Friday, April 11, 2008

My 24th Birthday!!

This year I got to celebrate my birthday 4 times! Definitely a first for me! When I went home for a week in March, I had cake with my family at home. (Yum!) Annette gave me Starbucks* coffee beans and a grinder to take back to Taiwan with me-- so I should be all set with coffee for a few months!!
My birthday weekend arrived and Eddie did a really good job of surprising me! He took me to the Taipei flower market on Saturday afternoon. It was spectacular! I've never seen so many orchids in one place at once! Unfortunately, he wouldn't let me buy anything because I'll be moving to a new apartment in a few short months and it would be pointless to buy plants now!

Taipei Holiday Flower Market
That evening, I knew we were meeting some friends for dinner-- what I didn't know is that they had found a Spanish Tapas restaurant in Taipei!! It was delicious!! Really made me miss all the good food I got to eat everyday in Spain!! (Dr. Yien once told me you can find any kind of food in Taipei-- I'm starting to think he's right!) I thought the birthday celebrating was complete. But on Sunday, Eddie dragged me to the "middle of nowhere" in Taipei - a inconspicuous street and address- which just happened to be a dance studio. My birthday gift from him was a month of Salsa classes for the two of us! (We had our first lesson last week and it was a blast!)

Tapas (jamón serrano & queso)

My birthday cake (I LOVE the "??"s!)
As if that wasn't enough, my classmates surprised me with cake and 'champagne' (really lemon green tea) on Monday! We had a great time singing "Happy Birthday" in different languages!

Party with my classmates!
I'm really grateful for the thoughtfulness of all my friends here! I had a WONDERFUL birthday!

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Green Island Spring Break Adventure!

Last week I had my first visit to a real tropical Island. Kay, Lorenzo, David, Eddie and I went to Green Island, about a 45 min. ferry ride from the south-east coast of Taiwan. We had a wonderful time exploring Taidong and Green Island.

We spend a day in Taidong County enjoying being in "country". Our hotel in Taidong included a hot spring/spa area. So we relaxed in the hot springs in the morning and again before bed. We visited a pre-history museum that introduced ancient archaeological sites in Taidong. We also visited Taiwan's most famous dairy farm-- it reminded me of spending summers in Wisconsin. :-) Finally, I got to eat yet another exotic fruit called a "shi jia" -- or Buddha's Head fruit-- I'd never seen anything like it before, but my translator says its English name is a "sugar apple"??!!??

(Picture compliments of Ian Maguire at

The ferry ride to Green Island on Thursday was an adventure! There was strong wind, rain, and the sea was pretty choppy. Fortunately, we'd all taken motion sickness medicine, so we had fun getting wet and flying over the rolling waves! Thursday afternoon, I got to go snorkeling for the first time in my life, and it was incredible. Seeing the fish and coral reef was exactly like on the Discovery Channel only much better in person!! After snorkeling we relaxed in natural salt water hot springs while enjoying the beautiful scenery and listening to the pounding surf.

The last day of our vacation, we took our scooters and drove around the island, stopping to take pictures and enjoy scenic spots. Before long it was time to board the ferry and head back to Taiwan, then take the train to Taipei. It was an amazing trip that I'll never forget... and maybe someday I'll go back again!

Pictures of our trip are online at:
Green Island