Tuesday, 29 January 2013

五個月 and Everything Else...

There is so much to see and do in Palawan, we just didn't have enough time to do all that we wanted. (So I'll just have to go back sometime...what a hardship!) 

Near our hostel was a kareoke bar (just one of the ways you can tell you're in Asia, is the general love of kareoke.) So we went one evening...singing our little hearts out and ended up making friends with the locals. They were so cute and ended up coming and sitting with us and buying us a round of drinks. Then we went to a bar nearby where a cover band were playing. I was super excited as it's been such a long time since I've seen a band play. There is a lack of a music scene in Taiwan...or at least where I live. So it was great. So in a true Western fashion we danced like lunatics to their music. Which encouraged a few Pinoys to join us. And the next thing I know, Reign, the lead singer of 808 band, grabs my hand and pulls me up on stage to sing with them. So I then find myself singing Carly Rae Jepson - Call Me Maybe with 808! I'm still unsure how I managed that!! 

After the set the band were so appreciative of us enjoying their music they asked us to hang out with them. So we had a meal backstage with them and just hung out. They taught us bits of Tagalog and just chatted with us, why we were in Palawan, why we all live in TW and such like. It's just so amazing to be welcomed by everyone in Philippines. From what I can understand of the culture, this stems from the close family bond. Families and extended families are very close in Filipino culture, as with most Asian cultures. The band members referred to each other as brother and sister, and they treat everyone like family. So we had become their extended family. 

Many people have said 'oh you need to be careful in the Philippines, there is a lot of crime' etc. I can honestly say, I never felt unsafe anywhere in the Philippines, whether I was with the girls or on my own. Even in the big city of Manila. I would go so far as to say I feel safer there than in parts of London. In reality, there is crime wherever you go, but if you are sensible I see no reason why you wouldn't feel safe. There are areas of the Philippines I probably wouldn't choose to go, but there are areas in every place you probably would avoid. 

The difference between Palawan and Manila was huge. In the traffic of Manila people are trying to earn a living selling things...it wasn't uncommon to see people selling all manor of random things, even little kids were there selling things. As it's a city it was obviously more built up. But the people were just as chilled and happy as we had experienced in Palawan. 

Manila is home to the biggest malls in Asia. The Mall of Asia, Greenbelt and Glorietta. So some shopping was in order for us. It was sooooooo wonderful to see some familiar faces...Zara, Dorothy Perkins, Debenhams and even Marks and Spencer. 

On our final night in Manila we went to the meeting. After the meeting some of the brothers and sisters took us out for dinner to a local place. Ahhhh again the Filipino food did not disappoint. Sisig, BBQ pork, seafood, rice and a traditional dessert, cassava cake. At first appearance, the cassava cake kinda looked like caramelized mash potato. So I wasn't sure what to expect. But it was delicious, really creamy. It tasted almost like custard. I love learning from the locals, you really do find out what the best foods and places to go are from them.

It was sad leaving the Philippines, as we flew out you could see the built up areas, the slums and the beaches. Considering the poverty within the country, I've never seen a happier bunch of people. They really do seem to make the most of the simple pleasures in life. 

So the Philippines can be ticked off the Abacus atlas...but I am convinced it's not the last time I will find myself there. I really hope to go back and explore for longer.

For now it's back in TW for me. And I've reached the 五個月 mark. Which means...little over 4 weeks and I will be back in the England. Madness! I'm kinda nervous to come back...only because it means back to work and everything being expensive again. But I'm excited to come back too. But the lessons I've learnt in Taiwan and the Philippines are invaluable and ones I will remember for life.

Tune of the day is The Black Eyed Peas - The Apl Song.

paalam Pilipinas...

Monday, 28 January 2013


There were a lot of reasons why I fell in love with the Pinoys and Pinays. A smile certainly is infectious, when someone smiles at you, you can't help but smile yourself. And because everyone in the Philippines smiles at you, you end up walking around with a big grin on your face all day long.

One of my favourite things about the Pinoys is that they sing and dance to themselves. We had a manicure one day and whilst they were painting our toenails, they were singing to themselves. The security guards will randomly burst out into song at any given moment. People walking down the street are just bopping along and singing to themselves. I think we all know, I have a tendency to randomly sing to myself...so it was great to be surrounded by that kind of attitude and not have anyone stare at you and think you crazy for it! 

