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Life is good and livin’ is easy when the weekend begins on a Thursday!

I have to say Taiwan is so incredibly different from living in the US, sometimes I wonder why anyone would want to stay here. But then, life can be so easily refreshing, the scents can be so familiar, and the people can be so nice that it can seem like the only place to be! What would I be doing if I were home right now? What kind of difference would I be making?? Yeah, some days, many days, I’m simply making myself a better resource but it is certainly more than I would be doing at home!

So what happened on Thursday? I joined some new friends I met on a blog and was able to do some wonderful traveling! We drove to a village in Kaoihsoing county where Sandy and Michael used to live and work. I was able to see stuff I would not see on my own and get an understanding on things that I would not have had if I were with someone with a more limited grasp of English (because I have a limited grasp of Chinese as well!). I learned about how religious traditions unfold and combine here, how and where Chinese and Hakka people settled here in the south and other regional history.

Our travel from Pingtung County to Kaoihsoung County was marked by our journey over what was once the longest single suspension bridge in the world.

As we crossed the bridge, we saw a buddist seminary with a 90 ft. Buddha. Meinong is in the heartland of Hakka culture. Hakka people emigrated from China to various countries in Asia hundreds of years ago. They maintain their own language and culture here in Taiwan. Meinong is home to more PhDs than anywhere in the world! Meinong is also where handcrafted bamboo umbrellas are made.

We first stopped at a Hakka village which is really a sales area for many traditional items. Old fashioned toys were set about and the young children there on a school trip seemed to have a lot of good old fashioned fun!

We visited a three tiered shrine. The first area of worship was created in the taoist tradition and was complete with moonstones, spirit money, and candles for the sky god in a darkened worship area.

We even saw a young couple burning spirit money so that they could buy someone into a lesser area of suffering in the afterlife. Next, was an area that reflected confuciounism and the third area was a buddhist temple. Although it was closed, it is a temple where many buddhist monks travel for important religious debates. We had a delicious lunch at a artsy restaurant where many cooks in training in Kaoihsoung come to practice their skills. Dinner was at a Hakka restaurant where we had Hakka pound soup. A bowl is brought to the table with this stuff in it that resembles bird food. I can’t remember what all it was other than red beans, sesame seeds and green tea. The items are finely ground (or pounded!) with a mortar and pestle and hot water is eventually added to make a soup that has gotten many a family through what is considered a cold winter. I enjoyed the soup, finding it tasty, filling and probably quite nutritious!

We saw beautiful natural scenes, important historic sites, talked with locals and really enjoyed each others company. One of the neatest, and o so simple things we did was to stop in a field of cosmos and take photos. In order to get more tourist dollars, the city decided to have the farmers plant fields of flower for fallow. They make beautiful scenery for photos and have generated millions of dollars in revenue!



Yeah, MickyDs is here, too. No Quarter Pounders, but there are Big Macs, Cheeseburgers and Spicy Chicken sandwiches. The sandwich above this is a brand new fish sandwich. It’s like a fish big mac (that’s bread between the two fish patties.) The sandwich below this has been around a while. Instead of bread, the meat is sandwiched between rice patties. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have had a similar sandwich at Mos Burger and it’s pretty good. Don’t know why I’m sitting here thinking about McDonalds. I’m not hungry!!


Friday. Not only the end of the week, but the end of the semester. The tradition here is for staff to be given some sort of gift/token in appreciation for all the hard work. I received a lottery ticket from one of Taiwan’s many lotteries. Now, I have to figure out how to find out if I’ve won! A teacher’s dinner is another tradition. Our staff went to a traditional Taiwanese restaurant where we had a wonderfully festive meal. I enjoyed the rare opportunity to get to know the other teachers while we ate shark, shark bone soup, pork belly, fried rice with river shrimp, poached fish, fresh fruits and a dessert of sweetened, pureed iced green bean soup.

After all this, what better way to relax than to go to a hot spring! Lucky me was able to accompany Rose, her principal and her son (Andy) to a Baolai to visit a hot spring. We drove up into the mountains in northern Kaohsiung County and arrived at the Fun Chen Resort Hotel in a couple of hours. The spa is set in a town that is in the homeland of the Rukai aboriginal tribe. Many places exhibit and sell their art and craftwork. Our evening started with a small feast of river shrimp, rice, cabbage, fried tofu and plum chicken. Delicious!!!

One thing I’m learning about myself is that I’ve outgrown my sense of adventure. I’ve settled into being a Holiday Inn kinda camper. Our lodgings for the evening were actually in small cabins rather than in the hotel. When we walked around to the front of the cabin, the setting quickly and quaintly turned rustic. The log cabins looked out onto a picturesque mountain setting with the relaxing chirping off birds and the sounds of a nearby stream flowing by. Walk back around the cabin and it’s back toparking lot, hotel and city streets. Yeah, my kind of roughing it!

