Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mid-Autumn Festival, Kaohsiung Weekend and A Blast From the Past

Mid-Autumn Festival

This past week was the Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival always falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. It is essentially a Chinese Thanksgiving. Families get together to celebrate the harvest and each other. Family and friends exchange moon cakes, sweet pastries in the shape of a full moon. The holiday fell on a Thursday this year, so the government gave everyone Thursday and Friday off. You can learn more about the festival here:
Some mooncakes I was given by one of the teachers, and one of my parents, at school

More mooncakes, so delicious!

T. Maggie cutting open a pomello. Pomellos are eaten during the festival because they look like the moon

And it's also customary to put the peel on your head

So messy, but so delicious

I'm going to bring this look back to America with me

Kaohsiung Weekend

Since we had a four day weekend, a few friends and I had planned a trip to visit Green Island off the south east coast of Taiwan. The day before we were planning on leaving, our trip became cancelled due to a massive typhoon headed straight for the island. Luckily, the place we were staying refunded all of our money but we were still left with nowhere to go and four days off. We quickly threw together a spontaneous trip down south to Kaohsiung, the second biggest city in Taiwan. We took the HSR (High Speed Rail) in the morning and it was an awesome experience. The bus ride to Kaohsiung takes about four hours, by but HSR we were there in about 45 minutes. It was amazing. We got off the train and found our way to our hotel, which was quite the adventure because our hotel did not have an English sign, but I only had the English name of it. We were three smart girls though and we figured it out quite quickly. We spent the rest of the day exploring Monkey Mountain, where they have real wild monkeys, going to an awesome zoo, riding a ferry to Cijin Island and climbing up to a lighthouse, drinking beers on the beach, eating ice cream out of a plastic squatty potty and walking around the wharf area. 

Getting ready to board the HSR

Some funny signs on Monkey Mountain

I found a panda at the zoo. And you could ride on it, but I got enough looks sitting on it that I didn't try it

This adorable family all had matching Spiderman shirts

Kaohsiung Harbor

The view from the lighthouse

There was a wedding shoot going on

The beach!

Ice cream in a plastic squatty potty. Only in Asia.

Later that night we visited the largest mall in Taiwan, Dream Mall. It was ten stories tall and had a carnival on the roof, complete with a gigantic ferris wheel. 
The bus that the city runs for free to take people from the MRT to Dream Mall

On the Ferris Wheel!

The blurry view of Kaohsiung, dang glass

I found Iron Man!

The next day, we decided to go to Lotus Lake and see all of the temples on the lake. We boarded a Kaohsiung city run tourist bus by mistake, but it ended up being a great accident. For 50NT (1.5 US dollars) we were driven to each of the tourist places in the area, given a free map in English which included all of the tourist places and the recommended restaurants and we could get on and off the bus all day as we pleased. Pretty sweet deal. We spent most of the day wandering around the lake, walking in and out of temples and trying to find food. Since it was a holiday, most of the authentic food places in the area were closed down. We ended up eating Pizza Hut in the park. You can always count on American brands for something!

Blast from the Past

Later that night my roommate Michelle joined us and we met up with her friend from high school, Tessa, and Tessa's friend, Ria, who live in a city close to Kaohsiung. They took us out to eat to this amazing restaurant called The Bayou which served, wait for it, proper New Orleans Cajun cuisine, including po'boys and muffaletta sandwiches. I was in food heaven. After eating, we went to a bar nearby. This bar was the first proper bar I've been to here. Taichung does not have bars because a few years ago there was a massive fire in a bar and it killed a bunch of people. Therefore the city shut down all of the bars. It was such a fun bar because there were a mix of expats, foreigners and locals there. 

The next day Katie, Angela and I took the bus back to Taichung in the afternoon. Upon getting home, I got on Facebook to add Tessa and Ria as friends. That's when I noticed Tessa's last name for the first time. I immediately recognized the name as one I knew. I started combing through her friends list to find the names of her sisters and sure enough there they were. Turns out, I know Tessa and have known her and her family for years, over 17 years for that matter. I used to be best friends with Tessa's little sister, who is my age, when we were in preschool. We used to have play dates all the time, our younger sisters were friends and so were our parents. I remember spending so much time at their house, playing school and house and just about anything. When I was around seven or so, I think, their family moved to Branson, MO. There was one time after that I saw them, when my family took a vacation to Branson a few years later. We met and had dinner at a McDonald's. Other than that, we have had no contact, other than Christmas cards, since I was about ten. 

I immediately called Michelle, who was with Tessa still, and freaked out over the phone. Turns out, Tessa had thought that I had looked familiar and kept telling Michelle all night that she knew me from somewhere. But she dismissed it, because how in the world would she know me. Tessa called her sister who then friended me on Facebook and now we've been chatting. 

This world is such a teeny tiny place when you really think about it. How else do you explain running into one of your best friends from childhood halfway around the world. And not only that, but the girl ends up being good friends with your roommate who went to the same college as you but you didn't meet until Taiwan. This world is a crazy, crazy place and I love it. 

In other news, 16 days until Korea and 46 days until I meet my mom in Hong Kong! Woohhooo!!!

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