asia

The Only Way Out is Through: Or How I Ended Up Playing Twister with a Celebrity

I arrived back in Hong Kong late on January 1st after a lovely Christmas holiday in the US. The next morning, I had to be back at work, so, still exhausted from 36 hours of travel and trying to adjust to the 13 hour time difference, I went in to teach.

At some point in the afternoon my manager mentioned to me offhand. “Tomorrow, there is a celebrity coming. You can just do like 30 minutes of trial class. Some games. And the assessment.”She then looked at me appraisingly. “You should wear something nice and do your makeup.” Um. Ouch.

After many, many questions, none of which was very thoroughly answered, (Who was coming? Why? What was my role in this? How old was this celebrity? Oh, they’re bringing their kid? How old was their kid? Isn’t that too old for our program? Are we not trying to get them interested in the program? Ok, so this is just pretend?) I deduced that we were paying this “celebrity” a lot of money to come to our center and pretend she and her son were interested in/endorsing our program while a photographer and videographer took promotional shots. Because this is Asia.

I was not pleased, especially since I was still insanely tired and jetlagged, but I’ve had my fair share of weird experiences like this in Korea, so I played along. How bad could it be? The next day I wore a nice skirt and a new sweater. I ran a straightener through my hair. I was told the celebrity would arrive at 3:30.

At 2:30, approximately 12 people showed up in my office. For someone with anxiety, everything about this was terrible. A “celebrity” who I had never heard of was here with her entourage. Lots of strangers were speaking in Cantonese, which I don’t understand, while I stood there smiling awkwardly. Then, it turned out, her kid was around 10 and spoke English, not only like a native speaker, but like a native speaker who has his own show on the Disney Channel. Also, surprise! Since they came an hour earlier than expected, I did not have time to apply my emergency I-have-the-anxiety-sweats clinical strength deodorant and there were now pit stains on my new white sweater.

One of my coworkers stepped forward. “I will introduce us,” he said to me. Then proceeded to rattle off a lot of things in Cantonese. I still have no idea what “the celebrity’s” name was. My questions the day before had only yielded that she “used to be a singer.” My coworker turned to me. “Now, talk to them about the program.” Mmmm, ok, sure. I rambled somewhat incoherently about the program that they were neither sincerely interested in nor suited to.

“Now we will go into this classroom and your son can play a game with Teacher Lily,” my coworker announced. The entire entourage filed into the classroom. I had naively assumed that “play a game” meant one of the phonics-based games we routinely played in my classes. But no. A board game I’d never seen before was on the table. “Here. Play the game!” they cheered.

“Ah yes, this game!” I laughed merrily. “We shall play it indeed.” And, on the spot, I made up some rules (which I now know are not in any way close to the actual rules).

After several agonizing minutes of pretending I knew what we were doing, I declared the celebrity’s son the winner. He dabbed in response.

Then my manager rolled out a Twister mat. “Now, we can play Twister!”* she announced brightly. I froze. First off, we are a literacy center, not a playgroup. We don’t play board games in general, and we do NOT play Twister. Ever. Secondly, I was already uncomfortable being in a bunch of promo photos given that I am not feeling very body- confident at the moment. I certainly did not sign up to have a professional photographer take photos of me playing Twister for promotional use. But. There was no way out. The room was full of people looking expectantly at me.

Slowly….oh so slowly…I crouched down beside the Twister mat in defeat. The celebrity held the spinner as her son and I battled it out. I did an admirable job all things considered before I decided to throw myself on my sword and bow out gracefully. After losing the game, I thought I had made it through the worst part. But then, the little fiend** had an epiphany.

“Mommy!” he cried. “You play. I want to be the spinner!” And that is how I ended up with my butt in the air playing Twister with the celebrity while the celebrity’s son (I imagine) cackled to himself, “Dance, my puppets! Dance!”***

_______________________________________________________________________________

*It was actually Blindfold Twister, but thankfully they decided against using the blindfolds.
**He was actually a pretty good kid and very smart, just also very active.
*** The celebrity was both beautiful and kind. Having no idea what level of celebrity she is, I can’t say whether or not I was surprised at how “down to earth” she was, but it was like playing Twister with any other extremely beautiful, doting mother who may or may not have been the Christina Aguilera of Hong Kong once upon a time.

