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Mountain Number Nine, Jiufen

26 Nov

When I first arrived in Taiwan and was subbing at JumpStart, I worked with a girl named Vikki. We taught Blue Class; those kids are now my students in Purple Class. I remember how clueless and eager I was then. I asked her plenty of questions and was immensely thankful for her presence. For example, on the first day I asked, “Vikki,… um, how am I supposed to sing the Goodbye Song at the end of the day? How does the tune go?” She laughed and looked a bit uncomfortable because it’s not her song; she neither made it up nor has she ever sung it. I felt like I could hear her thinking, “Oh geez, now I have to sing in front of this random girl, damn Teacher Valerie and her stupid goodbye song”. Now I know Vikki wouldn’t think that at all, but I’m sure she was a little caught off guard. The Taiwanese teachers at my school don’t ever sing along with the our Wiggles or Christmas songs. They have their own songs in Chinese that they sing with the kids during the Chinese school weeks. Can you imagine if someone was asking you to sing in Chinese? Can you even imagine singing a Wiggles song without being coerced?

Anyway, Teacher Vikki sang the little song for me. But for the entire four weeks of this job, at the end of the day when I was supposed to sing, “We have had a happy day, happy day, happy day. We have had a happy day, see you tomorrow!”, I would start off singing the wrong tune. Then I would stop and look desperately at teacher Vikki until she chimed in with the correct tune. Eventually it got to the point where I was so embarrassed I wasn’t embarrassed anymore. Apparently there’s a cap on that sort of thing at least when it comes to singing jingles to three year olds.

Another thing I was clueless about was the schedule. I understood the main parts: when to teach the alphabet, when to read a book, and when to have them watch me do their art projects for them, but what I didn’t understand is when to drink water (now I know it’s all day). So, we’d come back in the room and I’d say, “Okay Blue Class, I want you to sit on your name spots and I’ll tell you about a a little girl who gets REALLY scared when she goes to visit her Grandma! Who is sitting nicely, nicely, nicely? Who is sitting nicely, nicely, who? Very good! Okay, it’s called Little Red Riding Hood.”

Then I would hear, “Um, Teacher Emily… I think they need to drink their water first”.

“Oh, right… didn’t we just do that?… Oh, because we played downstairs again?… so like every time we enter the room then huh…”

“It’s okay,” Vikki says as she sets out all their water bottles and the kids sit down for a marathon session of beverage avoidance.

Looking back I find it amusing that I overlooked this part of the day. It’s ingrained in me now.

Anyway, Vikki is about the best combination of sweet and cool that you can imagine. When I was subbing, she said she and Teacher Shelly want to take me to Jiufen, a mountain village with amazing views and a famous shopping area.  Jiufen is actually “spelled” like this: 九份 and means “nine”. I could never remember the name (pronounced “joe fin” by the way), so I just told Carrie, “They want to take us to a mountain.”

The trip to the mountain finally happened a couple weeks ago, and we were extremely lucky to have chosen a day with excellent weather. The view was fantastic, which is somewhat rare since it rains even more often in these surrounding mountains than it does in Taipei. Carrie didn’t come because that weekend she was with a friend doing some much needed clothes shopping. You should see her new clothes, bright colors and adorable little details that I can’t describe in words without making you throw up in your mouth a little. I’ll try to remember to take some photos because I know that description makes them sound bad, but they’re not.

Before I start posting the amazing photos I took while at Jiufen, I have to say that I had a wonderful time. Shelly (my current co-teacher) is really good at making someone feel comfortable. She does it everyday with the students at our school, especially the newcomers. When we went to Jiufen, I didn’t have to worry about anything. Shelly and her cute smile met me at the MRT station that is between our two houses, and I followed her around for the rest of they day, trying to take pictures of everything, even the commute so I’d be able to remember how to make the trek on my own one day. Fail. In my defense, it was a little confusing (MRT train, regular train, taxi, and then on the way home: bus, train, and MRT), and well, I’m just really glad I was with Shelly.

