Saturday, April 29, 2006

Madison's Birthday

We can't believe that she is four years old! Since her actual birthday is on Monday, (Monday's are busy!!) we decided to have a birthday weekend for her. Sooo...we asked her what she wanted to do, and she decided that she wanted to have breakfast at McDonald's, go swimming, and eat dinner at TGIFriday's. Or as she calls it....TG Friday.

We tried to convince her that we should put her swimsuit on her at the water park...but to no avail. So she wore her swimming outfit to breakfast. The funny thing is that we usually get stared at a lot when we go out, but for some reason we didn't get many stares with her dressed like this, and the place was packed! Huh, go figure. Notice the stylish swimming cap? Everyone is required to wear swimming caps here. makes for very attractive pictures. We took Madi to this place called the Blue Lagoon. It was actually pretty fun, they had a whole huge place for kids that had mini water-slides and toys to spray your parents with. They also had some pretty fun slides for big people, too. Oh, and Erika and I got asked to be on television with a "famous singer." They have these silly shows on tv here where they do all kinds of dumb races and stunts....and we saw them setting up something like it at the Blue Lagoon while we were swimming...lots of cameras and people whose hair is much too styled to be swimming. (...and where, might I ask, were their very attractive swimming caps???) Anyway, we were all just vacating the area where the crowds were starting to gather when Erika and I were stopped by a couple of women who asked us if we would like to join their "games." We must have had the, "you're joking...right?" look on our faces, because they then told us that we could win some money. Now don't get me wrong, I like humiliating myself on television with famous singers who have obviously been to the stylist that morning...and have a personal trainer...and I especially love to humiliate myself as such while wearing a swimsuit, hip swim cap....and the sunburn that I got from wearing said outfit. But...I had to decline the opportunity. The two ladies who asked us were shocked that we would say no...and didn't seem to want to take no for an I simply told them that it would have to be an awfully lot of money for me to appear on television dressed the way I was. Us foreigners can be such snobs.And we finished up with dinner at Madi's new favorite restaurant. They brought her out a HUGE piece of cheesecake for her birthday....with an Oreo on top. We've been there enough that they know she loves it was cute that they remembered. Well, another year. She is getting so big!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Beautiful Taiwan

I thought I would update with some cool pictures that just show you some really cool things here in Taiwan. I tend to focus on the shocking....for entertainment value....but you have to know that sometimes it is so beautiful that it really does take your breath away. (I know, corny reference to 80's music...this started to happen to me when I married Brian....)

Roadside garden. Every available space is filled with these. Very smart people!!

Baby pineapples growing in the field....just waiting to become big, juicy pineapples for me to eat!! Mmmmmmmmm!!!! It surprised us to see them growing on the ground like this. Did anyone out there know that they grew on the ground? Travis doesn't count!!

Huge lily-pads on a pond. Whoa.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!!!

The Easter Bunny didn't have time to get to Taiwan this we had to make our own peanut-butter filled chocolate eggs and bunnies. Yummmmm!!! Madison helped Brian and I make our custom Easter treats, and it was really fun! Thanks Jenny and Ted for the melting kit that made it all possible!!!!!

And Brian and Madi dyed Easter eggs together. Madison thought this was waaaay cool, and was begging to do it for about two weeks. She finally had her dreams come true when we let her play with the eggs. Normally she is forbidden to touch eggs.....she has a bad history of cracking them into the refridgerator.....but we set our prejudices aside for one day and let her go crazy. Little did she know they were hard-boiled and presented no real risk. No reason to take the fun out of it for her.

We continued our tradition of having new guests for a holiday. This time Brian saw some foreigners outside about three days ago and decided to invite them for dinner. He sort of forgot that it was Easter Sunday dinner that he had invited them to, so I had to frantically change my plans to make spam burgers with mac and cheese. We ended up making homemade ravioli and asparagus. Our guests were Chris and Judy and their new baby girl, from South Africa....foreign teachers here in Taiwan just like us. They've been here for three years now. They were really nice, and I was glad Brian invited them....even though I probably was cranky to him because I get so stressed out when I have to go overboard with my entertaining.

We had a really fun and different Taiwan Easter this year! Madi got a new dress....but we forgot to take a picture of her in it, so you may have to wait until next Sunday to see it! It was even great because Brian and I both got to hear the translation in church today...both of our headsets actually worked this time!! It was a sign of the holiday!!

Happy Easter!!!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Taiwan Tourism...A Lesson in Miscommunication

We got invited to go on a little two day trip by a friend of ours, Lillian. Lillian owns a bushiban (English cram school), and lives in our apartment complex. She has been taking good care of us here in Taiwan, and even invited us to her Chinese New Year's dinner. Anyway, she called us and asked if we would like to go see some fireflies...and told us that we would be taking a bus and staying overnight. That is all the information that we got. We thought Madi would really like seeing fireflies, so we told her we would go...and we thought it would be great to get out of the city for the weekend. We thought the picture above was funny because when we got to the meeting place it was a whole bunch of Taiwanese tourists....and us. We were the only foreigners there, and consequently we really stood out. It was cool though, being part of the tour group.

