Run Baby Bun!

26 Jan

Recently motivated by a dear friend (Jillian Walker) I have decided to run a half marathon this year with her in June. She had posted a blog in December and at first glance, I thought the idea was bonkers, nuts, but at the same time really cool. Just jokingly I said that I would come to cheer her across the finish line and be her biggest fan, she then suggested I be the one who struggles through it with her. Hmmm….

Upon my return from Taiwan I was trying to decide what I was going to do to keep active. In Kaohsiung I walked everywhere, my dorm was 231 stairs up a mountain from my classes (usually walked them 3 times a day), and throughout the semester I tried to fit yoga, swimming, or running into my daily life. It was the most active I had been in a long time and it felt great!

…. So this week I have officially started my training program to join Jill on her running adventure 🙂 One 8km, two 10km, and a fake trial of about 15km before the big run at the Seattle Rock n Roll half marathon in June. Training program #1 is to get me up to speed for an 8km race, after the 8km race training program #2 will commence to kick my ass into gear for the half marathon.

Here are the programs that I’m planning on following, friends keep me on track & any runners out there feel free to suggest or recommend others you like better! Feel free to comment on any other tips I should be aware of as a first time runner 😀 Suggestions for tone/flex days and cross training days are welcome as well!

Harry’s Run-Off 8km Training Program

Scotiabank Half Marathon Training Program

All of our races are listed in Jill’s blog from above. Fans with posters, cowbells, and wine for after the races are highly encouraged to cheer us on along the way! I’ll keep an update of how the preliminary races go, Jill has already done a 5km and ran her personal best (with limited training)… so I know we are going to kill it when we head to Seattle!

Wish Me Luck ❤

What Taiwan has Taught Me…

19 Dec

After an another amazing 4-month increment in my life I am leaving again…. With that being said here is a little list of funny times, quotes that stuck, mind opening experiences and things I learned while in Taiwan:

–       I have acquired a new rule to life: Any post-graduate education must be obtained where there is a beach within 1 kilometer. Why study in a library when you can study on a beach?

–       At NSYSU you can be witness to a dance battle, solo instrumental performance, full out orchestra rehearsal, martial arts, and various other dance styles from all over the world! So always have your camera handy.

–       It is perfectly fine to party the night before a midterm and a final exam when in Taiwan.

–       These are the best times of our lives, live for the moment, be sure to always love what you do and do what you love.

–       Fireworks are strangely popular in Kaohsiung; there is not a night on the weekend where you cannot hear some boom. You can’t always see them but you can hear them all the time!

–       If food smells funny, it most likely tastes funny too… sorry Taiwan, not a fan of your chòu dòufu (stinky tofu). However, I will be using Chinese spices and ginger in my cooking more back home!

–       Some of the funniest moments had were enjoyed at 5 am, helping ourselves to coffee mugs at Màidāngláo’s 😉 and convincing the taxi driver to turn up the radio as loud as it will go, to preferably the English station (if not we will make it work with Chinese).

–       Also, in regards to taxi’s in Taiwan there were only 2 times I thought I was going to die… other than that they were wonderful & most of the time would try and teach you some Chinese too!

–       …Tonight I will love love you tonight
 Give me everything tonight
 For all we know we might not get tomorrow
 Lets do it tonight… – Pitbull

–       It can be more fun to be dropped off at the tunnel and run to the dorms rather than having them drop you off at the door, right? (then we can get more drinks at Family Mart on the way home… but really, like we need anything more to drink)

–       Just because your dollar goes a long way in a different country, does not mean you are getting a good deal. Do not compare it to what you are paying in your dollar but what kind of deal you are getting locally, would a local be spending this much for this ________? If not, then it’s not a good deal.

–       It is always more fun when you are partying on a boat… oh and it is so much better when funneling beer out of a watering jug for plants.

–       When talking to someone from France you need to make it clear, did you say bitch or beach and are you hungry or are you angry? However, after being here for the semester with so many of you wonderful Frenchies… OF COURSE I can tell the difference!

