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I thought I would become a recluse when Kris left, just go to work and cocoon most of the time inside my apartment with my books and laptop. HA! There’s the nightly dinner trek. And while I’m out, I just have to stop to get some fresh fruit or yogurt or check out the $10 store or some such. That’s 10 New Taiwanese dollars. That’s about thirty American cents. They have pretty much everything you can find at a well stocked dollar store and they are a teacher’s paradise! There are also $39NT stores, one of which is in the Dream Mall in Kaoushoung. It’s actually a Japanese store and a wonderful place to shop for those little Japanese trinkets you just have to have!

Guess what I did in Chiayi!

Well, back to the subject… cocooning… not yet! I ended up in Chiayi with Carolyn on Saturday. Caught the high speed up there all by myself! I left on a beautiful, sunny morning and a few hours into the afternoon, the temperature began to drop and the winds picked up. It looked and felt like a chinook was about to settle in! It was so much warmer when I got back here in Pingtung! Sunday, I went to Kaousoung to the Dream Mall. I went to see the anticpated “American Gangster” and was much disappointed to see Denzel looking so incredibly gorgeous in a role that glorified the man who put poison into the veins of so many so that he could profit.

I did a little shopping after the movie, dinner at TGIFridays and headed home. I was so amazed by the lights outside the mall! I really think the display of lights has increased in the past week! Trees are laden with monocromatic, effervescent blues or oranges or greens. Some have a light blue and a dark blue stream of lights and they are just dazzling! Add a thread of red and they pop! And of course, I didn’t have my camera with me.

Today, the cold settled into Pingtung. Typically, it’s cool in the mornings and it begins to cool again just before sunset. But today it never warmed up. I’ve been told this will last for a while. Now, this could get interesting because apartments (i.e., my home!) have no heat. My classroom has four doors and two walls of nothing but windows. I was warned that it does get cold on this rock (which lies in the tropics) in the “winter” but I was also told that there are two climates in Pingtung: hot and hotter. Well, it’s not hot now! It’s not really too cold as I’m fine with a sweater or long sleeved shirt. For now.

And at the faculty meeting, our school nurse announced that flu season has hit the building. Yep, winter is here!

This will be my last post of 2007. I’m wishing all of you who have taken the time to check up on me some wonderful and exciting adventures of your own in 2008! May peace be your journey–cool runnings!

This day was 1.5 weeks ago, but I still need to post the photos!  Students and teachers spend months preparing for these events!  Teachers don’t like the day because of all the work involved, but students love it.  Well, students in winning classes love it.  My school holds tug of war competitions during the week so that the championship is on Saturday.  There is an art competition, musical performances and exhibitions of physical skills and prowess.  Parents, friends, alumni and even principals from other schools come to watch.  Every event is a team event so that all children are involved.  Two of the more interesting competions were a relay where pairs of students ran while holding a ball with a pair of sticks and groups of three students running while they had a ball between their backs.  Here, just look!

It was kind of an unusual workday. The students were noisy and excited as if it were a holiday. Many students and teachers dropped off cards. Some of my classes sang Christmas songs, or tried to in the midst of noise. The principal even stopped by to give me a special ornament handmade by his wife. It is something I will always teasure. You know I love crafty stuff, gifts from the heart! I felt bad that I didn’t take anything to give as a present, but I wasn’t expecting anything! I finalized plans with Rose and will leave in a few minutes to meet her for dinner. As I was coming in this evening, the guard handed me a box. I was curious. It was from Sandy Keough and the customs declaration simply stated “Christmas present”. Well, I brought it upstairs, and opened my box of Christmas! Sandy sent photos of me and Kris with dear friends who went to dinner with us before we left the country. It was so good to see their faces!! Heidi, Shirley, Aleyne, Nuku, Birma, Rod, Kim, Kim, Lydia, Rachel, Christian, mom. Nice memories! Then, THEN!!! she also sent Christmas cookies!! They were wrapped nice and snug, with special care that only Sandy would do. So, needless to say, Sandy is my Angel! Thanks, Sandy for sending a taste of Christmas, right on time!!

My evening ended with dinner in Kaoushoung at a quaint little pub owned by an Australian.  The decor and sounds of English created a Christmas atmosphere.  Dinner definitely did the trick!  We had turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, yams, mixed vegetables, cracked wheat bun and cherry pie.  O, my it was delicious!

All in all, I’ve had enough Christmas to be satisfied without feeling like I’m missing home for the holidays too much.  Or the snow!

Yeah, we had some fun! That would explain why there are no photos from Haulien. Last week went by so quickly!! All of these weeks have been going fast!

Kristen has gone home. We really had a great time together. We’ve forged a great relationship, like the phoenix rising from the ashes. We’ve learned so much from and about each other! She should be home as I write.

Mr. Hsieh and his family gave is a ride to the high speed rail station north of Kaoushoung. From there, it took us about 1.5 hours to do by train what a car would do in 4 hours. We got in late, but Kris, Sean and Suzanne went out partying, mighty Hoosiers that they are! The next day some of us went to the museum, some of us slept all day, and some went to 101 Mall. It was nice to get back up there and see the city and all that I had missed before. I had wondered what was so great about Taipei, and how it classified as a world class city. I saw it this time! WOW!! I don’t have the pictures to show all the stores, banks, clubs, theaters… so much!! I had always heard what a dirty city Taipei was and that was part of why we went south. That and the prospects of a beach in this county. So, we end up in one of the most polluted counties in the country, at its northern tip, completely inland!

