Monday, December 24, 2012

Best of 2012

Birthday goals

Before my birthday last year, I wrote down some goals/things I wanted to do before my next birthday. I didn't accomplish all of them, but the ones I did I feel pretty happy about. Below are those things taken directly from my list:

1. Get married and enjoy every minute of it
 There were a few times I forgot to enjoy the moments of the process of getting married (getting to the rehearsal was pretty hectic), but after reminding myself to slow down, take deep breaths, and leave it up to God, the joy came right back! Something to remember for everyday, not just during wedding season.

3. Blog at least once a week

Okay, I kept this up for about half the year. But I think that's still pretty good.

4. Fall in love with a new music artist

Yes! And they are...
Katie Herzig;  (especially her album "Waking Sleep," which has accompanied me on innumerable commuter trips on the highway since we forgot to bring other CDs with us) (link to Midnight Serenade; I ABSOLUTELY LOVE what they did with the toms at about 0.618 into the song...turn up the bass amp!)
All Sons & Daughters (not to be confused with Sons and Daughters)

5. Write three songs

I wrote two plus a handful of poems

7. Make a whole meal for my family
Did not do this single-handedly, but doubled up with B in our dream-team to make dinner for our parents

8. Visit the East coast of Taiwan

Had a great time! I want to go back! More on this later

12. Play for a coffeehouse
Didn't make it to a coffeehouse, but I did play an opener to our church's Christmas outreach.

13. Make new friends
Yes. I would say I made more than a few new friends this year. At school, at the university, and at's been a wonderful year for making new friends!

15. Take a roadtrip
To Kenting with B

16. Be better at keeping in touch with friends (email or skype)

Still room to grow, but made myself a little more intentional this year.

17. Grow in my prayer time.
Ditto above...

Since 2012 is drawing to a close, I wanted to do a recap of several of the highlights it brought. In all the joys and sorrows that have come, it's been a very epic year, which I had an inkling it would be (if not just in the fact that this is the year of the Dragon).


2012 highlights

Best Adventure:
Taking a trip to Hualien (on the East coast of Taiwan) with my sister. Sometimes I am incredulous in looking back that I planned everything, from booking the hotel to buying the train tickets, but it's true! Both of us had never been there before and were quite taken by the rugged, tropical beauty of the place, in spite of the poor weather. We took a cab tour of Taroko and biked along the trails at the base of the mountains. Next time, I will plan to go when it's not typhoon season!

Best Meal Out:

One sunny Saturday before summer break I went out to do some last-minute gift shopping with my friends before we were going to leave for the States. We ended up in Siziwan and stopped at a restaurant called Escape 41 for dinner. The back patio of the restaurant sat right on top of some craggy rocks and the rolling waves. We had pizza and mango slushes -- it felt like being on vacation at an exotic destination!

Close second: My birthday lunch at Tavola's, another pizza joint. I loved the quality of their food and they weren't stingy with the calamari or the cheese! I think it's my favorite western restaurant in Kaohsiung now.

Best Dream Come True:

Our wedding was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. (Except maybe the weather and the number of guests we could invite...) Everything worked out perfectly; from the decorations to setup to the food to the music to all the people helping out in different ways. After thinking and planning it for so long, it was such a bittersweet feeling as the whole day panned out just as I had imagined it to be. God is so good to us.

Best Realization:
My sister's MOH toast made me realize that not only was I married, but I was being ushered into the adult world, like it or not. All throughout this year this realization has settled into my brain, that now I am solely responsible for cleaning up my messes; that I am the one making the calls on how I use the resources I have. That I am, virtually, on my own. It's somewhat scary but somewhat rewarding at the same time.

Best Surprise:
I'd definitely have to say that my bridal shower was one of the best surprises of the year. My friends were in cahoots and led me on to believe we were celebrating my roommate's birthday, and when we went back after dinner to the apartment to have cake, A TON of people were there waiting to shout SURPRISE! I screamed and went into hysterics, hid in a corner, and was utterly confused for about 1 minute.

