Thailand Photos

Sunset on Koh Phi Phi

Strange days are indeed upon us. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria - and two blog postings in one day.

I’ve uploaded some pictures of our trip to Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta in Thailand - check them out in the Thailand gallery. As Jen wrote earlier, we had a spectacular time. Some of the pictures are actually from our trip there last summer and not this winter, but hey, better late than never.

The day Taipei stood still

Although we’ve been here for a year and three months now, every once in a while something happens that serves to remind you just how different this country is from back home.

For instance, take last week. On Tuesdays Jen and I study Chinese for two hours in the afternoon before heading off to work. At 2:20 PM our lesson ended, and we packed up our things, headed down the stairs and stepped out onto the sidewalk of Roosevelt Road, a pretty busy thoroughfare right in the heart of Taipei.

But this day something was different. It took us a few moments to notice anything was wrong, and when we did, it was Jen that mentioned it first. “Why is it so quiet?” It was true - there wasn’t a single car on the street. Nor a bus. Nor a single person walking on the sidewalk. Stores were closed and shuttered. Taipei, with its constant crowds and frantic pace, seemed completely abandoned.

We kept walking, marvelling at the silence, and it was then that I noticed something else - although there were no cars moving, there were lots of cars stopped on the sides of the street, engines off, with the drivers still inside, reading newspapers, talking on cellphones, idly passing the time. Busses too, full of passengers, unmoving. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would have said.

And then the silence was suddenly broken by the shrill sound of a whistle, with a policeman frantically waving for us to get off of the sidewalk. We ducked into an alcove in front of a closed shop, wondering what terrible thing could have happened to shut down a major city. A police car raced by, lights flashing. But then some signal was given, unseen by us, and in a flash cars were moving, crowds of people appeared from nowhere, and storefronts were opened. Within mere seconds Taipei was back to its usual busy self.

With China just a short hop across the Strait of Taiwan, there always exists the spectre of an eventual invasion, the likelihood of which rises and falls with the politics of the time. We discovered later that this was a planned military drill simulating an air attack by China, and for half an hour in the middle of a busy workday, nobody was allowed to be on the streets.

Parents, Thai Holiday, and Oh, Yes, A Beer Commercial

Well, the last few months here on the Asian side of the earth have been eventful to say the least. In February, my parents came to Taipei to visit me for two weeks. It was awesome to share what I’m experiencing here with them, and they were pleasantly surprised at how great Taiwan is. From the day they arrived, they were up and about, talking to Taiwanese people, trying the food, drinking green tea, riding in crazy taxis, trying out Chinese calligraphy and even Qi Gong (“Chee Gong”). They managed to impress all of our friends here too. I often got, “You’re parents are so cool Jen, there’s no way in hell mine would come here to visit me!” My parents are very unique and open-minded creatures, but I must admit that I was a bit disappointed to see how well they did here. I was hoping to see my mom freak out a little more!!

Tim and Sally swimming in Koh Phi Phi

After their two weeks here in Taipei, we headed off to Thailand for 2 more weeks (Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi), with Steve Holmes joining us too. Of course everyone had a great time in Thailand, because really, who doesn’t? Between lying on the beach, playing guitar, applying aloe to Steve’s sunburn, swimming, snorkelling, drinking beer, and stuffing our faces with fresh seafood and thai curry every day, Jon and I also managed to get our Open Water PADI certification, so now we can dive up to 18 metres on our own. Being underwater that deep and for so long is fantastic, it’s a completely different world. It’s like you’re on another planet. All in all, the trip was great, and if you want any more details, you can just give my Dad a call because of course he’s got every second of it on video tape…

These last few weeks have been busy, busy, busy with teaching. I’ve got more hours now and I’m really trying to save up some money before I go home. It’s been a bit tiring, but I’m still enjoying being around kids all day. I’ve been teaching them “The Cat Came Back”, and they can’t get enough of it! It’s awesome! I have to sing it at the end of class though, or they’ll be too crazy to handle.

