Saturday, September 29, 2012

When the Moon is Full . . .

Everybody loves holidays and one of the great things about living in a different culture is that there is double the number of holidays to celebrate! We’ll still partake in our traditional holidays, but now we get a whole new set of special days to enjoy.

One such day, the Mid-Autumn Festival, is tomorrow. This holiday (also known as the “Moon Festival” or “Lunar Festival”) is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which is basically the full moon that falls sometime in September.  I absolutely love how this day is celebrated here – families gather outside in the pleasant autumn weather to eat BBQ and moon cakes while gazing at the full moon.  It is a time for families to gather and to reflect on those who are far away or passed away.  Since everyone is admiring the same full moon at the same time, there is a very tangible sense of togetherness, hence the expression “when the moon is full, mankind is one”.  I wish we had a holiday that was as simple and well-meaning as the Moon Festival.  Perhaps our closest parallel is Thanksgiving – not in terms of origins or meaning, but because it is celebrated in a less commercial manner with family and reflection.

I took this during the last full moon looking
towards the Taipei 101 Buidling.
A highlight of the festival is eating moon cakes.  These little guys are intense.  They are the size of a mini-cupcake, but are more dense and rich than anything I’ve ever eaten.  Moon cakes come in several shapes and sizes, but the traditional kind has a somewhat crispy outer crust with a super-rich and sweet filling that contains a salted egg yolk.  One of these will stick with you for hours – don’t try snacking on one before dinner, believe me.  Jess came home with an entire box which she received as a gift from a student’s parents. Hopefully we can give them away because I can’t not eat them, even though I know that just one of them probably contain as many calories as a four course meal.

Moon cakes have an interesting origin that goes back to the Yuan dynasty.  The Han people of the time resented the Mongol rule of the Yuan dynasty and wanted to plan a rebellion.  Zhu Yuanzhang and his advisors came up with a plan that involved spreading a rumor that a deadly plague was sweeping through the country, and the only prevention was to eat special moon cakes.  They quickly distributed the cakes which contained a secret message to revolt on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.  It worked and the Ming revolution was successful, thanks in part to these yummy little belly bombs.

We are celebrating the Moon Festival on our roof tomorrow night with our neighbors at a potluck party.  Hopefully the weather will be as nice tomorrow as it was all day today – 70 degrees and a clear blue sky.  This is a much deserved change after a stretch of rainy weather.  We’re looking forward to the opportunity to get to know our neighbors, eat some BBQ, and enjoy the full moon on a nice rooftop garden, and to think about all the people who we miss on the other side of the world. 

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Better Luck Next Time

 I’ve always said that playing the lottery is the only voluntary tax in the world. When I’m being especially cynical, I’ve been known to call it “the idiot tax” because of the terrible odds that are stacked in the house’s favor.  I’ve bought a handful of scratchers in my life (as a rule, never from a state in which I reside) and I’ve never once bought a traditional pick-your-family-members’-birthday-numbers lotto ticket.  This is probably why I’ve been obsessed with the Taiwan lotto ever since we’ve moved here.

The Taiwanese lotto is unlike anything I’ve ever heard of – the biggest difference being that you don’t buy tickets.  Every single receipt that you get from any store, no matter how small the purchase, acts as a lotto ticket.  So naturally, Taiwanese people cherish their receipts and never dare toss one in the trash as they leave a store.  The winnings can be as much as $10 million NTD (about $300,000 USD).  Not bad. 

Why on earth would the Taiwanese government give away millions to people just for having their receipts?  The genius behind the lottery system is that it makes receipts valuable to customers, so they demand, or at least expect, that they get a receipt for every purchase.  If stores print receipts for every purchase, thereby entering it into their registers, every purchase can be taxed.  The lottery system is a clever way to keep all transactions “on the books” so that businesses can’t hide revenue from the government.  Millions may be given away to the winners, but the real winner is the government since very few transactions are not officially recorded and taxed. The lottery system basically turns each customer into an auditor or enforcer of the tax code.  I may not care if a business reports all of its income, but I damn well want my receipt that may be worth 10 million!

