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Preview: Carolyn's Adventures in Taiwan (not Thailand)

Carolyn's Adventures in Taiwan (not Thailand)

I'm living in Taiwan...Here are my stories! And some about Argentina too!

Updated: 2014-10-03T00:08:01.240-05:00




So I've started a new blog!

You may find it here.

The title refers to my (mostly) unintentional habit of starting blog posts with the word, "so." I'm not sure how I feel about the title, should I change it?

Sadly, I must bid zai jian to my Taiwan blog. :( Can you believe I left Taiwan FIVE months ago? I can't. I still feel like I'm acclimating to life back in America. This being my last post here, I feel like I should reflect on my time in Taiwan with some perspective, but I don't even feel qualified to do that. I'm still so confused! I guess those reflections will go on the new blog.

But thank you for visiting and commenting and drunkenly begging me to keep writing.

Nope, that is in no way a reference to Mike's cousin whatsoever.

So, thanks, Taiwan blog, for being so much fun. Thanks for helping me get over my "my writing is too personal--don't anybody read it!" phobia. I look forward to reading you over again in the coming years, reminiscing, and being both humiliated and amused by the stupid things I said.

Zai jian, for now!(image)

Holy Moses, Holy Sandwich, Holy Steak


Holy Moses (one of my current students--yes, current...more on that in the new blog--says this and it's my new favorite phrase)! This is my last Argentina post! And I only left Argentina 3 months ago.I better get to it before I get all teary-eyed and wanderlusty.Wanderlusty, hahaha. If "Holy Moses" is my new favorite phrase, then "wanderlusty" is my new favorite word.Dia Cuatro was our last full day in Argentina. We had seen these giant double-decker tour buses driving tourists around the city, so we decided to try it out. It's pretty neat. You show up at the ticket booth and get on the bus. Then, they drive you around the city while you listen to headphones detailing the history and significance behind what you're looking at. They stop in different neighborhoods and at different landmarks, where you can disembark. When you're finished exploring, you wait at the bus stop and soon another bus will come pick you up to finish your tour. Or, you can just stay on the bus the whole time until you are back where you started. Cool! Every city should have this!When we first got on the bus, all the seats for the top of the bus were taken. There are only a handful of seats in the lower part of the bus for the unlucky few who don't make it to the top. It's pointless to be on a sweet double-decker tour bus and be on the bottom! We were pretty bummed, but decided that the SECOND we saw some tourists coming down the stairs to get off the bus, we would high-tail it to the top and claim our rightful seats. And that we did. We listened through our headphones through the first few landmarks. The bus stopped to give people the option of getting off, and we sat on the edge of our seats, ready to sprint. We saw a tourist's leg coming down and we Apolo-Ohno-ed it to the stairs. We pushed those trying to come down the stairs out of our way and ran to two empty seats. We may or may not have knocked over some old ladies or thrown small children from the bus in order to reach our goal. All I know is we beat the British and French couples who were also waiting indignantly in the bottom part of the bus. SUCKERS! Actually, enough people left the bus at that stop that ALL of us losers in the bottom part of the bus got seats. There was no need for us to take so many lives on our way up. Oh well. VICTORIOUS!You could learn about the city in ten different languages (unless your language happened to be poor Hebrew and French here). What I found interesting was that the entire list was in English. "French" was "French" and not "Francais." Weird, dude.Highlights of the tour include the ONLY RECYCLING BINS IN ALL OF BUENOS AIRES.And this sweet bridge, which was designed to look like two tango dancers. The man (the vertical left part) is holding the woman, who is bending backwards (the horizontal right part). I kinda see it, do you?This is our best picture of La Boca, one of the most touristy and most dangerous neighborhoods in BA. It's famous for its colorful buildings and being a tango hotspot. And its crime rate. We didn't explore that area on foot, partly because we could see tango elsewhere, and partly because it's very easy to get lost and murdered.We also saw many dog-walkers, who Beccah says never walk just one dog. Usually six or twelve or twenty at a time.Throughout the entire trip, we had a list of things I/we MUST eat--a superponcho, alfajores, dulce de leche, steak, pasta...and choripan.This is choripan.It's a chorizo sandwich. Chorizo in a baguette. Chorizo in a cocoon of awesome. I'm not a red meat kinda gal (although the more I read the Pioneer Woman, the more I'm becoming one), nor am I a sausage gal, but choripan rocks my socks. You cover it in some chimichurri and tomatoes and onions and Holy Moses, is it good! Salty, moist, a little spicy...YUM. I ate all of it, it was so delicious. And I wanted another one right afterward. And another to take on the plane home. And another one to give to Mike. Although by that point, it probably wouldn't be as tasty. AS[...]

Uno, Dos, TRES!


Dia Tres!We had plans to hang out with Beccah's first host family in the afternoon, so we hit up an indoor antique market in the mornin'. The indoor antique market had lots of REALLY cool stuff--clothes, toys, posters, weapons. We looked at a lot of old, old photographs, books, and magazines. I think I've said this before, but I LOVE old stuff. That's probably one of the main reasons I love traveling. It's a chance to see really OLD OLD stuff. I could sit there in the antique market and smell old books all day long. Mmmmmm basement smell. Delicious. After that, we visited a popular, ginormous, touristy market. I believe it's called the San Telmo market, named for the neighborhood of BA in which it runs. There was an antiques section of this market as well, where I seriously considered buying myself a pocket watch because POCKET WATCHES ARE THE COOLEST THINGS EVER AND IF I WERE A GUY I WOULD TOTALLY HAVE ONE, AND IF I WERE A GUY WHO KNEW ME AND WANTED ME TO THINK HE WAS SUPER COOL I WOULD DEFINITELY ACCESSORIZE MYSELF WITH ONE SO THAT I WOULD INDEED APPEAR SUPER COOL. ESPECIALLY if I were a red-headed guy who is also my boyfriend. Hint. Hint. Hint.Hint.We listened to a guy play the guitar while people tangoed (is that a word?), and Beccah bought the guy's CD for my dad (which he even autographed, ooOooO!). But instead of purchasing a super-sweet pocket watch, I bought some gifts, postcards, a photograph of a dog on a futon, and many many many MANY earrings. And there was no can that be?!?!?! I don't understand this place.There's lots of pick-pocketing in BA, hence the backpack on my stomach.This market seriously went on for blocks and blocks and blocks. But we had lunch plans with Beccah's host family, so we had to leave a little early to head over there.Beccah's host mom's name is Marita. Actually her name is Maria, but her family calls her, "Marita," a term of endearment that means, "little Maria." She has two grown sons--Patricio and Sebastian. Their good friend/Marita's former host son/Brazilian super-genius is Thiago. He joined us for lunch as well. Marita's new host daughter, Andreza (also from Brazil), was there too. It was a blast! We were there for like six or seven hours. Marita made a pasta dish with ham, which I miraculously did not photograph (probably because Beccah's other host family was a little freaked out by how much I was photographing their food), but it was delicious. And there was wine and flan (covered with dulce de leche). Can it get any better than that? I think not. The reason Sebastian on the left has such a surprised look on his face is because I finally got the "r" in "tres" right when I said, "Uno, dos, tres" while taking the picture. Silly American, saying her "r's" all wrong. Beccah's really lucky to have had not one, but TWO really awesome host families. Truly wonderful people.In the evening, Beccah, Andreza, and I took a stroll back in San Telmo. We sat at a cafe and enjoyed a snack and some seltzer water while watching some amateur tango dancers. Then a rat came crawling down a tree behind us and ran around the area and into the crowd of tango-ers. They didn't notice, luckily! Andreza is an awesome girl and I hope she comes to America one day to visit us. Or, I hope we can enjoy a feast at her family's place in Brazil eventually (hey, she offered!).So that's dia tres! Dia four involves knocking over tourists with our brute strength, discovering the only recycling bins in all of Buenos Aires, and lots and lots of red, red meat (and dia five involves me suffering the effects of such indulgences). Yeehaw![...]

