“Teacher ‘Sas’, you go on airplane, all B1 kids is so sad!” This came from one of my favorite little students upon my return to work after Chinese New Year. What a great way to start the new semester!

This past half year of work has been crazy with regard to teaching hours and class sizes and admin work and, well, all of it. I teach two half-day kindergarten classes five days a week; one is what we would typically consider kindergarten level in the states, and the other is more like first-grade level. I also teach an evening ESL/Science class of third graders three days a week, and an upper level ESL course the other nights. I also teach Sunday School at church for a month at a time here and there. There are days when I never want to see another child again, but mostly I go to work eager to see their little faces and ready to hear and see the hilarious funnies they drop each day. Some of my favorites…

sentence structure needs some work, but I'll take this anyway :)

sentence structure needs some work, but I’ll take this on the board anyday 🙂

A child was sitting outside the classroom pouting, so my coworker asked whether he was in trouble with his Chinese teacher. From inside the room five-year-old Ethan yells, “Teacher Sally doesn’t want to see his face!” Perfect elocution, kid.

Ethans in Taiwan clearly have speaking skills, or maybe just impeccable timing. As my class was doing homework corrections one evening, third grade Ethan called me over to check his work. After I told him it was fine and to read his storybook, the cheeky eight-year old goes, “OK. Thanks, babe.” I tried my hardest to keep a straight face but sometimes I just have to laugh, and now the whole class thinks it’s funny to drop a “babe” at the end of their sentences.

While teaching a Sunday School lesson on David returning the ark to Jerusalem.
Me, holding up a picture clearly depicting David dancing before the ark: Guys, what is David doing in this picture?
Kids: Running away from the ark because he didn’t want to drop dead like Uzzah! Drinking! Why is he just wearing underwear?
Me: Well, actually, David is dancing and worshipping God because he was so happy that the ark was finally back in Jerusalem. Could you imagine if the president did that today?
Kid: Trump is a grouch!

I have these days too, kid.

I have these days too, kid.

My 4 year old class began learning to write the ABCs this semester. Last year, while teaching them letter recognition and phonics, we also learned how to trace each letter’s shape – first in the air, and later on writing sheets. They have no trouble forming the letters now, but writing on grid lines is proving to be a bit of a struggle. They’re all very familiar with me yelling that their ABCs can’t fly around the paper, that each letter must “sit” on the line. Last week we played a demo game on the whiteboard and when the first student filled in his letter it was, predictably, sailing way over the line I’d drawn. Little Jeremy, who has the same problem when he writes, shouted out, “Letter is flying! “C” want to sit down!” And then, for good measure, “Letters are no birds!”

hand tow trucks with two of my toothless kindy kids. Unless you're looking closely, nothing seems amiss straightway...

hand tow trucks with two of my toothless kindy kids. Unless you’re looking closely, nothing seems amiss straightway…

but clearly the extra phonics drilling has paid off, as Thomas is able to spell out what the driver of that car is surely saying.

but clearly the extra phonics drilling has paid off, as Thomas is able to spell out what the driver of that car is surely saying.

My 5-6 year old class learned a certain four letter word thanks to someone’s older brother, and despite laying down the law I’m still dealing with scattered instances of profanity from an entire class laboring under the delusion that “saying a bad word with my hands” is not as inappropriate as saying one with their precocious little mouths. Still, the tide is clearly turning, however slowly. Thomas came up to my desk and whispered, “I wrote the wrong letter, so I said ‘$#!%’ quietly!” He seemed both proud of his discretion and smug that he’d worked a bad word into his school day, and all I could do was laugh.

In the same class, we were discussing careers. My kids want to be everything from practical jobs (butcher, doctor, astronaut, teacher) to those of the keep dreaming variety (princess, Spiderman). I thought I’d heard everything a child could ever hope to be, until Robert announced, “I will be an ISIS when I grow up.” Scraping my jaw of the floor, I asked for details, and it became clear that Robert was actually thinking of a career with SWAT or a similar unit of “good guys, not bad people.” Whew.

hey Pheebs, what happened to your finger?

hey Pheebs, what’s that on your finger?

If one of Danny's cheeks looks bigger than the other, that's because he kept a cherry tomato in there from 930 to 1130, refusing to eat it because we wouldn't let him peel the skin off.

If one of Danny’s cheeks looks bigger than the other, that’s because he kept a cherry tomato in there from 930 to 1130, refusing to eat it because we wouldn’t let him peel the skin off.

My young class were reading a book on weather that introduced a few new words. I knew I had properly explained lightning when Winmer said, “If that lightning hit you, you all face be so black!”

