The Fall semester in Taipei is almost halfway through and our students have already done so much! Enjoy words from the students themselves, and pictures from our various travels and activities.
So far, what has been the toughest thing about NCCU classes? The three hour long lectures.
After I got accustomed to the flow of two hour classes in high school, 50 minute lectures in college felt like rapid waters. Before I had even warmed up the seat, classes were over and we were dismissed. Yet, after splashing around there and finally finding the confidence to stay afloat, I was faced with a greater challenge. Neither high school nor college would have prepared me for the three hour long classes here.
Luckily, my semester consists of courses of which the topics are intriguing to me. That means that, for the most part, I have no problem sitting through lengthy classes. However, it does not mean that I am completely immune to the tempting naps...in class. While the obvious drawback of stretched out classes is having to muster up the energy and attention required for each class, the benefit is meeting once a week. Instead of having homework due every other day, assignment procrastination can be extended for a week before panic sets in. Super ideal, right? After getting used to series of long classes this semester, who knows how long it will take to familiarize myself with college classes that are, on average, 67% shorter? Before I should worry about that, though, I need to devise a solution for snoozing in class.
“We're on a bus.”
This semester, our students enjoyed a double decker bus tour through Taipei.
Upon arriving in Taipei there were so many things to do; moving in, meeting new people, buying necessities, getting over jet lag, going through orientation, and starting to explore the vibrant new city. Considering all this, it was no surprise that the first week seemed to fly by. As classes started, there were schedules to arrange and clubs to join, and just as I figured that I was starting to settle into my new routine, I realized it was already the end of September! I knew that this would be one of the most exciting semesters of my college career, but I was shocked to realize that the first third of it was already at an end. Two more months and I will be returning to the states with all my experiences and new friends packed up in my memories. I have already learned so much, and my Chinese has seen some major improvements, but I know that that flight home is going to come way too soon. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the rest of my time in Taipei, and from now on I’m going to remind myself to stop and take in all the present wonderful moments before they are behind me.
“One of our lovely CIEE staff showing their skills.”
My time in Taiwan has opened my eyes to new experiences and adventures. Before coming to Taiwan I did not think that a simple 7/11 could be so intriguing. However, I soon realized that this small convenience store held wonders beyond my imagination. What? You can purchase tea eggs at anytime, day or night? I was amazed. I found out that these small stores also had ATMs and printers; in America there is no such piece.
I remember the first time that I added money to my MRT card. I was with my Taiwanese friends and simply gave the nice cashier money and vwola, there was now money on my card. Thinking back to a time when I ran out of data in Tainan makes me laugh because this too was an adventure in itself. Eventually, with the help of others the task was complete. From wifi to tea eggs, a simple 7/11 store in Taiwan has options galore.
Thus, I have come to the conclusion that the small island of Taiwan is just like its’ 7/11. To an outsider Taiwan may seem small, however this country carries treasures untold.
“Night Market Delicacy.”
Bonnie Part II
Right now, I am on my way back to Taipei, after spending a weekend with family in Tainan. If you are unfamiliar with Taiwan’s geography, it is about a four hour drive (three, if there is no traffic). It is 23:09, and I have about an hour before arriving at the Taipei Bus Station (台北轉聯站). Unfortunately, that means that I am most likely going to miss the last MRT and the last bus services. Instead of anxiously sitting in my dimly lit bus seat, willing the driver to hit the accelerator pedal a bit harder without compromising our safety, I decided to occupy my time with writing out some thoughts.
Sorry, dear reader. I really tried to think up another writing topic, other than transportation. However, since my window’s view of zooming past places isn't helping me stop obsessing over my situation, here goes a brief rant.
With countless pleasant things around me, like the stunning blend of man-made architecture and untouched nature, cheap but yummy eats, and amiable and neighborly people, finding qualities of Taipei I dislike is an onerous task. If I was forced to point out my least favorite ones though, they would be the lack of public trash cans and the lack of public transportation past midnight.
On second thought, I guess I can't even say that. Just I was about to dive into lamenting about the lack of public transportation past midnight, my father sent me a screenshot of the MRT schedule that boasted service times as late as 00:51. As if fate aimed to give me more reasons to displace my frustrations, Winnie, a very sweet friend and CIEE ambassador, happened to see my Instagram story update and informed me about my options back home. So I guess there goes my rant about public transportation.
And as far as my dissatisfaction with having to carry trash while walking around trashcan-less streets good, I really don't have too many qualms about it to elaborate on. In fact, the more I think about it, the less I have to complain about. Instead of having public trash cans, the island’s culture of “singing” trash trucks forces locals and visitors to bring out bags of personal trash upon hearing loops of electronically recorded classical music, usually Beethoven's Für Elise. Not only do you get a very real reminder of how much trash you've accumulated, but you also get a unique chance every once in a while to bond with your neighbors. All in all, it's good for the community and environment at large.
Fine, Taiwan, you win. You're still as charming as ever before. Yet, with every passing minute, my chances of missing the limited post midnight MRT and bus services increases. But, after writing for an hour, I have come to terms with my impending destiny with a taxi ride back to National Cheng Chi University.
“We don't travel, we mob.”
Our students cycled from campus to the northern town of Tamsui overnight. They arrived just in time to catch the sunrise.
Etienne Eunson 文伊天
A few weeks ago, during the four-day break from classes, I traveled down to Chiayi to stay with a friend who lives in the area. On Saturday (October 7th), we both took the train to Pingtung to visit the local Esperantists. You may already be wondering what I am even talking about.
Esperanto is an artificial language created in 1887 by a Polish opthamologist, L. L. Zamenhof, with the original purpose of creating an international auxiliary language designated to be used by people of all national and ethnic backgrounds. It was designed to be as easy and simple to learn as possible for as many different kinds of people as possible. There are over two million speakers of this language spread out over 120 countries, and Taiwan is one of them.
I do not believe that my Mandarin is too terrible but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my Esperanto is much better. It is thus because of this shared knowledge of the “international language” as it is commonly called that I was able to communicate solidly with local people that I usually am not able to do otherwise due to a still quite obstructive language barrier.
The day of the meet-up, my friend Preston (who is also an Esperantist) and I took the train to Pingtung and went to a small café where a group of around a dozen other Esperantists were waiting for us. Most of them were Taiwanese but a few were also foreigners, including Benjamin from Canada and Reza from Iran, who actually organizes many of these meet-ups. We spent a good two or three hours chatting about many topics including of course Esperanto and the culture and lifestyle in Taiwan, all of it being spoken in Esperanto. They talked on about how over twenty Esperantists from the area attended the 102nd annual World Esperanto Congress in Seoul. After this, we headed out to visit some local temples, where some of the Esperantists explained to the rest of us the cultural significance of the deities and objects found within them. Later on, after some of them had to leave, Reza invited the remaining few of us into his home for some mooncakes and Iranian snacks. There we all chatted and often code switched quite a bit between Esperanto and Mandarin.
This was overall a unique experience I had with some of the locals that day. Included are some pictures and a video taken of some of the events from that day:
I have also met a smaller group of Esperantists here in Taipei as well, including Baldemar, a Spanish tutor from Texas, and Teddy, a polyglot and blogger originally from Indonesia. (Please consider checking out his blog at: http://www.neeslanguageblog.com/ )
If you would like to find out more about the Esperanto community of Taiwan, please consider checking out their Facebook page:
“Gotta get your hands dirty if you want dessert.”
Our students making 月餅, a common pastry eaten during the Autumn Festivals in Asia.
We've had a busy semester and there are still plans for Thanksgiving and other activities! Stay tuned for the next installment of our semester going ons.