Update on Vegetarian Poll


I know all of you are just dying to know what the vote is at for Rika to become an omnivore.

As of 3 minutes ago, Vegetarian is at 16, while EAT MEAT is at 28. I think the vegetarians need to step it up a level. But we have some passionate meat-lovers out there. The deadline in January 21, Chinese New Year.

Advantages of Eating Meat.

Advantages of Vegetarianism

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!


A very happy Christmas to all of you, where ever you are! We are back at work after taking Friday off in celebration of a lovely holiday. I have to say, as much as I've always hated the commercialism of the Christmas season in America, there has been a small piece of me that's craved a big line to see Santa in a crowded sweaty mall, emails begging me to remember the "true" meaning of Christmas, and cheesy dress-up parties and vintage grandma Christmas sweaters. Don't get me wrong, Taiwan definitely makes an attempt at gaining a hold of the commercialized spirit, but it just isn't quite up to the standards of the grandiose US of A.

Alright, I'll get off my little soapbox. We celebrated Christmas by celebrating America by making our favorite American food for breakfast: burritos. Mmmm...nothing says, I love my country like a big burrito filled with Costco salsa. I attempted to make cinnamon rolls but their mood like mine and went a little flat on Christmas day, but everyone still graciously ate them. We watched the Survivor finale and fought like family about whether Russell should have won or if Natalie really did woo people with her subtle social efforts.

And then we went to Ikea. I don't really want to talk about this. Let's just say, my curtains didn't quite fit, and Aaron and I aren't allowed to shop together at Ikea anymore. Our dinner was delicious. And now I have earned myself another trip to Ikea to take the curtains back. I'll say it, just for you Aaron-you were right, I should have measured first. Savor those words, man!

Happy Holidays to you all!


Rika and Aaron

The Great Dilemma


Hello everyone,

In recent weeks, I have been running into the same problem over and over. It's food. Every time Aaron and I hit the town for some food, we find that there are limited choices for me to eat as a vegetarian. And to be honest, my committment to my vegetarianism is waning because of the inconvenience of it. I am continuously taunted by the chicken satay, fishy sashimi rolls, and beef noodles. Go here for more info on local foods. At home, being a vegetarian is easy but when I tell locals this, they are surprised and confused since I'm not buddhist.

So. I thought I would make a blog, video and poll to see what you, our faithful readers, think and actually take you up on your advice. If you decide that i should embrace the culture and begin eating meat, then I will put up a video of my first chicken shishkabab. But if you believe that I should stick to my guns and stay a vegetarian, then I will eat a brick of tofu. It's all up to you! Cast your vote before Chinese New Year (February 1), and we will see what happens.

(just one stipulation-if the vote goes in the carnivorous direction, i will still adhere to the hebrew and new testament teachings about clean meat consumption-no piggies or bottom feeders, guys).

Cast your vote here!



(aaron's thoughts in parentheses)

I never knew myself to be especially sensitive to smells (I knew she was), or very skillful at sniffing out odors, but I tell you, my nostrils are on scent overload living here in Taiwan. In our apartment, after a couple of weeks, I began to detect this faint musty smell that no amount of window opening could defeat. All of our towels began to smell moldy and our closet had a hint of stinky to it.

Taiwan is extraordinarily humid-its subtropical location causes it to have high humidity year round. We discovered, after giving a moment’s thought, that opening our windows may not be the brightest idea, especially since it’s wetter outside than in. We placed small water absorbing containers around our closest after hearing horror stories about other English teachers losing favorite clothes and shoes to mildew. Within a few days, these containers were filled to the brim.

There has got to be another way, we thought, and began to scour local trading websites for a dehumidifier. Our co-worker, Travis just happened to have an old dusty dehumidifier, which he gave to us, free of charge! The only problem, is that when we plugged it in, hours later when we were fast asleep, it let off a horrible screech that we couldn’t ignore. We turned it off. Eventually (the next day, and again the next day and the day after that), Aaron did get the blasted thing fixed, by dousing the motor with grease, and our house was dry! Clothes no longer took 4 days to dry, but were crisp(crisp is right, we have to wrestle our ways into some of our clothes) in a day! My hair was easy to blow dry and stayed straight until I walked outside and heard a quiet *Pffff* as it puffed up into an afro, blindsided by humidity. (I feel compelled to tell all of you trusting readers that some facts in the story were exaggerated for the sake of good story telling, but for the most part they were accurate.)

