Taiwan Trip 2017 Post Mortem

Now that we’re back from our Taiwan Trip, it’s time for the post mortem. (Note, I did not call it a vacation because let’s face it. No trip with small children is a vacation.)

I totally thought I would have written more on this trip. I mean, last year, I seemed to be writing a lot! But then, I remembered that I had Sasquatch strapped to me and that I was out almost all day and by the time the kids were in bed, my brain was mush.

I did a lot of FB Live videos, though!

But honestly, I felt silly blogging about my trip this year because quite frankly, it was remarkably similar to last year. I mean, the kids were in pretty much the same camps and schools, the routes I took were the same. I ate, hung out with friends, and took care of kids at night.

Oh, don’t worry. I will probably do at least one more Taiwan related post unless I really get off my ass and turn some of my FB Live videos into blog posts. I will do a financial write up of the trip and maybe a Chinese update/summary/camp thingy. But otherwise, my brain has moved onto the new homeschooling school year.

Sorry, folks.

I see no need for guilt about posts I should have written to hang over me.

HOWEVER. Here are some random, disparate thoughts/mental flotsam nougats to hold you over until the more substantial posts. (Just thinking about writing those is exhausting.)

1) Being in Taiwan with three young kids and a nine month old baby strapped to me is SO MUCH BETTER THAN being in Taiwan with three young kids and pregnant.

OMG I CANNOT ADEQUATELY EXPRESS HOW MUCH BETTER IT IS.

Most of you long time readers know this, but last year was just one long, 40 week shitty mood. As soon as the baby was born though, it was great!

I totally thought that Taiwan with four kids would be worse than Taiwan with three kids. IT WAS NOT. Apparently babies are easy. Pregnancies are NOT.

2) It also helped that my kids are older this year. Plus, I already knew what I was doing – everything was familiar. The apartment was the same. The driver was the same. Our schools and camps were the same. And not only that, I built on last year’s knowledge and added NEW knowledge of bus routes, etc.

My mother was there for the first 10 days and I was so sorry she left. She didn’t sit with us on the plane, but she was super helpful in the apartment at bedtime! A lot of my friends were in Taiwan at the same time with their kids (some of them at the same camps) and my cousin’s kid was also at the same camp.

3) This year, I realized early on that though I liked food, what I really wanted to eat was shaved ice. So really, I just spent most of every day eating shaved ice. Food was consumed, but not nearly with as much fervor as Taiwanese shaved ice.

4) I am more than pretty sure that there will be a Taiwan Trip 2018 because I am a glutton for punishment and I am incredibly stupid – but it will be even better because it will be the THIRD year at the same schools and camps and hopefully, apartments.

5) I don’t really think my kids’ Chinese improved that much this time around. I think because this year, despite being in the Chinese environment, Cookie Monster (7.5) resisted speaking Chinese and thus, so did Gamera (5.5). Glow Worm (~4) was in school though, so his Chinese improved a lot. Their vocabulary still expanded so I guess that is still a good thing.

This is a lot of the reason I want to go back again next year. I worry if I skip even one year, the chance to catch Cookie Monster up or stem the inevitable English slide will not be in time.

Actually, come to think of it, Cookie Monster and Gamera’s Chinese did improve, but it was in super specific areas pertaining to their camps. I really would NEVER encounter these new words because I am never going to talk about science, water rockets, ripsticks, or even the random games they played.

So, I guess the only way to know whether their Chinese improved is if they all of a sudden start speaking incomprehensible Chinese words to me.

Incidentally, I never knew 營 (ying2/camp) was a word you could use by itself. Like, “This week, we are doing blah blah blah 營.”

Looks like Cookie Monster learned something after all!

6) Back in 2014, Cookie Monster only ate white rice the first four weeks and didn’t venture to try beef noodle soup until the last week we were there. Gamera was a tiny bit more adventurous, but still mostly ate white rice. Only Glow Worm ate everything set in front of him, but since he was 11 months old, I didn’t think it would last.

Terrible.

Last year, they expanded their food repertoire and ate a lot of fried rice, a variety of noodles, potstickers, and 小籠包 (xiao3 long2 bao/soup dumplings). Glow Worm again ate everything set in front of him – including a bunch of fruit.

This year, they were even more improved! (I firmly believe it’s because I have been so good about cooking with the Instant Pot and making them eat things they don’t necessary like.)

In fact, we managed to NOT eat at McDonald’s the entire trip except for the last weekend – and even then, it was only because I had the flu and Hapa Papa needed to take them somewhere easy for him to order.

You guys. DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW AMAZING THAT IS?

I consider it a WIN.

Oh. AND THEY EVEN ATE ON THE PLANE.

