Saturday, November 30, 2013

A contract, some turkey, and gratitude

For me, hands down, the months of November and December are the hardest times of the year to be an expat.

During these two months, homesickness washes over me and I find myself wondering: what am I doing here? Why aren't I at home with my family and friends? Why do I live abroad??

And to be frank, Taiwan does not make the situation any easier to deal with. Around the time my friends back in America start posting their holiday plans and write things like "drinking hot coco and snuggling under a blanket to kick off the holiday weekend," I find it hard to not get down on Taiwan.

Because for me, the bipolar weather (90 and bloody hot one day, 40 and bloody freezing the next) and daily grind with no holiday weekend in sight for months feels terrible. It's life as usual, working the salt mines from 8-4.

To combat those frustrating, homesick moments, I came up with the perfect solution: throwing an absurd Thanksgiving potluck after school and cramming 35 people into my apartment.

The end result?

Pretty darn awesome.

At 6pm on Thanksgiving night, after we had all worked a long day, all of our friends piled into our apartment and brought every dish one could hope for on Thanksgiving: mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, gravy, stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, homemade bread, salad, mushrooms, pumpkin pie, pecan tarts, and so much more.

We feasted and relaxed and for a few hours, home did not feel so far away. I wish I would have remembered to take pictures of what 35 people crammed into our apartment looked like, but I was so busy having fun that I forgot. You will just have to look at this picture of my living room before everyone came and use your imagination. It was probably the most epic Thanksgiving we will ever host.

In other news, just so you don't start to worry that life in Taiwan is not great because it is, I signed a one-year contract to continue teaching 8th grade English and social studies. While it is hard to live abroad and miss out on some aspects of America, life abroad is still our preferred life style and we are excited to say that we don't really see an end in sight. This month, no matter how difficult at times, was filled with many wonderful moments and opportunities, something for which we continue to be extremely grateful.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Taiwan: A Nation of Stink

The other night, an odd smell permeated throughout our entire apartment.

We looked in the bathroom, kitchen, and garbage cans.

After a thorough search, we simply could not find the source of the smell.

We wondered if a neighbor was going to town cooking stinky tofu.

The smell was so pungent and horrid, we had to leave our apartment in the end.

We were absolutely horrified when we stepped into the hall because the small had appeared to infiltrate our entire complex.

Rushing down the stairs, we held our breath until we opened the door. We breathed deep, only to choke on the odoriferous scent that pervaded through all of our neighborhood.

There was no escape: the stench lingered in our apartment, in our complex, and in the open air outside.

Desperate, we began to walk.

We were stumped when, one block away, the smell seemingly evaporated.

"Do you smell that?" I asked Sean.

He brought his nose up from under his shirt, which was where he had been seeking his reprieve from the offensive smell, and took in a long whiff of air.

"I don't smell anything."

I didn't either.

Perplexed, we turned around and began walking back towards our apartment complex.

Within seconds, the smell returned full force.

"What the...?" Sean muttered, looking around for the source of the smell.

The only discernible difference from the next block over and our block was the white flowers that had fallen from their trees. Looking up, the street beside our apartment was lined with these trees and the street littered with the flowers.

We tested out our theory by picking up a dead flower and smelling it.


Realizing there was no immediate solution to this problem, I headed back upstairs while Sean headed to the store to buy the strongest air freshener he could find.

After doing some research, I discovered the culprit: a simple pear tree.

Apparently, they are native to Taiwan and China and are noted to be impervious to drought, pollution, cold, fire, and disease. However, during the month of November, the trees blossom and, well, stink. A lot. Especially at night, for some reason.

Then, I got to the fun stuff. I found some articles about some Taiwanese citizens in New Taipei City who told the government to either cut down all of the trees or they would sue the government for psychological damages.

Who knew a nation could have so many unique ways to stink?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Home is where the heart is

 ... and there it is: my mom!

She flew out for a short visit and it was wonderful to see her! I got to take a six-day weekend and we just got to spend time together.

And I know this may be shocking for some of you to hear, but I really like my mother. She's, kinda like, my best friend.

Before, when I lived in Washington, we would often go to my parents every weekend for dinner and my mom and I would have girlie days and shop and go out to lunch.

And I liked it. And I miss it. And I miss her.

Like, a lot.

So, it was really nice to see her.

Mostly, we just sat around on this very couch and drank coffee out of that very cup and gabbed and caught up. Ten months is a looong time, especially with everything that has happened.

But we also found time to go out and about. Remember, this is my intrepid mother's second trip to Taiwan.

We took her up into the winding hills to the weird statue graveyard place.

We weaved our way through Saturday morning traffic and popped by the flower market... and we even bought plants. I'm still skeptical about whether we are good plant parents. I'm thinking they will all be dead in a few months. Ce la vie.

She had a lot of fun riding around on the back of my adorable scooter. 

We had a picnic at the lake and Sean almost jumped into the murky, questionable pond to save a turtle that, as it turns out, was just fine. So all was well.

And now that will have to tide us over for the next eight months, at which time Sean and I will be heading back to the United States for our two-month summer break. And you had better believe I have a lot of plans brewing. 

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