Recently I got to spend a few days in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at an EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Schools) conference.

What an interesting country!
I was there to present a workshop about  publishing, based on my experiences publishing my own books in Kindle and paperback formats. 
In the evenings and on the last day after the conference was over, I used every spare moment to explore Chiang Mai and do all the touristy activities I could. 
My coworkers and I visited nearby “walking streets” several times. 

Click here to watch a short video I took of live music being played on a walking street.

Much more touristy than the night markets where I live in Taiwan, these walking streets sold not only food and clothes but souvenirs of all sorts.

Speaking of food, click here to watch a short video I took of a woman at a roadside stand preparing a delicious snack for me: chocolate banana rotee!

The gorgeous artwork below was cut from and painted on pieces of cow and buffalo hide!

These delicate flowers were carved from soap!

Aluminum cans find new life in these little model vehicles.

This is one of the real vehicles the models are based on.  A “tuk tuk” is a tiny taxi with open sides and seating for two passengers (three in a pinch – but don’t expect a comfy ride!).

The view from the back seat of the tuk tuk.

Words of wisdom from and about the driver.  How nice to know he’s a good man!

My favorite part of the trip was a tour package I enjoyed on my last afternoon there.  Click on the links below to read my posts about three exciting experiences (okay, two exciting ones and one beautiful one)!
Mae Sa Elephant Camp
Tiger Kingdom
Orchid Nursery

Hello from Taiwan! We’ve been back about a week and a half, and a full week and a half it’s been! We didn’t expect to be greeted by a typhoon and a kidney stone, but I’m getting ahead of myself….

Floyd and I arrived last week on Wednesday morning, and spent most of the day cleaning our new apartment and getting ready to move in. Apart from a large number of tiny millipedes (or some such invertebrate) (which even now continue to appear out of nowhere in every room as often as we squish them), it was in good condition.

We spent Wednesday night in our old apartment as guests of our friend and coworker Rhoni, who has moved in (and was no doubt eager for us to move all our furniture and boxes out of her extra bedrooms, though she was very gracious about it).  Early Thursday morning, just a couple of hours before the moving company was due to arrive, Floyd woke up with severe abdominal pain. It soon became obvious that not only would he not be able to help with the move, but he was in fact in urgent need of medical assistance. Remember, we have no car in Taiwan (and no drivers’ licenses there anyway), and in spite of his pain Floyd refused to cancel the move. Rhoni was still asleep (and she needed to be home to communicate with the moving company anyway), so I hurried down to the third floor where some of our other coworkers from the school live. I knocked and woke them up to ask for help, and John kindly agreed to drive Floyd to the hospital.

So the two of them left, and I stayed behind to help coordinate the move. The moving company was half an hour late, but they finally got everything into their two little trucks by the end of the morning. They had so many questions that I knew I could never have managed without Rhoni to translate, so I was really thankful she was able to be there. (The only English they understood was “no” and “okay”.) I went along to show them where to put things in the new apartment, and on the way I met Floyd, who had just returned from the hospital with the news that he had an impacted kidney stone. (Some of you may remember that he had a similar experience two years ago, when we were new in Taiwan. We were so grateful for the many friends back then who stepped up to help with transportation, translation, meals, etc. But we never thought it would happen a second time!) Because Floyd had eaten breakfast that morning, they were unable to operate, so they gave him some basic painkillers and told him to come back on Saturday. As you could imagine, he wasn’t very happy about the prospect of living with it for another two days, but what else could he do? At least the painkillers had kicked in and he was no longer in excruciating pain.

We spent Thursday afternoon and most of Friday unpacking and arranging our new apartment. We love how spacious it is! Though it’s only got two bedrooms, it’s still bigger than anywhere else we’ve ever lived. This is partly because of the huge kitchen (at least three times the size of our last one, with quintuple the cupboard and drawer space – no exaggeration); and also because of the the “breakfast nook” that we’re using as a dining room, big dining room that we’ve set up as a living room, and extra living room that we haven’t quite decided what to do with yet. (We’re open to ideas – the best one we’ve heard so far is to use it as a dance floor!) Plus, we have our own laundry room, coat closet, linen closet, storage closet off the balcony, and a walk-in closet in each bedroom. Chinese apartments are not known for their storage space (you usually have to buy wardrobes and portable cupboards because they don’t come with any built-in closets at all), so we’re exulting in all the unaccustomed storage in this custom-designed-by-and-for-foreigners apartment.