One thing to be aware of in the Philippines, when asking for directions...don't expect a clear set of instructions. You will generally get a nod or experience the Pinoy pointing with the lips. Often someone would gesture in one direction, then someone else gesture in another direction. But eventually you get where your planning to go. The pointing with the lips is a funny thing to witness. They'll nod their head in the general direction and then do a little pout in attempts of pointing in the direction to go. So due to vague directions your often late to places. But that's ok because Pinoys aren't exactly known for their time keeping. 

One of the very cute quirks I enjoyed from the Pinoys is the eyebrow raise. Often people would raise their eyebrows at you to say Hello. Or they would use the eyebrow raise to if they hadn't heard what you had said or didn't understand. A kinda of way of asking What?! Pardon?! I find myself raising my eyebrows myself now! 

A lot of Filipino food mainly consists of meat, fish or seafood and rice and often egg too. Not an awful lot of vegetables. After a couple days of being extremely carnivorous fruit and veg is craved, which is easy enough to come by at the markets. Oh the fresh, local fruit is wonderful. It's quite fun when you go to a fruit stall and see new fruits you've never seen before! So we took the opportunity to try these new wonderful fruits. Rambutan, which I can only describe as fuzzy lychee, are wonderfully refreshing. Kinda like skinless grapes. And my new favourite fruit the mangosteen! Ah it's sooooooooooo yummy! A purple outer skin you rip open to get to the sweet, white flesh inside! Mmmmmmm! Soooo gooood!

The kids of the Philippines are the cutest ever. They will come and play with you at any given opportunity. At the beach these three little boys came over and played with us, sand fights were had. They took great delight in finding shells and telling us what they were and teaching us little bits of Tagalog. One of them rapped to us a Tagalog song...so cute! The Philippines is a great place to go for a little ego boost, when you get a few high fives from the cutest kids and people smile at you and raise their eyebrows at you all day long, you know you're having a good day. And with the sun shining radiantly, I find impossible to be in a bad mood in the Philippines. And if you are you just sing and dance your cares away...anywhere you like! 

One of the tunes of the vacation was The Black Eyed Peas - Bebot. Apl De Ap from BEP is a proud Pinoy, and the Pinoys seem to be super proud of him in return. 

bustling streets of Puerto Princesa

the little makeshift stores along the streets

our new little friends

as the sun sets...

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Honda Bay!

I have a billion and one things to do, but I cannot help but jot down my memories of the Philippines instead! I'm still procrastinating about living a Taiwanese lifestyle again.

Whilst we were in Palawan everyone told us Honda Bay Island hopping was worth a visit. There a tons of tour packages to do it. They make your life easy and you pay the tour company and they'll pick you up from where you are staying, all the fees like the environmental fee, boat fee and everything is covered and they'll make you lunch. So if you want a relatively stress free, non thinking adventure it's good. It'll cost you around P 1300-1500. So that's around £20-24 pounds. So it's pretty cheap in reality. However...my friends and I are just not that organised and never made plans for the days ahead. We just planned the day as it came. So for us it was too late to book on a tour package. But the lovely receptionist at our hostel told us we should just get a trike there and organise it ourself, she told us it would also be cheaper. So we thought, ok why not. 

The security guard at our hostel sorted us out with a trike to get there. There are security guards everywhere in the Philippines...every hotel, hostel and store has a security guard that opens the door and greets everyone. Zoran, the guard at our hostel was lovely and every time we got in a trike he would write down the license plate number of the driver and wave us off. So off we went for a 45 minute ride by trike to Honda Bay. On the journey there we went through little villages and beautiful greenery. Massive hibiscus flowers could be seen everywhere. We arrived at the bay and then we had the task of trying to organise everything for island hopping ourselves. This turned out to be a little harder than we had expected. That day they had fewer boats than normal so there were delays. So we didn't really know what to do. I think we just looked so confused that the lady at the desk probably felt sorry for us. She was sooooo lovely, she asked around and found a group that had space on their boat that we could tag along with. Which was perfect for us as that meant the cost of the boat would be less, instead of just dividing it between 3 of us. So after a bit of waiting, surrounded by the tropical tune of the ice cream van, roosters and people bustling around we were ready to go with our little group. 

We didn't have a tour guide as such, just a local called Bryan who acted as our guide. (Yes dad...a Bryan with a Y!) We left the bay and headed for the first island. There are over 7000 that make up the Philippines, which I find astonishing!! The journey out to the first island was just breathtaking. Out in the middle of the ocean, mountains in the distance. Epic! As we got closer to the first island, we could see the palm trees, then the white sand. There were a couple of little huts. It is evident that the Pinoys really look after the natural beauty that surrounds them. As the people in our group had paid for the whole tour package they were having lunch provided for them. So we decided to just go off and swim! The sea was a beautiful turquoise shade, the water so calm. Fish swam around us. Ahhh just soooooo beautiful! We took a little walk along the shore and saw many a crab and some really stunning shells.

