Saturday, 18 June 2016

GWC Exchange - Five Years On

As my time in Taiwan nears its end, my blogging has regrettably slowed down to a near standstill, but fear not, I'm back to update you on my adventure.

I have to backtrack to the beginning of May, which kicked off with preparations for the arrival of the GWC kids.  They were embarking on the first leg of the exchange that I undertook five years before.  The groundwork included a trip to Kaohsiung, 高雄, which I welcomed as respite from the relentless studies of my Chinese class.  In hindsight, that  wasn't my finest decision as I had my final exam in a few days and could hardly feel less prepared. 

Time passes fast when you have a deadline, and as soon as we had finished the prep, GWC arrived.  Unfortunately, I was not there to greet them myself as I had again taken time off school and university (again not my best decision) to take a three-day trip with Winnie and family (when I say family, I mean extended family - cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, you name it).  The chosen destination was the small island of Peng Hu, 澎湖, off the west coast of Taiwan.  It chucked it down for two whole days, which made me feel quite at home actually, so it didn’t detract from the experience for me.

When I returned from the thoroughly drenched island of Peng Hu, 澎湖, I met the GWC kids.  After filling their young heads with wisdom accumulated over the past 9 months,  I offered my assistance whenever I had free time...which, unfortunately for them, was often.  Just as it had for me five years before, time passed incredibly fast that week.  The days were jam-packed with activities, so that jet lag wouldn’t set in for the GWC visitors.  I shall recount some important highlights.  

Top-rated activity must surely have been badminton with the awesome Maggie Sproule (GWC Chinese teacher).  As a team, we were unbeaten resulting in a 4-0 scoreline for Scotland against Taiwan!  Another team event, which gave me particular personal satisfaction, was the GWC pupil involvement in my hockey class.  Their participation meant that, for the first time, my Taiwanese students were able to witness what a small hockey game should look like when everyone doesn't run at the ball. Wednesday (25th of May) was Kaohsiung, 高雄, day and a greater contrast with our preparation day, we could not have had - the pouring rain had been replaced by glorious sunshine.  First stop was the British Consulate where Maggie and I enjoyed tea and cakes while watching the pupils explore.  This was the day when the group really bonded - by the end of the trip, all were chattering harmoniously (if a little too loudly).  

All good things must come to an end, and so did the GWC students' trip to Taiwan.  The trip culminated with a visit to Taipei where the aforementioned agreeable group of pupils would be deposited at the airport.  But not before packing in a few more experiences.  Firstly, a visit to Tai Zhong, home of the Earthquake Memorial Museum, where my Chinese teacher from 5th year at school was reunited with her favourite pupil!

On arrival in Taipei, the first order of business was some exercise - up a steep hill that revealed a fantastic view of Taipei city.  Unfortunately, my presence of mind was lacking at the summit and so are photos (most likely due to the temperature - 37C!).   Last stop before the flight home was Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world from 2004 until 2009 when the Burj Khalifa in Dubai overtook it.  (See what a wonderful source of useless information I am!)   There, we met a group of past GWC teachers and a solitary ex-pupil.  I had previously stood at the base of Taipei 101, but this was my first time ascending the building to the highest point accessible by the public.  What a way to end the ‘shortest’ week I have experienced in Taiwan!  And so, it was time to say a sad farewell to Maggie and her students.

Well, that leaves me 2 weeks behind on my blogs.  University work has been intense for the past few weeks.  Sadly, I have finished at Cheng Kung University (成功大學) and sadly, I have no more excuses for slow output of blogs.  Hopefully I'll catch up soon... 

Friday, 6 May 2016

Caucasian Invasions

There's a whole month to catch up on, so it will be highlights (and lowlights) only starting at the beginning of April - there are quite a few.

The lowlights were that my cold had evolved into a cough, which lasted over the entire month of April.   There were still highlights though, largely involving foreigners.  I had to fly to Hong Kong, land of my mother’s birth, to meet the first foreigner before accompanying him to Taiwan.  It was my father, who was coming to see what I was up to....or that’s what he told me.      

The fact that we were meeting in Hong Kong made me suspicious, and rightly so.  He had arranged tickets for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens (thank you Eddy).  Considering that he has been married to a Hong Kong Chinese woman for over 20 years, it is a mystery that it is the first time either of us had attended the event.  The rugby was fantastic and the half time entertainment was brilliant too - they had flown in the Proclaimers from Scotland, clearly just for us!