My birthday would come a close second, though -- I was expecting to have a nice lunch out with just B, but when we opened the door to the restaurant, my friends' grinning faces were there to greet me as well!

Best Book:
I read "The Great Gatsby" in anticipation of the movie's arrival next year. I finished it in two days!

"The Namesake" would be second place. I love Jhumpa Lahiri's poignant insight into third-culture kids and their families.

Best Purchase:
My Tatung rice cooker! I use it almost every day, not to cook rice but mostly to heat things up (we don't own a microwave) or steam vegetables.

Best Discovery:
I found our neighborhood morning market while we were running errands one day. B let me out of the car to explore and I was so excited to find such a local place to get our groceries. Since there are so many different vendors that come and go on different days, it seems like I am constantly making new discoveries there! 

Best New Friend:
We've met a lot of wonderful people this year, not only with our moving to a new environment but also with people God has divinely appointed us to meet. In the middle of this semester our school was graced by a lovely young lady from a school in Indiana, here to do her student teaching. She showed me what it looks like to actively love others and bring joy to their lives. I was so honored to get to spend some time with her before she had to go back. 

Best Decision Made:
To be content and joyful where I am, with what God has given.

Best Recipe Tried:

B and I really loved these black bean stuffed sweet potatoes, but I was also super pleased with the taste and simplicity of these chicken enchiladas!

Best News:
Before B and I boarded the plane to Taiwan three days after the wedding, my sister took me aside and told me a secret...she was EXPECTING!!! It was so hard to contain my excitement. It's not a secret anymore so I can say I'm absolutely thrilled to welcome my niece to the world!!

Best Lesson Learned:
This past semester has brought a few challenges and questions to the way I teach and my vision for the music program at school. The lesson is that I need to take ownership of my classes, in what I teach, how I teach it, and who I teach.

So with that, my goals for the coming year of 2013 is  to resolve to teach with vision and direction and be a more intentional, courageous teacher.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year full of God's blessings!

Monday, December 17, 2012

prayer request

One thing I love about being here is that sometimes God presents me with unexpected opportunities to connect with people and to hear their stories. This semester at the university I’ve had this chance with a girl I’ll call Stacey.

I met Stacey for the first time at English Day, which consisted of an hour or two of conversing in English in hopes that students would be inspired to improve their speaking skills. Even though it was our first time meeting, she was very enthusiastic about speaking with me and invited me to the restaurant at which she worked so she’d have even more opportunities to use her English. I sealed the deal when B and I brought a friend to have dinner there soon after. For a long while Stacey was faithful in attending English Day, sometimes even being the only one who showed up specifically to talk to me. I was touched by her friendliness and her openness. During our conversations I learned from her that she was abandoned at an early age by her mother, who apparently "lost her mind" (my guess is demon possession) and ran away from the home, where subsequently she was raised by her grandmother. Now she lives with her coworker near the restaurant, because, according to her, the coworker is like the mother she never had.

These last two or three weeks, Stacey has been absent from school. When she returned today, she only told me that she was going through some emotional or psychological turmoil and had to take a break from everything. And yet today was the last session of English Day for this semester, and appropriately or not, the designated topic was “Religion.” I was able to share the gospel a bit in my explanation of the difference between Catholics and Protestants. Afterwards Stacey broached the subject of ghosts, or spirits. She shared with us some stories of her encounters with them, which reminded me of the stories I’d read in Dead Women Walking and heard elsewhere. If you talk to any missionary in Taiwan, you’ll find that encounters with demonic presences and evil spirits are quite common among the Taiwanese. The people here seem more susceptible to opening themselves up to the spiritual realm, where things usually not seen may become experienced in the supernatural.

