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Thursday, June 30, 2011


The other day, Tom and I were talking about how important good fathers are and, at the same time, how there are too few of them.  Tom and I are both lucky enough to have fabulous fathers, but obviously plenty of people out there don't.  It made me pretty sad to think about and I just wanted to go out and teach all these dads out there how important it is to be a good dad and how much good they can do in their children's lives.  Today, by sheer coincidence, I stumbled upon, which is actually trying to do just that!  They have a lot of great stuff on there.  I most enjoyed looking at all their media.  My favorite was this ad:

Doesn't that just make you happy?  Actually, these ads really reminded me A LOT of the ads that the church does, often on the same or similar subjects.  Like this one:

Horrible video quality, but still great.  And, just because the little girl's squeal is so adorable and even though it has nothing to do with fathers, I thought I'd share this one too:

Hope you enjoyed the videos and I hope some guy out there who could be a better father and just needed some encouragement got it from these videos!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fingers Crossed

If I was a landlord looking over my rental application, I would take one look and say, "Ha! NO."  I mean, Taiwan, Peru, Oklahoma, Utah, Indiana and California represented on one application...really?  Sad part is that we're still missing a few states before the app. has the full picture.

So, the good news is that we've actually made it to an application for the first time - WOOHOO!
The bad news is that it'll still be a miracle if it works out!

Wish us LUCK!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dragon Boat Festival

Early in June we celebrated the Dragon Boat Festival.  It celebrates a very patriotic poet who died for his country and somehow ended up in a body of water (drowned? thrown in? suicide?  I'm not sure).  The locals loved him so much that they threw rice dumplings in the water so that the fish would eat those instead of his body.  It's also somehow connected to sachets (see later in the post), dragon boats and putting clusters of some kind of plant outside your door to ward off bad ghosts.  I'm sure you could find a much better synopsis on wikipedia.  Amazingly, I managed to teach an entire class about it at work.  Thank goodness the kids don't really understand half of what I say!

Anyway, we got the Monday off of work, but had just gone to Kenting the weekend before and were wary of using the trains to go anywhere because they are always packed on holidays.  So, instead, we spent the day in Tainan and went to the Dragon Boat Races in the Anping District that evening.  Tom didn't enjoy them as much as I did, but I thought they were great!  

There was a lot more there than just the races.  In fact, we didn't get to watch much of the races, because the only spots where we could squeeze ourselves through the people and get a view were at the very end and the very beginning.  But, from what we saw, we could tell it would have been great to have a real spot in the stands.  It was all dark except for the light of the dragon boats.  They looked menacing and impressive gliding through the black water with the sound of the drummer (each boat has one) and the oarsmen chanting in unison.  

Besides the races, there were also street stalls selling food and toys for several blocks.  About half way through was this stage:

Tom really liked the singer and decided he had a "man crush" on him.

The first photos of the boats were at the end of the race area.  These were taken at the beginning as the boats were getting in position to start.

No Taiwanese festivity is complete without a huge character in some form or other.  Mom, this photo is for you.

These are somehow associated with Dragon Boat Festival, although I'm not sure why.  Sort of like bunnies and Easter.  

This fish was HUGE and surprising.  Pictures don't do justice.

This stall had a huge line.  All the meat was grilled on this large grill that swung over the fire.
Like I said, I really enjoyed the festivities and the culture.  Tom, on the other hand does not do well with crowds, gross food or gross smells and there were lots of those.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Apartment Search

Ok, so, this is really just going to be a bit of a rant.  I just have to get it out.

Apartment . Shopping. While . Overseas . Is . HARD.  

I have checked every single Philadelphia Craigslist apartment listing since April 15th that has an image, is under $750 and comes up when "university city" is typed in the search box - which is a lot of listings.  For example, it's only 11:45 am in Philly right now and there are already 13 new listings up for today.  Of all the listing I've looked at, I have emailed more than 60 of them and called who knows how many.  And all of those phone calls have been late at night after a hard day at work (I get home around 9:30pm and Philly is 12 hours different) when I just want to be going to bed.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen this listing.  They post it several times a day!  So annoying!  If only they wanted a September 1st move in...

Still, every single one has fallen through, mostly due to us being overseas.  It's like we're handicapped.  We act as quickly as we can, but someone who can just walk in and fill out an application can always fill it out sooner.  Plus, we need adequate pictures because we can't take a tour.  That makes us difficult and annoying.  Not to mention, people just don't like renting to someone who can't tour the apartment.  

Why, then, don't we just quit and find one when we get there?  Well, we may, don't get me wrong, but from what I've consistently heard, if we do that we'll pretty much be screwed.  Slim pickings when you have to live close to campus and the semester's about to begin.