–       ‘When life is hard, patience helps. When people are hard to figure out, honestly helps win intimate friends.’– The Everlasting Light: Dharma Thoughts of Master Hsing Yun

–       Champagne showers are the best type of shower, and even better when coming from Steve Aoki. Oh, and if you happen to catch the bottle after the shower, well then that’s just the sweetest cherry on top.

–       NSYSU needs to get a handle on the stray dog situation, I know it is difficult because there are soooo many of them, but it is so sad to see all of these dogs that are sick or hurt and still having more puppies. In the classic words of Bob Barker, “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

–       When planning a road trip in unchartered territory, always look somewhere for road conditions first, especially if there are mountains involved. Also, never start a journey into to the mountains with less then half a tank of guess, even if you don’t want to return the rental car with more gas then what was in it when you got it.

–       Every party needs a pre-party… especially where you play a good Canadian drinking game like Flip Cup or Moose 😀

–       Let people know that you appreciate them.

–       Hostels should always have VIP Lounges, leopard/zebra print EVERYTHING, and speakers to blast your pre-partying tunes.

–       Radiate positivity, show your zest for life, and do not be afraid to let it be known that you are an amazing person. Good people come into your life when you display your greatness for all to see.

–       After coming home from a party on at least 3 occasions with only one earring… it turns out I need to always wear earrings with really strong backs. (If someone who is still in St. Andrew’s could send me a new pair of sparkly purple earrings from the jewelry shop downtown that would be great!)

–       ‘The world is half good and half bad. Though the good half seems to be losing, it will win in the long run. Though evil seizes the initial advantage, it will fail in the end.’ – The Everlasting Light: Dharma Thoughts of Master Hsing Yun

–       How come Famiy Mart always gives you a discount at the register? You see a price as 20NT they scan it, hit some button and the price magically drops by a few NT. I have never understood why this happens the entire time I have been here but I like it.

–       Shit happens, and you may end up having the wrong VISA… so learn to deal with the hand you are dealt. I did not get to go to Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Hong Kong, etc… but I have to say I believe I have seen a LOT of Taiwan, and I enjoyed every single minute of it.

There was nothing I could do to control it and my amazing Uncle Walter passed away while I was here. In learning to deal with this while away from my family, I believe I have become a stronger person. Thank you to my dear friends who were so supportive to me in Kenting when I found out, you have no idea how much you did for me by simply being there for me to cry on your shoulder. For those who I was not able to be with back home during this time, on Boxing Day we will have many many many caesar’s and listen to Waltzing With Bears on repeat!

Amazing people can be found all over the world… they are what makes leaving Taiwan so incredibly hard. I keep saying that I wish I could have stayed for the full year, as I am not ready to go… but in perspective if I were to have stayed a year, it would have been just as hard (if not harder) then as it is now to say goodbye. People come into your life for different reasons: someone who gives good advice, someone to cheer you up when you are sad, someone to hold you at night, someone who loves to party just as much as you do, someone who can help you with your studies, the list goes on an on… I have to say that every single person I met while in Taiwan has left me with a different reason to remember them by.

Over the last few years I have been getting better at saying goodbye (Mum says it is a sign that I am getting older and more mature, blahh) but I really am struggling with all the goodbyes this time. I’m going to blame it on the magnitude of how many goodbyes there are.

If any of you are EVER in Canada please let me know, because I will happily tour you around and show you a good time! Do not be a stranger, keep in touch, add me on skype, write me postcards from all of your new adventures and someday (near or far) have a couch ready for me to crash on and come visit you!