Buying the train tickets. They were very cheap... maybe five dollars or less, but we had to stand up for 30 minutes. Look how they are dressed and compare it to my plain clothes in an upcoming photo.

Shelly on left, Vikki on right

I thought the taxi driver would just dump us off at the special mountain place and we'd hike around, but apparently there are cheap taxi tour deals (my share was $12 USD for two hours) The next several photos are of the first of about five stops on the tour.

This is what a plaque (that had English on it also!) said about these rocks: The layers formed by the sequential deposition of sediment provide a unique and visual record of sea-level change. The exposures are known as "cross" or "false bedding."

Our taxi driver tour guide. As is probably obvious, he was really nice. Even though I couldn't understand anything that he said, his demeanor told me enough.

Next stop, gold mining factory and gold water (pollution from the factory floating around in the water). Here are some tourists taking pictures with the "gold" water; you can see the factory in the background on the left. Speaking of tourists, Shelly said a lot of Japanese tourists visit Jiufen, and we saw a large group of them while shopping.

Third stop - A waterfall

Fourth stop, a temple! Check out the awesome details in the next several photos.

genius

This circular opening is how you get into the bathroom. So, I was taking photos in the bathroom. Technically.

mmhmm

It's weathered, but still incredible

More roof of the temple

My camera battery died while at the temple. I don’t remember what the fifth stop was, another view I think. See, this is why wasting time taking photos and not “living in the precious moment” is important. My friend Megan said her mom encourages her to “take a picture with your mind”(a phrase I’ve since adopted), but my mind is just not strong enough to hold all those scenes. And how deprived would I be if I forgot the beauty of this temple, allowing it to waste away in the recesses of my mind where I stuffed my experiences at that one babysitter’s house when all the other kids had left and I sat on the couch made of cat smells, trying not to look over the edge where the amount of hair makes you cherish your mom’s spring cleaning days even if you are the only kid who dreads Spring Break. I know, I’m exaggerating, practically likening my lack of memory to the guy’s in Flowers for Algernon, but I really don’t remember when your birthday is, trust me.

Then we went to the famous shopping area that overlooks all these sights I’ve just shown you. I took a lot of photos (with my mind) of the interesting food and sights in the shopping area, so I’ll post those later.

Disclaimer: Since my phone is now an extension of my mind, I meant that I took them with my camera phone.

More Photos of Our Kenting Vacation

30 Aug

From the bus on the way from Kaohsiung to Kenting. One benefit of a rainy country is the many crazy cloud formations.

Carrie and the scooter we rented

The scooter drive to Baisha Beach

Our very helpful friend

Most of the Taiwanese don't actually swim. They stand fully clothed with umbrellas near or slightly in the water.

Carrie and I got really into taking photos of their version of going to the beach.

The sand at Baisha Beach

Kenting Vacation Part II

28 Aug

The third day of our trip Carrie and I decided to return the scooter and catch a bus to Kenting National Forest where we planned to do some hiking. We eventually figured out that there aren’t any hiking trails at the main entrance of the forest and resigned to walking up the main road. A sign told us it was 4 Km long. Hmmm, that’s quite a ways, especially up a mountain. We decided we didn’t have any other enticing options and went for it. Around every bend we’d see some kind of opening that looked like it had the potential to be a trail, but it never was. Carrie was losing hope. She suggested we pretend to be refuges escaping a battle below. Brilliant. “And we are going to the top of this mountain to find a certain plant that will heal our father’s illness before we retrieve him and flee the country,” I said.

“Yes, medicine and gold,” Carrie added.

“And we have to dress like men so we don’t get spotted and raped,” I pointed out. Well, that scenario gave us enough energy to walk just far enough to be too far to turn back. But, our feet were getting very sore.

