Friday, January 13, 2017

Trip to Taiwan: Sanxia (三峽)

Growing up, nearly all my relatives from my mom’s side lived in Sanxia. I remember spending many lazy summers there. Nowadays, most of the relatives have moved away, but my mom’s oldest sister, my “chubby” aunt, and her family are still there. So, whenever we go to Taiwan (alas only twice before this latest trip), we always go to Sanxia for a short visit. This time, we stayed for 3 nights.
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^^Sanxia Old Street (三峽老街) -- mostly touristy now, selling food and trinkets.^^

Our stay in Sanxia was relatively low-key, in fact we didn’t do much at all. First of all, when we arrived, Anna and I were only on day two of being sick, so we felt overall yucky. We took it really easy and stayed home most of the time, but when we did venture out (to go to my aunt’s apartment), with a tummy bug and an already sensitive gag reflex, Anna just couldn’t handle the “smell” of Taiwan and threw up many times. Sigh, those days in Sanxia were probably the worst part of the trip and it made us incredibly homesick. But for me, it wasn’t a total loss. I got to see many relatives and they all met Anna and Will for the first time, I finally visited the very popular Sanxia Old Street, which was under construction when Luke and I visited in 2005, and…..I guess that’s it? As I said, we didn’t do much at all, haha.
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^^On the way to Sanxia River and bridge.^^
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^^One of the many temples in Sanxia.^^

The culinary highlight in Sanxia was definitely the “fluffy” scallion pancake with egg that Will was eating in the video. It was so oily and I knew I shouldn’t have eaten it with a stomach bug, BUT, it was oh so worth it :)

I took a picture of this treasure at my aunt's house. That was me being held by my mom and next to us were my two aunts...the same aunts in the still frame of the video 💚
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[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Trip to Taiwan: Jiaoxi (礁溪)

I think making movies from photos and videos might be my new hobby. It's especially easy with an app. I literally just select all the photos and videos I want, click create, and voilà it's done. I made a new movie on our two days in Jiaoxi, a hot spring resort town about 90 minutes from Taipei. Our stay there was very good because Anna and I had just fully recovered from our stomach bug and man oh man nothing feels better than being able to eat! We stayed at Just Sleep, which was clean and modern and just a short walk from the train station. My favorite part was the hot spring stone tub right inside our room. I had never seen anything like it before. Right after we got there, the kids immediately changed into their bathing suits and went for a dip. Just Sleep was also very convenient to the main strip of Jiaoxi, where we found a variety of places to eat.

The biggest highlight for me in Jiaoxi was trying fish spa for the the first time. It felt weird with fish nipping at my feet and all, but I got used to it. The kids liked it too, but loved fishing with their little nets even more. We also found a free foot bath place...that was another highlight. Other than that, it was just a lot of eating, much like anywhere else in Taiwan. At one bakery, we sampled the best taro pastry ever. We literally just stood next to the sample table and ate and ate. 

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Trip to Taiwan: Shifen (十分)

One of my favorite memories of our Taiwan trip was the time spent at Shifen. I first saw the sceneries of Shifen from the movie "You're the Apple of My Eye" and thought it was such a cute little quaint town. And writing down your wishes on a sky lantern and set it off into the sky? Too sweet! In reality, though, the "cute little quaint town" was overran with tourists and locals (even on weekdays), but that didn't turn me off either. We snacked our way through Shifen Old Street (sooo many yummy eateries!) along the tracks, wrote our wishes on the lantern and watched it disappear into the sky. The kids had a fun memorable time and so did I.

Here is a little video I made - I hope you all enjoy!

To get to Shifen: Take a northbound train to Ruifang Station from any Taiwan Railway stations (we took it from Nangang Station). At Ruifang Station, switch to the Pingxi Line. Take the Pingxi Line to Shifen Station. It sounds easy, but actually pretty complicated because there is a timetable you have to follow carefully. My mom was the timetable master so she led the way, haha. But when in doubt, just follow the crowd -- everyone heads to Shifen!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

We are back!

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^^I really liked our day trip to Shifen.^^

Hello!

The kids and I are home safe and sound from our Taiwan trip! After 19 days of living out of a suitcase, it honestly feels good to be back home. Right now we are all still trying to adjust back to our local time before the daily grind officially starts on Tuesday when it's back to work and school.