After spending some quality time with friends and family in Hong Kong, it was time to introduce papa to Taiwan.  It’s only a short hop (just over an hour from HK to Kaohsiung (高雄) but a delayed flight meant that we arrived after 1am with another 50 miles to go to our final destination in Tainan.  By this time, all forms of transport, excluding taxis and a single bus from the train station, had ceased operating.  Ironically, a potentially stressful situation introduced my father to the type of kindness that I have witnessed regularly in Taiwan.  Not only did the supervisor of the airline counter offer to drive us to Tainan, he deviated significantly from his own route home to do so.  There could be no better introduction to the nature of Taiwanese people than this.  My father continued to be treated extremely well for his entire stay and wants me to thank everyone for their generosity. 

But he did have to ‘sing for his supper’.  I had foolishly roped my father into delivering a history lesson at Jhongsiao, so the first day I had to make sure he was prepped for class.  I have to say, he did a decent job considering he’s not a teacher.  Ironically, the second wave of the April’s caucasian invasion involved a teacher and he didn’t teach a class.
After his class on Tuesday, father was free to roam around Tainan as he pleased, and fortunately he is a resourceful individual, so I left him to it.  He met pretty much all the important people in my life over here in Tainan, including Andie (GWC teaching assistant), and Paige (GWC exchange student), who was a brilliant tour guide in Taipei.  I don’t see much of them as they are both in Taipei, so it was great to catch up.   

After saying farewell to the old man, my attention turned to another white man from the West - Principal Roffe (and his delightful wife) had flown all the way from GWC to check on my wellbeing, so the school tried hard to make them feel welcome.  Ok, so they had bigger business in Japan with the pipe band, but it was good to see them! 

We spent some quality time discussing my role at the school and what improvements could be made to the scholarship programme.  I realised as I talked with the Roffes over a fine dinner that, for me, the most important point is learning the language - there is no real point in spending a year abroad without giving it a go.  The Roffes’ visit was brief, and it is always a little disappointing to see friends from home leave, but the caucasian invasion of April had lifted my spirits by taking my mind off my ailments - bronchitis and an injured wrist that had kept me out of the gym for a month.  The visitors had also kept me away from my grammar class (I’ve missed three out of five, so my final grade is falling all the time - they take off marks for non-attendance).     

One other GWC item - a big thanks to Mr Leonard for supplying some hockey sticks, which my father had lugged across the world.  They arrived just in time for one of my recruitment drives at other Tainan schools where I use hockey as one of my main teaching tools alongside a presentation on Scotland and myself.  My reward was pizza - well worth it.  If anyone has an old hockey stick that they no longer need, I have a home for it. 

The final thing to mention was an excellent day on Sunday.  I had volunteered to be a student to trainee teachers at Cheng Kung University for a morning.  After 4 long hours, we were free and instead of going to the gym, I was invited to go to An Ping (安平) with some other students.  We just hung out and ate the local seafood delicacies - it wasn't half bad.  It was good to make some new friends.   

Well, if you have made it all the way to the end, well done.  I’ll try to make the bitesize bitesize next time!  Then I’ll be reporting on mid-term exams and who knows what else.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Early Morning Motivation

I haven’t posted a blog for a few weeks now for a few reasons.  I’ll keep the excuses brief, but after a fairly relaxing first few weeks back in Taiwan with no Chinese course to attend, things turned hectic.  I’m back to my mid-day cycles to Cheng Kung University (despite the heat and the prospect of blistering heat to come, I am happy to be back).  There is plenty going on at school; I had to prepare for a visit from the great white bald one from Europe (yep, dad); and to cap it all, I have had a debilitating virus manifesting itself in a hacking cough for a few weeks. 

To my delight, my time at Jhongsiao has involved an increasing amount of hockey coaching.   Perhaps they have figured out that my English is terrible, or perhaps they just recognise that hockey is my passion.  Either way, I enjoy coaching.  I did suffer a personal setback, however - one of the kids guessed that I was 30.  When you are 18, that hurts!  Anyway, things are looking up.  My old school hockey coach (Mr. Leonard) has agreed to donate some sticks to help me develop hockey at Jhongsiao.  They should have arrived by the time I post this.