Last year we were hoping that this year we could have a high schooler living with us. A lot of staff members do that; there are often more Morrison students who want to board than there is space in the school’s dorms, and we wanted to be one of the ones to open our home to some teenager whose parents live in another part of the island or even another country. Toward the end of last year, we were contacted by a family whose son would be attending Morrison and needed a place to stay, and we thought we had all the details worked out, but then he changed his mind and backed out unexpectedly. A little later another family contacted us, and this time we really thought it would work (to the point where we went and got a desk for the boy and everything), but they too changed their minds. So now we have a furnished guest room and no one to live in it. We were disappointed that our boarder arrangements fell through, but we know God knew what he was doing. We are just praying that this room will be a blessing to somebody, somehow this year.

We were glad to find out last weekend that our new apartment is almost entirely typhoon-proof. That’s right, on Friday Typhoon Morakot welcomed us back home by hitting the island with a vengeance, but the worst damage we suffered was a few drops of water that made it through one window as far as the sill (not even to the floor). Outside our window we could see a shed whose roof had blown off, and there were some broken tree branches around, but that’s about as hard as it hit our neighborhood. The biggest inconvenience was that even if it had been safe to go out in the wind and rain, nothing would have been open. Our church was cancelled on Sunday, and we soon felt as though we were going stir-crazy. Being stuck at home for several days isn’t such a big deal unless you consider that we were newly-arrived in the country and had not yet had a chance to do much grocery shopping. Fortunately we did have a few things in our fridge, but we were definitely ready for a change in diet by the time the storm let up enough for us to go shopping again.

Unfortunately, not everyone in Taiwan made it through Morakot’s wrath as well as we did. From our perspective, it was no worse than any other typhoon we’ve experienced in the last two years (actually a lot better, now that we were out of our leaky old apartment). However, other parts of the island – especially the southern regions – experienced the worst flooding in fifty years. We watched news clips on the internet and were horrified to see images of bridges collapsing, houses being torn from their foundations and spinning down raging torrents, and an entire hotel toppling into an ugly swollen river. Whole villages were buried in mudslides, millions of dollars’ worth of crops were destroyed, and though the official death toll stands at a few dozen, hundreds more are still missing and presumed dead. Taiwan doesn’t experience such catastrophes very often and so was not very prepared to deal with the situation. The government’s rescue and relief efforts have been criticized as too little and too slow, and though other relief organizations are starting to step in, many of the hardest-hit areas are practically inaccessible except by helicopter. It has been a tragic time for Taiwan. (If anyone is interested in helping out, World Vision is working in Taiwan and is providing shelter, food, and clean water for the needy. You can contribute online to their Morakot disaster relief at

On Saturday Floyd braved the storm and was able to take a taxi to the hospital for his kidney stone appointment. The doctor located the stone and did something ultrasonically to break it up and make it easier to pass. He sent Floyd home with instructions to drink lots of water and return in a week for a checkup. Floyd was in a lot of pain that evening, but for the next several days he only hurt a little here and there. He drank as instructed, but nothing much seemed to happen. Yesterday he went back for the checkup, and was not very pleased when the doctor did an X-ray and announced that the stone had moved no more than two centimeters since the week before. Now he has an appointment to go back next weekend for more invasive surgery to remove it for real this time… unless it removes itself before then.

This past week has been a busy one for me, as I’ve been getting my classroom ready for school to start. I had been told at the end of last year that I would have 29 students this year, and because that’s four more than the usual limit, I would get a paid aide four hours a day. I had been looking forward to that all summer, but on Monday morning another teacher told me she had heard there were now only 28 registered for 5th grade. I went to the school secretary to find out for sure, and she told me that actually there were only 27, and apparently there never had been more! One student on the list I had previously been given had left unexpectedly at the end of 4th grade, and another had apparently never existed in the first place.

