Airport chillaxin’

Well, yeah, waiting in LAX all day wasn’t super cool, but it was okay/nift. I was FINALLY able to check in at 8 pm (after being there since noon), then I flew out at midnight.
Flying at night to Asia is the way to go. I got a full night’s sleep and a nap, so jet lag hasn’t been as fierce as usual. Here’s how:
I watched the first half of Tomorrowlandand ate dinner, slept for 7 hours, finished Tomorrowland(that movie deserves more love because I love Brad Bird), took another two hour nap, woke up, had breakfast, watched Benjamin Button (basically, Brad Pitt has sex at every stage of life, starting by having sex with a young prostitute while he’s old, ending by having sex with an old lady when he’s a teenager, so you never really feel comfortable with it regardless of your opinion on premarital sex), then we landed at 5 am on Saturday Korea time. (BTW, the airplane was SO quiet: it landed as soft and gentle as Jennifer Lawrence’s lips on mine someday maybe.)
The Incheon Airport was SO nice (it’s the #2 top-ranked airport in the WORLD). It was big and clean, there were lots of nice restaurants and stores, but the real highlight was the rest area.
When you’re travelling, it can be hard and uncomfortable to be stuck in an airport for hours. Even if there’s good shopping and food, mostly you just want a nice place to sit down and rest. In this airport, it’s easy to find a quiet place to rest from travelling – there’s an entire floor dedicated to it.
On a level separated from all the hustle and bustle, there’s a spa, showers, massage chairs, a hotel, cultural displays, a cool play area (FOR KIDS?!!), and lots of soft, cushy chairs and benches where you can take naps. I think the spa and hotel cost money, but the rest of it was F R E E. It was so nice to hop in the shower and change into some fresh clothes I’d brought in my carry on. It was like getting a whole new start! (Actually, I just sat and looked at my phone after I explored for a couple hours, but I reallythought about freshening up. Maybe next time.)
Really *fancy* bathroom.
I kno it’s a bad pic butt this guy was full-on awake, so I couldn’t take very good pics of everyone else sleeping.
Butt I did get good pics of these people sleeping.
Sleep away.
I think this was the cult part of it.
This was part of the cultural display lol 
Korea airplane, you so quiet. Be my J-Law.
Should I join? #KoreaFamous
Unfortunately, I didn’t find the movie theater. There’s also supposedly an ice rink and junk, but I didn’t see those either. Internet’s lying to me, man.
After five hours, I jumped on a plane to Taiwan. I watched a Chinese action flick (not Mulan), ate some tofu (not good), then watched the first part of Age of Adaline (not gonna finish it).
no no no
Now I’m in Taiwan. And I’m still not 100% about what exactly I’m getting paid for, but whatevs.


Please don’t panic, but I’ve been at the airport for over FIVE HOURS with a really sketchy Wi-Fi connection. ALSO, I gave my mom my old SIM card and phone yesterday (I got a ~new~ phone), so I don’t have data right now either.Needless to say, staying connected to the Internet right now is a STRUGG.
(I’ll pause to let you catch your breath.)
On top of that, I’ll be in this airport for another seven hours and I DOUBT THE INTERNET SITUATION WILL IMPROVE MUCH.
(Another significant pause.)
Also, even if I’m able to get a steady connection, I forgot my headphones at my parents’ house, so I wouldn’t be able to watch and enjoy Internet in its entirety anyway.
(One last pause to let your mind drift into the abyss that is life without the Internet.)
Now, I know things sound really bleak right now, but don’t cry for me, Argentina. We WILL make it to Taiwan and when we get there, we’ll hook up to Wi-Fi as ASAP as possible AND we’re going to buy more data for my Taiwan SIM card. It’s just a couple hours. Or days. I’m not sure, really.
Pretty fly for a Wi-Fi.
I left the Sacramento Airport this morning at 10 am, my plane from LA leaves at midnight, I’ll land in Korea fourteen hours later, have a six-hour layover, then land in Taiwan an hour and a half after that. It’ll be noon on Saturday in Taiwan and 9 pm Friday in the States. Whew!
But being stuck in LAX isn’t so bad. Aside from the fact that I can’t check in for my next flight until 7-ish (probably) and that I have to drag around 100+ lbs. of crap in four different bags until then (like, I have to bring it all with me to get food or go to the bathroom or move or anything), I like LAX.
It looks like I’m barricading myself for a zombie apocalypse, butt really I’m just pooping.
Of course, LAX has really grumpy employees and LA itself isn’t that cool of a city anyway, but it’s still the heart of international travel for so many people. There are so many different languages and clothing styles and cultures represented here. It’s interesting to look at people and guess who’s coming to America for the first time, who’s trying to move here with their families, and who’s flying back home. SO MANY HOPES AND DREAMS AND IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL. It’s cool w/e.
The airport in Korea is gonna be really cool too. The Incheon International Airport  is supposed  to be the second-best in the world (after Singapore). There’s a movie theater, concerts, really *nice* restaurants, free storage lockers for your things, and a child’s play area. I’ll be sure to take pics for y’all.
And being on long flights is the best. Two meals and so many movies. Hours and hours and hours of movies. And if you don’t want to watch a movie, take a nap. And if you don’t want to take a nap, watch a movie. It’s such a pleasure.
My first flight to Taiwan. Look how chipper!
My main thing when I travel is just to relax. For example, this morning I was running late getting to the airport. I was stressed about it, but then I thought, “Do I want to feel stressed right now? No.” So I stopped. All through Europe, I never had a concrete plan for each day except to have A BLAST. Did I know where I’d sleep each night or what I’d eat next or how I was getting to the airport the next day? No, but it all worked out and I had A BLAST.
Travel is fun and the world is your playground. ~So dang.~


