Lunar New Year in Taipei & Next Adventure

As promised, I’ll be sharing with you how I celebrated Lunar New Year in Taipei. Today is the second day of Lunar New Year! 🙂

When I arrived to Taipei end of summer last year, I was excited that I’ll be spending Lunar New Year here, and was looking forward to it, because I thought it would be more festive than in Canada. To my shock, it is not as festive as I imagined it to be; even my local friends admit that Taipei is the least festive city during Lunar New Year. The main reason is that most of the people who usually crowd the streets and MRT stations are actually transplants. They live in Taipei because of work and when it’s Lunar New Year, they return to their hometown to celebrate it. I learned that over 50% of whom I assumed were local Taipei residents return to their hometowns. Therefore, the past few days have been eerily quiet and empty, since most stores close too. I’ve actually been enjoying the peace and quiet the past few days, with less people on both the streets and subway.

Nonetheless, there are some little festivities around the city to remind us that it’s still Lunar New Year, such as red decorations and Lunar New Year sales in stores that are opened during this holiday.

Below, I’ll share a few photos with you so you can get a feel of Lunar New Year festivities:

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Of course Taipei 101 Mall is decorated and it’s opened to tourists. 🙂

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Inside of Taipei 101 Mall

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Another department store with beautiful red decoration at front door

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I thought it was cool that even Krispy Kreme celebrates Lunar New Year and sells Lunar New Year themed donuts!

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Top row, sells a few kinds of Lunar New Year donuts, the monkey one is so cute! 🙂

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Of course lots of stores sell Lunar New Year decorations…red means good luck! 🙂

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Some typical New Year snacks Taiwanese eat as introduced to us by my Mandarin professor. 

 

I was very happy that my landlords invited me to go grocery shopping with them and experience the hecticness of buying food to prepare the two most important meals/dinners of Lunar New Year: New Year’s Eve & First Day. It was most crowded with people at the grocery stores and the markets. That was where I felt the most festive atmosphere! 🙂

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This is Hua Gao (literal translation: Flower High); it’s a very yummy sweet cake that is eaten during this time because it means in whatever endeavour you pursue (e.g. work place) you will be promoted to a higher level. 

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Busy Nanmen Market on New Year’s Eve

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I was told by many Taiwanese friends that I won’t be able to see a lion dance in Taipei, but they were wrong! On the first day of Lunar New Year, I was woken up by loud drum sounds so I quickly went to see where the noise came from. I was really thrilled to see the lion dance from afar, on my apartment balcony. This lion dance went on for about 20 minutes in front of the department store. Very festive indeed!!

Eating homemade New Year’s Eve and First Day of New Year dinners with my warm-hearted lovely landlords and their family was a very wonderful experience! I learned it takes them the whole day to prepare such a feast!

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New Year’s Eve Dinner

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First Day of Lunar New Year Dinner

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I found it very interesting my landlords decorated even a refrigerator door with red Spring scrolls. They told me that wherever there are doors, the red Spring scrolls must be put on. The Chinese character on the fridge door means “full”. The word full signifies that all year long one is never hungry, and have enough to eat. 🙂

Living in Taipei has been beyond what I expected…I’m filled with happiness every day and feel so blessed to have met so many warm-hearted and caring souls, and exposed to so many different exciting everyday adventures!!

I am now off on my next adventure, to New Zealand for my 200 hours yoga training and some travelling down under and some other countries for the next few months.

I will not bring my laptop while travelling, but when inspired by what I see and experience, will try my best to share with you via instagram. On the right hand side of my blog, I’ve added an instagram link (violet_everydaygirl), so feel free to click on it whenever you want to see where I am in the world! 🙂

Like this sweet dumpling soup that my landlords are sending me off with (they say it’s for good luck this year and will encourage me to be the best person I can be as only sweet thoughts and words will come from me), I wish you all a very sweet Year of the Monkey, and wherever you are or go, may only sweet and good things follow! ❤

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With love and gratitude,

Violet 

 

 

St. Lucia: My Top 5 Short & Sweet Must-Dos

Like a lot of things in life, even the best planned vacation can go awry. I have learned this is true even when going on what is supposed to be a luxurious trip to St. Lucia for my cousin’s destination wedding.

With visions of myself spending a lot of time under the hot sun on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach while sipping a fruity cocktail, away from the freezing cold weather of Canada, and eating tons of delicious food, I did not anticipate that I would be spending more time in the hotel room than on the beach! Needless to say, due to a variety of factors, my first day of arrival was less than idyllic: from a rough nauseating two hour rollercoaster car ride to the resort where I supposedly started a chain reaction of vomiting (according to a fellow passenger who confided in my cousin a few days later at the lounge) whereby the rest of the passengers felt nauseous along with me to my diet of ginger ale, water and only fruits for dinner. Anyways, I could not believe a seasoned traveler like me who has been to Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, would get sick, much less car sick (I’ve never gotten car sick before!) on this trip to St. Lucia. But hey, you learn something new about yourself every time, and this time I’ve learned that I can even get sick in an all-inclusive vacation.