The actual lottery is pretty simple.  They draw a series of eight digit numbers.  Each receipt has a unique eight digit number (this takes some coordination – which is why it is called the “Uniform Invoice Lottery”) that is printed on the top of the receipt.  Match the grand prize or special prize exactly, and you win the jackpot of $10 million.  If you match the last seven digits, you get $40,000, match the last six and you get $10,000 and so on.  Just matching the last three digits will get you $200 (about $6.50), which is at least a decent dinner.    Since there are five numbers that only require matching the last three numbers, each receipt has a 1/200 chance of winning.  That doesn’t sound great, but the lottery is held every two months, so you are bound to have 200 receipts and have at least one winner.  That is, if you are lucky.

Apparently, I’m not very lucky.  At least not yet.  I probably spoiled my luck by half-jokingly obsessing over the $10 million grand prize for the last two weeks.  For some reason I had an irrational belief that we would win big.  I even did the math on the odds of the grand prize.  23,000,000 people x 1 reciept per day x 60 days = 1.38 Billion receipts.  Since there is probably an average of more than one receipt per day per person, I have less than a 1 in 1,000,000,000 chance of winning the grand prize.  I guess since everything else has been working out so well here, I just assumed the luck would continue.  I’ll just have to cherish my good fortune in other areas and keep collecting receipts for the November 25th numbers.  

Wish us luck!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Original Taiwanese

Taiwan is similar to China in many ways, but it has some features not found on the mainland.  The indigenous people of Taiwan give the island a distinctive cultural heritage unique to the island.

After two unsuccessful attempts, Abel and I finally got to tour the Formosa Museum of Aborigines last week, and it was worth the wait.  The museum was small, but very new and contained lots of cool artifacts with English explanations.   I was totally ignorant about these cultures and was surprised by many things I learned.  For one, the indigenous people are virtually unrelated to any people on the Asian continent - they are share lineage and cultural roots with Polynesian people in Malaysia, Philippines, and the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii.  Today, only 2% of the island’s population is of indigenous descent, the vast majority of people having immigrated from Mainland China in successive waves starting in the 17th century.

Here are some of the other interesting things (at least to an anthropology nut) that I learned about Taiwan’s original inhabitants:

·         Living on an island, the people on the coast have learned to make some incredible boats.  They are fast and light and take three years to build.  Just look at these!

·         Several of the tribes on the island practiced face tattooing, which was a coming of age ritual for both males and females.  Here is a good article explains its relation to their creation story.   Can you imagine entering a village where all the inhabitants have tattooed faces!

·         Indigenous music is awesome and I was shocked to learn that I was actually familiar with a particular song.  You have probably heard the song linked below also.  How is it that a Taiwanese aboriginal song is played around the world? The story is that a French cultural organization went around the world collecting traditional songs from indigenous people and then compiled the recordings on a collection of albums which they sold.  Michael Cretu of the group Enigma bought the rights from the French organization and used it as the foundation for “Return to Innocence”.  Cretu earned gobs of money and the elderly Difang, who originally sang the song on the bus for free, got nothing. Luckily the situation was somewhat rectified as Difang received a settlement out of court and subsequently recorded albums of his cultures’ traditional songs.   Something about it is beautiful and haunting – makes me want to listen to more of his songs.

·         Rukai villages built homes out of beautiful slate rock – creating streets, walls, floors, roofs, and all out of huge slabs of black slate.  No thatched huts for these people!  They had a nice mock-up of a home in the museum – it looked like it would stay cool in the summer, be easy to clean, and stand up to any typhoon.

Jess and I are planning a visit to Wulai in the next few weeks to experience some of the food and cultural events of the Atayal people.  Two things I look forward to are walking on ancient hunting trails to waterfalls in the jungle and eating traditional foods such as fried bees - I assume they remove the stinger.  I'll eat anything once!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Going with Your Gut (Part 2)

So, I changed my mind.

I believe I ended my last post with a promise of a sequel that describes how variable infant caregiving is in different cultures.  The purpose of such a description would be to illustrate how there are many different ways to raise a baby and to prove that the practices deemed “correct” by experts in our culture are not alone in producing healthy children that grow into happy adults. I still think that such a post is a good idea, but as I was researching the topic I realized that it would make a much better book than blog post.  The topic of cultural variability in child care-giving is much too complex and broad to be summarized in a casual blog post.  I find the topic too interesting and too important to oversimplify.   