I haven't even mentioned yet the joy of figuring out how to pay a deposit from overseas.  "Would it be alright if we wired it?"  "It might take a few days."  "It may not be an exact amount because of the exchange rate and all..."  

I want to just say, "the heck with it!" and quit.  But, I also have a very strong drive to not get stuck in a horrible apartment.  And when I say horrible, I mean it.  We're not even finding much over 400 sq. ft. as it is.  Can you imagine if we wait?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Night Market

Every town worth it's salt, in Taiwan, has at least one night market.  Tainan has a bunch.  To explain, a night market is just a big area with lots of street food, clothing peddlers and fair games that is only open at night, and usually only on certain days of the week.  They are often just PACKED with people, but not always.  It's a very common place for Taiwanese people to go for fun on the weekends and sometimes during the week.  

To a foreigner unaccustomed to Taiwanese cuisine, they can be a bit daunting, espeeeeecially because of the smells.  As for the visuals, I'll let you see for yourself!


Most seafood in Taiwan is served completely intact - eyes, tails, bones, feelers, etc.  It can be a bit off putting.  You just have to get over it!

I really don't know for sure, but they seem to be some kind of snail in a shell.  As a side note, a very popular snack is these little tiny fish (eyes, etc. still there of course), seasoned and dried.  My kids at school are always eating them and offering them to me.

Lots of things are fried in big woks of oil.

One thing we sometimes like is the fruit and veggies they sell.  Although, our experience with fruit here hasn't been stellar and sometimes they put something on the fruit that we don't like.  It's always a gamble.

Hello Kitty is alive and very well here.

You choose a stick and they grill it for you.

Chicken butts possibly?  Your guess.

Chicken or duck heads and and necks.

Blood rice - not that bad actually.  Just quite salty.

A lot of meat is this color because of something they do to it.  We usually don't like the taste when it's this color.

Chicken feet.  Very popular.  They like the bones and tendons and fat here often more than they like the meat.

They have these at 711 too.  I still haven't figured out what most of it is, but it sure looks nasty.

Intestines I think?

Eating area.

Squid.  Very popular.

I had never seen this before and had no idea what it was.  The guy saw me stop and stare at it and started saying, "Hello!  Welcome to Taiwan!" over and over again.  He was super nice.  He let me take pictures and then gave me one for free.  They were oysters!  Not bad, but VERY salty.

I really miss American food.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Southernmost Tip of Taiwan

This is the last time I apologize for a super long post.  It's just how I write!  Oh well!!

As mentioned in the previous post, Tom and I recently took a trip to Kenting, which lies all the way at the bottom of Taiwan.  It's a National Park and very popular vacation spot for Taiwanese and foreigners alike.  About half way through this post you're probably going to be thinking we're crazy.  Anyway, we had planned to go a few weeks in advance and had taken the day off and everything when we learned that there was possibly going to be a typhoon coming in on the day we had planned to leave!  We, of course, did not want to go if there was going to be a typhoon, but we were really disappointed and the news about the typhoon was a bit inconsistent.  One person would say, "definitely Typhoon" and another would say, "I'm pretty sure it has changed it's course."

With the ambiguity + our anxiousness to go, we probably would have just decided to go anyway had it not been for the fact that we were planning on driving there....on our scooter, a huge target for the elements, instead of taking a bus or something.  

We checked the weather any way we could and continued to be undecided even until after breakfast, the Friday we had planned to leave.  The night before we'd said, "let just see how the weather is when we wake up."  Of course, when we woke up the sky was cloudy but not ominous - ever ambiguous.  So we said, "let's go to breakfast and see if it clears up."  Of course, it didn't, so we said, "let's pack everything up and start driving and if a typhoon comes we can always pull over and take shelter."  So that's what we did.

Here was our plan.  We had a map, but we had to drive south for a while before it would start covering our route and we had to get almost all the way to Kenting before it started covering it well enough for us to use only the map.  So, I plugged the route into google maps (yes, it works in Taiwan) and since we don't have a printer and since google maps directions were in Chinese I zoomed in on the google maps map where at least some of the roads were in Chinese and hand wrote directions for the whole way.  Luckily you can choose to not use highways on GMs because scooters aren't allowed on highways.  Sound complicated yet?  Think we're crazy yet?  

On top of that, our planned form of accommodation was....camping.  Yup.  And let's not forget that you need gear for camping and scooters are, well, small.  So, that leads us to the picture below.  As you can see, Tom is sporting my large backpacking bag, which also had a tent inside of it (we pack light).  Draped over his shoulder is a long sleeved shirt - his only protection if it were to rain.  In his hands are his helmet and our food bag, which we hooked on the front of the scooter.  And of, course, headphones coming out of his shirt for the long drive.  Actually, you can't tell, but he also has two sleeping bags draped over his shoulder.

