Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Little Taste of Home

Nick and I are very big fans of Mexican food, specifically, Tex Mex since Houston is the Tex Mex capital of the world (in my eyes anyways).  Upon moving to Taiwan we quickly started missing this comforting and delicious food (like within two weeks), so we decided we would try our hand at making our own tortillas.  I thought this would be a daunting task, but it turns out to be very easy to make!  After telling our friends at work, we decided to invite them over for Flautas!  One guy couldn’t make it to our planned event because he was going to be out of town, so we decided to have him over yesterday!  He was very excited and wanted to see the whole process.  When he got here, we set him to work mixing the batter for tortillas, but he was most excited about the smashing part!

Smashing the tortillas

Cooking the tortillas

The final, delicious product!

We all enjoyed getting to cook together!  As Nick is fond of saying, many hands make light work. 🙂  The Flautas ended up being delicious, as was the Mexican rice Nick made!  Sam surprised us at the end with some snacks from Penghu.  The first was a bag of mini crabs that had been preserved and seasoned some how, and the other was candied scallops.  We didn’t really care for these snacks, but they were definitely fun to eat.  It took me about 5 minutes to chew the scallop candy.  I finally just had to swallow it like a pill, but it tasted okay. 🙂  He also brought us brown sugar cake, which is a specialty that can only be found in Penghu.  We like brown sugar cake 🙂

The crabs

The candied scallops

Brown Sugar Cake!



In case you are interested, here is our recipe for Tortillas.

3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup warm water

1. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt
2. add in the vegetable oil and water
3. Mix until it is a big ball
4.  take small balls of dough and smash each flat.  We put the dough balls between two plastic bags so the dough doesn’t stick to our hands or the surface.
5. Cook individual tortillas on a flat pan until both sides have brown spots (they’ll look like tortillas).
6. Enjoy!

They are really easy to make!  If you are interested in making Flautas, be prepared for a little bit of work, but it’s totally worth it.

1. fry each tortilla in veg. oil until it puffs up some (a few seconds per side)
2. Stuff each tortilla with a mixture of baked chicken, bell peppers, onions, cumin, garlic salt, salt, pepper, or whatever else you fancy, and of course cheese!
3.  Put each stuffed tortilla on the grill (or skillet) until it has browned on both sides.  The melted cheese should help hold it closed.
4. Enjoy!  They are great dipped in sour cream or guacamole!

Categories: Cooking, Travel | Tags: , | 8 Comments

A Hard Day at Work

On Friday Nick and I went to teach on a small island called Jeibei.  This island is known to be very beautiful and therefore a popular tourist destination, so needless to say, we were very excited to be going here!  This was our first lone expedition, meaning that no one from our school would be going with us.  I was a little nervous about that, but then we were told that we would be going with the dentist that traveled with us to the other island.  (If you don’t remember that adventure, look here).  That calmed my nerves, because he seemed like a nice man.  So when Friday morning came, we met him at his dentist office, and rode in his car to the boat dock.  Riding in his car was an experience all of it’s own.  Most people here ride scooters because they are more convenient and the roads are narrow, so riding in a car is usually a little scary.  He was weaving in and out of traffic and honking at everyone, but after 20 minutes we arrived safely. 🙂  We only had to wait a few minutes to get on the boat, and while we were waiting, the dentist gave us drinks and snacks of pineapple cake (which is a specialty here, and very tasty)!  He also gave us maps of all the islands and pointed out which one we would be going to.

The dock.

Our boat.

The boat we took was filled with tourists going over for a fun filled day at the beach.  The ride only took about 20 minutes, which is good, because the water was pretty choppy.  As soon as we disembarked, we came to a huge scooter depot!  There were seriously hundreds of scooters lined up just waiting for someone to rent!  We followed the dentist to a scooter stand and he rented one for us.  The scooter we rode was smaller than the one we own, and much slower!  We had to go over a big hill to get to the elementary school, and we didn’t think the poor guy was gonna make it.  I seriously considered peddling with my feet! 😛  Surprisingly it made it all the way to the school (which was really just a 5 minute ride).  We parked at the public health center that the dentist was working at all day, and walked over to the school that was next door.

