Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thank you, 2012

Oh, 2012, you were a year of self discovery. It followed the trend of my life-each year gets even better than the last. I spent this entire past year living and working in Taipei, and although it sounds pretty mundane, it was anything but. Here are some highlights:

Team Max: My first team sport happened to be dragon boat rowing. Very, VERY competitively-and my girl's team won FIRST PLACE! Definitely one of the happiest moments of my life because we worked HARD. Like, getting up at 5:30 am every weekday to work out like crazy, and then going to work smelling like lifejackets and river water. Also, I met very cool people, some of which are my best friends here in Taiwan now!

SHIDA: I love going to Chinese school. I took a second term at National Taiwan Normal University this Spring, and almost finished Book 3! It's amazing being able to read out sentences and whole stories and understand it all. Plus, my classmates were a wild bunch and made the whole term unforgettable. It's never too late to learn a new language!

Lu Dao Island: That was also unforgettable. This trip showed the power of true friendship to prevail against all weather. Mariel, Joanna and I went to Lu Dao, an island off the east coast of Taiwan, to spend Joanna's birthday weekend. I was absolutely miserable but ironically I also had one of the best weekends ever. We were cycling around the island, most of which was uphill, during a typhoon that lasted all trip, and I refused to wear a poncho. Good times.

BEING SINGLE: Yes, that was one of my highlights this year. I enjoyed the heck out of it too! I went hiking with friends, I partied, I went on causal dates, bought a guitar, I went on all-day cycling trips, went to concerts, jumped off rocks, ate everything I wanted, and soaked in my summer of freedom. I was insanely happy, in great shape and barely had to work. I was proud of myself for standing tall and being able to laugh at my future with confidence.

Taipei 101 Run: One of the coolest things I can tell people when I'm old!!! I ran up the stairs of Taipei 101, from the bottom ALL the way to the top. Taipei 101 is one of the tallest buildings in the world! (2nd? It keeps on changing! Stop it, Dubai.)

Bali: Sun, sun, sun. Beautiful beaches, streets full of colorful shops, Bitang beer, perfect.

My Students: Over the summer K2 graduated, did a spectacular job on their graduation performance, and now I am their K3 teacher as well! I know every parent brags about their kids, but this class is really talented. I know each one well by now-I know what they want to be when they grow up, I know what they are allergic to, I know which ones have lost which teeth, I even know how many rooms their apartments have (cause they tell me everything). I taught them Gangnam style and they picked it up in an hour. I can teach them any song, in English, and they'll singing and making up dance moves for it by the end of the week. I adore them, and they adore me.

Gaelic Football-the Celts: After Team Max, there was the Celts. Gaelic football is a cross between rugby and Australian football. You catch with your hands, kick, or pass it over the goal. It was the most confusing game to learn, but it was good fun. This is how I was covered in dirt every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday over the summer into the fall. And I almost picked up an Irish accent too. Well, at least I picked up an Irish boyfriend...

Love: Most definitely always a highlight! Sometimes the most unexpected things turn out to be more wonderful than you could ever have imagined. (I'm pretty sure that's been quoted by someone, somewhere.) No room for the whole love story here, but we met on Team Max, went river tracing w a group of friends, ran into each other at a few more parties, I joined the Irish sport, and BAM now we're taking on the world togetherrrrrrrr.

So, here's to 2012-may the next year continue to bring in good health, strong friendships, new adventures, and true love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A VISA TRIP- Day Three

