Taichung Flower Festival

Flowers Galore!

This past weekend Tina and I ventured back down south to Taichung thanks to the recommendation of a friend in my Chinese class to check out their 2015 International Flower Festival. Oh my goodness was it breathtaking!

When they call this a "Flower Carpet Festival" they aren't kidding, the ground is completely covered in flowers (ok and mud too if you go after it rains!) I have never seen SOoo many flowers before! We headed down Saturday morning, checked into our hostel, grabbed some food {I apologize, when I write about my days I realize how often I do this in a day...I  think I like to eat!} and hoped on the nearly hour shuttle ride headed for the festival. We weren't quite sure what we were expecting, but were certainly glad when we got there!

Seriously, as far as you could see...there were flowers!

I was madly in love with these friends! {if I had even an ounce of a green thumb in me I'd be planting some of these guys!}

Turkey Day Taiwan Style!

Happy Thanksgiving from good old Hsinchu, Taiwan!

Hoping you and your families had the most blessed of days and didn’t forget to throw in an extra thank you (or 20) throughout your day! If you take the time to truly look around it is absolutely amazing how much God has given each and every one of us to be thankful for!

Now trust, I realize, that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Taiwan…shoot, most people don’t even have any idea what it is, but that doesn’t mean that this American girl went through the day without a little turkey and Macy’s Day parade!

The last 2 weeks I have been teaching my students about thanksgiving…in the most BASIC form possible! I’m not kidding, part of my presentation included “bye-bye England…Hello America” haha…like I said BASIC! We also talked about traditions, foods we eat, watched the parade & crazy shoppers, and thought of all the things we have to be thankful for!

I’m all about numbers, so here’s a little Turkey Day breakdown for you!

13 – times I re-watched the 2014 Macy’s Day parade
46 – the number of Thanksgiving day pop-up cards we made
5 – the number of plates I had of thanksgiving food! {eating is a sport right?!)
11 – the number of American’s that made it to our Thanksgiving dinner!
1,354 – the number of times I had to repeat the word  PILGRIM  for the children to understand how to pronounce the word!

Also, some misconceptions that I dispelled during classes…we do not eat TURTLES for Thanksgiving, papaya pie is not served at the table, and the big bowl of fluffy stuff is neither rice nor mashed sandwiches but rather mashed potatoes! Haha oh the ESL classroom!

Turkey Day group! William, RJ, Tina, myself, Matthew & baby Jacob, Ruth, Tory, Rebecca, Glen, & Angie.

THEN, to make Thanksgiving even better, we found out the Sheraton in Hsinchu was having Turkey on their buffet Thursday night…cue in 11 excited Americans and a solid 3 hours of eating, and we all left more happy and Thankful than  we would have thought possible! I’m telling you, I had turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, cheese {these last 2 are difficult to find here!}, pumpkin pie, chocolate cake…oh my goodness, delicious! (And thank goodness for flowy shirts at Thanksgiving!)

Don't know what I'd do without these girls in Taiwan!

Next up, let the Christmas celebrations begin!

Chinese Classes!

"It's not difficult!"

...or at least that's what my professor likes to tell us...always followed by a hearty "jia you" {or you can do it, in Chinese} ...I'm pretty sure she realizes that learning this is near impossible!

I'm not sure exactly what state of mind I was in, or better question yet, where my mind was at all! when I decided to enroll in the local National Chiao Tung University for Chinese classes, but that's where I find myself every Monday night. 

When I walked across the stages with my Master diploma this past May I was happy with my accomplishments, but swore off any more schooling for several years {or possibly ever!}...granted I had said the same thing when I finished my undergrad only 3 years before...But, here I am, less than 4 months later...working on Chinese homework. 

If I didn't want to make matters even worse...I had the choice between two different classes being offered: Conversational Chinese  (speaking & listening) or Introductory Chinese (speaking, listening, reading && writing), and what do you think my smart self chose....yeah, let's just saying reading & writing Chinese is just as difficult as one would image {times 50!}.

Introductory Chinese here I come!

