Day 34: (Almost) Getting Caught in the Rain in Pingtung County

Today was a wiiiiiiiiiild day, to put it simply. The morning started our like every other Sunday, with me rolling out of bed at 7:40ish to make it to church on time. Everything went without a hitch in the morning, and I made it to church with a little bit of time to spare!

I ended up leading the music again at church, which was pretty fun and very interesting! Over these past 5ish weeks, I’ve seen my Chinese improve so much in so many different ways. One way that I’ve noticed my Mandarin improving is in my ability to read more of the hymns in Mandarin! Because they don’t come with pinyin, it can be hard for me sometimes to know how to say characters when they randomly appear in a song. But as I’ve come to understand with various characters mean, I’ve been able to sing with more confidence and strength!

After church, my host family picked me up so we could all make it to Pingtung before it got too late. As I munched on a piece of Taiwanese cake (that my host family gave me for lunch), I couldn’t help but think a about the long and difficult journey that led up to me being here in Taiwan. From first hearing about the NSLI-Y scholarship in early summer 2016 to getting rejected last March, to meeting some of my best friends ever through the group chats this application style, to finally fulfilling my dream of getting a NSLI-Y scholarship, I’ve been able to see so much of how NSLI-Y has helped shape me into the person that I am today.

We finally arrived in Pingtung around 2:15 PM, and immediately stopped into this shop to grab a bowl of Bluefin Tuna Soup with Sausage and various vegetables. The soup was really delicious, and it was fun to get to try something that is such an important part of culture in Pingtung.

After lunch, we headed to a chocolate factory/garden/resort place. It was very interesting and definitely overpriced, but very cool to get to visit. I got to try some very tasty, expensive chocolate samples, which were absolutely to die for. Nothing compares to sweet, smooth chocolate!

Once we’d finished up at the chocolate place, we headed to a waterfront to look out over a beautiful bay. It was absolutely breathtaking and gorgeous… until it started pouring rain. Although my host family and I attempted to wait out the rain, we ended up losing patience and running to the car. Although we all got soaked, it was still fun to get to be with my family in such a crazy environment.

Instead of heading to any other activities, my host family and I made the decision to head back to Kaohsiung before the weather got bad. And after dodging the worst of the rain, we all took a collective breath of relief in order to be temporarily done with the weather. But right as we mentioned about how glad we all were to be done with delays… we got stuck in some crazy traffic. Like 3-hours-on-the-freeway crazy. I ended up falling asleep halfway through the long drive back, and waking up in Kaohsiung again. All in all it was very great to experience so much of a different culture and lifestyle in a different place.

For dinner, we had spaghetti and paninis at a random local spaghetti place. I ended up getting a hearty bowl of seafood spaghetti that I ate with abandon, because it tasted (somehow) quite a bit like America’s spaghetti. Go figure. After we all ate, my host family and I played a really fun fun monkey board game with them.

That’s all for now, kids stay in school.

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Day 33: Aboriginal Culture Park, with Some Glass Beads to Boot

(PSA: It has been a looooong last 2 days, so another double post tonight. Sorry guys!!) Today was a very long and tiring day. I woke up at 7:15 AM and made it out the door soon thereafter. When I checked the bus schedule, the bus was too far to make riding feasible from that spot, so I walked an extra half mile or so to another bus stop. This bus, although plenty far away, allowed me to see more of Kaohsiung while still getting to school.

We headed out for the our first stop around 8:30, and headed on our jolly way. We first stopped at a museum with a pretty view, but honestly not much else. There was a cat randomly there that everybody fawned over, but that was about it. After that, we walked around this little aboriginal village that had been reconstructed by the Taiwanese government after a major typhoon a few years ago. It was all done for free by the Taiwanese government, which was definitely an interesting way of dealing with the poverty caused by the typhoon. As somebody with no experience living anywhere remotely socialistic up to this point, the idea of that was very interesting to me. I won’t elaborate too much on the issue (because I don’t want to get too political), but it’s definitely a different political culture than the one I’m accustomed too from both my time in America and my time in China.

While in the village, we visited the house of a princess there and had the chance to dress up in traditional aboriginal Taiwanese clothes from the tribe that we were visiting, which was really cool and fun. It was awesome to get to experience a different part of Taiwanese culture from all of the things I see and do in the more urban areas.

After that, we got some traditional lunch at this restaurant, that was all pretty good. Lots of the food featured quinoa (I don’t know why still…), which was very interesting and also very tasty. It was fun to get to have lunch with my friends, especially since there’s so little time left in my NSLI-Y experience.

