Taipei, Taiwan: Wait, are we back in China?

As I continue catching up on our trip back in February (yikes!), it’s time to talk about Taiwan.  There’s really no reason this post got so far behind as it was actually the shortest part of our trip – we were only in Taipei for about 36 hours!  We had decided to stop here because to get from Tokyo to Vietnam you could either take an expensive flight with a long layover, or a cheap short flight to Taipei and a second cheap short flight onward to Hanoi.  We decided on the latter and got a tiny taste of Taiwan.

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Seoul, South Korea: History in the Making

After Xi’an and Harbin, it was finally time for us to leave China!  After spending the past 5 months in the same country, we’d forgotten how disorienting it is to deal with new language, currency, and cultural norms.  We were a little embarrassed to not even be able to say “hello,” “sorry,” or “thank you.”  Still, we were excited to dig into the new culture and explore as much as we could in our limited time.  While the city of Seoul was amazing, the highlight for us was definitely our day trip to the Joint Security Area (JSA).  This is part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates North and South Korea.  We learned so much about the politics between North and South, and came away feeling like we had just visited a part of current history – who knows how long the JSA and DMZ will be present, and what the future holds for the formerly unified country?  Keep reading to hear more about this eye-opening experience, and to find out what else we did in Seoul!

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Harbin, China: Ice Ice Baby

“You’re going to Harbin? It’s very, very cold there!!!”  We heard variations of this (and advice on what to wear) over and over again leading up to our trip.  Tommy and I just brushed it off.  “Oh, we’re from Minnesota. It’s very cold there, too.”  Little did we know… Harbin seriously is next level cold.  Our faces constantly hurt.  We layered up like chubby Chinese babies for even the shortest journeys outside.  Our fingers and toes were always a little numb.  And yet, it was completely worth it – because we got to explore the magic that is the world’s largest ice and snow festival!  In addition to this, Harbin has a unique Russian culture due to its proximity to the border which was really interesting to experience.

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Up Close and Personal Part 2: Food, food, and more food

Chinese food.  Oh man, this topic could fill a textbook.  Because China is such a huge country, there’s no simple way to summarize their food.  Over the past five months in China, we’ve gotten pretty well acquainted with regional food but still have so much to learn!    I’ll dig into what the differences are between Western Chinese food and authentic Chinese food, what we regularly eat in our province, and a bit about food throughout the rest of the country.

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Market madness, Moped meltdown, Major decisions

Yes, it killed me a little not to be able to finish the alliteration! 😂 Anyways, the last couple weeks have been pretty relaxed here.  No extra days off means spending the weekdays teaching and going into ultimate sloth mode on the weekends.  No complaints about that!  This past Saturday we did venture out to the market, which occupies the town’s main streets every 5 days.  We’ve gone to it before but never for very long, so this time we dedicated all morning to checking out every street it spills onto and trying lots of new food.  Hopefully these photos give a little glimpse into the colorful and fast-paced madness of our local street market.  All this time at home also gave us a chance to reflect on what we want to do when our contract ends in January, so be sure to get all the way to the bottom to find out what we decided!

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