I asked Carrie how she feels about hitchhiking. “I’m not against it,” she said and added, “I’ve read that people have a lot of success with hitchhiking in Taiwan.” Hmmm. Carrie and I talk so much that I forgot about this idea until my feet reminded me again. I stuck out my thumb and watched a van drive past us. Another car began to pass, and I stuck out my thumb again. Carrie began to shout, “Look up there!” The first van had pulled over and was waiting for us! Amazing. The very first person stopped. This is so easy! We ran over and climbed into a pleasant smelling air conditioned van, the kind with leather seats and televisions installed in the the head rests. The parents were smiling in the front seats, and their two daughters were busy squishing into the back seats so we could have the middle seats. The older daughter, who looked 14 but was 17, spoke perfect English. She asked us a few questions, and we answered and said “Xie xie ni” a bunch.

Once we were at the top, we went off on our own. The trail was concrete and the nature around us was somewhat manicured but rapturing: large spindly trees, dark soil, loud insects. We saw a cactus garden, almost stepped on a huge centipede, explored a cave, and best of all, watched a family of monkeys make their way through the trees. At the beginning of the hike, Carrie suggested that if we see something strange, we calmly tell the other person. I think she said this because I had kind of jumped when I thought I saw a lizard skirt across our path as we were walking. She decided on a code word to say in a normal voice to alert the other person to the presence of the unidentified nature creature. I think she said the code word was “oogly boogly”. Anyway, when I saw the centipede, I blurted out, “HOLY CRAP!” and stopped mid step. When Carrie saw movement in the trees from the monkeys, she pulled a mom arm on me and yelled, “Oh, sh#@!” So much for oogly boogly.

Anyway, the monkey family was incredible to watch! I’ve seen quick glimpses of monkeys in their natural habitat before, but this was very different. We stood there for about seven minutes, watching them swing from tree branch to tree branch right across our path. Two of the three were young. I could hear what sounded like the father; they were heading toward him it seemed.

Once we exited the hiking trail, Carrie bought a drink at a vending machine and we sat down to continue our ongoing dialogue about life. After a while the girl whose family drove us showed up and asked if we wanted a ride back down. YEAh, we did. We chatted with her, Megan, and right before they dropped us off on the main road, she got our email addresses. At the time of this writing, she’s already added me to Facebook. I find it interesting to think about the parents’ view of the situation. They obviously took a little pity on us, but I also think they enjoyed seeing their daughter converse so easily with two Americans. They did, afterall, pay quite a lot of money for her to attend a private English kindergarten from age 2-6.

That night we sat outside our hostel with the other foreigners who were staying in our room. They really like their jobs English teaching jobs at a public school in Korea and told us all about their experiences and how they’ve been able to save tons of money. I’ll tell you more about Korea on another post.

Carrie and I had been into the town of Kenting earlier that evening and the evening before, so we knew what that was all about. It was much livelier than this little street in South Bay where our hostel was located, but not lively enough to warrant the effort of going there again. It was mostly just families. So, the five of us were just sitting outside our hostel talking until the guy from South Africa (Johnathan) and the guy from Chicago (Joe) decided to go to 711 to buy some beers. In Taiwan 711 is an extremely common convenience store where you can see many people at any hour of the day or night. We went with the guys even though we’d just returned from buying snacks there with the girl from New Zealand (Gina).

With our beers in hand we all decided to walk back along the beach to see if anything fun was happening. We passed a group of young Taiwanese kids hanging out around a fire, and then we came to the back of a large hotel. On the stage was a live band and about three groups of people drinking and watching. We sat down, ordered some drinks, and within five minutes we had been formally welcomed by the singer and invited to dance on stage with the dancers who were part of the entertainment for the night. These Filipino girls weren’t wearing a whole lot of clothes, and the clothes they did have on were extremely tight. They played an American song and a South African song for Johnathan. The American song was a catchy (aka annoying) club song. Despite our soberness and the onlookers, the four of us danced and let loose with these two dancer girls. Then Johnathan and Joe took turns singing (shirtless) on stage with the band. There was both a female and male Filipino singer, and they were very talented, taking requests and nailing each song. By the way, this is the first full band I’ve seen in Taiwan thus far, so that alone was exciting.

