Monday, December 3, 2012

Xiao Liu Qiu

We had a nontraditional Thanksgiving this year. It was a nice change from the years past. You can click here if you want to read about why decided not to have turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potato souffle and all the other Thanksgiving traditions.

We traveled to Xiao Liu Qiu which is located off the southwestern coast of Taiwan. The island's name means "Little Okinawa". As most of you know we work for Taiwan Sunshine, who puts on "I Am a Hero Games" for children with special needs. Morrison Academy Kaohsiung hosted a game right before Thanksgiving. So we decided to just go on a mini-vacation since we were already in the area.

For those of you interested in going...
Getting There:
Dong Gang is the harbor city that you will take a ferry from. There is a long-stay car park right next to the ferry entrance. We did this, though we were a bit hesitant at first. Just know that you will leave your keys with the attendants and they will drive your car to a different location. We had no problems - though who would really want to steal our van?
The ferry was only a 25 minute ride that was fairly calm both trips. For prices and a timetable click here.
Where to stay:
There are a few small hotels around the island. We stayed in one called 好喝 (Hao He). It was simple, but very clean. The best way to contact them is by phone 08-814148
There was also other places to stay. Here is a listing from the Xiao Liu Qiu website.
How to get around:
Scooter is really the best way. You can rent scooters all over. There are quite a few rental places right by the ferry. I was impressed that they also had electric scooter rentals as well. There are four battery charging places located around the island, mainly located by local attractions. A scooter license is not needed for the regular scooters, but one is needed for the electric kind.
Another option is to bike. I didn't see any bike rentals, but that doesn't mean they didn't have them. I did see people biking, but I believe they brought their own over on the ferry. Just note that the island is not flat.
What to do:
Lots to do for families with older children. It is doable with younger children, but just note that you may not be able to do everything. To give you an idea, though here is:
Our Top 10 Things to do:
10. "Old Banyan Tree" - it was large, but if you've seen one then you probably have seen them all. Just sayin.

9. Lighthouse - This was pretty, but nothing exciting. It was right next to the "Old Banyan Tree".

8. Beauty Cave/Flower Vase Rock - Along the road near Beauty Cave there were signs that read, "Slow down. Crab Crossing". We had hoped to see crabs along this trail, but we didn't. Had we'd seen any crabs, this would have moved up a notch or two on our list.
Flower Vase Rock had crabs scurrying around. It was interesting to see this huge corral rock, but other than watch the crabs and pick up corral there wasn't a lot to do.

7. Pagoda - It wasn't extraordinary or anything like that. I guess living in Asia, if you've seen one pagoda, then you've pretty much seen them all. Or maybe that is my take on it...but what made this one nice is the location. We could watch turtles swimming in the cove a hundred feet below us. The blue water made it easy for us to spot the black dots swimming from one corral to another.

6. Scooter rides - It takes about thirty minutes or less to make a complete loop around the island. The kids enjoyed riding with us, especially Jie Jie. We saw a 6-foot long snake on one of our rides...didn't stick around long enough to see what kind, but the kids thought it was cool.

5. Beautiful Sunset - It was breathtaking even with clouds in the sky. Kids could care less, but Uwe and I enjoyed it and our vote out-weighs theirs.

 4. Food. We ate at a little restaurant near Flower Vase Rock that had the BEST Chinese food we've had since moving to Taiwan. I'm not joking. I can't remember the name, but they next to a karaoke stand and the second eating place on the right walking away from the Vase. There were a few restaurants that had western food, but think Asian western and then it is okay. Our friends told us about a place with great milkshakes, but either the restaurant changed owners or we didn't find the right place.

3. Wild Boar Ditch - an eco-friendly hike that was beautiful.

2. Snorkeling - Such beautiful fish and sea creatures in crystal clear water. You could see 10-20 feet deep - very nice.

1. Swimming with Sea Turtles! Yes, we did. It was unbelievable. One turtle that I personally saw was around 100kg - that was according to the local diver that was with me.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Life and Fun: Church Events

Summer in the States can be loads of fun without spending lots of money. We didn't venture too far from my mom's home and found fun in the simplest of things. We fished, rode horses, went to a rodeo, rode in buggies, played in the parks, and splashed in the wading pool. One thing I've not posted about though were the summer events of the churches.
Vacation Bible School was always a hit, though we could only attend a few nights.
Ice-Cream Social at the park. Yum! Yum!
Small Carnival with Kansas City Chief's Casey.

Fishing Derby...we didn't catch any fish, but had a great time out at the pond. Funny moment: Jie Jie getting her bobber and throwing it out into the pond only minutes after arriving. I think she thought we were feeding them? 
Jie Jie loved fishing. We'd cast and she'd reel in.
I bet she sat there for over half an hour. Not sure
what she would have done had she gotten a bite.

Mei Mei still not a fan of standing in the
heat, but can you blame her? It was H.O.T. 

Life and Fun: Parks & Wading Pools

This summer was a laid back kind of summer. It was hot and dry in the mid-west, but that didn't hinder our fun at all.

A few mornings before the sun got too warm, we'd go to the small public park where the girls could get rid of some energy. 

