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).

IMG_4341

IMG_4407

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.

FullSizeRender

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

First Job

Not even an year old and Jude has had his first job. Strangely enough there’s demand here for Westerners modeling and doing commercials. Last year I did a commercial for a Hitachi Microwave and thought it was great fun so decided to get Jude into it as well. I figured he could make a bit of cash for college and we would get some super cute photos – not a bad deal. So last week he was called to model for ‘Les Enphants‘ a popular Asian clothing brand for babies and children.

IMG_9760After we got him dressed in outfit #1, hair styled, and had his make-up put on, he got right into it. 

IMG_9766There were a series of shoots, some were with a girl baby (who happens to be one of our baby play date friends) and some were solo shoots.

IMG_9770The idea was to seat them next to each other and then work hard trying to get smiles but…

IMG_9788Jude was not keen on the whole sitting part.

IMG_9791So we spent most of the different shoots trying to get him to sit still long enough for the photographer to snap a few decent photos.

IMG_9783

It was not easy, even for the pros. He is fast. Baby girl was the complete opposite. She sat still beautifully and posed like she was born to do this!

IMG_9815Thankfully they managed to get some good shots of Jude too.

IMG_9828Including him sitting still for a few different outfits.

IMG_9836They even managed a few smiles out of him (sadly, not pictured as I wasn’t fast enough).

IMG_9846Well, it was a lot of work for everyone but Jude. For him it was just play time with lots of flashing lights and outfit changes! I was pretty exhausted after but super excited to see the photos (which are due out sometime in April or May). I’m already pretty excited to tell him about his first job one day when he is older!

Our First Christmas As Three

Since this Christmas was the first as a family of three, we were keen to start some of our own holiday traditions. The one I came up with was making our tree rather than buying one. My parents had sent Jude a rather large box of Christmas presents which I was keen to utilize. After a google search I found a tutorial.

IMG_0020It was surprisingly easy to do and it only cost $2 for the paint.

IMG_0024Then I started trimming the tree using old bits of wrapping paper I had saved and ribbons. I made a star out of doilies for the top.

IMG_0481

The rest of the ornaments had been given to us as presents in the past. After arranging the presents around it really start to look and feel like Christmas.

IMG_0521I thought one of the benefits of the cardboard tree would be that the cats wouldn’t eat it, like they would for a real one. Instead they thought it was fun to climb up it and knock it over.

IMG_9931Another tradition we started, which we always did in my family growing up, was make Christmas cookies.

IMG_9888I used a basic sugar cookie recipe and a buttercream frosting. Rather than eating them ourselves we gave them away to our friends and Luke’s colleagues.

IMG_0438

Since it was Jude’s first Christmas, and we are in Taiwan, I thought it would be fun to take him to get photos with a Taiwanese Santa.

IMG_0064He was really confused about what going on. When I put Jude up on his lap, the people waiting behind us in line all went crazy snapping photos of Jude. I guess it’s not everyday you see a Western baby sitting on a Taiwanese Santa’s lap! Jude was a good sport and only started letting out a cry at the end!

IMG_0068On Christmas morning Jude woke up an hour earlier than usual and so at 5:30am we started our morning routine. First bottle,

IMG_9932then breakfast (scrambled eggs and toast),

IMG_9933and then we let him loose on the presents.

IMG_9936We Skyped with my parents and Nat while we opened everything so they could see his reaction.

IMG_9947Jude clearly did not know what was going on,

IMG_0094But he really didn’t mind as he had all these cool new gadgets to discover.

IMG_0099Funny though, the best part for him didn’t exactly seem to be  the toys but the wrapping that they came in!

IMG_9951So he continued to play in the garbage pile until nap time.

IMG_9954After his nap, we got our things together and drove 3 hours south to Nantou where we were staying the night with some friends.

IMG_9972We were booked in these nice cabins at a hot spring resort.

IMG_9969We spent the first afternoon hanging around in the hot springs – which Jude looooved!