In the great words of Dr. Seuss “Do not cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Love Always

Haley

 

Mixed Feelings

16 Dec

Working on my final post from Taiwan

I’ll be uploading it sometime next week

I am so excited to get home but this is the hardest 4 month increment to say goodbye to EVER…

Last night was our ‘Kiss Me I’m Leaving Taiwan’ party & even though we all were having a great time, there were still thoughts hiding in the back of the mind ‘oh no… I’m leaving in 5 days’

Now today I’m a mess, maybe it has something to do with that I’m leaving this behind:

Goodbye Kaohsiung

Final Countdown

7 Dec

Since the family left there really hasn’t been much excitement for me around here. When I returned from Taipei it became crunch time for schoolwork; projects needed to be put together and papers needed to be written. Also due to the fact that I have basically hit most major tourist spots in Taiwan, there really isn’t much let for me to do. I have my final Chinese exam tomorrow and one more project to hand in and then the semester on exchange has come to an end. Two weeks from now I will be en rout to Canada and most likely will still be in tears on the plane over the fact that I have actually just left Taiwan…

Small highlights over the last few weeks included:

Still getting to spend time on the beach knowing it is snowing -16 Celsius back home,

December 6th & I'm on the beach :)

December 6th & I'm on the beach 🙂

Seeing a beautiful wild parrot in the trees on campus, and

Can you see the parrot??

 Simply just spending time with the amazing people that I have met here!

Dancing in the park 🙂

Everyone is off to the Philippines this weekend and I have to admit I am sooo jealous! I really wish that I had came here with a multi-entry VISA instead of single entry as much more travelling could have been done. But I know for a fact that I will be back in Asia so see what I have missed out on!

Over the next two weeks I will start packing up my room and preparing myself to say goodbye to this place. We have a going away party planned and I am sure it will be kicking off a whole week of goodbye celebrations. But for now I’m going to stop thinking about all that sad sappy stuff and get back to studying my Chinese.

Ziajian!

You Can’t Rain on my Parade!

21 Nov

Well I have to say, out of all of the weeks for my family to come visit, they picked the rainiest of them all… but I have to say that we made the most of it. For the time they spent here in Taiwan it rained almost 13/14 days, I could not believe it! For the last three months I have been talking about how beautiful the weather was here, that they were going to sweat more than they ever had in their entire lives, and that they didn’t even need to pack a pair of pants, I was so wrong. Thankfully they took the bad weather very well and kept reminding themselves that even though it is raining, it is -20 in Canada and it is +20 here, so no complaining!

Their trip started with a journey flying from Calgary – San Fran – Japan – Taipei and then taking the High Speed Rail (HSR) from Taipei to me in Kaohsiung. Because I still was attending class I just gave them a list of things to see and do around the city during the day and then I would meet up with them in the evening. Conveniently most of the things to do in Kaohsiung are outside, so not so great for when it is raining; on the plus side the hotel they were staying at was located near two large shopping centers, so once again no complaining!

I packed my belongings into a backpack that would get me by for the next week and Friday morning we were off on our weeklong adventure across Taiwan. Our initial plan included most of the main spots to see including:

– Hot springs (many if possible)

– Sun Moon Lake

– Taroko Gorge

– Taipei from top to bottom

– And for the sake of my mother, shopping (later I found out Marcia was quite the shopper too ☺)

Stop 1: Guanziling Hot Springs (HSR Train to Chaiyi, bus then taxi to Guanziling)

We had the hotel that my family was staying at in Kaohsiung book us accommodation recommended by my travel guide for the Guanziling Hot Springs, we did not realize that there was an old village and a new village to stay in but upon arrival our hotel looked a little ‘tired’. We went out for a walk to find some lunch and see the town; after following what is known as the ‘Hero Stairs’ (as they were used to train injured Japanese soldiers) up to the tourist information center we realized there was a much newer village. Lonely Planet Taiwan needs to update Guanziling! Embarrassingly do I admit that we found a much nicer place to stay will beautiful hot spring facilities, went to the original place to get our bags and left. The change was well worth it and I completely do not regret it as after switching Marcia kindly informed us that at the first place she put her hand in the mud spring pool and it came out with clumps of hair, this 100 % justifies out move. The mud hot springs were amazing and a fun experience, you were to cover yourself in mud and then sit and let it dry, while you were letting it dry you could rest your feet in a pool filled with little fish. These fish would then suck the dead skin off your feet, I do not recommend this for people like myself with ticklish feet, it is unbearable and you will most likely embarrass yourself like I did by laughing uncontrollably and disrupting the quite calmness of the hot springs. I must add that my mother does not have ticklish feet and could sit there quite content with all the fish… I’m sorry Mum but eww it still weird’s me out.

