Travel

It’s finally here!!!

Tomorrow Nick and I will be flying back to America, back to home!!!  You know the old saying, Parting is such sweet sorrow?  Well I totally understand that now.  Going home is such a bittersweet thing for us.  We’re so excited, because “home” will always be home, no matter how far we travel, but we will be leaving a part of our hearts here in Taiwan.  The whole two years we’ve been living in Taiwan, we’ve been missing friends and family back in the US, but now, going back, we’ll have all of our new friends in Taiwan to miss.  I guess nothing is ever perfect.

We have enjoyed are time here immensely and our lives will forever be changed because of the two years we lived here.  We have gotten to experience new food, new people, new cultures, new languages, and a new way of life, and that can never be taken away. 🙂

On another note…no one ever tells you how much stuff you can acquire over two years.  We tried not to buy things, but it’s inevitable.  So, for the last few days we’ve been going through everything trying to decide what to keep and what to toss because it won’t all fit!!  Where’s a Mary Poppin’s bag when you need one?

Well, I guess it’s farewell for now.  Our next post will be brought to you from the United States of America!!

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Categories: Family, Friendship, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

It’s the Final Countdown!

*Cue Music*

In four weeks, Nick and I will leave Taiwan forever.

That’s a little dramatic.  We hope to return some day for some travels, or maybe even some more teaching.  Who knows?!

But no matter, we are excited to move back home.  Taiwan has been a great place for us these last two years and will always, always hold a special place in our hearts, but it’s time for the next chapter in the wonderful book God is writing for us called Our Lives.

Isn’t it great to know that God always has a plan for us?  Even in this in-between time when we’re not sure where we’ll be working or living this Fall, there is comfort in knowing that God has a plan and He will take care of us.  He has most definitely taken care of us these last two years as we made our way into the unknown, and He will continue to take care of us and guide us for the rest of our days!

As we pack up our house, our dog, and our lives, we take comfort, joy, and excitement in the future that God has written for us!

Categories: Faith, Fun Stuff, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 7 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

Weekend Shenanigans

Hello folks!!

Summer is officially here (at least in my mind), and that means more beach time!!!  Yay!!!  This weekend we kicked off our summer with a trip to our favorite snorkeling spot, Shili Beach, and boy was it a sight for sore eyes.  Other than the water being ridiculously cold, we had a great time snorkeling with some teachers Nick met while teaching on the island of Cimei.  We saw some clown fish, zebra fish, and I saw two eels!  We even brought the pup along  He didn’t appreciate being left on the beach while we went for a swim, but he had fun digging in the sand and playing ball.  It was a great day, that’s soon to be repeated!

Categories: Friendship, Fun Stuff, Nature, Taiwan, The Beach | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

TBT: Tokyo Sumo

Joining the “Throwback Thursday” bandwagon, I decided it’s finally time for me to make good on my promised Sumo blog post.

This takes us back to our winter vacation in January 2013, when Olivia and I spent several days in Tokyo, Japan.  On our last day there, we got up early at 5 am (isn’t vacation for sleeping in?!) and waited in line in freezing weather (our Texas blood isn’t used to Japan’s winters) for 2 hours, and got tickets to see Sumo wrestling!
If you follow the professional Sumo circuit, you’ll know that these tournaments take place twice a year in seven different areas in Japan, each one lasting two weeks before moving to the next place.  It just so happened that the last day of our trip coincided with the last day of the tournament in Tokyo, and we were lucky enough to get tickets!  (Nosebleed seats only sell the day of the tournament, while the better seats sell our early and have high prices).
It was a day of fun and learning, experiencing the history and culture that has created modern-day Sumo.  The rules seem simple:  the object is to either knock your opponent down or push them out of the ring (only your feet can touch the floor or you are considered “down”).  However, there is much more to this sport.
The Opening
There’s more to the opening than just fat men parading around in cloth diapers (not every wrestler is fat!).  Each wrestler has a fancy half-dress thing that I’ll just call an “apron.”  These aprons have different colors and a “coat-of-arms,” which is different for each man.  Want one of your own?  Be ready to throw down at least $20,000 USD!  The men all enter the ring, circle it, and each throws salt into the ring.  This is to ward off bad spirits who might cause injuries.  (There’s a lot of salt throwing in Sumo.)  Some words are said, things happen, and then the dohyo (think: wrestling ring) is cleared.
Fun Fact: The wrestling ring is made of a certain kind of clay and weighs several tons!
Another Fun Fact: Olivia says I should let other people decide whether my facts are fun or not.
The Fight
In a single day of the tournament, each wrestler will face a total of one opponent in one match.  One might think that this would make the tournament go fairly quickly.  If you think that, you’re wrong.  First the opponents enter the ring and throw some salt.  This is not only to ward off bad spirits but is also a form of intimidation!  (“Eat my salt!”) It can be quite interesting to see the many and varied styles with which one can throw salt into the air and on the ground.  The salt throwing also includes the famous  stomping of the feet.  Then the opponents enter the ring and squat facing each other, staring into each other’s eyes.  The referee signals the start of the match, and the wrestlers…stay still.  You see, each wrestler waits until he is fully ready, mentally and physically one, before going at his opponent.  However, if one starts before the other, the match is restarted.  Apparently, these waiting periods and false starts could combine to make a single match last several hours.  Thankfully, they now have a time limit of three minutes before they must start the match.
Finally, the wrestlers clash together, and the tussle begins.  Some use strategies of pulling their opponents down to the ground or throwing them off balance, while others rely on their girth to push their opponents out of the ring.  Strategically, the wrestler with more girth has a forceful advantage, but what they gain in girth, they lose in stamina and agility!
The Closing Ceremony
Finally, after an afternoon of fun watching the best Sumo wrestlers in Japan, we see the closing ceremony.  Like the rest of the sport, this comes from a line of tradition and involves spinning and twirling a long rope in a specific series of moves.  This rope dance is performed by the tournament champion, and then the wrestlers file out of the stadium.
On our way out, Olivia wanted to see how she would look as a sumo wrestler.  A few hundred Big Mac’s later, here’s the result:
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Categories: Bucket List, Fun Stuff, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Wreck Diving in the Philippines