7) Kids were much better about going to their camps this time around. Glow Worm only cried the second day when he realized that school was a permanent situation. But then we had a conversation, he no longer cried and RAN to his teachers and barely glanced at me when I dropped him off. He was such a big boy.

Oh, and THIS year, he actually participated (and with great enthusiasm) in all the session end performances. HE WAS ADORABLE.

Gamera was much happier this year because she was with Cookie Monster and not bored out of her mind learning characters she already knew. They took Chinese yo-yo, Ripstick, and games sessions. Gamera also took a sewing class and Cookie Monster took a science class.

They LOVED the courses. Surprisingly, Cookie Monster liked the science class the most! Gamera liked the sewing class the best. They both complained that they wanted to take a cooking class – so I told them I would try to sign them up for it next year.

8) If we go next year, (which we probably will), I will likely keep it at the 4.5 week mark. Both the kids and I are sick of Taiwan by then – and I think it’s better to leave wanting more vs. staying until you are sick of a place.

I might stay a few extra days at the end because the kids complained that we didn’t play enough, but truthfully, by the end of each stay, they are so sick of the heat that they never want to leave the apartment.

9) Because I had the flu, Hapa Papa took Gamera to buy breakfast and she did all the ordering and paid. I think she was a little shy about it, but she did a good job.

10) Of course, my kids loved all the DIY crafts. I resisted though and we managed not to go completely bankrupt. I suppose I should just consider it one on one paid Chinese arts and crafts instruction.

11) Oh, and people wanted to know how it was traveling around Taipei with a fat 8-9 month old baby on my person. Just like 2014, it was hot and my entire front would be dripping wet. Sasquatch would also be dripping wet from my sweat. But ultimately, it was pretty easy.

Because I am his food and tend to nurse him in the Ergo, it was such a gross mix of fluids. There was my boob sweat, my hand sweat, his head sweat, his saliva, and my milk. Mmmmm… slippery.

But mostly, since he only just started cruising and is otherwise, non-mobile, it was very easy. Just slippery with sweat. People are endlessly kind and always offering seats on MRTs and buses (which I refused because like all my babies, Sasquatch insisted on me standing).

Since I hate strollers, I really didn’t have to make much of an accommodation to Sasquatch’s presence. And once I realized I needed to be home for part of the day to allow him a nice long, uninterrupted nap, he was much happier. It was easy peasy.

Alright. I think that’s it for now. Hopefully, I will not burn out on the Taiwan Trip topic and you will not be bored too terribly to have to read more about it. And again, if I am feeling really on top of things, I will turn my FB lives into posts.

Thanks for reading! I’m so happy to be back home.

Re-entry is Hard


I know. I know.

You thought I had abandoned this blog for the ease and instant gratification of Facebook Live Videos.

As tempting as that is, I just can’t be that unedited and unscripted on a regular basis. If I produced live videos on the same schedule as I write, no one would be seeing anything live because I write deep into the dark night or on Saturday mornings. The rest of you would be busy sleeping or living your life.

Also? I think I’m funnier on screen vs in person. Apologies to all my real life friends.

Anyhow, we have been back in the Americas for twelve days. TWELVE DAYS. And other than one Costco trip (I still need to go for this week) and some unpacking (but not ALL) and finally getting over jet lag, I have done a fat load of NOTHING.

OKOKOKOK. Not entirely true. I took the kids to parks and playdates. (My kids climbed a 30-40′ tree to the very top and I tried not to die of fear and trembling on the spot.) I actually cooked. (I MISS YOU, TAIWAN!!) And did a bjillion loads of laundry and all the random crap of life.

Still have yet to make it back to kungfu though.

And I have tried to ease the kids back into homeschooling with daily reading. We officially start Monday 8/14. It is hard, people. HARD.

The summer brain drain is real. My impatience is real.

YOU GUYS, I NO LONGER HAVE OTHER PEOPLE COOKING FOR ME 24/7!!

That is the REAL kicker. That is the part of Taiwan that I always miss the most. It makes me so sad. So so so so sad.

But I am so glad we are back at our house – despite it’s cluttered mess (exacerbated by my lack of finished unpacking). I am so glad for the space we have (triple that of our apartment in Taiwan). I’m so grateful my older kids can run around and be loud and jerks but the baby will be fine upstairs asleep.

SO HAPPY TO BE IN THE LAND OF REASONABLE WEATHER AND PARKS.

But I have been slumming it.

Hapa Papa started a new job but I haven’t yet enrolled us for benefits. Because of stupidity. I WILL SOON THOUGH. (Please don’t judge me!!)