The other teachers are fairing well. Marilyn visits an orphanage regularly, takes Chinese classes and visits with a 92 year old Jesuit priest on a regular basis. Rose works with two other foreign teachers and has developed situational classes in her school’s English Village. The Granderson’s have a beachfront home and work together in an elementary school. Carolyn tours a lot with her school families and will soon be joined by her spouse. Suzanne is located just outside Taipei and can see the ocean from her school. She’ll be going home for a brief visit soon, then returning to finish the second half of things.

Strawberries are in season. I picked some up from Carrefour today and hope to finish them soon. Fruits here don’t have preservatives and don’t last quite so long. They taste fresh and juicy!

Well, this is the time on the blog where YOU have to do the writing. C’mon, how about ‘Merry Christmas’? A snow report? A mouth watering report of Christmas dinner? Something??!!

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My friend, Jenny, sent me this photo. Isn’t it beautiful! O, how I miss snow!

I’m wondering what the weather is like in different cities back home. I hear about storms passing through the midwest, but the snowfall will differ between Toledo and Indianapolis, so I don’t know what folks may be experience. Sure would be nice to see some postings here!!

Kris will have to get a coat at the airport!!LOL

We went to Haulien this past weekend. We left Saturday after Sports Day at my school and came back this evening. I promise to post pictures tomorrow!

Sports Day is an annual event at every school at every level of study in this country. Students and teachers spend weeks preparing. My school has an art competition; cleans and decorates; students learn songs and practice athletic performances and there are many competitions. The day occurs on Saturday, I suppose so that parents can attend and there is no school on Monday. It was a really fun day day, and a full day for us as we rode the train for over 4 hours to this nice little town nestled between mountains and beaches in the north. I’ll download photos from Sports Day and Taroko Gorge tomorrow.

I found a different English language paper up there, as well as the China Post which I haven’t read in a while. Politics are getting kinda crazy here as we approach elections. Both the current president and his wife are already up on charges for various crimes. Now, there is speculation that he will put the country under marshall law and prevent the January elections. Who knows!

Also read of the passing of Julia Carson in the China Post. May she rest in peace.

I was writing Evan James today and I thought this sounded interesting enough to share here.  Evan is currently if Florida, working for Uncle Sam.

It’s 7:40 and the school day here is just beginning.  The sky is extremely overcast, looks like rain. I actually saw the mountains again yesterday morning!!
It’s about to get noisy here:  students are cleaning, music is on the intercom system which is loud enough for kris to hear at our apartment which is about 1/4 mile away.  the students will probably practice for sports day again today.  this means the band will play, there will be singing and lots of talking on the microphone which is loud enough for kris to hear. I’m not sure what sports day is all about. I just know that it’s a really big deal in elementary schools here.  They’ve been practicing, performing and decorating for weeks.  I’ve been given a special shirt to wear on Saturday for the day.

Speaking of loud, we didn’t hear fireworks last night. We usually hear them every night.  On Saturday evening when we came back from the beach, they were so loud I thought we were being attacked by China.  i could see the sky turning colors behind our building which verified fireworks. I’ve been told they’re set off for funerals, holidays and feasts related to local gods.

8:40 and the practice continues.  Look for pictures from Saturday!

Since we got here, there was one thing Kristen wanted to do. She wanted to go to Kenting National Park. a huge national park that encompasses the southern tip of this island. It’s all tropical beach and everyone says it’s the place to see. In fact, we chose to live in this county expecting be be down there in Kenting. With Kris leaving in two weeks, we realize there is a lot that she just isn’t going to get to see. We made it to Tainan, missed an opportunity to get to Taichung, have plans to get to Taroko Gorge and will celebrate the holiday back in Taipei. She was OK about not getting to Kenting…but I guess Mr. Hseih (pron: Shay) wasn’t. Now, understand Mr. Hseih is a busy man. Both he and his wonderful wife work full time and they have small children. He works at the school as a teacher and has administrative duties. On top of that, he’s been charged with taking care of me and Kristen: he’s busy!!! Yet and still, he had heard Kristen mention Kenting enough to know she really wanted to get there. So, he and his family took us last weekend. We drove along the coast about two hours Saturday morning on a beautiful sunny day. We stopped at the beach the Hseih’s usually visit, but it was pretty empty. This particular beach is marked by a monstrosity that sits in the ocean and is called “Nixon’s Head”. Yeah, it’s just that ugly. We spent some time walking on one beach that is covered with sand formed from coral, then went to another clean, bright vibrant beach where groups of kids and families were busy having fun in the sand; people were playing on jet skis and parasails and there were banana boats.

Somehow, being the wonderful mother that I am, I let this crazy daughter of mine talk me into going out on the OCEAN on this inflatable device called a banana boat. Um, I can’t swim. I had NO BUSINESS doing that!!! Yet and still, it was so much fun!! No photos to document this event, but believe me it really did happen!

Then, we drive up into to mountains to visit Sending National Park. We traveling upon this great little brick path through minor gorges, down AND UP AND UP AND UP mountains, twisting and turning through the landscape as the sun was about to set. We saw and heard bamboo glens, a purple spider and wonderful vistas. I was too busy huffing and puffing to see the wild pigs. It was pretty incredible, nonetheless!

We spent the evening eating shrimp fried rice, bubble tea and fried chicken. We did a little shopping in the night market, saw foods we’ll never see elsewhere (like a patty make from rice and duck blood) and came on home!

Just delightful! Kristen got to do her thing!

I rode this with Kris out onto the Ocean!! It’s a ‘banana boat’.

Our hosts, the Hseihs.

A hiking trail in Sending National Park.


In August, 2007 I will be leaving Indianapolis with my daughter, Kristen, to live and work in the Republic of China (Taiwan). This will be my fiftieth year on this planet and my first year living in another country. This blog will let you join us on the adventure!
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Taipei

December 2007
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