Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Me as an anime character!

It seems like this is the typical drawing style here. Even for "stick men" they'll have distinct anime-like characteristics, influenced by the cartoons from Japan (think Sailor Moon). One of my students gave this to me at the end of class one day. I was touched, but couldn't help but wonder if that meant she didn't actually pay attention to the lesson! hmmmmm

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lantern Festival

Trip to Yuli

Now that I'm in Taipei on Fridays, it's harder for me to get down to Yuli for a weekend. While only 3 hours from Yilan, it's more than 4.5 hours from Taipei... and with only 2 days to do it, it just hasn't been practical. But last weekend, I didn't have a choice! Why? Because my good friend Vivian (Suhan) got married! Vivian used to come to our adult English class when Hope and I were in Yuli. She also went to the same church. She took us on a memorable trip to Taidong, and taught us some aboriginal dance moves. When my parents came to Taiwan, she took time off and brought us to her hometown, which is in southern Taiwan. She's a really sweet and generous person. When I lived in Yuli, she was battling cancer. In fact, she had more than 10 surgeries. Through prayer and treatment, she is now cancer free. I was really excited to hear that she was getting married, though the wedding was the first time I "met" her husband, since they only started officially dating in August. It went really fast, but they are both almost 40, so I guess they were ready. They had 2 weddings: the first was a traditional aboriginal wedding in Pingtung which I didn't get to attend, and the second was in Yuli, so I had a great chance to catch up with some old friends while I was there too! The ceremony was at an Amis Aboriginal Catholic church. The service was conducted in Mandarin and the Amis language. I felt like she didn't really understand everything that was happening in the service... poor girl! But the best part is that they were facing the front when I came in and at one point turned around. I was waiting with my camera, and as soon as she saw me, she flashed me the Taiwanese "peace" sign! Too bad my camera took the picture a second before!

When we arrived at the ceremony, the lunch guests at the tables outside the church were already there and waiting for their food. It was really different for me to see that most of the wedding guests didn't attend the ceremony, but just sat outside until they were done.

Holding to wedding traditions, Vivian went and changed dresses halfway through the dinner! Good thing most people rent their formal dresses here (even wedding dresses) as part of a photo package. For about $1000 U.S. you get 3-6 dresses to wear on the day, studio or outdoor photos, photo invitations, a huge framed photo for the banquet, a photo book, and small photo cards to pass out to wedding guests at the reception. Weddings in general seem to be a lot cheaper here!

Another highlight of the visit was to go see my dear landlords, who now have three little boys. The twins were up when I went there, and I played with them for a couple of hours! Samuel (older) and Daniel are fraternal twins.

I also got to see Michelle, Peggy, Coco, and get hugs from people at Yuli church. I really need to get back there more often!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Weird English of the Week

"Disengaged turkey"
Some kind of restaurant.....
not sure if the turkey is free from obligation, separated from from its body, or simply apathetic

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sun Moon Lake

Chinese New Year is over now, and did it ever fly by!
I spent the first part of the holiday on a trip to Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan with two of my colleagues. We really had a fun time, despite a bit of rain.

Sun Moon Lake got its name because of its shape, since one part of the lake is round and another section looks like a crescent moon. It's the largest lake in Taiwan, and quite a popular tourist spot. We took a 4 hour bus ride from Taipei to get there. We stayed in a little B&B where we got great Taiwanese hospitality, including breakfast, free fruit, and discounts at some nearby places.
It was a pretty nice place and soo cheap, we paid about $130 (Canadian) for 2 nights, divided among 3 people! We rented scooters the first day and cruised around the lake. We stopped at a temple and a stairway with 366 steps. It had a day of the year on each step, along with the names of famous people who were born on that day. We had a good time hopping down the steps and stopping on significant dates to take pictures. We had a not so good time climbing back up though! It started to rain as we were making our way up, and I was pooped by August! We made it though and looked around the temple across the street where you can buy little bells and write prayers or blessings on them and hang them along the stairs.

Oh I should note that my camera kind of died, so all my pictures were taken with my cellphone camera. Thankfully both Lisa and Ashley were snapping pictures too.
After our climb we went to the aboriginal village which was across the lake from the village where we stayed. We had a great hot pot lunch and looked around the stores for awhile before proceeding around the lake some more and taking another short walk. It was starting

to get dark so we headed back to our hotel. After we warmed up, we went back out for massages! They were fantastic, although ticklish feet + foot massage is not always the best combination.

The next day we got up pretty early and went to a pavillion built by Chiang Kai Shek back in the day. It's about 9 stories high, but we successfully climbed it! There was a big gong in the top that you could ring to celebrate your victorious ascent. The view from the top was really breathtaking. We had a great Chinese lunch after coming back and returning our scooters, then took a boat tour.

By that time we were quite exhausted, and found out that the "2 hour tour" actually meant riding the boat to select spots along the lake, then getting off to walk around for 30 minutes.... after the first stop I just stayed on the boat and napped.

It was a great trip though, and I'd love to go back again in the summer when the weather's better! Though one great thing about going at this time was that cherry blossom season has just begun!
You can see more of my pictures (mostly scenery) in this facebook album.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

It's the most wonderful time of the (lunar) year

Chinese New Year is coming!! Yilan has set up a "New Year's Street" which has some performances, food, and vendors selling tons of holiday wares, including new clothes, dried fruit and fish, candies, tea, and nuts. These are all things that you would find yourself snacking on during a visit to a Taiwanese home during CNY.

Most towns have their own small New Year's streets, but Taipei has a huge one called 'Di Hua Jie'. I went there a couple of weeks ago with Michelle and Lauren who were up from Yuli. The main events at the street hadn't begun yet, but we still got to see (and sample) tons of interesting things!

Here are some fish ovaries, which are dried and... well I'm not exactly sure how they're prepared or consumed, but I won't make it for you, don't worry!

We also saw dried seahorses, shark fins, and giant dried mushrooms:

At one end of the street is a temple where young people go to "pray" and burn incense, what are they praying for? Finding a future spouse! There were lines of young girls with mothers and grandmothers who ostensibly brought them there to ask the gods for the tallest, richest available bachelor. I'm not sure how much they believe it, but Taiwanese people are extremely superstitious and will often do things they don't even know the meaning of for the sake of tradition. While an important family time, Chinese New Year is also one of the biggest 'bai bai' or temple worship times of the year.