Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tea Time Pt. 1

Many rainy afternoons spent drinking tea and studying Chinese.
Two hours after I could have left work and I'm finally gone.  I find myself at risk of repeating one of my most embarrassing moments since moving to Taiwan:

Three weeks after moving here and into my second apartment (the first with my own room), I quietly entered a tea shop just down the street, curious as I had heard many good things about Taiwanese tea.  Beyond numbers, some basic foods and the word for tea (c), I knew not a lick of Chinese, and it became very apparent as soon as the woman inside the shop began talking to me.  I use the term "talking" loosely as I feel it implies conversation and comprehension, neither of which was present.  I tried acting out that I was curious and just wanted to look, pointing to my eyes, saying "no buy," but she continued picking up different packages of tea and offering to put them in a bag for me to buy.  She called in a young girl off the street who spoke some broken English.  "Do you need my help?"  I tried to explain to her that I just wanted to see what she had, to no avail.  At this point I panicked and  felt my best option was to retreat.  I backpedaled slowly towards the door, bowed and said "Xièxiè" as I exited, leaving the scene quickly.  Not exactly graceful, but I wasn't sure what else to do and it seemed alright at the time.  I sure hope she was not offended.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 46: Hitting Reset

A brief break in the clouds on an overcast day.
Three flights of stairs with my stuff and I plop it down on the bed. It's been a long week, capped with a good road ride this morning and a mind-numbing four hours at work to make up for the cancelled day of school due to the typhoon that never happened. Nonetheless, my new (old) landlord is excited to tell me every detail about the place and make sure I feel comfortable and welcome.

It's not that I don't appreciate it, as I appreciate any gesture of goodwill at this point, but I'm tired and just want to finish moving what I can and go to bed. But we spend thirty minutes trying to figure out why the internet will not work, to no avail. He is concerned because he will be going to the south of Taiwan later this week and does not want to leave me without internet for that long. Personally, I am a little excited at the prospect of coming home from work and not being able to waste away my hours, only to check the time and realize it's time for bed and I've lost my entire evening.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Ode to the Greenbelt

Disclaimer:  The Barton Creek Greenbelt is my favorite mountain bike trail.  I might be a little biased, so bite me.

It may not be the best, or the most difficult trail in the world, but those are relative terms anyway.  It's familiar, it feels like home, and it's mine.  I know the different sections of the main trail and some (but definitely not all) of the backtrails.  I know the sequence of the technical spots and which ones give me the most trouble, something my mind never fails to remind me of as I am trying to psych myself up to clear one.  I know, from riding with others who know far more than me, when to call out before taking a blind corner or ascending/descending a blind hill.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"There" is now "Here"

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, other than the fact that flying Coach after knowing what you're missing out on in First Class is a heartbreaker.  haha  The flight was not bad, other than the fact that for some reason the EVA Airways plane had no air jets, so it was pretty hot on the plane.  If only you could open the windows and let in some of that -40 degree C air, it would cool the whole plane off so well!

Also, it was rather annoying that they played some loud, flashy commercials as we taxied before take-off.  Considering EVA Airways is based out of Taipei, I can only guess that this is a Taiwanese influence and not Japanese, especially after the quiet, polite, subdued nature of my experience in Japan.  I should counter this by adding that when boarding the plane, they were playing classical music at a very pleasant volume.  I found this to be very soothing, contradictory to how I feel about most other aspects of air travel.

Island in the distance, off the coast of Korea?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Getting There

Three weeks of seemingly non-stop home improvement work and wrapping up the logistics both of renting my house and moving overseas culminated nicely.  One last night ride on the Greenbelt (I had my ass handed to me), one last San Marino party (Live Oak keg + moonbounce slip 'n slide = Slip Cup), many last meals and visits with friends ending with great hugs and "goodbyes" (or in my case, "Come visit!" instead of goodbye). 

After the mayhem of leaving Austin was over, it was time to tie up loose ends around Grapevine.  Figuring out exactly how much stuff I could take and what exactly I would need (I overpacked, as usual) and finding places to store things I just couldn't get rid of around my parents house (a few bicycles, nostalgic pictures and card/notes from old friends, and other knick knacks such as my collection of indigenous artwork from the various places I've traveled).

One final road ride with old friends in Grapevine, one of whom recently started riding and I had never before ridden with, and then Izabella was packed up and prepped for travel.  I let my friends know how excited I was that they ride now, so that I can share my world with them.  Oh, and we might have shared some whisky.  That was delicious.

And then, it was time to go.  Running on two hours of sleep, I spent nearly an hour at the check-in counter before I went through security.  First, there was not enough time (right around an hour) between connecting flights in Tokyo for them to transfer the bags to my flight to Taipei, and then came the task of figuring out excess/oversized baggage for my 2 checked bags and bike. 

All in all, Maritza was incredibly helpful.  I was her first customer (patron?) of the morning, still sipping on her coffee as she stepped over the conveyor belt to her desk and called me up.  She took the necessary time and steps to ensure that my baggage would arrive with me safely and that I was paying minimal fees to do so.  Lesson learned from this experience: when traveling (moving?) overseas, the one thing you absolutely cannot forget to bring with you is patience.

By the time I made it through security, I had time to go to check in at the gate (still room on first class, score!) and use the restroom before it was time to board.  Sitting down in my leather seat with 3 windows all to myself(!) and a leather ottoman, a female flight attendant came by gave me a menu (wtf?), a pair of Bose noise canceling headphones (uh, yes please!), and a complimentary copy of the New York Times.  By this time, I realized about the only thing this had in common with any of my other limited experiences on flights was that I was on an airplane.  I suppose I should mention that I was able to fly first class because I am fortunate enough to friends who can get me that privilege as a standby passenger for less than the price of a ticket in coach.  Thank you, thank you!

