Monday, December 31, 2007

Daoist Ceremony

We found out Sunday morning that there was a Daoist religious festival going on and decided to ride our bikes over and see it before church. Apparently they only do this every forty years. The previous temple was destroyed in an earthquake in '99 and and they were "rededicating" the new temple I guess. The details aren't really clear to me since I don't speak the language- so sorry if this is completely inaccurate information.

This is a huge mountain of rice and steamed rolls. They put all this food out for the ancestors to eat the spirit of the food and then the people have a great big feast.

There were rows and rows of tables filled with food and intricate little, edible sculptures of all kinds of animals. I even saw Garfield, Santa Claus, and Winnie the Pooh.

Here are some pigs with internal organs hanging from their mouths.

Here we are in front of the temple:

I filmed us riding back home on our bikes.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Day 1 in Taiwan

I woke up Saturday morning at about 8am after only about 3 ½ hours of sleep. The continuing teachers were up and made us eggs and toast for breakfast. One of the school secretaries came up to check us into our rooms and give us our keys. I ended up being the last one downstairs to pick out a bike so it looks like I might be stuck with one that has a broken seat...bummer. Gerald gave us our food stipend in cash to get us through the 2 months it will take until we get our work visas and can get paid legally. It was $10,500 NT which I am told is about $300. Apparently food is really cheap.

Alicia- a teacher who has been teaching here off and on for 3 years took us through the streets of Taichung on our bikes to a photo store to have more passport photos taken so we can apply for our work visas. Here's the picture looked really bad but Alicia told us that they airbrush the passport pictures. So later when I got my picture- I was amazed at how much better it looked. I think they even removed the mole on my forehead. What's funny is Jessica has a beauty mark above her lip that they completely removed from her picture.

After that, we went to a restaurant for lunch. Here are the Japanese thick noodles I ordered.

Well- actually Alicia ordered because none of us know how to order and we're really going to have a tough time ordering food at restaurants when she leaves.

Pictured from left to right is Laura, me, Whitney, Tammy, & Jessica.
Then we walked across the street to a 7-Eleven which they have on almost every corner here. I bought a phone card for calling home. Here we are riding our bikes around Feng Yuan- the city we live in.

Cute glasses Mary & Jessica!!

Later that day, Alicia took us on our bikes to a huge Walmart-like department store called Asia-Go to buy groceries. Since this was our first time grocery shopping, Gerald arranged to have us call him once we finished so that we could load our groceries into the van. The store and parking lot had Christmas decorations and signs that said, “X-Mas and Happy New Year!” They have lockers up front that you have to put your bags in to prevent shop lifting. To get a grocery cart, you have to put a coin in it to unlock it and then it gives you the coin back once you return the cart. Inside, people stared at us and kids pointed. We all congregated around Alicia and bombarded her with questions on what food to buy. We can't read any of the signs telling us what an item is and how much it costs. There were ladies there that walked up with samples and pointed to the food on the shelf for us to buy. It was kind of weird getting a more aggressive sales approach from sample ladies at a grocery store. There is almost no food that is remotely familiar so it's kind of hard trying to decide what to buy. When we were done, we loaded our groceries into the van and rode our bikes back home.
The streets at night are lit up with neon signs and people just park anywhere they want and pretty much drive wherever they want. Scooters and cars weave around each other on the narrow streets. There are no sidewalks for the most part. It's kinda' crazy.

That night, five of us decided to go to the night market. It's this open market that is open 2 nights a week that has food, games, clothes, jewelry, go-carts...anyway it was fun walking around and seeing the weirdest food I've ever seen in my life. There were whole squids barbecued on a stick that Elisha said are really good. There were booths with all kinds of weird meat in strange shapes from who knows what kind of animal parts. I was pretty grossed out at the cooked chicken feet laying in a pan, ready to eat.

I wanted to film it all with my camera but I felt self-conscious because again we were pretty much stared at by the crowds of people there. The smells were pretty gross. People like to eat this fried tofu that they actually call stinky tofu. It smells sooooooooooooo bad. A breeze will blow by and hit you with this stench that just stays in your nose. Apparently, they really like it. Here we are ordering food from a booth at the market by pointing at what we wanted.

I also bought some candied strawberries...fresh strawberries with a hard candy shell.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I made it!!

I made it to Taiwan!! I want to write every detail but it will bore the heck out of anyone who reads this...too bad, I'm writing it all anyway. First of all, when I went to check my bags in at the Salt Lake Airport, I somehow ended up with the strictest Delta airlines employee there. He told me my 60 day visa wouldn't work and that they would stop me in LA or send me back once I got to Taiwan. Then he told me that China Airlines only allowed one carry on and that I had to stuff my laptop into my already overstuffed suitcase. When I met up with the other teachers, they all had a laptop and a carry-on so I was a little ticked that I had to fly all the way to Taiwan wondering if my laptop was okay.

I just have to write about my celebrity sighting while at the airport in LA. I spotted Bob from the Bachelor. He was the Bachelor from a couple of years ago who was really funny...anyway I'm a dork and tried to take a picture with my cell phone. You can't even tell it's him, though.

Okay- so we met up with the rest of our group (there's 9 of us) and boarded the plane to Taiwan at about 2:30 pm on Thursday 12-27-07. The plane was huge! There were two floors and two aisles with 4 seats in the middle and 3 seats on either side. Every seat had its own interactive screen in front of it and you could choose from a several movies, t.v. shows, all kinds of games, or a live camera view from the front of the plane. The food was okay but at about 2 in the morning the turbulence was so bad that I got really nauseous and couldn't even touch breakfast. Here's a picture of the the dinner they served on the plane:

It was chicken and rice, a roll, crab salad, fresh fruit, and a little dessert thing- in case you're wondering, but you're probably not.
The flight was about 14 hours and we flew into Taiwan at about 11pm (Taiwan time) Friday night which was actually about 5:30 am back home. It was just kind of weird that we left on Thursday and arrived in Taiwan when it was almost Saturday- it was like we completely skipped a day. Here are some pictures in the Taipei airport. We were so giddy and excited to finally be in Taiwan!!! I love our group...we totally bonded at our training in Provo and have picked up right where we left off.

We got our luggage and met up with Gerald (the school director). We loaded our luggage into his van and then he took us to buy five bus tickets because he could only fit four of us in the van. Since Elisha had taught here before, Gerald asked her to go with the group that took the bus. Here we are waiting for our bus:

None of us speak the language so luckily, when Elisha went to ask the bus employee to help us know when our bus had arrived, the lady was able to speak some English to her. I had to take a picture of the curtains- all the buses we saw that night had curtains that matched the interior of the buses. Here's Tammy!

The bus ride from Taipei to Taichung was only about 1 ½ hours. We got off the bus and Gerald picked us up in the van. The other four teachers had been dropped off at the school and they had already carried our luggage up the four flights of stairs. Thanks you guys!!! Some of the continuing teachers had stayed up to welcome us (it was about 1am when we got there). We picked out our rooms and beds and ended up not going to bed until around 3 or 4am. The beds are really hard but I slept like a log.