This year, there was not as much dancing as I would have liked, because I was sick. Well, I’m not entirely sure if I had a cold or suffered from extreme allergies. Either way, I sneezed over 200 times in 48 hours, used an entire packet of toilet paper to blow my nose, and breathed through my mouth so much that the tip of my teeth were a different shade of white.

A few weeks ago, Peter’s co-worker, Toby, invited us to eat New Year’s Eve dinner at a restaurant on Yangmingshan Mountain. He coordinated the entire event: he reserved a table, and ordered taxis between the restaurant and Taipei, and even ordered the food for us.

While driving up the winding road, a slight drizzle fell upon us. I walked onto a slick patio, a little disgruntled by the fact we were going to eat outside in this cold and windy weather. The annoyance of the unpleasant weather left my mind as I sat down and viewed the luminous cityscape.

Still, a beautiful view doesn’t warm you up when you’re battling a potential cold. Thankfully, under the circular, concrete table was a heating lamp. I bundled up in my scarf, placed a hand warmer under my shirt, and sat as close to Peter as possible.

We ate dinner with Toby’s girlfriend, sister, and friend. Together the seven of us shared spicy Kung Pao Chicken, Thai style mushrooms, fried tofu in a peanut sauce, boiled cabbage, sauteed beef, and fish. There were so many plates of food and drinks there was no space on the table!

After feasting, we had three hours until the count down. Toby and his friends played a phone game together that is reminiscent of League of Legends. Peter, Scott and I talked, drank, and played our own silly version of Taboo. I was having fun drawing doodles of everyone in the dark!

A few minutes before countdown, everyone in the restaurant was given a sparkler. We lit up our own by touching our neighbor’s fire, and shared the flame.

We watched from atop a mountain the array of fireworks exploding green, red, white, purple, and blue all over Taipei. Taipei 101 was visible, but was shrouded in clouds and smoke so the fireworks weren’t breathtaking. At first, I thought “this is it” we’ll just see hundreds of mini fireworks from far. Not necessarily disappointing, but not what I expected. At that moment, a blinding white firework burst 50 feet away from us, shocking us foreigners.

Taiwan style fireworks are being so close the smoke is suffocating, and you can feel the heat of the flame on your face. It was equal parts terrifying, exhilarating, and confusing. For 10 minutes, enormous, colorful flames erupted above our heads, forcing us to look directly above us, but covering our eyes because it was as though we were looking at the sun. I could not contain my screams or my laughter.

Joanne’s bag: a casualty of NYE fireworks!

I cannot believe I’ve been in Taiwan for a few days shy of a year. Many things have changed that it’s exhausting! I’m excited to keep changing, growing, learning, and living!