|As close as I got.|
|The cast of Harry Potter!|
|The cast of Star Wars!|
|If Twilight made it, so can you.|
|Ocean and I. I hate you.|
|As close as I got.|
|The cast of Harry Potter!|
|The cast of Star Wars!|
|If Twilight made it, so can you.|
|Ocean and I. I hate you.|
|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.|
|View from up top.|
|I got my fingers in this pic for artistic purposes.|
|Crowds block traffic because #nightlife.|
The fish quickly swam up and started eating the dead skin and junk off my body. And then I started freaking out.
THERE WERE LITERALLY DOZENS OF FISH EATING MY BODY. I WAS ESSENTIALLY BEING ATTACKED BY A SHARK IN THE FORM OF HUNDREDS (AT LEAST A HUNDRED) LITTLE FISH LATCHING THEIR MOUTHS ONTO MY SKIN AND EATING ME. I HAD ENTERED THE FISH’S HOUSE AND I WAS GONNA GET ATE.
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.|
|Taipei MRT (metro)|
|Y DO U EXIST ?|
|Coco is bae.|
|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.
|Literally one of the two pics I got of this place.|
Taiwanese people are the nicest. According to my Taiwan boss lady, Taiwan is the second safest country in the world (rumor has it that Norway is #1, but we’ll let Google be the judge of that). Of all the countries I’ve visited, this one is the only one that hasn’t had random nasty teenagers wandering around the streets (except for Norway). They’re all too busy doing school.
Seriously, these poor kids go to normal school, then they go to “cram school” so they can study to get accepted to high school, where they’ll only study hard so they can go to a good university. 🙁
That’s not the only rough part of Taiwanese life. Taiwan is an island the size of Delaware and Maryland combined (I don’t actually know how big that is, I just know it’s SMALL). A lot of these people have never left the island. Can you imagine spending your whole life in a area that small????
On top of that, they eat the same thing for every meal: rice. Rice with cabbage, rice with sausage, rice with noodles, rice, rice, rice, rice, rice. What the fetch? How about mixing things up from meal to meal? Maybe some pancakes for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a whole pizza to eat by yourself for dinner while you think about how all your old roommates and friends are married now? Butt rice is life for them. Bummer for them all.
Anyway, I feel very safe in this country. I wake up every morning, run to the park, and do some intense muscle pumping. I feel completely fine wandering around alone any time of the day. I know I stand out like a man in bra shop because I’m white and don’t know any Mandarin Chinese, but they’re all very welcoming. A lot will wave and say, “Hello!” in English. My first morning when I was looking for a 7-11, a little dude handed me a badminton racket and wanted me to play. (I took a swing at it, but ran away when I missed my own serve.)
I’m been staying in a city outside of Taipei called Taoyuan. I went to Taipei on Saturday and it was very cool. I haven’t gotten out of the city to see some plants and stuff yet (which is a big bummer for me), but I hopefully will be able to next week!
Stuff I seen I want you to see:
|Detail of a temple roof in Taoyuan.|
|Street art in Taoyuan.|
|Welcome to my cave of wonders.|
|Taipei 101 (a VERY tall building in Taipei)|
|Breakfast+Lunch+Dinner. NOT COMPLAINING|
|LDS temple in Taipei.|
|A neat building in Taoyuan.|
|View from up top. (Taiwan boss lady’s apt.)|
|This dude just sits in the CKS Memorial Hall all day. I call him Asiabraham Lincoln.|
I mean, I’m still logged into my Google account, so why does it change the language based on my geographic location? YOU KNOW MY WHOLE LIFE, GOOGLE. LET’S JUST KEEP EVERYTHING ENGLISH, OK???
When I found out I was going to Taiwan this July, I told a friend who had served her mission in Taiwan. She said (of course), “You’ll love it!!” But also, “It’s the hottest time of the year. It’s super hot and humid.”
Butt I didn’t really know what “humid” meant.
I’d never visited a tropical climate before and I’ve only lived in California, Utah, and Russia, so saying that something was”humid” didn’t really have any meaning for me.