IMG_9971Our friends all had kids too, five between us. And in fact three of them were born this year! So it was pretty special having three babies’ have their first Christmases together.

1468761_10152075259245219_1804019421_n

After the kids and babies were all put to bed, the adults hung outside the cabins and had a Christmas BBQ feast. We had ham, sausage, chicken, roast veggies, salads, and amazing desserts. After we hit up the hot springs and drank wine until there was no more left!

IMG_9970The next day we awoke to more clouds but they soon disappeared and the sun was out! So we lounged around in the grass letting the kids play,

IMG_9978while the adults drank coffee and chatted.

IMG_9982And after morning naps we went for a group hike up a grueling hill.

IMG_9981But it usually is always worth climbing as you’re bound to get a good view. It was a wonderful and speciall first Christmas as a family of three.

IMG_9983It is still so hard for me to believe last year at this time we were like this:

IMG_7814We are very much looking forward to all the Christmases to come and continuing with our little traditions and making new ones.

Road Trip

Last week we took a little road trip to Hualien to spend a few nights in the Taroko Gorge.

IMG_8605

On the way we stopped and showed Jude the Pacific Ocean (my thumb managed to ruin his first photo with the ocean).

IMG_8619After our 6-hour drive we arrived at the hotel and promptly made our way to the pool.

IMG_8253

It was Luke’s first time swimming with Jude and he was pretty excited.

IMG_8266Jude is totally relaxed in the water – he’s going to be a natural swimmer.

IMG_8281We lounged around after our swim,

IMG_8306and took photos upon photos of our little fish.

IMG_8323

IMG_8647The next day we were up bright and early (the perks of traveling with a baby) and went for a walk outside.

IMG_8367We’ve been here a few times before but it never gets old.

IMG_8375The views inside the gorge are simply spectacular.

IMG_8681We walked around the Monastery while Jude napped away in the Ergo.

IMG_8678

IMG_8684Back at the hotel it was time to hit the pool again.  This time we went to the indoor pool which has a baby pool with about a million rubber duckies.

IMG_8462

It’s pretty awesome.

IMG_8401As usual Jude made a few new girlfriends,

IMG_8434and they kindly took a family photo of us.

IMG_8449We had one more night in the Gorge and then hit the road. We decided to drive back home the long way so headed South.

IMG_8753Stopping once again at the Pacific.

IMG_8744This time we got out and played in the sand

IMG_8724and the surf.

IMG_8737We stopped for a bathroom break at the Tropic of Cancer,

IMG_8706And a burger in Dulan.

IMG_8750We were going to try to drive all the way back to Taipei but a typhoon hit and so we had to spend another night in a random city before finishing our drive the following morning.

Overnight in Tainan

This past weekend we took a mini-family vacation down to Tainan on the High Speed Rail.

IMG_6572It was our first time on the train and we were very impressed, not only with how fast it was, but also with how nice the train was inside.

IMG_6582Jude was well behaved for the almost 2 hour trip. He was happy to just look out the window.

IMG_6590

Once in Tainan, we took the local train to our hotel, the Shangri-la. After resting a bit in the room,

IMG_6591We headed down to the hotel lobby for afternoon tea (in our case, coffee).

IMG_8193After we finished we grabbed a cab and headed to Anping Old Street, which is filled with various historical sites and temples.

IMG_8198

IMG_8200(Below we are at ‘Fort Zeelandia’ built by the Dutch during their occupation in Taiwan).

IMG_8205It was stinking hot outside so we  decided to cut our tourist activities short,

IMG_8214And head back to the hotel for a swim. Luke and I took turns going as we were trying to get Jude to sleep.

IMG_6592

The next morning Jude and I were up around 5am. (We let Dad have a sleep in).

IMG_8216After breakfast we decided to do one last attraction and walked to city’s famous Confucious Temple.

IMG_1247

It was super hot and humid out again so we didn’t stay long. Instead we made out way back to the hotel for one last dip in the pool.