So...the biggest question, how did I survive doing it all on my own? ! I knew that solo parenting wouldn't be easy and I was right about that. The kids bickered, not listened, and asked endless annoying questions ("Are we there yet?", "How many more minutes?", "Now how many more minutes?","Can I push the button next time?"). It wore me out and I asked myself again and again how Luke managed to convince me to take this trip. The biggest curve ball happened near the beginning of the trip when Anna and I both got ill with a stomach virus. For days we couldn't eat a thing and our tummies just felt bad. We were miserable and lost weight in a country full of delicious foods. After we recovered though, we did make up for all the non-eating and our time in Taiwan was mostly enjoyable.
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^^Dipping our feet in a hot spring pool in Jiaoxi.^^

I felt sad missing the festive season of Christmas here back at home, but this was also the easiest Christmas ever. On Christmas Day, the kids and I woke up together in my parents' apartment in Taipei. My mom was flying back to the US that morning and my dad rode with her to the airport, so it was just the 3 of us. Anna woke up right around 6 and begged to go check if Santa found us in Taiwan. I had her wait until Will woke up about 10 minutes later. Then I grabbed my phone and took a video of the kids finding out that SANTA DID FIND US IN TAIWAN!! It was a pretty sweet moment. Of course I couldn't carry much with me to Taiwan, but the kids' had really simple requests for Santa..Shopkins (Anna only), Pokemon cards, and Pokemon sets. They were so happy! After cleaning up (putting two gift bags back in the suitcase), we went to our favorite breakfast place for scallion pancakes and soymilk and saw some local Taipei sights that morning.
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^^Not a speck of Christmas decoration, but Santa still showed up.^^
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^^Christmas Breakfast 2016^^

I brought my real camera with me, but didn't use it once. I documented the whole trip using my phone and whenever there was wifi, the pictures got uploaded to Amazon Prime Photos so Luke could see all the fun things we were doing (un-fun things were not documented obviously).

A few days before the trip, I was absolutely dreading going on it. It was to the point where if the airfare was refundable, I would happily take the refund rather than go. While I am not ready to proclaim that this trip was wonderful and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, it WAS good to spend time and make memories with the kids and my parents. I got lots of great pictures!
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^^On the top of Maokong station.^^

Anyway, this is just a quick post to say that I am back. I will write more when I get a chance! Happy new year everyone!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Solitude

by Father Time

A little over a week ago, I loaded up the family, drove to the airport, and drove home alone.  That Saturday morning, I was sending the better half of the group off on their long journey to Taiwan.  The night before, Will was not feeling well and actually threw up in bed.  That was not a good start.  I'll save the details of their adventure for Joyce to recount when she gets back.  So I'll just be sharing random thoughts of man that has suddenly become familyless.
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^^Brave travelers.^^
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^^The last glimpse of the family at Dulles.^^

Now I know they were in store for a long trip, but little did I know that I'd be feeling the stillness of time as well.  Without Joyce and the kids around, my entire weekend was a blur.  With no set meals or bath/bed times, I was just hanging around.  Seriously, I played video games, watched movies, and read books.  All the while I was tracking their agonizingly slow progress.  I fell asleep before they even landed in Tokyo.
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^^Watching that little black plane move was like watching grass grow....in the desert.^^

When I awoke Sunday morning, they were still on their way to Taipei.  Thinking that I should be a little bit more productive that day, I decided to clean the house.  I had given the cleaners a break this month, so I went around the house and scrubbed, dusted, wiped, vacuumed, and did the laundry.  There were still some leftovers from Friday that managed to feed me through Tuesday evening.

The weekdays were good as I had a lot of work on my plate.  A bunch of lunch meetings managed to keep me fed as well.  Then the weekend came again!  I was doubly productive that frigid Saturday.  With the bathrooms all unused, I regrouted and recaulked several of them.  I can't exactly recall right now, but I'm sure I did something else productive, but whatever - I gave myself a pat on the back and rewarded myself with an hour at the shooting range on Sunday.  I still suck with my pistols at 25ft but discovered that I'm pretty decent at 40ft with my buddy's rifle.  After that, I was back home and alone again.  Luckily, the freakish weather had shot temps up from the 20s to the 60s that day, so I was able to give my car a much needed wash.

It's odd really, I never knew how much my daily routine revolved around my wife and kids.  The only semblance of a schedule is the whirr of the Roomba in the kitchen when he goes off at 7pm every nite.  That's usually when we start the bath/bed routine.  Right now, I'm just making things up as I go along.  So I find myself exercising at odd hours, eating randomly or skipping meals altogether.  Work is slower now that the holidays are closer, so I don't even step outside at times.  I definitely miss Joyce and the kids, but I loneliness hasn't really set in - yet.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!