Holiday Weekend...Gone Askew!

This post will be short and I'll fill in more details later since I'm writing from my phone, but this weekend was filled with many unexpected occurrences!

----- ----- ----- ----- Quick Synopsis ----- ----- ----- -----

PLANNED TRIP: we planned to take a ferry from mainland Taiwan to the island of Penghu for out 3 day weekend leaving Saturday and retuning Monday and spending our time here hanging out at the beach and soaking up some sun!

REALITY OF OUR TRIP: we took the Puke-fest 2015 ferry Saturday morning, enjoyed the beach on Sunday, and have been waiting out the super typhoon in our hotel since then (today is Tuesday...we have no hope of leaving until at least Wednesday late morning time!) 

MORAL OF THE STORY: when life throws you curve balls, you've just got to take 'em and make the best of it!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Lunch Time}

Lunch time here in Taiwan...lets just say it's special! Some days lunch is amazing, other days my tummy's not quite full, most days though, I just eat it without asking questions before hand!  

Lunch is served for the students in their respective home room classrooms and for the teachers in our common office area. Students all take turns serving their classmates (yes even grade 1 and 2 serve lunches) and almost all of the students buy a lunch {you can't beat $1 lunches!}

Students bring a bowl or two and a set of chopsticks from home and everything goes in together; food in one and soup in the other (soup is their only drink served at many meals). We have rice, EVERYDAY, sometimes it changes colors, but it's always there! We have some type of meet or tofu and a veggie or five each day as well. Monday we also get a piece of fresh fruit and there is milk given out as a snack on Tuesdays. 

Is lunch here different than in the U.S.? Oh my goodness yes, am I learning to enjoy it...most certainly!

Did Someone Say Popcorn?!

6  weeks...I made it 6 long weeks with NO popcorn...and Sunday night I {finally} caved. It may have cost me $1 for ONE bag, and the lady at OK mart may have burnt part of it...but the important thing here ... is that I had popcorn!!!

PS - Just so it's out there! It is absolutely mandatory that the first person from home to step foot in Taiwan to bring me a popcorn maker....I'm having some  serious withdraws here!


So area schools that do not have foreign English teachers can sign up to bring their students to my classroom for a morning where we read books & learn songs in English as a field trip. Today I had my first class like this and as I walk in I hear 40 students saying “wow”, “so pretty!”, & “she really is American!”…yes folks…step right up to the Miss St. John carnival sideshow!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {the bathroom situation}

When I was getting ready to move to Taiwan several people suggested that I bring some travel toilet paper with me (yes I just went there real quick lol). Let me start out my saying as kindly as possible {thanks for nothing!}

I did as instructed and brought along several small travel sized rolls of toilet paper. BUT...what I was not warned about, is the fact that toilet paper in public restroom is NON-EXISTENT. none. zilch. nada. nothing.  I'm not sure who  decided this was a good idea, but apparently that's the way it is!

So, if to add insult to injury, public toilets are squatty potties AND BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper for those of  you new to the game!)

"Luckily" (I'm not sure if anything about this bathroom situation is lucky lol) they sell travel packs of toilet paper in huge bulk packs everywhere, but this also means that I am required to BYOTP to school, shopping, traveling, and sometimes to hotels....

...and paper towels...yeah, no sense in dreaming!

{on an unrelated note...does anyone have any use for 4 sad rolls of American travel toilet paper?!}

Tea Time in Maokong

Last weekend several of us girls celebrated Rebecca's birthday with some relaxing time in Maokong, a area southeast of Taipei up in the mountains. This area,  at one time, was the largest tea growing area in Taipei, and is still widely known and visited for its terrific teas, quaint tea houses, laid back atmosphere, and amazing views of Taipei. Leaving from Taipei, Maokong is about an hour from the main station in which you get off the subway and enjoy a 25 minute 2.5 mile gondola ride (like a cable car) with AMAZING views of Taipei beneath you. To say we couldn't have timed our trip better is an understatement though! (First you have to understand that the sun starts setting here around 5:30 or joke!) As we waited in line for the Gondola is became more and more apparent that we would be just in time to watch the sunset over Taipei from our glass-walled about spectacular! I promise, the pictures don't even begin to do it justice!
Taipei at night from our gondola window
Maokong translates directly into "no cat" so naturally (no I'm not sure even then it makes sense lol) EVERYTHING on the mountain is cat themed...just a little odd! haha

My new {{car}}

Ok, so maybe not exactly a "car", but I wont even lie, I think I may have been more excited about this than when I actually got my first car, I mean, how many people in little 'ole Ohio get their first SCOOTER?!??!

I'm telling you, if you've been reading my blog you'll already know, but scooters are how everyone gets around here. There is rumored to be 1 scooter for every 2 people living in Taiwan...crazy!!