When we got to the school, the Military Service guy at the school was sitting in this tiny chair digging rocks out of the cracks (notice that the bucket is bigger than the chair)! I felt for him.

When we showed up at the school, the English teachers greeted us, and told us that we didn’t need to be back until lunch time.  They told us that we could go to the beach, or drive around the island if we wanted to.  But we felt the need to be responsible, so we decided to wait at the school all morning and perfect our lesson plans.

Nick with the tiny scooter.

NOT!!!!  We jumped on the opportunity to go to the beautiful beach!  We got back on our tiny scooter and high tailed it to the beach.  We had to stop along the way to buy some cheap bathing suits, but it was totally worth it!  The beach on Jeibei is beautiful! The water is so blue and clear!  The water was a little cold, so we didn’t actually swim, but we walked all the way around the beach in the shallow water.  While we were walking and talking, it dawned on us just how amazing God is.  I should say re-dawned, because we realize this frequently.  It’s funny how sometimes we forget and get caught up in ourselves.  We talked about how He knew exactly what He was doing when He brought us to Penghu.  This has been the perfect place to start our adventures and our marriage.  We get to work together everyday!  Since we seem to have less distractions here, we have been able to get incredibly closer to God and to each other!  The people here are so kind to us and help us with whatever we need!  AND we get paid to spend the morning at the beach!  God’s plans are definitely better than our own!!!!

There is a stone weir behind me. Stone weirs are man made walls that trap fish when the tide goes out.

Here we are, having a BLAST!!!

Isn’t it beautiful?

Meet Nick’s new flower shorts 🙂

Next, we decided to drive around the island.  There is a road that circles the island along the water line, so we took tiny scooter on a trip.  We were thankful that he made it! 🙂  The island is pretty small, so the whole trip took about 30 minutes.  Along the way we saw some more stone weirs, boats, beautiful views (of course), a light house, and some interesting grave sites.

Cute houses

Don’t you love the trees lining the road?

After our morning of adventure, we went back to the school just in time for lunch.  The English teachers asked us if we wanted to eat alone or with the students.  We told them that we would eat with the students because we thought they might be excited to see us, and man were we right!  When we entered the room, there were two desks set up at the front of the class, facing the rest. We sat down at these and waited for all the students to get their food and sit down.  Before they started eating, they all said some type of prayer in Chinese.  I was surprised because I didn’t know they did this.  After that, they were eager to talk with us.  Unfortunately these students were only in second grade, so they didn’t know very much English.  Thankfully the teacher helped to translate, and we enjoyed the questions they asked.  They wondered how tall we were, where we were from, if we had any babies (lol), how old we were, and other things of that nature.  After lunch they started bombarding us with questions in Chinese, apparently they didn’t understand that we didn’t know what they were saying, but it was still a lot of fun!  Then they showed us where we could take our rest (nap).  They held our hands and tried to make us hold hands, and talked the whole way.  It was very cute and heart warming.

After lunch time, we started teaching our classes.  I taught about things around the Library, and Nick taught water sports.  After our classes, the students asked if we would play basketball with them.  They are all in love with basketball, especially the Houston Rockets because Jeremy Lin is from Taiwan!!!  We played with them for a little bit and then had to go back to the boat to go home.  When we got back to the dock, we got back in the dentist’s car and went home.  He took us a back way, which meant he went down roads that cars really don’t fit on and used his four wheel drive to climb a hill that over looked the city.  The view was pretty, and he took our picture!  He is a really nice man, and we hope to see more of him 🙂

This is us on the hill.

We were exhausted by the time we got home, but we had a blast!!!  I hope you all had a great day at work on Friday and had a great weekend as well!!!  On Sunday, we bought a couch, it will be delivered today, so we are very excited about that!  We will post a picture when we get it!!

