Sunday, January 29, 2017

the year of the rooster

Happy New Year!

Yesterday, we decided to go on a bit of an adventure to ring in the lunar new year, which is a big deal here in Taiwan & Asia. We picked up our coffees (mine now decaf to hopefully lower my high blood pressure), and scooted to the local train station downtown. We've been there many, many times, but always to either pick up or drop off friends. When we take the train, we always hop on the high speed rail because it is fast, convenient, and pretty dang cheap. 

But yesterday, we thought going slow and doing something we had never done before sounded wonderful. 

When we got to the local train station, we didn't know how to read the route map or where exactly we wanted to end up. We thought about Neiwan, a nearby mountain village, or Keelung, a far away coastal one, but in the end, we decided on Taipei for our destination because burgers from our favorite burger joint in the capital sounded awesome for lunch, so we bought two tickets and boarded the first northbound train that arrived. 

Three hours later, we finally pulled into the ever familiar Taipei Main Station, which is also the station the high speed rail services. Normally, our trip from Hsinchu to Taipei only takes 30 minutes on the HSR. It was so much fun and oddly relaxing to take the three hour journey instead and see a new side of Taiwan from the window of our train car. 

Our railway adventure felt a lot like the time we spent last spring exploring Japan on its local, slow trains, which we just had a blast doing! 

After living in Taiwan for four years now, it's easy to feel like we've seen it all (or close to it at least), so I love these little reminders that Taiwan has so many secrets left for us to discover. 

And really good burgers too. 
While on the train, we thought about our hopes & desires for the year of the rooster.

We hope that my pregnancy continues to be healthy and smooth.
We hope for little miss Ruby to come into the world healthy and happy.
We hope for our loved ones to have many opportunities to spend time with her.
We hope for sanity and tolerance to return to our home country of America.
We hope for continued peace and stability for our beloved adopted home of Taiwan.

The year of the rooster will certainly be one of the most memorable of our lives, and we are excited to see what it has in store for us! 

Friday, January 27, 2017

an old scoot adventure with a new twist

Yesterday, I woke up early to take Bubu for his ritual morning walk, and the second we stepped outside into the bright, warm sunlight, I knew: it was the perfect day for a scoot adventure.

Scooting through the mountains of Taiwan has become my favorite hobby ever. Luckily, my scoot buddy is still in town over our winter break from school, so I instantly went home and sent out a feeler: do you have free time this afternoon? One thing I love about this lady? She is always up for a good adventure, even if that adventure means scooting up into the mountains of Taiwan with a lady who's 6 months pregnant.
So of course that's what we did! We left with our cameras and a destination: Beipu.

We've both been to Beipu countless times, but this time was going to be different because the purpose for our scoot adventure was to take some maternity photos.

I am 6 months pregnant, and up until yesterday, I did not have a single picture of my swelling bump. This was partially because of how busy I've been with school and Bubu and being pregnant. It was also partially because I hadn't picked up my camera to take a single photo all semester. Well, except of my dog.

I knew in the end I would be sad if I had no photos to look back on, and really, I was starting to wonder if people back home really believed I was pregnant because they have not gotten to experience a single day of my pregnancy with me.

Now, there is one universal truth about my life: I cannot take a normal picture to save my life, especially in a photo shoot situation. As we scooted through the mountains, I reminisced on my last photo shoot, which was for my high school graduation. I am pretty sure the photographer was like: when can she leave because this is painful?!

Before we left for Beipu, I put literally no time or effort into scouring Pinterest for maternity shoot ideas. This was for one main reason: I was pretty sure the shoot would be a complete disaster! I told myself I would be happy if I came back with just one decent photo that I could show my mother and hang onto as a keepsake.

My friend, however, did spend time scouring the Internet for ideas because she is just that kind of person, and I am so thankful because after everything was said and done, I could not believe how many awesome photos we got!

First, we scooted to Beipu's main street, which has one of my favorite temples in Taiwan. It's kinda silly to say that because most temples look exactly the same, but this one just feels different. Beipu is a small, photogenic village, and this temple is along a cobblestone street that is converted daily into an open air market. At first, I felt really weird taking photos. It's not because it was a temple. I have taken a gazillion photos of this temple (and so have countless other visitors). No, it was because people were looking at us, and I am pretty sure I even caught someone take a picture of us taking pictures. People look for two reasons: we are waiguorens (foreigners) and my belly sticks out like a sore thumb and everyone's eyes gravitate to it.

Truth be told, I got over feeling awkward and silly really fast because I was actually having a lot of fun! I am so glad I asked my friend to take these pictures. She is just as silly as I am and we had a blast romping around this village striking poses!
After the temple, we wandered around Beipu's old, dilapidated streets. We found the perfect alleyway for photos, which isn't really an amazing feat because Taiwan is one giant alleyway. We found a working water pump, a cat, and beautiful, old homes. One flummoxed elderly Taiwanese man ran into us as he was leaving his house, and after exchanging a few ni hao's (hello's), he just wandered away and left us to our silliness.
After leaving the alleyway, we decided to scoot to our favorite cold springs, which is a five minute drive from the village. On the way, we got a bit sidetracked. My friend found a perfect little bridge with a perfect view of the mountains. After using some interesting methods to take some pictures on the bridge, we finally made it to the cold springs. The water level was super low, but we still managed to snap some shots.

All in all, it was the perfect scoot adventure/maternity photo shoot.

I got home and could not believe how great the pictures turned out, especially because I did zero preparation. I didn't even buy a special outfit. I didn't think for more than five seconds about where I wanted to go. I wanted a place that shouted: Taiwan! Beipu seemed like the perfect place, and how lucky we were that it actually was! I love that these maternity photos are so Taiwanese. It makes them feel a little more special and true to the story that is about to unfold: Jackie & Sean becoming parents as expats living in Taiwan.

I will certainly be asking my awesome friend to take more pictures as I get further along so Sean and Bubu can join me in some of them! Hopefully we will get just as lucky then as we were on our scoot adventure to Beipu!