I also changed my mind about another aspect of my last post.  I was quick to deride “experts” and those who pick “parenting camps” from which they get opinions and views on parenting issues, but I am absolutely guilty of the same behavior.  Who am I kidding? Once I had the chance to reflect on my post, I realized that I have a whole host of camps and experts from whom I gather information.  For starters, I have just finished a series of courses in Applied BehaviorAnalysis which is an entire philosophy of learning and child-rearing based on B.F. Skinner’s Behaviorism.  I’m not a radical behaviorist like some, but technically I am supposed to be 100% committed to using only behavioral interventions for problem behavior if I am to work as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.   This is absolutely a “camp” full of “experts” that will spoon feed answers to any parenting problem.  Of course I plan on using this methodology on students and clients with developmental disabilities such as autism, but the same principles hold true for all people.
 In addition to my behavior analyst training, just this week I found a new “expert” with whom I share a lot of views.  Jean Liedoff is the author of “The Continuum Concept” and I came across her website just this week as I was doing some research on infant caregiving in traditional cultures.  (Funny note – I had heard of “the continuum concept” before as it is the butt of some hilarious jokes in the movie “Away We Go”) She studied several cultures around the world and learned from their caregiving practices because they more closely reflect human nature and the way in which our species was designed to raise children.  In her view, and my own, modern Western culture has so radically altered our caregiving practices that we are not providing the environment or behaving in a way that is in line with our babies’ needs. This is a view based on anthropology and biology that uses the few traditional (often called “primitive”) culture left on the planet as a window into our species’ evolutionary past.  She openly criticizes “so called experts” throughout her writing and challenges readers to ignore experts if their advice goes against their intuition or human nature.  Interestingly, when her book became popular, she became widely regarded as an expert herself. 

Honestly, I wish I had beaten her to writing that book.  Last week I was sure that I was going to write a best-seller titled “Paleo Parenting: Raising Children the Natural Way”.  It would be an extension of the Paleo diet theory that our diet should be based on what our ancestors ate and what our bodies evolved to eat.  So far it looks like my “original” idea is not so original after all, but I do disagree with one article “TheConsequences of Consequences” that she wrote.  It was fascinating for me to read an article where she uses an anthropological perspective (which I share) to criticize behavioral interventions (which is my field).  From reading the article, she obviously does not have a firm understanding of behaviorism and the science of learning. Perhaps that is my niche – to find common ground between intuitive “paleo parenting” and the science of behaviorism.  Or maybe my niche is to write a book on how behavior analysis can be applied cross-culturally?  I’ll add those to the long list of future projects . . .

Another expert whom I admire is Harvey Karp, who wrote the extremely popular “Happiest Baby on the Block.” He also uses a lot of cross-cultural examples and uses their practices as inspiration for his suggestions (he calls them the 5 S’s: swaddling, sucking, swinging, side/stomach, shh-ing) that is the core of his book.  He mentions !Kung bushmen in Africa, Afghans nomads who swaddle, and several other far-flung cultures.  His book was the only parenting book that I read and actually used.  The only complaint I’ve heard about his work is that it was common knowledge to many midwives and grandmothers around the world, but now he has made quite a pile of cash from packaging those ideas and putting them into a paperback.

So how does this fit in with my audacious title “Going with Your Gut”? I guess the middle ground that I’m seeking is that “going with your gut” does not preclude learning from others.  Educate yourself from a variety of sources, retaining what seems valid and disregarding the rest.  Build a good foundation of knowledge.  This way, when you do come to a difficult decision you will have more confidence in your gut reaction.  Still trust your intuition, but having some research to back it up. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Going with Your Gut (Part 1)

School has a very specific way of imparting knowledge to students – read this book, listen to this lecture, or watch this film.  Learning comes from experts.  You want to know something?  Look it up.  There is bound to be someone smarter than you who has already figured out the answer to your problem.

Probably because I’ve attended too much school in my life, I reflexively used this “defer to the experts” methodology to answer my infinite number of parenting related questions.  It definitely wasn’t hard to find answers, lots of answers.  A quick Google search will result in thousands of books, documentaries, articles, blog posts, etc. on any parent subject, but it doesn’t take much in depth research to realize that there is absolutely no consensus on any topic.  There are thousands of answers to every question, but each new “expert” contradicts the other. What is a new Dad to do? 

One easy way to solve this problem of conflicting answers is to subscribe to one expert or “camp” of experts that all espouse a similar set of views.  This makes it easy.  Questions such as “should we co-sleep with our baby?” or “is baby signing worth the time?” or “should we have scheduled nap times?” can be answered by referring to your expert.  No further thinking or research required.  (Interestingly, I’ve noticed a strong tie between political ideology and “parenting camps” that share opinions on these commonly asked parenting questions.  Who do you think is more likely to co-sleep with their baby – liberals or conservatives?)