Anyway, my point is, the humidity is only one of many sources of strange smells. We live in the Stinky Tofu capital of Taiwan, which smells like heated stale urine. It’s quite the unfortunate fragrance (But it tastes wonderful) aaron doesn't know what he's talking about-it's nasty. On the flipside though, our town is littered with mom and pop fruit stands and trucks and we are spoiled with incredible fresh fruit almost whenever we want, and it’s all of my favorites; juicy pineapple, guava, oranges, sweet grapefruit, kiwis, and passion fruit. Also, the dense vegetation gives this whole island delicious oxygen, which is especially nice after walking through Taipei, and getting blacklung from all the traffic.

I think one of the aspects of getting used to another culture is comparing seemingly mundane things, i.e., smells, with home. Or maybe that’s just me. I compare lots of other things too, but today I’ve had a mental checklist of smelly things that I experience throughout the day, probably because I’m weird, (I'm with Rika there are a lot of smelly things) but it makes walking through town even more interesting.

Dance Dance Revolution!


We are regularly inspired by people who can dance. They're everywhere! Here are 2 groups from our school who rocked our worlds this week. Unbelievable!

Speak Easy?


It's hard to believe we've already been here a month! Living in a foreign country is an extremely humbling experience, especially if it's a country with a crazy weird language like Mandarin. We really wanted to immerse ourselves in life here and hopefully pick up key phrases and eventually learn the language enough to get by. We were encouraged, before we left, by some who said, "Mandarin is easy! You'll learn it in no time!" However, we've also heard as i'm sure you have too, that Mandarin is one of the most difficult languages in the world.

In learning, I can't really pin it on either extreme; it's extradordinarily complex and interesting, with a twisty combination of sing-song tones, odd sounds, and funky mouth shapes when speaking. I carry around a little yellow notebook and try to learn useful phrases that I can use in my routine. My personal favorite mini-conversation:

"Ni-how-ma?" --hi, how are you?
"ma ma hu hu" or "poo poo tung tung"--I am okay.

Love it! But you sing while you're talking, so it's like conversational karaoke.

A few months before we came to Taiwan, Aaron and I were on a city bus in Sacramento, CA, when a couple of older Chinese tourists were sitting across from us, looking confused and lost. They kept trying to ask the bus driver for directions, but couldn't speak a lick of English. The busy and preoccupied driver couldn't drive and try to help the couple, and a few people on the bus tried to tell them to sit down and be quiet. A couple guys even said, "Get off the bus and go back to your own country!" The older couple tried to hand over a cell phone with a translator on it to the bus driver, but he pulled over and told them to get out, muttering that he didn't have time for this. We were horrified and that experience continues to haunt us every day as we have become that couple.

Each day when we walk through our town and attempt to order food, ask questions, find directions, we are completely dumbfounded as to how to communicate and often resort to charades and hand motions to try to get our point across. It's actually pretty humorous to watch Aaron try to ask the hardware store man if he has a certain tool, using loud slow words and hands.

Here's the thing though; in all our attempts at talking to people, both in the country in and in the city, we have been so surprised and grateful at how helpful everyone is. If one person doesn't understand us or knows they can't help us, they will ask around and find someone who can. When I order coffee, the patient yet busy cashier will point to each and every drink on the menu until she comes to the one I want, and then apologize to me for not speaking English! I should be apologizing for living in their country and being so deficient, and yet they go out of their ways to make sure that we are taken care of.

America is not this tolerant. "Come to our country, and learn our language now, because we don't have time for you otherwise", is our motto for foreigners.

Our new school=


We came out to Taiwan originally to create a brand new school with a team of teachers. Although our school is not yet open, immigrant construction workers are building day and night to try to finish it in time for the opening the week before Christmas. If the project is not finished, then the grand opening may be pushed back until after Chinese New Year. We had a field trip to Kuolai, our school, and were absolutely memorized at the natural beauty of our new surroundings.