As I listened to Stacey sharing, I was deeply impressed with the need to get this girl under the Word of God and introduce her to Jesus. I invited Stacey to come to church with me, and her classmates (three other students) expressed interest in coming as well. As one missionary aptly put it, a powerful way to pray for these people is to pray that in their encounters with the supernatural, Jesus would show His own True Self to them. He’s done it before, and He can do it again. Please pray that these precious friends will come this Sunday, and for Stacey in particular – for her to experience the freeing power of Jesus Christ over the bondage of Satan’s deceptive emissaries.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pioneer Christmas

Sometimes I feel like a pioneer. It comes in the whole "stretching one's resources and finding creative ways to use things in place of others" thing. Like baking without measuring cups, or washing and reusing ziploc bags, or substituting real, accessible ingredients for canned, pre-packaged, American-production-labeled products in recipes.

But take our Christmas tree.

(Without Totoro)

Out little tree is only about 3 feet tall. We got him at Carrefour on a shopping trip originally meant to replace a burned out lightbulb. But we found the Christmas tree section, and, knowing we needed one to remind ourselves of the glorious season, we picked the cutest (i.e smallest) one.

My next dilemma was what to decorate it with. Not having time or resources to go look for the kind of ornaments I like, I racked my brain and dug around for things that I could use.

Two real ornaments gifted at my bridal shower and my owl ocarina
I made ribbon bows and origami waterbombs and made them look like presents.

I even made a tissue paper pom-pom, intending it to be an ornament, but found it was much too big for the tree. So it became the topper.

I imagine it to be a blazing star.

I added some sentimental and ornamental key chains which gave it a very personal touch. This is definitely OUR tree.

For the tree skirt, I draped a red bag around the base (you'd never know!). Of course, Totoro wanted in on the festivities, too.

With Totoro

 In the end, we are very happy with our tree, even if it looks a little reminiscent of Charlie Brown. But we think it's cute!

Here are some pictures from our Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving!

Thanksgiving dinner!

Candid shot of our Thanksgiving friends
Friendsgiving crowd
For some of them, this was their very first Thanksgiving dinner! We ordered a turkey from a big hotel catering company and two friends picked it up in a basket. How funny it must have been to carry that big bird all the way up in the MRT!

Our turkey and my sweet potato casserole! (and some random salad)

Excited about the turkey but not quite sure how to carve it.

Some of B's classmates and upper-classmates

Our spread (people brought food too. It was yummy!)
We each went around and shared something we are thankful for from this past year. It was heartfelt and touching.
We are so blessed to be around such good people. Excited for what this Christmas season will bring, and happy to be ringing in new traditions to celebrate!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

we sing them in our sleep, we remember the words

At Central Park, Kaohsiung
 It's Thanksgiving week. When did that happen?

Sometimes when I am doing a mundane task, such as driving on the highway or washing vegetables, I get random flashbacks that seem to have nothing to do with anything that is happening at the moment. Tonight I got a flashback to a few years ago when, about this time of year, I would excitedly load up a schoolmate's car and make the long 8.5 hour trek north back home to spend the Thanksgiving holidays. Those road trips, set in vehicles packed with luggage and hungry college students eager to get away, became the tradition. It was at that point in planning times of departure and maneuvering bulky items into trunks in tetris-like fashion, I knew it was Thanksgiving.

Last year and this year Thanksgiving seems almost like an anomaly. It's not exactly a holiday celebrated in Taiwan, and so the fact that we get Thanksgiving break from school seems odd when the rest of the country bustles on -- in fact, B has classes and an exam to study for all this week. Last year I spent the day at home doing laundry and watching Tangled on TV. And we did have a marvelous potluck dinner with some of the other single ladies. This year will probably be much the same (dinner will be with a slightly different crowd). But we are having a Friendsgiving next week for B's friends from school (after their exam)! And we are hosting! Fun times will be had.

Who knew three years ago that I would be here today, cooking meals in a kitchen with the limited gas supply contained in a tank; strolling amongst the scooters and grandmas along the open-air markets, buying fresh produce from weathered uncles and wrinkled matriarchs who speak a language I do not understand. In spite of the challenges, I am still thankful to be here.

So here is my thankfulness list.

1. For people God placed in my life who have shown me how to do basic things in this foreign country like pay the phone bill or go to the market.