So, seeing as one school I teach at, Fu Long, is 4.5 miles from my house, my options were to: walk (umm hot!), ride a bike (poor knees!), or ride a scooter (yes please!)

After a 2 week man hunt by any English speaking Taiwanese person I met, I am finally a scooter owner! One person tried to usher me towards an electric bike, but test driving it on the road I felt like a little mouse in a room  full of elephants running towards me at full speed, no thanks!

Today's Lunch...You'll never guess!

Imagine my surprise when I walk into  the cafeteria today to see that we are having..



Chicken nuggets!!!!

After tons of rice/noodle/green veggie/unknown meat meals I would have never have thought in a  million years that they would serve chicken nuggets!

But you've got to throw a little curve ball in there right?!?!   
Chicken nuggets are of course eaten with chopsticks!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Convenience Stores}

We've all heard of, and most likely been in a convenient store in the U.S., but I was not aware of what a convenient store REALLY was until stepping into my first 7-11 in Taiwan! Convenient stores here are literally everywhere. Just in my teeny town we have not only 2 7-11's, but also 2 OK-Mart's  and a Family Mart. Each of these stores is open 24 hours and they can do just about anything for you! {but really!}

For instance, 10 things you can do in  your local convenient store:

1. buy food
2. pay your bills
3. buy a bus/train/concert tickets
4. use  the free wifi
5. pick up packages that have been  mailed to you
6. use a {clean} bathroom
7. cash in  your lottery receipts
8. collect stickers for prizes
9. play odd games for drink discounts
10. (and most importantly!) pop your popcorn and warm up other meals

*** DISCLAIMER: the one thing you cannot do at a Taiwanese convenient store….get gas!!***

Packing Woes

Sooo...this post is a little late...maybe I was avoiding the trauma that  ensues while attempting to determine the most valuable 99.5 pounds of your life {sorry family & apparently tipped the scales!}

In typical Tracy fashion, I didn't start packing for Taiwan until about 2 days before I was to leave for the year...I mean...what's the worst that's gonna happen!

I am proud to say though, that everything I pulled out fit and my checked luggage was actually about 2.5 pounds until the 100 pound limit! (please don't ask about the weight of the carry on's...that's another story!)

Taipei's Temples

A little late on this blog post, but that's life I guess!!  This past weekend I went to Taipei again  with several friends with the intention of seeing more cultural things that were waiting for us within the city. It must have been Ariel & I's lucky day! Though we had a rough itinerary in mind for the day, each time we arrived to a new location there was a festival, market, or celebration in naturally we happily accepted the day's changes!!

We started the day with a visit to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall...just in time for their changing of the guards! (and of course I forgot to get a picture of the outside of the building!) 

One Month in Taiwan!

Holy Moley! Where did the time go?!?! Today officially marks me being here for one month! I honestly feel like I just stepped off of the plane like 2 days ago…makes me a little nervous to see how fast the rest of the year will go!!

{After a month I feel like I'm finally starting to figure out how things work here, so if you've caught  the travel bug, or are itch'n to come check out Taiwan let me know!!}

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Scooters}

Let me just start out this post with being frankly honest…scooter drivers here in Taiwan are about 50 different types of {{CRAZY}}!

So many scooters!
I would venture to say that driving here in general is, but without the scooters, things on the road would be about a million times better! There are many places on the roads that are marked specifically for scooters, the issue is though, the think that any place that is paved means that it's for them!

Taiwan Night Market

Taiwan is FAMOUS for their night markets! If you read my post from when I went to Taipei you may remember several pictures from the Shilin Night market there, it's huge! Each town has their own night markets; larger towns nightly, and smaller towns maybe weekly, but they are there rest-assured!

Although my town of Xinfeng is not that small I live outside of the city limits in the township, and it is small! My town only has it's night markets on Friday nights, so I went last Friday and my hopes were crushed...there were only 4 was ghost festival, so I thought maybe, maybe, there will be more people next week. Man was I  glad I gave it another chance!  I love it! They literally have just about anything and everything there! I walked up and down the isles for well over an hour taking in the sights, the sounds, and the SMELLS (ok I can't lie, I also had some treats...and made a mental list of what I will be coming back for next time!)

Like I said anything and everything you may want...sunglasses, phone cases, clothes, phone cases, shoes, phone cases {seriously, they have a fetish here or something!}

Meat?!?! After some prior experiences here...I was a little hesitant to try random meat for the time being!

Balloon pop for the kids...

...and ring toss for mom & dad!

Taiwanese candy GALORE!