IMG_8227Then back on the train again to head home. IMG_6597

Yingge – the Place for Pottery

Last week Luke and I took a trip out to Yingge, which is a famed pottery town about 45 minutes outside of Taipei City. We started our visit at the Ceramics Museum.

IMG_7830It’s a great museum with lots of history, information, and examples of the various pottery and ceramics Taiwan has produced over the years.

IMG_7833Apart from the standard pottery fare, the museum also had quite a few modern pieces such as this helmet,

IMG_7836and this iguana baby. IMG_7837

After the museum we made our way to Yingge Old Street. Before browsing the shops we had sausages and bubble tea.

IMG_7839The street is full of little shops each filled to the brim with various pottery pieces and ceramics. Most places only sell tea sets, all ranging in price and quality.

IMG_7841After we made our purchase (a new tea set) we grabbed an ice cream (inside a croissant cone) and made our way home.

IMG_7845Back home we tried out our new set.

IMG_4509Yingge is a great little day trip for those in need of a tea set. The museum alone is well worth a visit.

Two Years

Today is our 2 year wedding anniversary.

DSC_4049It’s hard to believe we have been married two years already. It has certainly gone by in a flash. Last year at this time we were celebrating in Thailand.

IMG_6006

This year we were homebound for obvious reasons. We were also unable to celebrate today as Luke had his wisdom teeth removed so instead we celebrated yesterday.

We decided to mark the occasion by  going back for a meal at No. 168 Prime Steakhouse. We celebrated my birthday there back in January and loved it so much decided to return. We ordered the 5-course set menu again, ordering slightly different items for each course.

To start –  Grilled Shrimp and Crab Cake.

IMG_4421Soup – French Onion and Clam Chowder.

IMG_4422Steak Mains.

IMG_4423Luke,

IMG_4425and Me.

IMG_4426Dessert – Strawberry Tart and Pecan Pie.

IMG_4428We enjoyed our meal just as much as the first time. Over dinner we spent some time reflecting on the big changes we’ve had over the past year.

We moved to Taiwan,

IMG_6139

Adopted two cats,

IMG_4418And perhaps the biggest change…

IMG_4445

(Me @ 34 weeks)

新年快樂!(Happy New Year!): Camping at Sun Moon Lake

Last week was the Chinese New Year here in Taiwan. Most Taiwanese get a whole week off work and spend that time with their families celebrating. Luke and I also had the week off and were kindly invited to do some things with our Taiwanese friends. On Sunday night we had a lovely dinner with one of my old Chinese teachers and her family. And on Thursday, we joined my current Chinese tutor and her family for a night of camping down in Sun Moon Lake. It was definitely the highlight of our vacation!

We left chilly, overcast Taipei around 9:30am on Thursday morning and made our way down the west coast stopping along the way for lunch.

IMG_3888The place we had lunch at was a huge rest stop filled with a large selection of restaurants and shops. There was even an area called ‘the Tunnel of Love’ with a graffiti wall for lovers. Coincidentally it was Valentine’s Day!

IMG_3892We made it to our camping destination sometime after 1pm.

IMG_0721The setting was beautiful- we were right on the lake. The sunny, warm weather helped too.

IMG_3895Our friends were already there and had a great set-up. In addition to my tutor, her husband, and their three kids, there was her Mom, her sister, her husband, their two kids and her brother and two kids.

IMG_0733The tent we rented was raised up on stilts and had a thin mattress pad lining the inside. So we just had to bring our sleeping bags and four pillows that I arrange in various positions around my body to make sleeping more comfortable.

IMG_0732

After we unpacked and organized our stuff, we all headed into the small town down the road and caught a ferry to take us across to the main town. Being Chinese New Year it was pretty busy around the lake. The line for the ferry was long but moved very quickly.

IMG_3896The view from the boat was really nice. The lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains.