The big bag was placed where the driver's feet usually go and the sleeping bags were tied to the back.  It was quite the scene.  There is a picture of the scooter farther down that you may use to visualize this.

The first real disaster of the trip was that before we'd even been out for an hour and before we even got to the area our map covers, we...lost the directions.  Yeah, they flew away.  Whoops!  We decided to keep going.  It's a miracle that we figured out where to go seeing as how only some signs have English on them.  We got lost several times.  We also had to take frequent breaks, like when we stopped at the park shown below for some stretching.

Google maps estimated that the drive would take us 4 hours and 15 minutes.  We finally limped our way into the campsite after about 7.  It takes about 20 minutes on the back of a scooter for your rear to go completely numb, your back to start hurting and your ankles to get sore.  It....was...miserable.  

On a positive note, campsites in Taiwan are quite posh.  The bathrooms resemble real bathrooms, the areas are landscaped nicely and tents go on platforms instead of the ground.  As you can see below, this one even had a nice frame around it.  These photos were taken in the morning.

The campsite next to this huge field.  It was so green and just gorgeous!  We had brought along our baseball mits and ended up playing lots of catch on this grass.  

Anyway, after we arrived and set everything up we went out to the city's main road and had some dinner.  See the previous post.  If you've read that post, you know that dinner only made the day worse.  Finally, we went to sleep - or at least tried to.  While there was no typhoon, it was VERY windy and the walls of our tent shook like you cannot imagine.  It really felt like we were in a typhoon.  To make matters worse, it started to rain in the middle of the night and when we stumbled out to try to attach the rain tarp we found that the one in the bag was for a much larger tent (we were borrowing from a friend). That only made the wind worse because then there was double flapping.  Plus, it didn't completely block the rain.  On TOP of all this, I got a massive migraine in the middle of the night.  Plus, the heat was stifling.

By the time Tom woke up I was DONE and ready to GO.  As soon as the rain died down we headed into town and miraculously found some tylenol.  We had breakfast at McDonalds while I waited for the meds to kick in and went to the visitor's center.  Things pretty much went uphill from there.

The headache disappeared and we decided to try to find a hike our friend had told us about that purportedly had 7 waterfalls.  It was a bit tricky to find, but we did and it was great!  It was very jungle-like and beautiful and we felt like Indiana Jones because you had to hold onto ropes the whole way up because it was so steep and slippery.  See below.

At one point we met this little fella who was chillin on the rope.  He was NOT shy.  He'd let us get as close as we wanted, which is very unusual for a lizard.  Sweet yellow stripe too.

While I was taking photos of the lizard we were surprised to hear someone from behind us ask, "see any waterfalls, yet?"  English is always unexpected.  The voice turned out to be from a guy who was from Taiwan but had been living in Vancouver for most of his life.  His wife was with him too.  Not too much further and the trail ended with a sign that just said not to keep going.  So, we chatted with the couple for quite a while.  It was nice to talk to some new people in English.  

While we chatted we soaked our feet in an icy pond and, to our left we noticed this little guy:

Actually, he was pretty big.  Also, I think he was eating another crab.  Gross!

Here's Tom headed back down:

I've mentioned this in previous posts, but Taiwan had these otherworldly huge spiders.  You see them all over the place when you hike.  I am not a spider person, so I'm always freaking out inside when we hike.  We saw this one on the hike down and it may have been the biggest one yet.  The body, alone, is significantly bigger than my thumb.  The legs are thicker than toothpicks.  They...are...sinister.  Plus, every time we moved it would make sudden movements too.  Scared the living daylights out of me!  Can you find the babies?

On a happier note, check out the beautiful beach scenery!

That night we just took it easy.  Every night the main street in lined with food and souvenirs stalls for at least a mile or longer.  Tons of people shuffle along on the sides of the street and it's so crowded that it's hard for cars to get through and if you're not careful you'll get run over by a bus.  We headed there every night for dinner.  This night we ate at a lovely Thai place.  The food was delicious!  We got a green curry and a pineapple, coconut curry.  For desert I had this coconut + jelly + fruit thing that I hadn't had in years.  Mmmm.

That night, I slept alright, but Tom kept waking, sitting bolt upright and yelling, "typhoon!"  I'd assure him it was only wind or he'd stumble out to see for himself.  At one point he also couldn't handle the heat and went outside for a while.  We each had our night of misery.  

