5 Things I Learned in Taiwan

Hey yous guys!!

I recently submitted an article for Go Overseas. It’s all about what I learned in Taiwan – well, some things I learned. A lot of what I wrote I’ve touched on before, but check it out anyway!

otter.

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I’m on Facebook! (Well, TFA is…)

Hey yous guys! If you hadn’t already noticed, TFA has a Facebook page! If you haven’t checked it out, you should. Cause I say so. But also because it’s a much better place to see all my pictures of Taiwan than Flickr. More orderly, and I’m not limited by space. Anywho, most of the time I don’t include all the pictures I take in a post, since that could run into the hundreds, but if you ever want to see more of this beautiful island, go and check out my albums. It’s also another great way to keep up with post updates. 

otter. 

being a foreigner

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This picture is funny, because I’m pretty sure that sign says fire hydrant.

Here in Taiwan, I stand out as a foreigner. I’m labeled as such, get greeted as such, get special discounts, and above all, get a LOT of attention. There are pros and cons to being such an obvious “guest” in a country, but overall I’ve enjoyed the experience.

Different Standards

Any foreigner is held to different standards. I am essentially a cultural outsider here, and as I don’t fit into the Asian culture, I’m exempt from the normal rules. There are things that would be rude in any country, but I’ve generally found that I get a lot of grace for most things. Foreigners, and especially Americans, are expected to be louder and ruder than the Taiwanese. I try not to be, but it’s a common expectation.

Increased Visibility

So much visibility. I literally cannot walk down the street without getting stared at by the majority of people, and probably hailed at least once. I stand out; not only do I look different, I speak a different language and act differently. Everything screams “FOREIGNER,” and even people who’ve been here for years and fully assimilated will still get stares. Sometimes it bothers me, sometimes not. Depends on my mood and how confident I’m feeling. I recently went to a very crowded McDonald’s, and after sitting at the only available table in the middle of the room, immediately wanted to bury my body in the ground, since everyone was watching me, obviously talking about me, and some were laughing. I’m sure they weren’t being mean, but it is awfully uncomfortable. (Although it more than makes up for the discomfort when you’re walking along the road and someone sees you and mutters, “How beautiful.” Ego WIN!)

Foreigner Bubble

I hate being inundated with media and commercials in the States. Ads and stores are everywhere; you can’t get away from it. I love living in a country where I can’t read the language. Sure, it’s a pain….well, most of the time, but it sure does make avoiding ads and conversations easy. No more accidentally overhearing something unpleasant or stupid. When I go out with my English speaking friends, it’s like we create this tiny English world in the midst of everything else. We’re shut off and isolated. It’s less stressful in that way, but it can be a hindrance to meeting other people.

Random Strangers

So, there’s this thing that happens. I’m not sure what to call it, but it should have a name. Total strangers feel comfortable coming up to us and talking to us or having their kids talk to us just because we’re foreigners. I mean, we could be horrible people, right? Why send your little darlings over to us? I guess they just assume that since we look somewhat friendly, we won’t make off with their children.

This is a brief look at what it’s like being a foreigner here in Taiwan – I’m sure other people in different areas may have different stories. I know some of our friends have been offered drugs, pursued by crazy old women, and told to die. Why them and not us? No idea.

I’ll have more to say on this later.

otter.

into puzih – an adventure in circuitous route-taking

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Near(ish) to us there’s a small town called Puzih. Over the weekend my friend and I took a short trip there on a hunt to discover a coffee shop we’d seen before. It took a bit of wandering, since we had no idea where the place was – but we found it in the end.

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85c is a chain – there’s one in every town we’ve visited. It’s pretty good; not the best I’ve had but not bad. The main selling point is the huge variety of cakes and the price. We each got a smoothie and dessert for under $4(US).

I wanted to include these pictures to give you an idea of what a typical, small Taiwan town looks like. Mixed in with the ramshackle, smushed together buildings are more modern developments that look much like what you’d see in America.

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And, of course, the ubiquitous 7, happily reminding us of the upcoming holiday. Thanks.

otter.

the last 100 days

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As of today, I have 100 days left until I return home. I’m eager to be back, but at the same time, there’s so much I want to do here. We have quite a few trips planned, but even so, it feels like the time is flying by. Other teachers have been telling me the second semester would drag on, that it was the hardest, and so on, but I haven’t found that to be true yet. The time, if anything, seems to be accelerating, the weeks speeding by while I try to keep up. Maybe the pace will slow down eventually, but by then it’ll be nearly time to leave.

I want to take advantage of these last days, rather than just count down to zero, so I made a to-get-done list. Better and more urgent than a to-do list, eh?

To Get Done:

  • Visit Alishan and Green Island
  • Get letters of recommendation from my employer
  • Figure out a good curriculum outline for ESL students anywhere in the world
  • Create a unique lesson plan
  • Spend as much time as possible with my Taiwanese co-workers
  • Start the projects here I need to
  • Apply for three more major scholarships
  • Create a degree plan/five-year plan
  • Choose a new bank for investing
  • Organize possessions – leave what I don’t need

As you can see, the list is diverse, probably random, ranging from finances to travel. The end of my time here is coming up fast. I may never return, although I’d like to, and there’s a chance I won’t see some of people I’ve met again. It’s a terribly sad thought, so I want to take full advantage of all my 100 days.

otter.

trip to tainan – part 4

Last set of pictures! These feature the “Little Holland” park.

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This park was so beautiful. Apparently the Dutch came here several times, or just once – anyway, I guess there was a large population of Dutch people at one time. This windmill was actually imported from Holland.

This whole place felt a bit other-wordly; it didn’t seem like we were in Taiwan at all. I really enjoyed our trip to Tainan, and if you’re thinking of visiting Taiwan, you should definitely check it out.

otter.

trip to tainan – part 3

More pictures of Tainan!

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We ate lunch here. Noodles, octopus, other stuff of which the identity remains a mystery. Fairly tasty.

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These last few were from a shaved ice place. I love Asian shaved ice, since it’s nothing like the American version. If you’re familiar with Korean food, you may know it as patbingsu. Same concept, but usually without ice cream. Just take a bunch of yummy things and put ice on it. The white round things translate to “Glutinous rice balls” which make them sound a lot more disgusting than they are.

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Close-up of one of many temples all around Taiwan.

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This lady owns a stand on the side of the road; she hand-turns mango juice in ice until it becomes ice cream. Not really cream, since it has no milk; more like sherbet. Really good.

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Views from the entrance to “Little Holland.” I have no idea what the rock says. It was just big, so I took a picture.

otter.