Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from all of us at HsinFong and Fu Long Elementary schools! Wishing you the spookiest of holidays and candy-filled trick-or-treat bags! 

Ultra Expressive!

Oh the expressions one ends up making while teaching children English! I'm glad I don't have to see too many of these pictures!

Homework?!?! But I'm the Teacher!

I got to school today at FuLong and the director {bless his soul he tries so hard with his English I love it!} Tells me he wants to dance with me on Friday ... well good morning to you too lol.

I'm a little confused about what he's talking about, and then the music begins to play on a computer in the office, and the director excitedly points to it and says "you, me, dance, this" ... and that's how I got my first dancing homework assignment.

OK, to clarify things a bit (I sure wish someone would do that for me here some days lol) my students at FuLong are participating in a field day with other area schools for a good portion of Friday. I was told they would be doing Sport Events and the Teachers could  Participate if They wanted to!   Apparently a School Wide Drum / Dance routine is now Also Considered a Sport, and Participating is optional unless you are the Lone white Chick in Town, then it is Highly, HIGHLY encouraged!

Sooo, Long Story Short, I've got to memorize this by Friday Morning Dance routine. There Will be 4 Children dancing in Front of Me, then the Director and myself, and then the remainder of our US Students Behind laughing at the crazy white Trying to Dance Girl   dancing as Well.

All I can say is ... Wish me luck!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {money, Money, MONEY}

Who doesn't love money...I mean, I know they say money can't buy happiness, but it most certainly can buy popcorn && gummie bears (and those make me happy!), and money can buy new paint && craft supplies (and those make me really happy!) anddd money can buy plane tickets to fly next door or half way across the world (and that makes me really, really happy!).  Yes I understand, there are many things that money can't buy, but sadly, in reality, it is a necessity.

So low&behold, there is also money in Taiwan; though it brings about different feelings here. For instance, I get paid once a month here, and that monthly paycheck (simply looking at the written number) is more than twice my yearly salary back home meanwhile, going out for a $65 dinner sounds like a great deal!

Conversion, conversion, conversion! Sadly, I am not a millionaire here!  The current conversion rate here is $31 NTD (New Taiwanese Dollar) to $1 USD (United States  Dollar). The Taiwanese money is referred to as Yuan (and if I had a Chinese keyboard I would try my hardest to show you what that looks like...but for now...use your imagination!

Because the currency exchange  rate is so different right now though, it took some getting used to what looked like crazy high prices for everyday goods!

Dinner $65 --> $2.09 USD
Pants $300 --> $9.67 USD
Water $20 --> $0.64  USD

$1,000 ($32.25) {you feel rich with a few of these bad boys!}

A Little Keelung and a Whole Lot of Mushroom Rocks!

Date Disclaimer! (I'm a weekend behind still!) This was from LAST weekend October 24 & 25 {oops}

All week I was looking forward to the weekend and staying home and working on things sleeping (let's be honest I'm a little sleep deprived at the moment!) BUT, when Tina called me Thursday night with the prospect of exploring a new  town....all sense of drowsiness went out the window! (Lucky for me she's not crazy and wanted to wait until late morning to meet up  on Saturday...sleep && travel makes for one happy Tracy!)

I hopped on the train in Xinfeng, picked up Tina  in Taipei and we headed off to Keelung for a weekend of exploring!

Once we arrived in Keelung we grabbed a quick lunch of rice and braised pork (benefits of traveling with someone who knows the language much better than you...they tell you what you are eating!!!) We quickly then found the bus we were looking for and settled in for a 45 minute ride north to Yehliu Geological Park. Since I hadn't been the one to plan (or really do anything for this last minute trip lol) I had NO idea what to expect!

You've Missed the Monkeys!!!

I am sooo sorry! 

It was brought to my attention that many people missed the post about the beloved monkeys!!! Well if you did {or you'd just like to look at their cute faces again!} I'll re-post the link here!

Monkeys, Monkeys, Monkeys...I've Never Been Happier!

Scooter Video

I've been wanting to take a video like this for some time now, but the logistics of holding a phone while driving a scooter is easier said than done! Lol, I'm totally joking! But it did take some rigging  to get the camera to hold sill enough to not make you sick while watching the video! Also I've learned for next time I need to point the camera up more....I'll get better (or buy a GoPro haha)

I still want to get some nice footage of my drive to Fu Long in the mornings as the countryside is beautiful, but mother nature and her love of rain in this country often have other plans for me!

This video has me starting at my house in Xinfeng Township and driving  south to Xinfeng (the actual town) about 2.5 miles away to the local train station. The actual drive is between 8 and 9 minutes, but I cut out several chunks of waiting for the stop lights and long stretches of nothing as well as slightly speeding some portions of the drive up. What we have left is a close to 4 minute video glimpse into some more of my daily life here!