BA: Dia Dos!


So in the morning of our second day, we went to the Evita museum. It was really well done! It was very informative and well set up. They start with her early life, with info about her family and her illegitimate birth. In the room next door, they go right to the end, with really moving videos of her funeral, and a cast of her face (once they finally recovered her missing body and found it nearly destroyed). How her body went missing and was recovered, I still don't understand. It's very complicated and bizarre. But then the museum goes back to her life before she married Peron, describing the politics of the time, her marriage, what she accomplished while in office, and her early death (by cancer). The museum almost completely ignores the controversy surrounding her (and definitely glorifies her), but I learned a lot. What an impressive woman! I'd like to learn more about her. Sadly, no pictures were allowed.After that, we went to Recoleta Cemetery, which is a big huge monstrous cemetery/mini-town filled with the tombs of famous and not famous people. It's huge. You just walk around it like you'd walk around a neighborhood or a town, except instead of houses, there are tombs everywhere. Sweet!These pictures might be kinda boring. I think it's hard for them to be interesting if you weren't there. Lucky for you, I have incredible wit. See? Right there. Wit. Here we go!Here's a typical "street" in the cemetery: tomb after tomb after tomb, some gigantic and surrounded by statues.Beccah in front of a gigantic tomb.THE WRITING ON HIS TOMBSTONE IS AS BIG AS MY FACE.A typical "street."Coffins popping out of some tombs. Also typical.The inside of this tomb was also in disarray. It's sad how some tombs are half-destroyed, with garbage thrown in them and holes in the coffins. Who is in charge of taking care of these things? Why are some so magnificent and some so battered? We didn't figure it out.I liked how this one had a picture depicting the guy at work, teaching med students.Grass tomb.Me and Recoleta.The line of people waiting to see Eva Peron's (Duarte) tomb.Me and Evita.I thought these three tombs represented the three states of the tombs you see at Recoleta: decrepit, becoming decrepit, new and shiny.There are lots of cats in Recoleta. Aren't cats symbols of death in a lot of cultures? I might have made that up. It happens. Probably a lot. Hey, I'm my father's daughter.Prepare yourself for a disturbing story. This is the tomb of a young woman who was buried alive in Recoleta. She seemingly dropped dead, and a doctor confirmed this, so they buried her. Some workers heard screams coming from her tomb, but by the time they uncovered her, she was dead. For real dead, with scratch marks on the inside of her coffin. Her mother felt so terrible that she had this fancy tomb built for her. The woman is supposed to be her, giving up on opening the door. Disturbing, dude. I wished I hadn't heard this story. And now I'm happy to add one more such story to YOUR list of things you wish you didn't know.After a couple hours at Recoleta, we walked around a nearby church and a little fair, browsing things to buy. Then it started raining, so I wore my super poncho. I was also wearing my backpack on the front. So I had a backpack baby with a big yellow poncho draped over it. And you know what? I STILL GOT HIT ON. In a poncho. In the rain. With a backpack baby.That night, we had dinner at Beccah's second host family's house. We ate with her host mom, Adriana, and Adriana's mother, who had hosted a different Knox student. Beccah warned me that it's almost impossible to say "no" to Adriana when she offers you more food. Pretend this conversation is in Spanish. "Do you want more ravioli?""No, thank you, I'm full.""Are you suuuuure?""Yes, thank you.""Really?""Yes, thank you.""Are you sure? Here, take a little more. There you go!"So I barely ate that day to prepare for this evening.As an appetizer, we had some cheese[...]



I am now accepting suggestions for what to name my spin-off blog. It will contain amusing anecdotes about life and lots of rants (but no politics!! I swear!) and hopefully stories about my future travels. I have some ideas but you probably have a better one!

Walking Tours, Toilet Humor, and Pasta of the Gods: Buenos Aires Day Uno


I love Buenos Aires.We didn't stay with either of Beccah's host families, but instead stayed at a "hostel boutique" that Beccah's school had arranged for all of them to stay at when they first arrived in Argentina. We thought about staying in a regular hostel, but (a) thought we deserved nicer accommodations and (b) Beccah felt weird being a "backpacker" in a city that feels like home. I didn't mind paying a little extra, because we ended up having no other roommates, plus the place was SOOOOO CCCLLLEEEAAAANNNN and so cute. Look! Look at the cute! Look at the clean!!!After getting settled, we did a walking tour, following a route in (what else?) LONELY PLANET. But first, we had to eat some lunch. We went to Beccah's favorite empanada place, not far from her school. OMG the empanadas. I've haven't had empanadas very often in the States, but when I have, they've just been OK. These were amazing!! We each got two, and I ordered one caprese (tomato, mozzarella, basil) and one chorizo. OMG that chorizo one was insanely delicious. I miss those empanadas so much. And they're so cute! Each kind has a different shape. Awww.These pretty flowers were in bloom all throughout the city. They were beautiful and they smelled really good.We also bought some alfajores from a bakery, which are cakes with dulce de leche in the middle. The classic alfajores have coconut on the outside too. Wow. They are fantastic!Beccah didn't know what this building was, but we thought it had cool architecture. Later we found out there is a toilet museum inside. We almost went but never fit it in. I'm kinda wishing we had...I mean, it's a TOILET MUSEUM.Beccah's first host family (she had to change halfway through the semester) lived by the Congress. Its architecture was inspired by America's Capitol Building.It was big. And there was a large fenced-off sculpture behind me, hence the two slanty pictures. Avenida de Mayo is a famous street in Buenos Aires, which we followed on our walking tour. There are ads on every street sign. Oy, the future...Along this street, we encountered a little market. We bought a lot of earrings (I doubled my earring collection in Buenos Aires, no joke) and I bought a homemade basket for my mom. There was also a protest going on (there are ALWAYS protests going on in Argentina), and they kept lighting this firework thing that sounded like a bomb exploding. It kept giving me heart attacks!WINE MOUNTAIN.This is Beccah in front of La Casa Rosada. It's the White House of Buenos Aires (but look how close you can get!!!) and it's the place from which Evita would make her speeches and greet the people. There are two theories about why the building was painted pink in the mid-1800s. Some say that President Sarmiento wanted to promote unity by combining the red and white colors of the country's two political parties. Others say it's simply because at the time, people often painted with cow blood.Street band!On our walking tour, we encountered a group of rowdy students partying in a field outside their school. They were dressed all funny, drinking, playing loud music, screaming, dancing, tormenting younger students, and jumping on cars.We watched them for twenty minutes before Beccah asked a guy why they were partying. Apparently they were done with high school. Yeehaw!This is the theater. We wanted to go on a tour inside, but they were renovating and even tours were closed. Boo!Argentina is famous for tango dancing, so there are always people dancing on the street for the tourists.This nice clock was modeled after Big Ben.This street name is pronounced, "My poo." There's also a town called Maipu (as in, "Have you been to Maipu?"). My sense of humor has dramatically regressed in my old age.Argentina's famous for its pasta, as well, so we decided to try some that night for dinner. Enter Life Changing Meal Number Two: Walnut-Mushroom Ravioli in a creamy pesto sauce. [...]

