Three Years Running

Today marks three years of marriage for Nick and me, and what a fabulous three years it has been!  For the last two years of marriage, we’ve been living in Taiwan, and for this next year, we will venture forth into the unknown of doing this marriage thing as real adult in the US (our first year of marriage, we were still in college, so I don’t count that as real adulthood).  What will this next year (and the next 20+) bring?

Here are some things we definitely want to do during this next year…

1. Buy a house.  That is a big commitment, and if we just get this one done, I’ll be good!  Nick wants a fixer-upper, but I would be just fine with a ready-to-live-in house (but because I love him, we’ll probably go with the fixer-upper).

2. Celebrate Christmas in our own home with oodles of decorations (and cookies).  I’m a sucker for Christmas.  It’s hands down my favorite time of year (really the whole Fall/Winter holiday season), and this year, we have no reason not to go all out!!!  This includes dressing the dog up for Halloween… he’s going to love it. 😉

3.  Do some camping!!  Camping out under the big Texas sky is something we’ve been dreaming about ever since we left the Lone Star State.

4. Find a new church home and get involved!!!  This is something we recommend to all people of all ages. We shouldn’t just to go to church, but invest ourselves in others and make disciples.

5.  Spend lots of time with our family and friends that we’ve missed these last two years.  This is gonna be fun!!

And, because I’m feeling sentimental (and because you all like looking at us)…enjoy some random photos of us through the ages. 🙂

Categories: Bucket List, Family, Fun Stuff, FYI | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

LASIK in Taiwan

Recently, Nick and I decided that we have been plagued by glasses for long enough, so we decided it was time to get LASIK!!!  The problem is that LASIK is just so dang expensive!!!  I like my eyes, but I don’t want to pay $3,000-$4,000 to get new peepers (figuratively speaking of course).  So, what’s a poor couple to do?  Get LASIK in Taiwan of course!!!

Since we live  in Taiwan where the medical industry is much cheaper than in America (and just as reliable), we decided to do some research and see how much it would be to get LASIK done here, and boy oh boy were we surprised!!!  We talked to our friends and co-workers, and one of them recommend we go to Kaoshsuing, Taiwan to get LASIK done at Dr. Yang’s Eye Alliance.  So, that’s what we did!

The doctor and his associates were very nice and friendly, and we were given a personal associate who took care of all of our pre-op tests (he spoke English, of course).  The doctor was friendly, spoke perfect English, and walked us through exactly what would happen during the procedure.  It all went smoothly and we couldn’t beat the price!!!  Nick’s was 35,000 NT and mine was 38,000 NT which translates to about $1,100 and $1,200 USD!!!!!  What a savings!!!  In fact, we decided that if you really wanted LASIK, you could travel to Taiwan, get LASIK, have a nice vacation (glasses-free, I might add), and go back home for CHEAPER than getting LASIK done in the US!!!  So, if you’ve been thinking about getting LASIK done, and international travel is something you love (like us), then think about coming to Taiwan!!!

BONUS!!!  We even got the opportunity to write a review on Dr. Yang’s website!!!

Read them here –> Olivia,  Nick

NOTE:  I was not reimbursed for this testimony, it was just something I thought the world should know more about!



Categories: FYI, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

America the Beautiful

Living in Taiwan means that we miss many American holidays and traditions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Super Bowl.  While neither of us are football fans, we enjoy watching the Super Bowl for the snacks and commercials.  In the age of social media, even living in a different country really doesn’t mean we’re completely out of the loop.  We get to read everyone’s updates about how Denver only scored 3 points, Mattress Mac lost $7 million dollars because of a bet with his customers, how the Red Hot Chili Peppers have lost it, and all that jazz (it’s really more entertaining personally).  But, my favorite thing social media has given us is the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl commercials post-Super Bowl.

There were lots of good ones, but my heart was saddened by many American’s hateful response to Coca Cola’s “America is Beautiful” commercial.  If you don’t remember it, or haven’t seen it, here it is.