When I found out I was leaving Provo, I knew there were a couple friends I needed to say goodbye to (and by “friends,” I mean “foods,” and by “say goodbye to,” I mean “eat.”)
So here it is: the very last Provo Food Blog featuring the very best food in Provo (in no order):
Thin, crispy crust and a versatile assortment of sauces and toppings to make your pizza taste like anything from pulled pork to tacos. Even though it’s pricey ($4-7/slab), the slabs (pieces) are HUGE and delicious. (You can read my original review of Slab here.)
Chile Verde (top, my fave) and the Veg (bottom)
Cheap, fast, and tasty,  I once argued that this was the best/most authentic Mexican restaurant in Provo. Since, I’ve found a few places that make good Mexican food, but Rancherito’s is STILL the fastest and cheapest. AND it’s open 24/7. Thanks for always being there when I needed you, amigo. (You can read my original review of Rancherito’s here.)
Even though I’ve been food blogging for years, I’m still not very good at food photography.
Café Rio:
I actually never blogged about this uniquely-Utah Mexican restaurant, but I have to be honest: I don’t love it. The food’s too American in my taste. BUTT their Grilled Steak Salad is something I can’t get off my mind: crunchy, leafy Romaine lettuce, little chip strips on top, a creamy tomatillo dressing with a tinge of heat (you have to pour ALL the dressing on top of the salad for maximum effect), tender, tasty steak in the bottom, all in a delicious chewy tortilla that you can use to wipe up the extra dressing (DON’T waste the tortilla or I’ll SLAP you and when people ask why you have a slap mark on your face you’ll have to say, “Because Gordy thinks I’m an IDIOT.”). P.S. I’m typically against ordering salad EVER (if you’re gonna eat a salad, STAY HOME), but this is the one place it’s worth it.
The one thing at Cafe Rio that doesn’t suck. C O N T R O V E R S I A L.
The all-you-can eat French toast here is de-lite-ful. I’m crying just thinking about it. Chewy, sweet, cinnamony bread topped with strawberries and whipped cream, then DRENCHED in THICK  C A R A M E L syrup that’s as golden as the Plates of Nephi. CRYING. C R Y I N G.
TBH: A recycled pic from this blog post. 
So, these are the best places to eat in Provo in my opinion. Thank you, friends, for all you’ve given me (mainly gas and (?) green poo. #WorthIt)
SIDE NOTE: I know some of you may be surprised to not see Guru’s on this list. Well, I went to Guru’s and ordered my fave/usual (the Southwest Chipotle Wrap) and, honestly, it wasn’t as good as I remembered. Either I’ve grown out of it, or it’s grown out of me. Still, Guru’s will always have a place in my heart. (Here’s my review of Guru’s.)

Bucket list: Road trip through the Alps

I don’t think people in the U.S. appreciate how close Italy is to Austria and Germany. I also don’t think people in the U.S. can find Austria or Germany on a map. (Tbh, I still can’t: What kind of loser looks at a map all day lol?)

So here’s a little geography (for all of us):

As we all can see, Italy is the boot at the bottom, Austria looks like a guy rolling on the ground cuz he just got kicked in the crotch with his legs above Italy, and Germany is the big green country above that.