 

Advertisements

52 Weeks of Adventure #33: So Long, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Unbelievably, it came. It came the way Christmas came despite the Grinch’s best efforts at keeping it away. It came like the downward plunge part of the roller coaster, where the build-up seems to last forever as tick-tick-tick your way to the top and then suddenly you are plunging downhill and the whole thing is over in a matter of seconds.

So long

Friday was both our final day in Korea and (because of the time difference) our first day in America. We somehow made it through our long trip back to America with our 4 suitcases full of everything we’ve collected over these years. But before we left, we said good-bye to some of our favorite places and some of our favorite people.

We went to Busan, our favorite Korean city, and said good-bye to the water, and the skyline, and the beach, covered in fully-clothed Koreans hiding under umbrellas.

IMG_9078

IMG_9088

IMG_9082

We ate our last bingsu and our last bulgogi and mandu and (mercifully) our last kimchi.

IMG_9089

We went to the noraebang (like a private karaoke room) for the last time and I bellowed out a painful rendition of Colors of the Wind while my friend Josh performed an interpretive dance.

We sold, donated, or threw out all of our things. And we said goodbye to the friends we’ve made who will now be scattered all over the wide world, to Canada and India and South Africa, and good old Kansas, USA.

We said good-bye to our steaming hot apartment, our twin-sized bed, and our wallpaper with silvery butterflies.

We said goodbye to the cutest children and the pushiest elderly people in the world.

We said good-bye to city living, to daily cultural misunderstandings, to the background noise of screeching buses and old people spitting in the street and unintelligible Korean chatter.

We said goodbye to our home.

And then.

We said Hello.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

My amazing family!!!!

unnamed

With my grandparents at their regular breakfast joint.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my final days of teaching and my English summer camp, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 32: Summer English Camp and the Last Days of Teaching

Last week I taught the last classes I will ever teach in Korea. (Though I suppose no one really knows the future, so maybe they won’t be the last!)

While the regular school semester ended on July 24th, one of the weird quirks of the contract for native English teachers is that we are still required to go to work from 8:30 to 4:30 every day over summer vacation, even though school is not in session. Every school is different in terms of what they expect their native teachers to be doing during this time. Some schools will ask the teacher to teach some low-level classes to a small group of students who are behind, some will ask teachers to practice English with the students by calling them all at their homes, and almost all schools will require their native teacher to run an English camp that can last for anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks.

Even with English camps and other classes, most teachers will end up with a lot of time doing what we call deskwarming. Sitting at our desks streaming TV shows and reading books because there is no real work to do, but we are still required to be physically present. Some days when I am desk warming I don’t see another living soul all day. (The regular teachers get vacation like the students do, so they might pop in and out occasionally to take care of something, but for the most part they are gone). Some teachers find this maddening. I don’t mind it so much since I feel like I’m basically getting paid to come sit at my desk and work on my own writing projects.

This summer is admittedly a little different because there’s so much packing and cleaning and sorting that needs to happen, so sitting at my desk for 8 hours really does feel like it’s wasting valuable time, but we are managing to squeeze everything in in the after-work hours and I think we’re going to make it. Wednesday is our last day of work. We’ll move out of our apartment Thursday morning and head to Seoul, then we’ll spend the night near the airport before flying to America on Friday. In the midst of all the busyness, I don’t know quite how to process all that it means to be leaving Korea permanently and to be returning back to a home that’s not quite our home.

This summer Jonathan and I each had a 3-day camp and we were able to help out at each others’ schools. His school is a bit bigger than mine and had about 4x the number of students attending, so it was significantly more stressful. My camp ended up only having 14 students total so it was very relaxed.

For camp we prepared themed lessons with special games and craft activities we wouldn’t normally have time or freedom to do within the normal curriculum. In the past I’ve done a Winter Olympics camp and a Harry Potter camp. This year we just did a bunch of random topics like music, sports, movies, dinosaurs, space, under the sea, pirates, and superheroes. As always, they liked some of the themes and activities more than others, but overall it seemed to go OK.

1439183690660

My Co-teacher added all the cutesy stickers and fonts to the pictures. 🙂

1439183742838

1439183767115

1439183719538

1439183738031

This is the big rock outside of my school. It says "Daegu Ehyun Elementary School" in case you were wondering.

This is the big rock outside of my school. It says “Daegu Ehyun Elementary School” in case you were wondering.

How cute is my CoT? This is NOT the infamous CoT, by the way. This is my other adorable, sweet and very helpful CoT, May.