Now this was a great weekend from the time in the springs and sauna, feeding fish in the mountains, visiting an aboriginal elementary school and stopping at a gorgeous national forest…it was all wonderful but sleeping on such a soft, plush mattress rather than my bed that reminds me of a coffee table, well, that was a slice of heaven!

I’ve been planning on entering something ANYTHING for several weeks! I’ve put together some great stuff in my head, you know how those early morning thoughts can be so creative! But as I rush into the day, I manage to forget what I was going to say and how I was going to say it.

The last time I had thoughts of posting, we had just walked across half this town from one new area we discovered to a new (to us) Italian place near Carrefour. We passed several spots that look so inviting, but not to those of us who had absolutely no way of figuring out what was in the menu. Sorry, creativity doesn’t work when dinner could have black squid ink, pig intestines or steamed tofu. I’m not feelin’ it! It is my own fault for not knowing the language, goodness knows the Taiwanese make every effort to speak English, we’re the ones who haven’t made the effort. It was kinda cute though, when we went in one restaurant and this 5’10” twenty-something guy was actually shy about speaking English to us! I do get it, I have tried to speak my broken Spanish to some of the Spanish speaking students at school and it gave me one of the most embarrassing feelings I’ve ever had!

So, we walked passed these great looking places and walked and walked and walked and walked ’til we came to this Italian place we’d seen before. I was doubtful because I’ve had enough of the pasta dishes that were prepared with the strangest of ingredients and aromas and I was too hungry to have someone messing with my food. I don’t think Kris has learned her lesson yet. She was excited for the possibility of something cheesy with noodles. Well, I’ll just say I had one of the most amazing spaghetti dishes I’ve ever had! I bet it put to shame any of the pasta Dadrian is feasting on!! I believe they had Mamma Mia herself in the kitchen! Homemade-tasting Italian wonderful food!

Yeah, we spend a lot of time looking for good places to eat. And we spend even more time walking. We walk everywhere we want to go: bookstore, work, visiting, touring, dining, shopping. . . . you get the point! And it’s working! We found the scales in Carrefour and they indicate a nice weight loss! No, I’m not going to say how much, not going to get your hopes up too high, get you expecting me too much cuter than already!! LOL Honestly, the exercise feels good and the walking is one thing I will really miss when I return home.

Speaking of which, Kristen will be returning home soon. Yes, I’ll miss her! These days together have been wonderful and I could not have spent my time with a better person. But, Ms. Kris has some business to take care of, namely her education and her career! So please wish her god speed and safe travel!

Last year at this time, I was on the banks of the Red Sea having an Hijazi Thanksgiving. This year, it’s just another work day. Rose may come down and we’ll head over to the Beaver Dam to meet up with some expats. No turkey, just good company. Thus begins vicarious holiday season that I’ll experience through YOUR notes and emails. No snow here, no Christmas! no New Years! no carols! no eggnog! no stuffing on Thanksgiving and no holiday sales! So, instead of dwelling on what isn’t there for me or for you, lets give thanks for the gift of life and for all the blessings it contains. Thanks for your friendship! Peace

The sky has been overcast for days and the heavy layer of clouds has really caused it to be quite humid.  This morning when I first woke, I was able once again to see the mountains, however, clouds (pollution?) quickly gathered and hid the view once again.  The humidity is milder, due to a thinner layering of clouds.  I suppose the clouds have lingered from a nearby tropical storm system. There is another storm system that looks like it will hit the northern part of the island.  During the last typhoon that hit the north, we were affected with heavy winds.  I don’t know what to expect this time.

This is a somewhat shortened day.  It’s Wednedsay.  Students are out of uniform and only here until noon.  Then, its staff meetings until 4:30 pm.  While I am excused from most of them due to a general inability to understand anything on my part, I am expected to stay and work on lesson plans.  Not too much to expect! 

Not sure what we’ll do for dinner this evening.  We still have a lot of cleaning to do to the kitchen before we’re comfortable using it.

Which reminds me… we were in a local store (NOT a 7-11) which is somewhat like a grocery store and we were looking for something to kill crawling pests.  We found this box. 


We didn’t know if we should buy it just in case, or if perhaps something was missing in our limited translaiton.

We have found one restaurant we particularly enjoy.  One of the people there speaks English and we’ve become familiar enough with the menu to be able to order.  They have delicious chicken rolls which are made of diced chicken, cilantro, mayannaise and lettuce rolled inside a fried wrapper.  There is also a delicious chicken dish which I cannot describe, a fried flat bread and hot pot.