Uteruses, Superpanchos, and Free Champagne!


The day after our bike & wine tour, our bodies were very angry. We considered doing something active in the Andes that day, like hiking or horseback riding, but decided against it, and I'm not sure whether I regret that or not. Eh, I'm going back to see Chile and Peru at some point anyway! Instead we explored Mendoza some more! First we went to a little art museum at the giant main plaza. There was lots of weird art, but my favorite was this series. I'm a little obsessed with women's health, so anything uterus-related sparks my interest. Don't even get me started on birthing practices (you know you've had too much to drink when you're yelling about hospitals' abuse of Pitocin at a house party). But there was a series of uterus paintings that progressively looked more and more like a bull, which I thought was pretty cool. And there were uterus-shaped rugs! I want one!! Mike would LOVE it.We wanted to see the Andes, whether up close or not. So we went back to General San Martin Park because we read there was a van that could take us to some high point of the park to see the Andes. And that's what we did! There was a sweet sculpture at the top and the Andes were off in the distance. When I think of the Andes, I think of ALIVE and lots of snow, but there wasn't much snow on these. That's OK, they're still the Andes!We went a-wandering, rested in a park, and went to a little aquarium. It was a bit depressing, but we saw a weird little creature that is also apparently a Pokemon. I never got into Pokemon, I don't know what it's called, but it is cool lookin.Weird, dude.That day I also achieved my week-long dream of eating a "Superpancho" while wearing a super poncho. Early in the trip, I learned that a "Superpancho" is a giant hot dog loaded with vegetables, sauces, and potato chips. I brought a poncho with me to Argentina in case it rained, so after Claire and Beccah told me about this dish, it became my dream to get a picture of myself eating a Superpancho in a super poncho.Tada! My life is complete. The hot dog was delicious, too! I got chimichurri on mine. YUM!That night, we parted ways. Beccah and I had to catch a bus to the epic Buenos Aires, while Claire was headed to Santiago, Chile the next day. Claire is awesome. She cracks me up.Back to the bus station. Our new bus was even nicer than the last bus, and the best part was...FREE CHAMPAGNE! Neither of us could believe it! Beccah asked the server if it was free, and she laughed at us. Best bus ever!!!!!Dinner.Instead of one Nicholas Cage movie after the next, this bus played music videos of popular Argentinian pop and rap songs OVER AND OVER. They also showed a Marc Anthony concert (the first time I typed that, I wrote "Marc Antony"...I think I'd prefer to see that concert) and Norbit, which everyone on the bus thought was HILARIOUS, except for us. Maybe it's funnier in Spanish...? Something tells me it's not...I missed Nicholas Cage.It was a 16-hour overnight bus, and in the morning we were in Buenos Aires--one of the coolest cities in the world. Two out of my top three life-changing food experiences occurred in this city (number one being green tea ice cream in Beijing), and if there is a heaven and I somehow get in, I hope it's full of Buenos Aires' food![...]

"The Queens of Beauty" go a-bikin' and a-drinkin'


I know it's taking me a long time to get through these Argentina posts. If you're still reading, I'm impressed. It seems like I write one post a week, and each post seems to cover a day. Maybe you've noticed, but I am unable to summarize. That's why I got a "check" instead of a "check plus" on my book report in fourth grade. Tooooooo many details! Obviously I didn't learn anything from that punishment! I think it's good, though, because I have a terrible memory, and if I don't write every detail down, I will most certainly forget. I have an excuse for not remembering a lot about my first trip to Germany (I was seven), but it saddens me that I can't remember details about my trip to France at age seventeen. I was grown--I should be able to remember stuff! But I don't. So I have to write as much down as I can and torment the rest of you. We spent our second day in Mendoza doing a biking/wine tasting tour. Mendoza is known worldwide for its Malbec wine, so wine tasting is THE thing to do while there, next to whitewater rafting in the Andes (which we did not do, partly because Claire and I were scared and partly because HOLY MOSES BIKING AND WINE TASTING IS HARD). The first thing we did in the morning was collect Beccah's and Claire's laundry from the cleaners. They had been wearing the same clothes for three weeks, having NEVER WASHED ANYTHING and were very excited to get some clean clothes. And I was excited to document it.We then spent what seemed like 8000 hours wandering the city, looking for monedas (coins) so we could pay for the bus. Bank after bank refused to give us any, until finally, after sending just ONE Spanish-speaker in (Beccah), they gave us monedas. THIS CRAZY CURRENCY!!!!!We took a bus out of the city and hoped that along the way we'd figure out when to disembark. We finally saw a sign for the specific bike rental company that LONELY PLANET (seriously, you can punch me if you want, I'm out of control) recommended. We arrived at Coco bikes. Two other travelers got off the bus with us and went to the same place. Stupid Boy travelers, in fact (have you noticed a theme?), who were surprisingly not French but from Atlanta. They promptly took the last two decent bikes and left us with less than ideal ones. To add insult to injury, one had said to the other, "Hey, we have to get the last two 'girl' bikes--those 'boy' bikes are junk." SERIOUSLY where are all the nice boy travelers? If they thought that some bikes were for boys, and some for girls, what are they doing taking bikes from us? Irritated but still pumped, we received a map, hopped on our "boy" bikes, and started the tour!The first winery we stopped at was closed for lunch, so we kept riding. It was a lovely day--not too hot. One problem, however, was that there wasn't a bike path through the town. Instead, we rode our bikes along the main road, always getting passed by cars, trucks, and buses. So it was a little scary, trying not to get run over. Many sections of the ride were quite pretty, though.Aaaand the cat-calling! I can't believe I've made it this far into my Argentina posts without talking about the cat-calling!!! If you are female and look between fourteen and forty (seriously, that is the only standard), you will get cat calls wherever you go. No, not wherever. E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E you go. Sometimes what the boys/men say are vulgar, and sometimes it's poetic. In her blog, Beccah said it bothered her and other women from her school, so I was expecting to be offended when it happened to me. On the contrary, I thought it was hilarious!This was really surprising, especially considering the ranting feminist I seem to be. Maybe part of the reason it amused me so much was because I couldn't understand what they were saying. Or maybe it was because I was always with two other people, so instead of feeling uncomfortable, I o[...]