Well, when I stepped out of the airport in Taipei and really experienced humidity for the first time, there are no words to express what I felt. The closest I can come to explaining it is waving my hands in front of my face with my tongue out. It’s like being in a badly ventilated male dorm room. It’s not a good feeling at first. Or ever.
But you can get used to it.
At first, all I could do was shake my hands and stick my tongue out to deal with the humidity (it didn’t help), but over these past couple days, I’ve grown accustomed to it. Thankfully, God invented houses and those sacred edifices keep that stale air outside away. Also, air conditioning is a big plus. But your body just gets used to to it. At least my skin’s not dry!! (#Utah)
The humidity isn’t the only new thing.
Since I’m in a tropical climate and it’s July, that means a bunch of typhoons are headed this direction. A typhoon is a hurricane except Asian (but NOT in a racist way). Again, being from California/Utah, hurricanes/typhoons aren’t really a thing I know about. The only time I hear about hurricanes or typhoons is when they’ve flooded entire cities or have sharks flying around in them,
So when, on my first day here, my Taiwan boss lady announced, “Today is typhoon day!” like it’s just laundry day or time to clean the fridge, I’m like, “So I SHOULDN’T be wearing a life jacket just in case?”
Pics from my morning runs:
JK. BUTT I did moon someone (aka my sister) over Snapchat last week. That’s what it’s for, right?
So my broth Stanley came to Utah (he NEVER comes to Utah) because his cool wife’s family was up in Cache Valley for a family reunion. WELL, since I live in Utah and my sister lives in Utah and my other sister always come to Utah for 4th of July week, we all decided it’d be cool to crash their reunion because he’s our brother and he’s way legit.
So we all drove up to Bear Lake (“Bear” not “Bare” lol) to play in the water and have a good family time.
Bear Lake is on the Utah-Idaho border, so I was expecting to be be horrible because
2) I googled pictures and there were no trees
3) It’s WAY north = FREEZING water
Family time jkjkjkjkjkjkjk
We hopped in the car at 11-ish and got to Bear Lake at 2-ish, but the drive is pretty pritt (because Cache Valley is pretty pritt) so the three hours weren’t too bad. I just sat in the back of my sister’s minivan and read Harry Potter while my nephew told me how lame I am (but it’s okay because he’s SIX and I’m TWENTY-FIVE so I can handle it).
We stopped at a shake place by the lake (there’s about fifty, so just choose one) and got raspberry milkshakes because (apparently) raspberries are THE THING here. It was really good and I liked it. ~Mmmm. So creamy. Mmmmm.~
|Random child crawled onto me begging for a milkshake.|
After that, we headed to the north shore because that’s where brother said to go.
AND IT WAS PERFECT.
Yes, it WAS Idaho, but there were SOME trees (so it was pretty) and the water was WARM.
The water was crystal blue and SUPER shallow for about 100-feetish out, so it was SUPER warm. I could just sit and pee anywhere and no one would notice because the water was already warm. We literally just sat in the foot-deep water for four hours, throwing mud at each other and trying to move as little as possible. No children drowned because the water was so shallow AND nobody got sunburnt (too much) because we applied sunscreen every hour (SO IMPORTANT).
|Me and the sibs having a good time.|
It was a great time I would do it again if someone drove me (but it’d be nice to sit next to a nice six-year-old this time).
|The port of Lazise on Lake Garda. It’s way pritt.|
Honest truth about Italy: lots of pros, lots of cons.
Let’s start with the cons.
Cons: Tourists up your wazoo, creepy hobos, don’t Couchsurf here, you have to pay to get into almost everything, and train stations are crazy confusing.
Italy is a pain. Of all the places I visited, I felt the most unsafe in Italy.
