Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Strangers in a Strange Land

This Christmas, I got the best gift ever -- visitors from home!  My friend and former coworker Carey and her boyfriend Jason couldn’t stand being away from me for so long.  They gathered their documents, applied for passports, and flew across the world to say “Merry Christmas” in person!  
It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been living in Taiwan for nearly five months now.  It feels like home, and it was fun to show my friends around “my city”.  I got to spend the week as the tour guide, instead of the tourist.
Waiting to meet up with the VanDenBondes that first morning in the Taipei Main Station MRT, the holiday excitement finally hit me.  I didn’t really build up any Christmas anticipation in the previous weeks for many reasons.  There’s no snow, very few Christmas decorations (in comparison to the US), no time off from work, and no Christmas movies on TV 24/7.  So sad.  But as I ran through the crowd of one million commuters to hug my friends, I definitely felt like a kid on Christmas morning. ....Even though it was only Christmas Eve.
We took the train up to Danshui for some sight seeing and street food eating.  I quickly discovered that sampling the local street food would not be a preferred activity with my guests, but that did not deter me from getting my fill.  My catchphrase for the week quickly became, "It's good!  Just eat it!"  We walked along the crowded boardwalk and down the busy Old Street.  It was great to see Taiwan again through the fresh eyes of my friends.  I’ve gotten used to many of the things that amazed or surprised them -- and they were the same things that surprised me just a few months ago.
Less than 24 hours in Taiwan, and already fighting!  I've missed you!!!!!

Fisherman's Wharf in Danshui.  I gave Carey and Jason some alone time over on Lover's Bridge :)
Not wanting to give them a moment’s rest, I took the BondeBusches to the famous Shilin Night Market.  Nothing like jumping in head first.  Welcome to Taiwan -- and the intensely crowded and overwhelming night market experience.
The next day was Christmas, and it was the most bizarre Christmas of my life.  After opening gifts from friends and family at home, we headed north to meet some of my “Taiwan friends” in Beitou.  Most people I know spend Christmas Day around a Christmas tree, eating way too much ham and too many cookies, talking with or avoiding family members, and watching A Christmas Story.  But not us.  We ate a vegetarian feast, walked up a mountain to a geothermal valley, soaked in public outdoor hot springs, and ate ice cream from a squatter toilet.  Ahhhh, Christmas in Taiwan! 

Christmas feast!  Thanks, Papa Baker and Bonnie! 
Beitou Geothermal Valley

Old and new friends!  Jason, Carey, Megan, and Carys at the hot springs

Reunited, and it feels so good

The next couple days brought my return to several must-sees in Taipei -- Taipei 101 and Maokong Mountain.  Both were fun to visit again, and a blast to introduce to my American amigos.  Check out this video from the elevator to the top of 101.  It’s the fastest elevator in the world!  Ooo la la! 

One of the most exciting events of the week was showing Carey and Jason around Wugu.  They got to see my apartment and walk around the streets of my ‘hood.  Hopefully the charm of the Wugs was as apparent to them as it is to me!  After a delicious Taiwan steak lunch, I took them to my school.  They were even brave enough to sit through one of my classes, which I’m sure was entertaining and informative.  Now Carey knows what to expect when she moves to Taiwan to teach English next year!
I’m so grateful for Carey and Jason coming to visit me!  We’ll always be able to look back and say, “Remember that one time in Taiwan.....”  
So....when are YOU coming to visit??

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