In third grade ESL I broke up a scuffle between two of my former kindergarten students and another kid. James and Ethan are thick as thieves and I know them quite well, but sometimes their shenanigans still surprise me. It turned out that Ethan and the other boy were fighting over an eraser on the floor. “And you?” I asked James. “I’m just helping Ethan hit Kola!” said the face of innocence.

And here are a few photos of my two kindergarten classes, just because I spend hours upon hours with these kiddos, and they’re pretty awesome.

took B1 to see the goats.

took B1 to see the goats.

G2 got locked up right where they belong.

G2 got locked up right where they belong.

B1 all dressed up for Christmas.

B1 all dressed up for Christmas.

a trip to the fire station with G2 at the beginning of the semester.

a trip to the fire station with G2 at the beginning of the semester.

tales from taipei 十二

Posted: January 24, 2017 in tidbits from taipei

Y’all. Has it been half a year since my last update? Apologies, but the past months have been a consistent routine of long working hours interrupted by church, community group, language exchange, rugby, my babies at the orphanage, friends, and travel. A typical day sees me getting up at 5:30, hitting the park for a run, working from 830-7, and then heading to volunteering, bible study, rugby, or whatever. It’s good to be busy, but I’m looking forward to this vacation.

Oh yeah, Happy New Year – for both 2017 and Chinese New Year, coming up in a few days here. In a few hours I’ll be flying to India with a friend for a couple weeks, so prayers for safe travels! We plan to stay mainly in the north and travel between several cities. Here’s the current situation:

got a 14 hour flight in less than four hours and I CAN'T FIND MY SWEATPANTS!

got a 14 hour flight in less than four hours and I CAN’T FIND MY SWEATPANTS!

And now that my sweats have been uncovered, random things chucked into my backpack, and all necessary travel documents accounted for, here is a bunch of stuff that’s happened these last months, backwards from the present and according to what I remember from pictures. 🙂

I still volunteer at an orphanage in central Taipei, and it’s a high point in my week. The babies range from newborn to about eighteen months old, and will either go back to parents who have been released from treatment or into a foster care system. I’m there for a three hour block every Tuesday, so I can watch the babies grow and change week by week. It’s a blessing to me to see and love these tiny little ones.

two of my youngsters getting started early on the good stuff.

two of my youngsters getting started early on the good stuff.

My rugby team will go to Thailand to join the Bangkok 10s tournament in February. We’ve been practicing long and hard lately as well as doing extra fitness training, and I’m even more tired than usual because of it. I also jammed the heck out of my left pointer finger this weekend at training, but I think it’s just a minor sprain. I’ll be walking around India with a taped finger for the next couple weeks then, but I should be good to join practice again once I’m back in Taiwan.

I haven’t been to Thailand in almost three years, and as one of my teammates is from there we’ll have a local to show us around Bangkok. I’ll also swing through Manila on my way home for a couple days, just to hang out and see what’s new there… a lot of murder and mayhem, it would seem. Wasn’t really considering the current political climate when I booked the cheapest flights I could find, oops.

recent practice in the mud.

recent practice in the mud.

thursday nights at the pitch.

thursday nights at the pitch.

This past weekend was my company’s annual year-end banquet, which begins with a deadly long awards ceremony and finishes up with an even longer banquet-style dinner. In years past, my coworkers and I only stayed through the opening performances of the two-hour long ceremony before making a break for the door and the Brass Monkey a few blocks over. In case you’re imagining covert dashes undertaken person by person in a darkened auditorium, what the whole room actually saw was a row of eight people stand up and stroll right out the door together. And, lest you wonder, my boss was right behind us.

This year, though, I was slated to receive an award so I was conveniently seated with other honorees at the edge of the auditorium where we could be easily ushered out, onto the stage, and then back in to watch the rest of the ceremony. As if. I returned to my seat, snagged my belongings, and walked right back out the door to chill with a friend in Taipei’s downtown district, which was swarming with people I recognized. Clearly the majority of my company’s employees were equally unwilling to spend a few hours listening to bilingual speechifying and presentations. We spent a solid two hours hanging out before heading back to partake in the banqueting portion of the event. I’m grateful that I had cool coworkers to take the edge of another two hours of weird traditional Chinese food and suspect performances.

as one of my coworkers put it, "I've been in more photos at one of these events than in the rest of my entire life."

as one of my coworkers put it, “I’ve been in more photos at one of these events than in the rest of my entire life.”

luzhou schools.

luzhou schools.

employee of the year, what.

employee of the year, what.

