Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Amazing trip with amazing people

I thought I would wait until I got home and let it all sink in before I did my blog. The last few days of the trip were as action packed as the first few. On the Wednesday we did a trip to the National Palace Museum that has 700,000 artifacts brought over from China when Taiwan became independent. Off to Shilin main residence of the past president and another temple that is the largest and newest on the island. Thursday we each did some vocational visits and then attended a farewell dinner attended by so many of our new friends and past hosts.
After over a 135 site visits, 8 host families and countless new friends the team went out with a bang! I would like to thank the over 3500 visitors for following our blog and hope you enjoined the posts. The people who took care of us were amazing and we extend a very big thank you. To the team I know this trip changed your life as it did mine. Alex Ashley Laura and Shannon, I want to thank you for sharing this awesome experience with me and could not have wished for a better team to represent district 7010 and Canada. Special thanks to my very patient wife Maryanne who held down the Kinsey homestead for my extended absence.
The last picture was taken back where the almost 5 week started at Terminal 1 Toronto only here we are in the arrivals. I am sure I learned as much about myself as I did anything else during this adventure and look forward to sharing it with all of you.

Mike Kinsey

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Eye's half shut

It's incredible to think that 1 month can change your life completely, a GSE experience is nothing short of this. This is a cultural and vocational experience in a twister. With each of us seeing on average 15 vocational visits, seeing over 150 temples, museums, parks and other sites, meeting more then 200 Rotarians, 1 Charter celebration, 5 Anniversary galla's and 1 district conference. This is no, backpacker, romantic get away, business trip, or education experience. Trip of a life time.
I sit here on my bedroom floor, struggling to keep my eye's open, but knowing I can't go to sleep with all these thoughts running wild from the months thats past. After only 3 maybe 4 hours of sleep in a 36 hours transit from District 3490 North Eastern Taiwan back to District 7010 its easy to sit and reflect.
             This trip has been nothing short of amazing and no matter how many time we will look for the right words to properly articulate what's been experienced we will always come short. This trip has been life shattering. To the people that made this possible our up most gratitude goes out. In Taiwan, Archi, Kevin, Every AG, host Family and Rotarian that has created an experience people can only dream of. Your country is as beautiful as the people and I know I speak for all of us when I say we can't thank you enough for the world class hospitality you have shown.
  To Sandi, we have a profound respect for your dedication and tenacity to chair and host groups from around the world. This is no task for the faint of heart and we can't thank you enough for everything you have done for us on both sides of the world. I will let you know right know that our remarks on RC Milk (formally Mike Kinsey) will be nothing but glowing. As our experience would have been nothing with out his leadership and personal attitude.
               This trip would be nothing without the people I've experienced with. This team came at this trip from start to finish like a Honey Badger on a Honey Larva, ( to truly understand please visit the You Tube Video)
  You guys are amazing, each of you has offered something new to my life and can't wait to see what we all get up to next in life.
 Week one we were culture shocked, week two we laughed a little a shared some more, week three we opened up and got real with each other and on week 4 we were nothing shy of a family. I went into this trip meeting 4 people that I hardly new and walked away with a second family that will always be apart of my life.  Thank you Mike, Ashley, Laura and Shannon for everything you put into this trip, I'm blessed for having the opportunity to be on your team.

To Rotary and District 7010l; for each club that sponsored a candidate I hope we can incapsulate what an eye open world changing experience this is. Rotary has done so many great things in the world and although this may show up as a small blip on the radar. It's impact ripples out much further and longer then I think we can fathom. Thank you for making the world a smaller place for us to connect, share and act on our ambitions.
Thank you everyone that followed our Blog, I know even as team members we have enjoyed reading the post and there will be more to follow as we tour our District presenting on our experience.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Soaking up the sights!!

Since today was our second last day with some of Rotary district 3490's local clubs, we tried to soak up as many sights as possible!

I started my day off a little earlier this morning to go for a bike ride with my wonderful host. It was a great way to start my day :). After I met with the group, we all journeyed to the national palace museum which was PHENOMENAL!! Unfortunately it was quite busy and we couldn't stay long. But, lucky for us, we were being guided by Taiwan's best and were still able to see some of the most precious arts.