Dancing on the set of the Long Chuan Beer commercial

The highlight of this month was that I got to be in a beer commercial! Couldn’t say no to that one. The beer is called Long Chuan Pijiu (“dragon river beer” is the closest translation I could get). I went in not really expecting much, because my agent never really tells me what I’m going to be doing, and it turned out that I was one of two “token foreigners” in the commercial, and of course we got to be in the main shot right beside the lead actor, the famous Chen Zhao Rong (apparently he’s in a Taiwanese soap opera that’s on at 8:00 every night here). It was the most fun commercial I’ve ever been in. I had to sing and dance to a Taiwanese song, well, pretend to sing a Taiwanese song. The only message in the song I understood was, “When your heart is depressed, drink Long Chuan beer, and you will be happy!” Words of wisdom.

Anyway, things have been going well for us over here, and I hope it’s the same for everyone back home! Miss you guys.

Christmas, New Years, and back in Taiwan

River hockey on the Red

Well as you can surely tell by the picture, Jen and I were back in Canada for the holidays. And man, it was great!

I was in Winnipeg with my family for Christmas, and it was fantastic. I had been feeling pretty homesick this fall, doubly so while I was recovering, and the trip home has left me feeling recharged. I was afraid before I returned that I wouldn’t want to come back to Asia; now, I feel more like how I did when I first came to Taiwan one year ago.

Vancouver was great as well, although where Winnipeg had been 8 days of relaxing, eating, and more eating, Vancouver was all about trying to fit as much as possible and to see as many people as possible in four short days. And it didn’t help that I managed to smash up my rental car pretty good when some idiot in a Porsche Carrera ran a stop sign and crossed a major street without looking!

Two weeks from now, Jen’s parents are coming to Taiwan for a visit, a few days later Steve Holmes is joining us, and then in mid-February we’re off to Thailand for a two-week holiday, so the next little while should be pretty fun. Talk to you soon!


Hello everyone, and welcome to our new blog! Looks just like the old one doesn’t it. But it’s running on a whole new platform, Wordpress for those of you who are interested. And for the tech-saavy readers, there is now an RSS feed that you can subscribe to.

I know I’ve emailed a lot of you in person over the past month and a bit, and I still have a bunch of emails in my inbox that I need to reply to, but I thought it might be time to post an update on my condition. I’m doing really well these days - I’m back on my feet and back to work. I still have a few aches and pains, and going for a run is still out of the question, but in terms of my day-to-day activities, I barely notice that I’m still hurt. I’ve also started going to the local gym to rehabilitate myself, and while I’m still quite limited in what exercises I can do, I find I can ride the stationary bike well enough that I can at least get a bit of a workout. It feels pretty damn good after living a mostly sedentary existence since the beginning of October. Last week was a bit of a setback - I came down with what was either food poisoning or a violent but short-lived case of the flu - but this week overall I’m felling as good as I have since the summer.

Thanks to everyone out there who supported me through all of this. It was great to hear from all the family and friends back home, and it sure makes me miss it that much more.

Last week, Jen and I solidified our plans for the holidays, and we’re both going to be heading back to Canada for Christmas! Jen will be in Vancouver from December 23rd to January 1st, and I’ll be in Winnipeg from the 20th to the 28th, then in Vancouver until the 1st as well. I’m really looking forward to it - a few weeks of bed rest makes you pretty homesick alright. See you soon!

An Update on this Last Month

3 weeks ago we had a five-day weekend in Taiwan, so Jon and I and 5 of our friends from various parts of the world (New Zealand, USA, Taiwan) decided to head off to a small city called Ilan. The first day honestly could not have been better. We got to a nice beach and did some surfing along with a good amount relaxing until the sun started to go down. In the evening, we got invited to a beach bonfire party that was being put on by some aboriginal people who lived in Ilan. A lot of them were part of a surf club there, and everyone there was incredibly friendly, giving, and laid back. Their open, laid back attitude was a nice change from the people we are used to in Taipei city, where a lot tend to be a little too affected by materialism. The aboriginal-surfer-people were all really interested in trying to talk to us in English, and they had a guitar and were singing some songs they knew around the campfire on the beach. And of course, Jon got a hold of the guitar and played two classics: “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears and “Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi. Mac, Danielle (two friends from San Francisco) and I did the singing. The aboriginal people even grabbed us off of our logs we were sitting on and forced us to participate in one of their campfire dances. The steps for the dance were a bit complicated, so none of us ever really got all the steps right. So basically, we looked pretty hilarious! We connected really well with these people and had a lot of laughs together and very interesting conversations in mixed English and Chinese. It was an extremely cool experience that I will never forget. Hopefully we’ll get to hang out with them again some day.