2. For being able to work at a school that strives to be a giving community through events such as Christmas projects (this year we are working with Taiwan Sunshine, an organization that seeks to link Christian families with Taiwanese families of special-needs children).

3. For good food:

滷味 in Kenting during our recent staff retreat!
4. And good friends!

5. For opportunities to meet and converse with Taiwanese college students

6. For the community that I can be a part of and the  eagerness I see to help and support each other during times of need. I am humbled to work alongside such people.

7. For warm blankets when it's cold at night.

8. For hot water, especially after being without it for a few days when our gas supply ran out and we tried to sort out some confusion as to how to get it refilled.

9. For good books and the luxury of having time to read them.

10. For a piano in the bedroom and good music at my fingertips.

11. For my niece -- I can't wait to meet her!!! I am already in love <3 <3 <3

12. For my family.

13. For my patient, hardworking, smart husband.

14. For all my students. They make life interesting.

15. For the internet, that keeps me connected to loved ones far away.

16. For new friends.

17. For the ways God speaks.

18. For our apartment, even with its flaws.

19. For churches with a mission and a vision.

20. For enough.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pray for Taiwan

Last Saturday B and I revisited the small town I lived in last year, running a few errands and meeting up with a few friends. When driving back, we found ourselves right in the thick of a large religious parade, causing the bustle and crowds of the already-packed street to become almost unnavigable. It was pretty much all there -- costumed gods, painted faces, gongs and drums, youth dressed up in strange religious garb, sedan chairs carrying idols, and a huge dragon that teenagers lifted high in the air with long poles. That is not even all of the parade. As we drove we prayed for the people we saw right in front of us, for freedom from the deep lies and binding chains with which Satan has held them so powerfully.

Recently I came across some videos that OMF put out that explains the mission field of Taiwan and the great need that is still here. This one in particular expounds on the need, and the work that is being done through TMF. It also shows some footage of a similar god-parade that we found ourselves surrounded in.  Please pray for Taiwan and pray that more laborers will be sent for the great harvest.

Ministry in Taiwan (TMF promotional video) from OMF Taiwan on Vimeo.

Monday, October 22, 2012

floored by the unexpected

The topic for conversation today at the university was "Holidays and Festivals" (as I mentioned last post, I work at a local university as a language coach for conversational English) -- I tried to be prepared to broach as many holidays and festivals as possible that might be celebrated in America, and as our session began I asked the students about which American holidays they already know. Of course, Christmas was the first one mentioned, so I asked them, "What do you think of when you hear 'Christmas'?"

After the expected round of answers such as  "Santa Claus" and "presents," one student piped up.

"Jesus Christ." 

I confess, I was a bit taken aback. I don't expect these students to know much about Christianity. I asked the student if he knew who the One he mentioned is, and he had little to offer in explanation. Whether or not it was owing to the fact that I asked him to do so in English, I'll never know. But his mere mention of the name Jesus Christ provided an open door for me to explain -- albeit briefly and not nearly as in-depth (or clearly) as I would have liked -- the gospel. The glazed-over expression in their eyes befuddled me and I fumbled with my phrases, wondering if it was the language or the subject matter -- or both. Perhaps some of those in the room had never even heard the gospel before. This conception burdens me a great deal.

In the second hour, most of the students were excused to their other classes, leaving me with two other young ladies, one of them the coordinator of the English activities. We chatted with each other, practicing our conversation skills, laughingly wondering out loud to each other what questions to ask while killing the time. Towards the end one of them asked, "So do you believe in any god or gods?", waving her hand in an upward direction, as if conjuring some unknown deity. I told her I am a Christian, and she asked something in Chinese that I didn't understand. My guess is that she meant to ask something like "Are you a fervent Christian, or just nominal, because your family is Christian?" (which can be common amongst Christian families here), because after seeing the look of confusion on my face, she narrowed her question to "Do you pray every day?"

"Yes," I told her.

