Goodbye Taiwan

On 11 April we said farewell to Taiwan. It’s now been over a month since we left and I try not to give myself too much time to think about it otherwise I get quite sad. We spent 5 years in Taiwan, that’s half of the time Luke and I have been together. We accomplished so much during our time there- learning Chinese, starting a family as well as making some of the best friendships we’ve ever had. Looking back we both agree we would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Taiwan and the Taiwanese people have been so wonderful to us. It will always feel like home to us.

The month leading up to our departure was full-on. Moving countries is a huge deal – there’s a lot of coordination involved, paperwork and then packing. Thankfully Luke’s office helped us with most of the administration. Here’s a glimpse at what our last month was like.

The boys had their last day of school and said goodbye to their teachers.

The boys and I did a lot of our favourite things one last time like eating shaved ice (sadly mangos were not yet in season).IMG_4275

One last MRT ride.

Last haircuts at the best place to have kids haircut. IMG_4340We had a fun (but sad) last play with friends.IMG_4316We said goodbye to our car.IMG_4352Had one last lunch with Luke’s wonderful office staff.IMG_8678

Attended two of Luke’s farewells. (Toby decided to make quite a statement at the one with Luke’s business contacts by wearing pink sunglasses and talking on a princess cellphone the whole time).

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IMG_8680IMG_4431We had our dear friends over for dinner and reminisced on all the fun we’ve had. IMG_8585

IMG_4538We had one heck of a farewell party with our friends.

IMG_4523And said a teary goodbye to our dear friend and babysitter.IMG_3981Two days later the movers came and we watched as our lives got packed up and ready to be sent to America.IMG_4549And then it was over. We said ‘bye bye’ to our building staff and walked out of the place we’ve called home one last time. IMG_4552We stayed in a hotel the night before flying out. IMG_4544We ate Din Tai Fung one last time.IMG_4554And then just like that we were on our way. IMG_4567We transited through Hong Kong on our way to New Zealand.IMG_4572Miraculously both boys slept soundly on the HK-AKL leg.

Before long we were back in Wellington where we started this 5 year adventure.

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Without a doubt this was the hardest goodbye we’ve ever had to say. Taiwan, 謝謝。

Jude’s Room

We’ve got a lot going on the next few weeks. Luke’s two years of Chinese is coming to an end and we will be moving into a new apartment closer to his office where he will start work. I’ve been getting a little bit sad about leaving the apartment we are in. I really love the apartment and location plus we’ve had a lot happen while we’ve lived here – so many great memories. So I thought I would take some time to try and capture where we live, mostly so Jude can see one day where he spent the first year of his life.

I’ll start with the most important place, Jude’s room. We didn’t do a theme or color scheme, we decided just to keep it pretty simple and practical.

IMG_1255Our friends gave us their old Ikea changing table which we changed Jude on for the first 4 months (until he started rolling over).  Now we just use it for storage – diapers, wipes, sleep sacks, shoes, and the monitor.

IMG_1232The crib and mattress are also from Ikea. It’s the Gulliver and it converts into a toddler bed by removing the side. We love this crib – it was cheap and a nice, simple design. Inside the crib we keep it simple. Jude is a big mover in his sleep so blankets are useless. He sleeps every night in a sleep sack. If it’s wintertime, we turn the heat on low. He has a few friends that he sleeps with – his seahorse and Mr. Bunny both gifts from my Mom. He usually cuddles one of them to sleep.

Above the crib and changing table we put up some wall stickers, which were a gift from Aunt Natalie. They certainly make the room a lot cuter. The blanket draped over the crib was a gift from Luke’s Mom. She also got Jude the matching hot water bottle on the changing table. It’s a great way to warm up the bed before Jude gets in on a cold night.

IMG_1235In front of the bed we leave a chair. After Jude has had his bottle and has read books, I turn off the lights and sit on the chair with him. He usually rests his head on my shoulder while I rub his back and after our cuddle, I lay him down in the crib, turn on his seahorse, hand him his bunny, and kiss him goodnight.

The rug under the chair is also from Ikea.

IMG_1255Jude’s room doubles as our guest room. We just move his crib into our room when we have visitors. So we’ve always had a queen-sized bed in the room. It’s so, so handy. For the first 6 weeks of Jude’s life, we would sleep most nights together in the bed. It’s the most comfortable place (and way) to breastfeed. It’s been a long time since I’ve slept in it but we use it everyday – for changing Jude on as well as reading books and feeding him his bottle.