Away from school and my metamorphosis into a clone of Mr Leonard, I have again dabbled in 'mountaineering' in Taiwan - its seems like you can drive most of the way.  This time, I made the journey to one of the most famous mountain ranges , Alishan (阿里山), with Winnie and her mother.  Although Winnie’s father was unable to join us, our party did end up as four.  When we climbed into our taxi, we were surprised to find a 20 year old girl.  I had no idea what was going on - the wall of Chinese went right over my head - but I later discovered that we had ‘adopted’ the girl and would be taking her with us as a substitute for Winnie’s dad.  We had never met her, but she made us into a round number, so why not?! Despite her lack of English, she turned out to be good company. 

The highlight of the trip was meant to be waking in time for sunrise. Going to sleep at 1.30am and waking at 3:00am to leave the warmth of a duvet is not the best feeling in the world.  I had to put on more clothes than I have ever worn in Taiwan.  Rightly so, as it was snowing.  (The average altitude of the Alishan mountain range is 2,500 metres.)  We had an hour and a half journey to the viewpoint where we waited for sunrise.  

The snow was definitely a highlight.  It put everyone into high spirits.  It was the first time Winnie had ever seen snow fall.  But the sunrise was less spectacular than we had hoped.  It happened behind the clouds.  More sleep might have been preferable.  I’ll have to go back another time.  

The week after this excursion, I had a new English class to attend (class 208).  The teacher, Eva, had given me some Chinese and some English translation to learn.  In all honesty, my preparation was not brilliant - I had left it until the night before - but in teaching, things can develop unexpectedly.  Often with me, classes begin slightly awkwardly, but fortunately this awkwardness doesn't last long - class 208 was no exception.  By the end of the lesson, I had them singing me a song.  Such are the rewards of teaching at Jhongsiao. 

The following weekend (beginning the 2nd), I was ill.  I had had a cough for a few days and was feeling generally poor.  However, I agreed to go to an amusement park with Shirley, Denny, Irene and family friend, Hank.  I will write more on our adventure at "Wonderland" in another instalment.  This one, as per usual, is too long already.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Lost in Translation

It has been almost 2 months since my last blog.  My routine was disrupted by Chinese New Year holidays, which resulted in some travel that took me to Scotland, Japan and back to Taiwan. 

I'll skip most of my time in Scotland.  It turns out that very few of my friends live in Edinburgh anymore!  It seems that half of them have moved to Glasgow, so I spent a fair bit of time acquainting myself with “that fine city”, as my father would describe it.  One highlight was being able to stay long enough for Sean’s 18th celebrations.

After a chillaxing time at home, my family met up in Japan.  I had never been before and it didn’t take 2 weeks to find out how fascinating and different it is.  First impressions last.  My first impression was of a toilet - and it blew my mind!  Japanese toilets are highly sophisticated - they are riddled with electronics and the seats are warm.  The electronics cause jets of water to spurt in unexpected directions, not least because the instructions are in Japanese kanji characters.  Who plugs in their toilet?! (see below)  


We spent our first week skiing in the north in a place called Niseko on Hokkaido island.  Rarely have I experienced so much snow.  It snowed every day for 6 days, which meant visibility wasn’t great.  In fact, we didn’t even know the mountain in the photo existed until our last day.  That discovery was a highlight (it’s not Mount Fuji, by the way!). 

But there were two even better highlights.  First was meeting Kat and Gus from Edinburgh - my sister  and I used to play for Kat and Gus’s respective hockey teams.  By a miracle of timing, they were in Niseko on their honeymoon at the same time as us - I hope we didn’t spoil it for them!  

Second was our night skiing experience with Kat and Gus.  We arrived at the top of the chairlift for our first run to be greeted with a bright flash - my quick-witted sister quipped “it will be thunder next”.  Moments later she was as surprised as the rest of us to hear the low growl of thunder.  My father was quick to point out that it wasn’t ideal to be standing on 2 thin metal (conducting) planks or holding 2 metal (conducting) poles on the middle of a mountain.  Without further ado, we headed down the slope buffeted by strong winds.  With the chairlift closed, it was time for dinner and our night skiing experience was over...or so we thought.  