I was confused and disappointed, but I went to work preparing my classroom, including writing students’ names and numbers on various items. Then the next day I was told that one of the 27 (an incoming new student) was probably not coming to Morrison after all, so I would be down to 26. The next morning I was informed that actually she WOULD be here. On Thursday morning I got an email that another family was withdrawing their two sons (one of whom was supposed to be in my class) from the school for financial reasons, so I was down to 26 again. Later the same day I got another email saying that a new student had just enrolled in 5th grade – and surprise surprise, he was the same one I had originally been told had never existed. So, as things stand now, I’m at 27 students, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that changes again before school starts tomorrow! 

In a little while Floyd and I are planning to leave for the night market, where we can buy all kinds of strange and interesting delicacies for dinner (most of which come grilled on a stick). It’s so good to be back in Taiwan, millipedes, typhoons, kidney stones, and all! I’m looking forward to meeting my new class and beginning a brand-new school year tomorrow. Floyd is looking forward to starting his Chinese studies in earnest tomorrow (he will be joining the high school Beginning Chinese class this year) and to starting up his Bible study again in a few weeks. We thank the Lord for bringing us back here, and trust that this year of serving Him at Morrison Academy will be even better than the last two.

P.S.  Sure enough, I was down to 25 students by the time school started.  So, no aide!  🙁

I can’t even express how wonderful it is to be back in Taiwan. As much as we enjoyed our summer in the States, Floyd and I both are just thrilled to be home again!

Our flight went smoothly, with no hassles about our luggage in either LAX or Taipei.
We landed on Thursday early morning, and took the “Freego” bus from the Taipei airport to Taichung, the city where we live, which was about a two hour drive. Then from the bus stop we took a taxi (actually two taxis, because of our four big boxes) to our apartment. The gate guard and cleaning lady were out front, and both seemed very happy to see us again, though we couldn’t understand what they were saying except for the words for “you return”.

I’m glad to report that our apartment suffered no water or mold damage in our absence. Yay! And there was only one live cockroach to be found, which Floyd was glad to dispatch for me. We did see three gigantic, hideously ugly unidentified insects on our living room balcony, but thankfully they were all deceased. (You would have heard me scream otherwise.) We still need to dispose of their corpses.

We did pretty much all of our unpacking Thursday morning, and ate at one of our favorite local restaurants for lunch. I wasn’t going to go on campus until the next day, but because we’d gotten so much done at home, we decided to go check out my classroom.

You may remember me talking about the construction on campus. We had seen pictures, but the real thing was still quite startling. The high school area looks just the same, but across the courtyard, everything is different. My classroom and everything in the whole elementary/middle school area is gone, and the new buildings (or at least their skeletons) are starting to rise in their place. The temporary elementary classrooms that we’ll use most or all of this year are on the other end of campus, in smaller “portable” buildings.

A few weeks ago there was a whopper of a tropical storm that hit Taiwan with some pretty bad flooding. Well, we found out that our particular neighborhood in Taichung received the most rain of anywhere on the entire island, and that this was the worst flooding seen in over 120 years. Apparently the storm drains were so full that they were actually spewing water back into the rivers – er, I mean streets – in the form of small geysers.

Well, guess what. The temporary classrooms are located in a low part of campus. So, you can probably guess what happened. Yep, the flood came in under the doors, filling rooms with ankle-deep muddy water. Now this would be bad enough under ordinary circumstances, but bear in mind that we had just moved out of our old classrooms when school got out in June, and most teachers were gone for the summer so we hadn’t unpacked in the new classrooms yet. We had just boxed up all our books, posters, computers, and other classroom supplies, and left them for the moving company to take care of. And the moving people had brought the boxes, along with furniture and everything else, into the new rooms… and set everything on the floor.

That’s right, the floor. Cardboard boxes.

