A few nights ago a friend told us about a festival going on near our house. It seems during Chinese New Year every god has his day and this day, night actually, belonged to a small god only worshipped (as far as I know) in a small valley a short walk from our house.
It was raining like usual but the locals don’t let a little rain dampen a good show.
You may need to turn up your volume when you watch to this video. It is hard to hear the speaking parts for this video.
Our Taiwanese friends told us the fireworks were from an illegal factory somewhere in Taiwan. My oldest son is now obsessed with finding this factory.
We try to get out and see some place new every weekend… when it’s not raining. It rains a lot so we really haven’t been out much. Here is a video from a night out we had a few weeks ago.
Several weeks ago I had a day off work while the kids still had to go to school. Sweet! Erin and I decided to go to the Taipei International Flora Expo. We had fun sightseeing without the kids, but the expo was not that great.
My new life living abroad has caused me to leave my comfort zone in a big way. When I think of my life back in Utah, it’s like I was wearing a huge, fluffy, fleece blanket. It was warm and comfy and familiar. I loved that fleece blanket. Moving abroad has meant throwing off that blanket and leaving my comfort zone. That comfort zone included dear friends and family nearby. It was a neighborhood full of people who thought and acted much like I did. It included streets and locations that I knew; vistas I had lived with most of my life.
Now, I leave my comfort zone every time I leave my house and drive through Taipei, on streets I’m unfamiliar with and with street signs I can’t read. I leave my comfort zone when I figure out my way around town on the subway and on buses. I leave my comfort zone when I walk up to someone on the street and ask for directions with my very limited Chinese. The whole process of learning a new language means leaving my comfort zone. In order to learn a language you have to allow yourself to look stupid. Making mistakes is part of the process and often times that means opening yourself up to blank stares as people try to figure out what you just said and even standing there as people laugh at your mistakes. Trust me, it can be hard on the ego.
I leave my comfort zone every time I get on the scooter and drive, white knuckled, down the thin, winding back road to Tianmu. I leave my comfort zone when I go into a grocery store and try to figure out what things are and how I can make them into something that my family will eat.
My new life is full of unfamiliarity. I’ve had to throw off that warm fleece blanket and stretch out my arms and legs. I often face a new challenge and tell myself to take a deep breath and be brave. But in leaving my comfort zone I’m gaining new confidence; confidence in myself and my abilities.
My children are gaining confidence as well. Last week, my 14-year-old daughter became lost while riding the city bus home. Terrified and alone (with a dead cellphone) she discovered that she had taken the wrong bus in this huge city where she doesn’t speak the language. But she figured out how to retrace her steps and take a bus back to where she could catch a bus that would take her up the mountain to our home. She arrived home late and shaken up, but she did it. She made it and I’m really proud of her. She learned an important lesson. She learned that at times she will find herself lost and alone but her own brain and abilities can get her out of those predicaments. It’s empowering.
I’ve also been empowered. The old phrase “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” has become part of my mantra. I’ve gained a lot recently and I’m grateful for that. Recently, a friend from high school sent me a great quote from Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Maybe a lot of people wouldn’t consider what my family and I are doing as all that daring, but compared to that warm fleece blanket we were wearing around before, it is pretty daring.
Recently we experienced a rare stretch of sunny weather. A neighbor invited us to take advantage of the sun by going on a hike in the mountains near our home. We loaded up the mini-van and took off get a tan and enjoy the views. Unfortunately, there was a cloud covering the peak all day long.
The clouds were a mixed blessing. The hike was 1.6 km up stair after stair. It would not be fun to hike in the heat. The cloud also gave the environment an other worldly feel that blended with the open steam vents we found along the way.
More remarkably, Ellie didn’t complain the whole way. She had a friend along so she didn’t notice the long and steep trail.
For Noah’s birthday and Chinese New Year we ventured downtown to Di Hua Street. Each year before Chinese New Year this little market pulls out all the stops and becomes the craziest market in Taipei. I think we caught it on a slow day.
The other morning we heard some funky Chinese music. It early on a Saturday morning and it was raining. Erin and I quickly got out of bed, dressed and ran into the rain to find the source of the fun. This is what we found.