"Oh! Then pray for us!" Both of them sat forward, eager to receive the blessings of my anticipated prayer.

Again I was aghast. I had heard of unbelieving people being willing to be prayed for here in Taiwan, but seldom do I hear about those who ask for it. So I prayed for them, their futures, that God would reveal Himself to them and they would experience the true power of His love and grace.

I walked away from that awestruck and humbled. How ill-prepared I felt at the time to give a simple, clear message of the gospel, able to be understood by English-language learners. How unworthy I felt to pray for the souls of two young women, who sat there willingly, right in front of me, heads bowed and eyes closed of their own volition. And yet God placed those moments right into my floundering hands, and I had one of those moments of realizing, "Only I could have done that." Only I could have this unique opportunity, to be in this specific position at this specific time, at this specific place, meeting these specific people. One of those moments where you realize that yes, God does have a specific plan for you. Something in store that may be beyond our wildest dreams.

And though challenged and convicted now to be a little more intentional with this reality, the truth is that it is pretty awesome.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

second generation

On the block of the first house I lived in -- so different from Taiwan!

 I've started to teach/tutor again at a local university this semester, helping students with their pronunciation and conversational English. For one of the first sessions, I was called upon to lecture on the topic of "American Culture." While mulling over what exactly I would speak on for one short hour, the irony of it struck me that in a sense, much of my knowledge of American culture has come to me in bits and pieces, blended into an odd mixture with my own parental heritage. I've grown up American, yes, but not quite so in the truest, most authentic sense. I know how Americans celebrate Christmas and New Year, and I know a little of the experiences, values, and traditions that weave the fabric of their lives. I know that when mid-September hits, American mouths crave all things pumpkin and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, but it has only been since college that I've actually experienced the logical connection of such things to the season of Fall, to the changing color of leaves, to apple-picking, and the sweetly sticky, subtly tart taste of apple doughnuts. I have experienced the tree-decorating, light-stringing, carol-listening traditions of Christmas, and yet I've never had a taste of what it's like to visit or be visited by aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents during such homecoming holidays. I know what it is to have turkey in the oven and sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving, but I also find it perfectly natural for us to have 油飯 (fried sticky rice) and 炒米粉 (fried rice noodles) on the side. I know the familiarity of pizza and hot dogs and string cheese, but I also know the sting of young classmates' wide-eyed stares and exclamations of disgust at what my mother packed for my school lunches. Yes, I know a bit of the American culture, but it is through the eyes of one from the second generation, who grew up fluently speaking the language, but endured years of people mispronouncing her name so that she gave up correcting them long ago. This is the reason that, when I got up in front of a room filled with 30-some chattering college students to speak on the culture of the land of my birth, I had to inwardly suppress a chuckle or two.

 Last week I started reading a book (lent by a friend) called "The Namesake." Having no prior knowledge of this story (or the movie it made), I was slightly misled by the synopsis on its back cover to how moving and profound it would be. It has given me much food for thought as a child born to immigrant parents, and I often wonder myself with what culture my own children will identify the most. As I read about the long, lonely nights the immigrant wife spent preparing home food in her foreign kitchen, thinking her present existence in an alien land only temporary and wondering when she would be able to move back to her true home, I found myself able to relate. At this time in our lives, B and I imagine ourselves heading back to the States after med school if given the opportunity. Our ties from across the ocean pull on our hearts and we naturally gravitate towards what we know best. But I also know that the longer we stay here the more ties we will form on this soil, too, and who knows what may happen once our family starts growing. These are thoughts I often dwell upon these days. Will our children grow up accustomed to eating steaming meals on a greasy aluminum table in a sweaty noodle shop next to the busy road? Will they run around in cramped parks and mildewy playgrounds, and only dream about having the same kinds of adventures Daddy tells them from his own childhood, of exploring great forests with winding creeks? Or will they grow up playing in a lawn with a driveway, a swing on the tree in the backyard?