The campsite was also home to a flock (?) of turkeys.  They would wander all over the place and even walked right by our tent at one point.  I love their goofy sound.

We had McDonald's for breakfast again, then headed to a beach we'd heard was nice that was a bit farther away.  It's called Baisha.  I was expecting a bit more deserted beach, but we ended up having a great time anyway.  We played in the clear water, made a sandcastle, took a nap and read ("Treasure Island" for me).  But, hands down the best part of both the beach and the trip was our inner tube ride.  

All of the area beaches offer rides on various inner tubes, pulled by a seadoo.  We chose one that was rather small and triangle shaped, with a hole for your bum in each corner.  I'm pretty sure the seadoo driver took one look at us and thought, "foreigners - I'll show them!"  One second we had just sat down and barely gotten our hand around the handles and the next we were hanging on for DEAR LIFE.  Anyone who knows me well knows I have a killer grip, but even I was really struggling.  We both couldn't help but laugh this nervous, uncontrollable laughter.   The reason why it was so difficult is because the guy just went around in circle after circle.  Centrifugal forces are STRONG.  It was terrifying, but the most fun I've had in a long time.

At one point, we went over a bump and as soon as we did I knew Tom was done.  Sure enough, I looked over just in time to see his whole body, stiff as a board, fly into the air and skid across the water.  He said it was fun.  I didn't fall the whole time. In fact, when we got out and walked back past the other inner tubes and workers, one of the lady employees gave me a big thumbs up and said, "yeah!  Good job!"  I've never been more proud.

Below is our sandcastle.

Here is Hank (the scooter):

A few photos of the beach:

When we left, we headed to another close by town and booked a hostel room for our last night.  We were DONE with camping.  I really do love camping most of the time, but not this time.  It was such a relief to walk into this humble, but nice sunlit room.  And even moreso to sink into this glorious bed - the first bed to actually "give" when I lay on it for almost a year now.  We took a delicious nap before heading back out to the main street again for dinner.

This time we ate at food stand that sold thin crust, California style pizzas with an actual stone oven right there on the side of the road.  It was fabulous.  I also found some beautiful shells for my hermit crabs in another shop.

That night we slept like dead men, then woke up early for the drive back.  Somehow, this time it only took us 4 hours.  We were back in time to take showers, eat and nap before heading to work that evening.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tom and Sheri Accidentally Go to a Strip Club

A little over a week ago, Tom and I decided to take a trip down to a place called Kenting.    I’ll definitely be dedicating an entire post to the trip, but before I do, I thought I’d tell you about a specific experience we had there and some of my thoughts on it.
The first night we were there, we were super hungry.  We found a restaurant that looked pretty good, so we headed on in.  It was immediately apparent upon walking in that the atmosphere left much to be desired, but we were there for the food, not the experience, so we didn’t really care.  
Tom and I started chatting and after a while we noticed that there was a pole in the middle of the restaurant.  Yeah, you know what that means, but we were a bit tired and out of it, so we didn’t make the connection.  It was just a pole to us. 
Not too long after we noticed the pole, one of the employees came over and closed the curtain for the window next to our booth.  We thought that was a bit strange, but didn’t think about it too much.  In fact, we thought it was kind of nice because it was really busy and crowded outside.
Then someone started saying something over the speakers which, of course, we couldn’t understand.  Then some music came on.  We were still clueless.  THEN, a rather skimpily dressed woman came out guessed it....started having a relationship with the pole.
We promptly asked to be moved outside, but had already seen much more than we had wanted to.  Rather I had see more than I wanted too because I was covering Tom’s eyes.
What was more horrifying, though, was that not only were there families with children inside who didn’t leave, but there were families with children outside who chose to move inside!  
After we moved outside, Tom and I talked about it for a bit.  What I couldn’t help but wonder is how is it that the men who are watching this with their wives or girlfriends or even just their friends are not embarrassed or feeling awkward?  Would these same women be ok with it if they were out with their significant other and a pretty girl walked by and he was obviously checking her out?  Doesn’t that send a message to the girl?
Tom’s response was that to a lot of people it has ceased to become taboo.  They don’t give it a second thought.  It’s not considered base and dirty.  It’s just a way to have fun.  What do you think?  Do you think that way?  Do you know others who do?  Or do you find it still so hard to imagine like I do?  
I also marveled that people would be so willing to expose their children to something like that.  He said that they’re probably the type of people who don’t really put much thought into their parenting.  Like, a “they just go where I go” kind of attitude where they aren’t consciously thinking about their children a whole lot.  What do you think?  Why do you think parents would be ok with exposing their children to things like that?  Maybe they think they’re too young for it to affect them?  Or do they just not care?
Finally, I also started wondering about feminists and how they feel about stuff like this.  Like, I feel as if these days it’s pretty frowned upon if you’re seen as the type of person who doesn’t respect women.  Whether it be through outright discrimination in the workplace or otherwise, or whether it be in more subtle ways.  There’s a big movement out there, for example, against the media distorting images of women to make them seem more beautiful.  A lot of women take issue with that practice, but and yet I feel like strip clubs and the like don’t seem to have fallen under that umbrella.  I mean, I know plenty of people who seem otherwise progressive when it comes to women’s rights but who would also enjoy going to a strip club (or something like it).  This seems really strange to me, because to me that type of this is obviously degrading to women.  Do other people not see it that way?  How come this doesn’t seem to be much a part of the dialogue?  Do others not agree that using women purely as sex objects is pretty degrading?
I wrote this post for two reasons.  The first is that I really am genuinely curious about all these questions I’m sending out to the blogging void.  I really want to know what other people think wether I agree with them or not.  The second is to let it be know that I am 100%, non negotiably against anything even remotely resembling a strip club.  That may seem extreme, naive, close-minded, etc. etc. to some people, but I make no apologies and I am not ashamed to say so.  Not only do I think they are degrading to women (and men actually) but I think that they hugely distort something very important and private.  Finally, above all, I now know from personal experience that they do not make me feel uplifted, they make me feel dark and as long as I have the ability to choose what I expose myself to I will always try my best to only expose myself to uplifting things, even if there are other “fun” things that aren’t uplifting.
Oh, and just to be clear, if you are the type who likes to go to places like this, I still like you I just loathe your choice.  
Please do tell me your thoughts.  I know I asked a LOT of questions, so answer one and them all, I don’t care.  But I’d love to hear from you.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Time for a Change