Have a look!
From Rikon Expedition Blog

From Rikon Expedition Blog

From Rikon Expedition Blog

From Rikon Expedition Blog

From Rikon Expedition Blog

From Rikon Expedition Blog

From Rikon Expedition Blog

From Rikon Expedition Blog

From Rikon Expedition Blog

Daily Living in Taiwan


Daily Life:

Now that we’ve been here a few weeks, Aaron and I have begun to settle into a little daily routine. We go to work every day from 8-4, beginning our days at the crack of dawn. We take turns making a simple breakfast of either eggs and toast or oatmeal with this nutrition packet that tastes like almonds and is very popular here. Then we ride to school with the 3 other teachers on our team. (3 more will be joining us at the end of December). We all drive 30 minutes to our school in Pingling, which is the “Tea Capitol” of Taiwan.
We work, and talk, and play with the kids, and prepare lesson plans, design, and materials for our new school. Our school is under construction and is supposed to be finished in time for our grand opening in December, but we’ll see if that happens (photos coming!).
We eat every day at this noodle shop owned by one of the kids’ parents, and they have a chubby little 3 year old that bosses us around each time we come for lunch. The food is probably one of the consistently best that we’ve had, and they invent new vegetarian items every day-always something new to look forward to.
Then we go down the street to 7-11 to get some juice or chocolate and then head back to school to finish up our work. Right now, I’m designing logos for each room, a website with videos, pictures and a blog, as well as attempting to create a cute map for the kids to navigate around camp.
We drive home each afternoon at 4 an right now are practicing holding our breaths in the tunnel. Lara found David Blaine’s secret breath-holding techniques so we’re putting it to the test on the ride home. Aaron and I do a 2 mile lap of the town each evening and sometimes pick up a meal of either a grilled tofu brick, noodles, or vegetables, and then we head home to clean our house or catch up with the latest Office or Glee episode.
The weekends are really fun because we go into Taipei and see the other teachers. We explore different Metro stops and try and get more familiar with the different neighborhoods and markets.
Two aspects of daily living that have been a little trouble to get used to is our tiny fridge and oven, and our always damp laundry. The small kitchen forces us to shop almost every day, and we’re pretty limited in baking because of the size of the oven. This could be a good thing because it forces us to exercise to the store, and restricts our consumption of delicious baked goods. (check out my first attempt at cookies! However, I forgot that our oven is in Celisius and cooked the cookies at about 500 degrees F).
Laundry takes 3-5 days per load, and consists of washing in our machine, laying out or hanging to dry and then several flips and turns and modification through the house as we pray for the mildew to hold off a little longer. Our house is sometimes a jungle of jeans, shirts, and underwear. I’m trying this new thing where I wear my clothes longer than I normally would, just because I’m sick of doing laundry. It’s a little stinky but I can handle it and hope the people around me can too.

That’s just a snapshot into what it’s like here!

Oh, and one of our favorite things is the signs in English and their use of English translation. Most of the time, it's a little off but definitely hilarious-check out the J-Walking sign!.

Top 20 list-by Aaron


Interesting things we’ve experienced in Taiwan/Things I like:

(things in parentheses are added by rika)

1. Great apartment (it was a little dirty, but we gave it some love...we have a great view)

2. Love the food (i'm gonna disagree with this one...a little goes a long way)

3. Really helpful and nice people (very nice, super helpful, even when it's out of their skill level)

4. Best cab drivers in the world unless you’re worried about silly things like directions (HA!)

5. Kids at the school are great fun (and cute, so very cute!)

6. We work with awesome people (our bosses were teachers here last year and are determined to make our situation better with all the lessons they learned)

7. Eating is always an interesting if somewhat dangerous/gross experience, usually just good. (i've had to learn how to say "Mayo RO!" = "No Meat", and then describe the different meats just so they won't sneak something in)

8. Learning to communicate without speaking Mandarin is fun (sign language, and speaking really loud)

9. First home together (yay!)

10. 7-11’s run the country (and they have absolutely everything you can imagine!)

