Sunday, April 23, 2006

Part 2 of First Road Trip: Shifen

Ok I'm a little slow...but you're in for a real treat!
After we left the tea museum in Pinglin, we drove to a small town called Shifen. "Shi" means "ten" in Chinese. The town was named "Shifen" because there used to be ten families working together in this town. It was once a town for coal mining. The nearby Pingshi Branch Railroad was built in 1918 for coal transportation, but was selected to be a tourist trail railroad in 1992. We had lunch at Shifen Station which was full of beautiful and nostagic scenery and artifacts.
On the way to Shifen, we noticed what I thought were "burning kites" in the sky. We later found out they were sky lanterns, which is "a paper lantern with a combustible element attached to the underside. When the element is lit hot air rises into the lantern sack and the lantern floats into the sky like a hot-air balloon." (Thank you Lonely Planet Guide to Taiwan!). They looked SO cool. I couldn't get a good shot of them, unfortunately. Paper lanterns were used long ago to send signals to people who lived in remote mountainous villages to warn them of an impending invasion from bandits and marauders.

BUT! This is the reason why we visited Shifen. First, we walked across a bridge:

Then we followed a cobblestone path along the Keelung River to another (smaller bridge):

And we walked alongside the railroad tracks...until we reached this!

Here is a 3 second video for your viewing pleasure! (I made a longer one, but I have to figure out how to edit it).

Video Hosting - Upload Video - Photo Sharing

It's like a mini Niagra Falls...just gorgeous. I promised Anjoli that she could post some pictures from Shifen on her blog, so be sure to check those out too! They'll be up soon (really!). Here are a few shots of the surrounding area:

Friday, April 21, 2006


Here are a few more pics. They were actually taken the night before the first mini road trip. I'm trying to post everything chronologically...but I goofed.
Anjoli will post more Danshui pictures on her blog. (I've been VERY lax in helping her...tsk tsk!).
We took a cab to the MRT (mass rapid transit). The train is above ground, so it's a great way to see the city and surrounding mountains.
We had a seafood BBQ dinner that night. We sat around a grill and cooked our own food. The food was good, but we had to sit on these tiny plastic chairs - it was really weird! I know the people here are small, but...

Sokoun sucking on a seasnail...yum! (No, i didn't try it! After unknowingly eating squid lips (!) I've decided to err on the side of caution, gastronomically speaking!).

Put on your high-heeled sneakers! They're actually kinda cute (if you're 15!).

(Chris, Sokoun and Lyn). Lyn is telling me, "that's the LAST TIME I'm cooking on this trip!!!!"

Monday, April 17, 2006

First Stop on Road Trip Number One

The first weekend that our friends were here, we rented a minivan/driver and took a little trip to a few towns up north. The first stop was a beautiful tea farm/museum in Pinglin. The drive was just gorgeous. Lots of "broccoli mountains." (That's what they look like!). It's so green and lush here in Taiwan.
We drove up one mountain that was adorned on both sides of the road with flower boxes on a stone wall. We must have passed 10,000 flower boxes I swear!
Here are pictures of the Pinglin Tea Museum...I'll just let them speak for themselves.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I Can't Wait!

Our friends Chris, Sokoun and Lyn are coming from San Diego to visit this Friday for a few weeks! Yay! Sokoun's mom was also going to come, but her mother (Sokoun's grandmother) is quite ill and is not doing well. I am very sad to hear about this, and I'm sure it will be difficult for Sokoun to be so far away at this time.
Still,we are all SO psyched about the visit. It's fun here (at times), but we really miss home and especially our friends, of course. We need more people in our house...we've been at eachother's thoats lately! (Ok, I'm really to blame there. I have to admit. I'm having anger issues...I think it's still a culture shock/adjustment thing).
I promise to liven up this blog again soon with more pictures. We're going on a road trip to some gorgeous areas. We're even going to stay in a national park and take a lesson in aboriginal art. Wonder what that will be all about? I'm really looking forward to driving along the east coast (the Hualian highway). It looks a little hairy! We've hired a mini-bus (Magic Bus!) and a driver. We'll spend one night in a beautiful resort-like hotel. Sounds like massage time to me! Our friend Alice made all the arrangements...THANK YOU ALICE!!! She and her husband Thomas are going also - so it will be eight of us all together.