It’s a beautiful multi-lingual rendition of America the Beautiful (NOT the national anthem, as so many of these haters suppose- I guess they didn’t listen closely and sing along at the beginning of the game) depicting American people doing American things in America, drinking an American favorite.  Many people responded with such hate, racism, and xenophobia to this simple and beautiful ad campaign stating that “in America we speak English.”  Let’s just overlook the fact that many people who posted such comments can’t even use grammatically correct English, and look at a foreigner’s point of view.

Being a foreigner in another country has given us a lot of perspective on what it’s like to live in America and not speak the language and be illiterate.  That’s right, in the country that Nick and I live in, we are completely illiterate.  We are the people who cause citizens to say, “If you’re going to live here, you should speak Chinese!”  Now, most of the people we come into contact with on a daily basis are very nice and hopefully don’t say those hateful things behind our backs, but it’s possible.  Living in another country is hard.  You move away from your family.  You are in a foreign land that you are not familiar with at all.  You don’t speak the language.   You can’t read.  You have very few contacts.  You are in a constant state of confusion.  You go without things because you can’t communicate your needs.  You are brave.

So why do people do this?  Why do people move to another country and leave everything they know behind?  Because they are in search of something better.  We moved to Taiwan for great jobs, just like many of the people who move to America.  They think, “This is the place to be.  This is where I will make my new life.”  After having seen some of the places that these people come from, I can see why they want to move to America.  We should be proud that people come to our country thinking, “this is where it’s at.”  We should welcome these people and try to make their lives easier.  We should respect them and the choices they have made.  Who cares if they don’t speak English?  As a matter of fact, we Americans should try harder to learn other languages and see other countries, but that’s a conversation for another day and another post.

Because America is a “melting pot,” we as Americans have a valuable and unique opportunity.  We can experience other cultures daily.  We know what the people of the world look like.  We don’t stare at people who have a different skin color, because that’s part of our everyday life.  No other place in the world offers that wonderful opportunity.  The fact that the people living here speak other languages is what makes America America.  We are THE melting pot.  So don’t be so narrow-minded.  Embrace it.  Love it.

Thank you Coca Cola for reminding us of the beautiful country that we live in that attracts people from all over the world.  Thank you for reminding us of all the opportunities to learn about other cultures from the comfort of our own homes.  Thank you.

Categories: FYI, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

How to Survive Winter in Penghu

During winter, Penghu is one of the windiest places on the planet.  Move over Chicago, there’s a New Windy City in town (or the world in our case).  From around November to March, we are constantly bombarded with gale force winds.  (To be honest, idk what gale force winds actually are, but I have a feeling they’re really strong winds).  The windows rattle, scooters get blown over, trees grow sideways, and nobody wants to go outside.  In fact, in order to go outside for any length of time, one must bundle up like an Eskimo lest the winds blow right through your clothes and chill you to your core.  On top of the wind, there are no heaters built into the buildings, so even when you’re inside, your poor little nose, fingers and toes are constantly cold. ALWAYS.  So, without further ado- how to survive winter in Penghu.

  1. Wear thick socks.  Your tootsies will thank you for it.
  2. Get a dog.  One that likes to cuddle.  They’re always warm!
  3. Invest in a thick coat, and use it always, even inside if you must.
  4. Wear scarves, gloves, hats and face masks in order to expose as little skin as possible to the Wind.
  5. Make sure everything you need for the whole night is nearby so that you can avoid getting up and disturbing the warm nest of blankets you’ve made.
  6. Watch lots of movies.  I mean, LOTS!
  7. Get a space heater and put is as close as possible so as to stave off some of the cold.
  8. Send your husband to bed first so he can warm it up.  🙂
  9. Drink lots of hot tea, hot chocolate, and coffee. Not only does it warm the soul; it also warms up your poor little phalanges.
  10. Complain as often as possible.  It really does help (by circulating extra hot air around you). 😛
This is a great example of survival tip #2.

This is a great example of survival tip #2.

