Halloween at School

Halloween is not celebrated much in Taiwan, despite the best efforts of the local chain stores.  but Halloween is a big deal at our American school.

The students had some great costumes but I liked the teacher costumes the best.  I kept it simple myself.

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My two favorite costumes were Abi’s Grim Grader… (a last minute improvisation)

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And Tim’s long lost twin brother.  He set this up three weeks ago with a series of Facebook posts and then didn’t break character all day on Halloween.  It was remarkably uncomfortable chatting with Tim’s stuffy brother.  We were relieved to get Tim back.

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In honor of the occasion 5th graders made dirt cups and the high school students made severed finger cookies.

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Hope your Halloween went well!

Costco in Taiwan

Another milestone for us.  When we made our Costco run today we found that our Seattle membership had expired. No problem.  Now we are Taiwan Costco members.  (note: our names are very confusing to people here – where’s the family name?)

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When we first moved here we were going to send home photos of Taiwan Costco.  But it looks just the same as US Costco.

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We are almost guaranteed to meet other westerners in Costco because it carries products from home that no one else has (unless they are a store that buys from Costco and resells).  If you want to, it is possible to buy your food from Costco and your furniture from Ikea and feel like you have never left the US.  We’re trying to avoid that but there are certainly days that a few familiar brands are a comforting thing to have.

Pass the tortilla chips.

Christmas Concerts

We thought we were going to have a quiet Christmas.  We thought wrong.  The calendar is pretty full this week.  We’ve already had a few Christmas adventures, with more to come.

Sunday night we went to the Klazz Brothers and Cuba Percussion concert.  Onstage were Germans, Cubans, and a Taiwanese translator.  The Germans and Cubans spoke English. We understood their jokes. We didn’t understand the Taiwanese jokes, but the audience did.

The music was jazzed up American Christmas songs with some Mozart thrown in.  They also threw in one song that clearly resonated with the Taiwanese (they all sang along) but we had never heard.  That’s when I leaned over to Dan and whispered, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”  I think we saw one other Westerner in the audience.

The Germans commented a number of times about how Christmas here was like Christmas in the summer.  The Taiwanese were bundled up in sweaters and parkas.  But we understood.  At least until the temperature dropped and the cold wind picked up the next day.  Now it feels more like Christmas. At least Christmas in Seattle.  Time for fleece!

Last night we joined Charlene at her church for a Christmas celebration.  We misunderstood the directions so arrived too late for the singing but we were in time for the entertainment portion of the evening.  Children played violin and piano.  The youth group did a skit (with all the awkardness of teenage youth groups around the world).  Santa handed out candy.  The pastor gave a short sermon (with PowerPoint slides).  The foreigners (that would be us) were made to stand up and introduce themselves, and pull raffle ticket numbers, and sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (the only song the congregation knew in English.  Surprisingly it felt like a very familiar community.  Charlene translated it all.

After all the Christmas songs and decorations in the stores and restaurants, it didn’t really feel like Christmas here until the tiny church choir sang carols in Chinese.

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The Flower Sea – Taichung Flower Carpet Festival

The Flower Carpet Festival (translated on the website as Flower Sea) is a cross between the Northwest Flower & Garden Show and the Puyallup Fair (but without the carnival rides).  It’s not a long drive from our apartment, but it took a couple weekends to find since there are no signs that we could read, not even something with a logo that we could recognize.

(Note to tourist bureaus everywhere:  Plenty of directional signs, please, with the same logo that is on the website plus arrows.  Thank you.)

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We love agricultural fairs.  This one had agricultural displays, fair food (stinky tofu was very popular but we stuck to dumplings and candied sweet potatoes), and “stick your head in the flower” photo ops.

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It also had mud. Lots of mud.  The display areas weren’t too bad because they had garden cloth laid down, but the parking lot was a quagmire. Fortunately neither of us slipped and landed splat on our faces and we were able to get the car out at the end of the day.

Very satisfying day.  We’ll be back next year. Properly equiped with mud boots.

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School Dances and Condo Sales

Tonight was the high school’s Winter Formal Ball.  We were chaperones.  I thought it was odd that the address on the tickets was an intersection rather than the name of a restaurant or hotel.  Once we found the building it was lovely, although oddly spare, with beautiful landscaping.

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We had seen many of these buildings around town, particularly in the up and coming parts of the city where there were many new buildings going up.  Usually these buildings come complete with a nice sized parking lot and an enormous billboard.

They are sales buildings – flashy, quickly built, and bulldozed as soon as all the units in the new condo building are sold.  One near us was built in less than a month.

This building is due to be demolished tomorrow.

What a great place for a dinner dance for a small school!  No worries about spills on the carpet.  Just enough space for the dinner tables and dance floor. With a bonus of nice grounds to stroll and a splashing fountain and reflecting pool.

For the record, Taiwan teenager party dresses are very short and the heels are extremely high.  The music is the same.  So is the tight clump of teens in the center of the dance floor.  Some things don’t change.

Prepping for Thanksgiving

We’re having an early Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday with teachers and staff from school as well as a few special guests (outside friends and visiting family).  So far we have 30 people planning to attend. Fortunately Carol and Simo have a big, mostly unfurnished house and we are all pitching in with extra tables, stools, dishes, and toaster ovens.  Instead of a turkey we are getting roast chickens and ducks from local restaurants.  The list of potluck side dishes is growing.  Lots of family specialities are in the works.  It should be an interesting meal.  My cranberry sauce is already made.

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Hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving next week.