Nick and I just received our new Advanced Open Water and Wreck Diver certification cards and it reminded me that we never told you about our amazing wreck diving experience in Coron!

After our disappointment with the Whale Sharks, Nick and I were really looking forward to seeing some cool stuff during our dive time.  After another two flights, we were in Coron and ready to start our diving with Rock Steady Dive Center.

During WWII, a fleet of Japanese ships were sunk in Coron Bay, so now there are about 11 wrecks that you can explore.  It’s been Nick’s dream since we started scuba diving to see some wrecks, so we knew we needed to hit these up.  We decided that while we were here, we might as well get wreck dive certified, because…why not?

Diving in the wrecks was amazing!  I feel like I use this word A LOT when talking about diving, but it just fits.  When inside the ships I can’t get over how amazing it is that nature has taken this foreign object and made it it’s own.  We saw coral growing on the ships, huge fish swimming in and out, and basically a what looked like a whole underwater city.  Nature at it’s finest I think!  And to imagine that this is all part of God’s work!  And then to think that this is just one of the wonders that the world holds for us!

Unfortunately our camera is only rated up to about 15 meters, so we couldn’t take pictures of most of the wrecks we saw, so just use your imagination!

Categories: Bucket List, Fun Stuff, Nature, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Whale Shark Fail

So, if you remember this post about our new year goals, you would know Nick and I were super excited to go swimming with sharks while in the Philippines.  Don’t get your panties in a twist, these sharks aren’t deadly, just really big.  We made our plans and checked our list twice, and we were ready to see us some Whale Sharks in Donsol, Philippines.

After our awesome ATV adventure, we made the hour-long bus ride to our B&B in Donsol.  We were exhausted by this point because it was now some time on Friday afternoon, and we hadn’t slept in a bed since Wednesday night, but the show must go on!  Since we were cramming so much fun stuff into our trip, we unfortunately were only able to spend one night in Donsol, and thus begins our sad tale.

The staff at our B&B was very helpful, and showed us when and where we needed to be in the morning to get a boat for the Whale Shark interaction.  We had a tight time schedule because we needed to make a flight at noon.  In the morning it looked like we would not be able to get on a boat AND be back in time to catch our flight, but after much stress on my part, and bravery on Nick’s we managed to make our way onto a private boat that would make it back in time for us to catch our flight.  SCORE!

We were so pumped that we were going to be able to see Whale Sharks, and we settled in for our three-hour experience with lots of smiling and anticipation.  Our excitement started to wane the longer we were cruising around looking for sharks, but we weren’t going to give up hope.  Eventually we realized we would not see our sharks today.  The captain said that it was unseasonably cold, and because of that, the sharks weren’t surfacing.  *Cue sad music*

On the bright side, we got to work on our tans and enjoy some nice weather and scenery, and we made it back in time for our flight.

Moral of the story.  Don’t try to cram tons of stuff in one trip. Although, like us, sometimes that’s unavoidable if you only have a limited amount of time for all the fun stuff.  Oh well, better luck next time.

 

Categories: Bucket List, Fun Stuff, The Beach, Travel | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

ATV adventure!