I decided that the old blog background was starting to feel a bit dark and oppressive.  Time for a lighter, fresher look.  And heck, the title was too long and meaningless, so I changed that too.  In the end, I decided to do an complete blog makeover.  I feel empowered.  Maybe it was the kid that did it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I Know You Can Learn to Ride a Bike

I happened upon this video today and it made me so happy!  I think I'm going to be playing this the next time I feel down.  Also, it reminds me of a younger version of Tom, because this is exactly how Tom gets sometimes.  Plus, Tom had trouble with his "r"s too.  Super cute.

So, seriously guys, whatever you're trying to do, just keep trying!  You can do it!  Oh, and thumbs up for rock and roll!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Belated Happy Birthday to...Me!

My birthday was way back on May 5th, but I've been too lazy to make a post about it until now.  The only reason I got to it, actually, is because I have another post I'm quite excited to do and, since I don't want to mess up the mostly chronologically pure nature of my blog, I had to do this one first.

Anyway, Tom and I couldn't really come up with a great plan for my birthday, especially since we both worked that evening.  But, it ended up being fun anyway.  Arguably, the best part of the day was waking up to a DELICIOUS breakfast of crepes with a homemade orange glaze type sauce, made by my talented husband.  They were made even better by being eaten on the balcony in view of a "Happy Birthday" poster Tom had made for me.  It was followed by opening presents from, yes, Tom.  Aint he great?

A few hours later, we picked up some lunch and headed to the "beach."  That sentence sounds a lot nicer than the reality.  FIrst of all, we wanted to get a scrumptious lunch to go, but the only thing we could honestly think of to get was Burger King, because all the other take out places we know aren't real tasty :( .  Second, the beach in Tainan just...isn't that spectacular.  It's really hot, quite dirty, rocky and barren, with no good waves.  It was a bit of a rough start, but we enjoyed it anyway!  Here is Tom after eating the hamburgers, which were actually soggy:

The best part of the trip was just walking and talking down by the surf.  It was made even better by the appearance of this little guy:

He was beautiful!  Look at those colors!  He was pretty good about sitting for my photos session too.  I got pretty close, but he didn't scamper off.

Mmm, yes:

Tom with the crab:

Work was actually pretty good.  My manager, who is quite forceful and outspoken in a very endearing way is also very much the drill sergeant type with the kids.  So, pretty much every kid who walked by me she'd stop them and sternly say, "go say Happy Birthday to Teacher Sheri!  Now!"  It was pretty funny.  When I walked into my first class, it was a bit of a shock when one of my students immediately said, "Teacher Sheri!  It's my birthday!"  In honor of our birthdays we made the class a bit more of a party and I let him win all class long at every game.  One of my favorite students, Leo, from my oldest class wrote me a little "Happy Birthday Teacher Sheri!" message and put it on my desk.