Let’s chat about the weather. It’s been in the low fifties for a week or so now. While I hate driving my scooter and practicing rugby and walking to the subway and basically anything else outside when it’s this cold (I know, I know, but anything below 70 feels bitter cold these days), we actually had it coming. It has been a very mild winter thus far, and the first two weeks of this year were way warmer than they should have been. The New Year long weekend gave us temperatures in the 80s, so a few friends and I hopped a train over to Wai’ao on the East Coast for a beach day. Dad, this is the black sand beach I was telling you about.

that's 龜山島, or Turtle Island, off Taiwan's eastern Yilan Country.

that’s 龜山島, or Turtle Island, off Taiwan’s eastern Yilan Country.

we couldn't have asked for better weather.

we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

girls only picture! sorry, boys.

girls only picture! sorry, boys.

beauty.

beauty.

Okinawa reunion :)

Okinawa reunion in Taipei over New Year weekend 🙂

amazing 熱炒 dinner.

amazing 熱炒 dinner.

Christmas was a quiet affair this year. As it fell on a Sunday, we had no extra days off work, and it honestly felt like a normal weekend. It’s easier being away from home during the holidays when there’s no big acknowledgement, at any rate. We had our traditional Christmas Eve candlelight service, and then church again the next morning. My friends and I got together after for a Christmas dinner and gift exchange, and it was a really nice celebration of Jesus and friendship. Also, I managed to throw together some Christmas baking, using ingredients purchased in four different countries. Graham crackers from Japan, butterscotch chips and walnuts from Mom in America, coconut from an import store in China of all places, and the rest found in Taiwan. Somehow managed to turn out a pan of 7-layer bars!

post-steak dinner photo.

post-steak Christmas dinner photo.

Handel's Messiah performed at Grace Baptist in Taipei.

Handel’s Messiah performed at Grace Baptist in Taipei was a highlight of this Christmas season.

When Christmas Eve dawned clear and beautiful, I knew I wanted to go out for a ride and watch the sunset, so I chose my favorite place within striking distance of Taipei – the highest drivable peak on Yangmingshan. It was at least twenty degrees colder up there, but I stuck around to see the sun go down, and then shivered my way back down the mountain to our church for Christmas Eve services.

no snow here, of course, but the silver grass on the mountain looked almost as pretty.

no snow here, of course, but the silver grass on the mountain looked almost as pretty.

christmas eve sunset.

christmas eve sunset.

...

...

Continuing backward, we had a pretty large gathering at Friendsgiving this year. Everybody brought a dish or two, and we had a feast on our hands. We played a couple rounds of trivia, watched some good old Charlie Brown, and generally had a good time.

Friendsgiving, Taipei 2016.

Friendsgiving, Taipei 2016.

guys, I made a bomb salad.

guys, I made a bomb salad.

So, that’s really about it. No truly dramatic news to share, just the routines of my daily life. I’m sure many things that I experience every day would have floored me a few short years ago, but now those instances are just normality. I sometimes remind myself to take in the guy baibai-ing with incense outside his door, or the family of six on a scooter, or just the musical garbage truck maneuvering down my alley, because once upon a time these familiar things were strange as could be to me and I don’t want to lose that sense of cultural excitement.

Oh, and back in November, my friend chopped my hair for me:) He took off about half of this outside in his courtyard, and I have to say it looks and feels a thousand times better. Free haircuts, guys!

Oh, and back in November, my friend chopped my hair for me:) He took off about half of this outside in his courtyard, and I have to say it looks and feels a thousand times better. Free haircuts, guys!

Keep an eye out for more posts before too long. I resolve to do a better job updating in the year of the rooster:)

macau with m’cows

Posted: October 1, 2016 in life in taiwan, macau

Some good practice versus Hong Kong here in Taipei, and then a trip to Macau for beach rugby. I’m not a huge fan of Macau, and since I spent most of my time on a rainy, sandy pitch I didn’t get around all that much except for a couple nights hanging in the old town center. The most noteworthy travel experience this time around was flagging a cab for the airport 70 minutes before my flight and making it there, though security, and to the gate with time to spare.

post-Hong Kong game.

post-Hong Kong game.

celebrate a 67-10 win!

celebrate a 67-10 win!

team huddle.

team huddle.

with the girls from Hong Kong.

with the girls from Hong Kong.

excited to play in Macau!

excited to play in Macau!

it absolutely poured a couple of hours early on. Made for some wet, slippery play.

it absolutely poured a couple of hours early on. Made for some wet, slippery play.

group hug!

group hug!

team with our cowch for the day.

team with our cowch for the day.