I have been binge re-reading a favorite Regency romance spy series. (I bought her new book so OF COURSE I had to re-read all the previous books in the series. OF COURSE.)

I have been catching up with all the dance shows we missed. And now, Project Runway has started up again – which is AWESOME!!

Now that I’m in the land of expensive bubble tea, I want it all the time. (It’s a mystery to me why I never want bubble tea when I’m in Taiwan – but whatever.)

I know I should write for the blog but after over a month off, (because let’s face it, I wasn’t really writing much in June), I barely can string together coherent sentences – let alone INTERESTING sentences.

OMG SO MUCH BLATHERING TODAY.

I will consider this post (and most likely, the next few weeks’ worth of posts) to be the blah you have to get out of your system before you can actually write anything worth reading.

LUCKY YOU FOR READING FIRST PRINT BLAHS.

Ohohohoh. And because I spent all this money lasering my face, (that’s a post for another day, folks – but I LASERED MY FACE), I finally started up my skincare routine again. Like after at least a year and a half of NOT DOING A DAMN THING.

And now, even after just 4-5 days of semi-consistent face care (like washing it and moisturizing and SPFing it), my face is SOFT.

My poor, moisture and care starving face.

Also also, I know that this post is just a random amalgam of thoughts loosely correlating to how mediocre of a human I am with returning to the land of the English language and all, but I AM SO GLAD TO BE SURROUNDED BY ENGLISH.

ESPECIALLY ENGLISH WORDS.

I am no longer an idiot. (Well, I suppose YMMV on that opinion.)

Anyhow. Thank you for reading the random firings of my gasping brain. It is always hard to go back to reality after any trip – but especially hard when you go from a place that took care of a lot of the worst parts of parenting (providing FOOD) to a place that you are now back to adulting.

I am terrible at adulting. But I love to write and the only way to be a writer is to write. And the only way to make it through life semi-successfully is to adult because there is no one else to do it for you.

Did I mention that I had the flu the last few days in Taiwan so it was miserable and our whole family has been rotating who is sick and that it was a really rough week or two (that included the LOOOOOONG flight home)?

Ok. I am getting sick of myself and my nonsense.

But this is my official shingle saying that I’m back! I’M BACK AND I’M NOT SORRY!!

Catch Me Live

So, we’ve been in Taiwan ten days and I have not written a word about our trip. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing stuff for my public!

Thanks both to a challenge in a blogging group I’m part of, as well as great ideas and encouragement from my friend, Brittany Minor of Clumps of MascaraI have been trying out Facebook Live Videos.

(Seriously, Brittany is really amazing with her own videos – and she suggested all sorts of great topics to discuss, checkout, and asked so many great questions that I feel kinda guilty that she so generously helped me without asking for anything in return. All she got were some FB Live videos of questionable value.)

Now that I have done a few of them, I don’t know why I was so hesitant about doing them before. I think part of it was that it never occurred to me that people would want to see videos of me wandering about Taiwan. I mean, a city is a city, right? Just how interesting is a tour of 7-11?

Well, just because I personally am not interested in this stuff, I suppose doesn’t mean that other people wouldn’t be! And I also realized that I have been taking my trips to Taiwan for granted.

Most people do not get the chance to travel to Taiwan, let alone often enough for it to become familiar and not entirely intimidating. And even if they came, perhaps their language skills are nonexistent, not good enough or if they are, they still don’t necessarily know how things work.

Plus, all this knowledge that I now take for granted (eg: going on an MRT, shopping for stuff in a store, what to bring, how to shuttle kids around) – that is interesting and helpful to people! And folks, I am what we call a helpful person.

Also, I am somewhat of a narcissist.

So, because I’m a giver, I am collecting a bunch of my FB Live videos into this post, but if you are not following my personal FB page (sorry, I only friend folks I know In Real Life), you can still follow along at my Mandarin Mama Facebook Page.

Also also, because I’m never one to let a good suggestion go, please let me know if there is stuff you want to see or ask or watch a FB Live about. If I can swing it, I’ll do it. 😀

Anyhow, without further ado, here are most of my FB Lives up until today. (Holy cow, I did a lot!)

1) Traveling in Taiwan with Kids Q&A

2) Tours of Playspaces

Leo’s Playground

Fantasy Island Playspace Tour

3) Tours Around Town

Taking the MRT

Costco

Taiwanese Bus

7-11

Taking out the garbage

Wellcome Mart Tour

My Kids’ Favorite Escalator

Watsons Tour

PierMei Hair Accessory Store

Guang Hua2 Technology Mart

4) Restaurants

Modern Toilet

Costco Food Court Part 1

Costco Food Court Part 2

Yong3 He2 Dou4 Jiang Da4 Wang2 Taiwanese Breakfast

Taiwanese Department Store Food Court

Local Taiwanese Breakfast Place

Commence Panic Mode


I am not excited. 