In the afternoon we visited a garden which was on the property of the Shilin main presidential residence. The flowers there were beautiful! We also had some fun playing with puppets used in Taiwanese theatre at a museum during the mid-afternoon before taking the bus to XinZhuang old street. Once we got to the old street we visited two temples and a drum building business which is famous across the world. It was so much fun getting to bang on some of the drums there!

Tomorrow we will be taken to our last vocational visits by a new rotary club so dinner tonight was a farewell party at Chateau de Chine Hotel. Delicious and eventful... As dinners always are with our Taiwanese friends :)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Back to New Taipei!

After a great farewell party last night with our HuaLien hosts, we started our day with a 2 hour train ride back to New Taipei City. As per usual, we were escorted to the train station with a huge crew of thoughtful Rotarians to ensure a smooth transition. We bid a tearful farewell to our host families (okay, the tears were mine!) and enjoyed the beautiful scenic ride up North. Once we arrived in New Taipei City, we were taken to the impressive home of local Rotarian Pharma for lunch and coffee. During the afternoon we split up and had vocational visits. I had the opportunity to tour a local branch of the Far Eastern International Bank and have some one on one time with their bank manager. Dinner was at the Landmark Inn where we were able to celebrate birthdays with 2 Rotarians. The weather has warmed up, 28 degrees today and quite humid. We are enjoying a reprieve from the rain and excited for our final few days here!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Hualien- A lovely weekend

The train ride from Yilan to Hualien was just as beautiful as we had heard. The scenery was stunning with mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

As soon as we stepped off the train, we were welcomed by friendly Rotarians. We were fortunate to have a Rotarian Jimmy lead us on all of our tours. Jimmy is also a tour guide and a wealth of knowledge. Our trip to Hualien included touring Taroko National Park, cycling the shore of Qixin Tan, museums, exploring the Ocean Deep Water factory and to top it all off- we went whale watching. The sunshine was out and the weather was clear. We didn't see whales, but we saw 2 pods of dolphins. It was the perfect day!

Tomorrow we take the train from Hualien to New Taipei City. Looking forward to it!

Good night!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Singing in the rain

Not much sleep then out for a traditional Taiwanese breakfast on the run. We went hiking in Tarko National Park where the scenery was breath taking. Jimmy our tour guide slash rotarian is unbelievable. After a career as an air traffic controller he takes up being a tour guide. He has even guided president Mai, he seems to know as much about our country as his own. Anyway, extreme cliffs and amazing trip. We then headed back to the city for a farewell lunch at the district conference, Met so many of our new friends again we hope to see soon. Quick change again out of formal wear then a 30km bike ride along the Meilo rive and then along the Pacific Ocean coast line. They have miles of bike paths that are so inviting to use, We stop at a cafe for a coffee and run into Alex's host from a week ago who was in the area on business. He finds out we are meeting up for karaoke at a hosts house tonight so he cancels his plane ticket and rebooks for tomorrow morning so he can join us. Unbelievable friendly people who go out of their way to make you feel special. Yesterday when the team entered the district conference we were greeted by 2-4000 people clapping and giving us high fives as we walked the red carpet, I cant tell you how amazing that was.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Off to Hualien and another warm greeting

Again goodbyes are hard after making more great friends. They dropped us off at the train station to take the train to Hualien. Again like magic a new person (Jimmy) turned up to make sure we had a safe journey for the hour long ride along the coast with scenic mountains on one side and the pacific ocean on the other. When we arrive at the train platform there were 20 Rotarians holding a welcome banner waving a warm greeting before that train even stopped. We then visited a Tzu Chi university and hospital. Incredible work by the Tzu Chi selfless leader Cheung Yen to provide health care and schooling for the needy and disaster relief around the world even though she has never left Taiwan because she is afraid to fly. Then off to a rotary club meeting where we did a presentation. Dinner at the Parkview hotel for RI rep and the 63 donors who each contributed $10,000 or more to the Rotary Foundation this past year.Saturday morning we stopped at a stone museum to see the works of Chang Hui then off to the district conference for 3490. We were ushered into 3-4000 people yelling and waving at us like rock stars, quite something to experience. I had to get up and speak about our team and thanked them for being such great hosts. A private dinner was arranged for us then of course we sang karaoke before we headed home.