Monday, February 28, 2011

Day Sixteen.

Happy Peace Day! I had lunch with three of the girls on my floor and one of their friends today at the Hot Pot. We really need someplace like it in the US. The tables have pots built in that you fill with water and can control the temperature of, and you go get whatever you want to eat and cook it yourself in the pot. I had about six pounds of lamb with a bushel of bok choy and tried an assortment of other things. You pay a flat fee (about $4.50 USD) to eat as much as you can. Best idea for a restaurant ever. Afterwards I had some time to kill before meeting some other friends so we went shopping at a store called Best Buy. Unlike in the US, it's a clothing store...but they were having this giant buy one get one free sale...Needless to say, I bought a few things. (Don't worry, there are plenty of photos to come from this outing.)

Met up with Arkadiy and went to Phil and Kirs' place...I feel like I'm living in a luxury hotel compared to the MCU men's dorm they're staying in. The only good part is the roof access. Amazing. Everything else looks like a crappy, underfunded prison. Played some more music and wandered around a bit like usual before coming home. Exhausted.

Goodnight, World.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day Fifteen.

I can't believe we've had two gorgeous days in a row; it's such a change from last weekend's rainstorms. It was the perfect day for a trip to the zoo with Amy--sunny, warm, and breezy. My cheeks are even a little red from the sun. We took the gondola as well, all the way to the top! After walking for a bit, we settled in at a tea house funded by the government to tell about Taiwan's most famous type of tea. I don't know about you, but I'm not one to pass up free tea--delicious. On bus on the way back to the MRT station, a lady squeezed in after me. She and I struck up a nice conversation on the long windy ride back down the mountain. I wished I would have asked her why she decided to come to Taiwan for only two days, but who am I to argue with an Australian?

Amy and I finally got a chance to go and set up my cell phone...but it still doesn't work. It seems I'm going to have to take Vy and Amy both with me next time so Vy can translate the Vietnamese on the phone, and Amy can tell the guy. This is such a mess. I need a phone!!

I apologize for the lack of good posts recently. Not much has happened,
or not much has happened that I want to tell the world in this wonderful blog. I'm doing my best to be completely honest with my thoughts and feelings through all of this, but one must admit that sometimes the feelings of a teenage female can be extremely irrelevant to a situation.

Tomorrow is a Taiwanese holiday called Peace Day. I have yet to learn what it's about, but when I do, I'll share my findings. I do know, however, that it's important enough to cancel all classes (not that that affects me at all). Regardless, let's celebrate.

Peace out, World.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day Fourteen.

Today has been a veritable cacophony of languages. Conversations ranged from a mixture of Russian and Chinese, to Spanish and English with some German and French thrown in for good measure. Arkadiy, Phillip, Edgar, his girlfriend Lesley and I hung out in Tianmu after swimming. I must say, we're quite the group. Two Russians, a Guatemalan, a Taiwanese, and an American. After yesterday, I definitely needed a good day to relax. I even had McDonalds (not my idea). Maybe I've found my niche with these kids? We have music, humor, and a hunger to explore. Kirs met up later along with some of the exchange girls and we walked around XiMen a bit. It was a good time. My taxi ride home wasn't quite as much fun, with the old man yelling at me like I was deaf instead of just unable to understand him. Fun.

Tomorrow: zoo. Prepare yourself.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day Thirteen.

Today has been a mess. No comment. Thank you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day Twelve.

I played guitar today for the first time in ages and since I've been here, I've never felt so alive. There's a full music room beneath my dorm equipped with guitars, a half stack, a keyboard, drums, and a bunch of other instruments. Music makes sense when nothing else does. This may be my key to surviving--nothing makes me feel the way the music does. Here, it's all I have.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day Eleven.

I don't feel like blogging today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day Ten.

Fun dinner tonight with Amy, Aiden, John, Vy, and Ashley. Somehow I have managed to go nineteen years without trying Korean food...until today. Great food. Great company.

I met some girls who want to run in the mornings with me at 7:30 on my way in from a nice evening jog. Motivation is definitely needed in the mornings--with that extra mattress my bed is so comfy I want to stay a while. Bittersweet victory.

Goodnight, World. I am mentally and physically exhausted.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day Nine.

