Well, Floyd and I just enjoyed three days’ vacation on Green Island in a hotel we were not planning on staying at.
We got lost a couple of times getting from Kaohsiung (southern Taiwan) to the harbor in Taitung (eastern Taiwan), but that’s another story.  Finally we found the right place to catch the boat to Green Island, and we managed to buy our round-trip tickets with no problem.

The 50-minute boat ride was really fun for me – lots of big billows, and my stomach quite frequently did that going-down-a-drop-on-a-roller-coaster plunge.  Wheee!  Floyd didn’t find it quite as fun as I did, but he had Dramamine, and he and his stomach somehow hung in there.
Well, we disembarked on Green Island with our duffel bag, two backpacks, the laptop in its case, my purse, Floyd’s satchel, a second duffel bag with two foam pads in case the hotel mattress was hard (as many of them tend to be here), and the address of our hotel written in Chinese.  (We didn’t know the name of the hotel in either language.)  I should mention here that a friend had recommended the hotel to us as one that she had stayed in, and she’d emailed us its Chinese address and the phone number.  A different friend had helped us call the number and make a reservation (in Chinese) for the two nights we planned to stay.
So we lugged all our luggage (I guess that’s why they call it that, huh?) away from the busy port area to a quieter street to figure out what to do next and where to go.  Several enthusiastic locals came over to see if we wanted help (I assume they work for tour companies or hotels and were trying to get our business, though we couldn’t understand them).  One little old lady on a scooter was very persistent, so finally we showed her the hotel address to see if she could help us get there (and to show her that we didn’t need her help figuring out where to stay on the island).  She read the characters and looked perplexed, and I understood her when she pointed at the first two characters and told us the address was in Taitung.  Actually, I could read those particular characters too, though it hadn’t occurred to me to look closely or think about them before.  Wait – could our reservation actually be for a hotel back in Taitung and not on Green Island?  Surely not!
We didn’t have the phone numbers of either of our helpful friends, but we did have our other friend Clive’s number.  Floyd called him and explained the situation – and long story short, after about ten minutes and several separate calls and the little old lady hanging around and trying to talk to us and ask us what was going on, we determined that our reservation was indeed in Taitung.  Oh no!  Here we were in Green Island with tickets to return the day after tomorrow, and no hotel reservation.  Thankfully we hadn’t actually paid in advance for our other hotel! 

Well, Clive is bilingual, so we passed the phone to our kind old lady, and the two of them had quite a conversation.  A couple of times she passed it back to Floyd so Clive could update him what they’d been saying, and then it went back to the lady again.  (But we still didn’t really have a very clear picture of what they were figuring out for us.)  Finally the lady hung up, passed the phone back to Floyd, and gestured for me to get on the back of her scooter.  What else could I do?  I grabbed my purse and the laptop case, waved goodbye to Floyd, and got on behind her.

We drove a little way down the street and stopped where – thank goodness – another lady was waiting who spoke some English.  (I should mention that the little old lady had made a few phone calls on her own phone a little earlier too.)  The new lady asked me if my husband and I wanted to rent a scooter for one, two, or three days; and I told her I wasn’t sure we wanted to rent one at all.  Maybe a bike?  She spoke to someone who might have been her daughter, who disappeared down the street and came back riding a bike.  They insisted I try it out, and I mentioned we had heard there were electric bikes for rent here.  Back went the daughter and brought me an electric bike to test ride.  They wanted an answer right then, but Floyd and I hadn’t really decided anything, and I didn’t want to sign anything without him there, and where was he anyway?
About that time some man drove up on a scooter with Floyd riding on the back.  Most of our luggage was nowhere in sight.  After a quick discussion and two test rides, we decided to rent a scooter.  Neither of us has a scooter license, and I don’t even have a Taiwan driver’s license, but they assured us that was no problem and we could both legally drive this 50 cc one and be covered by their insurance in case of accident.  I had never actually driven a scooter before, but the lady gave me a quick lesson then and there and I discovered it wasn’t too hard.  We had to pay in advance and leave Floyd’s license with her, which we’re still a little nervous about, but she seemed very friendly ….