How cute is my CoT? This is NOT the infamous CoT, by the way. This is my other adorable, sweet and very helpful CoT, May.

And so ends my two years of teaching in a Korean elementary school. While I’m ready for a break from teaching, I know I’ll miss these sweet little faces. I’ve learned so many things about teaching, about the world, about myself, about Jonathan, and about God during these years and although sometimes they have been very hard, they have been richly rewarding and fulfilling. Besides our decision to get married, both Jonathan and I consider Korea the best decision we ever made, even when we’ve hated it. This experience has shaped us profoundly and I believe it will continue to do so even as we move on to a new adventure.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my trip up Daegu Tower and out to a Korean village, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

52 Weeks of Adventure # 23: MERS Scares AKA The Adventure of Korean Healthcare

If you’re up on world news then you probably know that there has been an outbreak of MERS here in South Korea. While the first case arrived in Korea mid-May, it was only this past week that it became common knowledge. So, it’s been a fun week here.

Photo credit: http://depletedcranium.com/  This is for illustration only. I actually think this is a Japanese family. But this is a pretty common sight here in Korea, even when there is no MERS.

Photo credit: http://depletedcranium.com (This is for illustration only. I actually think this is a Japanese family. But this is a pretty common sight here in Korea, even when there is no MERS.)

If you don’t know, MERS stands for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. As the name suggests, it’s a virus that originated in the Middle East (and is found there almost exclusively) that causes respiratory problems. As the American media dramatically announced, “It has no cure and no vaccine!”

While this is true, it’s also not quite the death sentence it sounds like. Like the flu, MERS is the sort of virus that the majority of immune systems can fight off and recover from. In fact, all of the MERS deaths in Korea so far (and most worldwide) have been people who already had a weakened immune system from other serious conditions, usually lung conditions (Tuberculosis is very common here). That’s not to say it’s no big deal or that precautions shouldn’t be taken, but it’s definitely not the bubonic plague the media is making it out to be.

This situation has led Koreans to react in ways that are just, well, so Korean. In other words, they are massively over-reacting in some ways, while not reacting enough in some ways that would actually be helpful. For example:

  • More than 500 schools in the Seoul area were closed to stop the spread of the virus, despite the fact that ALL current cases were contracted by people in the hospital, working in the hospital, or visiting the hospital that held the already diagnosed patients and despite the fact that best research indicates that this virus is not easily transmitted and only appears in people who have had prolonged contact with a MERS patient.
  • Knowing that 100% of the confirmed cases came from people who had been in the same hospital with other patients, the government refused to release the name of the hospital because they were afraid it would incite panic. I’m sorry, but that has to be one of the least logical things I’ve ever heard. If you know where the virus is, tell people not to go there. It’s pretty simple.
  • My school decided to take extra precautions by putting fresh bars of communal soap in our bathrooms. Because it’s impossible for soap to have germs, right? In good news, this is the first new soap we’ve gotten in a year. In bad news, we still have no toilet paper.

    I don't know about you, but this seems super hygenic to me.

    I don’t know about you, but this seems super hygenic to me.

  • My husband’s school has decided that they are now going to start checking the temperature of every person as they enter the school in the morning. Be advised that the closest MERS case to us is in an entirely different province and, once again, the ONLY people who have caught it are people who contracted it from the hospital.
  • I received an emergency alert on my phone (that would have been sent to all the cell phones in the country) instructing me to wash my hands, cough into my elbow, and not let other people cough on me. Duh Doy. However, this may have been news to some. For the two years I’ve lived here, I have constantly been surprised that people who wear face masks frequently (ostensibly to protect themselves or others from germs and environmental pollutants) have little understanding of how germs work. For example:
    • Old people (many of whom have tuberculosis) will wet cough all over you on the bus or subway or street with no apologies.
    • It is common practice for people, from grandfathers to dainty high school girls, to hock massive loogies into the street at your feet constantly. I have also seen some elderly people blow their noses onto the street by plugging one nostril and shooting snot out.
    • People eat and drink after each other constantly, even when someone is sick and wearing a mask. I will frequently see students take off their mask to drink out of their friend’s water bottle. IF YOU ARE SICK ENOUGH TO WEAR A MASK, DO NOT SHARE DRINKS WITH YOUR FRIENDS!
    • Again, there is this seemingly high sensitivity to germs and to social responsibility, given all the mask wearing, yet people never take the precaution of staying home or keeping their children home from school to prevent spreading illnesses. Your kid has pink eye? It’s fine. Just send them to school with an eye patch!