First Class!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Holy hell.  It has been a while, no?  So much has changed, and it is all changing so quickly at this very moment.  But, let's cut to the chase.  My flight leaves for Tokyo in a little over six hours.  It is a 14 hour flight, and then I have an hour to catch my next flight to Taipei.  From there, I will hopefully be successful in navigating the Taipei airport and getting myself and all my luggage on a bus.  I have never been on a flight longer than maybe 6 hours, never experienced jet lag, never left North America... the list goes on.

I keep getting asked the same question: Why?  Why are you going?  Why do you want to go?  Why Taiwan? 

Honestly, I do not have an answer...  Well, I can answer "Why Taiwan?"  I chose Taiwan because I have friends there and have a job lined up that should allow me to pay off a substantial part of my debt, while hopefully also saving up enough money to sufficiently explore that corner of the globe.

But still, why am I going?  I do not know.  Maybe I am looking for something?  But I do not know what I'm looking for, and maybe it will become more clear once I get there.  All I know is I was offered an incredible opportunity in Moab, and I turned it down for this.  Something in my gut just felt like this was right, and I still don't know why.  I think a lot of it has to do with the anxiety of wanting to see as much of the world as possible.  I felt that if I did not go abroad now, I would be stuck in the US forever.  It is time, for whatever reason, and I plan to make the most of it.

I definitely want to start writing more, as I used to, and hope to have plenty of pictures to share as a result of getting a new camera.  I will be updating my couchsurfing profile as soon as I figure out where I'm living, and hope to see you over there, as well as lots of new faces!

Take care of yourself, and be sure to come visit!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Next Steps

“…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Recently, I have found those words to be truer than ever. After more than a year of bad decisions and uncertainty of what I was doing and where I am going, the future has become the present. It’s time to move on and start doing the things I have been dreaming about. I suppose the big step is that I got accepted to an alternative certification program to begin teaching this fall in Austin and become a fully certified teacher by next year. So, I will be back in Austin at the beginning of June for the six weeks of training and the job search that will follow. Am I excited? Hell yes. Nervous? Never been more nervous in my life.

Working in a restaurant for the past 8 months had made me a rather bitter, cynical, judgmental, and generally unhealthy (both mentally and physically) person. I made some good friends and had some great times but overall, it was not what I wanted to be doing, and I didn’t like who I had become. I know, I should have been stronger and not let the situation affect me so intensely, but I was not strong enough to overcome that, a failure on my part. In light of the coming career change (or career beginning really) I needed to take the time to slow down and clear my mind a bit. Plus, there are just too many things I want to do and wasting my time being unhappy is not on that list.

Just about a month ago I cleared my schedule for a week and headed to Denver for an interview and some time to myself. I stayed with a friend in Denver who had another friend visiting who needed a ride to Moab. I had a car and the free time, so I figured why not? I spent a couple days thinking it over before I actually said aloud that I would give her a ride. But during that time I could not think of a reason not to go that was good enough to keep me from going. I had always wanted to go to Moab. And so it was done.

Driving back to Texas from Moab, I was feeling adventurous and picked up a hitchhiker who happened to be a young guy from Belgium named Diego who was headed to Monument Valley. It was his first time in the US and he wanted to see the Southwest, a part of the country I wouldn’t imagine many foreigners are interested in seeing, but there he was. He gave me the info for his blog and again I was inspired by the spontaneity and commitment to his dreams. All of this really got me thinking.

I have always been jealous of people who seem to do as they please and make decisions on a whim and somehow make everything work in their favor. They always seem to be the happiest people, and I could never figure out how they did it. This has been on my mind for a while, and it seems so silly now that I have realized how it works.

The only difference between people who enjoy their lives and experience those amazing adventures and those of us who are envious of their adventures is that they are actually doing it and we are sitting around, dreaming about doing it.

Back in grade school, I did Odyssey of the Mind with 3 of the best friends anyone could ever have, and our coach would always tell us “If the judges/rules don’t say you can’t, do it.” Effectively, he was saying that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission, something we have all heard. And something I have recently worked out in my head and would like to commit to is this: If there is something you want to do, and you can’t think of a good enough reason not to, do it! It’s so simple, and to think I never thought of it before.

And so, after spending less than 24 hours in Moab on a whim with a girl who had made a point to do as she pleased and meeting Diego, I fell in love and knew I had to come back. Working at the restaurant was proving to be less fruitful than hoped for, and I had secured a teaching job for the fall, so when I returned home I turned in my two weeks and began figuring out a way to spend my time in Moab until June.

WWOOFing is something I had heard of on multiple occasions, and it always piqued my interest, but I had never done anything about it. And one morning it hit me: Why not WWOOF in Moab?

And so, here I am, WWOOFing in Moab. And why? Fear. Not the presence of fear, but rather the absence of fear. Maybe the ignorance of fear would be more appropriate. After all, ignorance is bliss, right?

I may not be able to generalize, but I can at least speak for myself in saying that so many of those times I have not taken or created the opportunity to do something I wanted it was because of fear. Fear of uncertainty, fear of leaving my comfort zone, fear of making the wrong decision. And while I have made the wrong decision several times in the past year, I can at least look back and say that I new the risks but I overcame the fear of making the wrong decision and went for it. But maybe it wasn’t even the actual decision that was wrong, but rather how I went about it. Either way, I’m not letting fear hold me back any longer, and I feel I have made significant progress in committing to doing so.

Time to enjoy Moab. Feel free to visit. If not, hopefully I will see you soon.