Then after an afternoon rest, we'd get up and head out to the small wading pool that my mom bought for them to splash in. I love the fact that they are not too old for such simple pleasures as splashing in water. I spent the afternoons sitting beside the pool with a book. It was pretty close to heaven - 

We kept our schedule even during our
visit with my sister. We just had a new
splashing buddy to play with!

Life and Fun: Amish Town

I grew up in a very small town where everybody knew everyone. It is still pretty much like that. My children thought it was really cool that we could go into a store and people would really "know" me. They are growing up in a city of 3 million, so keep that in mind.

What really excited my kids, though, were the horse-drawn vehicles that pulled up at the 4-way stop and hitched behind the bank. These buggies are owned by the Amish people that live scattered around the small town.

The Amish are part of the community. Some are friends of my family. My father carried mail to them for years. He was also a welder, so it was not uncommon to have a large wooden wagon hitched to the telephone pole at the end of our driveway with a couple of barefoot children in their simple dresses and white summer bonnets or black pants with suspenders and a straw hat.

This summer my children wanted to ride in one of the buggies, and it was not hard to find a neighbor friend to give us all a ride. It happened to be the weekend that some my husband's family came to visit. Below are some of the pics that we were able to take of our time.

Found kittens near the barn.

Mei Mei would have loved to have brought
this little guy home with her.

Life and Fun: Fireworks-less 4th of July

A few of tasty items from the grill...
Wouldn't you know it would happen to us: back in the US and not able to shoot fireworks on the 4th of July. ( I know this was a month ago, but well wanted to get it ready for the newsletter coming out soon...)

It turned out to be one of the hottest summers that I can ever remember in the mid-west.

I'm not too upset by the banned fireworks. Living in Asia, we actually see some pretty cool ones quite often. The girls don't really care for them either...too loud. So, we spent time eating and talking around the kitchen table.

Feeling like I needed to do a few 4th of July things with the girls, I read Sweet Land of Liberty by Callista Gingrich. It is really cute picture book about the US. It has good information that is not overwhelming to young children on the history of the United States.
I also did a few crafts with the girls to celebrate...
Our fireworks...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Life and Fun: Fishing and Rodeos

Two of my favorite activities growing up in the Mid-West was fishing and rodeos. Although I haven't had the opportunity to fish this time, and probably won't due to a couple of reasons, my husband was able to take Ge Ge and Mei Mei out with our nephew to my uncle's pond. If you are not a fisherman, you may have heard that to catch fish you need to be quiet....hmm, Mei Mei only got to go a few times because being quiet is not something she excels at. Now put her in a room with people and she will make them all feel welcomed by chatting away with them. She was just in the wrong setting. 
Anyway, the kids had a great time and they did catch some ~ or at least they came back with some "fisherman's tales". 

Rodeos are something I really have enjoyed for sometime. The open space around the arena. The sounds of laughter from the crowd as the clown does his thing, the quiet respect as the flag is ridden out, the sound of hooves hitting the ground in full 'lope, the lariats whirling in the air and released to catch a calf, and the setting sun.
I had fun, even if Jie Jie almost pulled my hair out. She was scared of the clown and the loud announcements, but she did enjoy the horses and the cowboys(girls), especially one cowboy, her Uncle Runt ~ the pick-up man. He was working that rodeo, so the kids watched in awe as he roped a bull and pulled him out of the arena. 

The flag carried in.

Steer Wresting or what the cowboys call "Bulldoggin'" 

Uncle Runt ~ our favorite pick-up man.

The sunset over the arena. Love those mid-west sunsets.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life and Fun: Tearing Down Houses

My family is considered somewhat large for the American family. I have three sisters and a brother. They are all married and have children and even some grandkids now. When we get together we are quite the clan. You can only imagine what it was like for the fish fry we had with all my aunts and uncles and their children and grandchildren.

Most of my family live fairly close to my mother, so you can find them gathered just about every Sunday for lunch around one of the tables at Mom's. 

When someone in the family needs help and if you are near and able, you help out. It has always been like that. Thanksgiving was known as the "wood gathering" time. We'd all help Dad cut and bring in a load or two before the meal. This would be considered a chore if you were still living under his roof, but none of were at the time. When my parents re-sided their house, the family all came together and helped out. It's what my family does.

So, when we come to visit it is no different for us. One summer my husband helped take shingles off a roof to help my brother. Another summer we helped my parents re-panel a closet. Another summer we helped build my brother-in-law's large indoor arena. We grab hammers, pitch forks, or the spatula(help prepare the meals) and work alongside my siblings.

This summer was no different. My husband and son helped another brother-in-law build fence AND we all helped tear down a house. Yes, a whole house. Below are some photos of that summer project. I think we got it down in a few days. Guess it doesn't take too long when you have quite a few hands helping out. 
The house after my brother knocked it down.

A crew at work.

After the house was gone, the girls
had their own "work".

I love my family and the fact that we help each other out like this. It helps save them some money and bonds us together ~ and it helped us get over jet lag pretty quick since this was during our first weekend. 

What do you do as a family together? Any fond memories of helping each other out? Please comment below.
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