We are T-9 days from our Taiwan Trip 2017 and I am not excited. 

I mean, I am excited for all the yummy foods and hanging out with my mommy friends in Taiwan, but… I am not excited about packing or traveling at very fast speeds in a metal tube with my four children for 12-13 hours. 

At this point last year, I think I already started packing. I have not even bothered. Or tried. Or felt bad about it. 

I don’t know if this means I have evolved or I am super procrastinating. Maybe both. 

Does it count if I made my packing list about two months ago? And have been Amazon Priming like a BOSS?

But truthfully, I bought most of the stuff last year and I don’t really need anything else other than more bug spray/sunscreen combos. 

And diapers. Lots of diapers. 

But otherwise, my kids are going to the same camps (actually, one less camp so it’s even easier), we are staying at the same Airbnb, and my mother is coming with me for a few days and my cousin is flying back with me so really, what is there to worry about?

Then why is there a nervous ball of dread in the pit of my stomach? Why am I purposely avoiding thinking about this trip for fear of totally freaking out?

I have taken my kids to Taiwan before. By myself (and with friends and family). I have sent my kids to school there before. I have used buses and taxis and MRTs before. I have even ergoed a baby there before. 

I can do this. 

It will be fun. (Mostly.)

I will eat lots of delicious food. (Especially almond tofu shaved ice.)

I will see my friends. 

I will see my family. 

I will have a constant sweaty front because of Big Fat Baby Sasquatch permanently being worn. 

I will not be pregnant. (Thank goodness for small mercies.)

I will be fine. 

My kids will be even bigger and they remember stuff from last year so they are prepared. 

We will be fine. 

I have to keep repeating this to myself like a spell. 

I will be fine. I will be fine. 

And if I am really delusional, maybe I will be so fine I will consider bringing a toddler to Taiwan next summer. 

I guess I should see how things shake out this summer before I do anything that stupid. 

Chinese Progress: 9 Months After Taiwan


Has it really been nine months since we got back from Taiwan? That’s a PREGNANCY, people!

Anyhow, I meant to do an update earlier and keep better track of when my children made the switch from Chinese default to English default, but that would have required me to pay far greater attention to my children than I am wont to do.

So, I want to say the kids kept up their Chinese for about five or six months before they started to backslide into English a lot. And the only reason it kept up for that long is because we homeschool in Chinese, the majority of their classes are in Chinese, and for awhile, all they did was watch Chinese YouTube.

Just to give you an idea of how quickly they can convert to English only, for our Spring Break, I had the older kids in a basketball camp as well as a cooking camp. Thus, they were surrounded by English speakers and spoke English for six hours a day for five consecutive days.

The effect was almost instantaneous.

It was all English all the time. And not only that – their English improved.

I tried to combat it with listening to Chinese stories in the car, but we really didn’t drive much so they didn’t hear much Chinese at all that week. I can only imagine how much their English would outpace their Chinese if we were not homeschooling in Chinese.

This is all just to say that the after glow of Taiwan was only sustainable for so long because we homeschool in Chinese as well as have the majority of their classes in Chinese. 

I cannot say that the Chinese effect would be as pronounced or sustainable if they went to an English speaking school surrounded by English speakers all day.

Thus, the main thing to remember is that the majority of your work is done with your kids if you just speak Chinese to them already.

Alright, without further ado, here are some of my observations that have definitely been blurred by the effects of time and life.

1) Glow Worm’s (3.5) Chinese has exploded. I mean, so has his English. (He FINALLY speaks!) But in general, his Chinese has 開竅了 (kai qiao4 le5)/for a child to begin to know things.

This is also not because of anything special about Taiwan, but more because he goes to a Chinese preschool twice a week as well as a Mandarin Mommy and Me once a week. Just the addition of two days with a Chinese tutor has upped his vocabulary a lot.

I can’t wait for how it will improve after our Taiwan Trip 2017 as well as when he adds 2-3 additional days of Chinese preschool.

2) Gamera (5), easily the child with the best Chinese, has started to resist speaking Chinese all the time. Even when I try to couch it in terms of helping Glow Worm and Sasquatch (5.5 mos) learn Chinese, she doesn’t really care.

Her default and stronger language is definitely English – and she wants to keep speaking it when playing.

However, her Chinese is still really good. I’m constantly amazed how when admonished to speak Chinese, she can switch from English to Chinese mid-sentence and finish the thought. She is truly bilingual in the sense that she doesn’t have to think about what to say in English first, then translate into Chinese. She just speaks her thoughts in Chinese.