These two pictures are what we looked like after a few hours in the bus. Remember that Lillian said we would be taking a bus to see the fireflies.....what she didn't mention that the bus ride was eight hours, and that we would be participating in the favorite Taiwanese past-time.......for the ENTIRE bus ride. Yes....picture this....a comfortable bus seat with lots of leg room....a nice view out the window...all the warm soy milk and steamed buns you can eat.....and eight straight hours of William Hung (think American Idol) style kareoke going on, nonstop!!!!! We thought that after a while they would get sick of it and stop, but we were wrong. They are DIE-HARD kareokiers!!
The bus ride took eight hours because we stopped every forty minutes or so to buy Taiwanese snacks and go to temples. The tour group was partially sponsored by the local Buddhist temple, so we stopped at a lot of temples! The one below is of the cool Buddha with sunglasses. One of the people told us that they added the sunglasses to boost tourism. What can ya is pretty cool!
Here is some cool architectural features of the temples. It is so cool how intricate the work on the temple is. The temples are actually all constructed completely out of concrete. Even the intricate dragons and lamps and things...they pour the molds and then paint them each individually and add the extra touches like the whiskers. It's hard to describe how decorated these places must take months or years to paint everything...and the really amazing thing is how uniform it all is. Very cool!

When we stopped for lunch we discovered that we were actually at Alishan National Park. I was surprised because this was a place that my students had actually told me about, and so we were excited to finally get to see it. Okay, remember that Lillian never mentioned anything other than the bus ride and the we ended up hiking for two hours....around twenty thousand miles......and we were all wearing flimsy flip-flops, because it's hot....and we were trying to be comfortable on the bus. Most of the hike was really steep stairs, straight down for the first hour....straight up for the second. By the time we got to this place with the waterfalls, our legs were shaking like crazy every time we tried to step down. The hike was crappy....but the view was beautiful. I'm really glad we're finally getting a chance to see this side of Taiwan. It gets pretty gloomy in the dirty city, and we forget that we are on a beautiful island.

Here's Brian carrying Madi after about the first mile.....poor Brian. Madi was too tired to carry on, and her feet were killing her due to the crappy shoes. Poor Madi!
Madison, of course, made lots of friends on the trip. It was awesome for her to finally get to hang out with kids! She was the ring leader of mischief while we were on the trip...and all of the Taiwanese parents thought she was just sooooo cute. She tries to speak Chinese to them, and they love it. Everyone kept giving her treats that she would spit out (they thought this was adorable) and the moms kept rubbing weird herbal creams all over her mosquito bites. She had about twenty new moms on this trip, and loved the attention.
These are some pictures of the scenary in the Taiwanese country. It is really beautiful, and almost worth the death-defying bus ride up the cliff.
The bushes are tea trees, and we saw so many fields just full of them. All of these tea trees are harvested by hand, which we are told makes the tea a whole lot more expensive....and I can see why...I would want to make a lot of money if I was forcing my grandma to harvest my tea trees.
This sign really says it all about the bus ride up the mountain. It was these insane switchbacks, and Taiwan roads aren't even really wide enough for a bus to be driving on them in the first you can imagine how scary it was when two buses tried to pass each other on these switchbacks that were one side to the mountain...and one side off the Cliffs of Insanity!!!!!!! One wrong turn, and you have the consequence shown on the sign below (this is actually a picture of a sign we took on the side of the road).
Here is Madison wearing my shirt...and me wearing Brian's. This is what happens when we let Brian pack the bag for the trip. Madi ended up with four pairs of pants, three pairs of underwear and no shirts. I ended up with one extra t-shirt. But she still looks cute! Brian just pointed out to me that he had all of his clothes....go figure. Madi's Taiwanese mothers took pity on her and loaned us a shirt for her to wear the next day, so she only ended up sporting this look for bed.
Our hotel had all of the modern conveniences....a television, a flushing Western-style toilet, and this keen elf-sized bathtub. Very cool. I wanted Brian to take a bath in it just because it was so hilarious. I was actually desperate enough that night to take a bath in it...and I was so tired from the hike that I fell asleep. Brian threatened to take my picture asleep in the elf-tub...and I reminded him that he is heavy sleeper....and is quite attached to both of his eyebrows. If you are wondering why we didn't just shower.....there was no shower curtain!!
For dinner the last night we had delectable hot pot. The entire trip we were assigned a table number, and we ate with the same people for every meal. By this dinner we had been adopted by the lady next to us at our table, and she thought we weren't getting enough to eat, so she took it upon herself to start filling our bowls and plates with choice picks from the menu. Above you can see that I'm about to gnaw on a chicken foot.....don't even ask....and below Madi is being force fed a clam. Mmmmmm.
This is the "Hot-Pot" below. There's all sorts of good things floating around in this cauldron. Unfortunately, most of them are still looking at you....and the rest are largely unidentifiable hunks of mystery "meat." There are actually some good things in some hot pots. I really like the cabbage and the beef or pork....but we at the Hobbs' household aren't very fond of the other fishy tasting delights that the hot pot has to offer. The rice was good!
Okay now, I have to explain this sign. I went into the bathroom to wash my hands after gnawing on my chicken foot....and I wasn't really feeling that well (crazy bus ride and all) and this sign just happened to be right above the faucet in the bathroom in the Hot Pot restaurant. Now tell this suspicious???? Coincidence? I think not!!!!!