heat.
I know it seems so random, but a large portion of the lessons I have learned thus far living in Taiwan have to do with the weather. In the U.S., much time is spent in climate-controlled environments and I venture to say that we take that for granted. Our portion of the school is in an open-air building with 4 floors and 4 classrooms on each story. Only the first and fourth floors have ACs in the rooms, but in order to use them, you need a prepaid money card to turn it on. The kids (or the teacher) have to pay for the AC and when there is no money left, you either put more on the card or you go without. This means 1st – 3rd grade and high school have access to AC and 4th -9th grade don’t. Sure, I would love to have a room with AC, but what I think is sort of brilliant is that if you want AC, you pay for it.
In the U.S. we just expect the school district to pay the electricity bill and I cannot tell you how many teachers I have seen over the years crank that puppy down to 68*F and not bat an eyelash.
Hey!!!! The money we save on electricity could go towards materials and essentially better schools. Wouldn’t teachers and students think about energy use a tad more if the electricity bill for their room came out of their own pockets?
Yes, I know I sound like a tree hugger, but seriously, being here and realizing that AC is a luxury and not a right has made quite the impact on me.
Another ‘aha’ for me has been the existence of racism in a country where the majority of people belong to the same race. Being in Asia is bizarre for the sheer fact that there is very little cultural diversity and being American, that is something you come to expect. At home, there is no shortage of diverse foods, languages, skin colors, culture, etc… I think I truly understand now why the U.S. is so special in that regard. Here, especially in southern Taiwan, it is pretty much just Taiwanese people, Taiwanese food, and Taiwanese culture. BUT, within that one culture there seems to exist discrimination about the lightness or darkness of one’s skin. The other day I went shopping for lotion and was hard pressed to find ANY that did not have a whitening agent in it. Seriously, every lotion was specifically design to make your skin whiter. On any given day, I see various people (mostly women) walk around with umbrellas, large visors or hats, and oftentimes gloves to shield the sun from their skin. One of our Taiwanese friends naturally tans and she is constantly trying to hide from the sun so people won’t think she is Filipino. (In the technology industry there appear to be quite a few Filipinos who come here to work at low-level jobs and I hear that they often suffer discrimination.) What really got me thinking about this though, was an episode that occurred last week at our school’s end of year performance. The small group of seniors made a farewell video in which they threw around a myriad of racial slurs calling one of their fellow Taiwanese classmates “The Black Boy.” I suppose that he has SLIGHTLY darker skin than they do, but honestly I cannot see a difference. They thought it was terribly funny and clever and saw no harm in it. All of the American teachers were of course mortified and quite upset because there were a handful of Indian and Middle Eastern parents in the audience who found it offensive.
When Marty got a hold of them the following day, he made them think about what they had said. I think that they honestly just do not think about offending people because like I said, cultural diversity is simply not an issue that is given much thought here.
Oh, what a roller coaster ride of a year this has been. I look forward to going home to large quantities of Mexican food and climate-controlled environments. What I am most interested to see, however, is how this year of ups and downs had changed us… if at all. I know from past experiences that it takes a few months to fall right back into old American habits, but a part of me hopes that when we finally do return home to put down roots, we take the many lessons we have learned during our time away and put them to good use.
Regardless, we will certainly have some entertaining stories to tell!
Below are photos from our most recent night out on the town, and Marty’s super cool “Camera Obscure” art project.
|P and a rather large leaf|
|Scooter helmet anyone?|
|me and P|
|Entering the train station|
|The camera obscure lets light in through a small hole in a completely dark room. The light shining through the hole creates an upside picture of what is outside. Neat huh?|
Posted by April at 7:52 PM
- ▼ 2012 (37)