After finally arriving in Legaspi, Nick and I high-tailed it to the ATV company that we had been so excited about.  They specialize in ATV tours along the Mt. Mayon 2006 lava flow. Let me just say, it did not disappoint.

After some indecision on my part, Nick finally convinced me to drive my own ATV, and I am so glad I did!  We did a quick practice session to familiarize ourselves with the ATVs, and then we were off!!!  Since we were off-roading, we went over some really rough terrain, and through a little river, which added to the excitement even more! (If you notice the excessive use of exclamation points, you should realize that this was really exciting).  Our guide was really great and would stop periodically to take our picture, which was awesome because it’s hard to drive and take pictures at the same time (oh and stay on the path).

Along the way, we passed workers who were moving volcanic rock to use for building and other things.  They were always so excited to see us and would wave and yell “Hello!”  I was always eager to wave back, but it’s hard to drive an ATV over rocks one-handed.  If you haven’t tried it, take my word for it. 😉  After about 45 minutes of driving, we stopped to take a hike up on top of the lava flow and to get a view of the volcano itself.  Unfortunately it was cloudy the day we went, so we didn’t get a great view of the volcano, but it was still nice to take the hike and see God’s creation.

Once we got back from our hike, we took a short break, then got back on the ATVs for our ride back to the base camp.  We went a different way back which took us through some of the village around the volcano.  It was really interesting to see how the locals lived (not to mention a smoother ride for my bum bum).

If you ever go to Legaspi, Phillipines, check out Your Brother ATVs, it’ll be a blast! (get it?)

Categories: Bucket List, Fun Stuff, Nature, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

9.5 Flights in 14 Days

As our Chinese New Year break from teaching is winding to a close, I figure it’s a good time to recount some of our travels over our time off.  Last year we went to Japan.  It was cold and busy and a lot of fun, but this year, we decided that it might be nice to take a break from the winter cold (you would too after reading this), so we went to the Philippines!  And, as you can assume by the title of this post, many flights were involved (Don’t worry, Olivia will cover some of our adventures in the Philippines in a later post).  First up was our flight to Taipei.  Our home is on a small island of Taiwan, so any time we want to go anywhere, we have to fly (usually to Taipei) first.  This time, we had a dog in tow!

Usually, our friend Sharon takes care of Bai when we’re not around, but she was spending time in Taipei with her family for the New Year celebrations, so why not bring him to her!  We also wanted Bai to get some experience flying in an airplane, as he’ll be joining Olivia and I for the long haul back to America later this year.  Some of our American readers might think we’re crazy flying him to Taipei just for 12 days, but airlines are a little easier to work with here for this sort of thing.  So, a lot of wrestling (Bai hasn’t learned to like his crate yet) and $12 later, we were aboard and Taipei bound!  Thankfully we didn’t see a streak of white running around on the runway. 😉

The next leg of our journey left the international airport from Taipei after midnight, so we got a bite to eat, met some friends, and hung around till catching the last bus from the domestic airport to the international one.  Four hours later, we were enjoying the warm weather at the Manila airport (at 4AM- those people never sleep!  You would have thought it was the middle of the day)!  Now, for this trip of ours, we had no intentions staying in a big, crowded city (living in Penghu has made us small town folK).  So we slept for a few hours, ate a much needed Cinnabon, and then started our next flight (number 3) at about 7:30, a 50 minute flight to Legazpi. We were cruising nicely and had started our decent when the announcement was made: there was a problem with the plane and we couldn’t land there because the runway was too short (confused? Us too).  The plane returned to Manila, where we were finally able to land on a longer runway, and thus- the “.5” from the title, back-tracking nearly an hour to get another plane.

Three hours and a very grouchy Olivia later, it was time for try number two (flight 4.5).  We landed without any issues (yay!) and had some fun for the couple of days we were there.

The next leg of our journey came when we left Legazpi for Coron.  Being two small cities, no direct flights were available, so we had to fly back to Manila and then on to Coron in one afternoon (5.5 and 6.5).  After five or six days there, (more on that to come) we found ourselves Taipei-bound, again flying through Manila first and then on to Taipei ((7.5 and 8.5)!  And of course, Taipei wouldn’t be our last stop before reaching home in Penghu.  We spent a few days bumming around the city and having fun, even though most places were closed because of the Chinese New Year.  Finally, with the dog in tow, we made the last flight to Penghu and landed with a rainy, windy scooter ride to the house (ponchos were involved for everyone).

We made it back home safe and sound, had a wonderful trip, and made nine and a half flights in 14 days. Are you tired now?

Categories: Bucket List, Fun Stuff, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

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