we crashed some dude's penthouse apartment for the weekend. came with some awesome views of the strip.

we crashed some dude’s penthouse apartment for the weekend. came with some awesome views of the strip.

appropriate tour wear... and somehow wearing the same color post-shower towel.

appropriate tour wear… and somehow wearing the same color post-shower towel.

just some udder madness with m'cows in Macau.

just some udder madness with m’cows in Macau.

taiwan summer 2016 part II

Posted: September 28, 2016 in life in taiwan

Taiwan is riding out a strong, loud, and rather slow-moving typhoon, and I am therefore stuck in my apartment. Might as well blog. And yes, I know it’s not technically summer any longer. This typhoon is our third storm inside ten days; the first swept across the southern tip of Taiwan, the second across the north, and this current one is cutting a diagonal path right across the middle. The wind and rain have been terrible, but I still have power and water. Looking outside, the damage doesn’t seem that bad, either – just some trees and signs down, scooters blown over, and debris all over the place. We’ve just gotten notice that tomorrow will be a second typhoon day, with work and classes cancelled island-wide. We have four or five typhoon days each storm season, but this is the first time that I’ve had double days off.

a rainbow across my neighborhood early Monday morning. Weather already looking like a storm's on the way.

a rainbow across my neighborhood early Monday morning. Weather already looking like a storm’s on the way.

sky color before the storm.

sky color before the storm. Eerie, huh?

you can see this current typhoon's path straight over Taiwan from this screen grab of windyty.

you can see this current typhoon’s path straight over Taiwan from this screen grab of windyty.

Let’s see. It’s been almost two months since I came back from America. Most of the month of August was shadowed by the ghost festival. In my very traditional neighborhood, it’s impossible to walk down the road during this month without running across people burning money or possessions, or setting tables full of offerings for their ancestors. Temple parades and street rituals happen daily, and there’s a much higher amount of incense wafting around than usual.

My neighborhood. Busy, crowded, beautiful, crazy.

My neighborhood. Busy, crowded, beautiful, crazy.

it's common to see tents like these set up for offering, rituals, and spirit meetings.

it’s common to see tents like these set up for offering, rituals, and spirit meetings.

a fire burning paper money.

a fire burning paper money.

here a woman throws rice in some sort of ghost welcoming custom.

here a woman throws rice in some sort of ghost welcoming custom.

it always amuses me when Taiwanese are conscious of fire safety while lighting huge fires to send goods to their ancestors.

it always amuses me when Taiwanese are conscious of fire safety while lighting huge fires to send goods to their ancestors.

A family from my church moved to Sanchong over the past summer, so now I actually know some other expats living in my neighborhood. One of the reasons I chose to live where I do is because there is a distinct lack of foreign people – much easier to be immersed in Taiwanese culture and language. And I can also attest to the fact that a foreign face brings fun and interesting interactions with the locals, particularly if they aren’t used to seeing laowai living amongst them. I’m glad that this family has moved to Sanchong, though. It’s nice knowing that people I know and can talk with are just a five minute scooter ride down the road. They moved to the area to do missions work, and I’ve been over a couple times to babysit for them.

Work has been taking most of my time. I have way more classroom hours than I currently want, but we should be getting a new teacher this month and I hope to have more free time before too long. I’m teaching two kindy classes again this year, as well as a fourth grade ESL and science class, plus an upper level evening class. I enjoy all the classes, but the administrative side of things is killing me – prep, grading, comm books, progress reports, etc. There have been some extra events lately, too. Last weekend we hosted a full day outing for parents and students to Taoyuan City, and then the next weekend I had to spend five hours at an awards ceremony for teachers.

teaching award, woot!

teaching award, woot!

a full day work event last weekend.

a full day work event last weekend.

When I do have a free evening or weekend, I still love getting around Taiwan on my scooter or on the back of a friend’s. We had a four-day weekend in mid-September for Moon Festival. The first day of vacation blessed us with a full-on typhoon, but the second holiday gave us the most perfect weather since I’d come back. The best weather always comes right before a storm, and we knew another typhoon was right behind the first so we’d better make the most of the one nice day we had.

look at the sky between typhoons! Bright blue and cloudless.

look at the sky between typhoons! Bright blue and cloudless.

I went riding with a friend to one of my very favorite places in north Taiwan.

I went riding with a friend to one of my very favorite places in north Taiwan.

graves upon hillsides.

graves upon hillsides.