First, you’re constantly surrounded by people. I visited MILAN (not even Rome, which I’m sure is crazier) in the middle of freaking JANUARY (it was 40ºF) and there were tourists EVERYWHERE. It was frustrating because I like to avoid the crowds and experience the country as untouristy as possible, but I don’t think that’s possible in Italy. The crowds are huge and people are everywhere. Summer must be straight CRAY. (BUTT: I was able to escape the crowds in smaller towns like Verona and Lazise.)
|Verona at twilight.|
Second, you’d think you’re safe because of all the crowds, but the hobos aren’t afraid to single anyone out. I was walking with my host in Milan and I had hobos shove birdseed in my hands, try to tie a bracelet to my wrist, and try to “help” me buy a ticket at a train station. After doing stuff like this, hobos try to get you to pay for whatever they’ve forced on you (“Ten euro for the birdseed!” “You stole that bracelet! Pay me for it!” “You owe me this much for helping you buy your ticket!”). You have to be very assertive and just be like, “No, I don’t want it, I’m not gonna pay for that.”
In general, I tried to share my money and food with the homeless I saw in other countries, but these guys were so obnoxious I didn’t want to give them anything just in case they tried to pull something on me.
|Thanks to this hobo, I got this sweet picture of me being attacked by birds. Also, he tried to take 10 euro from me.|
Also, the Couchsurfing options in Italy are iffy. Half the profiles I read while looking for a place to stay either said they were nudists or nudist-friendly, which isn’t inherently bad, but can turn bad real easy (especially since you don’t know these people IRL). So, unless you feel REALLY comfortable with naked strangers, stay in a hostel or hotel.
Another downside of the country is that the economy is based mainly on tourism (which makes sense –> see four paragraphs above), so it costs money to get into EVERYTHING. Take pictures in the Duomo? Three euro. Go to the roof of the Duomo? Six euro. Go into almost any cathedral and you’ll get charged an entrance fee (UNLESS you’re with a local — then it’s free). So be ready with a lot of pocket change to get into what you want to see.
|On the roof of the Milan Duomo. That’s my host up front with the hair.|
Also, Italian train stations are worse than American DMV’s. Get in line to get a number, get a number, wait for your number to be called (in Italian), then get your train ticket without any platform number or departure time printed on it (it’s basically just a blank piece of paper). It’s silly. I’d recommend getting a local to help if you can (but NOT a hobo — remember).
So that’s what sucks about Italy, but let’s end on a positive note.
Pros: Everything is super old, there’s lots of history; it’s a very small country, so you can land in any airport and be in another part of the country in a couple of hours; and the food is fantastic!
|A Roman arch in Verona.|
Italy has had a huge influence on the world since before Christ was born. For over 2,000 years, this small country has influenced the ENTIRE world’s art, government, food, education, architecture, and religion. That’s crazy! Because of this, it’s worth taking a little looksie at Italy if you’re planning a trip to Europe.
Because people have lived in Italy for forever, there are cities built on cities built on cites and cathedrals built on cathedrals built on cathedrals. In some areas, you can see an older city’s foundation under the streets of the current city. In Chiesa di San Fermo in Verona, one cathedrals sits on top of an older cathedral underground (that you can go down and look at), which is on top of another older cathedral! It’s like a Catholic sandwich! (But old and made of stone, so don’t eat.)
|The foundation of an older city under the streets of Verona, Italy.|
There are multiple cathedrals in every city you’ll visit, and at least one of them is bound to take your breath away. The most amazing churches I saw were the Milan Duomo and the Cathedral of St. Anastasia in Verona.
The Duomo is legitly hugenormous outside and covered in intricate carvings and statues (you could spend hours looking at the outside walls of the Milan Duomo), but you don’t completely appreciate how big and beautiful it is until you go inside. It’s dark and cavernous, gives you Mines-of-Moria-esque feelings, and amazes the living butt off of you.
The Cathedral of St. Anastasia is also huge, but I mainly loved its architecture and paintings inside. The inside is full of arches and the ceiling is painted with a real cool floral pattern.
|Inside St. Anastasia’s.|
**NOTE: I’m not usually an artsy person who appreciates things like architecture and culture, but Italy (one of the birthplaces of western art and architecture) straight-up knocked my socks off and made me notice things I’d never appreciated before.