Happy 1 Month Scooter-versary!

Yes, it's a thing! (or at least if it's not I'm officially making it a thing! lol)

Today officially marks one month that I've been the proud owner of a brand spankin' new (at least new to me!) speedy scooter and a bright, shiny pink helmet! We are doing so well together and my scooter is quickly making new scooter friends!

Look how cute he and his friends get along!

Also, today, after driving it at least every other day for the last month, marked the first time I ever had to put gas in my little guy! I bit the bullet and it almost broke the bank, but I asked them to fill it all the way up. I paid the $3.30 (USD) that I owed for the full tank, and was on my merry way!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Left Turns}

A whole post on left tuns... (this is probably where you are starting to think I'm crazy or have already run out of things to write about...have no fear! Neither is true! ....ok maybe just a little with the crazy, but we can forget about that for now!)

Anyways, left turns...specifically scooter left turns. Like this cute little picture I made. I'm the red dot on my scooter and  I want to go to the red X...easy peasy!

All I have to do  is simply turn left!


Monkeys! Monkey, monkey, monkey...I've NEVER been happier!

Ok...so maybe I've been happier before than seeing dozens upon dozens of monkeys in the wild...but if you were to ask any of the locals on that mountain that morning, they would have surly assumed I was out on my first day trip from the insane asylum {and I can't say I have any shame with that!}

Sorry I'll back it up a bit, but seriously, I felt like the little kids in this old Disney video! Day 3 in Kaohsiung was by far the best! I woke up bright and early (and surprisingly due to my excitement, quite bushy tailed as well!) at 7am, and was up, dressed, out of the hostel and ready for some climbing before 8am. Sadly this early bird didn't get the worm though when I realized I was too early to catch the bus to the mountain. Sure I could have waited, or taken a taxi, or many other things, but I already told you I was a ball of excitement and energy, so  I decided at 7:45am that the best thing  to do would be to walk the mile to the base of the mountain (can't lie here, Friday to Sunday I logged  over 25 miles in walking haha). I arrived to the base and after asking a few people to point me in the right direction, I was off!!!
Although I began my hike early in the morning, I do live in Taiwan, and I don't care if they claim it's "fall" right now...it's still HOT! {Also side note, I only had my phone...no water, no snacks...just my phone...you are advised againt bringing  anything as the monkeys enjoy trying to take food from unsuspecting hikers...next time I'll bring water and a hiking stick!} As I began my adventure up a trailhead that  began next to a large temple, I began to get discouraged after the first 30 minutes or so as there were no monkeys, I couldn't see the view past the trees, there were no monkeys, there were more people than I was expecting, and there were no monkeys! As the discouragement began to set in though, next thing I know I came  to a built in clearing and was welcomed by this view...

Oh my goodness, BEAUTIFUL!!!

Kaohsiung Take 2

I have to say my weekend in Kaohsiung may have accidentally  been one of the most relaxing weekends I've had in a while! Our hostel was withing walking distance of so many places, the subway was easy to get to and reliable, and the views around the city continued to amaze us!

We woke up Saturday morning well rested and decided that today would be the day, we saw a couple monkeys the evening before but we hadn't really been able to hike the Shoushan mountain (also known as Monkey Mountain) that we had come to tackle and decided to see what we could do about it today.

We weren't 100% on where the trail head started {still wining it like yesterday!} but we had a map and a rough idea. When we came to this location, we were sure we were on the right track!

--- Silly us! Of course it's not that easy! Though beautiful, this trail goes up only about 10 feet haha! --
We continued walking around looking for a trail to climb and though we never found it the changing views still kept up entertained! 
Eventually, as frequently happens in Taiwan, a man drove past on his scooter and could tell we were lost (apparently 2 white girls on the side of the road with maps, phones, and confused looks gives us away!) He kindly stopped and gave us directions, and in our defense, we hadn't been far off! Sadly by the time we get headed in the right direction poor Brody had had enough (he's a trooper for 5 years old though!) and we decided to call it a day with no more walking!

Exploring Kaohsiung, What a Place of Beauty!

Pronounced "GOW" (like cow with a g) "shung"
"GOW shung" {and they say Chinese isn't difficult! haha}

This past weekend we had a holiday (yes! I know, we just had one, BUT, I'm not complaining!) This time we had Friday off for 10/10, also know as Double 10 Day.  I didn't have any concrete plans in the books, so I thought what better weekend to check something off my bucket  list (I've always wanted to do this and when I found it was a possibility in Tawain...let's just say I'm shocked I had the willpower to wait 2 months!) I stated  to ask around and Kristin and Brody were fair game for a weekend full of "winging-it" in Kaohsiung.