Today Anjoli and I had to go for a battery of tests at the local hospital, as part of Sujoy's work permit requirements. One of the requirements was an AIDS test. Poor Anjoli - she threw a fit! Crying her little eyes out...I felt badly. It took three of us to hold her down! In addition to a physical, we were checked for, among other diseases: leprosy (!), parasites (guess how?) and I had to have a chest x-ray, which I'm assuming was for TB. The amazing thing was, including the time it took to draw Anjoli's blood, we were out of there in a little less than 2 hours. That would be unheard of in the states! The bad news was, the woman who drew Anjoli's blood wasn't wearing gloves. I told her, "you're not wearing gloves!" and she said, "Oh, sorry." I didn't push it (and yes, I should have) but Anjoli was causing such a ruckus, I just let it go...she swabbed Anjoli's arm with alcohol...oh man what a morning!

I can't wait to get back home, in all honesty...Maybe things will perk up when I start taking Chinese classes (twice a week). It would be nice to have coffee or tea with some ex-pats in one of the trillion cafes here! Fingers crossed I meet some cool people...all I seem to attract are people who want to take me to Church or Bible study classes! (I love Jesus in my OWN way and I believe that there are MANY paths to enlightenment).

Last weekend we went to the Taipei Museum of Art. We went mainly for an art fair outside the building. It was pretty cool - Anjoli made a few crafts, including a block print. After we went to the fair we went inside - admission was less than a dollar. We saw a wonderful photography exhibit. Beautiful black and white photos of people from both Taiwan and China from the 1900s- present. Some of the modern art photography was very very cool...some of it was disturbing (children were not allowed to view it).

Here are a few shots I took at the fair and outside the museum.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I Felt the Earth Move...

I was just about to write a new post a few minutes back...and my chair and computer started tilting to the left! Yikes! The chimes on my wall near the kitchen table started tinkling(!), and the light fixture over the table is still swinging. I move from one fault line to another. Great. This one was a little scary!

[This is from The Taipei Times 4/2/06: A powerful earthquake, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale, rocked Taiwan yesterday, sending panicked residents rushing out into the streets, but there was no immediate report of serious injury.

The quake struck at 6:02pm, with its epicenter 10km underground near Taitung City, the Seismological Observation Center said.

"It is a relatively shallow quake, making the impact even more obvious," a center spokeswoman said.

The powerful quake was felt in most parts of the country, with skyscrapers in Taipei shaking in a slow up-and-down movement].

Yesterday I subbed for a science teacher at Anjoli's school. I had 6th, 7th and 8th grade students...with slight attitudes (natch). It's a Christian school, so one of the students reminded me that we're supposed to pray. I knew I was supposed to, but I have never in my life lead a group in prayer before so I was feeling weird about it. I looked for volunteers or some sort of guidance - all I saw was a sea of blank, being my irreverant wiseass self (yes I can be), folded my hands and looked up to the heavens and said, "Oh God, please help me with this class!" I told them I was KIDDING!! They were not amused...I got the rolling eyeballs, looks of disgust...what a way to start the day, eh?
Then I took them to an assembly - they sang songs of praise (ok - they pretty much just sat there while the younger ones sang), and a few of them who were ESL students put on a funny skit (making fun of American movies/t.v, but it had to do with the Bible really). I ended the day with the same class, and instead of watching a Discovery Channel dvd, I took them outside for recess (they usually don't have PE on Fridays) so I won them over after all. I brought them back and said a NICE prayer for them. ("Oh Lord, thank you for this day, and help everyone have a safe and happy Spring Break"). Phew, I survived. Good thing it was only a half day! One of the 6th graders told me she'd like me to come back and teach next year, so that was nice!
Sujoy took Anjoli to the Shilin Presidential Gardens today, so I'll share some pretty pictures (taken by Sujoy).