Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thanksgiving, Paper Umbrellas, and Rugby

One of the things I really enjoy about living abroad is the ability to experience multiple cultures, even those of countries we're not currently living in.  I've found that living as a foreigner in a different country often means that you get to know other foreigners more than the locals.  As English speakers we naturally tend to gravitate towards other English speakers.

So it was last Monday night, as the Republic of China (Taiwan) celebrated it's 100th anniversary, Erin and I could be found at a restaurant/bar enjoying Canadian Thanksgiving.  Similar to a Thanksgiving meal in America; we enjoyed turkey, stuffing, ham, mashed potatoes, and finished off with some pumpkin pie.  We even had leftovers for lunch the next day.  Looking around at the Western decor and fellow Westerners enjoying the feast I could imagine being in North America.

On Saturday this past weekend we were back to local Taiwanese culture as our friend took us to Meinong, a town in the foothills not far from Kaohsiung.  We started with a delicious lunch at a place that served local, naturally-grown food.  The style was more typical of the indiginous tribes than the fried food we often see in the city.  After lunch we went to a shop where they hand-make and paint paper umbrellas.  There were many beautiful designs in various shapes.  To finish out our trip we visited a local potter.  We're hoping that the pottery and paper umbrellas will provide some character to whatever place we get back in Colorado.

For Sunday afternoon I was off to celebrate some more foreign culture as another bar had a satellite link to the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup.  My friend, Andrew, had invited me to watch his national, New Zealand team: the "All Blacks", versus the Australian "Wallabies".  It was the first time I had seen a full rugby game and I enjoyed how fast-paced it was.  It helped that the team we were cheering for ended up winning.

I suppose that we could have enjoyed Canadian Thanksgiving and the Rugby World Cup in the US, but I doubt we would have known about them.  Maybe now that we know about them we'll be on the lookout for opportunities to enjoy them back in the States.

Monday, October 10, 2011

10-10 in Taipei

Today is Double Ten Day in Taiwan which celebrates the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China.  We got a three day weekend and took the opportunity to go back up to Taipei.  We've found it very nice to be able to jump on the high speed train and be up there in about 90 minutes.

As soon as we arrived and were in our taxi to our hotel we saw wave after wave of aircraft fly over.  It was exciting to see the different helicopters, planes, and jets.  We checked in at the Tokyo International Hotel with a very friendly staff but we only stayed long enough to drop off our bags.  We were soon off for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant we had enjoyed in the past.  We thought we might be late, but they sat us anyways and served a good meal.

After lunch we took the train out to the hills around Taipei for a ride up the gondola.  It was very nice to walk around the terraced fields and tea houses while the sun set.  By the time we started back towards the gondola it was already getting dark which made navigating some of the trails difficult, but it was an exciting adventure.  Down at the base of the gondola we stopped to view a water show (with lights, music, and jets of water).  Though we had to wait 30 minutes for the show to start we were treated to a random fireworks display nearby as soon as we sat down.

Back in the city we went to dinner at Gordon Biersch for some western-style food.  As we waited for a table we were able to stroll around a mall featuring a person dressed like a large cat and a group of dogs trained to lie down next to each other for a very long time.  Dinner was good with a delicious desert.
The next day we got up late and went to brunch at a place called "Grandma Nitti's".  The decor was nice, but the food was a little off.  We got on the train and went out north of the city to a place called "Danshuei" where the Taipei rivers drain into the sea.  Though it was raining a little we went ahead with our plans to take a ferry across the river and ride bikes around. It turned out to be a nice ride even though there were a lot of people.

Our day got more exciting as we took the ferry back across the river and somehow got stuck.  We couldn't tell what was going on, but the engines were running and we weren't moving.  The captain seemed to try a variety of maneuvers to get unstuck and there was even another ferry that came and gave us a bump.  When the crew had many of us move to the front of the small ferry some people seemed to get worried and had put on life jackets.  But the captain managed to get unstuck somehow and get us to our destination.

To relax from the excitement of the day we found a wonderful little hot chocolate place.  The hot chocolate was delicious and the atmosphere was cozy.  Back out on the streets the crowds were starting to grow thick.  There were some people in pirate costumes doing a dance with a float behind them, but most people were milling around the shops. 

We got back on the train and came back home Sunday night.  It was fun to get out of Kaohsiung for a while and see many things that we don't have here.  It was a little exhausting though and I'm glad we have today to catch our breath before going back to work tomorrow.