11. It’s beautiful

12. Tons of things to do

13. Currently has the world’s tallest complete building (Dubai is close to beating us out)

14. Our job here is fun

15. We’re still on the “grid” not some remote jungle (grocery store is a 15 minute walk)

16. Rika loves the squat pots, I think it’s her favorite thing here (rika does not like the squat pots)

17. The metro here is amazing (and everyone in the station is good at making lines. people always stand still on the right side of the escalator and let the moving people pass on the left. i've heard of this idea in theory but have never witnessed it!)

18. Driving is crazy, but less accidents here than the states (um, heart attack central. no rules of traffic, just do as you feel, every lane is a passing lane even if there's oncoming traffic)

19. Speed limits? Red lights? Nah…

20. Hard mattresses (brought to you by Chevy-like a rock)

Taiwan: Post #1.


(experiencing taipei, and our little apartment)
Our blog is working!

Well, I already wrote one or two new blog accounts, but our sketchy internet prohibited anything from going through. I was so frustrated I took a few days off from blogging (especially since I lost the originals from not saving).

Here we are, in Taiwan! The island, otherwise known as Formosa, or beautiful, is just like its name describes. Aaron and I were in awe as we drove through Taipei to our apartment on the outskirts of town. There are so many semi-jagged hills, plush with thick vegetation, mixed with grungy urban life as well. Taiwan has almost as many people as Australia and it’s a small fraction of the size. Most of the people live in the capital, Taipei, and most people live in high-rise apartments. All of the English teachers at our campus live in such apartments, with a view of the mountains and a single freeway. Our apartment is pretty spacious, complete with couches, a meditation room, and mini-sized fridge and oven.
Since we’ve arrived, we have been so busy! The first weekend we were here was a whirlwind of exploration and adventure. We navigated the Taipei metro system to see our fellow teachers in the north, and then went to church with everyone the next day at a small church that meets in an amphitheater of the Adventist hospital in the city. After the church service, we went to the Taipei 101 area of the city and saw street performers, Chinese tourists, and lots and lots of people.
More on the city of Taipei lata…
We spent that evening with other English teachers our age, who had been in Taiwan since this summer, and they filled us in on many mistakes and lessons that they had already made, especially when it comes to food. We’ll have to do a blog or a few blogs on the food sometime too-it’s just crazy. But since we’re here, I have three words for you: Coagulated pig’s blood. It’s a delicacy here. Here's a little video of our first culinary experience.
Sunday we spent exploring even more of a Taipei neighborhood and found a North Face store, several used book shops with a few English books, and our friends Chris and Lisa took us to a New Zealand burger place that had amazing burgers, even veggie! After that, we went home and started working on apartment to make it more livable.
We are in the process of planning and training to open up a new English school, called Kuolai English Wilderness. It sounds hardcore because it is. We’ll be teaching outdoor skills to urban Taipei’en 5th graders and they’ll be learning choice English phrases in the process. We have an office in a public elementary school about 30 minutes away, and this is our “mother school”, where we will be held accountable as regular teachers with regular hours, even if we are out of the box non-comformers.

There’s so much to say, so little time, so stay tuned!



Aaron and I have been so fortunate in the last week and a half. Instead of being kicked out of our respective rented houses and thrown to the cold, dark streets of Chattanooga, our good friends, The Morris's, have taken us in and will house us until we leave early Friday morning for California. We've had so much fun with Jonathan and Monika. During the days, while they're at work, we've been packing and repacking, cleaning out my car, running last minute errands, and researching ways to communicate with our fellow Americans while we're overseas. And then, when they come home, we PARTY in the USA. (do I hear a little Miley Cyrus coming on?)

Do you remember the days when you'd come home from school, throw on a bike or pair of rollerblades and tear up the cul-de-sac with the other kids on the street until dusk settles over the land? Well, we had one of those evenings complete with mopeds, skateboards, and hay-bale jumping. We are really going to miss all of these fun-loving friends of ours', but on a brighter note, Aaron has signed us up for unlimited calls to the US as well as a US number for our friends and family to call us on. And it won't cost you a cent! But if you sign up for Skype, you can look at us too while you're talking to us!