We stayed at Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort and if you’re looking for a review on it, check out my review on TripAdvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g147344-d263015-r250257791-Sandals_Grande_St_Lucian_Spa_Beach_Resort-Gros_Islet_Gros_Islet_Quarter_St_Lucia.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT

Despite my short stay in St. Lucia, compared to my family who stayed for 8 days, I still enjoyed my few days in paradise. The wedding on the beach was beautifully orchestrated and I can’t rave enough about St. Lucia as a wedding destination locale!

Here is my list of the top 5 must-dos for a short and sweet time in St. Lucia (if you only have a few days here like me):

1. Lounging and enjoying the panoramic view of the beach

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Nothing spells relaxation, at least for me, than lounging at the beach with the warm sun shining down on me while gazing at the panoramic view in front, in between reading my beach read!

 

2. Breakfast by beach

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How to make the most of beach time when your short is stay? Well, for me it is enjoy it to the fullest by taking advantage of every minute, which means starting off early with a decadent breakfast and making my own mimosa using champagne and orange juice! 😉

 

3. Speedboat Tour

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The speedboat was going so fast, I couldn’t take any of the scenic views, but managed to take this one in the beginning of the tour!

Partaking in this half day tour down the Caribbean Sea on a gorgeous sunny day with a knowledgeable and friendly tour guide plus good music blasting in the background rounded off a pretty perfect day on the island. Seeing the stunning scenic geographic views along the way was well worth it! We booked our private speedboat tour with JJ Touring and I highly recommend them!

http://www.jjtouring.com

 

4. Sulphur Springs Park

This is the island’s only drive in volcano and this experience is incomplete if you don’t take a dip into the hot spring’s mud bath! The locals say the mud is good for the skin; after covering my whole body from the tip of my toes to my face with said mud, and then rinsing it off, I have to agree with them that my skin felt so much smoother! 🙂

Unfortunately, there are no photos from the mud bath since I kept my camera away from the mud bath.

 

5. Creole Buffet

I think food is such a big part of every culture, and I’m always excited to try local cuisine, and I have to say the food I tried here was pretty yummy, especially the jerk chicken!

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Here are also 2 of my favourite photo moments in beautiful St. Lucia:

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My Heartfelt Confession: The Truth About Grief

They say that “time heal all wounds” and when it is connected to a death of  a loved one, that wound is huge. So does time really heal that huge wound? Since my dad’s passing 8 months earlier, I’ve experienced my own passages of grief and witnessed how other loved ones are dealing with it. All I can say is that grief comes in all different forms and everyone deals with it in their own way.

While everyone else around us are moving on with their lives, time definitely stand still for those of us who are grieving; at least it feels like that. Our world has been rocked and we understand that life goes on, so we do have to go along with it, and go through with the motions of everyday life. I have found that at least for me, that I may be there physically for my everyday routines, but often, I may not be there emotionally and mentally. At the same time, there are sudden spurts when I am physically, emotionally and mentally there, and genuinely happy, ready to move on. And for now, I tell myself, it’s okay to feel, think and just to be confronted with all these conflicting thoughts and emotions. The loss of my dad is still quite fresh and I’m still trying to make sense of how I’m going to cope.

In this short little time, I’ve learned that time does not heal the huge wound, but time does lessen the pain; however the grief can suddenly come back in full force and take over. And these moments can come any time, so it’s unpredictable. It can be as random as suddenly hearing my dad’s favourite song on the radio to changing my snow tires at the auto shop this week, or deliberate like when I began sorting through his things with my mom this weekend. These moments remind me of what my dear friend Zainab shared with me a few months earlier, and now I totally understand. She told me that grief is like an ocean. I think this quote explains it perfectly: “Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it it overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

I am currently learning to swim along with the water and am facing each wave as it comes my way and hopefully one day when I think of my dad it is with a true smile on my face and in my heart, and no more tears.

In this moment, thank you for reading and listening to my heartfelt confession on my grief. I am grateful for you, my readers. ❤

I promise when I’m ready emotionally and mentally, I will be in touch more often here since I do have a few posts to complete and share with you; and for my fellow blogger friends, I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to since my absence sometime soon.

With love and gratitude,

Violet

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Life Lessons from My Dad

There is an old Chinese saying that comes to mind about the fleetingness and truth of existence. It is “birth, old age, illness and death”. Almost every “healthy”  human goes through each stage, as it’s the natural progression of what we call life.