I made another run to the grocery store today and brought home a few gems. Frosties, doritos and instant potato soup pouches were among my great finds, along with more instant oatmeal. I missed the day market and my chance to get more fruit since I bummed around the room all morning. I stayed up far too late watching the girls play Mah Jong last night and slept in. The trip to Ji He was still very eventful. I stopped at What's Burger (my favorite nice sit down American style resturaunt) on my way back to have an early dinner; the thought of a nice chicken ceasar salad made my stomach rumble after not having any proper vegetables in over a week. Apparently my Aryan appearance was too much for my poor waitress to bear combines with my speaking Chinese to her--all she could do was stare at me with big manga eyes and shake her head to show she didn't understand. I resorted to pointing and grunting like a Neanderthal. No luck. The poor girl was a lost cause. Luckily for me, the lady that served me a few days prior was behind the register. I had to beckon her over and tell her what I wanted, exactly as I had to the young girl. This time I got a smile and a mei wen ti. No problem. If I'm unfortunate enough to get that shell shocked girl next time, I'll have to start wearing a full burka in there so she'll listen to what I'm saying instead of staring at me. It just struck me now that I didn't even bother trying to ask her something in English...she probably would have ran away screaming like I was Big Foot or something.

At last, I have my student ID card and have registered for classes. I'm only taking two since the Intensive program transfers back as nine hours. I have half a mind to take two more and get ahead, but I don't think it's worth stressing myself out over. With the program and two classes, I am at 15 hours--a full semester at WVU. For once I think I am going to just relax and take it easy as I can. I'm only going to be in Taiwan for four more months. I want to explore!

I must apologize for my lack of photographs on these last two blogs. I have not gone anywhere worth photographing since my outing on Saturday and I've already photographed my route to the grocery store so thoroughly I could aid Google Maps in their street view. Still yet, I am taking my camera tonight to the night market. I need rain boots. Here's to hoping I can find a pair quickly and get back here to rest up.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day Eight.

Today, I slept. I don't think being out in the cold rain all day yesterday was such a good idea. This did, however, give me a chance to catch up on my rest and do laundry. I really wish I could have gone with Amy today, but I guess that will have to wait for another weekend. The only time I left the room today was to visit the restroom for both its general purpose and to do laundry. My roommates fed me both lunch and dinner today; I really don't know how I got so lucky as to be placed here with such awesome people. Wendy made rice porridge for lunch and made me eat an entire bowl even though I didn't feel well. She said it would make me feel better. I laughed and spooned it down--not too bad. For dinner, the girl across from me decided we should order McDonalds and I wasn't about to argue. Even in my weakened state, I would still fight a bear for some french fries. No lie.

Regardless of how tired I am, my body finds it necessary to wake at 7 AM every morning...I blame this partially on my subconscious fearing that I miss the hour of hot water in the morning for a shower. Regardless of why I wake, I wake. I have decided to begin my morning with a run on the track before my shower to take up the extra time and get in a good workout (aside from those bloody stairs). The track is basically my front lawn; I have no excuse. Maybe a little fresh air and exercise in the mornings will keep me healthy and I won't feel like this anymore. Also, it seems I'll be needing to run off this McDonalds since my favorite roommate ever so kindly taped the menu on the door next to my area. Did I mention they deliver? Hello, Supersize Me. That jog is sounding pretty good in the morning.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day Seven.

Although it feels like a month, today marks one week since my arrival in Taiwan.

I've had writers block for the past two days; words are failing me. I feel no need to speak, only listen. Unlike yesterday, however, I was presented with many opportunities to photograph Taiwan. Amy and I visited the Flora Expo, and while the constant rain made for somewhat a miserable atmosphere, it made for beautiful photographs. I took almost as many photos today as I have the entire time I've been here. All of the sites, both indoors and out, were absolutely breathtaking and the scent of flowers was in the air every direction you turned.

Amy also took me to see the last of the Lantern Festival. There were lantern displays made by high schools and individuals from all over. The display was very near Taipei 101 so we went over and walked through the mall to get out of the rain a while. If I felt out of place on the streets, I was a giant blue elephant in that mall. Every prestigious (over-priced) store in history has a shop there--Gucci, Tiffany & Co., and the works. I didn't know what to do with myself.

I went back to sleep this morning after showering and slept in for the first time. It was glorious. Unfortunately for me, I have to leave at 10:30 in the morning to meet Amy again, so no sleeping in. The fortunate part is we are going to the zoo! I wonder if I'll see a monkey there...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day Six.

If the rest of this semester follows suit with my first class today, these next four months are never going to end.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day Five.