I'm about half way through my course right now, and although my grades may not be the best evidence, I am actually learning some of this stuff! It only took my professor, 2 work books, a handwriting book, 2 separate apps, && a deck of flash cards to learn how to count to 10 {remember, it's not difficult! lol} But no, on a serious note, I'm loving this!

I mean, I wrote this...and I can actually read it too! 

Though the class  is tough and there's days I feel like its all gibberish {oh wait!} I am learning some...slowly but surely! I get a secret thrill each time my professor writes something on the board and I know what the sentence says, or I can read a character or 2 on a street sign, or I finished a page of homework ALL in Chinese, or I can read my train schedule without waiting for the English menu to pop up...I'm telling you, it's coming, s-l-o-w-l-y but surely! 

Tuesday Taiwan-ism {no drinks?!}

So this one has taken some getting used to, and to be quite honest, I  still tend to lean towards the "western customs" on this particular topic.

Lunches here {for the most part!} are great and I've enjoyed getting to try so many new foods during my daily lunches (if you missed my previous post on lunches you can check it out here), but the strangest part, is that there is never a drink served with lunch! In the US the kids typically get a choice between white milk, chocolate milk {and the lucky duck kids maybe even strawberry milk & orange juice!} but here in Taiwan, a drink during lunch, or any meal for that matter, is not so typical.

Instead of a drink the children are ALWAYS given a broth based soup. It might have meat, fish, or veggies in it as well...but always soup!

Some days the soup might be served cold and other days it might be a sweeter soup, but for the most part, their soups are broth based with various cooked veggies in it & this substitutes the drink that children in the US would typically get for lunch.

Although some days I do venture and try the soup {it's nearly impossible for me to know what's in them though!} I do have my trusty water bottle by my side during my lunch period as well...a little western fusion at its finest!

Monday Morning Prayer

This little prayer card has traveled great distances with me lately (both literally and figuratively lol). Back in April when I found out I was accepted to my teaching program in Taiwan I was also attending a 3 week prayer class of sorts where we talked about the many different ways you can pray. One of the nights I was given this prayer card  and the 3rd verse jumped out to me and gave me goose bumps. At that point in my life I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do; or more importantly what God wanted me to do, and this verse couldn't have shouted my name any  more loudly.

"May you meet life's adventures with a clear mind and a bold heart." 

I was beyond upset when I arrived to Taiwan and couldn't find the prayer card that I had made SURE to keep out when packing my house. Low and behold, about 3 weeks after moving here I opened up  my Taiwan travel guide and this little card flutters out...it was meant to make it here :) 

It's been on my mind lately and I thought I'd share it and maybe it'd speak to someone else as well! Happy Monday my friends, have a terrific week!

Suggestions, SUGGESTIONS, Read All About It!

Ok friends, I need some help!

Poor me has only about 3 weeks off of school for Chinese New Year {school goes until the very beginning of July so don't even start on "it's not fair!" lol} and I plan on making the most out of each of these days in the only way that seems logical to me....TRAVELING!

Shoot me your thoughts, personal experiences, & opinions! 

I'm leaning towards Thailand, but Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam are also great contenders as well {ok let's be honest...any country that I've never explored is new to me...right?!?!}

Also, since I'm most likely traveling solo I'm leaning towards some type of slightly organized trip. Like I don't need someone spoon-feeding (or chop-stick feeding me for that matter) and holding my hand as I cross the street, but having English speaking friends and a loose guideline of what way's up would be greatly appreciated for my first time there!

Sooo, do you have any suggestions of travel companies you've  used or heard of?!
Any first hand experiences to share with traveling in Asia that might be helpful?!
or...Do you just want to fly on over and join me and we can ditch the whole tour deal altogether!?!?! 

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {stamps}

Sooo, maybe this post is a day late....Wednesday's Taiwan-ism?!?! (ok, so it doesn't have the same ring...I'll try to stick with Tuesdays!) But to be honest, I've been beat lately! I think all this running around and trying to understand a new language is finally catching up with me and all I've wanted to do lately is SLEEEEP! But I'm awake now {I'm technically at school so I guess I hope I'm awake lol} and I've got a new Taiwan-ism for you!