Miraculously, by the time we had eaten our noodles, the wind had died down, the thunder and lightening had ended and the chairlift had reopened, leaving the whole slope to us. Everyone else had given up and left.  I could wax lyrical about the beauty and serenity of the temples and gardens of Kyoto, but the beauty and serenity of the slopes of Niseko that evening will stay with me forever. 

Kyoto was the next destination.  It is a truly wonderful city, and after 4 days of walking round temples and gardens, I can now tell the difference between a Buddhist and Shinto temple and spot a Geisha at a hundred metres.  For an 18 year old boy, that’s probably a reasonable achievement! 

I can hardly fail to mention the next stop, Hiroshima.  Not surprisingly, we went to the Memorial museum, which one friend has described as "dark tourism".  The museum conveyed the horror of the destruction and suffering caused by the “Little Boy” atomic bomb, mostly by focusing graphically on the stories of the innocent children and their families in Hiroshima in 1945.  I had thought I knew something about Hiroshima, but it really did open my eyes.  Hiroshima itself is a truly inspiring place.  It has recovered from the devastation (something like 80% of the city destroyed or severely damaged) and is now a thriving, modern city of over 1 million people.  

Our trip ended where it began - in Tokyo.  It’s a huge, busy city with plenty of temples!  Fortunately, regular food stops aided the sightseeing.  The food in Japan is incredible - sushi, sashimi, oden and a vast array of unidentifiable but edible, tasty items were consumed.

So, I’m back in Taiwan and on a diet.  My future blogs will be shorter!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

New Year, New Experiences

It was Friday, 01 January 2016.  Winnie's family had very kindly invited me on their annual trip to 墾丁 (Ken Ding) on the southern tip of Taiwan about 90 miles from Tainan.  I had not met Winnie's older brother before, but it didn't take long after our arrival in Ken Ding for him to lead me astray to a bar and a game of darts.  What he hadn’t bargained for were my countless hours of practice in Malia, which paid off handsomely as I emerged darts champion!

On Saturday morning, we (Winnie, her brothers and I) had to be woken/revived by her parents at 8:30 to attend breakfast.  It's a little strange having rice and stir-fried vegetables for breakfast, but that’s what we ate and I'm not complaining.  Having arrived in darkness the previous evening, it was time to see what Ken Ding was all about.  First stop in the car was a viewpoint overlooking the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean – next landfall Hawaii circa 5,000 miles away.  With powerful waves crashing against the cliffs close to where we stood and relentless high wind, we took a few pictures before retreating to the car.

Next on the agenda was quad biking, definitely a highlight of the weekend and of my whole stay in Taiwan so far.  Unfortunately, the rain cut the fun short so we returned to the hotel feeling a bit deflated. Winnie promptly disappeared.  Nobody knows where she went, but if I were to hazard a guess it would be the "Hello Kitty" shop in the main lobby!

It turned out that there were more high-octane activities during the weekend – go-karting for starters. As there were single and double karts, this was my opportunity to turn the tables on Winnie scare her with my driving.  I may not have achieved this, but I certainly enjoyed the go-karting.  Next, Winnie’s dad signed us up for a “car ride”.  This was no ordinary car ride.  We were driven up a mountain in a "jeep" type vehicle at breakneck speed.  If that wasn't enough, we were taken over some jumps (yes all four wheels off the ground) before ploughing through a river just as the rain started again.  As you can see in the photo, we were not well protected from the rain and the splashes from the river.  Still, it did afford Winnie’s brother the opportunity to practise for his modelling career.

Safely back in Tainan city after a not-so-safe weekend away, my first classes of 2016 were on Monday morning.  It was not until Wednesday that I have something to report, and, unfortunately, it's not good.  I made a child cry... Now before you jump to conclusions, let me explain.  The class was sitting a test and the girl in question had her book open in front of her.  Naturally, I asked her to close it.  She didn't object, so I thought nothing of it…until the crying started. It turned out that was allowed to have her book open during the test.  The next day, I apologised and made up with some chocolate, so I think we're all good now, as her parents haven’t complained!

As you can tell from my blogs, my experiences here in Taiwan have been varied and often unexpected.  Yu Ying's class on Thursday was one of those unexpected experiences.  I had been asked to teach a class unlike any I had taught before, so over the past week, I had been preparing a presentation on puberty and the importance of using contraception for a Sex Education lesson.  I had even been provided with a few props... Yu Ying must have heard from GWC that this was one of the few subjects in which I had achieved 100% during my time as a pupil!  Anyway I'm pretty certain the kids enjoyed the lesson even though there was a small mishap with the technology towards the end, which may or may not have ended in the kids screaming.