Our Relaxing First Day in Mendoza


So Mendoza. Mendoza is in the western part of Argentina, really really close to Chile. In the months prior to my arrival, we seriously considered going there (along with the rest of Argentina in just two weeks, including Tierra del Fuego, down there by young and naive we were!). There's a special place in my heart for Chile, as it was the country I chose for the 6th grade "International Project." Why Chile (or, "WHY NOT ITALY?!?!" as my dad put it), I don't know, but it was probably its unique shape. Look at it! It's adorable. But I'm still ticked off that I got a lower grade on my poster than my classmate who ALSO did his project on Chile but mostly used pictures from Argentina on his poster. Jerkface. But I guess I'll just have to go back to South America sometime so I can visit Chile!The day the bus pulled in was Beccah's 22nd birthday! Happy Birthday, Beccah!Yeah that's me about to lick Beccah's head. I was looking for the most unflattering picture of Beccah I had on my computer, but I went with the one depicting Beccah in the greatest peril. Don't worry, I'm way ahead of you. I already submitted it to It's not up...YET!We walked through what seemed like half the city with all our junk, trying to find the hostel. We finally found it, and boy was it bright!Our room was the strangest set-up I'd ever seen in a hostel. There were six (maybe nine?) beds, all bunked. The ceiling was REALLY high, and the width of the room was REALLY narrow. There wasn't any room to move around, and the lockers were up near the ceiling. I'm not complaining, it was just really weird. (Note: where the camera cuts off on the left side of the picture below is where the wall is. THAT'S how narrow the room was.) The bathrooms were cleaner than some of the others we used on the trip, but the shower would stop working if someone was using the sink. So that was fun. When I have shampoo in my hair and that happens, I ask myself why exactly I like traveling so much.After getting settled, we went a-wandering. We found the main plaza, and boy was it a big one! There were fountains and a little museum and lots of people making out on park benches.We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant that Lonely Planet said had cheap daily specials. We got the special, which was a thin steak with mashed potatoes and a fried egg. First of all, why doesn't everything come with a fried egg? Second of all, OMG those mashed potatoes were delicious. We think the secret ingredient was nutmeg...SO good! The steak was great too.We stayed there for like 3 1/2 hours, eating, chatting, drinking wine and coffee. WHY DON'T WE DO THIS IN THE US?!?! I guess people sit around for hours at coffee shops, but I wish you could do that at cafes. Poor Claire had to listen to so many boring stories about high school band and our family and pets and friends. Poor girl, she's a saint.So when I said in my last post that Mendoza was full of holes, this is one example of what I mean.Is it the actual sewer? I don't know, but a big chunk of it is open. In addition to these long gaps of running water, there are literally HOLES in the middle of the sidewalks. The city is really clean and organized, except for these giant holes. I kept wondering how drunk people stumble home in that city. They must break a lot of ankles.After our long lunch, we walked to General San Martin Park. The front gates are from 1909. There were lots of things to do and nice paths to walk.I know there's nothing more boring than fountain pictures, but too bad! Here's Claire in front of a big fountain. We spent a while taking pictures trying to imitate the statues, but they are too stupid to even share on this blog.Who am I kidding? There's nothing too stupid to put on this blog!OK I kinda like this one.Going for a stroll.What a lovely l[...]

A long bus ride, Nicholas Cage, and those crazy Argentinian Pesos


So that's what we did from our home-base--Tilcara. We had a lot of fun up there in the north, and we were sad to leave. Partly because it was awesome, and partly because we now had to endure a 22 hour bus ride to Mendoza...yaaaaay.We paid for the best seats on an ANDESMAR bus and they were SWEEEEEET. They were like business class on a plane--wide seats, lots of was exciting. Here's Claire, pumped to be on this bus for 22 hours!I bought this popcorn at the bus station. It was covered with melted sugar of various colors...REALLY good. And great for my teeth.Nicholas Cage was there too.So they had us on this bus for like an hour and a half, watching Face-Off, and then they randomly stopped and told us all to get on this OTHER bus. And we never got to finish Face-Off! I STILL don't know what happens at the end! WHO wins!?! Nicholas Cage or John Travolta?! And what do I mean when I say "Nicholas Cage" and "John Travolta"?? Who am I talking about?! I don't even know!!!This is a blurry picture of our dinner. A gray slab of meat covered with corn and mushy french fries, bread and deli meat, a roll thingy, flan, and rice. It really could have been worse. We played card games until it got dark, and they showed lots of movies, including "Knowing," ANOTHER Nicholas Cage movie! By the way, that movie is crazy. I especially like the part right before everything goes down, where Nicholas Cage jumps on his computer and says, "Hey! Remember when I wrote that academic paper predicting this VERY THING THAT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN? WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" and he even has a little video depicting how the sun will explode and melt Earth. It only took him 3/4 of the movie to remember that he's known what will happen ALL ALONG.We had some stuff with us on the bus, but our big bags were underneath the bus, and apparently in Argentina it is important to properly tip the baggage handler so that he will not be bribed to give a thief your stuff (and I'll rant about their currency in another post, OMG their currency). Luckily, when we arrived in Mendoza and disembarked, all our stuff was still there! Hooray!Wow we look disgusting!Ok I changed my mind. I'll rant about their currency now. There's a shortage of small bills and coins (called "monedas") in Argentina. Larger bills are pretty much useless, since (a) things are so cheap and (b) PEOPLE WILL REFUSE TO SELL YOU SOMETHING IF THEY DON'T WANT TO GIVE YOUR THEIR SMALL BILLS AND COINS AS CHANGE FOR YOUR GIANT BILL. So everyone is always struggling with acquiring and maintaining small bills and coins. People, including my sister, are CRAZY hoarders, especially of coins because they're the only way to pay for the buses in Buenos Aires. I read about this crazyness in Lonely Planet when I was sitting in the airport for 8000 hours and I started to worry about the large bills I received from the currency exchange in Houston. I went to the currency change in the Buenos Aires airport and asked if she could give me smaller bills. The woman just looked at me strangely, smiled a little at my ignorance, and said no. Having only large bills is basically like being broke. You cannot function with them, so we tried to break them every chance we got, even if it seemed very unlikely they would give us change. Usually when you hand someone a fifty or a hundred (which are $13USD and $26USD respectively), they ask you if you have something smaller. You say no (whether that's true or not...hey, you have to look out for YOURSELF in these situations!), they sigh irritatedly, and rudely plop the change down in your hand without ever making eye contact, unless it's to glare at you. It's pretty funny when it's not really annoying. In the US, there are times when I feel guilty about only having a $20 (and I've gotten a similar response on a Met[...]



OK so our Salt Plains pictures SUCK compared to these:






We are obviously not very creative. We should have brought more props. We'll just have to go back and try again!