...

you can see the mountains and the coast at the same time from up here.

you can see the mountains and the coast at the same time from up here.

panoramic view looking away from the coast.

panoramic view looking away from the coast.

just mountains roads :)

just mountains roads 🙂

pretty much in awe.

pretty much in awe.

another summer event was our second annual qipao evening.

another summer event was our second annual qipao evening.

qi-powwowing with some of my best ladies.

qi-powwowing with some of my best ladies.

taiwan summer 2016 part I

Posted: June 28, 2016 in life in taiwan

The past month or so has been hectic and hurried. I’m leaving for the U.S. in less than 12 hours, and have yet to pack a single thing. I’ll likely end up chucking a few things in my bag around midnight before I head to the airport for an early morning flight to Korea. It’s truly strange to pack up my whole life for an entire month. Work, friends, scooter, apartment, daily routine – zaijian until August. Taiwan feels a lot like home right now, and I know I’ll miss it while I’m away.

My neighborhood never fails to entertain, so let me share some of my most recent sightings. I specifically chose to live in Sanchong, an area bordering Luzhou, where I work. These two districts are older, densely populated, and extremely traditional, but Sanchong ups the crazy and crowded with a gangster scene. I rarely see other foreigners here, which allows me to really immerse myself in the culture and language. Not a day goes by that I don’t see or do or experience something that, not so long ago, would have boggled my mind. Now it’s just everyday life.

my road.

my road.

these hell money cans cast long shadows in more than one way.

these hell money cans cast long shadows in more than one way.

Because Sanchong is so traditional, people’s religious beliefs influence a lot of what goes on. Almost every day I see someone burning hell money in an urn or setting up a table of offerings to the gods outside their home or business. My own workplace does the same twice a month – I’m not sure how they determine which days are auspicious or require atonement, but incense and gifts of food are set out at regular intervals. Then there are the miaohui – maybe translated to temple fair in English or, as I prefer to call them, god parades. At least every other week one of these shows come roaring through my hood, showcasing the gods themselves in idol form, temple dancers, various statuary, mediums that perform intercessions for residents, and a ton of firecrackers.

When someone dies, a procession traipses around the block too, utilizing many of the same characters as the temple parades, though usually with a decidedly worldly element – pole dancers and nightly performances for those sitting the wake. This past week someone died, and their funeral procession carried on for hours. It included some of the more beautiful temple flags I’ve seen, so I took out my camera and took some shots.

the gods are on the march.

the gods are on the march.

...

my hood bout to get lit.

the gods are marching.

the gods are marching.

always lion or snake dancers in the procession.

always lion or snake dancers in the procession.

...

traffic takes this parades very much in stride and just wends right through them.

traffic takes this parades very much in stride and just wends right through them.

away they go.

away they go.

...

look at the temple flags. they're quite old, and have ancient drawings on them.

look at the temple flags. they’re quite old, and have ancient drawings on them.

my lovely crowded crazy neighborhood.

my lovely crowded crazy neighborhood.

At the end of May, my rugby team played the first ever game of women’s 15s in Taiwan versus a Hong Kong team. We lost, but fared quite well all things considered. We’re hosting another team from Hong Kong in August, also 15s – and now we’ve got experience!

our team. Taipei Baboons Ladies, aka Babeboons.

our team. Taipei Baboons Ladies, aka Babeboons.

with the visiting HKCC team.

with the visiting HKCC team.

...

crazies.

crazies.

Mid-June was Dragon Boat Festival. My team started practicing in April, and toward the end of May we got a few really nice mornings out on the river. Race day weather, not so great. We had a four-day weekend this year, and the Taipei International Dragon Boat Championship was held over the course of three of those days… and it rained on all of them. Talk about a hard race, with pelting rain and a strong current. Still fun times, though, and a really great cultural atmosphere. We were slotted in a heat with two professional teams, and came in just six seconds behind the number two boat. Not good enough to advance, but good in the grand scheme of the heat, especially since we finished light years ahead of the final boat.

practice weather.

practice weather.

look at the sky.

look at the sky.

and race day weather. so lovely. not.

and race day weather. so lovely. not.

that's us.

that’s us.

and saluting the judges en route to the dock.

and saluting the judges en route to the dock.

weather cleared up slightly for a short minute.

weather cleared up slightly for a short minute.

I’ve been working long hours the past couple months in order to graduate my class, and finish everything that needs to be done before I leave. I will miss their graduation ceremony, which falls pretty much the same time as Tom’s wedding (with the time difference), but I still had to get them performance-ready by that time, minus the week I won’t be here. Graduating to primary school is a huge deal for children in Taiwan, which means it’s also a huge deal for their teachers. Huge deal = huge amount of work. I’ll save that rant for another post, though, and just say that I really will miss these little rugrats.