The group we were with insisted that we had lunch with them when their food was ready. We protested a little as we hadn't paid for it, but they had so much that they insisted. So we were very lucky and got a free lunch! Which was delicious! Ahhh Filipino food is soooooo delicious! We had freshly caught and grilled tuna, chicken and pork adobo (one of my favourite Filipino dishes, such a party for the ol' tastebuds), rice and fresh fruit. Bryan being a true Pinoy ate the traditional Filipino way, with his hands.

The next island we went to was the prime spot for snorkelling. There were lots of interesting fish to be seen. We went in the water for a bit and then just made the most of the gorgeous sunshine and sunbathed! 

Then the third island was similar to the first. White sand and palm trees, perfect for climbing, complete with coconuts. With a few little huts to sit and chill out and stare out at the beauty that surrounds you. After exploring the island we headed back to the bay.

So was it cheaper to organise the trip ourselves instead of pay for a package tour? Oh yes! Way cheaper. Obviously we were fortunate as there were three of us that went and we divided all costs by three. It would obviously cost more for a solo traveller. But for us we ended up paying less than P 500 each. So that's less than £8. That to me is utter madness, I experienced the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen in my life, some of the most natural and stunning views. And it cost me so little! I can't even buy a meal in a restaurant for that in the UK! 

As we headed back into Puerto Princesa, on our trike ride back we saw a KH. Where bro's and sis were working. Our lovely trike driver asked us if we wanted him to stop. He could obviously tell we were excited. So we hopped out and spoke to them and found out about meeting times and stuff. The international brotherhood is just amazing. Turned out the meeting was that evening and as they were just an English group the meeting would be in Tagalog. We decided we would go anyway. So in the evening we went to KH. I cannot describe how much love we were shown. Before we even walked in the door we were greeted and welcomed by many. An elderly sis grabbed my arm and we walked in together. It was so lovely, she didn't know my name by this point but she was so happy we were there visiting them. As most of the meeting was in Tagalog we didn't understand much. But Tagalog is a very interesting language. The numbers and a few words are exactly the same as Spanish, so at times it was possible to hazard a guess. Little kids came up to us and wanted to talk to us and play. So cute. To avoid everything getting dusty they have plastic chairs, which after every meeting they stack up, put to the side and then everyone goes outside of the hall to chat and associate. It is such a wonderful experience being able to go anywhere and be welcomed. I think the reason I felt it so much here in the Philippines is because of the Pinoy culture, they are naturally loving and happy people that it is easy to feel at home and at ease with them. Obviously I was welcomed to TW when I got there, but in a Taiwanese way where they don't so much express their feelings and although I felt welcomed, I can't describe how the feeling compared when welcomed to the Philippines.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Palawan Adventures

In a new country I will always try and live like a local and experience the true lifestyle. Some places make this is easier. In all honesty it's hard in Taiwan because there is nothing familiar. But the Philippines was different. The Pinoy's are so welcoming and happy to have you there, it makes it so much easier to embrace their culture. Starting the day with a bunch of smiles really is a good start. We were fortunate enough to have breakfast included with our stay, so we got to try out traditional brekkies. So rice, fried egg and a very odd sausage it was. Not something I would usually want for brekkie but when a cute Pinoy brings it to you with a smile on their face, it's impossible to resist. 

It was a little strange for a while having all these strangers talking to you out of the blue, but then you come to realise that that is just the culture. They are friendly, smiley and happy with everyone...a kid comes in to a store and is greeted with a Morning Ma'am. An elderly person enters and is also greeted with a Moring Ma'am. Regardless of whether you are a foreigner a Pinoy or anyone, they'll treat you the same. 

Geckos are abundant in the Philippines. I had gotten used to them in Taiwan, but they don't make a daily visit, just every so often you'll see one. Here, it was like a small convention of geckos had congregated. I think our highest count was 7 geckos on one wall...but we like them because they eat all the other bugs.
Though, the mosquitos in the Philippines are hilarious. They are so slow and dopey, just wave your hand in their general direction and you have a good chance of swatting it! 

