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

When All Else Fails…

Yesterday I wrote about How to Survive Winter in Penghu, and despite following the list of survival tips I gave myself, sometimes the winter just gets to me.  To be honest, that’s why I haven’t written much this January. Life has just been kinda blah and uninspiring.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my life and don’t regret a single day, but lately not much has been going on other than a Lord of the Rings trilogy and dreams filled with Hobbits and Orcs and other funny creatures I don’t know the names of.  So, I’ve added an addendum to my previous list of Winter Survival Tips, and that is: when all else fails, run get away.

Starting this afternoon, Nick and I are doing just that.  We’re flying down to the Philippines for 7 days to bask in the sun and experience some more scuba diving.  This is a trip we’ve been dreaming about for the last year, and finally it’s happening!  We’re so ready for the warm sun and beautiful views of the ocean!  So, we’re signing off, and will see you all laterz!

http://sparklingtwine.com/

Categories: Bucket List, Nature, The Beach, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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

A New Year, A New Adventure

Happy_New_Year_Charlie_Brown1

While Nick and I kicked off our New Year by throwing on our Christmas jammies and staying in all night, this year is going to bring us lots of adventures!!! (That’s the plan anyways).

Some of the adventures we hope to take are:

1. Go scuba diving in the Philippines.  Sharks and ship wrecks and a volcano are going to make an appearance.

2. Explore more of Taiwan- this country has so much culture and history!

3. Say goodbye to Taiwan and move back to the Lone Star State. White dog in tow. 🙂

4. Buy a car.

5. Get new jobs.

6. Buy a house (if all goes according to plan).

7. Eat a full Thanksgiving dinner.

8. Celebrate Christmas with our families for the first time in two years.

As you can see, this is going to be a big year of change for us!!!  We would most definitely appreciate your prayers and words of encouragement as we go through the rest of this year.  We hope that you have a very blessed year and that God’s love and joy is abundant in your lives!!

Philippians 4:6-7 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Categories: Bucket List, Friendship, New Year's, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

A Birthday Extravaganza!!!

December 19th was my 24th birthday!!!  I’m getting old! 😛  To celebrate, Nick took me to Kaohsiung, the second biggest city in Taiwan and boy did we party!!! By party, I mean we went to bed by 11pm each night.  We’re crazy, I know!!!! (Like I said, I’m getting old).

Despite our old people sleeping habits, we had a great time!!!  We kicked off our weekend adventure with a small night market near our hotel.  They had some really interesting food choices.  Huge octopus tentacles and oysters were just a few (and they say everything’s bigger in Texas).  In addition to all the food, we also saw lots of dog clothing shops.  The people here love their dogs, and, in my humble opinion,  love dressing them up even more!  I think there’s something in the water, because Nick and I stopped at every shop to look for something for Bai.  What’s happening to us?!!!!  Fortunately, they were all too small for him.

The next day, we went to the Pier 2 outdoor art gallery.  As we were leaving the MRT station, we started seeing people dressed oddly and with weird looking hair, and thought, “hmm, that’s odd.”  As we got closer, we started seeing more and more of these odd looking people, then it hit us, we had walked right into the middle of an Anime Festival!  There were people EVERYWHERE dressed up as Japanese comic characters complete with blue hair, huge swords, and crazy outfits.  We spent the afternoon walking around and trying not to gawk too much at the costumed people.  It was…interesting.

The last big hooray of our trip was spending Sunday at Eda Amusement Park.  Amusement parks in Taiwan are very small, so there were only about 5 big rides, but the lines were short, and the rides were fun, so we’re not complaining.  It was comical to watch a group of teenage boys in line in front of us (all with the same haircut mind you) feel each other’s racing hearts right before boarding one of the roller coasters.

We had lots of fun and managed to squeeze in the second Taiwanese county to fulfill our New Year’s resolution we made in January!!!

Categories: Bucket List, Fun Stuff, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Merry Christmas y’all!

Christmas is my favorite time of year!  Everything about it puts me in a good mood.  The songs, the decorations, the cookies, the hot cocoa, the movies, but most importantly, the birth of our Savior!  It’s the most wonderful time of year!