We were just told this week which classes we will teach next year. I’ll take my B3 class, the original derps who happen to by my all-time favorites, to G3 (another grad, yay!). This will be my third year with them. I’ll also take a class who is a year behind, as well as an after school primary English/science class. It’s a ton of classroom hours, but I’ll be done with teaching every night by 7pm.

my soon-to-be-graduated rugrats.

my soon-to-be-graduated rugrats.

I mean, definitely gonna miss this one.

I mean, definitely gonna miss this one.

on a trip to the zoo.

on a trip to the zoo.

when they just won't shut up.

when they just won’t shut up.

So that’s about it. A few more random scenes from my neighborhood.

taken from "my" park.

taken from “my” park.

betel nut signs cause who doesn't chew that here.

betel nut signs cause who doesn’t chew that here.

the tea guy, in his rattletrap tricycle, using old CDs as reflectors.

the tea guy, in his rattletrap tricycle, using old CDs as reflectors.

when it starts raining out of nowhere.

when it starts raining out of nowhere.

post-church lunches are always inside these days because it's way too hot for picnics in the park.

post-church lunches are always inside these days because it’s way too hot for picnics in the park.

okinawa r & r (and r)

Posted: June 6, 2016 in japan
Taiwan represent, yo!

Taiwan represent, yo!

After a weekend of rest and relaxation – and rugby – I’ve decided that Okinawa is my new vacation destination. What a gorgeous island, perfect for adventuring and chilling, and only an hour and a half flight from Taipei! This was my first time to Japan in three years, though I felt that Okinawa is really nothing like the main island. Also because I only stayed in the Naha area it felt a lot more like America than Japan to me. The small bits I saw were beautiful and welcoming, and have convinced me to return as soon as possible. 🙂

My rugby team caught a Friday evening flight from Taipei to Okinawa, and by the time all we girls and guys had made it through customs and onto the bus to a taxi stand it was pretty late. A bunch of us had booked rooms in a small hotel, but when we arrived no one was at the reservation desk. A real comedy of errors ensued as we tried everything to contact the staff and get into our rooms. At one point I googled how to say manager in Japanese, and I thought we were finally getting somewhere when a local fellow jumped up to offer his assistance… by walking over to switch on the massage armchair and spreading his arms wide in welcome. When pulling the fire alarm didn’t result in anyone showing up, we decided we’d exhausted all options, and went to a have a midnight snack and then crash on teammates’ floors in other hotels. Sleepless rugby tours are a thing, and we definitely kept with that tradition.

We got up early the next morning to go play some RUGBY! You know, the reason I was even in Okinawa to begin with. Our matches were slotted to be played on base, and we were meant to be at the gates of Camp Lester at 8am to verify our presence. Our team was down several players in advance because we had been told that ROC and HK passports aren’t allowed on US military property, and those nationalities are about half our team. Those of us hailing from countries acceptable to US military review sailed through the checkpoint, slopped on sunscreen, and then slipped back out for a Starbucks run before we started warming up. We played three matches and watched the guys play their games. It was a total blast – lots of playing time and good competition, and fun times just hanging out. And the weather cooperated 110 percent with gorgeous blue skies and a breeze that took just enough edge off the heat.

babeboons. or babes. whichever you'd like:)

babeboons. or babes. whichever you’d like:)

I think this was our second match.

I think this was our second match. look at that sky.

winning the line out, losing the wedgie game.

winning the line out, losing the wedgie game.

some hard tackles vs the military team.

some hard tackles vs the military team.

pep talk.

pep talk.

13240048_10153467338471035_591521494025583321_n

unfortunate that someone on the sidelines had a camera at this particular moment. I’m not actually strangling someone…

...

nice pop pass out of a tackle.

nice pop pass out of a tackle.

with the sisters from Seoul.

with the sisters from Seoul.

While we were watching one of the guys’ matches, a group of protesters marched by in opposition of the US military presence on Okinawa. Apparently such demonstrations are common in Okinawa, which has a dozen or so American military bases. A truck with loudspeakers was blaring, “US Military out of Okinawa!” and was followed by a long line of marchers with signs. Very peaceful, and very eye-opening.

While we were watching one of the guys’ matches, a group of protesters marched by in opposition of the US military presence on Okinawa. Apparently such demonstrations are common in Okinawa, which has a dozen or so American military bases. A truck with loudspeakers was blaring, “US Military out of Okinawa!” and was followed by a long line of marchers with signs. Very peaceful, and very eye-opening.

