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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!

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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Taipei

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