Saturday, January 30, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Jurassic Adventure

While we were on our visit to the States Venus had sent me a photograph of a dinosaur exhibition going on in Taichung.  I hoped that it would still be here when we returned.  After a few days of being stuck inside and trying to recover from our jet lag the Tiny American and I made a plan to visit the exhibit.  The day of our scheduled visit we woke up to rain.  Since we walk almost everywhere we go, this was a problem.   We waited it out for awhile, with only about a thousand questions about when we were going to see the dinosaurs.  Note to not inform the Tiny American of the plan until we are actually walking out the door!

The rain finally stopped and the sun tried to peak through so we headed out.  In Taiwan we are in what is technically their winter. It is a tropical island so that means it isn't really THAT cold.  It was cooler than normal this day so I did dress Z accordingly, he had on a light sweatshirt and jeans and I packed his jacket in the stroller.  Our destination was about a mile maybe a mile and a half from our front door.  We made it almost all the way there before the sky opened up once again.  I have learned from my time here to never leave the house without an umbrella so I pulled it out and we walked quickly to the nearest building which happened to house a Toys R Us.

After wandering the aisles of the toy store and trying out all the cars and scooters we decided to see if the rain had passed.  It had indeed blown over and so we walked the last little bit of our journey and arrived at the Taichung Jurassic Exhibition.  He could see the largest dinosaur over the fence and could hear the rest, needless to say his excitement was evident when he ROARED back at them!  Taiwanese kids are as a rule pretty quiet....the Tiny American is not!

We paid our $250 nt ( about $8 US) and went in.  Im not sure what I expected but I was pleasantly surprised. There was lots of space for Z to wander around.  Some of the dinosaurs you could go up and touch others you could not, but the paths were clearly marked and he had a great time exploring.  The dinosaurs were animated as well as making sounds.  The news had suggested that small children might be afraid, some of the exhibits were of one dino eating a smaller one.  And there were a couple of fight scenes, but it didn't seem to phase him.

I convinced him to climb inside the Dinosaur mouth for a photo op!  He even gave me the surprised look!!  The Taiwanese love a good photo op, most of the people participating in this activity were adults, not the kids.  It's funny how things like that are just a cultural thing.

So we hung out for awhile  before it started sprinkling again and then I started to load Z up to start our walk home.  A lady that had been watching us fairly closely while we were there shuffled over to me and gave me a disposable rain poncho for Z.  I guess I failed yet again as a parent in the eyes of the locals....oh well!  I just said thank you and we headed out.

It's funny because in the States we might talk about what another mother is doing or not doing and most likely not do anything about it unless a child is being harmed.  Here they have no reservations about pointing out that I should have him dressed differently, warmer, cooler, or that he should wear a raincoat.  I just nod and go on...he doesn't even own a puffy coat.

The Dinosaurs were a big hit!  Jetlag is finally gone and we are back in a normal routine.  Life is good.

Notice everyone but the Tiny American is wearing a puffy coat!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Culinary Tour

We have had our fair share of visitors since we made the move to Taiwan.  I have seen and done a lot of things around the Island, some very touristy, some not so much. What I find super interesting is that locals do not do the normal touristy stuff, Venus is experiencing some of the things we go and do for the very first time right along with us and she has lived here her whole life!  In fact she just told me today that she visited the Chiang Kai Shek memorial for the first time this weekend, I think I have been 4 times.

When my brother said that he wanted to come visit I knew that what he would want to see would be different from what my mom and sister had been interested in.  We still had to hit some of the normal things like Taipei 101, but the main focus of his visit was FOOD.  He loves to cook, and he loves to eat good food, new food, unusual food.  He is not afraid to try anything.

His trip was scheduled and we were looking forward to his visit and then we hit a bump.  The company needed us to come home 2 weeks before we were scheduled to leave for some meetings.  We made the decision for John to go back and Zane and I would follow after my brother's visit.  I won't say I'm glad John was not here, but we did have a really good time just hanging out without spouses.  It would have been fun if Tashe or John or both had been here, but it was nice the way it worked out.

So what did we eat?  I planned our food mostly around the old streets of Taiwan.  Some of the towns are known for certain things and I wanted to make sure he could try as many different things as he wanted in the time we had.  He had a list of foods, I made a list and Venus filled in the blanks!  I am sure I will forget something but here is a glimpse of what it looked like.....

The very first day and the only day that John got to spend with us we started his visit off right with Din Tai Fung.  They are famous for their soup dumplings, xiaolongbao.  Seriously super yummy!  I also highly recommend their spicy cucumbers and green beans.

 Because we hadn't had enough to eat for lunch we did spicy hot pot for dinner!  SO good!!  There are lots of places to choose from in Taichung and all over the island for hot pot, it is a must do when you are here.

I should mention that the world series was going on while Bubba was visiting and he is a lifelong Royals fan so we had lots of cheering going on!  He actually was in the car listening to it on his phone when they won!!

