Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back to Work

Erin and I have now been back to work for two weeks.  The first week was for staff orientation/preparation and the second week was the actual first week of school with students.

It has been very busy for me as I've worked with the school technician to get the technology at the school ready for classes.  The school has a lot of new technology this year including an upgraded student information system, a new Apple server, a 1:1 laptop initiative for students in the 6th grade, and an upgraded wireless network throughout school.  This has meant more things for me to prepare and more training for the teachers.  All of the teachers have worked to adapt to all this new technology and I'm happy that they've been able to do so.

Erin's back to grading now as we've started to get back into a rhythm again after the summer.  In some ways it's nice to be working again and helping people out, but I often miss being up in the cool mountains on the motorcycle.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Green Island

With the start of classes just a week away Erin and I decided to spend this past weekend out at Green Island. This relatively small island to the east of Taiwan had been on our list of places to go all last year, but we were often thwarted in our attempts to go. Getting there is a bit of a trek.

On Friday we took the subway to the train station to catch our train out to the east side of Taiwan.  We had learned from previous attempts to purchase our tickets early in order to get a seat during this popular season. After the 2 1/2 hour train ride we made it to Taitung where we tried to figure out the bus schedule to the harbor. After being told we would need to wait 40 minutes we decided to just take a taxi. The taxi driver hurried us to the harbor so that we could book tickets on the ferry that happened to be leaving mere minutes after we arrived.  Fortunately we had taken our motion sickness pills an hour before, but we still grew rather nauseous on the 50 minute boat ride.

Upon arriving on the island we were met by several people renting scooters and we were soon riding around the island.  Being a somewhat small island it didn't take us long to get to our hotel and check in.  After dropping off our bags we were back on the scooter and cruising around the island.  About 30 minutes later we had circumnavigated Green Island and were back in our air conditioned room relaxing.  Well, all the travel must have worn us out because we soon went to take a nap and didn't get up again until the next morning.

Saturday morning we tried to go out for some snorkeling, but soon found difficulties.  The day before we had seen large groups of snorkelers in wet suits and life jackets being led out past the small waves holding on to life preservers. We just wanted to rent a mask and some fins to see the reefs that Green Island is locally known for.  However, we tried four different places and none of them would just rent us the gear (or they didn't understand what we were asking). We finally ended up just going to the beach and wading in the cool water.

Later that day it was Erin's turn to ride the scooter as I sat on the back. We stopped several times to take pictures of the beautiful coastlines and rock formations.  The formations in the picture above are called Pekingese and Sleeping Beauty for their resemblance to a dog and a woman laying down. Throughout the day we would take time out of the heat back at our air conditioned room to relax and read before heading out again.  That night we even decided to get adventurous and had dinner at a cook-it-yourself BBQ place where we were given a table with a small fire pit in it, an aluminum foil wrapped grill, and directions to a large fridge with tubs of raw meat and vegetables. While we were able to cook a couple of things the experience left something to be desired and the heat of our little fire was more than we could stand for very long.

On Sunday we were up early again as a result of lingering jet lag so we made our way to the island's hot springs. Said to be one of only three salt-water hot springs in the world we were glad to get there before it got to packed.  Unfortunately the pools closest to the ocean were closed for repairs, but it was still a nice outdoor hot spring.  Before too long it was time to make the trek back home.  After scooter, boat, car, train, and subway we were exhausted. I'm glad we got a chance to see Green Island, but I feel like we can cross it off our list of places to go in the future.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Return to Taiwan

Our summer of fun is coming to an end as we got on a plane and returned to Taiwan. We left Denver at 9AM Friday morning and arrived in Kaohsiung, Taiwan around 9PM Saturday. Of course part of that long time was just crossing the International Date Line and losing a day, but the 13 hour flight from Dallas to Tokyo added to it as well. At least there were plenty of movies to watch.

On Sunday we met our friends Pete and Leah who were spending their honeymoon in Asia. It was fun to get a rental car and take them to some places in the area that we hadn't seen before. We started out in a small town called Sandimen where the native people carry on the tradition of making glass beads. Erin and Leah enjoyed making their own beads with the help of the women there. After a slow lunch we went to the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Culture Park nearby. We were excited to learn about the many different tribes of indigenous people in Taiwan, but the heat and humidity soon got to us and we went back into Kaohsiung to get ready for dinner.

The next day we drove down to the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium south of Kaohsiung. While Erin and I had been before it was nice to stroll through the air conditioned rooms and see the variety of sea life including penguins, seals, beluga whales, and a whale shark. We then took Leah and Pete to Lotus Lake near our school before taking them to the train station to continue on their trip. It was very nice to see them and share part of Taiwan with them on their honeymoon.

These next two weeks will be spent getting ready for the new school year, settling back in to Kaohsiung, and enjoying the last remnants of summer vacation.