For the first time since my arrival, I am comfortable. I woke at a normal hour, had my first hot shower, ate a bacon cheese burger, bought another mattress and blanket as well as a metal bowl, mug, and utensils. My stomach is full, my area finally has some personality; I have laundry in the dryer and I just watched the first episode of the new season of Survivor...yes, today has been a wonderful day. The best part? It isn't over yet. It has taken five days to settle in, but at last, I feel like everything is going to be okay. Yes, there have been times I wanted to come home--by no means is this easy. I've lost weight. I don't sleep well. I'm lonely. Why stay? Taiwan has given me a chance, and I must return the favor. I have my first class tomorrow where I have no doubt I'll make friends. Tonight I sleep on an extra mattress with a thick blanket to keep me warm. I found a restaurant nearby to satisfy my American cravings every now and then. Things can only get better from here. Oh, Taiwan, Taiwan, take me in.

As much as I accept Taiwan for what it is, its people will continue to stare at me. Everywhere I go, there are eyes on me. I don't have to speak fluent Mandarin to understand them. Foreigner. Why are you here? As response, I simply bow my head to each of them in turn. I am here to learn.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day Four.

Today, on my way to the grocery store (to purchase laundry detergent and chopsticks as promised), I passed the temple where I was lucky enough to capture some final lantern and New Year's festival celebrations on Monday. Today, it was quiet and empty, the courtyard occupied only by this lady sprinkling something out of a red envelope into an urn where incense burned peacefully. I managed to capture two good photos out of three before retreating back onto the street.

I managed to make it to the grocery store on Ji He Campus without mishap. Along the way, I stopped to
purchase some fruit from an elderly lady on the street. Her selection was quite impressive and beautifully arranged and her smile was welcoming. I decided to give it a shot.

你好!我想买一些果汁。Hello! I'd like to buy some fruit.
(Pointing at some Asian pears) 两个。(pointing to some rose apples) 两个。一共多少钱?two of these and two of these. How much will that be altogether?
等一下。wait one moment. (as she was weighing the fruit) 你是哪国人?Where are you from?
我是美国人。I am American.
好啊!你很漂亮!Good..You are very beautiful!
阿谢谢!谢谢!aw! Thank you, thank you!

And as she was smiling her kind, old lady smile, she weighed only one pear, but put it in the bag. "This one free. 一百九十七块" one hundred ninety seven dollars. I gave her two hundred and left, smiling at my good fortune. I have a feeling I will be seeing much more of this kind old lady.

So, laundry detergent and metal chopsticks acquired, along with more ramen, a box of jasmine green tea bags, cranberry juice, and some things I thought were lychee fruits. I have yet to figure out what they really are...but I know what they are NOT. A good loot, combined with my two Asian pears and two rose apples. I still need to purchase another blanket. Hopefully I can find someone to go with me to Shi Lin Night Market tonight where I can purchase one for a ridiculously small amount and then sleep happily, otherwise I will see if Amy can take me to the supermarket this Saturday before we go to the flora exposition. I have a feeling I will be purchasing a second mattress to go on top of this one; I can't sleep on concrete for another four months.

It's only 4 PM. What other mischief can I get into today? Sleep peacefully, America--I won't wander too far.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day Three.

In case anyone is wondering, there are a LOT of stairs. Stairs going up, stairs going down, stairs going UP to get DOWN and DOWN to get UP, backwards stairs, upside down stairs...well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but you get the point: Ming Chuan likes skinny students and they know how to keep them that way. Well, it's either the stairs, or the fact that everyone here lives on ramen noodles because in order to get ANYTHING to eat you have to climb down off of this mountain and walk to Shi Lin for it. Let's be honest here--I bought ramen too.

The medical check up went well today. The exchange students all met in front of the main building to wait for the bus which allowed us some time for socializing. I met more of the exchange students while we were waiting for the bus to take us to the hospital. We are quite an interesting bunch, I must say. The medical examination went well, just a chest X-ray to check for something to do with tuberculosis. All in all, took about 30 seconds a person and we were on our merry way back to MCU.

I grabbed my camera and went for a stroll when I arrived home today. With so many stairs, I really need to find my way around this Escher labyrinth as soon as possible. What better way to explore than through my lens?

At last, more girls have starting moving back into the room. Wendy put down foam interlocking flooring for me today while I was at the hospital. I was so excited about it when I got home! She cut out the pieces to fit around the ladder, desk, and fit it all snugly against the must have taken hours. I really don't know how I got so lucky as to get such wonderfully nice roommates, but I love it. I am definitely looking forward to getting to know them all this semester.

Classes start tomorrow, however I do not have class until Friday. Apparently here, week one gives everyone a chance to attend the classes they would like to enroll in before actually DOING so to try it out. I'm going to test out my International Trade Regulations class on Friday with Vy over on the Ji He Campus across town. Let's hope I don't get lost! The Mandarin Intensive Program starts on March 11th, with the placement exam on the day beforehand. Thankfully this gives me some time to study and practice before getting destroyed by the exam.

