17 October 2021

Hualien

Here are some photos of our train ride and life in Hualien so far. :-)

We rode in the family car, which was AWESOME! Only four rows of three seats in the whole car (!) and a huge open space with kid tables and a nursing room. 




Leaving Taipei:






Getting close to Hualien:



Surprise! Didn't know there would be huge mountains in Hualien-- this is in the taxi leaving the train station:


And exploring Hualien:



We're on the 4th floor of a walk-up, and we're smack in the middle of everything, so we can pretty much walk anywhere within 15 minutes. :-) Here's our living room:


We're almost unpacked and settled. Hope you're all well! :-)

08 October 2021

artists


"Artists must create on the same scale that society has the capacity to destroy.
There’s a reason you have to get out of your head, stop doubting your worth and value all the time and just share your art.
Just be an artist. Your art is not yours to hoard. It is your responsibility to share it. That’s why it was given to you, to share it.
Because YOU are the balance. In fact, you tip the scales in the direction of this life being enjoyable, being beautiful, being worth living.
You restore hope to the hopeless.
You bring joy to the dying.
You bring laughter to the suffering.
You bring love to the lonely.
You bring compassion to the selfish.
You help humanity feel, reflect, and connect. You put people in touch with their own souls, so they can feel their own humanity.
You as artists tip the scales.
So you MUST share your art, without hesitation, because it’s who you are, because it’s what you were shaped to do, because it’s your destiny to fulfill."

05 October 2021

quarantining in Taiwan

Day 5! Woo hoo! 1/3 of the way through our 15-day Taipei quarantine! (They start counting at midnight the day you arrive, so "two weeks" is often more like 15 days, depending on what time of day you arrive.) Here's my brain dump (long message ahead!) in case some of it might be helpful-- especially for those quarantining with kids!

Also, after waiting three months to get to Taiwan, I think I might be the most excited to finally "get" to quarantine after all. 
So, it took us 2 hours to get out of the airport, but we knew what to expect, so it was fine. Got the SIM cards, did the health declarations, made sure that we had no meat (very thorough search! They even had me crack our two hard-boiled eggs to make sure they were cooked! We would have been fined had they not been!), went through immigration, get our saliva COVID tests outside, got sprayed with a mist of alcohol (purchased these plastic suitcase protectors, but don't think they were necessary-- and it was nice to be sprayed on a hot day), and then (thanks to the Quarantine Support in Taiwan facebook group!) we told them we wanted a big van taxi and only waited a few minutes for a van to show up that fit our luggage (2 big, 2 medium, 2 small, plus several bags/odds/ends) and us (two adults and two kids across three seats). Super nice to be able to go all together and pay 1000NT (instead of 2000NT to go separately).

We didn't get cash at the airport because my debit card was buried (oops), but we paid for everything with my Chase Visa, and it was all super smooth. We've been at the Aloft, and the food has generally been great. (Maybe too good? My other post on gaining/losing/maintaining weight on the quarantine fb group showed the consensus was that most gained weight during quarantine!)

Also, by not being able to come in July as originally planned, we now have two adjoining rooms, which has been great. If we'd been here in August as was the plan the 2nd or 3rd time we were scheduled to come to Taiwan, my husband and I would have celebrated our wedding anniversary over zoom from separate hotel rooms! Needless to say, this is WAY better.

The room I picked (the cheaper option with city view vs. plains view, bento vs. a la carte) is 3600NT/night, and the additional child per room is another 1500NT/night. Funny enough, the person who initially told me this mistyped that it was an additional 15000/night, and I nearly lost it! Ha! But it got cleared up, so while not cheap, it wasn't as expensive as it could have been.

My officer calls every day, and we talk for about 12 seconds. He asks if we're fine, I say yes, and that's it. My partner gets texted every day (maybe because he's an English speaker, and after calling the first day and talking with me, they just texted him after that-- ha!), and it's the same easy procedure where he texts that he's fine.

We ordered groceries through Carrefour (fruit, milk, sponges, mouthwash), and it was a breeze.

All in all, quarantine's been going great. Whoever said it was more or less like your normal life (without putting shoes on or going outside) was totally right.

We brought some workbooks, activity books, etc. for the kids, and they've been fine. We also used empty water bottles for bowling, and that was a hit with both kids. 


We listen to Harry Potter (audiobook), let the kids watch some cartoons in Chinese (about 1/2 hour a day), and honestly, the meals and afternoon tea break up the day (and are so exciting! Who knows what will come next?!), so the kids are generally happy. We put trash out between 330-4pm, and it all goes smoothly. The highlight of each day seems to be the doorbell and polite little knock at 8am, 12pm, 230pm (tea), and 6pm.