See ya next time

Categories: Education, Island Teaching, Nature, Taiwan, The Beach | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Let’s go for a drive!

Those were Nick’s words Sunday morning.  We had been wanting to drive North to a few of the townships in Penghu.  Magong City is the only city in Penghu.  The other islands are only considered townships. (There’s a factual snack for you).  Anyways, after church Sunday morning we went to get new helmets.  New helmets you say?!  Didn’t you just get helmets with your new scooter?  Yes, and yes.  Winter in Penghu is very windy, and we got a little taste of that this weekend.  The wind was so strong, that we could barely hold our eyes open while driving, and the wind would get under our helmets and pull them up, practically choking us.  Our new helmets are full helmets.  They have the windscreen that comes down in front of your face, and they completely cover our heads, unlike our last ones which were basically hats.

So, prepared with our new helmets, we started out on our journey.  The first stop we made was to see the windmill farm.  There wasn’t too much to see there, but we took a picture to document the event, and continued on our way.

Me in front of the windmill farm (it was very windy, so excuse my crazy hair).

From there, we traveled to the Great Bridge.  This bridge connects two of the islands.  Before we crossed, we stopped and took pictures of course, and headed on over to the Banyan tree nearby.  Banyan trees are interesting trees.  They have many aerial roots that all look like tree trunks.  They grow over a large area of land, and the roots are indistinguishable from the original trunk.  It was very nice to sit under the tree and relax.  While we were there, we got some cactus ice cream that was surprisingly very tasty!  It is a specialty here in Penghu.  I wouldn’t have guessed this before becoming more familiar with Penghu, but the climate here is very dry, so cactus grow here.  When we were walking around beneath the shade of the tree, a tour guide recognized us as the English teachers at Wen Ao.  Unfortunately, he only spoke Chinese, but eventually we understood what he was trying to say.  (We now know how to say English teacher in Chinese).

Would you like to learn? Okay, here it goes English= yīng wén  teacher= Lǎo shī.  I know, you’re thinking, this doesn’t look like Chinese!  Don’t worry, this is a way of writing Chinese called pin yin.  It’s easier for us English speakers because, to us, traditional Chinese looks like  lines and doesn’t make any sense.   Pin yin is supposed to tell you how to say it, but it doesn’t help much unless you know how to pronounce the words in pin yin (it’s not like English pronunciation).  So I’ll try my best to type it phonetically.  Ying= ing wen=when (yīng wén)  lao= lao shi=shir (Lǎo shī) so all together Ing Wen Lao Shir means English teacher! Have fun with that 😀

The Banyan tree

This is us with our Cactus Ice Cream under the Banyan tree.

After we left the Banyan tree, we drove over the Great Bridge and went to the Whale Cave.  Don’t places have great names here?! The whale cave is a cliff that the ocean has eroded so it kinda looks like a whale.  We absolutely loved it here!  The roar of the ocean is so loud, you are able to just sit and take in God’s creation.  I felt so peaceful sitting there watching the ebb and flow of the waves and hearing it crash onto the rocks.  The wind was blowing very fiercely as well, so the rest of the world sort of disappears for a few moments and you’re left with yourself and God!  It was the perfect time to have a little chat with Him.  From our perch up high (we kind of wandered off of the paved path, which was totally worth it) we could also see a basalt cliff.  Basalt is rock made from lava, and is very common here, in fact they use it to make walls around their vegetable gardens to keep the wind from blowing everything away.  It is beautiful to look at because it has many different colors.

The entrance to the Great Bridge

The Whale Cave

Some waves breaking over the rocks. Did I mention these were huge waves?

