Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Taiwanimania: Part 2

Fun in Taipei! We started the day with a fun-filled trip to the immigration department so that Paul could defer his military service. That was pretty cool. While I was sitting in one of the waiting chairs, a woman asked me where she should go, and I was no help whatsoever. Maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing.

I was feeling a bit draggy, so we stopped by a 7-11 (or was it an Ok?) where I purchased one of the greatest coffees ever. It was delicately sweet and it came in an awesome cylinder bottle. I washed one out and took it home with me, but unfortunately I lost the lid so it's now useless. After a morning of running errands, we had lunch with Paul's aunt at a small restaurant. I'm always up for delicious food.

Cool coffee cylinder.

Paul's aunt and I.

Before lunch, I was walking with Paul when he said, "Hey Laura, that guy is waving at you." I was wondering if maybe it was a chance-meeting with a friend in a foreign country (like when I ran into a college friend in a hostel in Scotland). But no, it was a random white dude waving at me. I was a little weirded out, so I kind of said "hi" as we walked by. Maybe he thought he knew me? Or maybe he hasn't seen a white female in a long time? Or maybe he's just inordinately friendly? Strange, strange.

Then after lunch, Paul and I were walking to the bus that would take us to the train station (to go to Taipei), when that same guy came riding up to us on a bike. Oh dear. "Hey, hey." he said, a but breathless from riding, "Where are you guys from?" We told him, and he told us that he was from Utah. So we're neighbors, in a sense. It turns out, he was a Mormon missionary who'd been in Taiwan for almost a year (I think). We asked him a couple questions and answered some of his, but our bus was leaving so we said goodbye and ran for the bus. He did give us each a tract to take with us, though he didn't have an English one.

After getting to Taipei, we headed over to the Chiang Kai Shek memorial. It was VERY hot outside, so I was sweating like a pig while we were trying to take some awesome pictures with the memorial. Silly us, we kept taking pictures and then realizing that we should move even closer and taking more pictures and then moving even closer. We came up with some unique shots. After exerting so much energy in jumping and trying to smile into the hot sun, we lost all energy and decided that we just couldn't make it across the burning cobbled desert. Seeing the memorial from far away was just fine.

Jumping for Chiang Kai Shek

Ok, so he's a bit cooler than me.

We took the subway to a shopping area and wandered around for awhile. We found a great shop that had a ton of things for only 3USD! Oh yeah. I bought a couple shirts, one of which says "The Sea is Terrific! Lively Girl and Active Boy" with a barcode on the back. I'm starting to like random shirts. I also took pictures of some random, cute things like an M&M machine and a Coca Cola-themed restaurant.

I kind of like M&Ms too.

One of my favorite Japanese restaurant dishes: fried chicken curry.

That night we trooped up to a glass gondola/cable car that went up the mountain and to the Taipei zoo. Unfortunately, it was getting a bit dark so none of our pictures turned out, but it was still fun. It was also a bit creepy since it was all dark around us and the cable car was very quiet. It just seemed like a scene from some horror movie. I could imagine the cable car suddenly stopping, rocking gently while we peered out into the dark, and then either a monster jumping through the window or some kind of poisonous gas leaking into the cabin. Thankfully, none of my imaginings came true.

A blurry gondola picture.

On the way home, we found some more cute/quirky things such as a fire-extinguisher sign with no fire extinguisher and a women's waiting area at the train station. Although maybe the waiting area's a good idea...

Pretending to be a fire extinguisher.

Paul won't be safe until he steps into the pink box!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Taiwanimania : Part 1

Yeah, so I wasn't going to repeat the Cambodimania thing, but Taiwanimania just looks so fun! And try saying it! Isn't it fun?

So here it is, the first part of my Taiwan trip! I'm so thankful to Paul and his family and friends for being so hospitable and taking me around. They were really great.

I left on a Sunday morning, and I was very tired from staying up late the night before. I really do never learn, do I? I got there in plenty of time (almost two hours early) so I had plenty of time to kill. I seem to gravitate between twiddling my thumbs at an airport and running in terror trying to get there on time, and I definitely prefer the former.

So sad and tired.

My mood is quickly improving.

Waiting for the plane.

Goodbye Hong Kong.

I landed in Taiwan and got through security quickly enough. Paul and his godmother were waiting for me! I hadn't seen him in a long time, so it was fun to catch up. His godparents drove me to a rest stop kind of place where we ate a little food before heading to the next town. One of Paul's good friends is a choir director and was having a concert that afternoon. Although I didn't understand most of it, the music was beautiful. My only worry was falling asleep! After the concert there was a potluck upstairs. There was SO much food; it was brilliant.

Me and Paul!

At the choir concert.

After sampling a lot of interesting dishes, we headed over to Paul's town. A lot of his family members were having a BBQ, and we got there on the tail-end of it. It was already dark, and they were set up on the sidewalk in front of their noodle shop. They had a little portable grill out, and were milling around seemingly in a full, contented state. They offered me a plastic stool and immediately started grilling me up some food. The food at the potluck was good, but this was delectable. I had grilled shrimp, bamboo shoots, and various other meats. My absolute favorite were some clams that came in a thin broth with herbs. Heaven! I wish I had taken some pictures of the food, but I didn't.

Paul's cousin's boyfriend from Canada was there, so I had someone to talk to! His family is from Hong Kong, so we had fun talking about the city and discussing the bits of Cantonese I know.