Categories: Fun Stuff, FYI, Taiwan | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Running is bad for my health

I hate running.  I think it was sent from Hades himself to torture me.  I know many of you are thinking, “running is great!”  “I feel wonderful afterwards!”  “It helps me relieve so much stress!”  “I do my best thinking when I run!”  “Liv, you should really give it another try.”

Well, I have, and it’s just not workin’ for me.  Running makes me feel like the kid from The Goonies who’s forced to do the truffle shuffle.  I hate it.  I get sweaty and stinky and I have to take a shower afterwards (another thing I hate is showers), not to mention I wheeze like a chronic smoker.  Yeah, it’s not a pretty sight.

truffle shuffle

And for the record, the best stress reliever for me is sitting on the couch snuggling and eating brownies while watching a movie.  Now that right there is perfection! Also I do my best thinking while sitting and thinking (it takes lots of concentration).

Despite my vaguely concealed hatred, my husband still thinks it’s a good idea to “take a jog” every once in a while. So, earlier this week, I conceded to his pleas and went for a jog run…with three dogs. (Granted, I was only holding onto one of them- the old one mind you.)  So we wake up early and begin our, didn’t know ’til later, two mile jog run.

As always, I started out thinking.  “This isn’t too bad.”  “The weather’s nice, it’s not that far, I can do this!”  What a lie.  About 5 minutes in I’m huffing and puffing and getting pulled by the (old) dog.  I keep encouraging myself until we reach the halfway mark.  By then, I’m spent.  I’m thinking, “just go get the scooter and pick me up here, then find a nice grave by the ocean for me.”  Rather than die, I decide to take a break and walk a little, which means that Nick gets soo far ahead of me.  Oh, yeah and the dog still wants to run, so I’m still getting pulled.

Thinking I’ll be clever, I decide to make a short cut through the field to catch back up with Nick.  Little did I know, but there were people playing golf in the field. (It is a driving range, but, really, people, golf at 6 am?)  So now I’m trying to catch up with Nick (which means more running), pulling a dog that now decides it’s time to find a place to poo, but I’m also watching for flying golf balls!  In the midst of my golf ball dodge, I suddenly realize I’m just pulling an empty collar on the leash.  The dog had wriggled out of it and was sniffing around, the devilish fiend!  FINALLY, I make it back to the side walk with the dog in tow and catch up with Nick who’s now waiting on me.

So there you have it folks, running is bad for my health.  Now excuse me while I go gobble up some gooey brownies and watch a Disney movie.

Categories: Fun Stuff, FYI, Humor | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments


Perfection.  We all aim for it.  We all miss it.  We all get upset every time.  Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?  We’re not perfect, we’ve known that since Adam and Eve, yet every time we miss that mark we ask ourselves why.  Now I’m not here to point out the flaws of the human race or get into some deep theological shenanigans, but I just want to say, you don’t have to be perfect.

God doesn’t expect it.  He doesn’t judge us on how well we climb the corporate ladder, or how well behaved our kids are, or if we remember all our students names all of the time (this is a BIG problem of mine).  He loves us whether we succeed every time or fall flat on our faces over and over again.  So why do we put our self worth on those silly human things?  Lately many of my friends have been telling me how stressed they feel.  How they put so much pressure on themselves to be perfect, and it’s a wreaks havoc on their self esteem.  This is no way to live people!  Let’s put our self worth in God!  We should be filled with joy!  We should be enjoying the lives that God gave us!  So let’s make mistakes.  Let’s miss the perfection mark.  Let’s take some pressure off of ourselves and rely on God!

Psalm 121:1-2  I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD,  the Maker of heaven and earth.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

We’ll fail sometimes, and that’s okay because our God loves us the same yesterday, today, and forever!  He’s always right there, to help us up, to encourage us, to forgive us.  So, when your best laid plans fail, don’t despair.  Turn to God, get filled up again, be refreshed, and remember next time, remember, you don’t have to be perfect.  Try your best.  Ask God for help.  Put your trust in Him, not yourself.  I promise you, you’ll feel better.  You’ll feel calm.  You’ll feel happy, joyful even!  It’s a great feeling!!!