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He has his furry friends lined up on the bed and he loves exploring their faces and having chats with them.

IMG_1238Next to the bed we have a little bookshelf and a touch lamp. The touch lamp has been amazing. It was so nice to have something I could tap on and off for middle of the night diaper changes when Jude was younger.

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We didn’t have room for drawers in the room so we decided to stick a set inside the closet. We found the perfect fit at Ikea. On top of the drawers and on the shelf we store other bits and pieces, like medical things, the diaper bag, and books for when Jude is older.

IMG_1228The top drawer has socks, bibs, and hats, the second drawer has all his clothes, and the third has crib bedding and other odds and ends.

IMG_1226It’s been the perfect little space for Jude. I’m sure it’s going to take him a bit of time to adjust to a new bedroom in our new apartment. It’s going to be a bit different as it won’t have the bed but we will try our best to make it look as close to possible as what he is used to.

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Settling In

We spent the weekend getting more settled into our new apartment. We have pretty well organized all the stuff that arrived last Friday from our seafreight.

We still have a lot to do to make our new place feel like home but giving all these thing a place has been a good start.

Fern has also been settling in.

She definitely has found her favorite spots to sleep.

And her favorite places to play.

We managed to get out of the house to make a trip to Costco.

We found a yummy Thai restaurant a few blocks from us and had a tasty meal.

Sunday was beautiful out but since mid-terms are this week we spent most of the day inside studying.

And baking/cooking.

(Thanks Nat for the cornbread recipe – it went great with my black bean soup!)

We’re Moving!

Finally…into our permanent apartment in Taipei. Our sea freight arrives tomorrow so it’s going to be a busy weekend getting set-up. We’re up on the 18th floor so we have a long elevator ride to get home but it is worth it as the views are impressive. Here are some photos of our new pad – including the view, which I took last night. I will post photos again once we are all set-up.

Lounge and couches that were already here

Lounge and balcony

Lounge looking into dining room

Hall leading to spare bedrooms and bathroom

Lots of baking to be done in here

Badly made bed in master bedroom

Master bath and wardrobe

Night view from Kitchen patio

Goodbye Wellington

We spent our last few days in Wellington drinking bubbly, eating dinner in front of the TV in our temporary accommodation, and saying goodbye to friends.

A toast to Wellington

TV dinners

See ya later friends

We'll miss you

More goodbyes

For our last night we are having a family dinner with Pearl.

Not sure what Luke is looking at?

We are going to the only Taiwanese restaurant in Wellington, Lychee. We’ve never been but thought it would be  fitting to mark our last night in Wellington and the start of our move to Taipei.

Temporary accomodation

We’re all moved out.

Empty apartment

And our stuff is on it’s way to Taipei.

Our life in boxes

So we said goodbye to Molesworth Street.

We'll miss the art deco chic

And moved into our home for the next few days on the Terrace.

Our temporary accommodation

The view is perfect as it is of one of the things we will the miss most about Wellington.

The waterfront

Shortly after we got in we turned on the TV and there was a travel show on about Taipei.

Taipei 101

Taipei City

Perfect timing. We can’t wait to get there.

Belated celebration of Pearl’s 18th

After a long day of packing, Luke and I decided to take a break and have a beer at one of our favorite city bars, Leuven.

Moving is hard work

Better than water

After Leuven we went over to Pearl’s Hall.

Million dollar view

Pearl and Luke

When Pearl turned 18 back in January we promised that we would take her out to dinner at one of our Wellington favorites to celebrate.

We chose Thai Chefs. The food is consistently good and tastes pretty darn authentic.

Pearl's pretty drink

Prawn spring rolls and peanut sauce

My Tom Yum, nice and spicy

The food was delicious but it left us all so full with no room for sticky rice pudding.

Happy from Thai food

Sisters-in-Law

It was still early when we finished dinner so we took Pearl to one of our favorite dark alley way bars, Motel.

The staff are very classy there. Pearl didn’t see anything on the menu she wanted, so she named a few things she liked and they made her this creamy strawberry drink that was delicious. One cool thing about Motel is that they have popcorn on the menu. It’s always hard to pass up popcorn when you smell it so we ordered Sweet Kettle Popcorn and called it our dessert.

Night cap at Motel

We walked Pearl back to her Hall and on the way ran into some freaky looking lamas.

Good store security

Lama mama and baby

Packing up

The packers were here at 9am ready to go. They’re off on lunch break so I thought I would snap a few pics of their progress so far.