I spent several months searching for “my” expert or “baby raising ideology”.  I wanted a one-stop-shop for all my answers, so I wouldn’t have to research the pros and cons of every decision we would have to make as parents.  I did find a few books I liked, and I kept them by the bedside waiting for the day when Jess and I would rush off to the birthing center.

The first few days as a father were a blur.  Wonderful, joyous, exhausting, and blurry.  Jess and I spent most of our time staring at our creation and worrying about this or that, or trying to find something to worry about.  I was sure that constant worry was a sign of a good Dad.  Eventually, after a few weeks of needless worry, I slowly began to relax.  We had a perfectly healthy, vibrant baby boy.  It was then that I realized that the parenting books on the bedside had gathered dust.  I wasn’t referring to them constantly, or at all, because Jess and I were making decisions ourselves with the help of Jess’ knowledgeable and always helpful mother (Thanks Marg!).  Decisions not based on books, but on family discussions.   We realized that when it comes to day-to-day issues (not the case for serious medical issues), we are the experts.  We are expert at raising our baby because we love him more than anything in the world and will naturally do our best to keep him happy and healthy. We come from an unbroken chain of successful parents stretching back to the dawn of humanity and we know our unique baby better than anyone else could.  There is still a lot for us to learn from others, but we should trust ourselves over any “expert”. 

It is no surprise that people seek out experts and rely on them for advice on how to raise their children.  Our educational system teaches us that we seek answers from those who know more than us.  More disturbing is the belief that there is a right and a wrong way to raise a child.  Americans are given a lot of leeway when it comes to how they live their lives, but if you veer even a little out of the mainstream with your child, you are at risk of being burned at the stake of public opinion.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, which is by most standards a very helpful and knowledgeable body, gives very strict guidelines on many areas of raising children.  This isn’t considered just one opinion, but the correct way to raise babies. Parents are quick to judge other parents, especially those that don’t automatically accept the conventional wisdom.

The truth is that here are many, many different ways to care for a baby.   Of course there are also ways that parents can unwittingly harm babies, and it is important that everyone be educated about those issues, but the range of variation in how babies can be raised is much more vast than most Americans realize.  In fact, we have a lot to learn from other cultures’ child rearing practices.  My next post will be about cultural variability in raising babies, which will give me a much needed opportunity to try to recall what I learned in the Intercultural Youth Development program.   

My intent for these posts is not to weigh in on any of the controversial “should you or shouldn’t you . . .” parenting questions, but rather to suggest that there is not one right way to raise a baby.  Each family needs to learn about their unique baby and find a solution that works for their family.  For our family, moving to Taiwan was a great solution to the problem of staying financially afloat while having time to spend with Abel.  Do I think that is a good solution for every other young couple that has a baby? Of course not.  Just don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do what you feel is right, even if it isn’t promoted by an expert.  You are the expert on your baby.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

While my ancestors were banging rocks together . . .

Chinese culture is old. Really old.  All cultures are old in the sense that they stretch back in a continuous line to prehistory, but the distinction is when in a culture’s evolution does prehistory transform into history.  Prehistory is culture before it has a memory in the form of written or oral information about specific events and people.  History starts when a culture, using the structures of a civilization (specialization in labor, agricultural surpluses, centralized leadership) begins to record and “remember” its trajectory, thereby accumulating information.  It is in this sense that Chinese civilization is old.

I was reminded of the scale of Chinese history while visiting the National Palace Museum yesterday with Abel.   Honestly, I wasn’t really excited about visiting the museum. The whole point of our outing was to visit the neighboring Museum of Formasan Aborigines, which focuses on the indigenous cultures of Taiwan.  Alas, that museum is closed on Mondays, but the National Palace Museum, being one of the largest tourists draws in Taiwan, was open and right next door.   I knew of the museum's impressive statistics – 693,507 precious Chinese artifacts in the museum encompassing 8,000 years of history – and it is in fact the largest collection of Chinese artifacts in the world.  (The largest collection is in Taiwan instead of China because Chiang Kai Shek took the entire national collection when he fled from the communists during the civil war).  Despite the impressive collection, I’m not much for “stuff” museums.  There are only so many clay pots I can look at before I get weary.  Abel proved to be a more patient visitor than me as I whizzed through most of the exhibits, but I did get a taste of all the major sections and a feel for the incredible magnitude of the museum’s collection and of the span of Chinese culture.