Once we’d finished lunch, we headed out to an aboriginal culture park for the afternoon. While there we watched a traditional performance from one of the tribes, which was very interesting to see. A lot of it revolved around traditional aboriginal life, which was awesome. While we were watching the performance, it started to downpour. Because of this, we had to skip out on our next activity (crossing a glass-bottomed bridge over a valley) and head to our final activity, creating glass beads.

The bead making was really really cool! We each got to make our own head to keep, which was especially awesome. It was veeeeery hot though, because the bead makers have to use flames to get the glass to melt. All in all it was super fun and really rewarding.

After we arrived back in Kaohsiung, a group of NSLI-Y students (including me!) decided to go to Ruifeng, a night market here in Kaohsiung. After we’d all made our way over there, however, we abandoned our original plan of eating at the night market in favor of getting Turkish food at a restaurant nearby. The food ended up being really tasty! I got a doner kebab thing that was seasoned pretty well, and all in all it was a good time. Joseph also bought this cheese flatbread thing that was to. die. for. It’s easily one of the tastiest things I’ve tried in Taiwan.

After getting dinner, a few of us decided to head over to Evan (one of the guys on our program)’s host family’s house to hang out for a little while. It was pretty fun, and it was nice to see what another person’s host family life is like.

On the way home from Evan’s, I ended up hopping on the right bus heading the wrong direction on the way home. Because it was super late, by the time I’d hopped off the wrong bus and made it on to the right one, I was looking at an 18 minute wait for my correct bus. And with a curfew at 10:30 PM, I knew I was going to be in some serious hot water trying to get home. Luckily for me, my phone had enough battery for me to text my host mom and RD and avoid a penalty for (narrowly) missing curfew! By the time I made it back home at 10:33 PM, I was exhausted and ready to rest.

That’s all for now! Peace out. 😃

Day 32: Aboriginal Taiwanese Culture at Meinong

Today was quite the wild day! I woke up a little later and had to hustle out the door to make it to class on time, but everything ended up being fine. I had a breakfast of a bunch of apples and some guava (this was also the first time I discovered that guava fruit is a lot less tasty than guava juice), and studied for my test before I made it to class.

All in all, I feel like my test today went pretty well. The tests here aren’t easy by any means, and they are more challenging by far than anything I experience in the USA. Although this test was significantly easier than last week’s, the test was still exceptionally difficult. We also did a Mock OPI this morning, and I discovered that I can talk soooo much more in a more fluent manner than I could before the program. It was a pretty big relief to me, given that I often feel like my spoken Chinese isn’t improving at all because I don’t see immediate daily leaps and bounds. But the work is there, and so are the skills that work has bred! So holla for that.

In the afternoon, we hopped on a bus and rode to Meinong, an aboriginal village about 45 minutes outside of Kaohsiung. The village was very interesting. We first went on this pond walk with sweeping, gorgeous views, which was really fun. I took a bunch of photos on my DSLR Camera that Ill have to eventually post here. After the pond walk, we visited a museum all about Taiwanese aboriginal history. It was pretty interesting, and it was also fun to get to hang out with my friends. After that, we headed to a tea shop to grind tea powder into stuff we could eat. Everyone else seemed to really enjoy the tea stuff, but since I can’t have it I really didn’t get to experience that much of it. It was cool to get to grind up all the additional stuff they put in the tea mixture, so that was a blast. For our last stop, we headed to a fan/umbrella painting shop where we had the chance to paint traditional Taiwanese parasol-like umbrellas. It ended up being a blast, and I’m very glad I got to have the chance to decorate it .

After riding the bus back from the umbrella place, I settled down to a dinner of homemade hot pot. It was pretty good! The best part was getting to watch Mamma Mia with my host family while eating, which is something I love getting to do. My Host family loves Mamma Mia, too, so it was exceptionally fun.

Tonight, right after taking a shower, I bent over to grab a hair tie off the ground that I had dropped… and noticed a familiar debit card design. It was my debit card!!!! The one I “lost”!!!! As it turns out, I’d dropped it behind the toilet before leaving the house last Saturday. Unfortunately, I can’t reactivate it and will just be stuck with stipend money until I’m back in the USA, but honestly, it’s just a relief to know where it is. I also found my bus card down there, which was really nice! Now I don’t have to buy a new one. 😂

Goodnight y’all! Have an awesome awesome day!

Day 31: A Little Fall of Rain…

The side effects of Tropical Storm Son Tinh have arrived in Kaohsiung! Although the storm itself is not hitting Taiwan (it’s taking a more southerly path, in the range of Vietnam/Thailand/Southern China), the rain it’s triggering definitely has.

I woke up like usual, and made it to school without a hitch. It was pretty moist and definitely hot, but all in all not a bad commute to school. Because I’d already written out my script for my oral presentation that morning, I was under (basically) no pressure to do anything before class. And to be honest, that was sososo nice!!