So now we know: Italy is very close to Germany and Austria (aka Crotchstria). In fact, if you’re ever visiting Austria and you want to visit the Matterhorn (a supes cool mountain Walt Disney built), the fastest way there is to drive south into Italy, then north again.
Anyway, so northern Italy is where I first got a glimpse of the Alps. I was on a train from Milan to Verona and I could see the foothills of the Alps popping out of the ground in the otherwise flat Italian countryside. From a distance, they looked like any other mountains. After sticking around in Verona for a couple days, me and my cool Couchsurfing host decided to take a road trip to Austria.
Driving into the Alps was breathtaking. The mountains were HUGE. With gradual inclines and sheer cliffs, covered in trees and streams and snow (I’m a sucker for snow), the tops peeking into the sky and scraping clouds, I was completely blown away.
Bad pic.
Literally, no picture is good enough.
Keep in mind, I live in Utah which also has crazy cool mountains, but the Rockies look like baby mountains compared to the Alps. The further we got into Austria, the more the Alps dominated the sky.
A panoramic view I got of Walensee in Switzerland.
Eventually, I made it to Feldkirch Austria, a cool town close to the borders of Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, so I got to visit all those places in a day (Wooow! ~Such travel.~) Feldkirch’s a nifty little town with a castle, clear blue river, neat town square, and very Snow White-ish architecture.
Feldkirch and me. I am looking fly TO DEATH.
After my little jaunt through the Alps, I had to jump back on a plane in Milan, so I hopped on a bus and was back in Italy in just a couple of hours (cuz IT’S SO CLOSE).
So if you’re headed to Italy, don’t forget to check out the Alps, man!

P.S. I want to give a shoutout to Marvin Veit (pronounced “Fight!”) and his family for hosting me in Austria. It was so nice to be in a real house and eat real food after hostels and hotels and restaurants!


Guys, I’m moving out of the U.S.

The quarter life crisis is REAL and such a struggle.

Before I graduated in December, I had the plan to apply to BYU’s psychology PhD program in January, get accepted, take nine months off, go back to school Fall 2015, become a bona fide therapist, then live the rest of my life sitting in a cushy armchair listening to other people’s problems.

Then my last semester happened and I got hit by senioritis SUPER HARD. I didn’t want to be in school for another ten years — heck, I didn’t even want to finish the semester. The idea of studying for and taking the GRE, applying to a graduate program, then going to school for ten years was soul-crushing.

I was hating school so much that I talked to a professor about it. She asked if I’d ever taken time off from school — aside from my mission (which wasn’t a break). I said I hadn’t and she recommended that I take some time to R&R.

I knew there were other things I wanted to do in life aside from becoming educated and getting a good job (like traveling and writing), so I put all my plans on hold and impulse-bought a plane ticket to Europe (I’d always wanted to see western Europe) for a month-long #EURUSSIACRAYCRAYVACAY (which you can read about here).

First day of the trip, found St. Basil’s!

My crazy Europe vacation was so great! I saw amazing places I’d always wanted to see and experienced amazing things I’d always wanted to do WHILE seeing amazing places I never knew existed AND doing amazing things I never thought I’d do. My month-long trip was a huge success and made me want to travel all over the world.

But then I came back home. I’d spent all my money, maxed out my credit card, and was living on borrowed cash from my parents. My trip had been pretty cheap, relatively speaking, but if I wanted to do another big trip, I knew I’d have to save up a lot more money to do it.

Being a recent college grad, I applied for lots of jobs hoping to find one that paid well and would give at least a month off every year to travel. Even if I didn’t get a lot of time off, I figured I’d be able to make pretty decent money. I mean, I had a college degree, right?

JK. Turns out, getting a job is kind of a game: a lot jobs (decent-paying, full-time jobs) value experience over education. I had the education, but little experience, so every job I actually wanted wouldn’t hire me.

Another part of the job game is having connections. Fortunately, a roommate helped me get a job doing customer service. It wasn’t salaried and I was at the bottom of the totem pole, but the job paid the bills. In a couple months, I was out of debt and was able to save a bit.

While I appreciated the job, sitting all day drove me CARAZAY. I’d worked on my feet with REAL people my whole life, but this job was all on the phone and I mainly got callers asking questions I didn’t know the answers to. At the end every day, I felt like such a dope cuz I was a college-educated dude who couldn’t even do this rinky dink job right. I quit after two months and did odd jobs (yard work, etc.) to make ends meet (which I preferred).