We ladies were finished around 2pm, so I left with my friend J who’d come to watch our last match. I was already pretty tired and banged up and super hungry, but I was rejuvenated by the idea of seeing more of Okinawa than just some military camp’s rugby pitch. We headed for food straight away to a restaurant where customers push buttons on a computerized menu, and then sit down to wait for their orders. Japanese innovation for you. After a quick stop at J’s apartment to change, we ended up at the seawall with a bunch of friends, a bag full of snorkel gear and a couple paddleboards. I’d heard Okinawa has some of the best snorkeling in the world, and I was not disappointed. Underwater was a turquoise blue world filled with schools of fish and beautiful coral. I saw a blowfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and some venomous black and white snakes that I swam away from really fast! We snorkeled out to where the reef dropped off into deep water, and my friend gave me some deep diving lessons on equalizing so that my eardrums wouldn’t burst. Now I just need to work on holding my breath.

heading out for a paddle.

heading out for a paddle.

pure beauty.

pure beauty.

being a beach bum forever doesn't seem like the worst goal in life.

being a beach bum forever doesn’t seem like the worst goal in life.

...

...

I mean, imagine seeing this every night of your life.

I mean, imagine seeing this every night of your life.

After we swam back to the seawall, we paddle boarded for a little while just as the sun was going down. J swore that this was far from one of Okinawa’s best sunsets because the clouds had come in, but I thought it was pretty darn gorgeous. We went back to get washed up, as we both had social engagements that night. I hitched a ride over to my rugby social, where I found all the teams who’d played in the tournament that day, including my own Babes who had done some excellent work on their tour outfits. I’ll just say that the tour theme was “jorts” and leave it at that. And this is the only picture of the evening I’m willing to provide… without my jorts.

at least I'm wearing my NJ shirt.

at least I’m wearing my NJ shirt.

I’d love to say I woke up early and gung-ho for touring the island the next morning, but it’d been a late social night, and I was both exhausted and in some serious pain. J suggested a chill morning complete with an all-American breakfast. Sold. We went onto Kadena Air Base, and after stopping to get me registered for a pass, I got a whirlwind tour. I was essentially back on American soil for an hour, which was cool and all, but mostly really strange. Here I was in Japan standing in the cereal aisle of an American base supermarket like, what even IS all this stuff? We swung through a gas station and paid in American dollars, and I realized I was getting some serious reverse culture shock vibes while still half a world away from home. Don’t even get me started on the home-cooked bacon and eggs breakfast and the fact that I was heading back to Taipei with graham crackers and Reese’s cups in my bag.

view from J's apartment. most of the American village all the way out to the sea.

View from J’s apartment. His rank allows him a sweet place off base. You can see most of the American village all the way out to the sea.

BREAKFAST. I hadn't eaten real American bacon in almost 18 months, so you know that pile disappeared haha.

BREAKFAST. I hadn’t eaten real American bacon in almost 18 months, so you know that pile disappeared haha.

just another morning in beautiful Okinawa.

just another morning in beautiful Okinawa.

J was on duty that afternoon, so after brunch I said goodbye to the American Village and hopped a bus south to Naha, where I spent a few hours touring the city and visiting Shuri-jo. I ran into a few guys from the squad there, so we headed together directly to the airport to catch our flight. The natural thing was to head for international departures, but none of us had been paying enough attention when we arrived on Friday to remember now that we needed to be at the LCC terminal, since we were flying on the cheap with Peach Air. That required us to walk all the way to domestics and catch a bus to the proper departure area. Fun times.

Shuri-jo in Naha city.

Shuri-jo in Naha city.

gate guard.

gate guard.

view of Naha from atop an old castle.

view of Naha from atop an old castle.

Naha has a sweet monorail that I took up to the castle. The views all along the way were stunning.

Naha has a sweet monorail that I took up to the castle. The views all along the way were stunning.

I totally love the train guys in Japan. They have amazing uniforms and take their jobs so seriously.

I totally love the train guys in Japan. They have amazing uniforms and take their jobs so seriously.

probably the nicest airfield picture I've ever taken en route to boarding.

probably the nicest airfield picture I’ve ever taken en route to boarding.