Our new phone number (now effective) is:

(909) 54 RIKON

(909) 547-4566.

Countdown to leaving Tennessee is 3 days!

Wedding!!! and now.


The wedding was the best day of our lives. We talk about it almost every day, still. There is nothing sweeter than being surrounded by nature, people we love, good food, amazing blue skies, and our families to celebrate what else, but Love itself. I heard that there wasn't a dry eye in the crowd, or up front since Aaron was one big tearfest. (I accredited his tears to not crying enough in movies, like I always do). Anyway, it was beautiful, and everything went swimmingly! There were no mishaps, or big problems besides starting very very late (but are we ever on time anyway?), and a few people getting stung by yellow jackets.

And before we knew it, it was all over! All of this planning and visioning and preparation for this moment, and poof-we were now man and wife! No matter how many times we said it afterwards, in the car, at the gas station, at Cracker Barrel where I had some mac 'n cheese, I could not believe that I was now "Mrs. Meyer", Aaron's wife. It still makes me giggle.

I always hear every bride say that her wedding is like a blur, but I remember taking in each moment and thinking, This is better than any dream! The soundtrack carried us all into esctacy and when we ran through the bubble-filled line of loved ones, I thought, surely this must be a dream!

Anyway, now we're married, back in temporary real life of packing, sorting things, moving out of our houses, making endless trips to the Samaritan Center, and trying to peddle our stuff onto our poor friends (not that they're impoverished, but because i feel sorry for them putting up with our obnoxious antics of stuff-peddling). We're almost ready to leave, and are trying to strategize each and every item to pack into 2 50-lb suitcases a piece, and 1 guitar case.

10 days, and we're outta here!

Weekend update #1


Well, the wedding weekend is officially off to a kick start! Almost all the relatives are in town, with just a few more on the way. Most have traveled 10+ hours, flying in, driving, rowing boats, etc. It's so good to see everyone, but we can't believe how tired we are now...Today, we had to clean out our rooms to move out, pack simultaneously for Taiwan and our honeymoon, direct our loving family where to go to be of greatest assistance, pick up generators, sound systems, programs, flowers and flowers and more flowers..., and then meet at the wedding site with our loving parents, Aaron's sister, our two wedding party representatives (ansley and jonathan), and our wedding coordinator, Audrey. We walked through the service and figured out some hazy details.

Aaron said, '"Rika, please let this be the only time we get married...no renewals, no fake new ceremonies," and i looked at him and understood. It's a lot of work to get married with the people you love all around you!

But we did have help, oh so much help! Jonathan and Ansley were our MVP's, for running around town, picking flowers and doing random errands. My mom helped me pack and clean and even scrubbed my semi-nasty bathroom. My aunt Shar cooked all day for the evening's Family Dinner Night for 20+ people, and for lunch tomorrow, while Aaron's dad twisted nice wire onto jars for the decorations for the ceremony. And Aaron's mom and sister picked up a few dozen mums and talked down Wal-Mart's manager to a cheaper price on them.

So now, laying in my bed, listening to some sweet Jadon Lavik, I give thanks. Most of all, I'm grateful for a forced break, a rest from the insanity of the week. Thank God for the Shabbat! Secondly, I'm just so thankful and thrilled to be marrying the love of my life soon! It seems too good to be true that just in a couple days, we will no longer have to sleep apart, say good bye to each other, talk on the phone at night, and we can just be together! Life is so much better with my Love near me...

on that sappy note, I'm falling asleep, so i'm taking a bubble bath and going to sleep....The guys are celebrating Aaron's semi-last night by sleeping at the farm tonight. I'm not jealous-it's freezing!!! Pray for a miracle-that it will be warmer on sunday!


Our new blog!


This is our new blog! How else are we going to keep everyone in touch? Will add more in coming weeks. Keep checking back...

For now, add us to your google reader account so you'll get an automatic update every time we update our blog. So easy and fun!

With love,

Aaron and Rika