The media keeps saying that South Korea is in a pretty good position to contain and handle MERS since they are so medically advanced. This is certainly true in some ways and they are far more advanced than many other Asian countries. However, having all the fancy equipment doesn’t necessarily mean medical practices are what you might think of as “medically advanced.”

  • Many Koreans still believe in fan death – the belief that if you sleep in a room with a fan on, you will die from breathing the recirculated air. In fact, there must always be fresh air. So even in the winter when it is 20 degrees Fahrenheit, we must open all the windows. We may also run the heater while the windows are open, but the windows must stay open.
  • Most Koreans believe that eating and drinking too many cold foods will make you sick. Even Korean doctors will tell you this. If you are sick, you must avoid cold foods. I assume this comes from the general idea that you want to keep your body temperature from dropping too low, but I can assure you that it is OK for me to drink cold water when I have runny nose. Really, it is.
  • Korean healthcare is excellent in that it is quick and very cheap. Because it is cheap, doctors often like to run tons of unnecessary tests and prescribe lots of unnecessary medication. I once went to the doctor for what I knew was a lingering sinus infection. I told the doctor it was a sinus infection. He did not examine me in any way, but ordered a chest x-ray and prescribed me 5 different medications without even asking if I was allergic to anything (which I am) or taking any other medications. I’m pretty sure one of the meds was just Tylenol, but still. The upside was that the visit cost about $5 USD and the medicine was another $4.
  • Along with that, in America, people tend to want to know more about their health. Patients often do their own research (for better or worse) and ask their doctor about specific medications and things of that nature. It seems that Koreans tend to blindly trust the doctor and take whatever the doctor prescribes for them to take.
  • Many Koreans go to the doctor for EVERYTHING. And the doctor prescribes medication for EVERYTHING. Granted, it’s probably Advil half the time, but still. I once told my Coteacher that my arm was sore because I’d had to stand on the bus the previous day and the bus driver was driving crazily and I had to hold on for dear life. She looked at me with wide eyes and said, “You should go to the doctor!”

Ultimately, I don’t think we have too much to worry about as far as MERS is concerned, but it certainly has made for an interesting week and has given me the change to reflect on the greater adventure that is living abroad in a country that has very different ideas about health and healthcare than what I’m accustomed to.

*Please note that this post uses a lot of generalities based on my experiences. I’m fully aware that my two years of experience here does not make me an expert nor does it mean that every Korean person feels and behaves this way.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our trip to Tokyo you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 22 : Tokyo Streets and Eats

Our second day in Tokyo was packed with great activities. After our morning coffee boost we headed to the observatory of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This is a free observatory, which is really cool. It’s only 45 floors up, but still high enough to get a pretty good view. It was a little too hazy to see Mt. Fuji in the distance, but we were assured that it was there.

A IMG_8655

From the observatory we went to Yoyogi Park. We could see the park from the observatory and it looked like a big wooded area, but it was hard to tell what it would be like on the ground. When we got there we found a wide dirt road between giant stands of trees. It was very peaceful and quiet even though there were lots of people there.

IMG_8662

Inside of the park is the Meiji Shrine which supposedly houses the souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken.

We weren't really supposed to take pictures of the shrine since it is sacred, but this is sort of the side of the shrine. Plus, hubster became obsessed with this tree which he felt was the

We weren’t really supposed to take pictures of the shrine since it is sacred, but this is sort of the side of the shrine. Plus, hubster became obsessed with this tree which he felt was the “most symmetrical tree in the world.”

On our way out of the park we found these displays with barrels of wine and casks of sake. Apparently these are donated every year from the wine and sake brewers to thank the emperor and empress for blessing their production.

Casks of sake donated to the shrine.

Barrels of sake donated to the shrine.

When we left the park we found ourselves in the Harajuku district, an area know as a popular youth hangout. This is an especially good area to see the young people who like to wear anime-esque costumes and there are many shops that sells those kinds of clothes.  I don’t know a lot about this particular subculture, but in Japan it is fairly common to see people (especially girls) dressed in these costume-like clothes trying to emulate favorite characters. We saw some girls in pretty amazing outfits, but weren’t really comfortable chasing them down with a camera since they are just regular people going about their regular lives.