An old #worktweet. Follow me on Twitter!
I worked in this creek for a day. Much better than a desk.

I was super frustrated. By this time, I knew I was going to Taiwan for a month (which was gonna be cool!!), but I didn’t know how things would work out after that. I’d gone to college so I could get a good job, but now I was digging holes all day cuz I’d rather do that than sit at a desk. Why had I gone to college if it didn’t help at all? Why were things not lining up like they’d always seemed to before?

I mean, my whole life had been a check list: go to school, get good grades, get your Eagle Scout, go on a mission, finish college, get married, have kids, support a family. I’d done everything on the checklist (up to the married part), and now there was nothing left to do. (And even if I had married, I feel like I’d be having similar struggles, just multiplied.)

So, since I didn’t know what to do, I started fasting and praying to figure it out. The idea of traveling popped into my head. I’d already known I wanted to travel, but now I was thinking about traveling full-time. I thought, “Maybe I can stop playing this job game and just go off and do my own thing. I could travel for cheap (like, not in Europe) and see where things went from there.”

Then I thought, “I can’t do that. I need money to travel and I have no money.”

Then literally someone shared an article on my Facebook: “How to travel with no money.” I read it and other blogs about traveling even cheaper than I already had.

So I figured God was trying to tell me something. I thought, “Fine, after Taiwan, I’ll work for six months, save as much as I can, then go off and travel.”

So I went to Taiwan with that plan. Taiwan was a blast and a half, then I went to California last week, and I just got back to Provo.

I was applying for jobs today and I was back at the job game again: “Not enough experience. Don’t have the right connections for this job. Yes I can answer phones all day.” I knew I could get a job in customer service or custodial (because that’s what I have experience in) but I didn’t want to. Like, I really didn’t want to. But I applied for, like, 15 jobs today. Some I’m qualified for, some I’m not, but I just hoped to get something.

About midday, the lady I worked for in Taiwan posted online asking if anyone could come to Taiwan last minute to teach English for six months. Immediately I responded and said I would go. It just felt 100% right and I had (still have) no hesitation at all. She was like, “Great! You’re flying out on the 31st.”

I Skyped with her later today and it sounds like a sweet deal: housing and food paid for along with a paycheck every month.

I’m very excited and it feels exactly like what I should be doing right now. I’ll be able to work for six months, save a lot of what I earn, then go off and have an adventure, all while having an adventure.

I mean, I know my whole life isn’t solved now. I know things might fall through. I know teaching English will be hard. I know it’s only for six months. But it’s something and things are working out for now.

So look forward to the next six months of blogging, y’all! And after that, we’ll be able to travel somewhere else together.

Fun fun fun fun, you know what I mean.

I explain my relationship with cats

I’m gonna come clean and let you all know what I really think about cats. It all starts two years ago.
Two years ago, I had a great idea for a party. I realized the only reason people come to parties is to eat food (duhhhhhhh), so I had the idea to throw a food-themed party (basically, I’ll bring some food, you bring some food and we’ll eat it — genius party idea!!).
Also two years ago, I’d just gotten a space phone. I’d gotten into the habit of writing my great ideas in my new phone, which had the futuristic ability to turn human speech into text. BUTT, with this talk-to-text technology, you had to say “comma” if you wanted to insert a comma.
Anyway, so I was real excited about this cool food party idea and I wanted it to be written in all capital letters, so I said to my space phone: “ALL CAPS FOOD PARTY.” Unfortunately or fortunately (you be the judge), my space phone didn’t understand quite what I was trying to say, so it wrote, “Cat food party.” I thought, “Lol,” dropped the “food” idea, and just kept “cat party.”
I threw an OFF.THE.CHAIN cat party, complete with a kitty litter cake, decorated with random cat items I found at thrift stores (like stuffed animals and figurines), a raucous game of pin the cat on the cat lady, and an hour’s worth of cat videos. Everyone loved and enjoyed.
I swear it’s a cake.
Cat face paint, pin the cat on the cat lady.


After that, I guess people thought I really, really liked cats. I started getting at least 10 cat videos/pictures shared on my Facebook wall daily and people would make jokes about me turning into a cat lady. Since I thought it was funny and since I “lack a noticeable personality” (according to some jerk from Tinder), I took the cat lady persona and ran with it.
An old FB status. Obviously digging myself into a hole.