Psalm 16:8  I keep my eyes always on the LORD.  With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 34:8  Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Isaiah 41:13  For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Categories: Faith, FYI | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare says that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and although he’s right about that, I think it would lose some of its appeal if it was called an ox, or a fork, or a seat.  It’s just not doing it for me.  Wake up and smell the forks.  See what I mean?  Names are important.

In our job, Nick and I have had the privilege of picking English names for some of our students.  This is a fun part of our job, but it also carries some pressure, I mean some of these kids will use these English names for the rest of their lives.  Other kids will change their names five times in the course of their school years alone.  Take Eagle for instance.  Last year his name was Summer, he comes back for school and says his name is now Eagle (even though he can’t spell it).  We think he got tired of hearing “Summer!” from the teachers.  Unfortunately, the name change did not help change his behavior, and next year he’ll be tired of hearing “Eagle!” and change his name yet again.

Picking English names is kinda fun.  We try not to just pick names willy-nilly, but instead try to find something that sounds like their Chinese name.  So we’ll listen to their Chinese name a few times and then pick something that has a similar sound in it.  This way it’s easier for them to remember and say (which is helpful for students who don’t know English very well).  Of course, every once in a while we’ll come across a name like Cake, Ocean, Pink, Boots, Wacy, or Doraemon, and those get us giggling each time.

It’s the same way with us.  For our banking and other important things, we need Chinese names.  Our co-workers picked names that sound like our English names.  It’s quite fun and I feel special having a Chinese name.  I’m sure you’re wondering what they are, so I’ll be kind and share them with you!  Olivia- 孫麗薇 (Sun Li wei) Nick- 孫尼克 (Sun Nicka)


We are currently teaching an evening class of adult postal workers.  We also had the privilege of giving some of them English names.  We suggested Vincent to one man, and he seemed to like it until another man brought up Vincent Van Gogh and the fact that he was crazy and cut off his ear.  Needless to say, Vincent is now Paul. 🙂

Categories: Education, Fun Stuff, FYI, Taiwan | Tags: , , | 5 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

Some Long Awaited Updates

Hello all!

I’m so sorry we have kept you all on the edges of your seats, but we are back with lots of fun stuff to share with you. 😀  Put on your seat belts, cuz this is going to be a long ride.

So, Nick told you about our flight and the first day (look back at the post, there are some pictures now), but A LOT has happened since then.  Remember that culture shock we talked about earlier, well we’ve been experiencing that, but it has been GREAT, so thanks for your prayers!!  First of all, we have to tell you that the people here in Taiwan are so kind and friendly.  We have been having such a great time at training with the native Taiwanese people who have been our counselors.  They have taken us all over the city, which by the way, is amazing.  Here’s a glimpse of what we see while walking around (which is the main mode of transportation we have used while here, so our feet are being put to the test).

The street the NAER is on

The same street at night. Don’t you love all the lights?

Scooters Scooters EVERYWHERE!!!!!

On the second day of training, we went to a Ceramic museum then a place where we were able to do some indigo dying.  The museum gave us the history of ceramics, and had some creative and beautiful works of art.  We were also stared at by little kids on field trips, and our shining moment was when some girls asked to take a picture with us.  We were overjoyed at this request and quickly said yes.  So for all you back home you can now tell your friends that you know some celebrities. 😀  Indigo dying was a wonderful experience as well.  It’s basically like doing tye dye, but in Taiwan, so it’s so much cooler already.  Nick and I made some wonderful works of art, and Nick got lots of compliments on his.

Did YOU know toilets were museum worthy?

Nick and I thought this was a cute work of art, made entirely out of ceramic. Now that’s some talent!