I had heard about Taiwan's stamps (or signature stamps or chops) before I came here, but was still surprised by the amount that they are used in everyday life. In America if you go to the bank, they ask for your signature; if you sign a rental contract, they make you sign your name; if you buy a car, agree to a work commitment, or apply for a loan...you must sign a paper. We view this as a sign {no pun intended!} of ones approval and as a way of "making our personal mark".

In Taiwan though, this isn't the case.

In any of these legal situations in Taiwan, a person must use their signature stamp; and these are exactly what they sound like...a stamp, with your name on it. Within a month of moving to Taiwan I already owned 2 stamps; one for my bank account and a second for signing the purchase agreement and insurance on my scooter.

These stamps range from dinky & super cheap to beautiful works of art that are  much more costly. They can be square or sound and engraved into wood, plastic, or expensive stones. Virtually every street has at least one shop boasting that they engrave keys and stamps as well as many street vendors offering to make them as well.

Personally I feel as they are much more impersonal more easily replicated than a personal signature, but in this culture, it is the norm. These red stamps (they always use them with red ink) are every where you look here; from your pay stub, to art work on the walls, to your bank statements. The Taiwanese way of marking something as their own!

Pictures, Pictures Read All About It!

If you haven't noticed yet, my blog has gotten a little face lift...I'm loving the clean look and bright colors!!!

Also, added to the top of the blog is a PICTURES tab. I am contantly putting new pictures on here {it links up to my Instagram} that don' t always warrent there own blog post, so make sure you take some time and check them out! If you click on an individual picture it will take you to a new page and show you the caption and tell you a little bit about what't in the picture as well!


Also, please feel free to leave some love and comments at the end of my posts! I LOVE staying in touch with people back home and hearing your reactions and questions to what you're reading! (it always puts a smile on my face when I check my blog in the morning and I've got some new love on it!

Have a great weekend, and stay warm!!  It'll be 82 here this weekend ;)

Persimmons & Baseball & Dumplings, Oh My!

To say this past weekend was an eventful weekend is to say the least, but it was also a blast!!!

You may recall from this earlier post about my terrific ability to get lost...anywhere! {thanks mom!} and making it to the local persimmon festival was no different! Last weekend I tried to venture to Xinpu about 30 minutes away and found myself so terribly lost that I gave up for the time-being, but was determined that I would make it! One of the teachers I work with at school had told me about this festival {think about visiting an apple orchard in the fall....now change the apples to persimmons} and I was determined to check it out for myself!

SOooo, this Saturday I woke up early and determined and set out on my scooter with high hopes of finding this place. Let me tell you after 30 minutes of driving the excitement I felt when I began to notice signs in the shape of persimmons pointing in the direction of the farm! I finally made it!!! And, oh my goodness, I am so glad I did, it was so pretty!!!  (be prepared for picture overload!)

 This is a persimmon, Hsinchu (where I live) is known for their persimmons and their bountiful harvests each fall and then their gorgeous displays such as these at the persimmon farms (I'm not really sure what they are called!)

 Down to the nitty gritty...what in the world is a persimmon festival?? First it's not technically a festival! This is more their processing area that just happens to be beautiful so they open it up to the public! Here's a little snapshot of the process starting top left 1. Fresh persimmons are picked they can be red, yellow, or orange/soft or hard/round or pointy  2. Persimmons are put through this apple peeling-like machine to take off their skins  3. They are then put on these round well ventilated racks on bamboo poles up high to "bake" in the sun  3. The dried persimmons (also known as persimmon cakes) are sold to visitors to enjoy!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Calendars}

I never thought something that I learned how to use in kindergarten and first grade could prove to be such a crazy thing here some days. It's easy to point fingers though when they are juggling no less than 3...yes I said THREE calendars in their day to day lives.

Please let me be the first to tell you that I didn't even know that 3 calendars  existed lol.


The western calendar or Gregorian Calendar {or what we would simply call...a calendar} - This is by far the least used calendar here in Taiwan although it's what I use when I'm here! (I promise I'm not being stubborn! You'll see it's easy to flip back and forth here.)