To get a sense of the age of Chinese civilization, it is interesting to make comparisons to the English speaking world.  Written language has been around for 4000 years in China, while the earliest example of English (Beawulf) is only 900 years old.  While the Anglo-Saxon world consisted of scattered tribes and warring clans, China had its first emperors and centralized government in 2000 BC.   The Chinese invented some pretty important stuff, including paper, gunpowder, the compass, and printing all while Europe was locked in the Dark Ages.  Not to imply that Chinese history is all fireworks and dumplings, they had serfdom, hungry masses, and unjust emperors.  The interesting part is that China went through this stage of development before Europe had cities or writing and before the Greeks had heard of Plato or Socrates.

It is interesting that most people in the West view China as the “rising dragon” as if it is rising out of obscurity.  In fact, China was the dominant world civilization for millennia, but was eclipsed only in the last 200-300 years by the rapid technological advance and colonialism of the Western world.  A common analogy made by Chinese is that America is a rowdy and ambitious adolescent with seemingly endless energy, while China is wiser and older, just waiting for the reckless teen to wear out. Maybe it's not a perfect analogy, but it does give a sense that American dominance is only a temporary blip in world history rather than a permanent status.

Anyway, back to the museum.  Lots of very old and very pretty things.  Entire rooms full of Jade, an entire floor of Ceramics (of course, you can probably guess where “fine china” comes from), and even a whole room devoted to fancy snuff bottles.  Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the artifacts, photography is not allowed in the museum.  Perhaps because so many tourists couldn’t take photos inside, Abel was the subject of an impromptu photo shoot in the lobby as I tried to feed him before going through the gates.  First, one older lady came up and asked if she could take a picture of the cute baby, and before I knew it there were ten people lined up to take pictures of Abel!!  He ate it up – lots of smiles, coos, and a little spit-up.  I can’t say I blame them, he is pretty stinkin’ cute, and I’d rather have a picture of him over a priceless jade do-dad any day.  Cheesy, but true :-)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Stay at Home Dad-ing

I’ve had a lot of different jobs over the years – from Banking to Coffee Barista to Homeless Shelter Staff to Teacher – but the job I find myself in now is probably the most rewarding and challenging.  Since Jess has started her job, I’ve been a “stay at home Dad” for about seven hours a day, four days a week.

 It started out a little rough; the hours seemed to crawl by, bottle feeding wasn’t a big hit with Abel, and he would cry for seemingly no reason in the late afternoon.  I’m happy to report that the last two weeks have been much easier - either I’ve figured out what I’ve doing or Abel has become more used to Mom being gone for long periods.  Abel’s sleeping and eating are more routinized now, which undoubtedly helps the day go more smoothly, and I finally realized that waiting for him to tell me he is hungry or tired through crying is a pretty bad way to go about meeting his needs. 

The days have also been much more fulfilling to me since I’ve accepted that I’m not going to get ANYTHING done all day except to meet Abel’s needs.  My to-do list spreadsheet is always open on my computer, but I don’t even bother to look at it until after Jess gets home.  Multi-tasking does not work when caregiving for an infant.  As much as I would like to be able to get some other things done, such as studying for my upcoming BCBA exam) during those seven hours, it simply doesn’t work.  Running back and forth between my computer and Abel during the first week resulted in a discontented baby, a frustrated Daddy, and an unchanged to-do list.  Now that I forget about getting anything done (besides trying to make inroads on the mile-high pile of laundry) and just focus on enjoying my time with Abel and making sure he is enjoying his time with me, our days are a lot more fun.  And the to-do list?  It is still there, and it will get done.  Eventually.

The typical day for the Murphy-Lewis house begins pretty late thanks to Jess’ schedule.  We get up when Abel gets up, usually between 8 and 9, and spend some time just playing with him in bed.  Mornings are his absolute favorite time of day.  He is super-alert, happy, talkative, and full of smiles.  After soaking up  some of Abel’s coos and grins, I head off either to Da’an Park to run or the Da’an Rec Center to lift weights.  Lucklly, these two locations are very close to our apartment, so I’m usually back before 11.  Next we either go out to the market to buy some groceries and lunch or make a lunch in the apartment.  Jess leaves for work at noon and Abel takes a nap.  I spend this time planning our daily adventure, which is absolutely crucial for a successful day. 