The next day was also another day that I will never forget, except that this time the story is not so nice. Jon, our friends and I decided to try paragliding. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s basically where you strap a parachute to yourself and run down a hill to catch wind and you soar up into the sky for a few minutes and then land back on the ground. We went with a Taiwanese paragliding company that does tandem rides (two people – pilot behind you and you at the front), only to find that the company was not as professional as we had trusted them to be. When it came to Jon’s turn, I watched them try to take off three times without successful lift off into the air. The Taiwanese paragliding guys seemed to indicate that this was not a problem, as they kept rearranging the chute to get ready to try again. They told us that Jon was doing everything he was supposed to do and that it was just the wind that wasn’t quite right yet. The fourth time they tried, they successfully caught a gust of wind, however they were a bit too low to the ground and looked like they were heading straight for some bamboo trees a little ways past the take-off point down the mountain. The pilot pulled up on the chute quickly and so Jon and him soared up above the trees into the sky. We all cheered because they had finally gotten into the air, but then we quickly realized that something was very wrong because the parachute had stalled in the sky. We reckon now that the chute stalled because the pilot had pulled up so quickly, which consequently made the chute lose its hold in the wind. Everything after that happened so fast. I watched the parachute shift awkwardly and then collapse. Then in horror I saw Jon and the pilot fall about 10 metres (35 feet) into a thick bamboo tree forest.

I stood there frozen for about 5 seconds in denial of what I just witnessed. And then I was hit with a strange feeling, if you could really call it one. I felt really calm, but in more of a numb kind of way, without very many thoughts running through my head. The only thought I remember crossing my mind was, “This could be very bad.” Then I snapped back into reality a bit and ran down the hill by myself to try to find a way into the bamboo trees that would get me to Jon quickly. I glanced behind me and saw two of our friends following me. It was hard to figure out where Jon and his pilot had fallen, because the trees were about 2 feet higher than our heads and really close together. We bent and broke down the trees and carefully but quickly tried to find Jon, all of us a little nervous that there could be poisonous creatures lurking about. After about 10 minutes of fighting through the trees, I called out to see if he could hear me and I heard him call back in a pained voice, which made me feel a little relieved. Finally we got to them, and I could see that he was in a lot of pain. He said that his back and chest were really hurting. The pilot looked like he had hurt his legs and hips, but he seemed a lot less hurt than Jon.

I’m going to keep out a lot of the details about how we ‘rescued’ Jon, because this story would end up way too long. Luckily, our friend Zack down at the bottom of the mountain had seen him fall and quickly got in a car and drove up to find us in the forest. Zack had been a medic in the US military for 2 years, so he was very helpful in getting Jon in a more comfortable position while we waited for the ambulance to come, which was about 45 minutes later. The paramedics were pretty horrible. They found us in the trees and brought a stretcher with them, but they took absolutely no initiative to check Jon and help him get on the stretcher. We waited for about 2 minutes, and watched them stand there and do nothing, and of course with there being a language barrier between us, we couldn’t yell at them to do their job. So we grabbed the stretcher from them, and put Jon on it carefully ourselves, and then gestured and yelled at everyone to grab a side and carry him up the hill and out of the forest. We got him into the ambulance and I climbed in beside him. I held his head to keep it from moving back and forth while we drove down a gravel road, and I kept looking at him in the eyes wishing I could take some of his pain away. 40 minutes later, and completely appalled at how no one in their cars would move over to let the ambulance through on the freeway, we arrived at the hospital. After 20 minutes of waiting in a corner in the emergency room, some angry looks and telling nurses (through our Taiwanese translator, Yumi) to get Jon some oxygen and pain killers, he was finally in a slightly better state. He got some x-rays done and a few minutes later, a doctor came up to us and said that he could see no broken bones, so Jon was good to go home. We were happy to hear that his back wasn’t broken, but we looked at the doctor in complete shock, and Jon said, “But I can’t move off of this stretcher!”