For instance, today's date is Tuesday, November 11, 2015 && my birthday is January 11, 1990


The Taiwanese Calendar or Minguo Calendar - This is the most commonly used and official calendar of Taiwan. This means that although you can find calendars that fit description #1, all legal papers, official documents, and general day-to-day life events use this calendar. While the months and days are the same as the Gregorian Calendar {see I told you it was easy to flip-flop!} the year follows the pattern of the number of years since the start of the Republic of China (ROC) commonly known as Taiwan. When Sun Yat-sen became the first president of Taiwan (in our year 1911 or 104 years ago) he ordered that the year be declared the first year of the ROC and thus the calendars begin at year 1 of the Republic. Essentially, you always subtract 1911 from whatever the western year is!

For instance, today's date is Tuesday, November 11, 104  && my birthday is January 11, 79


The Lunar Calendar - This calendar, although not used for their day-to-day lives, is also extremely common in Taiwan as a large majority of their holidays revolve around this calendar. I personally have trouble understanding all the logisitics of this calendar and simply know that it is the second date (usually smaller) date posted on all calendars in Taiwan! This calendar fluctuates from year to year and its months are aligned with astronomical dates and happenings and the cycles of the moon.

For instance, today's date is September, 23, YiWei && my birthday is December 15, JiSi

{quickly figuring out why we don't use this one all the time!}

Check out this website and learn your Lunar Calendar birthday!

Sun Moon Lake...A Place of Beauty

Apparently I just need to sit at home and hibernate some weekend so that when I type a blog post on Monday it's actually for the weekend that I just finished instead of the week before!

---------------- Saturday & Sunday, October 31 & November 1, 2015 ----------------

Like always I have nothing planned for the weekend and then last minute we scramble to put our plans together...so, yet again!  

One of the top travel to destinations in Taiwan is Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County. {Fun fact, Nantou County is the only county in Taiwan that is landlocked or completely surrounded by land and has no points touching the ocean!} Needless to say, neither Tina nor I had ever visited and thought that this  weekend looked like the perfect time to check it out! (side note, I'm so glad we usually don't look at the weather BEFORE  planning our trips! 60% rain proved to be false and it was gorgeous out!)

We set out bright and early Saturday morning, well at least I did & picked up Tina on the way, and made it to Taichung (this is the city with the closest train station to Sun Moon Lake) by midmorning & located a local train headed for the Lake and settled in....for 2 hours (nap time!!!)

We arrived to Sun Moon Lake around 1ish and immediately set out for lunch...a quick boat ride across the lake provided us with all the day market treats we could handle including this sandwich with pork, cucumbers, & super fluffy bread! 

We spent a majority of the afternoon walking around, soaking in the beautiful sights, treats & people. 

The views here we beautiful!

What's That??

Quick post!

Issues that I didn't even know EXISTED before moving to Taiwan. I go to the bakery to buy a piece of bread (you know because some people frown at eating a whole tub of peanut butter with a spoon) and bring it home for breakfast...it looked so innocent! Only to open it up to find it filled with red beans and some type of foamy custard... I'm not thinking they play well with peanut butter ☹  All I'm saying is a warning would have been nice! Haha

Country Scooter Drive!

Finally! I thought I would never get this video! To say I had some hiccups while filming this is an understatement, but finally take #837 worked!

This is my 10 minute (about 4.5 mile) drive from my apartment to my teeny tiny school Fu Long out in the country. I teach there Wednesdays and Friday so I only make this drive 2 times a week, but I think the  scenery somedays is breathtaking!

This video is sped up to about 2x's the normal speed, but I drive between 50 & 60 kph (or between 31 & 37 mph). It doesn't sound that fast, but with air, bugs, dirt, and the thought of the pavement hitting you that fast, it's plenty fast....oh and the speed limit as well haha. 

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did filming it! :)

Rice Fields & Mangroves!

So it's not exageration to say that for the last 2 {almost 3...eeek!} months that I have lived here I have said more times than I can count that I want to go check out the rice fields. Weird sounding...maybe...but let me tell you, they are soo beautiful you would understand if you could see them yourself!