I mean, things got out of hand and I regret it now. I followed more cats than people on Instagram (like Grumpy Cat, Colonel Meow, Lil Bub, Hamilton the Hipster Cat, okay I’m gonna stop now). I shared a lot of cat pictures and videos. People started giving me cat T-shirts. One Christmas, literally everyone in my family gave me cat things for gifts (books, posters, aprons). Random people at work started showing me pictures of their cats.  But I guess that’s just life.

This was my Halloween costume last year, so I haven’t really been helping myself.

I’ve been working on distancing myself from cats. I haven’t shared a cat picture in four days. I haven’t worn a cat shirt in over a week. And I haven’t thrown a cat party in five months. So it’s getting better.

I’m not saying cats aren’t good people, butt I’ll admit they’re hard to get along with a lot of the time. They’re just really distant and only want to cuddle, like, 2% of the time. But they can be cute and I’ve made friends with some.
Cat the Cat. She’s lived with my family for 16 years. I know she’s indifferent, but I LOVE her.


Me and a kitten my lil bro found.
Me and a cat that lived outside my apartment for a week (named him Secret Stranger).
I know this might be SHOCKING to a lot of you, butt I had to clear up the misconception.

Um now wut ?

St. Basil’s in Moscow!

Guys, this year has been real spiffy so far: I was able to spend three weeks in Europe for, like, super cheap ($3,000-ish dollars) and the last month in Taiwan for literally ZERO DOLLARS (minus the $600 I spent on mango smoothies whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat ?? )

Stone carving at Sun Moon Lake Wen Wu Temple.

It’s real neat because I always thought I’d need to have tons of money to go to cool places and do cool things, but now I know you just need to be resourceful/smart/lucky/really attractive (check, check, check, double check!).

Empty cabin at Nesoddtangen, Norway.

But now what? More Europe? More Asia? Maybe some South America or Africa? Are there cool things stateside I should check out? Where do you guys think I should go next? And what are some cheap/free travel options you guys can think of?

Big Ben!

Hit me up, let me know!

Is LA even cool?

I hopped off a plane at LAX with two of my travel buddies on Sunday night after our crazy Taiwan adventure. We’d driven to LA (to fly to Taiwan) together from Provo and intended to drive back together, but since one of the dudes had never really been to California before (he’d only ever driven through Northern California) and since we were pretty jet lagged, we decided to spend an extra day in LA.
Honestly, though, I’d always thought LA was just big, ugly, and dirty. There aren’t very many hills or trees to break up the endless concrete landscape, all the buildings look like billboard-plastered boxes, and the beaches are dry and dusty. In my opinion, San Diego is cooler than LA: it’s hilly, there are trees, the beaches are nicer, and there’s a nice mix of old, new, big, and small buildings.
After getting a full three hours of sleep (Asia jet lag is the worst), we headed out for what I figured would be an uninteresting and ugly day in LA. We let the first-timer plan what he wanted to see: the Hollywood Sign, the Walk of Fame, the LA Temple, and the beach.
Even though I’d grown up in California (San Diego/Red Bluff) and had been to LA, I’d never actually been to Hollywood before, but I expected to be unimpressed.
Going out to the Hollywood Sign was an adventure. It’s on the outskirts of LA right where all the film studios are (because it’s Hollywood). I saw Walt Disney Studios on our way, so we stopped to see if we could take a peek inside. Turns out, you aren’t allowed inside if you don’t work there and they don’t do studio tours, but it legitimately felt so special to sit in the driveway of Walt Disney Studios as security explained all this to my travel buddy. I’ll never forget it.
Then we drove up Hollywood Hillsto the sign. The sign itself is pretty far off the road, so it’s hard to get a good view of it unless you take a small (45-minute) hike out to it. We thought you could drive right up to it and were not prepared for a hike, so we parked at the Griffith Observatory, hiked out 10 minutes, got some pictures with the sign way far away, then got back in the car.
As close as I got.
It was cool to be next to such an iconic landmark even if I didn’t get a great view of it. WAY SPESH.
The drive from the Hollywood Sign to the Walk of Fame was cool. Hollywood is an older part of town, so the buildings give off a 1930’s vibe, there are trees, and it’s not too crowded, kind of giving it an old-timey feel.
The Walk of Fame is (of course) on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s just a couple blocks of sidewalk inlaid with famous people’s names. I got a couple shots with some of my favorite Hollywood stars.
Walt Disney!
John Stamos!
Also on the Walk of Fame is Brahms Chinese Theatre (spelt Canadian style). Outside the theater are the hand- and footprints of yet more famous people (BUT NOT ONE DIRECTION — SMH).
The cast of Harry Potter!
The cast of Star Wars!
If Twilight made it, so can you.
The theater is an actual theater that shows actual movies, so I think it’d be nift to see a movie there someday.
Along the Walk of Fame are neat little stores that sell neat little things. We went into a candy shop with cool candy murals!