The guys dancing with the Filipino dancers

Johnathan singing with the band

Joe singing with the band

The dancing continued when more club songs were played. Our good time was rubbing off on the crowd, and they began to come to the dance floor too. Johnathan and Joe were really good about dancing with all these people, guys and girls. About 10 of them were crowded around us, watching and waiting for these two guys to pull them in the middle of the circle to dance. We were sweaty and my feet were black by the end of it. At least two hours had passed, and the place was closing. Here is a photo of us on the deck after the dancing. I’m not sure why I was holding onto Carrie while turning the opposite way.

Carrie suggested we go swimming in the ocean. We tried to invite some of the Taiwanese people who had been dancing with us, but they said they have to go to bed. We trouped off into the ocean in the dark. It didn’t take long for Carrie and Joe to spot the large rafts that people pull on the back of their boats. We swam out to where these 15 rafts were anchored. Our mission became to jump from raft to raft. Right before we got to the last one we heard Johnathan yelling from the shore. “WHAT???” I yelled back at the top of my lungs. If it had been day time, there would have been no possible way we could have heard each other, but in the dead of the night, the sound travelled much better.

“Security!” he screamed. Joe started swimming back immediately, but Carrie and I still wanted to conquer the last raft in the series. We couldn’t stop now that we were so close, and plus, as Carrie said later, we’re not accustomed to moving toward the police when someone mentions their arrival.

It turns out the security were just doing their normal rounds and either didn’t know or didn’t care that we were in the ocean. After playing around a bit more, we went back to the hostel. We soon decided that we need to visit 711 again, for more beer and some food. Johnathan bought two hard boiled eggs. These eggs are sold at almost every convenience store in Taiwan. They are brown colored because they are soaked in tea.

Back at the hostel, he dropped his peeled egg on the ground and it was covered in dirt and hair. He washed it off with beer as Joe began peeling the other one. Joe took a bite of it once he peeled it, then he handed it to me, and I took a bite. I started laughing because now half the egg was gone, and all Johnathan had left was the one previously covered in dirt. Then Carrie took a bite of the good egg too, so now only a tiny bite remained. I was cracking up. I suggested that he go back to 711 while Joe kept trying to get him to eat the egg that had fallen. “I just can’t bring myself to eat it,” Johnathan admitted.

He decided to go back to 711, and I accompanied him. He was in his pajamas. I couldn’t hold in my laughter, and I didn’t try to. The people in 711 were giving many side glances toward us. I could just barely imagine what they were thinking about this man in his underwear buying eggs. The employee must’ve really thought we were strange since it was the fourth time he’d seen me that night. I’d been there earlier in the day too, but he hopefully wasn’t on duty yet. Then Johnathan started asking some young kids questions about the food. To make a long story short, we ended up sitting outside of 711 talking to these three high school kids in bits and pieces of English while they ate the eggs Johnathan bought for them.  After about 45 minutes, Carrie and Joe showed up looking for us. The Taiwanese boys laughed so loud when they saw them arrive. “There’s MORE!” they must have been thinking.

The next morning I told Gina all about our escapades of the previous night. “Awww, I really wanted to swim out to those rafts”, she admitted.

“Well, you can go tonight with Joe since he didn’t actually complete the mission in full.”

On the way back to Taipei, Carrie and I had some great discussions about our futures and other important life topics. I felt cleansed and peaceful. As I said, the trip was perfect: lazy beach naps, midnight swimming adventures, and 711 visits in our undergarments.  Exactly what we hoped for.

Kenting Vacation – Part I

27 Aug

Perfect. Our trip to southern Taiwan cannot be described any other way. I told you I was going to emerge a different, refreshed person soon and it happened while I was scuba diving in the blue waters of Baisha Beach. Let me start from the beginning: We took the High Speed Rail and then a bus. No hiccups in the traveling. In fact, we arrived exactly 9 minutes after the time we told the hostel we’d be there. Carrie had just thrown out 3pm when she reserved our two dorm room beds, and when we looked at her watch upon arriving we were shocked. No way! Though we often feel like little babies in this country, needing people to translate or explain how to get somewhere, events like this recent trip make us feel like Vikings.