We made a trip to Sun Moon Lake.  I don't have any pictures of the food from this day.  He did have one of his favorite treats while we were there though and that was the Tea Eggs.   Hardboiled eggs soaked, while still in their shell, in a giant tub of hot tea.  I did not try them but evidently they were amazing, I heard some talk that we might have tea egg deviled eggs at our next holiday gathering. We also sampled several varieties of tea here and lots of fresh fruit.  We were lucky to catch a beautiful sunset over the lake.

A visit to Yingge didn't really offer any great food choices, but it did have the ceramics museum which might sound boring but was actually very interesting.  The town was really pretty and one of my favorite places we just walked around.

Sanxia was another beautiful old street.  They are most famous for their Bull Horn Croissants, obviously named for their shape.  They are seriously SO yummy!  The ends are a little crunchy and the center is nice and soft, the flavor is a rich buttery goodness!  They come in a variety of flavors and some are even glazed but I would stick with the traditional and you won't go wrong.

By far my favorite town we visited was Tamsui.  It was situated on the water and there were tons of food options.  It happened that we were that at the perfect time of day, everything was open and bustling.  And we got to see an amazing sunset. I didn't get pictures but Bubba ate quail eggs on a stick here as well as some other icky kind of eggs that were black.  I had an awesome onion pancake here, one of my favorite street foods.

Venus lovess tofu of any kind....even stinky tofu!

The Tiny American really enjoyed his sugar cane juice.....who wouldn't right?

More Tofu

Stinky Tofu

Assorted fried seafood selections.  We had some really good shrimp from this cart.

Waiting on Dumplings

A little alfresco dinner on the go

The picture does not do it was really pretty

The Tiny American entertaining the crowd!

Jiufen was incredibly beautiful.  This Town used to be the center of gold mining in Taiwan. It is located in the mountains and overlooks the sea. We were there an a beautiful clear blue day! The streets are tight and narrow here, it's not just one long street it is several that make up this area. They are famous for their sweet potatoes and tea here.  I think while we were here Venus and Bubba at fish ball soup and several other questionable street foods.  I tried an ice cream spring roll which I highly recommend.  It is ice cream, rolled up in a very thin crepe and then rolled in peanut brittle good.  We also stopped for tea at a pretty little teahouse.

We Visited Shifen so that Bubba could release his lantern.  A must do for anyone visiting Taiwan.  I love this Old Street.
Lukang is always one of my favorite stops.  They have really quaint little shops where you can pick up nicer souvenirs as well as cheaper trinkets.  I think they have the very best steamed meat buns here.  Lukang is also home to my favorite paper lantern store.  It is small but really nicely painted lanterns and if you are there at the right time you can see the master painting. They will also do custom paintings.

The last night Bubba was here we scored tickets to an International Baseball game in Taipei.  We enjoyed what I think were some of the best panfried dumplings of all time there!

This was a long post with lots of pictures....if you made it to the end I applaud you and thank you for sticking with it!  We of course did several night markets and all the food that comes with that.  We had to look a little to find the Oyster pancake that someone told him he must try, it was not a hit!  Overall he enjoyed the food and we had a good time exploring the island to find it!   

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Expats at Home

We were in the States for almost 2 months.  Our planned trip was extended on either end causing us to spend almost a month more stateside than we had originally planned.  It was a great trip!  We have seen so many family and friends and the Tiny American and I played a lot....John got to play some too, but had to work a lot of the time we were home and travel as well.

I love being there and seeing everyone.  I love the time we get to spend with our older boys and not have to rely on FaceTime to see their smiling faces.  I like being in the same time zone as my sister.   On more than one occasion I found myself calculating the time difference before I made a call!

We are lucky as far as expats go, in that we have a home to go home to when we are there.  We don't have to stay in a hotel, although we do our share while we are there.  The Tiny American has his own bed in his own room and he has his own toys and lots of room to run and play.  I can't imagine if we relied entirely on other people for a place to stay or worse stayed in a hotel the entire time.

I was  ready to be back in Taiwan.  Last  year when I left to move here I never imagined that after a visit I would be eager to get back...but I was.  It is home, at least for now.  I miss our routine, the structure.  I miss our friends.  The expat life is a crazy one.  People come and go.  While we were gone 2 families that are part of a playgroup that the Tiny American and I participate in have moved.  Time is different for Expats, relationships develop faster and circumstances change more quickly.

I love this adventure we are on.  Some days are hard, but we have hard days no matter where we live, the challenges are just different here. This is not a life that I would have ever imagined for myself, but I am so glad it is the path we are on.  Do I want to live here forever? No, but I am going to enjoy it fully while I have the opportunity!

I will leave you with a few of my favorite pictures from our visit to the States.

My Heart

Riding Uncle David's Tractor

A houseful for Thanksgiving

My oldest Baby turned 21!

A meeting of the bothers

Duck Hunting in the early morning

The Pecan Tree


Working Hard

Denver Aquarium

Finally on our way home