Pingtung has steamed buns which can be filled with a variety of meats and or vegetables, but they’re very soggy-soft and a bit sweet.  Vendors on the street have been good for fried chicken wings, fried potatoes, grilled fish, grilled mushrooms and some other fatty type meat that is also grilled.  Kris had hoped she found a nice fried fish when I bought the wings.  She was curious about the shape, but the inside did kinda look like fish.  Well, we’re pretty sure it was octupus. She didn’t care for it because it is very chewy!

Do you notice I’m mentioning a lot of fried foods and few fruits and veggies?  I really hope Dr. Karimi isn’t reading this!!

I am going to a nearby fruit stand to get some pomelo and maybe bananas.  Pomelo is like a dry, less tart grapefruit.  We’re staying away from fruits like grapes and apples with thin skin.  Although we’d been told we can drink the water here, we cannot.  I don’t think locals who can afford not to will drink the water here. 

I got my ARC card this past week (like a yellow card) so, we’re getting Internet tonight.  This weekend, we’ll be traveling somewhere to celebrate the 5-0!!


I’ve uploaded photos of our apartment on Flickr.  You can access them by clicking the Flickr box on this blog.  The above photo is a view from our front balcony.  Don’t get too excited:  seeing the mountains was a rare treat.  I had been here over a week before I saw them!

 We went walking last night and found a restaurant that we’ll be going back to this evening for chicken rolls.  Dinner was getting to be quite a challenge!  We actually found this restaurant on Tuesday when we wondered in and had a hot pot.  I couldn’t even tell you what we had yesterday, other than the fact that it was delicious.  One of the ladies who works there speaks English quite well.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t there either time we were trying to muddle through the menu.  The first time we went, we actually called our friend Leah on the phone to translate for us.  We were desparate!  Everything was in Mandarin and there were no photos!  The phone’s battery died in the middle of the conversation and we did the best we could do with the hot pot.  Kris enjoyed the meal so much that she thinks we should go back and just randomly point our way through the entire menu!

After dinner, we walked further down the street (a street we quite often visit) and found several other restaurants with promise.  We also found a total of three wonderful bakeries on the street.  You walk in these places and just smell the butter! We probably gained back every pound we had lost from walking, but the pastries were a nice treat.  From now on bakery visits will be limited to one day on the weekend.  Maybe Saturday this week since I’ll have to work on that day.

We’ve been getting around the city on foot, slowing adding new blocks to our repetoire. Every evening, we go for a walk and look for dinner. Can you imagine going to a restaurant to order where the menu is in Chinese, there are no pictures, noone speaks English and you’re really hungry? That is often our dilemma. There is not too much food in our apartment right now, so dining out is about the only option. It is very inexpensive, just a bit tricky!

So, last night after some discussion we decided to ask a very kind teacher who lives nearby to order a pizza to be delivered to us. He couldn’t believe we only wanted cheese on it! Selections here vary from octopus japanese style to seafood with peas to vegetarian to hawaiian toppings on a pizza. He thought if we saw the selections we would find a good topping. So, he loaded up his entire family and took us across town for a pizza. We had great fun with his two young children who are learning english and his wife who speaks no english but I swear she understood everything we said. We saw many more shops, fruit stands and grocery stores that are very near us. We went to the pizza hut downtown where they also could not believe we only wanted cheese. They did however, manage to make a pizza that was much better than any Pizza Hut I’ve tasted in the states!

We had been told this was a small city. A village. You can imagine what we expected. There is only one person on Flickr who has photos of Pingtung and I believe they are the only ones on the ‘net. Only two or three folks on Myspace are here and fewer on Facebook. We didn’t expect much at all.

Do you know that the population of Indy is just over 600,000?

The population in this ‘burg is 800,00+. The downtown is HUGE!! There is a 6 story mall, a Carrefour and too much else to mention. Because it is seen as a small town, there is no movie theater with foreign movies and not much of a bus service (just like Indy!). The intersections are the widest I have ever seen, and I’ve seen intersections all over the world.

We were amazed at what we saw and began feeling somewhat better knowing what resources are so close to us. We just have to find a way to access them. The streets here are kinda dangerous because of all the scooters and because driving laws and signs are merely seen as a suggestion. Left turns are usually made on red lights. It is not uncommon for the person in the right line to drive in front of the person in the left lane to make a u-turn. Traffic lights are used just to indicate that you are approaching a large intersection.

Yeah, so we’re looking for a way to get downtown on a fairly frequent basis.

This weekend is Moon Festival. No school Monday and Tuesday, but we will have school on Saturday. Tomorrow we’re going to Kaoishoung (the second largest city and largest seaport. It’s on the southern tip of the island and 40 minutes away by train). We’ll meet a teacher from Michigan and spend the day at the Dream Mall.

Hope you have a great weekend!

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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Chikky Soup Meets Stinky Tofu by Edi Campbell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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July 2018
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