With deep sorrow, I share with you that after a long and courageous battle against cancer, my beloved dad passed away peacefully three weekends ago. Over the past few weeks, I realize that while my dad has physically left my family and I; his spirit lives on through myself and my family members. He will remain in our hearts forever through the wonderful memories we shared together and the lessons he taught us.

I dedicate this post to my dad, 3 times cancer survivor and my role model. In this post, I would like to reflect upon qualities or values that I greatly admired in and learned from my dad. I call these qualities or values “life lessons”. Thank you in advance for taking your time to read about my dad: a very remarkable, courageous and optimistic man.

 

1. Courage

In the past 7.5 years, my dad repeatedly demonstrated courage in facing and battling against three types of cancer. Such courage is considerably admirable; every time I accompanied him to chemotherapy or cheered him on at one of his surgeries, he would face these painful sessions head on with a brave countenance. I had never once seen him break down, cry or scream in agony. No matter what situation, he fearlessly met the challenge and difficulty without hesitation or cowardice. Even till his last breath, he faced death without fear; he told us he was ready to go without any regrets.

 

2. Strength & Resilience

When I mention strength here, I am not talking about physical strength. I am referring to mental and inner strength.  In my opinion, strength and resilience are interchangeable. My dad fought valiantly in every single battle against cancer, despite the pain and physical weakness from surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, and later, from the rapid and unstoppable tumor growth. However, he was always resilient in his spirit to recover. I still vividly remember his last surgery (removal  of his entire stomach) one year ago: the doctor recommended for him to walk around the hospital ward a few times a day with his walker to regain strength. Although it must have been extremely painful for him to get up after the surgery, dad would walk slowly but steadily around the ward independently, refusing support from any of us. My dad most definitely had the strength and resilience of a warrior.

 

3. Optimism

In the face of bleak truth, dad was still the epitome of optimism. He always believed he would overcome cancer and live a long life. His positive attitude helped him a lot to overcome obstacle after obstacle during the past 7.5 years. He enjoyed reading a variety of magazine articles and books on eating and cooking right to treat and prevent cancer, and then tried them out for himself and his family. Also, he knew leading an active lifestyle would help in battling against cancer. Whenever it was good weather, I would see him happily riding his bike to meet his friends at the local cafe or go grocery shopping. Not one moment did he ever give in to the hopelessness and helplessness of a cancer patient; he continued to live life to the fullest with joy and hope. Every relative, family friend and acquaintance I talked to in the past 3 weeks confirmed what I already knew: dad will forever be remembered as an eternal optimist with a zest for life.

 

4. Frugality, Generosity, Hard Work & Selflessness

My family and I noticed something quite astounding as we were going through family albums. My dad actually wore the same pair of glasses for almost 25 years! He had these glasses from the day he was in university until I graduated from high school. This discovery really brought home the fact that he was a very simple, kind-hearted man, who found joy in the little things such as working to provide for his family, eating dinner with us, and being creative with reusing recyclable materials. He rarely spent money on himself,  except buying himself a cup of coffee and the newspaper to be enjoyed at the cafe. While my dad was frugal on himself, he was always generous with his family and friends, and even strangers. He was the type of person who would give money to strangers with a sob story, without doubting the authenticity.

Since I was a little child, I associated hard work with my dad. He was always working extra hard from Monday to Sunday, to raise my brother and I, so we could have the best of everything. He even uprooted his life in Europe by moving to Canada so his children could have a better future. I believe dad’s simple, hardworking and frugal life is something to look up to, as he was able to raise two successful children and have his own property with his wife in a new country. He built a happy and rewarding life based on the foundations of hard work, selflessness, frugality and generosity.

 

5. Actions Speak Louder than Words

Dad was raised in a family and culture that did not display affections or express feelings outwardly. As a result, I used to think he was incapable of love. Now I know that his every action showed his immense love and care for his family. For example, he would make me a hot breakfast every morning during the week, and always took care of the maintenance of my car. These thoughtful gestures definitely showed his love for me. From my dad, I have learned that actions speak louder than words; it is a valuable lesson and reminder for me when interacting with people around me.

 

My dad’s “life lessons” are his legacy for me. My only wish is to be able to live by his example, passing on his legacy, as I continue to grow into the best person I can be, and move forward in life. I am truly honoured and proud to be my dad’s daughter.

In loving memory of my dad: tulips are a symbol of Spring and eternal life. May his legacy live on through me and he rest in eternal peace in heaven. :)

In loving memory of my dad: tulips are a symbol of Spring and eternal life. May his legacy live on through me and may he rest in eternal peace and happiness in heaven.