 I realize that as always, in our humanity we cannot see our futures played out as God will have them, but I do find an appreciation for the voice of people like Jhumpa Lahiri who express the beautifully jumbled, ironically juxtaposed, hauntingly searching perspective of the second generation. I am appreciative of what my parents went through in raising their daughters in a strange country, taking the good from two cultures and mixing them as they knew best. I thank God for the life He's given to me, for this chance to experience life as a foreigner in my parent's birth country. There will be stories to be told, surely, and all the while I only pray that whatever "generation" label my children may fall under, their undying sense of belonging and identity will be in Christ and His Kingdom.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

searching for equilibrium

Last Friday I went on a quest for a place to get books to read. I was happy to discover that the local library is practically down the street from us, so I took the free afternoon to go exploring. I'd never been in a local library in Taiwan before.

I pulled into the street, expecting to find a large building with a welcoming entrance, but instead I found a grungy-looking community swimming pool facing a windowless wall, backing a handful of scooters and bicycles. The wall turned out to be the back of the library, so I parked Little Red and walked to the front.

The entrance was somewhat promising -- a large children's section filled the bottom floor where a few kids milled about, alongside an area for wi-fi. I went upstairs to the sections labeled "Reading Area" and explored the many shelves. I found the foreign literature sections and scanned each shelf for any book that might have English contained therein. In my long, labored search, I found a handful of books that included short story collections, poetry books, and short novels published as language learning tools. I spent most of the afternoon there reading a book called "Daddy Long Legs" which story I knew about from a Chinese children's picture book from my childhood. I don't think I ever really read that book, even though it had 注音. The pictures were drawn by what could have been an anime artist, so they alone told the story enough for me.

Anyhow, the short (or long) span of time spent exploring and delving into a fictional character's life was tantalizing and refreshing. I was very disappointed when the library staff wouldn't let me check out other books because I don't have a Taiwanese ID card...but I figured I could come back and find them to read in a quiet corner on a wooden chair while the HVAC grumbled and the eaves creaked in an invisible breeze. At least they had air conditioning.

Afterwards I found "The Great Gatsby" online at home and finished reading it in two days. Now I'm ready for the movie to come out! :)

That evening B and I went searching for an elementary school with an open track to go running. We found one in the dark that a polite gate guard directed us towards, and the exercise was good for our bodies and our spirits. It feels good to find a balance in the humdrum of daily life, even if it is doing once-familiar activities in an entirely different context.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Into the Fall

Yesterday we visited a church near B's school. A couple that we know now serves there and we went to see how God is working in the community through this body of believers. It is  a small church, which is refreshing after some big churches we attended where the services seemed flashy and the pastor viewed as a sort of celebrity. We were super encouraged at this church to see the vision and heart of the pastor, the way God spoke through him through the Christ-centered message, and the way they desire to reach out to the urban poor of the area. The seeking of a spiritual home for us here is still a matter of prayer, but it makes our hearts glad when we find such pockets of believers who love God and love the Kingdom in such down-to-earth ways.

We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival, which means that the moon is the biggest and brightest to look at, and people usually have BBQ and eat mooncakes, and maybe set off a few fireworks. We didn't have a grill, but we did have mooncakes (thanks to generous parents of one of my students!) and we saw the random but pretty fireworks going off in the streets. This is the first moon festival we've been able to spend together, and it felt so special.

We took a stroll down Love River while the moon shined brightly down on us :)

Us with our mooncake and pomelo
Everyone on their blog is saying it's officially fall. I'll be glad for cooler weather/less humidity, although I still miss pumpkin-y goods, the crispness in the air, and seeing the leaves change color.

 Have a good one!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

first baking adventures

 Last night found me home alone as B went to attend a meeting, which went much longer than we thought it would. But it turned out okay because I caught the baking bug and distracted myself with whisking together my first baked good since living in our apartment. Along the way I realized that I had neither measuring cups or measuring spoons, or baking powder. Undaunted, I pressed on. Here is the aftermath, with the tools I used:

I don't have an electric mixer so I just used a fork and pure muscle power. The mug on the right is my "measuring cup," from which I just eyeballed. The spoon on the left is an odd hand-me-down from somewhere and is labeled "15 SPOON." I have no idea what that means but it looked like a tablespoon to me, so that's how I used it!