So after seeing all this, we went to an old fort that has been here for a long time.  We didn’t take any pictures, because there really wasnt’ much to see, and honestly we were tired.  So after that short expedition we decided to return home.  So we rode straight home.  This ride lasted an hour, and was very uncomfortable.  Riding for an hour on a scooter is not fun.  When we got home our backs were sore and our legs were cramped from staying in one position for too long.  Our pain paled in comparison to the wonderful time we had and the beautiful sights we saw on our trip. 🙂  We will definitely go back, and take any one who wants to see, but we will take frequent breaks. 🙂

See y’all

Categories: Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Adventures in Food

So I know everyone is curious about what we eat here, and how we do it.  We haven’t exactly gotten it down to a science yet, but we thought we would share our adventures in food with everyone.  We have made some mistakes, so try not to laugh at us too hard, okay? 🙂

Okay, so first, we don’t have Walmart, or Target, or Kroger, or any one-stop-shop sort of place, so in order to get the materials together for one meal, we have to go to at least 2 places, sometimes 3, so we really have to plan our meals, which is usually a challenge for us, we’re more fly by the seats of our pants kinda people (exhibit one: we live in Taiwan).  We are slowly (like snail’s pace) getting better at it, and finding out the best way to do our shopping.  These are the things we have figured out so far.

1. The Farmer’s Market is only open from about 6 am-1pm, so we can really only go on Saturday mornings
2. The grocery store closest to our house does not have everything that we need.  There is a bigger grocery store farther from our house that has more of a selection, and it’s close to the Farmer’s Market.
3. Any type of bread has to be bought from the bakery, but it’s so delicious!
4.  If we need any special cooking utensil, we have to go to the affectionately named “everything store.”  We don’t know what it’s really called, but it pretty much has everything you could need for anything (mostly). 😉

Some of the delicious bread we get from the bakery.

They are all stuffed with some interesting, yet delicious filling. We still aren’t sure what this one is.

We had to get it!!! Unfortunately it didn’t dawn on us to take a picture until we started chowin’ down.

The Farmer’s Market. Part of it anyway.

Fish anyone?

So, one “real” meal requires going to the Farmer’s Market to get the meat and veggies, and going to the grocery store to get any other things we need, like spices or rice etc.  Oh and did I mention, that Taiwan has a very limited selection on most things?  And the things we can get are usually a little different.  The spices we can find are very limited, they mostly have different versions of pepper.  The milk tastes different.  The peanut butter is sweet.  They don’t have baking powder, or cream of tartar.  They don’t sell vanilla extract.  There are only about 6 kinds of cereals sold here (and most of them are chocolate flavored).  And there is a huge shelf devoted to rice.  This just means that we have gotten more creative!

Our first bit of creativity. If you didn’t notice in the house pictures, we don’t have an oven, so we had to make due.

All in one pan. It didn’t look very good, but it ended up tasting great. That’s the important thing, right?

Or first batch of pancakes. Remember how we said we couldn’t find baking powder here? Well we tried to substitute baking soda, but to our dismay, they are not the same at all. Needless to say, these weren’t very tasty 😦 They were beautiful though.

We decided to make our own tortillas! They were delicious!!!

We used our tortillas to make breakfast burritos. 😀

We also remember that when all else fails, there’s always McDonalds 🙂  Which by the way has happy hour during peak lunch and dinner times, so we get our meals for cheap!!!

We are really enjoying the opportunity to be creative and experience the culture here.  We are hoping to have some friends from work over for dinner soon, so please be in prayer that we will be able to continue a good friendship with them and have opportunities for deeper conversation.

Love y’all

Categories: Cooking, Humor, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 26 Comments

A little more info about our job

Nick and I have been getting tons of questions about what exactly it is that we do here in Taiwan, so I will make a quick post to try and answer all the questions.

1. Do you have the same class  schedule for the whole semester?
–No.  Our schedules will change from week to week depending on whether or not other schools make an appointment to have a class in our English Village.  If no schools make an appointment for the English Village, we will teach English classes at our school.