Salinas Grandes


So several companies "harvest" (is that the right word?) the salt from these plains. It occurred to me that we should have brought some limes and tequila so we could do a proper tequila shot using the "salt" from the Plains. Even though it's not yet salt as we know it and would taste horrible, it would have been a fun story. Instead, we wandered around, danced, and took pictures. The effect would have been more pronounced if the sky had been completely clear (like here), but the clouds were still cool and the view still striking.Arriving at the Salt Plains!Driving us to a good spot.THE SALT PLAINS!I desperately wanted a picture of me doing a cartwheel on the plains. What I did not take into account is that (a) salt plains hurt and (b) just because you can do a cartwheel at 11 doesn't mean you can still do one at 24.I tried a handstand instead, and failed. Let's just say I'm break-dancing. Yeah, that's better.Claire and I.We're lookin super cool! Notice my broken glasses, and Beccah's ugly ones. We had way too much fun with the weird perspective.I'm supposed to be jumping out of her hand.Aaaand, of course, jumping pictures.Beccah looking cool.We also befriended a cute salt llama.The Salt Plains rock![...]

Seven Colors Hill


The highlight of our time in Northern Argentina was probably the day we saw the Seven Colors Hill and the Salt Plains. At least for me it was!Again we took the bus--this time from Tilcara to Purmamarca. We disembarked and found a plaza with lots of vendors selling souvenirs. Then we spotted the Seven Colors Hill from afar.So we walked toward it.We hiked up a small hill right across from the 7 Colors Hill to get a good look. Wow! So colorful!The landscape surrounding the 7 Colors Hill was lovely as well.Then we went for a little hike around the place.Seriously, what's with the DirecTV!?!?ooOOooo mountain-y!A PURPLE MOUNTAIN!After our hike, we hung out in a cafe for a while, enjoying coffee and a snack. I drink coffee pretty infrequently (it fails to keep me awake and it hurts my stomach), but the coffee in Argentina was quite enjoyable. Greece, too. There, I drank coffee every day and it was AWESOME. I don't know what's in it--olives, crack, the blood of the Gods--but it was delicious.We also wandered around the town looking for sunglasses, since mine broke and Beccah didn't have any. The salt plains are very white (and therefore bright), and Lonely Planet recommends having sunglasses. It turns out NO ONE in the town of Humahuaca sells them. Well, one lady does. She had one pair of (pricey) sunglasses. They were ugly, but Beccah bought them.Pretty much the only way to get to the Salt Plains is to hire a car to drive you there from Purmamarca. They're called "remise" cars. A young man, probably 18 or 19 years old, was our driver. Apparently he drives remise cars on the weekend, and during the week he goes to school to be a chef. Sweet! Given my new obsession with food, this made me very happy. I don't remember his name but he was nice and an EXTREMELY safe driver, which seems to be rare anywhere outside of America. I can't believe how incredibly safe the roads are in America compared to everywhere else. Not that I've been everywhere else, but three continents later, I'm still in awe of our obsession with safety (slash fear of everything), in all forms, not just travel. OMG my cat Romeo won't leave me alone!So we hired this guy to drive us to the Plains. He took the scenic route, bringing us up lots of windy roads through the mountains, so we could look at the bizarrely colored landscape and llamas. He'd stop every so often so we could look around and take pictures.GREEN MOUNTAIN! LLAMAS! Can you see 'em? Seriously, I'm obsessed.Windy roads. (Claire calls these "sis-pics")I call these the less catchy, "Knox pics."Sorry for the redundancy but I like this picture. You can see the windy roads better.ooOOOoooo! You can kinda see the Salt Plains comin'!THIS IS NOT A DEAD ANIMAL. Everyone who sees this picture thinks so, but it is a really big rock in the distance, shaped like a turtle. Because of their awesomeness, the Salt Plains get their own post. But here they are, coming closer![...]

Robots, Llama Ham, and Zombies: Our Day Trip to Humahuaca!


Humahuaca--winner of the Carolyn's Favorite Spanish Name Ever Award--is a little town not far from and pretty similar to Tilcara. While waiting at the Tilcara bus station, I convinced Beccah to buy some freshly-squeezed orange juice from an old man with me. It was delicious, but whew! I'm not sure we'll do that least not until our bodies are COMPLETELY used to all the bugs...After disembarking the bus, we wandered around the town a bit, looking for a plaza with a church, because that's where most of the cool stuff was. We stumbled upon it and found a large crowd consisting mostly of extremely excited children. Were they excited by my arrival? No, not this time. They were excited because at around noon, a robotic saint emerges from the nearby clock tower. As we waited for the epic moment to come, we bought some popsicles from a guy taking advantage of the crowd standing in the heat. Man, was it hot! I don't know how Claire wore that long-sleeved shirt all day. Those popsicles hit the spot. We were pumped for the saint!Then at about five until noon (not exactly noon, just as Lonely Planet had predicted), the saint appeared! First, he held up a cross with his left hand. Then, he held up his pointed finger with his right hand. AWESOME! As he went back into his lair, everyone waved goodbye.Soon after that, we encountered a lot of stairs. Naturally, we felt compelled to climb them.The prospect of climbing so many stairs was slightly overwhelming...but we've climbed worse!We made it! The view from the top.We found a scenic spot for silly pictures. First, karate!Aaaaand, of course, some jumping.Seriously, though, what lovely mountains and clouds.I had something stuck in my teeth. Luckly there was a cactus nearby!We went back towards the stairs to check out the giant statue.We wandered around the streets and browsed some shops for a while.SO MUCH ICE CREAM!Then we decided to eat lunch. We were in llama country, so I had to eat some. "Llama ham" with goat cheese sounded good!LLAMA!I guess if I wanted to discover the taste of llama, I should have chosen some that wasn't cured. Since the meat was cured, it tasted like beef jerky. Tasty, but not very unique. Next time!We continued our wandering. I found a trash bush!Then we discovered an extremely colorful cemetery, so we went for a stroll. I LOVE cemeteries. So do Beccah and my mom. There are some sweet ones in the mountains where my uncle lives in Massachusetts--graves from the Revolutionary War and whatnot. SO COOL!I guess these pictures don't accurately portray the level of colorfulness in this cemetery, but seriously, there were TONS of these ridiculously colorful flowers everywhere.ZOMBIES!No matter how remote your location, there will always be DirecTV.Another lovely view.Our day trip to Humahuaca was quite lovely, indeed. Next up, the Hill of 7 Colors and Salt Plains![...]

Stinky Boys, Dusty Streets, and Hey-Hey: Our Trip to Tilcara!