We walked the two minutes from our hostel to the South Bay beach and discovered that it is similar to the way the British traveler at our hostel described it: crowded and full of litter. The trash isn’t out of control or anything, but it keeps you from having that special feeling that you hope for when on vacation. The beach was definitely beautiful despite this, with mountains and cliffs on all sides and nice light sand.

Luckily the British girl also confirmed what we’d heard about other beaches nearby. There’s an amazing more private beach about 15 minutes away by scooter. And a scooter can be rented a couple doors down for about $12 USD per twenty four hours.  No license, prior experience, or sanity required. Yipppeee! Oh, and the British girl had a sunburn even though she “did the sun cream”. We smothered ourselves in sun cream and headed out to rent a scooter and not crash it.

Carrie insisted that she be the driver. Confidence is half the battle, so I figured that this combined with her having been a pedicabber for the past couple years was a recipe for success. The problem was, though, that when the moment really arrived, there were some obstacles to overcome. How does one turn on a scooter, start a scooter, and put gas in a scooter? I don’t think the people renting it to us would be thrilled if we had asked for driving lessons first. She was pretty nervous, and I was nervous for her. She suggested we look up how to ride one on the internet so we could at least go into this fraud knowing exactly how to start the thing and drive off. Then, once we round the corner, we can fiddle around on it, teaching ourselves how to stay alive.

We watched videos online, and then, as usual, a Taiwanese person came to our aid. He offered to go to the scooter rental place with us, translate, and also drive the scooter down the road a ways where he can teach Carrie how to ride. Renting it was easy. I’m not really sure what our friend told them, but all we had to do was sign a paper and give them money. Then, it took Carrie about 5 minutes to learn everything she needed to know, and we were off. Our friend also offered to go with us to Baisha Beach so we could follow him in his car and not get lost.

The beach was awesome! Clear waters, coral, colorful fish, mountains around us. Carrie and I were surprised that the weather was considerably different than in Texas. You do not feel the sun burning your skin within 5 minutes. It can burn of course, but it just isn’t as hot in Taiwan, even in the south.

Baisha Beach

The fish were amazing. I rented a snorkeling mask for 3 USD and spent several hours floating at the top of the ocean staring at the fish and sea life living on and around the rocks. Some of the more memorable fish I saw were ones with yellow and black stripes, neon green and orange lines on an indigo background, yellow and orange and green patterns on an electric purple background, and flashy small white fish traveling in schools. I saw fish with extra pointy noises, split tails, and long skinny stringy things hanging over their heads.

One time I was swimming over a large rock and saw a fish poking its head out of a rock. It was not moving at all, but was clearly alive. I was about to swim right over it and would have been very vulnerable if, say, it was really an eel that decided to slither out of there and bite me, or whatever eels do to people who float 2 inches above their heads. I then noticed the same pattern poking out of a rock a little ways away. Is that its tail? Its friend? I couldn’t tell. I quickly swam away, having thoroughly frightened myself. I was venturing farther and farther from the shore and the crowd of people, so my imagination began to run wild as I swam into many areas with an eerie silence and less sunlight. I saw a strange looking fish that was very long and skinny, similar to an eel though I’m pretty sure this was not what it was. Bigger and bigger fish could be spotted out here. I swam near a sea urchin, and I also saw many hermit crabs. The hermit crabs were inside shells that looked as if a creative 9 year old had painted them with muted blues, reds, and oranges. My favorite hermit crabs were two who had their pinchers and legs all up in each others’ business. They were either playing, fighting, or engaging in some kind of mating ritual.  My imagination told me it was the first one because they just looked so happy and calm. I stared at them for a long while.

It took at least eight hours for the indention from the goggles to disappear from my forehead later that night.