When things were winding down, Paul and I left with his aunt (we were staying at her house). The next morning I wandered around her awesome garden. She has a really sweet house with a beautiful albeit overgrown garden.

It was the Dragon Boat Racing day, so we watched the dragon boat races on tv while eating these traditional dragon boat glutinous triangle things with black sugar.

After lunch we went with Paul's uncle and one of his friends, Zowan, who's an English major, to visit a pier and its market. It was pretty, but VERY windy. Paul lost his hat at one point and I was afraid it was going to blow into the water!

Zowan and I.

Paul with his cool paper hat.

Inside the market. There was so much to look at!

There were also giant corndogs.

After that Paul, Zowan and I wandered around his town taking pictures and then met up with two old friends of his. We all went to a coffee shop together, but unfortunately I was too full to actually drink anything!

I don't know why these statues are this shape, but they're pretty cool-looking.

At the coffee/tea place.

Then Zowan's brother, sister, and sister's boyfriend showed up to take us to the Taipei Night Market. We played some of those carnival games which was great fun, although I swear that there was something wrong with the gun. I was aiming so carefully, and wasn't hitting very many balloons! Also, I couldn't even see the BB go anywhere or even feel it leave the gun. But oh well. I didn't want to win one of those giant Stitch stuffed animals anyway. Pens are much better.

The sneaky balloon-shooting place.

We had some amazing food for dinner, and I really liked the oyster omelette I had. I tried stinky tofu for the first time, but wasn't a fan. It kind of smells like the animal barn at a country fair, and unfortunately its taste is very similar to its smell.
My delicious oyster omelette.

The food part of the market.

After dinner we wandered around looking at the market. I bought a couple of presents for people, and we got more and more food! Every ten minutes or so someone would buy us something else. We all took turns buying (a cool part of Asian culture) so we ended up having onion cakes, fried chicken cakes, cookies wrapped in dough, cranberry lemon juice, and other things I've by now forgotten. By the end of the night, I was waddling! I couldn't even eat more than a spoonful of the shaved ice cream even though I'd been looking forward it for a long time!

The wrapped cookies before they're wrapped.

What, no handouts?

Shaved ice cream, mango.

Strawberry and chocolate. Yum!

I've heard that if Asian cities were assigned a deadly sin, Taipei's would be gluttony. I believe it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sweet Art Stuff

I'm back after my short sabbatical. I've been working on some other writing projects that have been taking up more of my time, but hopefully I'll get back into the groove of posting.

On Saturday, I got off really early at 3:30! I don't think that's ever happened before! I met up with Mom and we had an afternoon tea set. We were planning on going to this big mall, but we ended up just wandering around Causeway Bay. I bought a ton of reusable bags (they're really cute and about $1USD each) at Jardine's Bazaar.

There's a really cool lifestyle store called Homeless that was nearby, so I decided to show it to Mom. I really love the stuff they have, but it's way to expensive! I covet this silver mirror with duck feet, but it's almost $60USD. A bit steep, in my opinion. It's still fun to look though.

We enjoyed looking at the creative and fun stuff, but there were no cards. The first time I went to the store, they had a whole selection of cards and journals and stuff with sweet artwork on it. The cards were gone! Luckily, I noticed a sign in the stairwell that said to go up to the 3rd floor. We climbed the narrow stairs, and sure enough, the Wun Ying gallery was in front of us.

We spent a lot of time looking at all the cool things, but it was still a bit pricy so I decided to just buy two postcards. When I was checking out, the lady told me it was buy one get one free. I asked her if it was just the cards, and she told me that it was for everything in the store! Everything! They were closing down the next day, so it was a "removal sale."

I was quite excited. We went back over the shelves and I ended up buying two things. Mom even bought me two other things for my birthday! Since I won't be with her for my birthday, she figured she'd get it for me early. Although she did make me promise to wrap them up and open them on my actual birthday. I'll be so surprised...

Here are pictures of the loot.

This is a business card holder! I've been wanting to get one for awhile, but I never have. I'm excited to have SUCH a cute one. Of course, now I need a business card...

This is now gracing my ever-growing key ensemble.

This is the awesome postcard I got. It'll be in someone's mailbox soon. :)

Isn't this rabbit coin purse sweet? And it's even green! Mom wasn't so pleased when she later saw the arrow, but oh well.

I can't wait to serve cupcakes on this tray.

I'm pretty excited about my new finds. And they were a very good deal too! If you like the stuff, I know there's a store in Tsim Sha Tsui, although I don't know where. I don't think that one will be having a sale, though.

Side-note/Announcement: I am moving back to the US! In one month!

I'm pretty excited to see family and friends and be back home. I'm already making a list of food I'll be consuming on re-entry. I prayed about this a lot, and I really feel like God is leading me back to Arkansas. Crazy, since I never thought I'd move back there! Still, I'm excited about it and I can't wait to see what will happen. I think Arkansas will have it's own share of adventures waiting for me. :)

I already have a place to live and will be looking for a job as soon as I settle in. You know what this also means? I'LL GET TO GO TO A BLINDSIDE CONCERT!!!!!!! Yeah, I'm a little excited. Just a little.

I see this as a good time to reconnect with people and figure out my next move. Will it be working on a cruise ship? Teaching in Korea? Working in Alaska? I don't know, but it'll be fun to find out.