After waiting in the hospital in Ilan for 6 hours, we got a hold of a car and put Jon in the front seat and drove 2 hours back to Taipei. It was about 1:30 in the morning when we got back, so we decided to spend the night at home and head to a better hospital (with western trained doctors) after some sleep. The next day at the ‘better’ hospital, we were finally able to speak to some doctors who spoke English, which was a lot more comforting. They were a lot more thorough and concerned about Jon (they actually performed a physical exam!), but they seemed to have a bad case of tunnel vision and still missed a lot of what was actually wrong with him. We ended up sending Jon’s x-rays and CT scans to his parents in Winnipeg, and Jon’s dad (a radiologist) would call us and tell us what he could see and what other tests he should get done. Basically we were doing medicine by correspondence. We found out that next week that Jon had broken a rib, a pelvic diastasis (which means that his pelvis bone has stretched out a bit), and had torn a lot of muscles in his back and abdomen. That week, Jon was in a lot of pain and could barely walk. He had to hold on to me just to sit up in bed. The following Sunday, he came down with a fever, so off to the emergency room we went again. He was hospitalized for 5 days, and again after being told that the doctors at the hospital could find nothing wrong in his scans, we found out through Jon’s dad that Jon had a hematoma (clump of blood) the size of a fist in his lower abdomen, and that was the source of the fever. Luckily it turned out to be something that could basically heal by itself, so we convinced the doctors to let Jon come home.

Since then, Jon has been getting better and better by the day. He is back to his cheerful self. He can walk now (carefully) and is in a lot less pain. He is extremely lucky that his injuries weren’t worse, because they easily could have been. We learned a lot about how the medical system here works. And while the experience was negative and challenging to deal with, I think both of us have been able to see the positive side of things. I’ve realized how quickly your life can change, and how important it is to appreciate every moment you have with the people you care about. We’ve been thinking a lot about all the great friends and family members we have back home and how much we miss everyone.

So the last month has been a difficult one for us, but hopefully it’s just a little rough patch in the grand scheme of our Asian adventure.

Greetings from one delinquent blog

Well once again we have let this blog languish in the depths of our laziness. For shame. So let’s make up for some lost time…

It’s now September, and somewhere else in the world leaves are turning yellow and orange on the trees, and the crisp morning air reminds us that school is back in session. Here in Taipei the summer swelter has gradually given way to the autumn heat, and we’re back at work for the fall semester. Jen has recently started a second job teaching kindergarten in the mornings, while I’ve picked up some extra hours at my afternoon job, so work’s keeping us busy.

Our summer was awesome. July was spent in the islands of southern Thailand, and it was spectacular - every bit as beautiful as we’d heard, with white sandy beaches, crystal-clear turquoise water and hot but comfortable weather - and although we spent some time in areas experiencing their so-called rainy seasons, we saw almost nothing but sun. If there was one downside, it’s that Thailand has embraced (surrendered itself to?) tourism so completely that there was little if any Thai culture in most of the locales we visited. But our main goal this trip was to relax, and for that purpose it fit the bill admirably well. I’ve put some photos of Bangkok up in the gallery, and some from the islands - the real goods - will follow in a little bit.

We even managed to meet up with a few friends from Canada there - Laura Davies on Koh Phan Ang, and Rebecca Porter in Bangkok. Laura had been teaching at a school in small-town northern Thailand, and Rebecca had just moved to Bangkok from China and was about to start work at an international school there. It was definitely great to see some friends from back home!

And speaking of back home, looks like I’ll be there soon, albeit temporarily - I’ve booked some time off over Christmas, and I’ll be headed back to Winnipeg. I’ll likely be spending a day or two in Vancouver as well, so I hope to see a lot of you soon!

That’s it for now - gotta go correct some grammar.

Thailand in 5 Minutes

Well, I have five minutes before this internet cafe closes to talk about our experiences in Thailand so far….

Bangkok: This is a crazy busy place, it’s easy to lose your sense of direction. It’s got some very cool temples, people like to hassle you for money but you get used to it, hot, excellent food here if you look for it!

Koh Samui: This is a beautiful island, very touristy, hot, food is pretty good, but overall nothing too special… Got a massage on the beach by a woman with no front teeth who kept hassling me all day, “Come ooooon, you know you want to… I will use aloe vela to help sunbuuun, I take care of you”. Massage ended up being pretty good, and was cheap.

