This and That…

Mark writes:

Here’s a few random experiences and random thoughts (as well as some pictures) from our last few weeks in Kyrgyzstan and our first week in Taiwan:

Some guys in Kyrgyzstan must be real shy to ask a girl out. It’s a sad thing, but before we left Kyrgyzstan we heard that the reason one of my students missed some of her English classes was because her sister had been kidnapped. She and her family were now preparing for the wedding. Yep – some Kyrgyz guys kidnap a girl and make her stay overnight at his house (nobody touches her) until she agrees to the wedding. The next day they contact her family and probably her parents will also agree to it (there are many financial and social reasons to comply). However, if her parents don’t want it to happen, they can always take the girl back home. This whole idea sounds pretty old-fashioned and barbaric but it’s still around.

Taiwan is a great place. Taipei is expensive, but it’s orderly, high-tech, clean, and efficient. The buses and subways are amazing. The people are generally very friendly. A dentist gave me a filling in less than 2 minutes. People line up to get on the metro. Everyone wears helmets when they ride scooters. The weather this time of year is hanging around 70 degrees. There’s a 7-11 on most corners and I even ate at Subway last week. We’ve been staying with our friends, the Lius, in Taipei. It’s always good to stay with friends (it’s cheap!) and hear how things have been going with them and encourage each other.

Jennifer and I went to the top of Taipei 101 last week also. It’s been the tallest building in the world the last 4 years and still claims that spot. There’s a skyscraper in Dubai that’s taller now, but it’s not finished yet, so we won’t count that. Checking that out, as well as the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and the National Palace Museum, made for a great week. I also met a number of Jennifer’s cousins. We ate meals with them and ran around on scooters sometimes.

The food in Taiwan is real interesting. Maybe you didn’t know that Taiwanese food is quite a bit different than Chinese food, especially the Chinese food you get in the States. Sure, there are noodles and rice here, but there’s also plenty of slimy or gritty or tasty concoctions. Yesterday I ate pigs’ feet, noodles, baby bees, rat, wild boar, green shoots, peanuts, shaved ice, guava, a number of different kinds of breads and vegetables, and plenty of other things. And then we closed the day with Jennifer’s family by finishing off a whole plate of the famous Stinky Tofu so loved by the Taiwanese. All of that doesn’t really describe Taiwanese food very well because some of that was mountain stuff and there’s lots of seafood here – just depends where you are. But believe me when I say the food is ‘different’.

We’re so blessed to be able to travel. I met Jennifer’s grandmother this past weekend and some of her aunts and uncles. We traveled south out of Taipei on the High Speed Rail on Friday to Kaohsiung with Jennifer’s cousin Jesse. After that we took a bus to Donggang, which is where most of Jennifer’s mother’s side of the family lives. Her grandmother is Japanese, so she speaks Japanese and Taiwanese. They’ve all treated me so well and fed me lots of seafood and taken good care of me. Jennifer and I are approaching one year of marriage and to be in Taiwan with her has been really meaningful.


Mark wearing his Kyrgyz hat in Taipei with our friends’ family


Jennifer with her cousin Jesse eating vermecelli noodles wrapped in tofu skin covered with brown sauce. They love it!


The top visitable floor of Taipei 101 – it took 37 seconds to travel almost 90 stories.


National Palace Museum in Taipei – it holds 650,000 pieces of Chinese history


A tasty baby bee in it’s cocoon (is that the right word?) on the end of Jennifer’s chopsticks




The famous Stinky Tofu is on the left


Taiwan bound!

Jennifer writes:

We finally made it out of Central Asia after some flight problems!  Right now we are hanging out in the very nice Incheon Airport in Seoul for our very long layover.  We were scheduled to leave Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday.  After some issues – car broke down, almost out of fuel, extremely thick fog that prevented us from seeing anything 2 meters away, etc. – we finally made it to the airport at 7:30am, only to find our flight delayed.  We then sat in the airport, a pretty barren airport, waiting until 2:30pm to learn that our flight was canceled.  After talking with the airlines representative to no avail, we returned to the city of Bishkek to the travel agency.  By God’s grace we were able to get a new itinerary for no charge!  And we were able to get cheap accommodation for 2 nights and to spend 2 evenings with good friends for some quality time.  God is so good! 

Yesterday we tried again to leave Kyrgyzstan and succeeded!  Let me say a word about Tashkent Airport in Uzbekistan, our first stop.  They put us first in this transit hall that looks nothing like an airport terminal, but a huge old banquet hall or something like that (huge fake-marble columns, high ceiling, balcony, etc.).  After a few hours, some guy took Mark and I (we were the only 2 transiting to Seoul) to the regular terminal and took care of everything for us, including checking us in, getting us boarding passes and making sure our luggage was ok. 

We will be in this airport for another 7 hours.  It’s going to be a long day.  But we are so looking forward to being in Taiwan.  I have not been back to Taiwan for more than 4 years now.  It’ll be good to see some friends and for Mark to meet some of my family for the first time.  Of course, we are also pretty excited about Taiwanese food that awaits us.


Jennifer writes:

So our time here in Kyrgyzstan is coming to an end.  Time has gone by so quickly.  We have been here for almost 3 months, and it’s already time for us to say goodbye.  This past week we taught our English classes for the last time.  We said goodbye to most of our students this past weekend when we had the Thanksgiving party with them.  We were very touched that they said they were going to miss us and that they really appreciate us.  I almost cried!  And they gave us very nice gifts.  Here are some pictures of us with our students.


This is Mark and one of his classes at the local high school.


This is my Level 2B class.


And this is my Level 2A class at the Hope Center.

Our time with these students has not been very long, but we for sure are going to miss all of them!

p.s. We finally put some pictures from our time in Kyrgyzstan on flickr.  Check them out on the sidebar.


Jennifer writes:

I usually get a phone call from both my sister in LA and my parents in Vancouver on Monday mornings.  Yesterday (Monday) when I did not hear from anybody back home, I half-jokingly said that maybe Alice, my sister, is having a baby right now.  She was due anyday.  Little did I know that she was!  We got the exciting news later that day that Sofia was born in LA on Nov. 2, healthy, cute, and with a full head of hair!  I have been so excited and telling everyone I know here that my sister just had a baby girl.  Praise the Lord for the blessing of this new life and for the safe delivery.  I cannot wait to see my new niece!

Anything is possible

Jennifer writes:

We just got back from the bazaar.  It was filled with action and excitement this morning at the bazaar.  First I was pickpocketed.  Even though I caught the guy red-handed, and he only got a pack of kleenex from my purse, it still was a bad feeling.  Then, on the way back I almost got hit by a van.  I yelled at the driver in English, so it did not have any effect on him. 

We also had some other excitement earlier this week.  Normally we are without power and water for about 5-6 hours each time and twice daily.  But earlier this week water did not come for almost 2 days.  We were told two different stories.  One source told us that it was a broken water pipe.  Another told us that because the water company did not pay their electicity bill, so power company cut off their power, which means no water for us.  I tend to believe the more embarrassing and ridiculous story. 

Yesterday we also were informed, supposedly by the water company, that we would be without water for 3 days because they still had not paid their electricity bill.  So we ran home in the middle of the day to store as much water as we could.  At the end of the day, however, there was another piece of rumor floating around, that both power and water companies would not cut power and water at all starting November.  And by the time we got home there was still water.  I was even able to take a hot shower last night.  Water was still flowing nicely this morning.  So which story is true?  We have given up trying to figure things out here.