Luke and I have been awkwardly hanging in the background while they work. We bought the packers some muffins and OJ but they weren’t keen so we indulged for them.

Why I didn’t listen to the experts

I have spent the last week counting forks…

Counting the silverware

and spoons and knives and chopsticks.

This is what your days are reduced to when you are doing inventory. For insurance purposes Luke’s work requires that we count, name, and assign a value to everything we want shipped, stored, or accompanying us as we make our way to Taiwan. Sounds easy? It isn’t. In the lead up to our move a lot of people, who have gone through the same exercise, have given us advice about how to approach inventory. I was thankful at the time for their opinion but, once it came time to do our own, I ignored their advice. Here’s why I didn’t listen to the experts.

The experts said start early. 

As mentioned in a previous post, I used our three rooms to help categorize our stuff. If I started early on inventory, our world would have been turned upside down. We live in a teeny tiny apartment so living like we are now was out of the question.

Utter mayhem

The experts said to leave items where they usually live as the packers will organize everything.

I didn’t like this at all. My first thought was that I didn’t want the packers going in my underwear drawer to pack these personal items. I much prefered sticking my undies in a non-see through bag. The second reason I ignored this was because I chose to allocate things to rooms based on the shipping method. So keeping things in their original place was just plain out of the question.

The experts said to inventorise everything.

This one actually makes sense for insurance purposes. If something gets lost, or gets damaged, we can make a claim and get refunded the replacement value of the item. So, I’ve done this for most things but some things I have found too hard to identify and inventorise. See exhibit A: random bag of nic nacs.

Whatchama call its...

And exhibit B: farm animal key chain noise makers/flashlights.

Homeless on our inventory

So I ignored the advice, but I think our inventory still looks pretty good.

Good lookin' inventory

I did manage to take a break from the spreadsheet this afternoon to make a snack.

Roasted Chickpeas 

Ingredients 

  • 2-3 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • olive oil
  • cumin, to taste
  • chili powder (if you like it hot)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 190 c/ 375 f.

2. Pour chickpeas on a baking sheet. Drizzle oil over until well coated. Sprinkle with cumin, chili (if using), salt and pepper until well coated.

3. Bake for approx. 45 minutes or until nice and crispy. (Give them a good stir every 15 minutes or so).

The perfect savory snack to get me through inventory

Enjoy.

Embracing stereotypes

This morning I bought Vegemite to take with us to Taipei.

A staple of the Kiwi and Aussie diet

I don’t even like the stuff and I’ve only seen Luke eat it a handful of the time. So why did I buy it? I bought it because I think it will be something we will be expected to have in our pantry (as Kiwi expats).

One of the interesting things about travelling is getting to understand the stereotypes the rest of the world has about where you are from. I experienced this big time when I came over to NZ for my year of study abroad in 2004, a year into the Iraq war. People assumed that, because I was American, I supported the war and former President Bush (not true). They also assumed:

  • I drove a pick-up truck (not true)
  • I was a cheerleader (well this one is true)
  • I owned guns (not true)
  • I ate fast food (not true)

It took a bit of convincing to explain to people that Americans are actually an incredibly diverse group (with a wide range of views) and the stereotypes that others have formed based on TV or movies are not always true of the Americans they will meet.

At the same time, sometimes it is useful to embrace a stereotype. It can make interactions less challenging and make you more memorable, as you reinforce their stereotype. So, in Taipei, Luke will be the ‘Vegemite-eating, milk drinking, Kathmandu tramping gear-wearing, honest and hard-working Kiwi bloke’. I still haven’t decided where I will sit- with the Kiwis or with the Americans. I think within the expat community, I will embrace my Americana (cowboy boots and all). Outside it, around local Taiwanese, I may be more Kiwi.

Two identities. Many stereotypes.

Our apartment will have many Kiwiana-style decorations so I will have to think of decorations that represent America besides our President Obama magnet.

Lucky guy gets his own magnet!

Most of our Kiwi-style stuff has been given to us for various presents over the years. We’re bringing it all with us. Here’s a few of our favs.

Beautiful tile from Luke's Mum

Vase also from Luke's Mum

Beautiful handmade bowl by NZ artist a wedding present from Dominica and Matt

Rita Angus prints a bday gift from our friends, Hamish and Aimee

A fantail print by an NZ artist, something we purchased

Thank you all for giving us these beautiful gifts over the years. We’re certainly going to have a well decorated place.