Taking a break from Europe posts to bring you an update on our life lately…
After our 2-month travels in Europe, we returned to the US for a 2-week whirlwind stint that included a 5th-grade graduation, a big family birthday bash, a going away party, multiple playdates for the kiddos, wrapping up any unfinished business and finally saying goodbye to family and friends before boarding the Taiwan-bound flight.
And just like that, we have now been in Taiwan for almost 3 months, not exactly a long time but we sure have been busy. Though truth be told, our time in Taiwan so far has actually been quite uneventful (hence no frequent FB updates, sorry Jess!) as we mainly were just focusing on getting settled in. The first month pretty much went by with seemingly neverending errands that had us driving all over the city every day, while the kids attended summer camps. We’ve also scoured many public places such as the libraries, the museums and even some Starbucks to find potential alternative space for us to do homeschool in, in the event that we wanted to get out of the apartment. We visited a lot of parks and open spaces as well trying to find different options for daily outdoor/physical activities.
Most of the second month was focused on finding the right rhythm from a day-to-day perspective. It was a bit tough as there were no more summer camps to help occupying the kids’ time. We went through a lot of tweaking and adjusting of the daily schedule before we found the right balance for fitting in homeschooling, physical activities and fun/downtimes. We strive to make sure that we get the kids out to run around everyday (sometimes twice a day), whether it be playing soccer, basketball, frisbee, swimming or even just to go for a walk. This turned out to be quite a challenge due to the weather factor. We have had (unseasonably) neverending rain for what felt like the entire month of August. And when it was not raining, the unyielding hot temperatures and the humidity also made it quite uncomfortable to be outdoors for an extended period of time.
Luckily I think we have finally figured out a routine that works. Our answer for beating the heat is to go swimming 2-3 mornings a week, and then rotate in different sports/activities other mornings to avoid the afternoon rain. Rich has found a parkour park that he and the kids can run/climb/jump around in at least once a week as well. The one downside is that there is no park or a big enough open space within walking distance, so we always have to drive somewhere (and pay for parking) in order to get physical activities in. I suppose that’s city living for you.
The academic work is done in the mornings before we head out as well as in the afternoons. They are averaging somewhere between 2 to 3 hours of school work a day, 4 school days per week as they’ve requested to have Fridays off. Progress-wise they are both ahead in their grade level at the moment. Alex has taken to homeschooling very nicely and is checking off his daily to-do’s efficiently. Annabelle on the other hand requires more ‘encouragement’ on a daily basis, as she is easily distracted and tends to want to ‘negotiate’ what she needs to do. Rich is continuously working with her to help her focus on tasks. Guess we’ll just have to see how things go for her as time goes on.
Some new experiences for the kiddos:
Cold tea drinking is a HUGE part of the Taiwanese day-to-day culture so it’s inevitable that we let them try out some tea drinks. Alex’s new favorite drink is the Pearl (tapioca) Milk Tea while Annabelle loves Passion Fruit Green Tea. We did learn the hard way that they can not drink any tea after lunchtime as it would keep them up WAY past bedtime. Additionally, they’ve eaten some new fruits such as guava and pomelo which they like. Mangos are another delicious fruit that we’ve had quite often and while Annabelle loves them, for some weird reason Alex really doesn’t which just baffles us. Because, who doesn’t like mangos?! 😤 And don’t even get me started on the papaya which is a complete lost cause with both of them.
There have been two typhoons since we got here, though the city of Taichung typically gets shielded by the mountains so we got some rain (what’s new?) instead of high winds. They did experience their very first earthquake (about 4 in Richter scale ) a few weeks back. I’m glad that they did not freak out at all other than finding it an interesting sensation having the building swaying gently from side to side. Let’s just hope that we don’t get a larger scale one while we are here. 😅
An interesting habit we seem to have developed is the nightly Euchre game before bedtime. We taught the kids how to play Euchre during our travels in Europe earlier this year and they have taken a real liking to it, and it somehow evolved into our nightly ritual. 😄
We have also gone surfing for the first time the other day. We paid for a 3-hour lesson for all 4 of us. After the initial safety and basic instructions on land, we were taken into the ocean to give it a whirl. Of course Rich being his athletic self, he stood up on the surfboard successfully on the very first try. It is just so not fair! Both kids managed to stand up and rode the waves after a while too. There were still plenty of wipeouts in between for everyone but we all had a blast. The only accomplishment on my part unfortunately was that I stayed on the board (on my belly) without wiping out a few times by the end of the 3 hours. I did not even bother trying to stand up. 😝 Oh well, maybe next time.
We were lucky to have found an English-speaking soccer club that both kids could play in. This gives them a chance to play with some local kids 3 times a week. The season started on September 1st and they have already played in their very first tournament. The way soccer works in Taiwan for school-aged kids is that there are no leagues for regular games, but instead, there are weekend tournaments throughout the season that teams can elect to compete in. If nothing else, the kids should be able to improve their soccer skills after this season.
With some changes in our circumstances (i.e. I decided to quit my job – it’s a very long story for another time) and adjustments in our plans after being in Taiwan these past few months, we have decided to make this year more like a gap year and will focus on more traveling the 2nd half of the year. So far we have only taken a quick 2-day getaway to Taipei since we got here. We do have another trip to Taipei again coming up this weekend to visit the Sky Lantern Festival. This is one of our bucket list items so hopefully the weather will cooperate for a successful event.
Our travels will pick up significantly starting in late October with almost one month in Thailand then followed up by Angkor Wat in Cambodia for a few days before coming back to Taiwan. And sometime in December we will plan for a beach trip to southern Taiwan, per kids’ request to celebrate their birthdays. Then in mid-January we will head to our favorite place in the whole world, Hawaii, to meet up with the grandparents and enjoy the paradise for a couple of weeks. We will return to Taiwan again to celebrate the Chinese New Year and then we will take off for New Zealand sometime in February. The details have not been finalized, but our hope is to spend a good chunk of time in NZ and then hop over to Australia. New Zealand and Australia have long been on the very top of our travel bucket list, and you could say that one of the main reasons for this ‘break’ from our regular life back home is so that we could finally make it happen! 😍