Today, we got French toast for breakfast. Yesterday, we got dim sum where this bun that looked just like a real portobello mushroom was actually a sesame dessert bun. It even had a little white stem!



WHAT?! During quarantine? Let's just say the food has been a pleasant surprise. I'd seen an aloft video posted online, and I thought we'd be having rice congee soup for breakfast every morning and some rendition of meat/rice/veggies in a bento box for every meal. Instead, we had a delicious (slightly spicy, even!) Thai curry last night, Japanese sushi rice bento the night before, spaghetti the night before that...

We've started doing what we call our "bento adventure," and it has literally saved me from the suffering parents endure from kids during mealtime. Instead of grimacing/pouting/cowering away from the table, my formerly picky 6-year-old will now try something from each compartment of our bento box and give us one word to describe it (anything from taste to texture to whatever!), and it's been a total game-changer. I will forever be grateful to quarantine for this new way of eating together as a family. (Then, after a successful bento adventure, we can listen to more Harry Potter.)

We're also doing gonoodle videos (meatball and not dog time machine are our favorites-- they're basically these silly videos of walking and "dodging"/jumping over obstacles, so super kid-friendly!) and Cosmic Kids yoga to "stay active" (as much as is possible), and sometimes, we do yoga or walk around while listening to Harry Potter. Just change directions every time someone says "Harry," and it feels like a fun game.

(Oh, and we have the Harry Potter movie collection, so when we finish listening to book 7, we'll start watching the movies.)


OH! And I forgot what might be the most useful thing! We put two ironing boards together to make a "dining area" with two desk chairs and two stools, so we have a place to eat together, and this has worked great for us. (I threw a sarong over it as a tablecloth and to keep the ironing boards clean.)


TLDR: I'm pleasantly surprised to say quarantine has been MUCH better than expected, so I'd be happy to help anyone else if I can! Let me know if I can answer any questions for you!

30 August 2021

greetings from Guam!



Greetings from Guam! It took us a while to get settled, but we're finally feeling like locals and ready to reach out to our favorite people to give you a quick update. :-)

(Quick backstory: we were supposed to move to Taiwan for my partner's sabbatical this school year (so the girls could learn Chinese), but they had their first COVID outbreak in May (after zero cases April-December 2020), closed the border, and kept extending the travel ban every two weeks, so after renting out our house, then packing and preparing to move three times in July and road tripping around California for a month (thank you to the friends and family who took us in while we were homeless!), we decided to move to Guam while waiting for Taiwan to reopen because it had an 80% vaccination rate, no quarantine requirement for vaccinated people, was American and thus easy travel, and had a Taiwanese consulate.)

So, the good news: life in Guam has been great! We're renting a beachfront condo with a pool and small playground in the backyard, and we've enjoyed snorkeling and kayaking in the shallow, peaceful lagoons in front of our condo and around the island. 

And for those wondering about life in Guam:

The island (population: ~170,000 people) is about 30 miles long and 4-8 miles wide, so we rented a car for a week to explore and discovered we could drive to the northern or southern tip of the island from where we are (in the middle) in just about half an hour of driving-- but there was still quite a bit of interesting history here. Magellan sailing on behalf of Spain landed here with three ships in 1521. We also visited a World War II site that was really powerful. Japan attacked Guam right after Pearl Harbor, and the entire island was a war zone for years. Now, Guam is officially American, but the locals can't vote in our presidential elections.

Guam feels American in that there are chains like Domino's and Winchell's Donuts around, but there are zero Starbucks, tropical island life is definitely slower paced, and most people are Chamorro/Pacific Islander/Asian. Almost everything is imported, so a half-gallon of non-organic milk is $6 instead of the $3 we paid for organic at Trader Joe's, and gas is a bit more than Bay Area prices (around $4.70/gallon), but the quality is also generally lower. The Quaker Oats are marked "export" and have stray husks that you don't find when you buy them in bulk at Costco on the mainland, and you see many of the generic brands from the mainland at double the prices (Kirkland frozen strawberries were $18 compared to the $9 we usually paid for three pounds). We're not quite sure how it all scales because other things like eating out are comparable to California prices, so labor is somehow cheaper even though everything is more expensive.

There is a naval military base in the south and an Air Force base in the north, and both are closed to civilians, which is a bummer because there are supposed to be some really beautiful places to visit on both, plus they have their own schools, gas stations (a dollar cheaper per gallon), grocery stores, etc. They are like small self-contained worlds that are closed to the locals.