 So Floyd got on the scooter, I hopped on behind him (still clutching the purse and laptop), and our little old lady friend got on her own scooter and gestured for us to follow.  We had no idea where we were going, but she led the way back toward the dock, where we found the rest of our luggage sitting quietly off to one side, waiting for us unattended.  A man who had come with us on a third scooter picked up the pieces we weren’t already carrying and somehow balanced them on his scooter (the little old lady helped). 
On we drove, and eventually ended up at a humble little hotel.  It was run by the same company (Chung Hwa Telecom – the phone company) as the one we were supposed to stay in, so maybe they were able to somehow transfer our reservation.
Our little old lady friend waved goodbye and drove away before we could think of some culturally appropriate way to express our deep gratitude for her help.  I shudder to think how we would have coped with the situation without such a Good Samaritan there to assist!  All I can say is, I hope she got paid some sort of commission from the hotel or the scooter company, because she didn’t ask for or seem to expect anything from us.
Well, the hotel lady welcomed us in and helped us get our luggage to our room, and we proceeded to have an interesting conversation with the help of her iPhone.  She gave us a brochure with a map of the island and touristy spots labeled in both English and Chinese, and  recommended certain sites and answered our questions.  But she spoke almost no English, and our Chinese certainly doesn’t take us very far.  So she would type something into her phone, pull up the English translation, and let us read it on the screen.  It worked!

Anyway, we were glad to be able to relax in our room and sort through and unpack our luggage.  From the first moment I sat down on the bed, I could tell we would most definitely be thankful for those foam pads (and sure enough, we were)!

  But “thankful” really is the theme of  the afternoon.  We’re thankful there was good phone reception here, thankful we could get ahold of Clive, thankful he was willing to help us, thankful for the little old Taiwanese lady who may just have been an angel in disguise, thankful that it worked out to rent a scooter that we can both legally drive, thankful we didn’t lose any money with the hotel problem, thankful all our luggage rejoined us intact, thankful there was a room available here for us for two nights at a very reasonable rate, and thankful for the technology that helped us work everything out!  Thank you, Lord!

Tomorrow we hope to drive our rented scooter around the island, following the map we were given, and stop to see and do various things along the way.  Stay tuned for another update – but hopefully this one will be much tamer!

I love travel, and so far in my life I’ve been to eighteen different countries.  Yes, this number is tiny compared to what most of my family members can boast of, but I’m not done yet!  I finally decided to post a picture from each country I’ve been to.  Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures from some, but here’s what I’ve got, in order of when I visited/lived there (more or less).

Country #1: the United States of America

I was born in the States and lived there for the first three and a half years of my life.  I went back for college and spent the first five years of my married life there as well.  Now Floyd and I sometimes return there to spend time with our families over Christmas vacations or summers.

Click here to read my blog post Impressions upon Returning to America from Taiwan.

Country #2: Kenya

This was home to me for my entire childhood.  I lived in Kenya for fourteen years, and it will always be a part of who I am.  Growing up, I felt more Kenyan than American.  My family traveled to the States for 5-month furloughs every three years or so, but when we were there I always longed to return to Kenya.

Country #3: the Netherlands


I was only there for a brief layover on the way to one of our furloughs.  I remember it, but barely.

Country #4: Spain


Ditto.  Overnight layover, and my clearest memory is the complimentary wine at the restaurant that Daddy let Jimmy and me taste.  Yuck!  (I believe I was all of six years old.)

Country #5: Switzerland

We’ve had a number of separate layovers there, along with one actual vacation that my parents worked into our travel schedule.  For some reason I don’t have any pictures with me in them, but I have lots of memories of mountains and trains, chocolate and cable cars, picnics and high prices.

Country #6: Israel

This was a wonderful vacation.  We visited several different cities, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, and toured many sites where important Biblical events took place.  I have lots of pictures and special memories from the week or so my family spent in Israel.

Country #7: Great Britain


Unfortunately, my stay in Great Britain was limited to a few hours each in the Heathrow and Gatwick airports and an all-too-short predawn bus ride between them, with the same experience repeated in reverse on the way back from my real destination.

Country #8: Mexico

I’ve been to Mexico three times, all short day trips while I was in college.  The first couple of times were mini-mission trips with a group from my church and with Biola University’s puppet ministry team.  The third time was a fun little excursion with my family.

Country #9: Indonesia

I dreamed of traveling to Indonesia for six years before I finally had the chance to go.  Right after finishing my senior year of high school, I spent a summer serving on Java with Teen Missions International.  It was an unforgettable and life-changing experience and made me long to go back.  I returned for a month-long visit a few years later, and eventually (after college) had the opportunity to spend a year there teaching in a one-room schoolhouse on the island of Papua.  Also a life-changing experience, but that’s another story!

