We're just about at the end of our last break before the long 9 week stretch to the end of the year. After that, we'll be around for about a week, taking a brief trip to Penghu (a series of islands off the west coast) and then flying home. As great a year as it's been, we're really looking forward to coming home.
The "break" started with me spending 4 days in Manila, Philippines (and I'm still struggling with the number of L's in Manila and the number of L's and P's in Philippines) at an overseas schools conference. I mostly stuck with the technology stream and learned tons (some of which our blog followers will be forced to learn in order to follow us next year). We didn't get outside of Manila and Manila on its own is not that amazing. Would like to someday return and see some of the beautiful islands that are a part of the country. One interesting thing was how English it is there, and how Catholic, with churches and crosses everywhere. Big contrast to Taiwan. Also in contrast was the poverty, something which we don't see much of here. Taiwan has lots of simple living but no poverty. We constantly had street kids coming up to us asking for money and I bought a few of them dinner (which was an amazing experience). We also attended Mass on Palm Sunday and almost got arrested for accidentally taking a photo of the US Embassy (I won't post it, and in case the CIA reads it, I don't have it. It was just a banyan tree "outside" the embassy). We also came across an Imelda Marcos rally (who knew she was still around) and everyone was wearing red shirts (including me!!!). Good thing there was no trouble.
After landing at the Kaohsiung Airport, we headed straight down to Kenting for a few nights at the Howard, swimming, beaching, bowling(??) and having tons of fun with a bunch of other families. Hardly saw the kids. Kenting is really a must see for ANYONE WHO EVER COMES TO VISIT US!!! (get the hint). From there we drove to the other side of the island, for the first time, to stay near Taitung at some Yurts. Once again, a bunch of families came along so it was very fun. The place was kind of hilarious though. First, it had been a big tourist destination at one time. As I drove up, I felt like I walking into a scene from Road Warrior or some other post atomic movie. The place had definitely seen better days, but must have been quite elaborate in its heyday. The yurts were fine and there was a store, and restaurant (and the kids rented golf carts).
A couple highlights: On the way, we stopped at a goat farm with amazing border collies, spectacular scenery and grass sledding.....yes, you read right. Check out the pictures of us doing some good old sledding in Taiwan. I even tried to get one of the other dads to try double luge with me (I was inspired by the recent olympics) but no takers.
We also went biking at a really beautiful waterfront park. Bike rentals are quite amazing. You'll come across shop after shop of bike rental places with tons of bikes, all for around $3 for adults and half of that for kids, FOR THE DAY! Janice and I also checked out a local natural hot spring but what we got was far from natural. A beautiful private spa room with slate spa, shower, cheesecake, for 90 minutes. Amazing.
We had some good campfires and crazy meals but overall, traveling with fun families is definitely the way to go.
The last stretch of the holiday is comprised of recuperating (Isaac is sick) and planning (for return to school and a big worship leading gig for me), and organizing (the usual post-holiday "get things back to normal.") Then we hit the home stretch and soon, we'll be home.