When I googled the schools, the population was described as 2/3 Hawaiian (probably the closest option to Chamorro) and 1/4 Asian, so that gives you a sense of the people here. So, unlike at our girls' school in California where Aria was literally one of two dark-haired children in her entire class, Téa says there is one blonde in her whole school/Aria says there are five in her whole school. (They may not be the MOST accurate reporters, but you get the idea.) :-) 

Despite the island's small size (relative to California), we are pretty much the only weirdos actually walking around. Everyone drives, and there is no public transportation unless you're disabled, which blows our minds. While exploring the island both by car and on foot, we've seen maybe five other pedestrians, and 2-3 of them were probably homeless. (But unlike California, they were the only homeless we've seen-- and maybe they're not even actually homeless.)

We had two full weeks of the girls going to school here: they wore their cute little uniforms, learned Chamorro language/history/folklore (a nice surprise), took the bus to and from school, and were fed breakfast and lunch. 

And then, the not-so-good news: even with an 80% vaccination rate for 12+ year olds on the island, Guam had a surge in COVID cases and closed all schools starting yesterday and are reverting back to online learning starting next week. So, the girls have an extra week of vacation, and my partner and I return to not exercising or getting our own work done. :-D

How are you doing? It's been such a strange year and a half! We hope this message finds you and your loved ones well, and we'd love to hear from you soon! :-)

12 July 2021

trying to get to Taiwan

 

What a saga it's been trying to get to Taiwan! It took us six months to get a visa for my husband, and after zero cases from April to December 2020, the island had its first outbreak about a month before we were scheduled to move there. We booked our flight for July 5th so we could celebrate our daughter's birthday and the 4th of July with friends and family before leaving, and everything seemed great.

Then, three China Airlines pilots brought COVID to Taipei without quarantining properly, so Taiwan shut schools and businesses down for the first time. The travel ban was scheduled to end June 28th, so we figured we'd be okay for July 5th. Nope! 

The travel ban was extended to July 12th, so we changed our flight and notified our very kind landlord who has a furnished apartment waiting for us. We got a new flight for July 15th and were relieved to see cases drop quickly. Our plan was to quarantine for two weeks in our flat because it had two bathrooms (one per adult) (Taiwan's rules, not mine), BUT then the "Peruvian grandma" (a Taiwanese woman's nickname because she returned from Peru with a grandchild and brought the Delta variant to Taiwan while breaking her home quarantine) caused the Taiwanese government to cancel home quarantines/require hotel or facility quarantines and ruined it for all future travelers.

So, we were prepared to fly on Wednesday night around 1am, go to two separate hotel rooms because we're two adults (each with one child), and then do our 14-day quarantine where we would be delivered three meals a day-- and not be allowed to leave our rooms. But THEN, they extended the travel ban again, so now we've rented our house out, have a flat waiting for us halfway around the world, and can't go live there. 

So, we spent hours calling the airlines and hotels again today, changing everything to fly July 28th, and now, to top it all off, we'll be celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary separately in two hotel rooms while quarantining. 

I know these are all first-world problems, and maybe when we finally get to celebrate in person, it'll be sweeter because we'll miss each other more. :-)

So! Here's to looking on the bright side of things...

08 April 2021

free bystander intervention training


 

Hollaback's Bystander Intervention Training is empowering and informative not just for people who want to support our fellow Asians who have been harassed— this is a training that will enable you to help anyone being bullied in any way while staying safe yourself.

It's free and really well done.

07 April 2021

chinese exclusion act of 1882 - free on pbs now



PBS is currently streaming (for free) this powerful film on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and like most of us, I had no idea this was a part of American history. It's heartbreaking that the Chinese were singled out as the only group in American history to be excluded from immigration while millions were streaming in from the rest of the world and how the Chinese were treated when they did try to settle here, and it's a part of our history that should not be forgotten.

20 January 2021

Amanda Gorman made an incredible day even better

Just when we thought today couldn't possibly have been any better, Amanda Gorman took the stage, blew us all away, and inspired us all. 

“The Hill We Climb”
Amanda Gorman

When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one. And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect, we are striving to forge a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

So we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another, we seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: that even as we grieved, we grew, even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried, that we’ll forever be tied together victorious, not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one should make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in in all of the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. That would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy, and this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can periodically be delayed, but it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith, we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us, this is the era of just redemption we feared in its inception we did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves, so while once we asked how can we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us.

We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free, we will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, our blunders become their burden. But one thing is certain: if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left, with every breath from my bronze, pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one, we will rise from the golden hills of the West, we will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution, we will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states, we will rise from the sunbaked South, we will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful, when the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.