After that, we went to the LA Temple and that was cool, then the beach (and yes it was dry and dusty).
LA Temple
Ocean and I. I hate you.
So Hollywood is actually really cool. It gives off an old-town vibe, but you also get to see world-renowned landmarks at the same time. Best of both worlds. If you’re in LA, you should come and see.

Picture vomit: Taiwan

These are some pics I took of some places I went during my last week in Taiwan. 😉
Sun Moon Lake Wen Wu Temple
After being in the big city for two weeks, it was nice to bust out and get into nature. We (my fellow white American teachers and I) were able to visit rural areas, including this temple on a secluded lake in the foothills of Taiwan. The grounds are pritt, the temple is made from granite and jade with super cool carvings, and there’s a stairway with 365 steps leading down to the lake (one step for every day of the year). You gotta check it out.
View of the lake from the temple.

Steps leading down to Sun Moon Lake.
Took the liberty of taking a shot with my birthday stair.
The word “shan” in Mandarin Chinese means “mountain,” so Alishan just means Ali Mountain. This mountain is part of the mountain range that creates the spine of Taiwan. It’s a real popular place for peeps to come and watch the sunrise. Just be sure to bring a jacket or sweater so you’re warm enough. Also, bring running shoes so you can appreciate the scenery on a jaunty little morning run.
View from up top.
The forest.
The beach!
I got my fingers in this pic for artistic purposes.
Honestly, I don’t love Ocean (because sharks and fish), but when it’s hot and humid outside and you haven’t been swimming in three weeks, it feels pretty good to put on some jaunty European swim trunks and dip in water for a bit. We took our tour bus down to Kenting, which is a party destination on the southern coast of Taiwan. We swam in the evening and partied all night. It was trick.
Crowds block traffic because #nightlife.
So these were my some neat places places in Taiwan. I appreciated them.

I cried in public and all the Asians filmed it.

Everybody’s afraid of something. However, we don’t always know what we’re afraid of until we find ourselves facing that fear.
For example, once I was on a date at the park. We were doing a picnic by a pond when ducks started approaching us. At first, it was just a couple ducks and I thought it was pretty cool that they were getting so close to us. But then it was five, then a dozen, then at least twenty ducks swarming around my date and me. To be clear, SHE was fine. But the closer and closer the ducks got to me, their beady little eyes staring at me, their nasty beaks pecking and quacking for food, the smaller and smaller I involuntarily curled into a ball. I was curled into a ball of fear surrounded by ducks while a girl (who actually did go on more dates with me) laughed.
So that’s when I found out I was afraid of ducks.
Tonight, I had a similar experience.
Some people in our group have been wanting to do that Asian thing where you have fish eat the dead skin off your feet (or whatever) and, while we were out tonight, we saw a tattoo/body-piercing/massage/spa place with a tank of those fish outside on the street. There were families (parents and children) just sitting knee-deep in the tank, swarms of little fish gathered around their feet.
While getting my feet manicured by fish wasn’t on my Taiwan bucket list, I didn’t have anything better to do and I was tired of walking, so I handed over 100 dollars ($3-ish USD) and got ready to put my feet in the tank of water.
My expectations were: tiny fish will come and eat the dead skin and junk off my feet.
What happened:
One fear I KNOW I have is SHARKS. Hate them. This summer has been the worst because there have been lots of super-publicized shark attacks. There were a couple in North Carolina last month and there was another one at a televised surf competition last week. Holy crap don’t go in Ocean.
Anyway, so I took off my sandals and rinsed off my feet before putting them in the water. You have to walk to the tank of fish in a specially-provided clean pair of flip-flops after you rinse off to keep your feet clean to prevent the tank from getting contaminated. After walking to the tank, you sit on a bench on the edge of the tank and slowly lower your feet into the water. It’s important to do it slowly and not move your feet once in the tank otherwise you’ll scare away the fish and ruin their appetite (an Asian told me).
So I lowered my legs into the tank up to my calves and the fish started surrounding them. They were little fish, about the size of small goldfish but brownish-colored.

The fish quickly swam up and started eating the dead skin and junk off my body. And then I started freaking out.


