Scotland. Yes, it was awesome.

Going to Scotland at the end of winter meant the landscapes looked less like the postcards and screensavers everyone’s seen. The colors of the land, and the sky at times, were muted, but the clear sky and water were brilliant. Rainclouds were dollops of whipped cream over water and quieting gray blankets over land.

Scotland has a rawness to it that’s incredibly appealing. Our whirlwind trip didn’t allow us enough time to sit back and get to know the country as well as we wanted to, but the bit we saw was [adjective]. Just… everything.

Caitlin and I visited Edinburgh, Inverness, Portree, the Isle of Skye, and Glasgow, and between us we took nearly 2,000 pictures over the course of five days. Here are 75.

The waves and peaks of San Diego

San Diego is a dry, brown city shoved in the bottom left corner of the United States. It might as well be TijuanDiego.

But hey – at least it’s California!

This just in: I used to be an idiot when it came to anything San Diego. In my defense, it was a former boss’s fault; he told me that the city used to be a desert until all the foliage was brought in, which led me to believe the city was the ugly stepsister to San Francisco. Flat. Dusty. Front lawns full of rocks and sand. Pancake beaches reminiscent of Florida’s coastline.

Even though I fell in love with California when I visited San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Ventura, I just never felt the urge to visit San Diego.

Then my friend Jennifer told me to come visit her. In desperate need of a weekend outside Texas’s border, I booked a cheap flight and found myself on southern California soil late on a Thursday night. I was excited to be there and catch up, but was pretty apathetic about seeing the area.

Jenn picked me up around 11pm. My 48-pound checked bag with 30 bottles of Texas craft beer inside survived the jostling of the trip, and we excitedly chatted as we drove north to her apartment. I saw the beautiful skyline lit against the dark night, and then noticed the city’s lights dotting the scene outside my window.

“Hills! Wait! There are hills?”

Not only is San Diego very much not flat, it’s also lush and beautiful. It’s not brown. Even on the beach (well, one beach), where the sand is brown, there’s mica that makes the beach shimmer as though it’s covered in gold glitter. San Diego isn’t shoved anywhere, and it doesn’t seem like the conjoined twin to Tijuana, Mexico. Just like the pilot said as we were landing, San Diego County is paradise.

(If you want to read the captions or see the photos in their enlarged glory, click.)

#3: Visit the Dallas Museum of Art

The Dallas Museum of Art is free in the summer, and Klyde Warren Park is right across the street. Briana, Michael, Brooke, and I arrived at the DMA at 11:30am, half an hour after it opened. Around 2pm we went to the park for lunch, and then returned to the museum until it closed at 5pm.

I didn’t think I could take pictures inside the museum. Surprisingly, you can take as many pictures as you want in the permanent exhibits, so all these pictures were taken with my iPhone.

It was my second time to go, and my favorite exhibit is still the European Paintings and Sculptures on the second level. Come to Dallas and go to the DMA. I recommend it.

Caitlin! in Yilan.

I’ve avoided this post.

I left Taiwan September 1, and it’s now November. Being back for two full months: you’d think I’d have the hang of it by now. For the most part, I guess I do, but there are times when I’ll suddenly get a craving for food from a Hsinchu restaurant. Or I’ll miss my friends and turn to Facebook, instead of my phone, to check in on them.

After spending a lot of time complaining about Taiwan and having my battles with my life there, I’m happy to say I look back on my two years there fondly. Sure, I remember the frustrations, the pain of being separated from those near to my heart. More, though, I remember the people, the experiences, and the joys that helped make me the me I am now.

Taiwan, I love you. Thank you. I’ll be back to visit soon.

I guess this means it’s really over.

Caitlin! The full itinerary and more Taipei

Caitlin was in Taiwan for eight days. I was quite intent on introducing her to the cuisine, transportation, and trying to show her the basics of Taiwanese life. At times I went a little overboard, shoving all kinds of weird experiences and foods down her throat, but she was a great sport.

During Caitlin’s entire stay, Typhoon Tembin was like, HEY! I wanna hang out, too! Thus, this lovely little storm circled back for a second trip to Taiwan. Luckily, it didn’t affect her trip too much.

Friday (August 24), her first day, I’ve already detailed: we went to Taipei for the National Palace Museum, Modern Toilet, and the Xilin Night Market (where we visited a large temple).

Saturday (August 25) we went back to Taipei and went to the top of Taipei 101 and visited the Jade Market.