Country #10: the Philippines


After my summer mission trip to Indonesia, my team traveled to the Philippines for a week-long debrief, along with teams from various other nearby countries.  There wasn’t much time for sightseeing, but I enjoyed what I saw of this beautiful country (mostly Manila).

Country #11: Singapore


I’ve had several layovers in Singapore, though I’ve never had the chance to leave the airport.  (Yes, that DOES still count as being in the country!)  It’s my favorite airport in the world; I’m always impressed at the wide variety of interesting things to do and see there.  I’ve never been bored, even when spending eight hours alone there late at night.

Country #12: Canada

Since I don’t remember my visit to Canada with my parents when I was three months old, I’m counting my first visit as the cruise Floyd surprised me with on our honeymoon.  Our time there was short – we only had one day to explore Ketchikan – but we were able to make some fun memories.  Five years later we had the chance to visit Niagara Falls from New York, and we crossed over to spend a few hours on the Canadian side.

Click here to read my blog post A Day at Niagara Falls.

Country #13: Taiwan

Floyd and I have lived in Taiwan for the last ten years (not counting summers), and we love it here!  It has truly become home for both of us.

I don’t think I could ever spend “too long” in Taiwan, but click here to read my blog post You Know You’ve Lived in Taiwan Too Long When…

Country #14: South Korea

I spent about three days in Seoul several years ago while attending a teaching conference.  There wasn’t much time for sightseeing, but I used every spare moment in the evenings to walk around with friends and see as much of the city as possible.

Click here to read my blog post It’s All About Seoul.

Country #15: China

Another teaching conference brought me to Hong Kong, which immediately became one of my favorite cities.  I especially loved the efficient subway system and the waterfront at night, and I hope I have the chance to go back sometime.  More recently Floyd and I had layovers in the Shanghai and Beijing airports, though unfortunately we couldn’t leave the airports since we didn’t have visas.

Click here to read my blog post Four Days in Hong Kong!

Country #16: Malaysia

I’ve actually been to Malaysia twice, once to Kuala Lumpur (peninsular Malaysia) and once to Kota Kinabalu (on the island of Borneo).  Both times were for conferences, and both times I was able to squeeze in some brief but memorable sightseeing experiences.  Kuala Lumpur is another of my favorite cities – I love the blending of cultures I saw there, as evidenced by the food, clothing styles, etc.

Click here to read my blog posts My Trip to Malaysia and The Wilds of Borneo.

Country #17: Japan

Floyd and I have had a couple of brief layovers in Narita on our travels between California and Taiwan.  On one occasion we were there just long enough to leave the airport and take a walk down some quiet streets to a large temple complex with beautiful gardens out back.  The last time we were in Narita, our connecting flight was delayed due to a typhoon, and we were forced to make last-minute arrangements to stay overnight in a very expensive hotel at some distance from the airport (since all the close and reasonably-priced ones were already booked solid by other stranded travelers).  Not the best memory – but still, I like Japan!

Click here to read my blog post Lost in Narita.

Country #18: Thailand

One November I had the opportunity to teach a workshop (about indie publishing) at a teachers’ conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  It was an awesome experience: the conference was great, my workshop was well received, and I loved what I saw of Thailand.  Besides making the most of all my evening time, I had half a day free at the end, so I paid for a little tour package.  It included visits to an orchid farm, an elephant camp, and Tiger Kingdom.  The highlight of the trip for me was petting and lying down with three large female tigers!

Click here to read my blog post A Trip to Thailand.

Country #19: Vietnam

A friend and I spent several days in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam, on a brief vacation.  (Later I visited a different part of the country with Floyd.) It was wonderful!  One of the most interesting things for me was experiencing the blend of Asian and European cultures (Vietnam is a former French colony).  That blend manifested itself in the food, clothing styles, art, and architecture.  One of the highlights of the trip was watching a “water puppet” show.  Another was taking a boat ride down the Mekong Delta, with lots of stops along the way to watch various traditional snacks being made in little local shops.

Click here to read my blog post Seeing the Sights in Saigon.

Country #20: Myanmar

This one of the most fascinating countries I’ve ever been to. Floyd and I enjoyed an amazing vacation there over Christmas one year. Highlights included delicious traditional foods and drinks (including inexpensive smoothies and lassis at every restaurant), a traditional marionette show, gorgeous temples and pagodas everywhere (and some very old ones), and a town whose buildings all stood on stilts in the middle of a lake.

Click here to read my blog post A Day on the Lake.

What’s Next?
Who knows?  I can’t wait for my next opportunity to travel internationally!  What’s your favorite city, country, or memory from an international trip?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!