After an executive decision made by Marcia and my Mum, we decide to skip Alishan mountain as they felt that it was going to be even more ‘tired’ than the old village of Guanziling (I may still try and go here before I leave).

Guanziling

Stop 2: Sun Moon Lake (Taxi back to Chaiyi, HSR to Taichung, bus to Sun Moon Lake)

The bus ride alone was a beautiful trip into the Taiwan mountains (and Marcia figures just exactly what we would have saw at Alishan). Apparently I need to figure out the system for my Lonely Planet travel guide, this time the recommendation for accommodation was spot on. Our hotel had beautiful views of the moon lake side and was very accessible to all you needed to see while there. The first night we were checking out the sights and found out there was a celebration at the main temple for the 100th Birthday of Taiwan, followed by fireworks. It was really cool to be at a temple in the evening, but also kind of eerie at the same time. Sadly it was a very misty/cloudy night so the fireworks just looked like big poufs of colour. The next day we rode the shuttle around the lake to see all the hot spots, ride the gondola, and then take the boat back across the lake. We had a lunch of Taiwanese food that my family even seemed to enjoy, thank goodness for fried rice or I think they would have starved for 2 weeks. We woke in the morning to find the first sunny day since they had arrived and decided it would be nice to walk around some more before taking the bus back to Taichung. We found a nice walking trail to the matchmakers temple and then we headed for the bus.

Sun Moon Lake

Marcia had heard of a big Buddha that was a popular tourist spot to see around Taichung, so before taking the HSR to Taipei we wanted to stash our bags at the train station and go check it out. I found out the directions from the tourist information booth in the train station and was happily surprised when she said it was in the city and the shuttle was free, off we went. Upon arrival Marcia tells me that it’s not the Buddha she had seen pictures of… shit, I took us to the wrong one. It was the biggest SMILING Buddha in Taiwan; however, outside of Taichung there is THE biggest Buddha in Taiwan, oops. What’s a girl supposed to do in a country full of Buddha’s? Once again, so sorry Marcia!

Wrong Big Buddha

Stop 3: Taipei (HSR to Taipei from Taichung)

Here we were booked for the next five days and planned to do day trips from Taipei as well as hit most of the main sights to see in the city. My sister had found out from the tour guide that there was at one time a night market with ‘snake alley’ where they would scare foreign tourists by cutting off snakeheads and drinking the blood, she told me to avoid this at all costs. One of the days we planned a trip to Beitou hot springs as you can get to them via MRT in Taipei city and then Mum, Emily and Marcia booked a tour to Taroko Gorge without me as I have already been there. Our next few days were filled with great food, thanks to a connection Marcia had in Taipei that gave us a list of local restaurants; shopping in mega malls and night markets; touring memorials, museums, temples, and more… The night before the Taroko Gorge tour we got a disappointing phone call to say that the tour had been cancelled. I haven’t mentioned it, but this whole week leading up to the tour it had been raining, which then resulted in a rockslide causing the park to not be accessible. Major bummer! I have to say that I was very impressed with my family, just like all of the previous bad weather they were very understanding, obviously the happenings of the weather are totally out of our control, but if it had been my trip, I think I would have been a little more upset. Kudos to you ladies!

National Palace Museum

Our evening was then filled with the search for Japanese karaoke for Marcia and this took us to a local karaoke place near our hotel. I have gone to karaoke a few times since I have been here, but this place was something special. The door opened to a room full of locals, a few of which who were passed out or nearly passed out and the karaoke machine full blast. We were taken to our own room in the back and accompanied by a worker who could speak Japanese and a little bit of English. She was fairly drunk and wanted to sing songs with Marcia, and even though I don’t understand Japanese I know she was totally butchering them, that is the drunk lady not Marcia, she rocked! This lady was there to make sure we were drinking/buying beer which would be our fee for the room. We were also visited by her boss who came and had some beer and told me that I needed to come back to Taipei soon so he could cook for me and I think set me up with someone he knew… what a night. After our three bottles were done we left to pay the originally discussed fee of what I thought was 600NT but ended up being more like 1800NT. At this point we didn’t want to argue with the boss and headed out.