We woke up early on Day Three, because we had planned to see the Giant Buddha before heading off to Macau! It was another dismal, rainy day, and we ended up having breakfast at Starbucks again. Next time I go to Hong Kong I will do a very thorough search for cafes that serve breakfast if our hotel doesn't!! Boyfriend and I both love, love, LOVE breakfast. I've never met anyone who loved breakfast as much as me, and (sorry we are obviously in the 'in love' stage of our relationship) having breakfast with him in the mornings, whenever we can cram in time, is one of my favorite things that we do together! Sorry. Okay so we didn't have a great breakfast but we had decent coffee!
We took the MTR to Tung Chung, cause from there cable cars take you up to the foggy mountains where there famous tourist attraction sits. The line was long, but it was to be expected for a Saturday morning. I don't particularly love or hate cable cars, I think they are a cool alternative to other modes of transportation and sometimes you can take cool pictures! Ironically, as soon as our cabin went over the first mountain, all we could see was grey. It was like floating in a cloud all the way to the buddha! I'm pretty sure the reason why I had never heard of this attraction is because my family are conservative Christians and my mother would have lost her mind if she knew I wanted to go see a BUDDHA. So as a disclaimer in case she sees this, mom I have not converted, I just wanted to see a big statue on a pretty mountain :)

And it was pretty indeed! There was a little street full of touristy shops leading up to the stairs of the mountain, and the whole place was really foggy. I felt like I was in China! (And as far as I'm concerned, Taiwan is not China, it is an island next to China and since they are not land connected then I say Taiwan it it's own country) Boyfriend and I marveled at the view from buddha's throne, snapped a few shots and came back down. We wrote wishes on a wooden tag and hung them on a wishing wall. I wrote something tacky and Boyfriend called me out on it, but I thought his was corny too!

Anyway, after a relaxing lunch we eventually made it back to the hotel, grabbed our bags, and boarding the ferry to Macau! Going to Macau from Hong Kong is fairly simple. The ferry docks are down Canton Street, but on the opposite end of the normal ferries that take you to Central. I forgot how long the float was, about an hour? But they check your passport and go through immigration like at the airport! I had never been to Macau before, and neither of us knew anything about it. It was kinda funny, at the docks we were asking ourselves and other people what language was spoken there, what currency they use, what country they were?!?! It was funny and exciting, two things I always embrace on trips.
When we got out, it was dark and I could see sharp lights standing out from the darkness. We got to our shuttle and I was glued to the window as we zoomed past grandly lit European styled buildings, glitzy Vegas styled buildings, flashy fountains and just classy lights galore. I think living in Taiwan,  I just don't associate 'lots of colored lights' to be beautiful anymore, but these in Macau were way more elegantly done. They say Macau is the Vegas of China, but I didn't realize that they actually made replica buildings such as the Venetian...only Macau's casino revenues surpassed Vegas years ago! After we checked in our hotel (I can't remember the name now but it was nice! Had a wedding and 80th birthday going on we were tempted to crash) Boyfriend and I head out to Old Town for dinner before hitting the casinos.
Using travel brochures, maps and information desk people for a crash course of Macau 101, I learned that Macau was the first and last European colony in China. They were ruled by the Portuguese, so they have a heavy influence from them with their food and cultures. They were handed back to China in 1999, and right now as far as country stuff goes they are kinda special on their own but not, like Hong Kong. The official language is Portuguese but the people I heard and spoke to, used Cantonese the same Chinese dialogue spoken in Hong Kong (and my family-me not so much).
We walked around til we found this delightful, authentic-looking corner restaurant called Galo. This is not a food blog, but if anyone wants a recommendation for good Portuguese food I would strongly recommend this place! We were so lucky to get in half an hour before the kitchen closed, I didn't know what to order so we went based off recommendations and the whole place smelled amazing. I felt like I was sitting in someone's kitchen, and the menus were just laminated photos of the dishes, but the food was wonderful! 

We ate quickly and happily. Honestly I could be eating chicken slabs off a concrete ground in a tent and be happy with him, which we have done before, during of which I WAS still happy. That was a whole different trip adventure in Hualien, too far back to blog about but maybe someday will come out in my book ;). Then, we explored the Chinese Vegas!

Okay, I am not a gambling type of person and I actually borderline disapprove of it. I wanted to go to Macau to check out the buildings and go be in another country, not gamble. But we were there, and the buildings were breath-taking so it was fine. We wandered through Galaxy and ended up at the Venetian, exchanged some money and sat down at some tables, won some money and lost some money, had a drink at the bar and went to sleep!