After that noteworthy first (me teaching sex education), the remainder of the week should have been a let down, but it wasn’t.  I still had to make presentations on Friday on my pet subject (hockey) and attend Xie Long's class where we made sugar biscuits – literally just sugar, water and baking soda.

A long lie on Saturday was a relief after a recently hectic schedule.  My Saturday visit to the gym and the cinema to see "Daddy's Home” is where I shall end this blog with the recommendation that you should see the film if you are in need of some laughter.

Monday, 4 January 2016

No Turkey for Christmas

Christmas and New Year have come and gone since my last blog post and if I remember correctly (which I do because I'm looking at my last post), I had just returned from Hong Kong. Apologies for the wait, but I've been on the move recently.

Excuses aside, on returning from HK, my first priority was sleep as I was straight back to school the next day with a busy schedule of Polan's classes. Usually, I start by reading extracts from a textbook. The students have a copy of the extract, but with blanks, which they have to fill in. After they mark their work, I choose 5 unsuspecting victims, who have to read the passage aloud. I correct their pronunciation and we move on to the second part of the class, which is more fun for both students and teachers as it is competitive. The students are called up to the board in groups and I read a sentence that they have to translate. The fun bit for me is that I can make it easy or fiendishly difficult. The fun bit for the pupils is that sometimes I read in Chinese and they get to laugh at me!

The Saturday before Christmas brought a change to the normal schedule. It was the Jhong Siao Junior High School's sports day. An opening ceremony included various performances, including some Scottish country dancing, and yes you’ve guessed it, I was teaching and demonstrating. The whole day was fantastic as the kids had a competition decorating their stands and participated with great excitement in their races. After lunch, it was the teachers' turn to race against the students and I was taking part. I hope I did myself justice because "the nerves were real".  It was a relay race and with a teachers team and 3 student teams.  I started my leg in 3rd place and scrapped a 1st place finish so even though I was racing against 14 year olds I'm going to count that one as a win!

The build up to Christmas was quite different from back home. I did experience my second Taiwanese wedding, which isn’t bad going as I have only been to two in the UK! It was a lower key affair as there were no giant plastic swans flying into the hall. It was also noteworthy as the first occasion that I have worn long trousers since arriving in Taiwan. The dip in temperature to the low 20s is really suiting me.

You may remember that En Rou and I have been building up to Christmas by preparing a song. Christmas Eve was the big day of the performance. We had enlisted the help of Rei Ting to sing female vocals and a student to play violin. Although I felt as nervous as I always do when I sing, I think the music department at GWC would have been happy with my rendition of ‘Fairytale of New York’. That really was the highlight of Christmas for me.

Christmas arrived and nothing. It felt no different to any other day. How very strange! It may have been my location, or it may have been the lack of family, or a mixture of both, but it felt like a normal Friday to me. A video call home late in the day persuaded me that the family was missing me as much as I was missing them!

With a depressing Christmas out of the way, it was time for another weekend. Enter Winnie to lift my spirits. She took me to a town with absolutely stunning views of Sun Moon Lake –apparently the terrain looks like sun on one side and a crescent moon on the other, and is one of the ‘Eight Wonders of Taiwan’ and I’m not inclined to disagree. I think it's called Nan Tou.  Unfortunately I do not have a beautiful picture of Sun Moon lake so here is a picture of me with Winnie and her parents.  The lake is in the background but it's night so you are just going to have to trust me.

What I did not fully understand until the day before I left Tainan was that I had been entered to run part of a marathon on the Sunday morning. That was a 5am start to the day meaning that we had to break out of our hotel because none of the staff were awake. We made it to the race...only 15 minutes late. I decided to run with Winnie to be gallant (and to cover my lack of fitness levels). We actually only ran for 4.2km.

The rest of the day was spent in the scenic environs of a town not far away called Ji Ji. We hired electric scooters and had great fun whizzing around. What I didn’t know at the time was that Ji Ji was the epicenter of an earthquake in 1999 (7.3 on the Richter scale). I might not have been quite so relaxed had I known!