And my dinner! Taiwanese taco anyone?! The "tortilla" was sticky-ish, and it had chicken, TONS of onion, red cabbage, some corn, a sticky soy sauce, and a jelly like hot sauce...not too shabby!

First Week of School...DONE!!

But  really, it was an exciting, nerve-racking, and much anticipated week that ended up much better than I could have ever expected!  My schedule is a little crazy and will most likely take some getting used to, but this first week is always the hardest! I am working at 2 different elementary schools about 5 miles apart (and currently relying on school personal to drive me to the farther school 5 miles away!)

I did it! I survived my first week of school! And there were no tears, not even from the students! Haha

I work at Hsin Fong Elementary School Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and over the course of the semester will have worked with each of the 600 children at least once. I see each of the 5 fifth and sixth grade classes once a week and have between 28 and 33 students in each class! Monday's and Tuesday's I rotate groups of 1st & 2nd graders and groups of 3rd & 4th graders to have what they call a "sing and dance class" which essentially means {please plan 40 minutes of English activities for our students, but we have  no idea what we actually want you to teach, but promise to love whatever you come up with}. Also on Tuesday's I will work in the English Situational classroom at my school where other schools in the area can sign up to  have their children come see me and have this "sing and dance class" with me....yes, basically I'm a school  attraction! ;-)

On Wednesdays and Fridays I catch a ride to Fu Long Elementary school where there are only about 45 students grades 1-6. *it's my baby school!* the classes have only between 3 and 11 students in them which although difficult to play some games with so few students, it also allows me to work much more closely with each of the children. I will see the 3-6 graders twice a week including individual class lessons for each of these grades, as well as English Story time for each of the grades 1 - 6.

The local English teachers that I am working with have been nothing but amazing and they have showered me with candies, local foods, teas, and local food suggestions. The children are beyond adorable and I cannot walk more than a couple yards without seeing huge smiles and hearing "hello Teacher Tracy! Hello!"...needless to say, I think the year here is going to be amazing!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Taiwanese Trash Trucks}

So I've decided that besides my normal posts, I'm going to {TRY} (try being the key word!) to post each Tuesday about something I've learned, found interesting, or just downright strange about living in Taiwan. Now of course I'm a teacher so I had to have a cutesy alliteration to go with Tuesday's Taiwan-ism is born!
___ ___  ___ ____ ___ ___ ___ ___  ___  ___ ____ ___ ___ ___

Today's Taiwan-ism was something I was warned about before moving here, but it still makes me giggle almost daily. Each day around 4:00pm I hear a beautiful sound coming down the street that would make every American run outside waving their money and ordering ice cream from the traveling ice cream truck!

To every American's dismay though...this truck does not have ice fact it doesn't contain anything edible...the music truck coming down the street is sadly the daily trash truck that comes to collect your garbage. So while we line the sides of the street like it's a 4th of July parade, the trash truck rolls through, collects our garbage, and continues playing their cute little melody!

Please Stop Ruining My Meal!

So although I'm loving Taiwan, I do have one general complaint....people have a wonderful knack for ruining the meal that I am eating while talking to them. Let me give you today's example!

I was at school and the lunch was served in the teachers' office like it is each day. I dutifully brought my bowl and chopsticks up and placed in my bowl rice (seriously EVERY MEAL!) bean sprouts, and cooked turnips. One of the other teachers then motioned to the last dish and said "chicken" {apparently they realize that I have 0 idea as to any of the foods that I am eating  here!}. I spot the chicken in the pot but decide against it as I'm not a "sort my meat out from the veins and bones type of girl", but notice that there were some other squarish pieces that looked like chunked up chicken breast! I grab one of those and head to my desk.

I begin eating my meal and cut apart my "chicken" to see what exactly it was (side note: "cutting" here is more of a me ripping things apart with my 2 chopsticks since that's all we have haha). The "chicken" was black and not exactly the consistency that I had expected, but I {naively} thought it was tofu (another very common part of every meal) and took a bite of this mystery substance. Though the looks were quite odd the taste of the food was actually quite good and I chalked this mystery food up as something I like!

Enter Teacher #2: About half through my lunch another teacher comes over and we begin talking while finishing off our meals. During our conversation she sees me take a bite of my "chicken" and asks me if I enjoy it, I respond yes. {another side note...I wish my story ended here!} This is when she excitedly tells me that this is a great treat in Taiwan to have pigs blood cake! EXCUSE ME WHAT?!?!? "hmm" she says..."maybe it's ducks blood? No, I think it's pigs blood."

Fast-forward to me trying to choke down the remainder of my lunch! Apparently this "Taiwanese Treat" is sticky rice mixed with pigs blood and formed into a cake like shape and fed to locals and unsuspecting foreigners. Now I can't was good...but, I could have done without knowing what I was eating!