Also, real Italian pizza makes a day in the country worth it. It tastes nothing like American pizza: the crust is thin and bubbly, the sauce is tangy, the cheese isn’t greasy, and the toppings are completely fresh. (If you want a taste of authentic Italian pizza, visit Terra Mia in Orem).
|It’s really Italian and really pizza.|
Overall, I’d say that Italy is worth a two-to-three-day stopover. One day to see a big city and get annoyed by tourists/freaked out by hobos, and one day to see a small town and appreciate the slightly less-touristy part of Italy.
When I first met Nils Andersen, I was living in Izhevsk, Russia, with Zhenya Kazakov. I asked Nils where he was from and he said, “Oslo,” and I said, “Where’s that?” Then he and Kazakov laughed at me for being a stupid American who didn’t know anything about geography and told me that OSLO is the capital of NORWAY. (P.S. I accidentally called it NORWEGIA half the time after that anyway, so jokes on them.)
Highlights from my mission aside, Oslo is the capital of NORWAY which is in EUROPE which is where I went in January. I decided to visit this beautiful country after seeing Internet pictures and watching “Frozen” a lot.
So, after England, I snuck over to Oslo for a three-day visit. It was snowy, icey, and rainy, and my feet STILL hadn’t dried from England, but I loved it. The snow, ice, and rain made for some beauti-freakin-beautiful scenery and some GREAT pictures (my favorite pics from my trip are from England and Norway).
Plus, the language is no big because everyone there speaks English. So cool!!!
BUT I did see some pretty sick stuff and here’s what it was:
Oslo City Hall
I accidentally stumbled onto this building. The outside looks really soviet (gray and depressing), BUT there is a cool clock and wood carvings outside. Anyway, I went inside and my jaw DROPPED. There’s a MASSIVE great hall and every wall is covered in murals. Also, each bathroom stall has its own sink. It was WAY fancy and nice and one of my top 3 buildings in Europe (don’t ask what the other two are).
This building is so amaze-balls inside and out. Look at the intricate carvings on the outside door, then look at the ceiling inside and listen to the organ. Usually, I HATE the organ, but the whole building feels special and great. And there’s an altar where you can write a prayer and the priests will pray for you.
Oslo Opera House
Again, another thing that’s cooler after winter. The opera house’s roof slants down so you can walk from the ground level to the top, BUT in winter, it’s too icey. So. Also, fancy bathrooms.
This guy’s selling shrimp out of his FISHING BOAT. I don’t even LIKE seafood, but even smelling it made me want to try this stuff because it’s so fresh! (I didn’t, cuz I forgot to eat half the time on this trip. I was TOO BUSY DOING THINGS.)
Skiing was basically invented in Norway, SO I HAD to go skiing. Pro tip: spend the first two hours falling over, then spend the last hour actually having fun! Ride the metro up to Frognerseteren and spend a day enjoying the scenery, exercise, and ground.
Explore Oslofjord and take sick pix!
PRO TIP: Oslofjord isn’t a real fjord. It doesn’t have hills on either side with water in between: it’s basically just a bay with no hills around it. But it’s still beauty-ful. Even though the tourist tours were closed, I jumped on a random ferry to a random peninsula in Oslofjord and took lots of pictures. It was a good time. But I did get hungry.
Go shopping at Underground
I lost my beanie on the bus from the Rygge Airport, so I got on google and found a close-by thrift store, hence I came to Underground (UFF). It’s actually a vintage shop, which means they don’t take anything newer than 1980. There were sweet sweaters, reindeer bags, sealskin boots, and all sorts of other things. I bought a sweet hat and wanted to buy everything else.
Eat the weird crap Nils gives you.
Norway has a weird cuisine. Aside from the seafood smelling good, they also like to eat liver, jam on meatballs, lots of frozen pizza, and bacon in a tube. The pic above is “brown cheese” with jam on bread. It tasted like old-ish cheese with jam on it. The combo of cheese + jam made it a little creamy, but still weird. So take your taste buds on an adventure!
Norway was a blast and a half! I want to give a big shout-out to Nils and his awesome wife Natali for letting me crash on their couch for three days and helping me find and do all the cool things to do in Oslo! And honestly, Nils is lucky to have scored a girl as sweet as Natali. It was so great to stay with you guys! Until next time!