I have noticed that the loss of three days of Chinese preschool and being home with me more has affected her Chinese ability (and not for the better). But because she still watches a lot of Chinese YouTube (especially Chinese game shows and variety shows and Chinese YouTube acts), her Chinese can often be better than mine.

3) Cookie Monster (7) definitely prefers English, but still dutifully switches to Chinese when told. He just needs more vocabulary to express his thoughts – and he would have that vocabulary if I were not so lazy about him reading consistently to me in Chinese.

Just one day of Chinese class is not enough. It’s ok in terms of preventing more attrition, but not enough in terms of gaining in Chinese. Even his teacher has mentioned to me several times that he is regressing and forgetting characters.

This is definitely my fault.

Plus, he doesn’t find the Chinese programming as interesting as Gamera does (although he is also obsessed with TF Boys like his siblings).

It definitely shows.

4) At least Cookie Monster and Gamera are good about speaking Chinese to their peers who only speak Chinese. They know that they can only speak to Guavarama and Fleur’s kids (as well as some of our other Chinese homeschool kids) in Chinese.

This, of course, only works because all the children have similar levels of Chinese fluency (albeit, better than my kids) and can express and play adequately in Chinese. If my kids’ Chinese were not up to snuff (or vice versa), the play language would default to English in a red hot second.

Thus, I am ashamed I did not capitalize more on our trip to Taiwan last year. We’ve had a good run, but we definitely will need the boost when we head to Taiwan again this summer. Unfortunately, this time we will only be back for four weeks. I’m sure the missing two weeks will equate to an even earlier Chinese language cliff.

This is especially important to note because I am not going back to Taiwan in 2018. (Yes, I plan this far ahead. No, YOU take an 18 month old with three other children to Taiwan.)

I need to remember in Summer 2018 to not go overboard with English camps/programming and to find ways they can be “immersed” in Chinese.

Anyhow, I hope this update was helpful in terms of giving you an idea of how long the Chinese boosting effects of an extended trip to Taiwan might last. Of course, YMMV.

Did you find this true for your children? Let me know in the comments.

Taiwanese Camp Update, Week 4

I sincerely meant to post this update sooner than I have – however, I wanted to get back to a regular schedule and that meant that I really only post Chinese related stuff on Fridays. And I had two posts lined up for Fridays already so I figured, hey! We can wait for the Taiwan camp and Chinese update posts.

Now that we’ve been home for a month, it’s been interesting to hear my kids’ responses when people ask them how they liked their Taiwan school/camp experience.

Of course, it will be no surprise to any of you following along from home.

Cookie Monster had a lot of fun and liked his activities. Gamera hated it all (despite still remembering some songs and dances and chants). Glow Worm couldn’t tell you because he still doesn’t really talk that much (albeit, more than before) and can’t really express that complex a thought (although he may think it!).

So, without further delay, here then is the update on the last week of camp and school for my kids.

Author’s Note: As I have mentioned before, please do not ask me (whether in comments or private message) where my kids are attending school and camps. I am a big believer in internet safety and having been stalked before (an unpleasant and stressful experience to be sure), I am not keen on sharing where my kids go to school. If that is a problem for you, I don’t really care. If you ask, I will ignore you and if you repeatedly ask, I will block you.

Incidentally, I have already had to block at least one person because despite them reading all these notes and posts, they still presumed that they could ask me since “Camp is over.”

Dear readers. I have three (going on four) children. Please stop and consider that if I actually like a camp, that quite possibly, I would sign up for it again. With one or more of my current children. So, NO. I WILL NOT TELL YOU WHERE MY KIDS GO TO CAMP.

I'll admit. I was really annoyed that Cookie Monster came home with two small shrimp as pets. I mean, great - if I lived in Taiwan. Booooo because I hate taking care of animals and I had to break it to Cookie Monster that these shrimp were NOT coming home with us.

I’ll admit. I was really annoyed that Cookie Monster came home with two small shrimp as pets. I mean, great – if I lived in Taiwan. Booooo because I hate taking care of animals and I had to break it to Cookie Monster that these shrimp were NOT coming home with us.

Local Camp Experience, Week 4

This week, Cookie Monster (6.5) went back to the outdoor day camp where they take a shuttle to a bunch of different cities and places for quick day trips. I was much happier this week since this time, instead of half the camp being US kids, there was only Cookie Monster as the lone overseas kid.

In fact, looks like Cookie Monster passed as a local kid until Hapa Papa showed up and outed him. One of the kids asked a teacher if Cookie Monster was a foreigner and the teacher responded, “Yes” but had no idea from what country. Whooo!

