Sunday, November 18, 2007

Lessons Learned in Asia:

It's funny how things never quite turn out as expected in a foreign country, particularly an ASIAN country. Shaun had last Monday off for Veterans Day, so we kept Sophie out of preschool and decided to go for a little day trip and explore outside the city. Keeping with Jones tradition, we were totally indecisive about where we were going or what we were doing as we loaded the kids up into the car and started driving down the street. Debating back and forth, we finally took a last minute turn and ended up doing a big round-about which wasted about 1/2 hour of driving time. Lesson #1: Always know where you are going BEFORE you get in the car!

We then headed up the mountain, as the decision had been made to go over the mountains to the coast. Going 10 miles an hour, curve after curve after curve, I began to feel nauseous and Shaun's little hints about how horrible the drive was, how his butt hurt in the seat and his arms hurt from turning the wheel (you know how men exaggerate) did not sit well! What he was implying, but didn't have the guts to say, was that my decision was not the best decision. When did it become my decision to go up the mountain--was he not the one driving??? We finally arrived in Yehliu after a couple hours, and none too soon as the kids were getting antsy and mommy and daddy were slightly irritated :)

Seeing the ocean and breathing the fresh crisp air refreshed us and we all held hands and talked excitedly about what we were going to do as we walked into the big aquarium. Before leaving, we knew we only had $20 in the wallet, but figured we could use a credit card. We were a few dollars short of the admission price so Shaun approached the window and asked if they accepted credit cards. Yes--their credit card. Well dang, we didn't have an aquarium credit card and weren't going to get one, so we asked if there was an ATM. "Yes", the lady said, "that way" and pointed toward the door. I don't mean to stereotype, but Asians are the worst at giving directions. So we ask someone else once we get to the door and she tells us there's an ATM at the 7-11 across the street. Hopeful once again, we haul the kids across the parking lot reeking of fish products as we tell one solicitor after another that no, we do not want to eat in their seafood restaurant, and p.s. stop touching our kids with your fishy hands! The ATM has the visa logo, so we go ahead and put in the card, punch in the amount, and after some time, get our card back--rejected. GREAT! Lesson #2: NEVER assume that anything will work normally in an Asian country and always bring plenty of cash.

At this point we are hungry so we go back through the parking lot, past the stinky fish vendors, past the restaurant solicitors (thanks for asking us AGAIN, but no, I still don't want to eat in your seafood restaurant, especially now after seeing tanks on the street filled with alien-tentacled sea creatures) to the car to grab our packed lunch. We saw some tables inside the aquarium, so we head back inside with our lunch, sit down at the tables, and start feeding the kids. Because it's a Monday, there are no patrons at all and the place is empty which is good, we can eat in peace--or so we think. Posted on every wall is a sign in characters that says you can't bring in outside food. So we're faced with a dilemma--do we play the ignorant foreigner or obey the rules? We decide since there's no one around we'll just sit down and eat. Right away, however, we're approached by the salesperson behind the counter and told to leave. So we gather up the food and the kids, and take them back outside to eat in the car.

Inevitably, after settling in the car and getting out all the food, Sophie has to go potty, so we trudge back through the parking lot to the aquarium to the restrooms. Sophie, ever since peeing all over her clothes and her mommy after our first attempt to use a squatter, has been petrified of them and refuses to use them. Lesson #3: NEVER believe you're going to have normal toilet facilities. All this restroom has is squatters, so I take 5 minutes to calm Sophie down and assure her that everything will be okay, then we tentatively try to use a squatter (this time I hold her from behind.) She did it! What an accomplishment.

We head back through the parking lot to the car, finish our lunch, and then decide to wander through the park filled with unusual rock formations. It's a place where you have to hold on to your kids because there are cliffs and sharp rocks, so after 10 minutes of Lucas squirming to get out of my arms we give up and head down to a sandy area. Shaun finds a syringe needle in the sand. NICE! Lesson #4: Don't let your kids play on the beach in a country where medical waste is thrown in the ocean. After taking a few pictures and begging Lucas to stop putting the stick from the sand in his mouth, we decide it's time to go. Shaun then proceeds to step full-on into a nice fresh dog-poo patty, leaving us all with a lovely reminder of Yehliu.

Because the kids didn't get to see the dolphin show or the fish, we take them through the little market to choose a toy. Sophie immediately chooses 2 little plastic masks--Spiderman and Batman--her favorites whom she prays for every night. Lucas chooses a pink hello kitty phone. Funny, the gender toy preferences are mixed up with our kids. Once we're all settled in the car and Shaun has made it clear that he's not driving back up through the mountains, we head back towards Taipei. From the back, mile after mile, all we can hear is Lucas' phone which consists of a high-pitched chirping bird, a dog that barks "mary had a little lamb," and a squeaky little Chinese women who says "wei, ni hao, xiao deng" (hello, please hold.) The fun just doesn't stop! Lesson #5: Don't buy your kids Chinese toys--they are loud, annoying, and break almost instantly. Finally, after a merciless hour of nonstop hello kitty Lucas is drained and his enthusiasm for the phone wanes. He falls asleep, quickly followed by Sophie. This is the best part of the trip :)

So, we're going to attempt an aquarium trip again this coming week over the Thanksgiving holiday. If you keep trying, eventually you'll have a good time, right? We've decided to forego cooking a boat-load of food for children who won't eat it (or a mommy who will eat it all) and take a train to Hualien--the "Hawaii" of Taiwan. Of course, we're too smart to really believe that. We're staying in a hotel on a cliff overlooking the ocean, right next to ocean park. The hotel package gives us free entrance to the park, so we know we'll get in this time :) Sophie will see her dolphin show and Lucas will get to go on his little amusement park rides, so hopefully a good time will be had by all, although you never know. We'll keep you posted! In the meantime, I've put up a few new pictures of the kids to enjoy--just click on the link "recent Taiwan pics." There's also a halloween video clip. Unfortunately, we were always rushed for the Halloween festivities so we just got a brief clip of the kids at the ward party. No pictures this year :( I was almost tempted to dress them up again just to take pictures.

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