It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t feel good. It felt like they were biting me, but their mouths were so small that it didn’t hurt, but KNOWING they were BITING me drove me bananas. (And no, it didn’t feel ticklish, I just felt TERROR.)
Not only was it terrifying that they were latching onto and eating me, but I saw that when people took their feet out of the water, sometimes a couple fish would stay stuck on and they’d have to wipe them off. The idea of having to do that scared me so bad.
Even though I was being attacked by a million little sharks (essentially), the “treatment” was supposed to be 20 minutes, so I figured I’d just grin and bear it.
Except my form of grinning and bearing it was a mixture of heavy breathing, sporadic squeals, burying my face in my hands, yelling things like “OH MY GOSH” and “WHO INVENTED THIS?”, and stroking the beard of the man sitting next to me. In the middle of a public street in Taiwan.
I guess my reaction wasn’t typical (there was a little girl sitting three feet away with her feet in the tank —  she mainly just looked embarrassed for me and tried to avoid eye contact) because a big crowd of Asians gathered around. They just laughed and laughed, I imagine the same way white people watch Japanese game shows. I think they really enjoyed it cuz a lot of them took pictures of videos of me.
In the end, I hadn’t stayed very still, but I’d kept my feet in the shark tank for the whole 20 minutes. I had done it. And no fishes stayed attached THANK LITERAL HEAVEN.
Of course, I had a little headache, my throat was sore, and my eyes were bloodshot. Even though no tears came from my eyes, I had essentially cried in public in Taiwan and the Asians filmed it.
The dude who ran the shop seemed a bit annoyed because I’d made so much noise, but there was a 40-minute wait after I came, so I think it’s safe to say I attracted attention to that tattoo/body-piercing/massage/spa shop.
And I discovered that I’m afraid of ducks, sharks, AND small fish.


A travel expert’s advice on Taiwan

It’s me. I’m the travel expert. I’ve been in Taiwan for TWO WEEKS, so that makes me a tiny expert on how to travel here. So sit back and relax: I have your whole trip planned.
1) Language: In my travel group, there are about five Mandarin Chinese-speakers and they’ve been a big help, especially since Chinese tones make anything written in pinyin impossible to pronounce correctly (for example, “Tansui” is pronounced “Dan-shway”), HOWEVER a lot of people in Taiwan know simple English. The main things you need to know are directions and how much stuff costs.

Because so many people know simple English, they know how to say numbers, so figuring out how much something costs isn’t a big struggle. Also, it’s very easy to learn the Chinese finger counting system (hand gestures they use to count from 1 to 10). It’s very handy (pun!) and helped me buy a smoothie once (click here to learn).

Directions are tricky regardless of whether or not you’re speaking the same language, so using a combination of your smart phone and finger pointing is the best bet (kinda like dating in Provo).

Not pronounced how you think it is.
**On a side note, Taiwanese people are so nice. They’re very polite and (a lot of the time) excited to speak/help with Westerners. Also, I’ve been in a big city for two weeks and I’ve only seen ONE drunk person. So.
2) Transportation: Get an EasyCard or TaipeiPass. These cards allow you to use public transport and get into state-run places (like museums and the zoo). The TapeiPass only works in Taipei, but is very cheap (about $25 USD for a week’s use or $7 USD for two days). The EasyCard works like a debit card: you put money on it and use it to get on any public transport anywhere in the country. It only requires a minimum deposit of $100 NTD (New Taiwan dollars) to get one.
Taipei MRT (metro)
3) Bring extra deodorant and TP. In Taiwan, deodorant isn’t really a thing, so they don’t really sell it. A lot of people don’t wear it, so if you want to stay fresh, be sure to bring your own. Also, many bathrooms don’t have toilet paper, so be sure to have some with you AT ALL TIMES.
4) Avoid effing stinky tofu. Stinky tofu is fermented tofu. It is the most repulsively regurgitative thing I have ever smelled. It smells like crotch sweat mixed with dog breath mixed with rotten milk. Terrible terrible blegh blegh blegh. It’s sold at a lot at street markets, so be prepared to be smacked in the nose by the devil and all his angels.
5) Eat at bakeries and fruit stands. As I’ve mentioned before, the food here is a strugg for me, BUT I’ve discovered that if you want a quick tasty meal, bakeries and fruit stands are the way to go. The bakeries here make breads with a variety of flavors: sweet and sticky, savory and cheesy, chocolatey and nutty. It’s all very delish and I highly recommend it if you’re a weenie when it comes to Asian food (like me).
The fruit here is way good. Stop by any fruit stand and grab a mango or dragon fruit to eat with your bread and you’re on your way. Just be sure to bring your pocket knife and get ready for sticky fruit-covered hands (I’m duh-rooling right now).