A IMG_8686

I made a pretty important purchase in Harajuku. Hubster did not understand why I had to have this shirt and was reluctant to let my buy it, but I finally convinced him that I needed it in my life and promised to wear it every day. In fact, I put it on immediately.

Belle has a sleeve of tattoos and glasses and is wearing a Bazinga shirt. What's not to like?

Belle has a sleeve of tattoos and glasses and is wearing a Bazinga shirt. What’s not to like?

In this area there were tons of crepe and soft-serve ice cream shops, but we were intrigued by a store that sold homemade chips and soft-serve. Like together. You could get them with chocolate drizzled on top or you could get the chips in a variety of flavors. I went with regular potato chips and plain vanilla soft-serve. Since I’m a huge fan of salty sweet combinations (I would sell my firstborn for anything salted caramel), I really liked this. Kind of like dipping your french fry in your frosty.

Chips and ice cream

After shopping and snacks we decided to visit the Shinjuku Gyeon National Garden. By this point in the day we had already done a ton of walking. We walked around the garden for a while and then found a bench to sit on and do a bit of reading. I liked that these gardens were so beautiful and well-maintained, but they were intended for people to really use, so there were people with blankets all over the place relaxing and enjoying the day.

A IMG_8694

After relaxing for a while we decided to head back to the area around our hostel and look for dinner. I really wanted some sushi (because, Tokyo, duh) but we needed to find an ATM first. For some reason, we had the hardest time finding an ATM in Tokyo that would take my card. I’ve never had this problem before, but we tried 7 or 8 ATMs and none of them would work with either my Korean or American cards. I have no idea why, but the only ATM we could get to work was CitiBank. Just an FYI for anyone traveling there.

We went to a tiny conveyor-belt sushi restaurant where you paid per plate (plates were different prices depending on what fish they used). I love sushi so eating it in Japan was high on my list, but I have to admit that I still enjoy the westernized versions with all the fancy ingredients a little more than the real thing, which is usually just a piece of fish lying on top of a little rice mount, possibly with some wasabi. 😉 Jonathan is not a big fish eater, so he mostly watched and afterwards we went to a kebab place where he got a kebab. (Side note: there are Turkish people running kebab stores absolutely everywhere in the world. Random, but I’m not complaining as I love that stuff).

We took a few pictures in the area around our hostel while we were trying to find a bank/go to dinner.

We took a few pictures in the area around our hostel while we were trying to find a bank/go to dinner.

Of course, we needed to finish trying out the local snack varieties, so we picked up a few of those from the 7-11 and continued our assessment.

Baskin Robbins Candy

In case you are wondering, these are little chocolates filled with a vanilla flavored nougat and also pop rocks. Yes, pop rocks. As in they fizz and crackle in your mouth. It was quite the surprise.

These were intense. A little too intense for me. But if you really, really love wasabi they'd be great.

These were intense. A little too intense for me. But if you really, really love wasabi they’d be great.

Our hostel had the smallest room I’ve ever seen – we could hardly both stand in it at the same time – but of course, that didn’t matter much since we spent most of our time out and about. But one good thing about our little room is that there was a huge window that looked out right on the river so we could see sights like this at night.

I have no idea what that weird scultpture thing is...we called it the rutabaga the whole time we were there.

I have no idea what that weird sculpture thing is…we called it the rutabaga the whole time we were there.

All in all it was a fantastic adventure and we’re so glad we took the opportunity to take in Tokyo before leaving Asia. Who knows, maybe we will end up back here someday!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure (also about Tokyo) you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 18: Taipei in a Day

Friday, May 1st was International Labor Day, a government holiday in many countries including Korea. In the US the holiday calendar has sort of been manipulated so that many holidays (Labor Day, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc.) are always celebrated on Mondays. This allows people several long weekends each year to take short trips. Of course, there are exceptions for holidays whose significance is associated with a particular date, like the Fourth of July, but in general the US government holidays are designed for people to easily enjoy them.

In Korea, holidays are celebrated on specific dates regardless of when they fall. If, for example. the government holiday falls on the weekend, then it falls on the weekend and you don’t get any days off of work, even though you would have if they happened to fall M-F. This spring/summer the calendar was not treating us kindly. Three public holidays (March 1st, June 6th, and August 15th) all fall on weekends in 2015 and several others fell on random Tuesdays or Thursdays which were nice breaks, but it wasn’t possible to travel or do anything especially exciting on those days because we had to work the day before and after.

