Xin nian kuei leh! (Happy Lunar New Year!)

It’s New Year’s Day in Taichung.  Almost all of the shops and restaurants are closed.  The streets are empty, and the highways are crowded.  Most people have traveled to their parents and grandparents in the country to be together for the New Year holiday.  So we went for a walk.

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We were fortunate in passing by this small shrine near our apartment when the lion dancers performed.  It was too loud for Luke.

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Pretty soon the dancers were done, packed up, and off to the next temple.

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Every temple and every religion (and there are any here) has their own New Year’s celebration.

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We fed the fish.

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Xin nian kuei leh!

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American Time

When we first arrived we heard the phrase, “I don’t have American time.”  It was confusing.  Aren’t Americans always rushing someplace?  Isn’t our life in Taiwan just a little bit slower?

But our Chinese teacher finally clued us in.  American time is leisure time.  American time is time to read and follow Facebook and hang out.

American time is time to not work.

The Taiwanese work. They work hard. They work long hours.  The students go to school, and then cram school, and then do their homework before getting not nearly enough sleep.  The small business owners are always in their shops or stalls.

We have American time.

Children’s Day

Friday was Children’s Day in Taiwan and we had the day off school.  We went for a walk in one of our favorite parks.  The park was full of families.

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This particular park has a stream that extends through the neighborhood.

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Nearby was a popup puppet theater.  These theaters are mounted on the back of a little blue truck and are usually parked at temples.  I think they do the equivalent of bible stories but we really couldn’t follow the plot.

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The music and dialogue is recorded and there are people in the back to work the puppets.

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A new building and a new school year

Today the school dedicated the new activity center. It’s a beautiful new building and the school is justifiably proud of it.

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The gym, cafeteria, and fitness center are great. But what I’m really excited about is the new teaching kitchen. It’s a glorious space with two lovely sinks (with hot water!), a big worktable with four very nice built-in induction burners, three ovens (!) and A DISHWASHER. This is the first dishwasher I’ve seen in Taiwan. The locals think this is silly. That’s OK. I have a dishwasher and I know how to use it! I also have a dish dryer (a very common Taiwanese appliance) and I don’t know how to use it. But I will learn.

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Obviously I needed to test the appliances before school starts tomorrow.  I made grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for the teachers yesterday using each of the new burners.  They worked like a dream – much more consistent than the inexpensive ones I started with.

Today I tested the ovens with oatmeal cookies.  The ovens worked well and I was pleased that the space didn’t heat up as much as I thought it would.  It’s been very hot and humid the past few days.  The air conditioning in the kitchen space works well if I give it a good head start.

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The school community oohed and ahhed over the new space.  There was a nice reception (not catered by me, although I did share my cookies), a formal ceremony, and many, many stunning flower arrangements to admire.

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School starts tomorrow.  Dan has the same two classes as last year (intro to business and robotics).  I have high school cooking and nutrition (10 students) and 5th grade cooking (14 students to start with although that should get smaller when the Chinese language class starts).

Another Roadside Attraction

We took a few days to explore more of the area around Keelung before summer school started.  As we were driving highway 2 around the northern coast of Taiwan (highly recommended – very scenic), we ran across this just outside of Jinshan.

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So of course we had to stop to explore.

Clearly this is intended for a nighttime light show.  There were a few people around “getting ready for the real tourists” and they decided to just let us explore rather than try to have a conversation with people who were so clearly foreigners.

The backdrops were filled with different scenes and figures that light up and move.  In the center there was a bit of a stage for live performances.

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The whole thing looked like it could be quickly put together from printed plastic sheets and bamboo scaffolding.

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The offices, like many inexpensive buildings here, were made of repurposed shipping containers.

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This place was fascinating.  I think it is the Confucian (?) equivalent to vacation bible school.  The hotel manager suggested that it was for the blessing the local fishermen at the start of the squid fishing season.  I wish that we had been able to arrange our trip to go back for an evening show.  We’ll keep this in mind for next summer.

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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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