Koh Phangan: It’s also an island in Thailand, and it’s the best place we’ve been to so far. Really beautiful beaches with not many people on them, beautiful green colored water, we’re facing the sunset. A little more rugged here, you get a spiritual feel off of this place, really low-key, kind of reminds me of Tofino on Vancouver Island for some reason. Food is very good and it’s way cheaper to stay here. We’ve got a beach bungalow for about $6 CAD a night. Needless to say we’ll be taking our time here. Now we know why people keep coming back to Thailand over and over.

Alrighty, time’s up. We’ll post some pictures soon!

Pics from the East Coast

As my wise friend Aaron messaged me the other day, the easy part is putting the blog up - the hard part is writing stories. I’d add that the story-writing part is especially tough without an internet connection, which I’ve been lacking for the past couple weeks, and is ultra super-tough when Blogger decides not to let me publish new entries for a few days. But I think we’re good to go again.

I thought I’d start by adding some photos. When we first arrived in Taiwan, we did a quick trip down the east coast, stopping first in Hualien to visit Taroko Gorge and then in Taidong where we visited a nature park near Chihpen Hot Springs. Check out some pictures of each in my gallery.

Off to Thailand tomorrow! Assuming technology doesn’t mess with us, we’ll be writing regularly, so check back soon.

Chinese Lessons and Modelling

So 5 months have gone by since we left Vancouver, and Jon and I are feeling a lot more at home here in Taipei. Sometimes I stop myself and think, “Wow, I really am here, living life in Asia”. It amazes me how I’ve gotten used to things that were so weird for me when I first got here, like hearing garbage trucks playing “Fur Elise” and seeing people chewing on betel nuts, which is like chewing on tobacco, except that your mouth and teeth turn all red and you are spitting constantly. At the same time, there are still some things that will always make me laugh, like how people here walk around with umbrellas over their heads on a beautiful sunny day.

Jon and I have been taking Chinese lessons for about 3 weeks now, which is really fun! We have class from Monday to Friday for an hour each day in the morning. Our class focuses on speaking, and we’ve spent the greater part of these last 3 weeks working on pronunciation. Mandarin is definitely the most challenging language I have tried to learn to speak. You may think you know how to say something, but when it comes time to use it on someone here, it is often the case you will get a “Huh?” kind of response from the person you’re saying it to. Mandarin is a “tonal” language, meaning there is a specific tone of voice (there are 5 different tones) assigned to each syllable you speak. If you get the tones wrong, instead of saying something like, “Hi, how are you?” you might end up saying, “Look out! There’s a tiger wearing a pink helmet coming to eat you!” Anyway, the Chinese lessons are definitely helping us communicate a lot better here, which is great. It makes you feel a lot less detached from the community here.

Along with teaching English, I’ve been trying to get into the TV commercial and modelling scene here a bit. So far I’ve been a background actor in two commercials, one for Toyota, and another for China Airlines. I’ve also done some modelling for a Taiwanese photography website, where new photographers get together and take pictures of amateur models, then later they post their pictures on the web to get feedback from each other. It’s a good start for me to learn how to pose, because really I have no idea what I’m doing! The first photo shoot was really funny. Here I had no idea what it was going to be like because I wasn’t told very much given the language barrier between me and my agent, and I walk into the studio, and there are 8 photographers with top of the line cameras all ready to take pictures of me at once! I couldn’t stop laughing for the first 10 minutes, thinking how everyone back home would react if they could see me! Here you can see one of the pictures that ended up turning out pretty well.

In traveling to Taiwan, I think that Jon and I find ourselves in a unique situation. Being here has allowed us to make good money and still have extra time to try new things in a new culture and also to pursue our creative interests. Personally I have noticed a healthy change in myself, now that I have had the opportunity to step away from my life back in Vancouver. You realize some things when you are able to look at your own culture and home from the outside. I’ve found that certain pressures have been lifted and I’ve been able to listen to myself a lot more. It really is a freeing feeling, and I hope that when I do come back home I will be able to remember it and keep it with me. I’ve always known that traveling does good things for a person, but you don’t really know what that means until you do get up and leave for a good while. So if you’re reading this and thinking about traveling, stop pondering and just go!

I think that’s all for now, write to you all soon…

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