I sincerely love that the Philippines is a little more Western than other Asian countries! It still has it's own culture and is very proud of it, but it has a great mix of influences that seems to make it more accepting of other cultures. As we walked down the high street just in the little out of the way place we were staying there were traditional places in between a McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. Needless to say coffee runs were made often! (When you can buy a donut and a coffee for well under £1 it would be rude not to!) There are parts of me that feel bad for paying so little for things in the Philippines as many Pinoys are working all day long and getting paid very little. So I had to try and think of it in terms of our being there and buying things was business for them. 

Walking through the streets of Palawan at first glance looks and sounds like utter madness. Cockrels, cars, trikes, Jeepneys, motorcycles and people everywhere! But the more you look at it the more it, in a round about way, does make sense. It made me chuckle how in Palawan, when you beep your horn of your vehicle, you have no intention of slowing down or stopping. It is just to let everyone else know you are coming! That being said, lots of cars would stop to let you out, or let you cross the road. (Something that never happens in Taiwan!! Ever!!) It is evident that the people are chilled out and friendly, just from those little things! 

At first we thought we would only be able to fit 2 people in each trike so had planned to always be using 2 trikes and go in convoy. The trikes are such an experience! It is a motorcycle with a side cart thing attached. As we explored the surroundings, we saw that the locals were getting way more than just two people in a trike. So for our next trike ride we managed to get all four of us in. One rides side saddle behind the motorcycle driver, 2 on one side of the cart and 1 on the other side. Yes it is cramped, but it gets you from A to B and costs mere pennies. It's a very strange feeling being in one. But a great way to explore. 

We went down to the local beach. There are a lot of famous beaches in Palawan, but as with anything famous that means a ton of tourists spoiling it! So we decided do just ask locals about places to go and go to fairly unblemished places. As we got down to the beach I was just so moved by the beauty of the place. There were little wooden shacks and huts, kids playing, dogs running around, locals swimming. Because of the way the tide was we had to wade through water, up to shin height, to get to the sandy area. So there we were, wading through the lush, warm water...ahead of us were mangroves and trees and if you look to the side you could see for miles ahead the sea meeting the mountains past the horizon. The mountains looked like a haze and the colours of the sea, the sky and the mountains all blended together. It was truly incredible! I just felt so blessed to be able to see the beautiful creation. I had seen photos of beautiful beaches before, but being there in that moment was just so emotive and moving! Photos don't do it justice, but seeing the photos I took from the trip conjures up all the emotions I felt. 

Every so often it would dawn on me that I was on vacation with people 4 months ago I didn't even know existed. It is totally awesome that within a short amount of time, fantastic friendships can be gained. Being with people that have the same kind of goals and experiences, it is easy to form a friendship quickly. We decided to have a British evening whilst watching The King's Speech together...complete with card games, whisky and the girls putting on British accents. To which I also wanted to put on an accent so went Northern for the evening! 

one of my favourite photos...i still can't believe i was actually here!!!

the work of crabs! 

Friday, 25 January 2013

As I begin the process of reliving the Philippines Memories...

After a sketchy plane ride (the pilot couldn't land and got like 10 feet from the ground and had to go back up, do a couple circuits and then try landing again.) the Philippines adventure could begin. The forecast was for rain, but we got there, got off the plane and were welcomed by the a gorgeous wave of heat. Sunglasses straight on.

We landed in Palawan with no plan, at all. No where to stay, nothing. We got on the first trike we came across and just asked them to take us to the city and decided we would just find somewhere. And it surprisingly worked out amazingly well. We went through the city centre bit of Puerto Princesa and then walked around until we found a hostel, The Corazon Tourist Inn...we asked them about prices for the 4 of us and found it was super cheap, they gave us a special deal, so we thought why not, we'll stay one night and then make a real plan. Then as we went into the lobby area we spied on the coffee table a ton of WT and Awake! magazines, in loads of different languages. So we were feeling pretty good about staying there. Then my excitement become even more so when we got to our room which was equipped with two bunk beds! Yay! Like I was right back at home!

I'm not sure why but I was feeling particularly adventurous in the Philippines (the place brings out the adventurer in me.) and the very first meal I had there, I just picked any old thing off the menu at a traditional Filipino restaurant. I had no idea what it was until my friend googled what was in it. I tried Sisig...it's mainly pork, but has pork belly, ears and potentially innards of some sort. Nonetheless, it tasted good. My friend ordered crocodile sisig, which I tried. My word, it was delicious! Who knew crocodile would taste soooooo good! And no meal is complete in the Philippines without a mango shake. Mmmmmmm!