It was worth it. I felt so refreshed and at peace. The time I spent hibernating in my room combined with this experience in nature was beginning to make everything seem so clear. The expectations I had for myself were imposed. Who cares who imposed them (me, society, my job); it doesn’t matter. The point is that they aren’t mandatory, and I can unimpose them. And, when I’m exercising or in nature, or exercising in nature, I usually have an easier time freeing myself from these unnecessary worries and goals. And most of them are unnecessary, aren’t they? It’s nice to just focus on eating, sleeping, and laughing for once. I’m immensely thankful that my current situation allows me to have fewer responsibilities.

Anyway, that night we met a trio of travelers from Korea. We hung out with them a bit that night, but it wasn’t until the next night when the fun really began.

To be continued…

Photos of Kaohsiung, Jungle Hill, Interesting Signs, etc

18 Jun

Fruit and ice cream on ice with bean soup all for $3.70

 

We finally explored this hill. The path was a steep incline, and we passed by an elderly couple plodding along despite the heat and difficulty

The famous temple in Chaiyi (near where I toured the public school)

 

Harbor area of Kaohsiung

On High Speed Rail to Chaiyi and then Kaohsiung for two interviews!

Kaohsiung Skyline as I was jumping into the water from the ferry.

 

Kaohsiung skyline and barge

Seafood in Kaohsiung

Mountains of Kaohsiung and barge

 

Carrie at Cijian beach in Kaohsiung

Beach in Kaohsiung

Sand in Kaohsiung is Dark Brown and Coarse (as mi Mom said)

 

Me

Carrie running in a fit of excitement

sand armor

 

full moon in Kaohsiung from our ferry

toilet ice cream (the ice cream comes in a piece of plastic shaped like a sqatty toilet, not the toilet we're used to)

Warning: Don't Stand on the Toilet... especially if you can't yet walk on the ground. This warning comes from the fact that there are so many squatty toilets and they are worried some people will stand on the other toilets.

 

Carrie stays hydrated

The Taiwanese are very concerned with proper hygiene. How to use the water fountain, how to sneeze properly (it involves wearing those surgical masks) are explained in signs around town.

 

Apartment, Hostel, Food, Poison Ivy, and Boob Problems

18 Jun

For all who read my last post, I give you props. I didn’t realize that it had been reformatted when I copied and pasted it from Microsoft Word. It now has paragraphs and some of the info has been corrected. For example, we now realize that the rent for a two bedroom in Taipei is not going to be as cheap as we first thought. We were hearing we could get a place for 15,000 NTD, but it is actually going to be between 20,000 and 30,000 especially because we want to live near our job which is in the heart of the city. An apartment locator (here they are called brokers) took us to see one apartment today, in not exactly the right area, for 27,000. It was nicer than we need though: very nice tile, spacious living area, doorman, special trash service. The outside says “Hotel” which seems odd to me. Carrie kept trying to explain to the lady that we don’t need something this nice, but she made it seem like this is our only option other than looking closer to the heart of the city and pay 30,000 and up. We think she may just be used to dealing with foreigners and keeping options from them, hoping they just go ahead and lease a luxury apartment which secures her a higher broker fee (she gets half one month’s rent). Anyway, we’ve been looking into finding an apartment ourselves, a difficult task when most listings are not in English and we didn’t even know where to start. Craigslist Taiwan mostly has listings these brokers posted. We have found a great website though- once again from the girl who owns the hostel we first stayed at.

We go back to that hostel, Taipei Home Stay, tomorrow because they have beds open again. We are excited. Our current Taipei hostel is very drab. We were excited at first because it is closer to the city center and less expensive, but the lady at the desk is not willing to help with anything extra, we have to pay extra just to get air conditioning from 10pm – 10am, and there is no WiFi in the room, only in this lobby area on the 6th floor where I am currently sitting. The drab quality, though, comes mostly from the fact that there are no windows in our room, yet there are all these awkward pieces of furniture thrown into the room: at least 5 closet/shelf areas, a fridge that doesn’t work, a microwave, a stove that has a towel over it, a shower that is above the sink and sprays onto the toilet, and a mattress that squeaks because of the waterproof cover. By water I mean urine.