The week flew by and before I knew it, it was Saturday. We went out for breakfast at Grandma Nitti’s (highly recommend) and then said our goodbyes at the train station. I am extremely thankful for the time that I got to spend with my family. It was a nice break from the stressful school in Kaohsiung (HAHA kidding – I will be honest, more like the party scene in Kaohsiung).

Thank you Marcia for taking care of my Mum and sister and showing them the ropes of international travel, as well as laughing with me at them for lugging all of their luggage around. Your previous travel experiences are always interesting to hear about and helped us along the way!

Thank you Mum for taking the time out of your ridiculous desire to be a work-aholic. I know it was busy for you before coming and I am sure it will be busy for you this week as well. I really appreciate you wanting to see Taiwan and what I am experiencing on my exchange.

Thank you Emily for spending extra time at school to cram and get everything ready so that you could skip class in one of the most important years of high school. It was so nice to be able to introduce you to my friends here and laugh together at our Mum, I mean with our Mum. I cannot wait to travel more with you around the globe!

Happy Halloween

31 Oct

Now this may just be because I am procrastinating and avoiding writing a paper for my Seminar in Business course or actually because I had thought about doing this 3 months ago when I was packing away all of my stuff in St. Andrews… but in the spirit of Halloween I feel the need to share with you the stories of my ghostly encounters while working this past Summer at The Algonquin hotel in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada!

As soon as you Google ‘Canada’s Haunted Hotels‘ you will find many many lists of places to go and things to see. The Algonquin pops up on many of those lists, before going there for the summer, I had no idea; even Creepy Canada has episodes from the hotel. Now I have never previously had any sort of ‘encounter’ (I don’t think the weegie board ever counts or saying ‘Bloody Mary’ in the bathroom counts) but I have a feeling that lucky streak may have ended this summer.

There are various stories about different ghosts that haunt the hotel:

1. The Bellmen

2. The Lady of the Dining Room

3. The Crying Bride

4. The Playing Child

Guest rooms, dining rooms, and even our staff areas are said to be haunted by these spirits and until half way through the Summer I would have never believed it.

Many times I had gone to the basement and heard the sound of a bouncing ball, I thought it was strange due to the fact that there was no one else down there and above was no place children would be playing. I did what I needed to do, got back up stairs and thought nothing of it. One night back at home I was telling some other friends about this occurrence and immediately I could see something wrong in their faces. “HALEY!! Didn’t you know, there is a child that haunts that area and people that have had encounters with him say it is like they hear a tennis ball bouncing on a wall.” One of the other girls who had heard about this before, but never experienced it herself wanted to come with me the next time I had to go down there. I was sure to grab her, but together we heard nothing. The rest of the summer I was totally afraid to go down alone but never heard it again.

Many people come travel to hotels for the ghostly experiences and when my family came to visit me at the end of the summer, I had the pleasure of staying in the hotel as well. Early in the evening I was sharing with my family about The Crying Bride. There is a series of rooms she is said to haunt as she was stood up by her fiancé and was said to take her own life. Her spirit came back to the place that caused her to die of a broken heart. Personally I had spent time in the ‘haunted’ room and nothing happened. The evening we stayed in the hotel we were strangely awoken in the middle of the night to an unexplainable fire alarm, evacuated and then let back inside once it had been determined there was no fire. Again I thought nothing of it and comfortably went back to bed, my Nona on the other hand strongly believed that it was The Crying Bride because she had heard us talking about her earlier and wanted to prove she was still around.

The Bellman is said to be someone who makes his presence known in the winter. He usually greets guests at the elevator without saying a word and helps them with their luggage. When he takes them to their room they go for their wallet to give him a tip and he is already gone. When guests inquire at the front desk to leave the tip there, they are informed that during the winter months there is no bellman on staff. SPOOKY!