After an afternoon nap, we decided to explore our surroundings. We just went to the nearest convenience store...as we went in, up ahead of me I see Dairy Milk chocolate! It doesn't exist in Taiwan so I was super impressed that the Philippines, only an hour or so away from TW actually has it! I don't know why but the Philippines are way ahead of the game when it comes to their imported foods, they give you tons of stuff to choose from. It was also exciting to see a little traditional bakery. Being in the Philippines it is so easy to forget you are in Asia. From the first day in the Philippines I knew this was a place I would want to explore a lot more, and that 10 days just wouldn't be enough!

As we walked down the street we were greeted and graced with hundreds of smiles and hello's. The friendliness of the Pinoy's really bowled me over. Kids wave, smile and say "Hello friend", anyone walking past you does the Pinoy eyebrow raise to say hello. And the Pinoy's have such beautiful smiles! Seriously! Beautiful! 

The Philippines is a Christian country, and I must say after spending time in a Buddhist country it was so refreshing to be back in a Christian country. I know all Christian denominations have their own thing going on, but it really makes me feel more at home being in a Christian country. I don't know why it makes such a big difference to me, but it just feels totally different being in a Buddhist country compared to being in a Christian country. 

And oh how wonderful it feels to be understood! The official language of the Philippines is Tagalog but the great majority of people can speak English. And Tagalog has a lot of words stolen from Spanish, so it's possible to hazard a guess at what signs may mean. But most things are in English anyway, all the menus and everything where in English. The only reason I had for not understanding a menu was for Filipino dishes that have Tagalog names. 

One thing that was evident from day one in Palawan was that the cockrels do not know how to tell time. They cockle doodle doo all day and all night long. Cock fighting is a big thing in the Philippines, a real big part of their culture. There are cockrels on all the streets, just running around. And there are lot of stray cats around too, but not too many stray dogs. And when I say they are stray cats, there are generally a few Pinoy's feeding them anyway.

Being near the sea again I noticed immediately the fresh air! Yes there are still motorbikes, cars and trikes giving off fumes but the air to me feels much fresher and cleaner when near the sea! 

the first trike ride in Palawan through the streets of Puerto Princesa
first impressions got off to a good start at the hostel

the bunk beds! 

traditional Filipino restaurant

Back in TW!

I'm back from my adventures in the Philippines. It is quite decided that I definitely, definitely want to go back to the Philippines!!! Words cannot describe the feeling I get whilst in the Philippines. Our holiday was full of laughter, dancing, singing and sun! 

Being back in TW is kind of weird. Before I went to the Philippines I was really starting to enjoy myself in TW and feel like I was integrating into the madness. Now having experienced the Philippines, I am back to realising some of the quirks of Taiwan again. Not in a bad way, just aware of them again. 

I also cannot believe I will be back in the UK in 5 weeks! 5 measly weeks. We all know that is gonna fly by!!!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Just Add Water...

Back home we have all manor quick, cheating type foods. I mean those little boxes of pancake mix that say just add water, those boxes of cake mix that say just add eggs, mexican food kits all ready for you to assemble. I have always, always much preferred to cook/bake from scratch...but I admit it...I have used those types of evil boxes. 

Here, if I want pancakes I don't have the option of a little box that tells me to add water...or if I did, it would be in Chinese and all I would be able to do is read a few characters here, miss a few, then read a few more...having no clue what I was actually supposed to do. Instant noodles and instant Taiwanese food are abundant, but not so on the Western front. I've enjoyed it being this way. If I fancy pancakes, from scratch it has to be. I previously despaired because we have no weighing scales. But when a girl wants pancakes bad enough, she thinks outside the box and into cups! Cups! How could I be so dim! Recipes can always be converted from grams to cups! I don't have measuring cups, but we have real cups. Turns out they do the job just fine. So it got me to thinking how much do I actually use stupidly pre prepared things to cook back in England. Not very much but enough to make myself feel silly now. I swear making pancakes from scratch took just the same amount of time it would to use a pre prepared mix. Why use taco mix, or fajita mix...I have most of the spices myself, what stops me from mixing them together? Do I really need hot chocolate powder to make hot chocolate...nope, just hot milk and a bit of chocolate. Why use curry paste if I have the spices to make it myself? Do I really need a little individual packet of oats to make porridge?...no I just need a cup! Why bother with a frozen pizza or a frozen pie? It is more than possible to whip it together. A culinary epiphany. I will be very pleased when I am reunited with the oven back home and can much easier try out all these things...and not be chased out of the kitchen by bugs! 

