Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I had planned to post lots of photos to my flickr account. I didn't get many good shots. It was almost always hazy, and the sky turned out totally white in a lot of my shots.
Hui-Jen has a nice internet connection, but it was too slow to upload photos. If I post more, I'll mention it here.
Thanks for reading!
Saturday, February 16, 2008
So we flew from Japan to Dallas/Fort Worth. The flight had a few rough spots, but nothing really bad. Near the end of the flight the captain came on the PA and told us he would like to say we are about 30 minutes away from Dallas. But he couldn't. He had just made a 90 degree turn to avoid a storm. He said we might have to circle for a while. If we stayed up too long, we would need to refuel in San Antonio. We circled for about 1 hour before landing. That was rough! As we touched down we shook back and forth a little. I thought we were going to tip over!
Once we got inside we had to wait in an enormous line for immigration. Luckily this line moved quickly, but we got pulled aside by customs for a check. They x-rayed all of our luggage and hand checked one of them. We now had about 15 minutes to re-check our luggage, find our gate and board. That's when we found out that our flight to Baltimore had been cancelled too! We were told we had 3 choices. Try to get on the next flight to Baltimore via standby, try a Washington airport, or try again tomorrow. Whatever we choose, our luggage was going to Baltimore on the next flight. I wanted to be on the same flight to the same ariport as our luggage, so we opted for staying the night and flying Sunday morning. After we waited in line for a few minutes an airport worker told us to go upstairs and get in another line at another gate. This ended up being a shorter line of people, but it was moving at a snails pace. We eventually got booked on an early flight and got a distressed traveller rate on a hotel. AA made the reservation for us.
After we dropped our stuff at the hotel (via the hotel shuttle) we walked to a nearby steak joint. What a great steak! We also had a spinach/crab/cheese dip.
We're going to call it an early night. Our shuttle leaves at 4:30 am.
Tomorrow is going to be a great travellinng day.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Last night we saw some amazing Chinese Acrobats from Sichuan. The show was at the temple we visited a few nights ago.
HL, Dad and Joy got nice large plastic chairs with back and arms and were allowed to sit in a special area up front. It was reserved for older people and people with small children.I could have sat there too but I wanted to make sure there were not too many people in front of me. I took a hard metal stool and sat off to one side, one person behind the edge of the special section. After a while the people in front of me moved and I was able to move to the front row. The special section never filled up so I had a clear view of the stage.
The famous mask changers were there. The colored masks would change when their faces were covered. It happened in about a second.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Friday, February 8, 2008
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Monday, February 4, 2008
Sunday, February 3
A drum festival in Tainan and bad weather equals great opportunity for us! Mei-Jen's friend took us to the Ten Drum Culture Village Festival today. On the way there it started raining. It got worse the closer we got to the festival, although it was never raining very hard.
The first thing we did was see a performance by the Ten Drum youth group. They were excellent. If you know how much I love drums you know how much fun this was for me. There were only about 30 people in the audience so I had plenty of room to move around and get photos from different angles.
After the performance the other audience members scattered. As we were buying some CDs just outside of the performance space, we suddenly heard them playing again. HL asked if I wanted to watch, or even play a little. Of course I did! HL got me up on stage with a pair of sticks in my hand. I got to play their large drum. Then I asked if they could teach me something so I could play with them a little. I guess it got lost in the translation because a few of them started playing and I just stood there like a dumb rock. It was still really cool to be on stage while all those drums are being played. I asked again and they played again, and this time I joined in, watching and playing along with one of the drummers who was playing a similar drum to one I was near. I played with them a bit, and even stopped right when they did. Whew!
The Culture Village is contained within the grounds of an old sugar cane facility. I believe the company sponsors the group. There are classes available for children, youth and adults. On our last trip to Taiwan, Guo-Shu took us to see the youth group in performance in Taipei. The family who took us to the festival today bought us a DVD of that same performance when the wife came to visit us in 2006.