Others have had stories told or real experiences with The Lady of the Dining Room. When setting the restaurant people have said with no windows open full settings have been moved around with no one else in sight. This have never happened to me but I can sure believe it.

If you want to see the Creepy Canada episode I think you can find it online!

Happy Halloween!!

East Coast Adventures II

24 Oct

Camera was dead at this point so no pictures of this crazy crazy crazy ride home…

According to the lady at our second hostel HWY-20 going through the interior of Taiwan was the quickest way for us to get back to Kaohsiung as you didn’t have to go as far south as HWY-9, great!

We looked on a map and the GPS and from where we finished rafting the road would take us through the mountains and we would be to Kaohsiung in four hours, wonderful!

Due to the fact that when we received our car from the rental company it was almost empty we wanted to be sure that we didn’t give them any more than they gave us, bad mistake #1.

We then embarked on our journey into the mountains, imagine the drive from Alberta through British Columbia, take the worst section of road, remove the guardrail, add construction and some dirt road, and you have what we were driving on for about 75 km or 2 hours into the mountains. We reached the summit where you would think we would start heading down the other side but SURPRISE… the road no longer existed. There was only the remains of what looked like used to be a road under a gigantic rockslide that wiped out the entire road. At this point we also were starting to get low on fuel, the GPS had told us there was going to be a gas station in 8 km on the other side of the non-existent road; trusting the GPS, bad mistake #2.

End of the Road, Picture from Jonathan S Muller

Our Plan B was now to head back down the mountain and let the second car with us go ahead to the nearest gas station. We would go as far as our tank would take us and they would then be getting gas and coming back to rescue us.

On the way down the mountain we happened to see some local men who were just packing up to leave the construction sight for the day, we pulled over and asked if anyone spoke English, No. So via a pocket translator, showing them that our tank was almost empty, and looking like lost scared foreigners they managed to communicate with facial expressions and gestures that there was no way we were going to get down the mountain. Did I mention that the sun has completely set by this point? Oh boy… BUT they showed us to follow them because they knew where someone could get us gas close by back up the mountain, what a blessing!

They took us to some sort of forest ranger station where there was a man who could speak English; they sent someone on a scooter and during this time we found out the road had been damaged by a typhoon 2 YEARS AGO and it still has not been fixed because it is too dangerous. The people who helped us did not want to take any money but we shoved it in their pockets anyways, I do not think they realized how grateful we were. At this point we had been up for over 12 hours and found out that our journey home would most likely be another 7 hours, however; we had a half tank of gas and were going to be able to get out of the mountain to Taitung and from there home to Kaohsiung, YAY!

Arriving into Kaohsiung 6 hours later than expected and having to pay an extra day for the car rental is a small price to pay for arriving home safe and sound. I have to say thank you to the people I was travelling with for staying so outwardly positive or silently scared, we were all thinking about how scary the situation was but still managed to try and be optimistic. Surprise, surprise at one point all my emotional wreck self wanted to do was cry, but I held it together because I knew in a car with four other girls, this would only make matters worse.

I know I have talked about it before, but after this past weekend once again I cannot say enough for the people of Taiwan, they are amazingly kind hearted and caring people. I doubt any of the people who helped us will ever see this, but I have to say that I am so extremely thankful for their willingness to help us and genuine care that we made it down the mountain. After getting us the gas they lead us down a majority of the mountain and made sure we were safe, we definitely had many guardians watching over us as we wound down those mountainous roads.

Xièxiè – Thank You

Xièxiè – Thank You

Xièxiè – Thank You

PS. On the way home we joked about writing a letter to someone who would care about the fact that HWY-20 had no signage at the bottom saying that it was no longer accessible to cross (There may have been one in Chinese, but it was so dangerous that there really should be one in English too; even the maps they have in the airport show the road is still good). After everything we went through, I think I may actually take it seriously and do this to help other tourists in the area… good or bad idea?