IMG_3904Here’s us on the boat:

IMG_3905Once on the other side of the lake we all rented bikes and hit the bike trail. My bike was extra fancy as it was electric! Perfect for me in my tired pregnant state. I rode it like a scooter most of the way and was able to keep up with Luke.

IMG_3911We rode for about an hour in total.

IMG_3912

IMG_3914After biking we were driven back to camp where dinner was awaiting us. My Chinese teacher’s sister had make a couple of hot pots – one with a sour soup base and one with a spicy base. Both pots had various meats, fishballs, and veggies. I was a big fan of the sour base and ate so many bowls that I didn’t have room to try the spicy one.

IMG_3917The kids were super cute while waiting to get their bowls filled up.

IMG_3920I got lucky and in one serving got a Hello Kitty fish ball.

IMG_3924After dinner we played board games until almost midnight! The latest I’ve stayed up in a long time.

IMG_3929And in the morning, after a short walk, Luke and I returned to the campsite for birthday cake! A few days before it was my Chinese teacher’s son’s birthday so they brought along a yummy cake to celebrate with everyone.

IMG_0729After packing up we said our goodbyes and thank-yous and headed back to Taipei.

IMG_0736We had such a great time in Sun Moon Lake and can’t wait to return.

IMG_3908

Shifen Day Trip

Last weekend I was invited by my language exchange partner to take a trip, with her sister and her sister’s language exchange partner, to Shifen (十分).

IMG_2943

Weather-wise, we couldn’t have picked a better day. It was gorgeous! Shifen is accessible by the Pingxi Railway Line. The area is well known for it’s lantern festival. The railroad tracks actually cut right through Shifen Old Street. There are shops and places to eat along the street as well as a number of vendors that sell lanterns that you can write your wishes on and send off into the sky.

IMG_2926

It took us over and hour to reach Shifen so we stopped for a quick snack of roasted corn when we arrived.

IMG_2924

After our snack we found a place we could have a bit more to eat before we set of exploring.

IMG_2936

After lunch we walked to the Shifen Waterfall. It’s famous for having a circumference that resembles the mighty Niagara Falls.

IMG_2958

We spent a good twenty minutes here admiring the falls.

IMG_2953

The area around the falls has quite a few Buddhist statutes.

IMG_2959

As well as a small petting zoo with goats and ‘beautiful Japanese chickens’.

IMG_2964

After the falls we goofed around on the railroad tracks.

IMG_2967

But soon realized our goofing around was tame in comparison to others…

IMG_2969

To top off our Shifen experience we decided to get our own wish lantern.

IMG_2979

We each took turns writing our wishes. Mari’s was in Japanese,

IMG_2983

Jessica and her sister, Eva’s, were in Chinese,

IMG_2985

And of course mine was in English. (This family was watching on as I painted so I took a photo with their daughters after I was done).
IMG_2981

After we were done writing we lined up on the railroad track alongside others

IMG_2986

Lit up our ballon and let it go…

IMG_2987

It was magical watching all the wish lanterns fly away. After a long, amazing day we made our way back to Taipei.

Weekend in Taoyuan Part 2

On our way back to Taipei from our weekend in Taoyuan we stopped in Cihu to check out the Cihu Memorial Sculpture Park which is home to over 100 statues of Chiang Kai-shek (CKS). The statues are old ones from all over Taiwan that were no longer wanted. So rather than being destroyed, they were sent to Cihu and this park was turned into a bit of a CKS statue graveyard. It’s a totally out of this world experience to walk into the park and see the same man replicated over and over again.

Each statue or bust is slightly different –  a different color and portrays the leader in a different way. The statues have been grouped by what looks like different times in CSK’s life and also by how the statue is posing (seated, standing, or bust).

Luke and I had a great time walking around posing with the statues.

If you ever find yourself in or near Cihu I’d recommend you  stop and check it out.

More details can be found here.

After getting our fill or CKS we headed home, concluding our weekend in Taoyuan.