Sunday (August 26) was spent in Hsinchu. We had brunch with many of the fine ladies and gents of the foreign community. Since it was raining, I’m pretty sure this was the day we saw ParaNorman! at Big City.

Monday (August 27) we traveled back to Taipei to fulfill a promise I’d made to a friend to take pictures of a missionary’s grave at Christ’s College in northwest Taipei. The weather was beautiful, and Caitlin and I both marveled at the mountains. After we visited the college, we took 45-minutes’ worth of metro rides to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. We intended to see the Salvador Dalí exhibit there, but our timing was off. It didn’t matter, though; the memorial grounds were beautiful and welcoming, and it was there that I spent my two-year Taiwanniversary.

Tuesday (August 28) I showed Caitlin the two main temples in Hsinchu. For dinner we met up with some of my students, Sunny, and Annie’s Mom at the Train Station Night Market. Caitlin tried stinky tofu, and I gagged down some, too, at the kids’ insistence.

Wednesday (August 29): Sunny, Jack, and Jessica picked Caitlin and me up at 8am. Annie’s Mom, Annie, and Ting Ting were in a car behind us. Our crew drove to the other side of the island to Yilan, where we played in a river, saw a waterfall, ate incredible seafood at Su-ao Pier, prayed at a temple, visited a cold spring, and had shaved ice. We returned to Hsinchu at around 8pm, and I immediately jumped on my scooter and joined Yvonne, Polly, and some other work friends for dinner at a restaurant.

Thursday (August 30) we joined Hannah for dinner at a delicious Thai restaurant downtown. Other than that, I packed, ran errands, and tried to get ready for my move back. I had drinks with a few friends at Chocolate’s bar, but it was a very mellow day overall.

Friday (August 31) was similar to Thursday. I transferred my scooter to my friend Amanda, who promised to love and cherish it. That evening we had dinner with several friends to say goodbye, during which there were back-to-back earthquakes centered in Hsinchu/Miaoli. During the first, I punched Caitlin in the arm out of excitement.

She experienced the full Taiwan: typhoons, earthquakes, west coast, east coast, Taipei 101, Taiwanese hospitality, stinky tofu, street food, night markets, temples, scooters and trains and the metro and traffic. She did it all. Posts with pictures from Hsinchu and Yilan are on their way.

And then, it was all over. Early Saturday morning, September 1, 2012, I boarded a plane and left Taiwan.

Caitlin! Day One.

My friend Caitlin came to visit, and her trip marked my last week in Taiwan. Showing her my life in Taiwan and introducing her to the country I called home for two years, as well as to some of the most important people in my life: it was the best way I could have said goodbye to the island.

Her trip coincided with Typhoon Tembin’s attack on Taiwan, though we lucked out with great weather and very little rain most days. The first full day she was here, Friday, we headed north to Taipei. We visited the National Palace Museum, where I finally viewed all the exhibits (and didn’t see Steven, sadly). After a long afternoon there, we went to Modern Toilet, a restaurant near the Xilin Night Market. We then walked through the market, stopping in a temple hidden behind several stalls. Not too much later, we headed back to the metro station: we had a metro ride, a train ride, and a long scooter trip ahead of us, and we were both exhausted.

All photos taken with my Nikon D5000 with my nifty fifty lens.

Tainan as a tourist

In three hatchbacks our group drove south to Tainan: siblings Ryan and Sara and their parents; sisters Annie and Ting Ting with their mother and grandmother; and siblings Jack and Jessica, their parents, and me. Our destination was the Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel. Once we arrived, we battled the weather with umbrellas and flip flops and enjoyed a mini-vacation away from Hsinchu.

Warning: two pictures show men who have flogged themselves.

Tainan as a local

Yvonne, Larry and I took the High Speed Rail down to Chiayi, a city just north of Tainan, and spent the weekend exploring Tainan and staying with her parents in Chiayi. Even with the language barrier, I had an incredible time; Yvonne’s parents are lovely, generous people, and we spent the weekend communicating in giggles and smiles (with some translation from Yvonne and Larry).

Taiwan’s southern tip: Kenting (47 photos)

We set off at 4:30am Saturday morning (June 30) from Hsinchu. Eight kids, six parents, and me: we drove south to Kenting, a beachside resort town, for a weekend of beautiful weather, mountains and beaches.

Amazing fact: I didn’t get sunburned.

Obvious fact: Now I want to move to Hawaii.

I tried water chestnuts, fried flying fish eggs and coconut water, all for the first time. Food was an unofficial theme for this trip. The scenery was, y’know, pretty decent, too.