Anyhow, just like the previous camp, they visited several counties/cities (Yi Lan, Tao Yuan, New Taipei City, and Miao Li), to again, check out a bunch of museums, factories, and farms.

The crafts and souvenirs Cookie Monster collected and made this week.

The crafts and souvenirs Cookie Monster collected and made this week.

This time, they went to a shrimp/clam farm and they tried to catch shrimp and clams and were in rafts; a sunflower farm where they painted ceramic sunflowers and picked sunflowers; saw waterfalls and panoramic views; visited aboriginal homes and sites; and went to a fruit farm to pick fruit and cook.

From the pictures on their site, (which again, I would include but they all have watermarks and I really don’t want to reveal where my kid went to camp – nor do I want to strip the camp of their watermarks) it looks like Cookie Monster had a fantastic time.

Sticky rice in bamboo. I can't believe Cookie Monster cooked and made this!

Sticky rice in bamboo. I can’t believe Cookie Monster cooked and made this!

I swear. I chose these camps for myself.

Again, they played games on the bus and Cookie Monster made some friends (especially a boy who used to live in the US and thus spoke to Cookie Monster nonstop in English – SIGH) and he seemed to like what they made and did.

International School, Week 4

You’ll think this is a result of me being a terrible parent, but truly, until the very last day of school, I had no real idea what my kids had been doing at their school.

Display tables with everything Gamera and Glow Worm made during their four weeks of school.

Display tables with everything Gamera and Glow Worm made during their four weeks of school.

I mean, I knew what the teachers posted in the kids’ communication books. But let’s be real. It’s in Chinese (and though I could read it), it was pretty repetitive. I never saw any pics or evidence of what they did at school since they didn’t bring anything home.

Well, it turns out they saved everything for the last day of school to hand out in one HUGE display table and they give you a bag to put everything in.

It’s quite impressive.

So, for this week’s summary, I will just mostly explain what happened on the last day of school and show off pics of what they sent us home with.

After showing up for the school end performance, the first thing we see are the rows and rows of their creations. I didn’t know they did so many fun things! And then, we went to sit down for the performance.

The kids lined up on the side of the room (which was handy because that’s where Hapa Papa and I were sitting so we got to hug and kiss Gamera and Glow Worm when they were lining up).

They performed. It is about what you’d expect from preschoolers. Gamera was surprisingly into it. Glow Worm was not. He just stood there. He was the smallest in his class! Ah, my baby boy. So sweet.

Then after they performed, we took lots of pictures and the kids went back to class and had a party in the afternoon. We were forced to stick around and listen to the teachers and fellow parents talk about their experiences with the school. Glow Worm’s teacher asked me to talk so I spoke really briefly. I didn’t want to, but she was SO GOOD to Glow Worm all summer that I felt rude refusing.

After that, we went to Gamera’s classroom where they had a mini-awards ceremony. Every kid got an award and Gamera’s was something along the lines of being helpful or something. I wasn’t really paying attention because I’m an awful parent. Oh, and it was ALL IN CHINESE so some of the vocabulary went over my head.

Hey. I took pics, ok? That should be enough.

Also, it looks like the kids did a decent amount of character learning and recognition as the workbooks suggest. Gamera already knew everything they taught her, but I think she still enjoyed being smart, so I guess there’s that.

I was surprised at how much Glow Worm seemed to accomplish – but I guess it’s because I still consider him a baby. He’s three now, so I guess he’s a big boy. sob

Anyhow, below is a slideshow of their pics for this last week and a few videos. The videos basically go through each of the kids’ portfolios so you can get an idea of what they taught over the summer.

I hope that helps! I will definitely sign up Cookie Monster for his camps again, and as for Gamera? I’ll be putting her in Cookie Monster’s camps. (I asked and they all said it should be fine as long as she’s in first grade.) And too bad, Glow Worm, you’re going back next year, too.

Alright, this concludes our updates for camps and schools until next summer. Whew!

 

 

Final Money Tally for Taiwan Trip 2016


Ok. I am super reluctant to write this post because it reveals something about me that though I joke about with my closest friends, I don’t mention too often because I personally think it makes me look bad. After all, no one likes a braggart or someone who is seemingly thoughtless with money.

And honestly, I can be pretty thoughtless with money.

Not in the sense that I don’t think about money – but in the sense that I know our general threshold and that as long as an expenditure is below that threshold, I don’t even blink.

We are very comfortable and live a very privileged life. I know it.

You see, I have a thing that Hapa Papa likes to call Rich Girl Syndrome (RGS) in the sense that I think all things can be solved if you throw enough money at it. (Irish Twins’s husband, MBE calls it the Wallet Save.)