2. What are your English classes like?
–The English classes that we teach at our school have about 30 students in them.  We teach with a co-teacher who is a native teacher who teaches English here.  In these classes, the students have text books that they use to learn English.  It is basically like a foreign language textbook that you would use in the states.  The books cover different topics, and the students have assignments that coincide with the textbook.  BUT, the native English teachers have requested that when we teach classes, we use a story book instead of the textbook.  They think this will add variety for the students, and it gives us free reign with what we would like to teach.  They give us input as to topics they would prefer, but ultimately we make all our lessons from scratch.

3.  How is your teaching split?
–Nick teaches the older students (grades 5 and 6) and I teach the lower grades (2,3,4).  We do not teach English to K and 1.  The most classes we will teach in a week is 20, but as for now, we only have 12 forty minute classes.

4.  What is this English Village?
–Our school has a whole wing devoted to the English Village.  It consists of 10 classrooms all based around a theme.  The themes are: Penghu Culture, Having Fun in Penghu, Penghu Cuisine, Penghu Natural Resources, Penghu Souvenirs, Health Center, Airport, Library, Newsroom, and Water Sports.  The lesson plans that we wrote for these rooms consist of vocabulary based on the room’s theme. For example in the Newsroom we teach vocabulary dealing with a news room and news report, like anchor, via satellite etc.  Other schools in Penghu county can request to have classes in our English Village.  Whenever that happens, they make an appointment and select the rooms they wish to go to, and our English Village secretary will tell us which rooms we are going to teach and when.  As far as we know, our students will only come to the English Village from time to time, but not for regular classes.

5.  Do you travel and teach?
–Yes!  Occasionally, schools on rural islands will request the mobile English Village.  These are schools that are so remote, you have to take a boat to get there, so they can’t bring all of their students here.  Instead, we go to them!  They still request which rooms in the English Village they would like, but we take our ppts and materials there and teach about the room.  It usually takes all day, so we teach for about 3 hours and then get to tour the islands the rest of the day until the boat is ready to leave.

I think that covers the bulk of the questions, but if you think of more, post them in the comments section and we’ll try and answer them the best we can 🙂


Categories: Education, FYI, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Let the Teaching Begin!

On Monday we journeyed to a very remote island to teach English at small school there.

Let me set the scene.  Nick and I wake up at 6:00 in the morning (1 hour before we normally wake up mind you) to hurry and get dressed for our first day of teaching.  On a remote island.  That most likely will not have any air conditioning.  My first thought…what do I wear?  Thankfully Nick calmed me down and helped me pick out my clothes, which ended up being jeans, a t-shirt, and my tennis shoes (because that’s totally acceptable here ;D)  Anyway, our coworker meets us at our house to show us where we need to catch the boat.  That’s right, we are taking a boat to this island.  We arrive at the dock to find tons of people scurrying around to load things onto the boat.  We see boxes of food and drinks and suitcases and other random boxes.  And it smells like fish.

Then we load the boat.  We are some of the last people on, so we have to walk through everyone to get to our seats.  At last we embark.  The boat was loud, but pretty smooth.  After about 15 minutes, our principal calls us up to the deck to look at some of the scenery.  There are random islands around that are very beautiful.  He points out different ones that are known for different things (unfortunately I don’t remember any of these islands) and then tells us that we won’t be seeing anything else until we arrive at the island in about 45 minutes.  While we wait, Nick reads and I inevitably fall asleep.  We finally arrive at the island and unload the cargo and journey up to the community center, where all the kids are gathered.

This is us on the boat.

This is what we see as we’re getting off the boat.

A little lagoon where the kids will some times play during recess.

When we walked in there is a magician performing for the 13 students we are going to teach.  Thirteen, that’s all the kids on the island.  When the magician finishes, we are introduced, which by the way is always a little awkward because they want us to say something about ourselves, but no one can understand what we are saying.  Anyways, then they introduce some other people who journeyed over with us and then divided up the students between myself (1st,2nd,4th grades) and Nick (5th and 6th).  Nick’s group leaves to go up the school and my group stays in the community center. Thankfully there was air conditioning because it was a hot day.