Tonight, I feel I am going to sleep well. Too many nights without a proper rest, and I forgot to purchase another blanket while I was out--something has to give. I'm either going to pull through, and sleep off this bloody jet lag, or die. Let's hope for the best. Tomorrow: Laundry detergent and chopsticks.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day Two.

The world is full of opposites, counterparts; it is a bittersweet symphony of happy, sad, good, and bad. Today was a day of good and bad. Orientation went well, I met my buddy, Amy, and explored a little. I used the remnants of my cash supply to get ID photos for the dorm and visa find that I cannot withdraw funds from the ATM with my AAA Travel Card. So here I sit, waiting for 10 PM so I can call BB&T via Skype and inquire about fees regarding ATM withdrawals in foreign countries and tell them not to do backflips if I withdrawal 200 USD on the other side of the world from where I am supposed to be. I really wish Taiwan came with a manual.

On a lighter note, orientation was wonderful. I met Ivy Lin, the lady I conversed with for many months up to my arrival here. She is such a nice person! Best of all, afterwards Amy took Vy and I exploring to Ji He campus. We happened upon the remnants of the Lantern Festival and many celebrating Taiwanese people--fireworks, loud music, incense, and red lanterns everywhere made for many beautiful photographs.

Not much has changed since yesterday. It is still cold, I don't sleep well, and an icy shower greeted me once again at 9AM. I guess the only difference today is that I have hope. The weather will eventually warm up, I'll adjust to the time difference, and learn to shower at night when the water is supposed to be hot. I will adjust and life will go on. So it goes.

Tomorrow I have to go to the hospital for the mandatory chest x-ray at 12:45PM. I wonder what wonders Taiwan will have for me after?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day One.

In all honesty, regardless of how much you prepare, you're not ready for this. No one is. Regardless of how much you pack, you'll still forget something. I certainly did. And regardless of how much you research, you won't find out the little things that are exceptionally important. Like toilet paper. Laugh, take it for granted, come to Taiwan, sit on the pot...and see who's laughing when you reach for it to get up. At least, here in my dorm that is how it is--one "normal" toilet for number twos and in-the-floor urinals for men and women both for number ones. I'm not quite set to assimilate yet however, so I stick to the "normal" kind...let's just be honest; I'd either fall over or pee on my shoes. No thanks.

Another thing that would have been nice to know is that when you arrive, there is no mattress or anything on your bed. I slept last night fully clothed, covered in my bath towel (still damp from my freezing cold shower) with my neck pillow for head support, on a hard, wooden bed frame. Let me correct myself, I shivered and dozed. It's freezing here at night. Lesson learned? Bring warm clothes to sleep in, and bedding...or get here early enough to go to the supermarket and purchase it.

On the happy side of things, I have Vy for moral support and we've befriended two other exchange students who have been here for a week and know their way around a little. They've taken us under their wings and are getting us settled. They took us to get our MR
T cards and bedding and the Ethernet cables we didn't know to bring. I can't wait to get to know them better, I think we're going to have some fantastic adventures together...speaking of adventures. Take a taxi. It's an adventure in itself. Especially when of the four passengers, YOU are the only one who can speak Chinese to the driver. Wheeeeee. At least I've established myself as a valuable ally to have around.

As you see from the the time on this post, I have major jet lag. It is 4:08 AM here...I went to sleep at 3PM and woke around 2:45 AM. To those of you good with time zone changes, you see a striking resemblance to my normal sleep pattern--sleep at 2AM EST and wake at 1:45 PM EST. Hopefully I'll get out of this soon.

Orientation is 1PM. I get to sign up for classes and meet Amy, my buddy assigned by the university. Outside of the university, I'm doing my best to speak only Chinese with the locals and, much to my surprise, have had major success. I'm also very happy to see that regardless of my foreign appearance, they give me a chance before speaking English. I successfully purchased a juice at 7eleven this morning, talked my way though the line at the supermarket with the cashier (much to her surprise and delight), and navigated a taxi driver back to my dorm all in Chinese. Day one. Complete. Let's get ready for day two.

Goodnight, World.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fancy Meeting You Here...

Arrival in Taiwan. Success.

So tired.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Visa Application is complete! It is amusing I bent myself backwards..all for a little sticker in my passport. Regardless, I have it and feel much more secure.

Only a few more days remain until my departure and I am spending them with my closest friends and family. Although many untimely events have occurred and have stressed me to the end of my capabilities, I am determined to make the best of this experience.

I am leaving Friday...and I'm afraid.