Here is a brief list of the exciting things about our last few days:

The beach in Kaohsiung, though not a paradise by any means, was very relaxing. I ran barefoot for a mile or so, Carrie swam around with her goggles on, and I played in the dark brown sand. There are nicer beaches farther away, but we didn’t bother trying to find those.

That night, a guy we meet on the couchsurfing website picked us up at our hostel (a VERY nice place with a very nice lady who was our pseudo mommy after our longest day ever because of those two interviews and traveling). He and his brother are both in the Taiwan military and spoke English pretty well, but had trouble with pronunciation and were a bit unsure about speaking it. The brother went home almost right away because of being called to duty I believe. The three of us explored the food at a night market. We tried stinky tofu (Carrie is determined to grow to like it; I am uninspired by it), and I ate some very delicious dumplings. Then Allen took us to pick up his girlfriend Lu Lu (a very cute and amiable girl in a pink dress), and we all went to an American influenced bar. We both had a beer, and spoke with Allen and Lu Lu about various things. They were an awesome couple who I hope to hang out with in the future. They are moving to Australia in a week to live in the mountains and ski, though, so we’ll see.

Carrie and I had a day where we just traveled back to Taipei, and took a nap induced by the drabness of our new hostel and my having stayed up way too late the previous night writing my last blog entry.

Then, today we tried to get some apartment stuff accomplished.

Somewhere in there we showed up at a restaurant that looked closed, but the owner made us food. We don’t have enough Chinese to explain what kind of food, and this menu had no English on it, but Carrie had her “I’m vegetarian” card, so we waited patiently for chef’s choice. Out came a plate of fried rice for Carrie and a bowl of hot noodles with clams and shrimp soup for me. It was delicious! We are very thankful that all these Taiwanese ladies are so willing to take us under their wing in our times of need. Walking around a city when you are very hungry is not pleasant especially at 10pm in an area where all you see are computer stores (why the dentist and computer stores are open at 10pm is still somewhat of a mystery).

Another unfortunate even is that I have poison ivy. I think it is from a couple weeks ago when I walked through some weeds at a friend’s river property. When I will learn to stay out of the weeds, I don’t know. I was pretty worried it might turn into one of those cases where it can be found in multiple places on every limb and on my face, but so far it is staying contained. Sweating here is like breathing, so it would be difficult to keep the oils from spreading. I walked into what looked like a doctor’s office (it is a Chinese medicine shop), and pointed to a card I made that says: poison, plant, rash, skin (in Chinese) on it. The guy laughed because the Chinese characters were written poorly? Or they were wrong? Or he had no way to help my skin problem? I don’t know, but once again some nice Taiwanese ladies saved me. By the time I walked out, I had the name and address of a hospital (equivalent of the doctor here) and the name for “skin doctor” all written in Chinese. They also meticulously pointed out where the hospital is on my map. Instead of going to the hospital though, we went back to where our luggage is being kept at the first hostel we stayed at, and I found my steroid pills from the last time I had poison ivy.

The worst thing, by far, that has happened to me was in Kaohsiung. While walking down this ally way (I know what you’re thinking), this guy on a mo-ped drove by (this is not weird; they drive by every .5 seconds), but as he passed me by, he attempted to grab my chest. He missed his goal and just got my literal chest, but it was very alarming and disgusting feeling. It was late, and I was tired, so I almost couldn’t believe it happened. It took me a minute to verbalize it to Carrie; I had goosebumps. My initial reaction was to run after him and hit him, but he was long gone; he couldn’t even hear me due to the sound of his mo-ped. The reason we were even walking in that alley is because the lady who owns the hostel told us it was a shortcut, a way to avoid the busy, more dangerous (ha) road. She told us this during daylight hours before we went TO the beach, but on the way back, we just followed the same route. Anyway, it made us both realize that not ALL Taiwanese people are perfect. If drug trafficking is punishable by death here, so should boob grabbing be. Just an idea.