Well, some rooms were harder-hit than others. Before I even got to my classroom, I talked to the second-grade teacher, who lamented that she had had to throw out six entire boxes of books and supplies. You can see the markings on the inside walls of her room, showing how high the water level reached. My good friend, the first-grade teacher, had it worst of all. Almost half of her classroom supplies were a total loss, including all of her posters, many textbooks and classroom library books, and some computer parts. If anyone had been able to go in right after the flood and open all the boxes to air things out, some of it might have been salvageable. But everything has been sitting in damp soggy boxes for the last few weeks, and what the wet hadn’t ruined, the mold had.  The entire first grade classroom smelled like mold. Imagine how discouraging it would be for a teacher to come and find all that just over a week before school begins! Morrison is scrambling to order new books and supplies for all the classes who lost them, but they won’t be here before the start of school, so we may have to make copies from some of the other campuses in the meantime.

Well, I’m sure you’re wondering how bad the damage was in my classroom. That’s the strange thing. There isn’t any! I can’t believe it, and I don’t know why God would single me out for this blessing when (as far as I know) every other elementary room got at least some flooding. But there are no water marks on my walls, and not a single item is wet or moldy. Praise the Lord! I spent Thursday afternoon, plus all day Friday and Saturday, in my classroom, unpacking boxes and arranging furniture. There are no built-in cabinets or other storage here, so it’s all movable cupboards and shelves.

I don’t know how I would have managed on my own, but Floyd was there helping me much of that time. When he wasn’t helping me, he was assisting other teachers with the same things, along with setting up computers and other electronics. What a blessing to have a husband so willing to serve! We’re both a little stiff and sore now from all the moving and lifting, but the heavy work is all done. Now there’s just bulletin boards to put up, plus all the other usual back-to-school jobs. I should have time for that next week in between meetings and in-services and things, and then school starts the week after that (August 18th).

Today (Sunday) we attended our church, House of Blessing, which we have missed for the last two months. It was wonderful to worship in both English and Chinese alongside Taiwanese and American friends.  Church was emptier than usual because most of the students who attend haven’t come back for the school year yet. But at the same time there were extra people there who usually attend a church that meets on campus, which is still out for the summer.

This evening, Floyd and I walked a few blocks over to the night market for dinner. It was great! We kept thinking it was about to rain on us, so we had our umbrellas handy, but we never felt more than a few drops. The night market was full of the usual entertainment (picture most of the games you’d be likely to see at a carnival), tables full of clothes and jewelry and toys for sale, and a food section full of all kinds of tantalizing culinary options. Floyd says emphatically that not all of them are tantalizing, and I have to admit that the smell from the stinky tofu booth is enough to knock you out cold at twenty yards, but I’m still determined to try it sometime. I wasn’t quite brave enough tonight, though. Floyd ordered his food from a Mongolian Barbecue booth, where you pile raw vegetables and meat into a bowl in whatever proportions you want, and then they grill it for you. After walking back and forth down the row a couple of times (I always have a hard time choosing), I stopped in front of a place where the man was cooking little pieces of tender-looking meat in broth on a sort of hot plate. There was also a basin of little doughy finger-shaped things that looked interesting, though I have no idea what they were. I wanted to ask for a few of them along with some of the meat, but I wasn’t sure how to, especially since the things you order at these booths often come with other side dishes, and I didn’t want to end up with two full meals. Well, I won’t go into detail about the awkward non-communication that followed as I tried to express what I wanted and the man tried to ask me clarifying questions in Chinese that I couldn’t understand. Suffice to say that by the end I had a bowl of rice, meat, and three or four kinds of veggie-like things, and he had the right amount of money, and we both parted a little embarrassed but more or less satisfied with the transaction. And Floyd and I both quite enjoyed our respective dinners, even though I’m still not sure exactly what mine was.

Well, tomorrow is the beginning of “Teacher Prep Week” at Morrison. In addition to the required meetings and events, Floyd and I are hoping to join the new staff members in the “Survival Chinese” classes first thing every morning. We really need the review! Besides, returning staff can sit in on the classes for free, so we figured, why not? It will be a good way to meet the new teachers, too. Then we’ll have to figure out exactly what kind of approach we want to take to language-learning this year. Preferably more than the one hour a week we had last year, but we’ll see what works out and what our schedules allow.

That’s all for now.  More later as we continue to get re-settled in!