After my weekend exertions, dragging myself out of bed for school on Monday morning was a challenge. Thankfully, it was a light day of classes, and thankfully, I received a welcome request. I was asked to develop a presentation on hockey. As hockey is one of my main passions in life, I have been consumed by this project ever since…at the expense of my blog. I do also have some English classes to attend and I am available for students who come to me in the office to practise English in exchange for sweets!

And that takes me up to Thursday, which was, of course, or 31 December. I went with Shirley and the kids to the Tainan High Speed Rail Station as there are food stalls and there is live music ahead of the countdown to the New Year. Despite standing around for 3 hours to not see the band that Irene had wanted to see, it's a New Year that I will not forget.

For now, I wish you a Happy New Year wherever you are!

Friday, 25 December 2015

Hong Kong and Back

Well, it’s Christmas Day and it’s time to report on a brief trip to Hong Kong earlier in December.  I’m now back to Taiwan and back to normality, or at least what I have grown to know as that. 

My 5-day adventure began on a wet, Thursday morning.  Just the morning for the bus to be very late!  It was so late that I engaged in conversation with a boy with a scooter, who offered me a ride.  With no evidence that the bus was coming, I accepted.  Of course, as I prepared to mount the bike, the bus rounded the corner.  Reluctantly, I climbed aboard the bus, but the good news is that I seem to have made a friend.  The boy (he’s about my age) left his details with the Grandma at my house and we're now talking. 

So, I got soaked and I missed out on a scooter ride, but there was worse to come at Tao Yuan airport where the plane sat on the tarmac for 1.5 hours as some engineers tinkered with a faulty engine.  Of course, I’m delighted that they found the problem before the plane took off! 

All the hanging around was worth it though.  I landed in Hong Kong to be greeted by my Uncle Tony (mum's younger brother), a man who appreciates that a growing lad needs good food.  So, that evening he took his favourite nephew to his favourite steak restaurant, and so began my Hong Kong Weight Gain.  It was a short trip; it lacked much physical exercise; and I ate lots.  But hey, that’s what holidays are – a change of routine!

For the first full day in Hong Kong, I found myself experiencing the life of an 80 something year old man.  I was staying in my Granddad’s flat, so I spent the first day drinking tea and talking to his friends, which is not that easy.  They don’t speak English and I don’t speak Cantonese.Fortunately, Mandarin and Cantonese use the same Chinese characters, so we were able to communicate by writing. Usually mum does the hard graft translating.

The theme after leaving the house in Taiwan was waiting.  Waiting for buses, waiting for planes and, on the first day in Hong Kong, it was waiting for my sister to send me a message.  She was flying in from Beijing and her boyfriend (Kyle) was flying in from Edinburgh for a few days. I was only there to resume my role as "third-wheel", as I have done many times before.  They enjoy my company! 

After a long day of writing Chinese characters, we met up in the evening to plan the following day, which had already been planned.  Courtesy of Aunt Athena (mum’s younger sister) and Uncle Bruce, we were heading for Ocean Park (a leisure park).  I know it well as I'm pretty sure I have gone there almost every time I have visited Hong Kong.  Athena and Bruce brought their two kids, Tin Lai and Tin Yue, who are as cute as ever, despite 2 years passing since I saw them last.   Then it was out for a family meal when I came face to face with my worst nightmare - my eldest Asian cousin (Dong Dong) has outgrown me.  The perception that the Chinese are a small nation had lulled me into the false expectation that I would be taller than my young cousin – he’s six foot tall and may still be growing! 

The hectic social whirl continued the following morning with our next appointment, breakfast with a very important person – mum’s best friend Eddy and Waverley’s god-mother.  She really is wonderful – apart from her incomparable chat, she fed the hungry students and even brought them all (including Kyle) a present. I spent the final day in Hong Kong with my Granddad (aka Gong Gong) before meeting up with Kyle in the evening for a romantic boat ride across Hong Kong harbour in the Star Ferry.  I think Waverley was too tired to come but I can't really remember - it wouldn't be my blog if I didn't forget at least one thing.  

Then, I was escorted to the airport on Tuesday 15th by Uncle Tony’s wife and Gong Gong.  Surprisingly, all of my travel arrangements went perfectly on the way back to Tainan. Wishing you all a Happy Christmas!