Next we got a tour of their drum museum. It was only our small group of 8 people. We got to see some nice drums and learn a little about how they are made. We even got to play some of them. There is one drum that is 7.5 feet in diameter and has natural skin heads. They have another that has a plastic head that looks bigger than that.
One of the bulidings contains a shrine with 5 large drums on either side. Each drum is used to pray for a specific thing, such as wealth, good health, children, etc. To use this, you choose a drum and hit it 3 times. Then you light 2 incense sticks. One goes in a pot at the shrine and one goes in a large standing pot about 20 feet in front of the shrine. I choose a few drums and prayed.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
On my first trip to Taiwan we went on a hike to see monkeys. Dad did not go along. On our last trip here, we took Dad on a hike near there, but not exactly the same place. We only saw a few monkeys from the car. This time I wanted to take Dad to the place he missed on our first trip. After a small amount of searching, Guo-Yen found the same place. It starts out with concrete ramps and steps and turns in to all wood walkways and steps. Some parts are a little steep. (But they are nothing like the hike from the last trip!)
The Monkey Whisperer
I knew we were ready to leave, but I just wanted to take a look down that trail. I walked up the where the man and monkeys left the trail. A monkey came out of the woods and started slowly coming towards us. I quickly sat down on a step and started photographing him/her. This monkey was somewhat big. I was glued to the camera and was taking a lot of shots. When I stopped and lowered the camera, I was shocked to see that the monkey was only about 3 feet from me. HL was holding Joy and standing with Guo-Yen just a few feet away from him also.
We saw a few more monkeys as we walked back down. I was not at all disappointed that we didn’t make it to the top. I was just happy we got Dad there and that I got some monkey photos. We might even go back sometime later during this trip. There are other trails to explore.
Dad got approached by a little boy in the mall today. First he asked Dad how tall he is. Then he came back and asked where he is from. Then he came back and asked for a photo with Dad. After each answer he would run back to his parents and talk to them. The same thing happened to Joy and I. Some girls, maybe early high school age, asked for a photo.
We tried to get someone to take us to exchange money right from the beginning, but no one would do it. HL said Mei-Jen told us to use a jeweler instead of a bank to get a better rate. After waiting for a few days, HL walked to the bank across the street from the pharmacy. They would not take our money, since it was too new. They don’t want the new style bills. On our way to the market on today, Dad stopped in another bank and was turned away again. As we made our way down the alley, a bank employee came running up and took Dad to a jeweler on the other side of the market place. Exchanging there was quick and easy.
Friday, February 1, 2008
We’ve been having either egg cake or fan tuan for breakfast every day. Egg cake is a beaten egg, fried flat with a soft tortilla-like disk on top. After it’s been cooked a while, it’s turned over and cooked some more. It can be plain or have ham, bacon or other things inside. It is usually served with a salty sauce. They are delicious.
Fan tuan is a stick of rice with things inside. Usually there is some fried egg and pork powder with some pickled vegetable. There is also a deep fried stick of dough on the inside.
Breakfast today was a traditional Taiwanese dish called wa gui.
It’s steamed rice powder with pork, black mushroom and fried scallions inside. It is sort of the consistency of pudding. There were many bowls of it on the table already. You choose a bowl and add a soy sauce mixture and some garlic, if you like. It was good. Hui-Ling and I finished Joy’s portion.
After breakfast we took Joy to the local elementary school to play on their playground. It’s winter break for the kids here, but there are still activities happening.
Late this afternoon Dad and I took Joy to the park across the street so she could play. After a while some other kids came and Joy tried to play with them. I heard Joy calling herself “English Girl” in English. I think she heard them say that in Chinese. She was talking to them in English. They were not responding, at least not in English. I don’t think they knew Joy could speak Chinese. I urged Joy to speak Chinese to them, but she didn’t. Or at least she only did a little bit.