Christmas in Taiwan isn’t the same as it is back home in Texas, but maybe that’s for the better.  Sometimes we can get a little caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping and decorating and entertaining and lose sight of what’s really important.  Love, joy, peace, family, Christ.  Those are the important things!  Being in Taiwan has reminded us of those things, and while we’re a long way from our family and friends, Christ’s love it with us every where we go!  He will never leave us, or forsake us.  His love is forever and can reach forever as well.  This Christmas, let’s all take the time to remember the important things, and thank God for everything He has given us.

christmas card new

Categories: Family, Friendship, Taiwan | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Squatty Potty Whoopsie

If you’ve ever been to Asia, you know the squatty potty is a popular thing here.  Most public places use these instead of western toilets.  Parks, train stations, stores, and public schools.  When Nick and I first arrived in Taiwan, I was scared of the squatty potty.  I mean, there’s nothing worse than the fear that you will pee on yourself in the middle of a work day and go through the rest of the day smelling like pee.  For a long time I would hold it all day and withstand the weird looks from people as I did what we fondly call “The Potty Dance,” or walk all the way to the other side of the school to use the handicapped toilet  just so I didn’t have to face my fears. (I fondly refer to this cross-school walk as the walk of shame: I just feel like everyone knows what I’m about to do).  Well, ladies and gents, I finally faced my fears, and I have to say I’m mastering this squatty potty, but it’s not without it’s occasional fiascoes, like what happened last week.

potty

The famed Squatty Potty…

After class, I decided to use the restroom (squatty potties btw, give you no rest).  And, just fyi, I still have to psych myself up in order to work up the courage to use the feared potties.  So anyways, I go to the bathroom and do my business, and the thought crosses across my mind, “man, it would be awful if my flash drive falls into the toilet.”  And, as they say, those were my famous last words.  As I get up from my squat (cuz that’s what you have to do with a squatty potty),  my flash drive slips out of my pocket and falls into the toilet.  Yep.  It happened.  It seemed to be in slow motion and if my mind had just processed it fast enough, I would have been able to catch it, but no such luck.

So then my next dilemma: do I flush it and walk away, or do I get it out?  I finally decided that I really need it because all my lessons for the week were on there (I now back them up on my computer weekly).  I worked up the courage to fish it out.  It was gross.  I vigorously washed it and my hands multiple times, scrubbed it down with hand sanitizer, (cuz that stuff works, right?) and dried out all the nooks and crannies.  ANNNNDDD it still worked!!!  Yep, that’s right folks, my poor little flash drive fell into the toilet, and lived to tell the tale!

Moral of the story, don’t take your flash drive to the potty.  Moral #2, back up your flash drive.  Moral #3- flash drives are more hardy then we may think (this particular flash drive also took a turn in the washing machine earlier in the year).

usb

Captain America saves the day again!

Categories: Fun Stuff, Humor, Taiwan | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Food Marathon!

Last weekend, our city hosted a marathon, we didn’t run, because we all know how I feel about that.  Instead, we had a food marathon!  Friday night we made dumplings with some Taiwanese friends, and Saturday we made Hamburgers with some American friends.  I have to say, it was so much better than an actual marathon.

Dumplings are my favorite Taiwanese food.  They’re so yummy, and always make for a quick meal.  Friday night, our friend brought over the ingredients, and we all got to make dumplings and then eat them of course!  We made so many dumplings!  Nick estimates we made around 70!  We fried some, boiled some, and froze some for later. 🙂

Hamburgers are Nick’s favorite American foods, and unfortunately where live in Taiwan, a good burger is hard to come buy.  The best our city has to offer is McDonalds, and if you ask Nick, that is a sad excuse for a hamburger.  In order for Nick to get his burger fix, we made hamburgers ourselves!  We invited some of the other American teachers in our city, and they were just as happy as we were to have a taste of home.  Unfortunately, I was too busy making and eating burgers to take any pictures, but just take my word for it, they looked and tasted delicious!

Categories: Cooking, Friendship, Taiwan | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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