I am so thankful for this oven. It's SO Taiwanese but my aunt gave it to me so I'm just glad I didn't have to go buy one!

I made lemon blueberry bread. The product of my labors didn't turn out very pretty but it still tasted good! Although I will probably use baking powder next time (I used soda instead). I was also happy that I was able to find yellow lemons at the store. All last year I never saw a yellow lemon, only green limes (and they are called by the same name in Chinese), and I don't think lime zest would have been quite the same for this recipe.

Excited to try out the oven again (and also at trying recipes with ingredients and materials I can actually find in Taiwan), this morning I decided to make this quiche (with some modifications) for B's dinner since I will be out for a baby shower on Thursday. There's a lot more butter in this than I would like there to be, but I figured I would make him a treat since I wasn't going to be home til later in the evening. I am very happy with how it turned out!!

Anyhow, this is definitely not going to be a food blog ever, but I just wanted to share how happy I am to be baking again even with the scarcity of supplies and materials at the moment. Given the inefficiency of American baking customs when living in Taiwan, it IS a challenge, but one that I'll gladly take on when given the opportunity. :)

Monday, September 24, 2012


photo source*

After a full three days, B and I took some time to relax in our room together and talk about the recent events of the weekend. Our conversation turned toward our few acquaintances in Khh and the community of which "outskirts" we hang around. In retrospect (and if you had been a fly on the wall), it seems rather elementary to have talked about so-and-so and how we think they like us, but at the time, in our weary and somewhat dispirited minds it was a comfort to think of people we even just met as friends. In the last few weeks our world seems to have shrunken a bit as the steady, slow plodding of our schedules set in and the touch of loved ones back in MD seems fading. We remind ourselves (and are reminded) that we are not alone, and we press on in hopes of finding the Faithfuls and the Hopefuls on our pilgrim's progress. And above all, our hopes are set on the goodness and faithfulness of our God, Who never leaves us or forsakes us.

His mercies are new every morning.

Friday, September 21, 2012

small victories: Highway

Photo Credit*
Today I took the highway to school for the first time.

When we first moved in, B made sure I had a car and a GPS so I could make my way safely to school each day on my own. But the GPS never told me to go on the highway -- we figured since the on and off ramps to both places were not technically "on the way."

But taking the highway was SO much better.

I didn't have to deal with narrow streets, traffic lights every other 200 meters, bicyclists, mopeds, other cars parked by the road where there is no shoulder, roadwork detours, or giant 14-wheelers coming at me from the opposite direction and halfway in my lane. After driving on these kinds of roads for over a month, what really started to get to me were the amount of red lights. What could have taken me 12 minutes was taking me 30 minutes with constant stop and go while waiting for the lights to change. Plus I always felt super stressed that I was going to hit something (I did hit a parked car's rearview mirror but luckily our mirror folds in so it took the brunt of the impact) or something was going to hit me. I was about ready to pull my hair out!

So I took the highway today. And even though the distance may be longer, I have no qualms because it gets me there in the same amount of time, if not less. NO red lights, NO parked cars, NO dastardly scooters, and NO giant oncoming trucks. Plus it's better for our car and fuel mileage because I am not always alternating on the gas and brake pedals all the time.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Here We Are

When our alarms sound in the mornings, they are usually accompanied by the call of a rooster crowing somewhere nearby. (In fact, the rooster doesn't just crow in the mornings. He crows at any time of the day or night, whenever he feels the need to assert his dominance.) The water that runs through our tap is neither cold nor hot, but usually comes out lukewarm, and only the shower faucet is connected to the water heater. I usually make breakfast for B before he goes to school, and if I am at home, around 9 or 10 in the morning, the rooster is joined by sounds of a recorder or an ocarina piping melodies through our windows. We leave our windows open to let the breezes through and keep our place cooler since we only have one A/C unit in the bedroom. I imagine many of our neighbors do the same, for I often hear instrument practice during the course of the day. The first day we met Yang buo buo, he was carrying an er hu--and I still hear him practicing, in spite of his partial deafness due to old age. It cheers me to think of him spending his retired life happily playing music. If we go to throw out our trash in the evenings, I often hear the sounds of piano practice floating through other apartments, and it makes me nostalgic for all the hours I spent practicing similar pieces back at home on our little spinet when I was young.