This is the school. It’s located on the highest point on the island.

The students I worked with had not had very much English before, so they were very shy and confused when I spoke.  Thankfully a teacher was there to translate for me and help, without her, my lesson would have been a complete flop.  My lesson consisted of “what is your name?” “My name is ______.” a story containing names of fruit and animals, and of course games!  It was a little difficult because the students would leave one-by-one to see the dentist who was at the back of the room, but I’ll talk more about him later.  After a while, the students started to warm up to me.  Thanks in part to the goofy faces I made at them when I caught them staring.  🙂  After three hours of teaching, everyone comes back in to have lunch.

All the students I taught with their animal masks we made. The lady on the left is my co-teacher 🙂

One of the students with the dentist.

Normally lunch here consists of rice, some type of meat and veggie, and possibly fruit, but today there was a feast!  All the boxes of food that were loaded on the boat we cracked open for this feast.  In a state of confusion, we asked our co-teacher what the special occasion was, and she tells us that it is in honor of the dentist.  Apparently he makes the rounds to all the rural islands once a year to check the children’s teeth.  He had all his equipment with him (hence all the random boxes on the boat).  It was a regular dentist’s office.  Anyways, lunch is delicious.  We eat tons of sweets like cakes, and little cookies that taste like cotton candy, and chicken nuggets, and soup, and mini pies, and tons of other things I can’t even remember. (Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a picture).

After lunch, everyone retires to an air conditioned room to take a nap.  Nick and I end up falling asleep too, and before we know it we are being summoned to take a tour of the island.  We set off with the rest of the group, and tons of guava that someone passed around, to see the island.  We walk up hill for a very long time.  Everyone once in a while a man will stop and explain something to everyone.  Unfortunately we couldn’t understand what he was saying, but the gist was that there are old houses on the island.  We continue walking, and walking, and walking, and soon we are looking out over the ocean from a very high cliff.  The view from up there was amazing!  I’ll let the pictures show you (because someone once said a picture is worth a thousand words).

The old building. Notice that the covering made of mud and dirt is wearing away to expose the rocks the house is built out of.

The view of the beach down below.

More ocean views.

This is Nick in front of the ocean. 🙂

Oh and this is a guy with fresh squid on the back of his scooter.

We then walked up hill (again) to the light house.  While the man is talking, Nick and I read the sign that’s in English and it tells us that this is the western most island in Penghu.  We then take a long rest in the shade of the light house to cool down.   After that, we all journey (downhill this time) back to the boat to go home.  While we were walking we learned that all of the families on this island fish for a living.  There are maybe 50 people who live on this island.  We are exhausted and so hot, so of course once the boat starts moving, I fall asleep on the way home.

The light house!

That was our first day of teaching.  We think it was exciting and interesting.  It made us glad that we are here and have opportunities to explore while working.  We don’t know how often we will go back to that island, or if we ever will, but it was a memorable teaching experience.  🙂


Categories: Education, Island Teaching, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

One Amazing God!

Nick and I were able to go to church this weekend!  We didn’t know what time the church started, so we walked in right in the middle of the sermon.  It’s okay though, everyone was understanding.

While we couldn’t understand what was being said, we could feel the spirit moving throughout the people.  When the praise and worship started, we didn’t know what they were singing, but many of the songs were ones we were familiar with in English, so while they were singing in Chinese we were singing in English.  It brought tears to my eyes to know that even though we are in a different country, and the people are singing a different language, we are all worshiping the same magnificent God!  The knowledge that the same God who sent his son to die for me and the people I know back home is the same God who sent his son to die for people half a world away from me is beyond comprehension!  It really reassured me that Christianity is not just something we do for fun, or because it is habit, but because we are the children of a loving living God!

For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

That’s all for now, but I think it is worth having it’s own blog post.  Take some time today to meditate on who God is and what He has done for everyone in the world.

Categories: Faith | Tags: , | 4 Comments

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