As a result, I don’t really think about budgets or how much something costs unless it is exorbitant or something I personally find outrageous. Also, my mother gave me a very generous sum of money for the summer so that I wouldn’t have to worry about taking taxis and books and food. She wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be stingy – and that I would make sure not to get over-tired and take things easy.

So.

Obviously, my budget will likely not be yours in the sense that I thought very little about the costs except in terms of how it cut into the amount I was willing to spend. But in general, I did not count pennies or dollars or NT. I just did what I wanted when I wanted.

I suppose it helps that I’m not exactly a luxury shopper and all I really spent my money on was food and books. But still, the money went fast and Hapa Papa is mad I didn’t save more money from the trip. (Although I did save a bunch of money two years ago from the generous sum my mother gave me then. But I suppose that doesn’t count for this year.)

So.

Now you know.

My budget likely will not be your budget.

However, at least you will know a bit more about pricing.

I realize that I am a very privileged person in terms of finances and that me blithely saying, “Just go to Taiwan for six weeks! Easy! Just say goodbye to $12-13,000!” is somewhat implausible for many of you.

Also, keep in mind that we choose not to spend money on many other things during the year that likely other people choose to spend their money on (eg: trips, sports, etc.) because I know we’re going to be spending a lot of money on a trip to Taiwan.

So. Please consider my breakdown not in terms of what you HAVE to do, but more in terms of what I spent as best as I can remember it. (Which, honestly, has huge gaping holes in it because um, RGS.)

Obviously, YMMV in terms of costs depending on how often you eat out, how often you take taxis vs buses vs MRTs, how much you shop, where you buy groceries, what extracurricular things you do, what programs you choose for your children, and where you choose to live (and if you choose to rent or live with family).

Author’s Note: Any comments insulting me or the people who spend similar amounts on this type of trip will be deleted. 

I’m sure if any of us were to examine how you spend your money, we could come up with plenty of ways you are a wasteful asshole.

So since you do not know anything about our family income, monthly expenses, or financial situation other than what I choose to share on this blog for the purposes of you having an idea of how much a trip such as this can cost, any judgmental bullshit about how I am such a horrible snob or how it sucks to be poor (which, we can all readily agree that given the choice between having more money or less money, most of us would prefer the more financially secure position), or how it must be nice to be rich can just go suck on an exhaust pipe. 

So, without further ado, here are the costs for my Taiwan Trip 2016. All costs are in USD unless otherwise noted.

Travel: $4,400

– Round trip airfare for 1 adult and 3 children: (We used airline points for Hapa Papa’s tickets) $4400

Accommodations: $3,975

– Airbnb newly renovated 1br 1 bt apartment in a trendy/popular/convenient neighborhood for 40 nights: $3800 (includes about $200 in Airbnb fees)

– Hotel in Kaohsiung 1 night including breakfast: (bought as part of a business package deal including 1 night hotel and breakfast and with a Taiwanese discount so prices are approximate) $175

Education: $2,609

– International School Tuition, 4 weeks: $1,121/child (Total: $2,240)

– Local Camp A, 2 weeks: $306

– Local Camp B, 2 weeks: $339

Transportation: $990

– Taxi from TPE to apt: $40/$1300NT (7 passenger car with 2 rented car seats at $9 per car seat)

– Taxi from apt to TPE: $30/$1000NT (7 passenger car, 0 car seats, private car)

– Taxis in general: $600 (estimate)

– MRT for 1 adult, 1 child, and 1 adult for 2 weeks: $150 (estimate)

– Bus: N/A

– High Speed Rail ticket for 1 adult, 2 kids reserved seating: (bought as part of a business package deal including 1 night hotel and breakfast and with a Taiwanese discount so prices are approximate) $150

Airport Parking: $20 (Keep in mind, we saved a bunch here because we asked friends to drop off our minivan at the long term parking lot the night before we arrived home. Otherwise, if we parked in long term parking for the entire time Hapa Papa was in Taiwan like we did in 2014, the cost for airport parking would be closer to $250-300.)

Food: $1,594

– Groceries/Toiletries/Misc: $382 (estimate)

Eating Out: $1212 (estimate)

Incidentally, I likely would have spent far less if I didn’t have to provide my boys with food for lunch. I only did so because I worry about their food allergies. Otherwise, I would not have to worry about those “extra” meals as they were included in our school tuition.

However, I suppose since I got treated out a lot by family and family friends (and at way more expensive places than I would have personally chosen), it more than evens out in my favor. So, um, nevermind.

Miscellaneous: $1,525

– Kid Playspaces and Activities: $274 (Incidentally, I was an idiot and forgot a pair of tickets I had already bought so I ended up having to buy an extra two tickets. So, I guess I have two tickets for next year. Sob.)