Apparently today was a big day for bai bai, as we heard the pops of firecrackers in the morning and evening, and the smell of incense burning filled our stairwell when I went up to the roof to hang up our comforter to sun. There are always temples nearby, but because we live in a community, thankfully they aren't near enough for us to hear the echoing of ritual music reverberating in our ears.

Today in church I was reminded that we are here not just to do our work, get good grades, or have a good time. We are here because of the Gospel. Our life change should reflect the redemption of our Messiah, and bring people to Jesus.

I need life change.
Pray that our lives will be like strains of beautiful music that when people hear, they will be drawn to the greatest Musician.

Pics of our apartment!

Living room. Our pillows don't match but they are functional (and they were gifts from people)!

Eating area plus pantry

My vintage kitchen. Including 80's style tiling. Pretty spacious for Taiwan!

B's study room

Our bedroom. The piano needs tuning.

We had some friends over this weekend for a potluck! It was yummy. Plus my pink Tatung pot can be seen at the right corner there :)
 Friends and family: Come visit! :D

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

weekend getaway

Last week was the 4-week mark of our marriage – it’s hard to believe that we’ve already been married a month! But on the other hand, since so much has happened in these 4+ weeks, it feels like we’ve been married for forever.

To celebrate our “luniversary” and the finish of B’s first month of med school summer classes, we took a weekend getaway to Kending. It was so fun to be able to hop in our car (which has been affectionately dubbed Lance) and drive the 2.5ish hours to the beachy southern coast (with a GPS of course—the roads are nearly impossible to navigate in Taiwan, to the foreigner).

I love the part on the drive down where one can suddenly see the ocean running parallel to the road. God blessed us with a lovely sunset scene where we stopped by the side of the road to take a picture!

Had to get a pic of our trusty Lance

We stayed at the Formost, one of the more “budget” hotels in Kending but passable in terms of cleanliness. To the Westerner, it might seem a bit grungy at first, with the musty smell and the old mosquito-net-like drapery over the bed, plus the small bathroom that also doubled as a shower. But B said it was a step up from our own home, since the A/C didn’t clunk and the bathroom tiling was updated and clean. I appreciated his positivity.

Our room for 2 nights

Excited to grub at the nightmarket, we searched for favorites among the stands, and found new ones too. I think my favorite find that night were the sweet potato fries.

The next morning we hit White Sands Beach, which was actually about a 15 minute drive from where we were staying. It is probably one of the nicest beaches at Kending, and people can even camp there! Their outdoor bathroom/shower facilities were new and clean, too. 

Picnic/food booth/bar/resting area
Hello, beach!
 After the beach we decided to explore a bit so we drove around to the East coast (it only took 20 minutes or so) to look for good hiking spots. Unfortunately typhoon Tembin hit the eastern shores pretty badly and we passed evidence of landslides and the beaches were full of debris. 

More adventurous people looking at the debris and the muddied waters
 But we were able to visit the southernmost tip of Taiwan, and see the lighthouse that guarded its shores. 

At the Southernmost tip!
Lighthouse at Erluanbi

Even though torn up by landslides, the panorama of the Eastern coast was beautiful
Right behind us is a huge cliff-like dropoff!
 The rest of our time there was basically a repetition of the same activities to varying degrees. It was such a fun, relaxing trip to get away from daily life and enjoy the beauties of God’s creation. Can’t wait to go back again!

This was SO GOOD. Ice cream inside two pancake-like cakes!