Now if you know me well, you may think I am sick in the head for writing this (if not a gentle disclaimer, I hate car rides, I don't like driving, I don't like having to be the passenger, planes, and trains, and everything else were made for a good reason!). Last weekend, I, Tracy, went for a joy-ride...JUST FOR THE HECK OF IT {clearly this whole scooter deal has affected me more than what I would have thought haha} and of course I had to stop and take some pictures once I felt that I was sufficiently "in the middle of nowhere!"

Ummmm, so pretty gorgeous, these pictures don't even begin to do it justice!

A little panoramic action so you can get a feel of where I was at!

Close up of the rice growing {if anyone would like to explain harvesting this to me, I'm all ears!}

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {dog OBSESSION}

So when I first moved to Taiwan {it still feels weird to say I live here lol} I was told that their birth rate is on a steady decline as many couples are opting for only 1 or even no children (citing factors such as expense of raising, mandatory military service, and careers as some of their many reasons why). I was also told that it is becoming more and more frequent as well for couples to "replace" having a child with...yup you guessed it...a dog.

Now it's probably about here that you're saying "Tracy! Tons of people in America (or where ever you live!) have dogs, it can't be any different!"

Please let me introduce you to exhibit A: the doggie stroller. (note these also come in a convenient double stroller style and a wide variety of colors!)

And please don't forget about the not quite as common, but apparently gaining popularity exhibit B: the doggie carrier (conveniently sold for both front and rear dogs to fit their preference!)

Disclaimer: YES, this is a real dog I saw in the market, and if you look close enough he's also wearing jeans and a t-shirt!

The "Long" Awaited Video!

Well we {{I}}  made it! After a couple run throughs at home, even I  couldn't help but admit that it wasn't difficult (disclaimer, I still stand firmly by the point that understanding the lyrics would have made a WORLD of a difference! lol...anyways!). I got to school Friday confidant that I knew what was going on.....until they handed me a bag saying "For you! For you, put here!" (while handing me a large  bag and pointing to my waist.

Umm....what exactly do you want me to do with this bag of giant leaves?? Ooohh...umm, it's a skirt? We are all dressing up like trees??  Umm...ok...roll with the punches Tracy, roll with the punches. 10 minutes  and 3 teachers dressing me later, I now looked like a giant, red (thank you  red school polo we had to wear) tree. While this look was adorable on the little kids...it was not so becoming of myself haha....but I wore that tree proudly dangit! haha

ANYWAYS! We marched on the field, the 8th graders played their drums, we did our dance, the announcer yelled my name a couple times, and the camera may zoomed way too close to me for comfort, but, we did it and the kids looked adorable!

The kids in their tree get-ups...way stinkin' adorable!

How Traveling Changes Your Life...This hits home!

I was reading some articles online the other day when this one in particular by Kristin Addis on the Thought Catalog caught my eye! The article was entitled: 6 Ways a Woman's Life is Changed Forever When She Travels Alone. {{umm hello...my life!}} of course I had to take a look at the article!

You can click on the link above to read the whole article, but I'll just highlight the best parts below {keyword...she already did the work...now I'm going to be lazy lol}

1. She'll meet amazing and wonderful people...umm hello Semester at Sea && Taiwan friends!

2. She'll discover new and delicious foods....while this is true please don't forget chicken feet, stinky tofu, & aryan from Turkey....FAR from delicious...but still great stories!

3. She'll come to prioritize experiences over possessions...this has been my motto for far too long & I'm sticking to it!

4. She'll discover that the world isn't that scary after all...OK, so other than getting lost in Naples at 3am as well as having random men try to solicit you for lord knows what, most instances, scary or not, are wonderful learning moments!

5. She'll realize how strong she is!...working on it :P

6. She may never come back....Let me share  my lunch conversation  today with you.  Ben "so next year, the director wants you to come back. Actually, he wants you just to stay here forever; you can get married here too." My response "But there's so many other places to travel to too!"

And that's a wrap!  Loved this article and the many travel memories that it brought back for me! :)