6) Bring sandals and a raincoat or umbrella. It doesn’t rain every day here, but when it rains, it POURS, so be sure to have a something to keep you dry (if you’re into that type of thing). Sandals are also a must because they dry a lot quicker than shoes when they get wet.
7) This phrase: The most useful and only thing I know how to say in Mandarin is “mon-go bing-shah” which means “mango smoothie.” Just walk up to the smoothie bar, say the magic words and bingo! You got yourself heaven.

Coco is bae.
One more thing: Once you’ve made it to Taiwan, you can fly to other parts of Asia for hecka cheap. Taipei to Bangkok roundtrip for $329, Taipei to Hong Kong roundtrip for $225, Manila for $268, Sydney for $700, I’M CRYING WHY DIDN’T I PLAN THIS BETTER????? But, once again, the lesson is: Once you get out of the States, flights are a lot cheaper.

So that’s Taiwan. It’s a great place except for the stinky tofu. Avoid avoid avoid. 

I locked myself on a roof in Taipei.

View from ZhuWei High School

Me and the other white folks I’m with have been working at a high school on the edge of Taipei near the very tip of Taiwan. It’s jungley and lush and the ocean’s close by. It’s beautiful.

Every day, I thought, “I need to take some pics so I can show the peeps back home,” but every day I didn’t.
But since today was the last day at this school, I set out to take those darn pictures.
The high school has five levels (it’s an outdoor high school made of concrete). I wanted to get pics from the fifth level to get the best view, but when I reached the fifth floor, I saw there was another flight of stairs going up, so I thought, “Sweet! Rooftop view!” and went up.
On the landing, there was a door with a sign (in Chinese) leading to the roof. I wasn’t sure whether the sign said that I was allowed on the roof, but my rule while traveling is “I’m American so it’s OK.” So I ignored the sign and went on the roof, making sure not to shut the door behind me just in case it locked.
Just as I got on the roof, I got a message on my phone telling me I was needed in the school gym. So I turned around to go back through the door, but it was a closed. I tried to open it, but there was no knob, just a key hole and I didn’t have the key.
I looked around and found another door leading off the roof, but it was only open a little bit and wouldn’t budge no matter how hard I pulled. Since it’s summer, we were the only people at the school, so there was no one around to shout to.
So I called the only other person in our group with cell phone service, but his phone answered the call without him knowing, so I was yelling, “Can you hear me??” while he sang to himself. (?)
The only other people I could call were Asians and I didn’t know how well the language barrier would facilitate a conversation about my current situation. Plus, they’d be like, “Why’d you go on the roof?”
I don’t really panic ever, but this is a situation where I kinda started panicking. I was sure people would notice me missing after an hour or so, but it was humid and especially hot on the roof. Plus, my data has been super sketch and I didn’t want to sit on the roof for an hour without internet. 🙁
So I noticed a ladder leading to a higher part of the roof, so I climbed it, thinking maybe there’d be a door leading down.
And there was! There were two trapdoors in the floor. I opened the first and saw a tiny room full of water (I’m not making this up). I opened the second and saw the same thing. I was like, “What the fetch is this place? Some torture chamber? Some Asian video game simulation thing?” (In hindsight, I think one was cold water and the other was hot. They were probably containers for the hot and cold water in the school.)
So the view was incredible, but I was still stuck. I was so panicky I didn’t even take pictures.
In my mind, I only had three options: climb off the roof somehow, post a plea on Facebook (if my data worked) and hope someone in Asia saw it, or pry open that second door that was stuck mostly shut.
I went back to the second door and tried pulling again. Nothing (again). I calmed down a little bit and thought, “Jason Bourne’s been to Asia. What would he do in this situation?”
I looked around for something to pry the door open with. I saw an old chair lying on its side. All I needed was a long stick to pry the door. So I threw the chair against the wall and broke off a long piece of wood. I tried to use it to pry the door open, but the wood was too old and the door was too stuck.
So, summoning the strength of Jason Bourne, I pulled on the door again. I put my foot on the wall I was pulling so hard. This time, it came loose and opened.
I was uber sweaty, but I outsmarted the roof.
And no, I never got the pictures.
Literally one of the two pics I got of this place.