First off, Happy New Year! A new decade--yeehaw! Hey, people my age--do you realize we're (probably) going to get married and have kids this decade? Holy cow! Also, I have a story about turning twenty-five. Yesterday I was looking at a nutrition chart that divided people by age group and I am no longer in the 19-24 group...I'm in the 25-50 group! FIFTY! I'm in the old people group! Sad times.(To my readers fifty and older, you know I don't mean it when I call you old. I'm just acting out because I'm not fifteen anymore. Actually I don't feel bad at all about calling you old. Serves you right for usurping Facebook!)So...Tilcara! We spent some time talking with a guy who worked at our Salta hostel about where to go next. We thought we wanted to go to Jujuy, but he said it wasn't that cool and we should go to Tilcara instead, a little farther north. So we got on the bus and off to Tilcara we went! During the two-hour bus ride, a five-year-old girl hung out with me. She got on the bus and almost immediately came over and showed me her giant bottle of soda. I oohed and aahed appropriately. She left and came back again, saying stuff to me while I nodded and smiled. Claire was sitting next to me but she couldn't hear her well enough to translate. The little girl must have thought I was an idiot. Then she started counting the freckles on my arms. Then she rolled up her sleeve and showed me her one freckle. Then she smooshed up my face with her hands (her fingers got in my mouth a little bit--blech!) and laid down on the bus floor to take a nap. What an adorable little weirdo.Tilcara is a tiny mountain town so far north it's almost Bolivia. A lot of the roads are unpaved and dusty, and it's very quiet and peaceful. All three of us enjoyed it a lot. When we arrived, we walked from the bus station to a hostel, but their cheapest rooms were full. The woman there called up another hostel to see if they had a room at the price we wanted. Then she told us how to get there. Isn't it strange for her to help us get a room at a different hostel? She was so nice.We found the next hostel, which was part of a family's house. They lived in one part, which was connected to another part containing a kitchen, bathroom, and our big (dorm) room with seven beds. On the one hand, this family wasn't super friendly and gave me weird vibes, but on the other hand, THEY WERE A FAMILY ROCK BAND! LIKE THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY! Well, sort-of. We arrived on a Friday night and their friends came over and rocked out with them all evening. It wasn't rock music, some sort of traditional music. It was awesome!When we first arrived, there were two French boys, another European boy, and an Irish boy all staying in our dorm. They were not very friendly, they smelled, and they snored loudly. Boys didn't make a good impression on me in general on this trip. I went backpacking in Europe with three boys and none of them were as annoying or gross as every other boy of any nationality I encountered in Argentina. I think sharing this dorm with these boys is when my true sexism really came out. Thank God they all left eventually.At one point one of the French guys started talking to Beccah, the usual questions--where are you from, how long are you traveling for, where have you been, where are you going. He asked if I was a student like Beccah and Claire, and I said, "I'm not working right now, so I'm traveling." Then he said, "You should search. I don't mean to be unpleasant, should search." As in, search for a job! That's what he said to me! How judgmental of him! He doesn't know why I don't have a job or what my situ[...]



So on my second day in Argentina, we took a trip out of Salta to a little town called Cachi, through a tour set up by our hostel. A tour van picked us up very early in the morning and drove around Salta picking up the rest of our group. I think we ended up with about ten people. And we were the only Americans! Not that I look forward to seeing other Americans or anything, but it's strange for there to be NONE. Beccah and Claire said they hadn't met any Americans since they'd left Buenos Aires to go traveling. Maybe because it was the middle of November and that's a strange time to travel, or maybe because not many Americans go to Argentina. I'm not sure. Everyone else was Argentinian or European. Anyway...The plan was to see all the beautiful scenery around Salta, stop in Cachi, and drive back. Fernando was our tour guide. I was the only person on the tour who couldn't understand Spanish so he would explain something and then translate it in English. I felt kinda bad, but he didn't seem to mind. His English was very good! He was a weird dude, that's for sure. At one point in the trip he told us to watch out for holes in the ground. We should NEVER put our hands in the holes because black widow spiders live in there. He detailed the suffering process after being bit by a black widow, like we were around a campfire at summer camp telling ghost stories, ending with, "And a man will experience a long, painful erection..."And that was it. We just looked at each other and nodded.Shortly after that, he said that the upcoming curve in the road was the most dangerous one in the mountains, and many people die as their vehicles plummet downward. He said the last time there was a car accident, three American girls were killed. "But the tour guide survived," he said, smiling."So it's your turn!" I said, and he looked at me strangely and laughed. Fernando was a weird tour guide.Our first stop was near a bridge, from which we could see three mountains with differing flora. The nearest mountain had lots of green, the middle had less, and the farthest had none whatsoever. Fernando said this was due to the unique climate of the area. That's kinda vague, but it was cool nonetheless. There were lots of wild horses grazing nearby too, which was pretty nice. Here's Beccah, Claire, and I by the mountains.We stopped at another point to look at some dried-out cacti and pretty scenery. Someone had also tied up a couple baby goats and a puppy to entertain the tourists. Tacky, but who cares?! I got to pet a puppy and a baby goat!!We stopped again and took in some sweet views of the pretty mountains, winding roads, and clouds.One of the coolest places we stopped was on a long, straight stretch of road, surrounded by cacti. Fernando said there were a thousand different types of cacti in that area. Maybe more than that, I can't remember. But what struck me most was how southwestern the place looked. I could have been in New Mexico or something. As we walked around and took pictures with cacti, we looked out for holes in the ground.This is also where the jumping pictures began. Our obsession with jumping pictures continued the entire trip. This one isn't our best work, but it was the first.We quickly learned that I'm a much better jumper than picture-taker. The only cloud in the sky.For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant intended for tour groups. Beccah and I had locro, a local pumpkin stew dish. It was full of vegetables and some sort of meat, which we assumed was either goat or lamb. I feel bad if I ate a lamb :(. It was OK, a bit bland. I think Beccah said she'd had better locro some[...]



So since I arrived in Salta at night, we just went to the hostel and went to bed. I forgot to take pictures of our hostel, but it was nice. Even though our room had six beds, we had it to ourselves the whole time. The bathrooms were a little sketch, but the hostel had free breakfast and dinner, so that was pretty sweet. The next day, we explored the town!Salta--and Argentina in general--looked surprisingly European to me, both in terms of the people and the architecture. A lot of buildings had that European look (sorry, never took an architecture class) and the people were less Hispanic-looking than I expected (although, the farther north we went, the more the people changed). I didn't realize how strong the European influence was in Argentina. On Day 1, we ate our free breakfast at the hostel (corn flakes, rolls with dulce de leche or butter), and went out to eat for lunch. We got a lunch special, which consisted of meatballs with rice or salad. We also got seltzer water and a fruit salad for dessert! I love seltzer water so much!I'm not a huge meatball fan, but these were good! Beccah and I couldn't finish ours, and "doggy bags" aren't allowed at most places, so we secretly wrapped up our meatballs in napkins and put them in our purses. Yeah. Meatballs are oily. My purse knows that now.We wanted to get to this high spot in Salta so we could see the city from above, which required taking gondolas. These gondolas were less terrifying than those at Ocean Park in Hong Kong, but that doesn't mean they were fun. We were pumped, though!The top had a nice view of the little city below and the surrounding mountains. There were even rays of light peaking through the clouds and little shops at the top selling souvenirs. We hiked back down to the city. Evil gondolas.When we got to the bottom, we walked through a park and pretended to be Guermes, some general guy who did cool things for the city of Salta. I really should be a history teacher. I know so many important details.Then we walked around the town. We saw this cool tree.And this cool building. I think it's a convent.The streets of Salta.Part of a nice cathedral. I love cathedrals. I'm really jealous of Catholics when I'm in a cathedral. Look how cool that is? How can you not want to be Catholic?According to Beccah, it is common for Latin American cathedrals to hold statues of dead saints. This guy supposedly died in his sixties, but his corpse looks awfully young to me.These are a couple cool buildings surrounding the main plaza (more on plazas later!).Before dinner, we ate some awesome ice cream.DELICIOUS. One flavor was chocolate and the other dulce de leche (a rich caramel sauce). Super cheap and super delicious! For dinner we went to the hostel (well, a different branch of our hostel) and had tartas. They were basically tarts full of onions and spinach and maybe beef. My pictures didn't come out very well. They were good, if a bit salty. Those Argentinians looooooove salt! And beef. But they hate spicy stuff---??!?!?!?!On our second day, we went on a tour to a town called Cachi, which I'll describe in its own separate post. Our third day was spent in Salta again, sitting in cafes, wandering around, and visiting museums. We went to a museum and saw this:I'm not sure why there's that little box on top of the scissors. Does anyone know?For lunch we had tamales and humitas, because they're popular in the north and rare in Buenos Aires. Humitas are similar to tamales, but they are sweeter and consist of lots of corn. Both were very tasty!We had a nice time sitting in a cafe by the[...]