We have to get out of the apartment and go for a 2-4 hour adventure, or there is bound to be a meltdown, either from Abel or myself.  Abel is the biggest extrovert I have ever met – he is happiest when surrounded by people.  He almost never cries when we are in public and will spend hours looking at faces on the street, in museums, in stores, and on the subway.  Nothing makes him happier than a friendly lady stopping us to smile at him and admire his cuteness.  He gets bored and frustrated if we stay in the apartment for too long, so even if it I raining (which it was yesterday) we get out the umbrella and go to the library to walk around or the supermarket to stroll the aisles.  I can’t emphasize enough how key the daily outing is – museums, hikes up local mountains, walking through parks, window shopping in malls – the location isn’t important, we just need to get out there. 

Abel’s extroverted personality is great for me because it forces me to leave the apartment and get comfortable navigating Taipei.  Normally, I can fall into a pretty boring routine rather quickly, but Abel won’t allow that here.  We’ve been on virtually every line of the MRT and hiked up some of the biggest mountains (Elephant Rock) around the city.  Thanks to Abel, now I know how to get around the city as well as Jess, who has lived here before.

I do plan on getting a job in the near future, but the economics of living in Taiwan don’t make it an urgent priority. When I do work, it will probably only be from 9 - noon, thereby leaving my long afternoons with Abel intact. In the meantime, I’m going to savor the opportunity to strap my son on my chest and wander off to a random landmark or hill. These days are a luxury that I enjoy, but I fear won’t last forever. I do miss having a job, but I doubt I miss working as much as I will miss spending full days with Abel.

Monday, September 3, 2012

All About Abel

 I realized after my last post that I may have misunderstood the audience for this blog.  Not that you, the reader, are not that interested in Taiwan’s geopolitical standing, but the reason people are checking has more to do with keeping tabs on our little bundle of joy.  In that vein, here is a much more light-hearted post all about the most important little guy in our lives.

Abel has already had some developmental milestones since we’ve arrived here.  The most exciting of which was his first laugh.  He has been giving us big full-faced grins for a while now – and plenty of squeaks, squeals, and coos – but two days ago he emitted a full-blown chuckling laugh.  Jess and I didn’t know what we were missing – it is the cutest and most heart-working sound we have ever heard!

Physically, he is growing bigger and stronger every day.  He can now hold his head up with great regularity and stability, which allows us to put him in his carrier with his face looking ahead rather than cradled against our chest.  Now he gets to gawk at all the people on the street who are breaking their necks to look at him! With his big eyes and flailing hands and feet, he sometimes literally stops pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks of Taipei.  He sure doesn’t mind, in fact, more than anything he loves to look at faces and interact with the people who come up to tell us how cute he is and ask his age.  He is quick to shoot smiles and give a coo or two. He was such a hit yesterday while we were hiking up Elephant Mountain that a tour group insisted on taking pictures with him! 

Abel is also getting closer to crawling every day.  Until recently, he hated “tummy time”.  Jess and I had some guilt that we didn’t force him to stay on his stomach for 30 minutes a day as some experts suggest because he would do nothing but scream and cry.  It just didn’t seem natural to let a baby lay face-first on the floor in a screaming fit, so we didn’t push it.  Our guilt is now erased because since he is able to keep his head up, he loves to spend time on his stomach.  In fact, if we put him down on his back, it only takes him half a minute to roll onto his stomach and assign himself some tummy time.

Abel’s other hobbies include; looking at and grabbing his feet (newly discovered appendages), checking out the adorable and hilarious baby in the bathroom and elevator mirror, and shoving anything he can reach into his mouth until it is sufficiently covered in drool.  We think this last hobby is an indication that he is now getting closer to having some teeth.  He has also been a little fussier the past two days – but no sharp white objects poking out of his gums yet.  He is also staring to become more interested in the food we are eating, but we are going to hold off on that whole new realm for another month or two. 

Thankfully, the weather here in Taipei has cooled off considerably in the past three weeks.  We can now leave the house without melting into a puddle after a few blocks.  It is still hot and humid, but much more manageable.  Tomorrow (Jess is off on Tuesdays) we are heading down to Southern Taipei to take a gondola into the tea growing hills where hopefully it will be even cooler so we can enjoy some of Taiwan’s famous Oolong Tea.  Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday afternoon!