Haircuts in Taiwan

When you visit us, plan for a haircut.
You can spend an afternoon pampering yourself with the longest shampoo you’ve ever enjoyed (usually over an hour) along with shoulder, arm, and hand massage and finishing with a great haircut all for a reasonable price.  Here’s a photo of Mom and Casey getting the full treatment.  It took quite a while for the shampoo girl to get all of Casey’s long, thick hair sudsed up.

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Or you can go the quick and cheap route.  That doesn’t mean a less expert haircut.  Dan tried the three chair, “take a number” haircutter at our local discount supermarket (Save & Safe).  It cost 100NT (roughly equivalent to $3 USD) and took about 15 minutes.  Best haircut he’s ever had.  No reason for us to try cutting his hair at home anymore.

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Or you can get something in the middle. There are hair salons in every block.  I like the very competent man in Vickey’s old building.  He does a great job without the frills or extra cost of the ultra-pampering place.

Be sure to add haircuts to your Taiwan vacation plans.

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Summer Solstice Hike

It’s hot this time of year.  We tried telling some local friends that it was a bit warm but we were clearly corrected – it’s hot.  When the conversation turned to local hikes, a friend told us that the thing to do this time of year is get to the trailhead by sunrise. That way you can go up the mountain and be back at your car before the temperature is unbearable.  So on this summer solstice, that’s what we decided to do.
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It was crowded at 5am.  Really crowded.  We found a parking spot and followed the crowd past the inevitable market stalls just opening for business.  This was supposed to be the easiest of the official trails.  Right.  This photo is of the steep initial part of the trail.  After that it changed to stairs.  The two trails we were on (#9 going up and #10 going down) were reopened last year with newly built stairs and boardwalks.  They are very nice, very steep stairs.

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You’ll notice that most folks are carrying towels and extra water. That would have been a good idea.  We got plenty of encouragement from the others on the trail.  We really had a great time doing this.  Of course when we got back to the car we made a beeline for long showers, clean clothes, and a good long nap.

Let’s see if we will tackle this again another weekend.

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The end of the school year

We’ve been in Taiwan 11 months as of today.  What a grand adventure this is turning out to be.  We’re feeling as much at home here as we can without being able to read, understand, or speak the language and without truly understanding the culture.  We’re still learning, little by little.  I’m certainly doing things I didn’t think I would be doing (Dan is still in shock that I am enjoying teaching and I’m more than a little surprised at all the writing I’ve been doing).

Here are my cooking students on the last day of class.  The older student behind me is a senior who was hanging around for the day and decided to sneak into the picture.  He learned early to come by right after class in hopes that there were leftovers he could eat.

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As interesting as it has been to live in another country, it’s really the people we’ve met who have made this such a great experience – the people we work with, the new friends we’ve made, the market ladies and the folks in the building who take care of us.  Recently there was some sort of Dragon Boat Festival party in the building that of course we didn’t know about (because we can’t read the signs in the elevator).  We got a phone call from the front desk telling us to come downstairs for our share of the sticky rice dumplings and bamboo shoot soup.  Here’s a good video from Peggy Teaches Chinese that explains how her grandmother makes sticky rice dumplings.

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It’s quiet here for the next month.  I’m working on putting together my high school course on cooking and nutrition and Dan is cleaning up the computer network at school.  Nearly everyone has gone home for the summer.  In July we will both teach at summer school.  And in August new teachers arrive and the school year begins again.  We’re resting up while we can.

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Camping with the Butterflies

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(Do I mean the middle school students or the actual butterflies in the forest?  It did seem at times like we were in the middle of a butterfly display at the zoo.)

Sorry for the gap in writing recently.  We’re in the last week of school now and it’s been hectic between the friends who are moving away, the friends who are moving to new apartments, and all the end of school activities.

The most absorbing of the end of school activities was the annual middle school trip to Camp Taiwan.  We signed up long ago to be chaperones for this three day trip.  It was Vickey, Chris, Dan, and myself (plus the experienced camp staff) trying to get 35 flitting 6th, 7th, and 8th graders moving in the same direction.

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Like all good camps, this one ran the kids hard with plenty of new activities.   The first night they were still hard to settle down, but the second night they were fast asleep (or at least too tired to talk above a whisper) by lights out.  That would have meant a good night’s sleep for me, but the cicadas around my tent started at 4am.  I was up and dressed for the day by 4:30.  While that did mean that I had several hours of peaceful alone time (which I desperately needed), it was a bit of a problem when I had finished my book the night before and all the writing material was in Dan’s tent in the boys’ camp.  Contemplation in a sub-tropical rain forest is good for the soul, but I made sure I had a book for the second morning.

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Once again walking with a cane gave me an advantage.  All the mountains in Taiwan are steep so the paths in the camp are also steep and often had rough stone steps with only a rope as a handrail.  I just don’t have firm enough footing to handle those steps.  Fortunately there was a girls’ campsite that was more accessible so I stayed there with the 6th and 7th grade girls while Vickey took the 8th grade girls at the lower camp.  The camp staff took me to the different activity sites by air conditioned car.  I tried to not flaunt my good fortune.

Most of the activities involved rock climbing harnesses and helmets. The kids really became quite skilled at helping each other with the harnesses.

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The students hauled each other up a giant tripod and swung out over the valley, climbed a wall, jumped off a platform on a zipline, walked up a river and jumped off big rocks into swimming holes, went kayaking in the ocean, and even tried their hands at archery (which mostly involved searching over the hill for the arrows that missed the target – there’s some work to do here).

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The food at camp was good and the tents were “roughing it” comfortable (although the electric lights and fan were both disconcerting and welcome).  This amount of living with nature was a stretch for some of these city-raised kids, but they got to the point where they wanted to watch what the big spider did with the moth that flew into its web instead of running away screaming.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s a success.

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