I’m planning another trip to Okinawa this autumn, and I hope to get farther north, and also do a lot more snorkeling and some hiking and cycling. I didn’t visit any of the war memorials because I didn’t want to rush through, so that’s on the list as well. I want to get more of a feel for Okinawan culture… not that I’d say no to another weekend with a decidedly American feel, either. 🙂

a few days after I returned to Taipei I was sporting my typical post-match bruises.

a few days after I returned to Taipei I was sporting my typical post-match bruises.

hong kong again, mostly photos

Posted: June 6, 2016 in hong kong

When I flew into Hong Kong on Saturday morning I was in a terrible mood. I wasn’t keen on spending the next four days there when I had so much going on back in Taipei. But such is life, and Hong Kong is, after all, one of my very favorite cities in the world. Within an hour of landing I was gung-ho to hit the streets and get lost in the energetic vibe of the city. I did a tango with the Chinese Embassy, checked into my hotel, and then my camera and I switched to full wanderer mode, seeing places I’d been a dozen times before and stumbling onto some completely new scenes.

the Peak on Sunday afternoon. I could come up here every day and never tire of this view.

the Peak on Sunday afternoon. I could come up here every day and never tire of this view.

neon HK.

neon HK.

I could spend forever looking at this skyline.

I could spend forever looking at this skyline.

dim dim sum resto.

dim dim sum resto.

Hong Kong is the perfect city for an aimless ramble filled with wrong turns; new discoveries wait around every corner, there are stunning views from pretty much anywhere, and the people-watching is set for primetime. No matter how many times I go up the Peak or stroll along the TST I think how lucky I am to be staring at the most gorgeous skyline on earth yet again. I could easily spend days wandering around this city without getting bored.

I tried finding a church up in mid-levels on Sunday morning and ended up having my own personal service as I followed Kennedy Road in the wrong direction for a solid hour… maybe cabbing it actually is the better option from time to time. But I love all the old-school public transit option. Trams and ferries are slow-paced and cheap and the perfect way to take in Hong Kong’s daily life. I had a couple good hikes, ate too much dim sum, and even did some shopping. Ha, I was looking for a dress for Tom’s wedding, but I actually bought a new mouthguard and some sweet kicks. And, because I actually did have work to finish, I spent an entire afternoon in the Central Public Library.

Most of my time rambling was spent working the settings on my new camera. I’ve been meaning to figure it out for a while now, and an extended weekend in Hong Kong gave me the perfect opportunity. Enjoy!

Saturday night on the TST.

Saturday night on the TST.

...

HK's night lights never grow old, either.

HK’s night lights never grow old, either.

night photography.

night photography.

IMG_0348

beautiful Hong Kong.

one of those old junks that roam Victoria Harbor.

one of those old junks that roam Victoria Harbor.

I probably spent a solid two hours taking in this view.

I probably spent a solid two hours taking in this view.

I love rambling through HK's back alleys. This is a small meat shop in Wan Chai.

I love rambling through HK’s back alleys. This is a small meat shop in Wan Chai.

those famous egg waffles.

those famous egg waffles.

...

on Sunday afternoon my friend and I undertook the hiking trail that runs from Mid-Levels up Victoria Peak. I love this bird that flew into my shot.

...

we were rewarded with some pretty dramatic skies at the top.

...

...

dim sum in copious amounts is perfect for post-hike hunger pangs.

dim sum in copious amounts is perfect for post-hike hunger pangs.

Temple Street Night Market in HK.

Temple Street Night Market in HK.

...

I’ve been here countless times, but this time my friend and I climbed to the 6th and 7th floors of a nearby parking garage to get some shots of the market from above.

pretty stunning, no?

pretty stunning, no?

night market entrance.

night market entrance.

spent a good few hours in more than one branch of both these places.

spent a good few hours in more than one branch of both these places.

little red buses of death.

little red buses of death.

finding solitude in the middle of an urban jungle.

finding solitude in the middle of an urban jungle.

nan lian garden pagoda.

nan lian garden pagoda.

HK high rises.

HK high rises.

...

I fell in love with the perfect crowding and colors of this building.

...

Hong Kong snack stand.

Hong Kong snack stand.

signage.

signage.

...

really great library.

really great library, with tons of space to study inside.

only about half the levels. There were a lot of English books here, too. Wish Taipei had a library like this one.

only about half the levels. There were a lot of English books here, too. Wish Taipei had a library like this one.

those iconic trams, or ding-dings as they're known.

those iconic trams, or ding-dings as they’re known.

xiaolongbao lunch. :)

xiaolongbao lunch. 🙂

As usual, Hong Kong ended up revitalizing me, and I was sorry to leave – especially when my carefully chosen 945pm flight didn’t back away from the gate until 1037. The last twenty minutes into Taipei was directly through a lightning storm, which was terrifyingly cool until it turned out that meant circling over Taoyuan Airport for another forty minutes until we were cleared to land. I didn’t hit my apartment until 2am. Luckily, I had less than three days back at the grind before turning around and heading straight back to the airport to catch a flight to Okinawa. Stay tuned. 🙂