Not that you're all hanging on to my every word, but I just want to explain that I DO plan to finish my Argentina story soon! It's computer problems. For months my computer was all, "you have too many freakin pictures and not enough space and i'm gonna flip out if you don't delete some" so I finally caved and took all my pictures off my computer and put them on a hard-drive. This turned out to be a good thing because shortly thereafter I got some sort of virus-y thing and now my angry computer is at my dad's so he can put Windows7 on it. I could hook up my hard-drive with all my pictures to my mom's desktop and blog from there, but seriously? That's an extra step I'd need to take and my laziness won't have that. As a blog reader, I know how frustrating it is when people don't update their blogs regularly enough, so sorry, but hopefully next week I'll have my post about Salta ready. Yipee!!!

Argentina Parte Uno: Getting There, or, Me Realizing I Have No Idea Where Argentina Is


Although I think it's weird for my last posts on my Taiwan blog to be about Argentina, I know some people want to hear about it and I want to remember it. Maybe I should change my blog's name to "Carolyn's Adventures in Taiwan (and, apparently, South America)." Hmmm...we'll see.So I went to Argentina!In case you have forgotten/are unaware, my sister Beccah studied abroad in Buenos Aires this fall and I decided I should take the rest of the money I earned by hanging out with Taiwanese five-year-olds and spend it on a plane ticket to Argentina. And by "a" plane ticket, I mean five plane tickets.I'd never been to South America before! It was a whole new continent for me. And since I studied French for six years, the only Spanish phrases I knew were, "GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL!" and "Y tu mama tambien." Although, French was more useful than you'd expect, since so many Spanish words are similar, if not identical. Vive le français! I like how I keep going to countries where none of my French is of use to me. I really need to get to Africa.But anyway, I had to fly to Houston, then take an overnight flight to Buenos Aires, then take a bus to the domestic airport and fly to Salta--a city in the North. Oh yeah, and I'm afraid to fly. How I became afflicted with both wanderlust and a fear of flying is absurd, but thank God for Tylenol PM. Let me just say that Houston has the best airport ever. Seriously, there's no sarcasm there. Right when I walked out of the plane and into the terminal, the first store I saw was the Fox News Channel Store. SERIOUSLY. I was cracking up. I called my mom and asked her if she wanted me to buy her anything. I had several hours to kill, so I spent a long time wandering the terminals and looking at all the cowboy hats and "Everything's bigger in Texas" paraphernalia (Wow! I just spelled paraphernalia right on the first try without any help from spell check...I rock!). I've never been to Texas, and now I'm dying to go. I wanted to buy everyone I know a cowboy hat. Oh yeah, I forgot the best part! On our way BACK to Chicago, there was BACON littered on the floor in the airport. BACON! ONLY IN TEXAS DOES BACON LITTER THE TERMINAL FLOORS. I love it. No, really, I genuinely do. Any resentment I have ever felt for Texas is jealousy deep down. It's true.So I survived the long flight to Argentina. I flew Continental Airlines, which was quite pleasant, and the woman next to me didn't talk to me at all, which I also appreciated. I don't like being spoken to on airplanes. I'm too busy being terrified. If I'm distracted, I'll lose focus on my impending death and the plane will crash. Seriously, I have problems. I also apparently don't know my geography very well, because when I woke up and saw on the map that we had reached South America, I thought, "Yay! We're almost there!" But no, we were less than 1/3 of the way there. South America is big. And Argentina is at the bottom of it. Stupid Argentina.Apparently Buenos Aires has one airport for international flights and another airport for domestic. Since I had to get to Salta, I needed to switch airports. Yay! Right when I walked out of the terminal, I saw a sign for buses. In English, I told the guy I needed to get to the Jorge Newberry Airport, and he gave me a ticket and told me where to stand. I made it to the airport and had like four or five hours to kill before my next flight. I ate some empanadas, which were gross. That was also where I learned that the Argentinians speak Spanish differently than the res[...]

Xianggang (Hong Kong)


So I went to Hong Kong!The bus from Taichung to the airport in Taoyuan took longer than I expected (by about an hour), plus I got off at the wrong terminal. So after lots of running around like a crazy lady with two completely stuffed suitcases (and paying extra for exceeding the weight limit for travel within Asia), I finally got on the plane. I was a hot mess. I was feeling a bit emotional and the giant Taiwan flag all lit-up on the runway didn't help much. But I managed not to cry the entire flight like I did on the way there.I landed in Hong Kong just fine and soon saw my first Hong Kong friend--Elaine. I was so excited to see her! As I was bouncing around all excited she said, "Put your passport away, somewhere safe." Almost immediately our old rapport took over--where she is like my mother and I'm her flighty daughter. I had forgotten we were like that together!She and I took a bus to Tuen Mun and then a taxi to Lingnan University--where I studied abroad--to meet up with our friend Mark and his boyfriend (also named Mark, so he's Mark2). It was ridiculously exciting to see him again too. I missed my Hong Kong friends so much!!! We went to Fu Tai--the nearby shopping center--and ate at a Taiwanese restaurant. Yes, Taiwanese, of all places. We did lots of fun things that week! Let's see...I missed the subway so very much. Especially when I was living in Chicago and taking the God-awful 'L'. Well, "God-awful" is an understatement. There is no word strong enough to describe Chicago's public transportation system. Hong Kong's, on the other hand, can be described as: Beautiful. Efficient. The love of my life.On Saturday Elaine and Mark2 and I wandered around downtown. We went to the aviary in Hong Kong Park and saw lots of weird-looking birds. I learned that pelicans are BIG and SCARY. We also rode on the Star Ferry! The Star Ferry takes you across Victoria Harbor to/from Hong Kong Island. I love it. Obviously. It's a great way to see the skyline. For dinner that night we had Indian food. Really REALLY good Indian food. Here's a blurry picture of Mark1 with said Indian food. Then the Marks and I watched the light show from the Harbor (every night all the buildings light up, it's really fun). Nearby, there was a lit-up display of all different things--including Taipei 101! I was very excited.On Sunday night we went out to Lan Kwai Fong--a popular bar district downtown. We went to some of our old favorites and took a couple jolty mini-buses home. It looks like this even when you're sober.On Monday, Mark1 had the day off, so we went to Ocean Park! He hadn't been since he first came to Hong Kong three years ago, and I had never been. It's an amusement park/aquarium all in one! It even has the world's longest escalators. Or so Mark says...I used to think the escalators in Soho were the world's longest, but maybe that's just the longest series of escalators. I don't know, dude. All I know is that there are 8 bajillion escalators in Hong Kong, and if they DON'T hold the record, then that's a shame.Some food at Ocean Park. I had the fish balls, which were just OK. Also, "stick bar"? Sounds...delicious...?Ocean Park is cool because it's sorta off the side of a mountain.Halloween decorations were up as well...even if they weren't always grammatically correct.Fake jellyfish:Real jellyfish:We took the cable cars to another side of the park. That's when I learned I was scared of cable cars! Mark didn't help by singing "Freefalling" the entire time.That ni[...]