– Kid Crafts: $90

– Cel Phone: $60

– Books/DVDs/CDs: $720

– Family Gifts/Reimbursements: $400

– Misc: $50

TOTAL: $15,093

Good Lord. Now I really feel like an asshole.

However.

One of my other friends is ALSO in Taiwan and in the same city and they were NOT as thoughtless as I am and STILL, they spent a similar amount. Why? Because some fixed costs you just can’t get rid of like round trip tickets and lodging.

Here are some of her basic numbers:

– Travel: (roundtrip tickets for 2 adults and 2 children) $5,400

– Housing: (4 br, 2 bt, washer/dryer in a less popular neighborhood for 7 weeks) $4,900

– Local camps, 5 weeks: $800

– Adult Language camp, 7 weeks: $500

– Books/DVDs/CDs: $625

– Food/MRT/HSR/Misc: (didn’t really take taxis due to safety concerns) $1642

Total: $13,867

Keep in mind, her housing costs are so high because she had other family members crashing at her place during various points. But she really didn’t eat out at fancy places (mostly the food stands and corner restaurants) and they definitely paid attention to their bottom line.

So, if you are a typical family of four and have no means to get free plane tickets and do not have access to free housing in Taiwan, the bulk of your costs are fixed at approximately $8-9,000. That’s BEFORE you do ANYTHING else.

So, are you just screwed with the costs?

Not necessarily.

While the fixed costs likely will not move much, you can do some small things that might change the hugeness of the number to slightly less huge. (I do concede housing is a place you can fiddle with – but it really depends on what amount of discomfort you are willing to endure for 4-6 weeks.)

So, here is a way to redeem myself.

Therefore, another list: Where you can save money on your trip to Taiwan.

1) Keep all your receipts and get a tax refund.

If you bring your foreign passport to the malls or save all your receipts, you can receive a tax refund on your purchases at the mall or at the airport. But that would require you to keep ALL your receipts.

2) Eat street food and shop at local groceries.

If you didn’t eat out at the more expensive restaurants and ate mostly food court food or street food, you will save a lot of money. I ate a LOT of shaved ice. Some were cheap. Some were not.

I also ate at places that were close to $40USD/1500NT for lunch or dinner. That’s a lot of money in a place where you can get a decent and filling meal for $6USD/200NT or less.

3) Enroll in local schools and camps.

The reason camps were so expensive for Gamera and Glow Worm were because they were in an international school. I got many comments from locals that the school they attended is one of the most expensive schools in the city.

I would have preferred to send them to a local school, but they wouldn’t take Glow Worm due to his food allergies. According to family friends of friends, a month of a local 幼兒 (you4 er2/preschool 3-6yo) or 大班 (da4 ban/kindergarten 6yo+) for $300USD a month.

4) Live in less popular neighborhoods.

I chose to live in a very expensive neighborhood because I wanted to be close to the MRT, to a lot of convenient restaurants I like to frequent, have a renovated space, and I like clean streets that don’t smell. I also don’t like being too far away from my children’s schools and activities.

You do NOT have to choose this for yourself. There are plenty of decent places to live that are larger and cheaper than what I got for my money. If you do not mind living further out on less popular MRT lines, or doing more research in terms of local schools vs. the big popular names, or even choosing less popular cities, you will save a lot of money.

I don’t think your experience will suffer for it.

5) Take the bus or MRT instead of cabs.

Trust me. There were many times I would have preferred to take the MRT or bus – but as things shook out (and with the number of children and them being uncooperative or the weather being sopping wet), I took cabs more often than I technically needed to.

In general, though, I took the MRT as much as possible. I didn’t go for buses at all this time, but I loved buses my last trip to Taiwan. I think it depends on your location and your destinations and what ends up being most convenient.

That said, my average taxi ride was about $5-6/150-200NT. However, an MRT ride is $0.50/16NT regardless of distance and the bus is approximately $0.31/10NT. (Keep in mind that kids are free unless they are 6 or above a certain height. Their fares are even lower.)

I’m certain there are plenty more ways to save money. (Such as not buy so many books or CDs or DVDs – but since you would spend more to have the items shipped since shipping to the US is approximately $75-100/22kg box and takes at least 2-3 months, personally, I think it costs more money not to.) But being as I am likely the last person on Earth to be useful in this arena, I am all tapped out for suggestions.

If you have any to share, please do so in the comments! (But keep in mind: not every one has access to mileage points or relatives in Taiwan. That, in itself, is a privilege of sorts.)

Alright, I’m done for today. Have a great day!