First of all allow me to explain the title of my blog. Taiwan: Touch Your Heart. There are signs just like that all over Taiwan. I think it is supposed to be their tourism slogan. It's a little corny but in a wonderful way. And it is so true! The Taiwanese people are so kind and so warm and welcoming, the land is beautiful, and the food is delicious. My heart has already been touched by this beautiful country.
So, as of this morning, I have officially lived in Taiwan for one entire month. Therefore I thought as a little anniversary gift I might as well get going on this here blog. I cannot believe it's been four weeks. I only have five months left! Time is a strange thing. The old saying applies perfectly to my life here. "The days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days." Needless to say I am loving it here and I wouldn't trade this experience for anything in the world. Not even for the chance to see Paul Mccartney in concert...which is really hard to admit...Well I guess I better get blogging...
Week One:The plane ride was endless. Fourteen hours does not go by quickly when you desperately want to arrive at your destination. Luckily it was dark almost the whole time so I was able to sleep a lot. When the sun did finally rise it wasn't without its perks. The most exciting part was catching my first glimpse of Ilha Formosa, my new home, Taiwan.
Upon arrival, the four of us: Kailey, Annalisa, Liz, and myself, somehow managed to figure out how to get through customs and find our ride from Taipei to Changhua City. The ride was a couple hours long and sat up front and tried to take it all in but before long all four of us fell asleep. It seemed like minutes later that we were pulling over in front of a large unfamiliar building that would soon enough become VERY familiar. It was our apartment building and it is as wonderful as I could ever imagine. Our apartment is right off of this little courtyard area and get this: we have guards. There are perfectly congenial gentlemen on guard 24/7 making sure the apartment complex is safe. Every time we go out they wave energetically to us helping to make us feel instantly at home.The rest of the first day (and week for that matter) were very strange. Some parts are very distinct in my mind while other parts are completely lost in my mind. over all I don't remember much about it except for a few grand adventures like for instance our trip to Taichung our first night to do KTV. I must say these people know how to Karaoke. This was our party's private room:
And then of course came the adventure of the water hamster balls the next day. This is something I have long dreamed of doing and wasn't disappointed in at all.
After that we went to the restaurant Modern Toilet. It was a theme restaurant and I don't think I need to tell you what the theme was... Its fascinating how much the people here love poop. It doesn't matter if you are a small boy or an older woman. The topic of poop as always an amusing one. Do not be alarmed dear readers, the restaurant was quite sanitary and quite delicious. I still have yet to experience the delights of "ladudze" in this country.
I forgot to mention how extremely popular scooters are here. I'm pretty sure if you added up all the scooters in the entire United States it still wouldn't amount to the number of scooters found on this island. Not only that but they fit as many people they can on one scooter. I have yet to get a picture of the common four people to a scooter but once I do believe me, it will be blogged. Its interesting to me that the people that are always telling you to be careful and cautious are willing to fit their family of five onto one scooter and speed down the busiest streets. That, my dear Miss Morissette, is more ironic than a rainy wedding day- which really isn't ironic at all...
Weeks 2-4: Now that I'm getting into a routine all the days have began to blur together. once we started teaching time started getting away from us. The Maryland Language School is my place of employment and I have a great fondness for it already. The faculty is great- and I don't just mean the other teachers. Sheri: our boss,Emily and Penny: the secretaries, Linda: the incredible cook, and Uncle Joe: our fix it man all work together to make a great family school. and then of course there are the students. You can't help but LOVE them. I teach basic reading, which is kids about 7 and 8 years old just learning to read English, and I teach the 4A elementary class which is kids that are between ages 11 and 13. All of my classes are very different and all of them have their pros and cons but overall I really enjoy working with these smart, hard working kids.
The weekend of the fourth of July is something worth mentioning... I was feeling a little sad about missing the wonderful celebrations at home but I guess the Lord knew we needed some sort of celebration to boost our morale because he sent it to us....in the form of a Buddhist holiday. The third of July was absolutely perfect. There were several brilliant parades all over town. They shot off rockets everywhere. The firework shells literally filled the streets. Later that night we hiked up Baguashan to where the big Buddha resides. The hike up was breathtaking as the sun set on us. As we made our way towards the Buddha the crowds slowly became more and more concentrated. There had to be thousands of people up there that night. They were all gathered watching some traditional dancing on the steps in front of the Buddha. It was then that my heart started pounding. Everything an aspiring dance anthropologist could ever wish for. After they finished dancing fireworks started shooting up in the air from somewhere down below. It was quite beautiful. After those had died down we found some stairs to sit down on as we absorbed the culture around us. It was very entertaining watching the people interact with each other and parents kept sending their children over to us to say "hello!" After a few minutes of stillness we noticed the people were gathering their attention towards the steps again and slowly we realized they were counting down. Just as I seemed to make the connection in my head fireworks flew up from behind Buddha. Now my heart was really pounding. The firework show that followed was easily the most incredible one I have ever seen in my life. Words can't even describe how incredible I felt being caught in the middle of this celebration. It was easily one of the top ten greatest moments of my life to date. The rest of the evening was just as momentous. We leisurely walked around the precipice just enjoying the atmosphere. There was a delightful little water show done in the fountain (to oddly enough music by John Philip Sousa) and the kids gleefully ran through it. Everyone was so happy and at ease. The night was pleasantly warm. Nothing could have been better for the fourth of July.... except perhaps a good old fashion game of baseball under the fireworks- sandlot style.
The next few adventures we went on were quite marvelous as well. We went on a day trip to a town called Ershui where we hiked up a little mountain and saw dozens upon dozens of wild monkeys. We also came across a cemetery that was rather old and lovely. My favorite part, however, might have been our little dance party we had on a bridge at nearly the top of the mountain. The view was breathtaking.... so why not dance right??
That Sunday we had the opportunity to go to Taipei with our ward to hear Elder Uchtdorf speak. What a wonderful man he is. I dare the world to show me a more romantic life story than that of his and his wife's. We sure do have some great leaders in this church.
The next weekend we got to go back to Taipei again to attend the temple. What a quaint little temple it is. :) It may be small but the work that goes on in there is the greatest in the world. While we were there we also got to take a small trip to Taipei 101. The second tallest building in the world. We didn't get to go on top of it yet but when I do I will say a little more about the meaning of the architecture and what not because it really is quite lovely. While looking at this impeding spectacle of man made glory we could faintly see the moon shining behind it through the clouds. This was a little reminder to me that even though man can build great and beautiful wonders it is still the wonders of God that exceed all. The work that goes on in the great Taipei 101 may impressive but its the work that goes on in the small and humble Taipei temple that is truly important. What a worthwhile trip this was.
Well, there it is. The highlights of my first month on this grand adventure. I feel so blessed to be here right now! My soul delights in adventuring.