Weekend Update


So I'm in California. Hong Kong was wonderful and I traversed the Pacific and down to the OC safely. I'll provide more details and pictures in another post, I just wanted to provide a quick update and briefly discuss transitioning.

I flew from Hong Kong to San Francisco, then I took another flight to LAX. While I was waiting in the SF airport for my second flight, I looked around. Accurate or not, I'm used to categorizing people in a room into "Chinese" or "foreigner." As I looked around the gate area, I thought to myself, "Wow...there sure are a lot of foreigners here." Then I remembered I was in America.

More later!

A Special Place


So I guess I should do a post about my "feelings." And since this is the slowest my heart rate has been since I returned from Hualien, maybe it's a good time to digest it all.I haven't been hungry in four days. I've been forcing myself to eat but it hasn't been easy, so I've mostly been subsisting on tea. I've been a nervous wreck. On the outside I've been quite normal, but in my mind I've been a basket-case. There's just been so much to take care of this week, and everything has had to come together at the last second. Actually at precisely 21:50 this evening. Between squeezing in Hualien, selling the scooter, cleaning the apartment, getting rid of stuff, packing and re-packing, closing bank accounts, wiring money home, having the landlord check the apartment, getting my deposit back, turning in my books, getting forms signed, getting paid, working, and being all emotional about leaving, I've been a crazy person. But on Friday I just have a couple more things to do, then I'll eat lunch and get on the bus to the airport. There are two typhoons heading towards Taiwan (they're supposed to hit Sunday night) so it's been rainy the past couple days. Hopefully it won't be raining when I fly to Hong Kong at 18:45.Oh yeah, my feelings. Two weeks ago I was all like, "OK I'm so ready to get out of here. I want to see my family. And eat a potato." Last week I'd look at my suitcase and think, "'s over..." and I was really sad. This week has been a combination of those two, plus stressed-out hysteria. But right now I'm pretty calm. I had my last classes today (and was able to not cry when saying goodbye to everyone) and got my last paycheck. Then when I came home at 9:15 the landlord and Michael--my favorite/most talkative security guard--checked my apartment and gave me my deposit. When I was finished, I sat in my room and tried to eat some food. Then I started panicking about the flights and how I don't want to die in a horrible plane crash. Then I told myself to shut the heck up because there's nothing I can do about the flights. What am I going to do, not get on the plane? And somehow that worked and at the moment I'm quite calm. (Picture: Michael)My mom asked me if, knowing what I know now, I would do this all again. Of course I would! The first six months here were really difficult and culminated in me getting a second job and Mike leaving, but the whole experience has been worth it. When I first told my favorite college professor that I was going to Taiwan, he said that he had lived there for two years and it will "always have a special place" in his heart. And, cliche or not, that's exactly how I feel. [...]

Last batch


I took some more student pictures today. So I have a picture of every class (that I ended with) except one. Rock on.My A1 class.Tiger and JohnsonLily, Kenny, Terry, MelodyRubyJackBetty and PaulaMy Y4's. Left to right: Joy, Vincent, Sky, Dora, AllenYou've seen this class before, but it's my fave. So let's see them again.BerniePaulAmyPhoenixKevinLe sigh.[...]



I feel like I haven't talked much about the food in Taiwan in the past 12 1/2 months, so here’s my attempt to summarize.Food has been very confusing for me here in Taiwan. It took a long time to figure it out. I'm still a little confused. It seems to me that in both Hong Kong and Mainland China, on a daily basis, restaurants are places you go with two or more people. You sit. You order a few dishes. You eat. You share them. You're given some hot jasmine tea to drink. It's a social experience. I've had this kind of eating experience in Taiwan, but it's not a daily experience like it is elsewhere. It seems like in Taiwan the defining characteristic of the food-eating experience is convenience, particularly for lunch. It’s largely take out, take out, take out. Enter, "bien dang," or "lunchboxes." It seems like nearly everyone in Taiwan has one of these for lunch. You go to a restaurant or food stand and they fill it up with whatever you want. They consist of some sort of meat, rice, and some vegetables. They're like a Japanese bento box. I haven't taken a picture of one, so here's one I got from usually get one of these, jump on a scooter, and go off to wherever they go to eat. It's not uncommon to see people on scooters with like forty or fifty of these babies piled up in a big bag, probably for the whole workplace. They're a staple.The other main thing people seem to eat besides bien dang is some variation of this:Noodles. Usually accompanied by a tea egg (which I've grown to love and crave). If you get it to go, they usually put the soup in a plastic bag and give you a plastic spoon, wooden chopsticks, and maybe a cardboard bowl. If you eat it there, you'll probably sit at a long table with some other people, eat your food, then go wherever you're going next. My (or "our," when Mike was here) first problem here was identifying restaurants. This is probably where being literate comes in handy. What I eventually discovered was that most "restaurants" are I guess what one would describe as "hole-in-the-wall" places (although that term doesn't seem very fitting either). Most don't really have menus. Instead, what is offered is posted on the food stand itself, or a wall, or assumed, with a few tables and plastic chairs nearby. We certainly went to those in China and Hong Kong, and they're great, but they seemed less prevalent. Maybe when I go back to Hong Kong I'll be able to identify and describe the differences more articulately. These are typical restaurants:After conquering the problem of identifying good places to eat, the problem became how to get food. Basically, the way to get food when you aren't fluent is to just walk up to one of these tiny places and just start saying something in Chinese. Hopefully the person will just give you something similar to what you asked for. That's what I usually do, and hope the person I'm talking to doesn't ask me for too many details. Sometimes what I get isn't very good, but most of the time it is pretty good. I like watching people put soups together. Throw in some noodles. Pour in a broth or two. Put some green onions on top. Add some spiciness. Throw in a tea egg. For some reason I find it very entertaining to watch. And it's remarkable how popular soup is in the summer. It was probably less popular before air conditioning, I'm sure.Many places offer free oolong tea, although th[...]