Kaohsiung is near the south of Taiwan and takes about and hour and a half to reach by the High Speed Rail that runs along the western coast of the country. My weekend was off to a soggy start with having  a scooter as transportation during a nasty rainstorm, but a quick stop for a helmet shield, and I was on my soggy way!

When I met up with Kristin and Brody in Kaohsiung we had little planned other than a contact with a hostel owner that was willing to give us a couple bunks for $490 a night (hello $15.80 USD!!!) We found our hostel, (OK, no really...our hostel driver began driving his bike towards the station and found us and led us back to the hostel) settled in, and asked Jason, the hostel owner the easiest way to get the the nearby mountain. He pulled out a map and began giving us directions and then said never mind, I'll just take you {umm again....exactly why Taiwan is amazing haha}

So Jason drove us up the back side of the mountain and stopped at a little rest area on the side of the road. And guess what?!?! We got out of the car and saw.....MONKEYS. They were behind glass, or in a cage, or behind bars...they were real live monkeys, out in the wild, and SOooo close to me!! Kristin had a little scare when she got out of the car and a little guy came a little too close for comfort when he noticed she had food lol, but she quickly put here belongings back in the car and we began to get to know our new acquaintances 
I mean please, look at THIS!!!

My Life May Now Be Complete!

I PROMISE I will catch up to this past weekend in the next day or 2, but in the meantime I can't wait to show you my favorite picture from the trip!

So here's a little {{sneak preview}}

Aboriginal Village

--- --- Sunday, October 4, 2015 --- --- --- ---

(yes, yes, yes...I'm a little behind...apparently life keeps moving even when the blog isn't!)

So to continue from my previous Ping Dong Mountains post from yesterday; Sunday morning we woke up bright and early from our "out in the boonies hotel" (I'm not kidding here! 3 sides were covered in pineapple fields and the 4th was a field full of beetle nut trees...BOONIES I'm telling ya!)  ANYWAYS! lol, we woke up early and boarded the buses for {well at the time I wasn't sure...remember I'm still amazing we have 80 people in our group instead of 5...I clearly have no idea what's going on!)

So we boarded these buses and drove and dove and found ourselves here, at the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park. Let's just say I was pumped!

We started our tour of the Cultural Park with a visit to the museum where {luckily} many of the captions were in English, so I was able to read up on the local Indians and learn about their daily lives. (Like how you have to prove yourself to be worthy to be considered a man or a woman {instead of a child} and once you have proved yourself it is a badge of honor for men to get several of their teeth pulled and women to get facial tattoos....oh how cultures can be so different!)

Once we finished in the museum is was time to watch the bamboo cannon demonstration {take me back to Mulan for this one!} song / dance / cannons included!

PingDong Mountains

--- --- Saturday, October 3, 2015 --- --- --- ---

Several weeks ago I was approached by one of the daughters of the family I live with and was asked if I wanted to go on a weekend trip “with my mother and her friends”. I was told they were going to Pingtung (or PingDong) at the southern tip of Taiwan. I was given a price and told that everything was included in the price…it sounded like a great deal for a fun trip (although what fun was to be had I still wasn’t sure!) so I agreed and gave them a thumbs up!

Packing for a weekend away when you have NO idea what is going on is difficult. I was told to bring walking shoes….I had no other information {where are we staying, how are we getting there, do I need nice clothing, a swimsuit?} NOTHING! (…I honestly thought about giving up, throwing in the towel, and bringing JUST my walking shoes lol….but I decided against that I grabbed some bug spray  on the way out as well! :P

Well let me tell you, it was my surprise when I show up to the meeting place bright and early at 6am last Saturday only to find 2 coach buses and 70 some people waiting to board for the weekend “with my mother and her friends”! I later found out “mother and friends” organized a guided tour and they all brought ALL their families…hence 70 something people at 6am doing the hokey pokey outside the buses (ok not really, but it did take some maneuvering to get us all in the right places!)

This tour ended up being a guided tour of some of the mountains near the south of Taiwan….oh my goodness, BEAUTIFUL!!! We had a nice hop-on hop-off guided tour service where we would drive a bit, get off the bus go around, get back on, drive a bit and repeat. I’m telling you, I also think they were preparing me for their personal Thanksgiving feast as all they did was bring more, and more, and MORE food! Our weekend fare included 7 full meals (yes please do the math I wasn’t even gone 48 hours haha) in which we ate at traditional Chinese restaurants where food is brought out (not ordered specifically) and served family style at the lazy-susan table. As soon as you being to think you were full they’d show up with another plate of food that you {{just HAD to try}}!

