I was getting a bit sad earlier last week because Fourth of July is my favorite holiday and I was not going to be getting any lake/bbq/fireworks/family time this year. The roommates and I decided to host a party for all of the English teachers. We were originally going to have it at a park close to our apartment, but because this is Taiwan, it rained for most of the night. So, everyone came over to our apartment to celebrate. Almost all of the teachers came and everyone brought some sort of "American" food to share (except for the one kid who brought dumplings-which were still delicious). It was a great night of food and teacher bonding, whilst celebrating our (except the lone South African's) country's 237th birthday. We even played some patriotic music and taped pictures of fireworks to our walls. It ended up being a great way to celebrate the 4th, even if there was no lake involved.
Picture credit goes to Kalee!
Playing this bizarre iPhone game where you had to guess what words were on your head. It was very entertaining.
My stupendous birthday weekend kicked off with a homemade card and a decorated desk at work.
Later that night, all of the new teachers and I went to this amazing vegetarian restaurant for dinner. You eat while sitting on the floor and there are only like six food options each night, depending on what is in season. The restaurant is decorated with all of these organic elements (leaves, sticks, flowers, etc) and the ceilings are painted in ocean scenes. Why? Because this is Taiwan.
Cheesy tomato rice
All of the lovely ladies I work with
After dinner we went back to a few of the teacher's apartment and met up with two old teachers. From there we went to a dance club. I got in free because it was my birthday! The club was pretty crazy, mostly due to the fact that 15 white people in the same place (in this case the dance floor) draws a lot of attention. I had countless Taiwanese men come up to me on the dance floor, say happy birthday, shake my hand and walk away. Very strange, but kind of sweet.
Some of the ladies waiting whilst waiting for the taxi
The picture somebody made our taxi driver take. All eight of us fit into what should have been a four person taxi.
On Saturday (my actual birthday) the whole staff had to go to the public library and watch a storytelling session. Storytelling is something my school does every Saturday. A different teacher each week goes to the kids room at the library and reads/acts out a story, plays games and does crafts. I'm doing mine in September with my South African roommate and we're doing a South African story. It should be a lot of fun! This time we just watched a colleague and then everyone went out to lunch at this pizza place. The rest of the day was spent relaxing. The other girls in my building bought me a birthday "cake" from Starbucks and we topped the night off swimming in our pool.
Part of an art installation near the library
Katie hates birds
Another part of the art installation
My birthday cake complete with automatic candle
On Sunday, all of the new and old teachers decided to go to Sun Moon Lake for the final hurrah to my birthday. We all had a completely ridiculous adventure getting there. Katie, Kalee and I took one taxi from our apartment to a bus station. Michelle, Angela and Rhonda took a taxi from our same apartment to a different bus station. The people on the other side of town took taxis to a third bus station. Katie, Kalee and I are on the corner of our bus station and at the time I am on the payphone talking to our boss, trying to get Rhonda's number so I can call her from the payphone (only a few people have phones right now). As I'm calling, Kalee sees some of the girls drive by on a bus. They were pounding on the windows, trying to get our attention. We tried to run after the bus, but lost it at an intersection. We walked back to the bus station, not knowing where anyone else was or how to get to the lake. We meet this old man, who we had talked to earlier, and he says "Sun Moon Lake. I get you there". So we're like, "what the heck" and we follow him to his friend who is a taxi driver and says he'll drive us to the lake. He charges us what over here is a lot of money ($9 US dollars) but we don't have any other options so we hop into his car and hope that we will actually make it there. On the way we tried to use his phone to call Rhonda, but the #3 on his phone did not work and of course her number had a #3 in it.
We arrived at the lake in about an hour and decided to go sit at Starbucks and have breakfast. We sat on the water's edge at what has to be one of the prettiest Starbucks views ever. After about half an hour we decide to leave and go start our day since we had no idea where anyone else was. As we're leaving Starbucks we see some of our friends and have this huge reunion in the middle of the street. Not even five minutes later, we see the rest of our group. Fifteen people, taking three separate modes of transportation arrived at the same place in a foreign country where none of us speak the language within five minutes of each other. Good thing white people love Starbucks.
After that the group split up for the day and half went to an amusement park and the other half went hiking. I decided to go hiking. The lake sits in the valley of part of a mountain range, so we hiked up one of the mountains to this beautiful temple and even further up the mountain to a pagoda. We saw huge spiders, beautiful flowers and amazing views of the lake and mountains. We made friends with monks, who gave us cookies and shop owners who showed us her dogs that sit in a stroller. She also gave us cookies. As we were leaving to get back on the boat, this huge rainstorm started to roll in over the mountains and within minutes it was pouring. It was beautiful to watch. The day ended with a strange dinner at a lakeside restaurant and a long, cold bus ride back to Taichung. I will definitely be coming back here.
All fifteen of us about to get on the boat
A jumping picture was a must
On the boat!
The view from Starbucks
The view from Starbucks
I have no idea what this says
One of our hiking trails
The view from the top of the steps
In front of the temple
Taken from the temple
Tea eggs, a specialty of the region
Another view from the temple.
A giant cicada like bug
The storm clouds rolling in
More storm clouds
Between all of the crazyness here in Taiwan and all of the love I got from home, I had one of the best birthdays ever! I feel so blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life and the opportunity to have this big, wild adventure.