This year, May 1st was a holiday, but Tuesday, May 5th is also Children’s Day in Korea.We had a similar situation last year where May 1st was on a Thursday so we had Thursday off as well as the following Monday, but last year we had to go to work on the Friday in between so we were surprised and delighted when our schools decided to declare Monday, May 4th a “temporary holiday” so that everyone could have a 5-day spring break.

We decided to use part of our break for a quick trip to Taiwan.

Why Taiwan? you might ask. It meets a few major criteria. First, we haven’t been there before. Second, you can take a direct flight from Korea and arrive in 2 hours. Third, it is really affordable in terms of the cost of food, lodging, etc. Fourth, we’ve had friends visit and they’ve all been positive about it.

And so, with almost no knowledge of where we were going or what we were going to do once we got there, we set off to Taipei.

We had a fantastic time.

Since our stay was only three days (including a travel day) we tried to cram as much as possible into the short time that we had. We stayed at a fantastic hostel located down this only slightly sketchy looking alley near Taipei Main Station. The owner of the hostel was a guy named Chunky (who, for the record, was actually quite slim). Chunky spoke impeccable English and was very helpful. After we’d arrived and he’d showed us around the hostel, he pulled out a map and showed us exactly where to go and what to do. The Taipei subway system is excellent, very cheap, and very easy to use, so getting around was a breeze.

AA IMG_8316

First we headed to the Longshan Temple. Longshan Temple was built in 1738 and is one of the oldest temples in Taiwan. I really enjoy the architecture of Chinese temples with all the ornate dragons and the eaves that turn up at the corners of the buildings. I find Korean temples very squat and plain in comparison.

IMG_20150501_114236

AA IMG_8199

AA IMG_8189

From there we visited the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. Part of the memorial was being renovated and was covered with scaffolding, but we were able to enter this part which reminded me of a cross between the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. We were also able to witness the changing of the guard at the memorial, an elaborate ceremony that occurs once every hour. All I can say is, if anyone actually wanted to attack the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, the changing of the guard would be the perfect time to do it since it took about 15 minutes for the guards to actually change places.

IMG_8220

AA IMG_8227

AA IMG_8232

AA IMG_8238

AA IMG_8271

From the memorial we stopped for lunch at the famous Din Tai Fung restaurant where we had their world famous dumplings. These dumplings have a very thin skin and are filled with broth, meat and veggies. You have to use your spoon when eating them to catch all the yummy juices dripping out. They were amaze-balls. And even though this is a Michelin starred restaurant, our whole meal cost about $18 USD.

photo

I didn't know we were ready to take the picture...

I didn’t know we were ready to take the picture…

Taiwan is famous for their food, so I tried to get as much of it in as possible in our few days there. I drank approximately 52 bubble teas and they were the best. (OK, I think I had 3 actually). Again, so cheap. Each one cost about $1.25 USD. You can find bubble tea in Korea, but you pay around $6 USD a pop for them.

After eating we headed out to hike the Elephant Trail, which gave us a terrific view of the city. Unfortunately, it was raining off and on through our whole hike, so our view wasn’t as clear as it could have been, but we still enjoyed getting a little past the city and being able to look down on it.

AA IMG_8336

AA IMG_8339

AA IMG_8342

That evening we went to the Shilin Night Market. There are many Night Markets in Taipei, but unlike in other countries we’ve visited, these markets are not really aimed at tourists. Instead, they are a place for locals to shop, hang out, and eat lots and lots of street food. The Shilin market is known for having lots of cheap shoe stores. I obviously had to buy a pair. These cuties were only about $11 and there were plenty of shoes for even cheaper than that.

IMG_20150504_200951

IMG_8358

IMG_8354

After all of that excitement we were exhausted and headed back to our hostel for the night. Even after such a short time we were impressed with how polite the people were, waiting in organized lines for the subway, giving up their seats for the elderly or people with children, and generally being very considerate of others around them. This was such a novelty to us as it is standard in Korea for everyone to push their way onto the subway before the people exiting can even get off and saying “excuse me” or “I’m sorry” for bumping someone is unheard of.  I also appreciated being somewhere new and interesting, but without having people stare at me all the time. Even though there weren’t tons of foreigners in Taipei, it seems to be enough of an international city that the two of us weren’t worth making a fuss over.

I have more Taipei adventures to share next week, so stay tuned to read about the rest of our trip!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.