Every night after training, we usually walk around the city and take in the local culture and food.  There are some very interesting things here.  One of the things that has surprised me the most is seeing a whole family on a scooter.  Yes, I said whole family, including a dad, mom, two kids, and some times a dog.  In addition to this, we love seeing street vendors selling an array of Taiwanese delicacies like roast corn and stinky tofu.  Everything here is so open, most store fronts open right onto the streets and don’t have doors.  One night when we were walking around, it was our fellow teacher and friend Van’s birthday, so we stopped at a bakery.  We sang her happy birthday in Chinese and enjoyed some milk tea and cake (complete with candles).

Van blowing out her candles

Our most recent adventure was shopping on and old street nearby that had different food vendors and shops.  We passed a temple where some monks were singing songs to scare away ghosts.  In the Chinese calendar this is the month of ghosts, so we have seen several different things celebrating this.  Along our walk, our counselor got a pig’s blood rice cake for us to try.  We were hesitant at first, but she said it was very good and a traditional food here…so we tried it!  I am still in shock that I ate something made with blood, but it actually was kinda good.  It was sweet and had peanut powder sprinkled on top.  We suggest that if you are ever in Taiwan, you should take the plunge and try some.  In addition to this, we had some ice cream that is in a croissant instead of a cone, it was very tasty. 🙂 The last stop on our tour was a local restaurant where they brought us tons of food complete with a whole fish!  It was all very tasty and we were so full by the time we left!

Monks playing to scare the ghosts away.

Pig’s blood rice cake.

Ice cream!!!

SO much food and this is just the half of it!

Today we head out to our island Penghu.  Please pray that we get acquainted with the people in our school and the area where we will be living.  Good news!  We found out from some friends here at training that there is a church on our island that we can attend!  Please pray that we can get involved there very quickly and start doing God’s work in our community.  We still don’t have a place to live, so pray that we find somewhere quickly.  We are really looking forward to this week and the rest of this year.  We will miss our counselors and fellow teachers, but we know we’ll be able to see them again soon! 🙂

Love you all!

Categories: FYI, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

We made it!

It seems like a long time since we left Texas.  Saturday morning we left the house around 7:30 to catch the flight that made the first leg of our journey to Los Angeles.  After 3.5 hours in the air, we landed in California at noon only to find out that our connecting flight had been delayed, turning a 6-hour layover into about 8 hours of restless sitting.  One 13.5 hour flight, 13 time zones, and the international date line brought us to Taipei around midnight Sunday.

Thankfully, we made it through customs, exchanged currency, and picked up our luggage without any issues.  Olivia and I got on a van and rode 30 minutes out of the city to NAER, the National Academy for Educational Research, where we are staying until Friday during our training.  When we finally called home (around 12:30 or 1PM in Texas), the clock in our room read 3AM Monday.

Breakfast this morning (after a short 4 hours of sleep) consisted of spongy bread, toast, some sort of meat, and almond tea.  We thankfully had time for a quick nap before our training and lunch began.

This is what our breakfast looked like. Yummy!

Today’s training mostly involved an orientation with where we are staying, tips about how to enjoy our time here and what to expect, and a group photo, which apparently is the most frequent way to end any meeting.  We also had our first course in “Survival Chinese,” where we learned about 20 words and phrases.

For our first dinner, the NAER held a welcoming party complete with Coca-Cola, fried chicken, and pizza!  My favorite tonight was the slice with bacon, peas, shrimp, and squid, but Olivia was not a fan of the pizza with wasabi peas.  After eating, we played a short ice-breaker, learned to sing and dance (poorly) to a Taiwanese pop song, and got to know one another a little better.  I headed back to our room but Olivia decided to stay a little while longer to watch (and probably sing) karaoke.  It’s only about 9PM here, but with the jet-lag and a busy day, it feels like it is long past time for bed.

On the screen is a popular Taiwanese Pop song that is sung at every karaoke party. We got to learn the words (sort of).

We have had a great, although exhausting, first day—everyone has been so kind and helpful.  We definitely know this is where God wants us, but for now, I want some sleep.  Tomorrow holds more Chinese lessons and other training, but I think they also have fun, culture-related adventures planned.


Categories: FYI, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

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