The pictures below are from our first day {Saturday} Sunday warrents it’s own blog post…. (I know I’m behind L I promise it’s coming!)

Happy {belated} Moon Festival!!!

Moon Festival, also known as Mid-Autumn Festival, is a holiday celebrated throughout several east Asian countries including Taiwan on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar…yeah, I don’t understand dates like this yet either lol….in other words, we celebrated the holiday on Sunday, September 27, 2015 and because it fell on a weekend was given Monday the 28th off of school (this is also Confucius’sbirthday and Teacher’s Day here in Taiwan).

Upon asking around for the meaning of moon festival I received some mixed reviews, but most boiled down to a holiday revolving around family, friends, giving thanks for the year’s harvest, and praying to the gods for whatever you might need. I was also given responses along the lines of “I don’t know but we get a day off” and “it’s about an old legend of a rabbit living on the moon and  you can’t point to the moon or else the rabbit will bite your ear off!” haha…I’m not so sure about the later responses!

Anyways! Regardless of the reason for the holiday I was able to quickly pick up on and participate in the traditions of Moon Festival which including gathering with family & friends, having a BBQ, and eating moon cakes & pomelos.

BBQ --- BBQ’s are very popular here especially surrounding the Moon Festival and can either be at home (outside over a fire) or in a BBW restaurant where you purchase raw cuts of meat and cook them over the open fire in the middle of your table.

Moon Cakes --- These delicious little balls of yumminess are EVERYWHERE during the preparation of the Moon Festival, and as a foreigner everyone assumed I had never had one (correct!) and brought them into school for me to try by the truck load! Haha (new food makes for a happy Tracy!)  There are MANY variations of moon cakes  with the traditional being red bean paste, but they typically boil down to a small round pastry filled with meat, fruit, veggies (anything you can think of!) surrounding an egg yok resembling a full moon…DELICIOUS! (the link above shows the more Chinese style moon cakes, Tiawanese style cakes are simply round balls)

Pomelos --- This fruit is yet another fruit that when introduced to I had no idea existed! This giant green citrus fruit is the largest of the citrus family and although bright green on the outside, most closely resembles a sweet less tangy grapefruit on the inside. These are frequently given as gifts during the Moon Festival (aka the foreign English teacher easily ends up with a dozen of these suckers!) and the thick rinds are often also cut open and put on kids’ heads like hats…not sure why haha. 

A Little Penghu, and A Lot of Typhoon!

So this post is slightly delayed….but I have  a good excuse, promise…we had a gigantic typhoon last weekend and it kind of really through our schedules off!

Anyways, last weekend was a holiday weekend  {more to come about moon festival too! Haha} so no school on Monday called for a nice long relaxing weekend with the girls in Penghu, Taiwan, a small island off the west coast of Taiwan…yes and this is where you ask "aren't you on an island?"...yes, we went to vacation on the island's island lol.

Tory, Kristen, Rebecca, little Brody and I couldn't have been more excited to board our ferry bright and early Saturday morning headed for tropical paradise, looking  forward to a nice warm, relaxing weekend…haha…oh how plans so quickly can change!

*** Enter the ferry Puke-Fest 2015***   {if you have a queasy stomach, now's the time to stop reading!}

Please try to imagine for a minute a small 2 story ferry boat, full of about 200 people, on a sunny Saturday morning, with waves covering the 2nd story window, and 95% of the people vomiting, for 2 hours, all ALL ALL over the boat…yeah, let me tell you we figured out what those cute little puke bags were for real quick. Although I was a lucky one and didn’t actually get sick, you still know you feel like poop when you are willing to share a gag bag on a boat with a friend and don’t think twice about it at the time:/

AYWAYS! We did eventually make it to Penghu, and after cleaning up from the ferry we were bound and determined not to let anything ruin our trip…. Haha, such na├»ve little travelers we were!

--- Day 1 --- Saturday --- --- --- --- --- ---

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Have You Eaten Yet?}

It took some time and some explaining for  me to get used to this, especially being the avid  eater that I am! But, it's still kind of odd to think of.

Almost every morning without fail when I get to school the teachers that sit near me will tell me good morning, and then like clockwork, ask if I have eaten breakfast yet. I chalked it up to them worrying  about my lack of breakfast eating abilities.

When I arrive to my apartment some evenings I will pass one of the members that live in the house. They will alawys tell me hi...and then ask if I've eaten dinner yet.

I quickly started to realize that everywhere I go this was a standard question..."Have you eaten?" Taiwanese people are very "beat around the bush" type of people, and not at all direct  {yeah I'm in trouble here haha} them asking if I have eaten yet is simply their way of asking how I am for the day...if only there was food with this question each time I was asked!