Thinking outside of the box is one of my favourite things about travelling. It's a real eye opener when you are no longer in your comfort zone. Back home, if anything out of the ordinary happens, I pretty much know where I can go to sort it, or how to get around it. In another country you don't always have that ...everything is out of the ordinary! But it's wonderful as it really keeps you on your toes. It's fantastic opening your mind to alternative possibilities. I think a lot of the time we do things out of habit, or because it's the only way we know how. I find it funny to think there are likely some things I would have previously done a certain way...but now after living a totally different lifestyle I might have a new fangled method. Which in reality isn't new at all, it's just another way of thinking! I'm intrigued to see what happens next...in the UK will I revert back to British ways or will I be even more of quirk, doing things a mix of a Brit-Taiwanese style? We shall see...

Eeh in 6 days time I will be leaving for the Philippines!

India Bourne - In His Arms. I love her awesome skills on bass and harmonies with Ben Howard. And now she's totally rocking in her own right. Super talented lady. 

even though I now personally won't be buying a ready made cake...that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy this ready made pumpkin pie from costco any less! it was que rico!! it just means I'll be making one from scratch back home!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2012 wasn't the end of the world then...

Well it's 2013 and we're all still here. The world did not explode or come to a climatic end as many mad men told us it would. 2012 came and went in a blur. I sometimes feel like I'm not achieving anything, or doing much with life and that I could be doing way more. Then I take a step back and try and look at the bigger picture. 2012 saw me living not only in England but in Taiwan (and 2013 will also)...so how can I feel like I haven't done anything?! As I've mentioned before I think it's really important to remember all those little successes and victories we have in life.

This weekend I got to see how a party is done Taiwan style as we had a 會眾交往. I will be honest, I was a little dubious about it when I first heard about it. From my experience, I've come to realise that Asians love to be super organised, everything is planned, structured and you stick to what you've planned. (We all know that is not my style...at all. It's not uncommon for me to decide to do something last minute, or to find my plans changed at any given moment. I like adapting and uncertainty!) So I was kinda unsure how a party could be fun whilst being structured. But I was proven wrong! 

It started out with song and prayer before eating a buffet kinda meal. Noodles, rice and many different dishes. And here I go again raving about all the different cultures in one place...Taiwanese dishes, Korean dishes and the Westerners brought the sweet side, with cookies. I really do love having an eclectic mix of cultures all together! 

After the buffet, an American friend sang, accompanied by a Taiwanese on guitar. He had prepared a couple of songs. One of the songs he had prepared was 'Stand by Me'...he then decided he didn't wanna sing it alone. Sooooo...somehow me and three of my friends ended up being his backing singers (complete with finger clicks and dances moves.) Really wasn't expecting that curve ball, but it was good. 

After that it reverted back to be being a very typical Asian party...interviews! They love to interview people here. I hear this has come mainly from the Koreans, but on the whole the Asians enjoy a good ol' interview. So 4 names were called out of people to be interviewed. Unbeknownst to me I was one of them. I was merrily chatting with friends, laughing away. Heard my name...and that laughter quickly turned into a look of panic upon my face. So us chosen ones had to go to the front and be interviewed...why were we here, why learning Chinese, our plans and goals and the like were the kinds of questions asked. My friend translated the questions for me and to my shock and surprise, I managed to answer them in Chinese myself! (Not perfect Chinese I am sure.) I was super stoked! This kinda interview thing happened to me on a much smaller scale when I first arrived. It was just in a persons home and there was hardly anyone there. At that time, I had to answer the questions in English with the odd sentence in Chinese and have a friend translate. The immersion technique really works with learning languages! I'm not fluent, I'm not amazing...but I know my survival Chinese and enough to hold a little conversation. My responses are basic, but with time I hope to get better! 

Then came the time for the party to turn to Latino roots. The Mexicans taught us some dances. Think line dancing with flair and finesse. Great fun. 

After that there was a few games. The Asians aren't late birds though, we were done by 9pm. It was a really great experience. It's amazing and such a privilege to have been able to meet so many beautiful people. And in such a short amount of time, to have made lasting friendships.

Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Is That You On That Plane? Ah this song is so emotive. I love it.

anxiously waiting to be interviewed...hoping no one asked me anything weird!

but at least there was enough edamame to console myself with. (reminded me of work back home, as edamame was on the menu. Back then I thought it be somewhat special, but here you can get it by the bucket load!)