My oral report in and of itself went pretty well. I kept most of my tones really consistent, a byproduct of lots of rehearsal and meticulous practice to understand my sentence order. More satisfying than anything, however, was being told that I’d used the grammar points well throughout the presentation in a relatively fluent manner. Holla!!!

After class, I went to get dumplings with Sophia again (dumplings are an addiction to be honest, and I don’t know how I’m going to live without them). We ended up sitting by our RD and a couple other NSLI-Y peeps, and it as super fun!

After lunch, I had small class like usual. Most of this small class revolved around characters, which can sometimes be a little frustrating for me. When it gets hard I try to remind myself that, like anything, learning and remembering how to write characters takes practice, practice, and more (you guessed it) practice.

For our cultural class today, we spent time with our language partners playing games and hanging out. The meeting ended up letting out super early, but then NSLI-Y gave us drinks so everything was alright. I had a delicious lemon winter melon non-tea (it’s just boiled down fruit, no tea leaves) that reminded me of lemonade and was very tasty. All in all it was fun, and a good chance to spend time with my language partner.

After our RD meeting (in which *diversity abroad* was discussed with a passion), I headed out for Kaohsiung Arena Station. Because my language partner had to go to work, it ended up just being me wandering around the mall deciding what to eat. Eventually, I decided to walk a half mile to a nearby cat cafe instead of dealing with finding food. Along the way, it began pouring rain everywhere.

Unfortunately, when I got to the cat cafe, the lady wouldn’t let me order food or stay in the restaurant. They might have been closed for some odd reason, and I don’t know what exactly I would’ve done there. It was very weird, but not a bad time. I ended up eating some less than awesome McDonalds, but all in all, it was no big deal.

After I ate, I made my way home 9n the subway and bus in the torrential downpour. It was crazy, but all in all pretty fun.

I need to study now, so this is goodnight! See ya tomorrow.

Day 30: Baseball in Kaohsiung

Physical exercise is a magical thing. In the moment, it can be immensely difficult, frustrating, infuriating, and, frankly, an altogether bad experience. In a busy, hot, humid city like Kaohsiung, it’s even more difficult to handle (unless you love running through the pollution in 100-degree heat… 😂). But when you can find a form of exercise that, no matter how difficult it gets, still feels worthwhile and fun to do, then you’ve won the game (figuratively, of course) entirely.

I woke up this morning like usual, and got ready in record time. I ate another bagel for breakfast (shout out to all my HOBY peeps for understanding the bagel-with-jam struggle), and made it to the bus stop in time to hop on the 77 and make it to school.

Class was pretty good! We mostly focused on reviewing the grammar points in context, which is something I really enjoy doing. It did get a little difficult though, because my brain has a very hard time focusing for 3 hours at a time on things that can feel rather repetitive.

For lunch, I went to 丹丹漢堡 (Kaohsiung’s most famous fast food restaurant – Dan Dan Han Bao) with June, Joseph, and Sophia and ordered a fried chicken thingy. All in all it was pretty good, and tasted a lot better than the KFC I ate earlier in the week. I also met with my teacher for a minute to talk about the grammar points I’d struggled with on the last exam. Hopefully I can get those sorted out, and maybe even improve my reading speed a little bit…? At this point, I read slowly enough to let anyone who is even a little bit of a native speaker know that I’m struggling. Although it can make small class difficult, it’s nothing beyond what I can handle through lots of hard work.

After afternoon class, in which we talked all about healthy food and how important it is, we did our language task for the week! We had the chance to interview one of the language partners for around an hour, and talk to them all about Taiwanese food preferences and travel advice. I asked our interviewee (an adorable student originally from Taizhong) all about what to do in Taizhong when I’m there next Saturday.

After small class, I met up with Timi so we could ride together with my host family to the sport center thing we were going to today. We rrode and everything was all good.

For dinner we had pizza with fish and some soda pop to boot. Afterwards, we played sports for a pretty long time.

The batting cages they had were pretty nice. I tried my hand at softball, but I quickly discovered that baseball was superior in its pitching sccurity and level of fun. Covered in pouring sweat, I hit set after set, pushing out problems and frustration I’d built up during my time leading up to Taiwan. It was altogether quite satisfying and worthwhile, and allowed me to vent in a productive way. It did make me tired though, which ended up being a good thing to help me sleep later tonight.

That’s all for now, sleep tight my friends and family! See you tomorrow.

Day 29: In Which I am NOT Falling Asleep

Greetings from the land of the thoroughly awake! Sorry for the really really really crappy blog posts over the last couple days, I’ve been dealing with a ton of schoolwork, going to bed at 1:30 AM, and also trying to make sure I keep up a good relationship with my friends and host family while I’m at it. But today, thanks to a merciful combination of minimal homework and lots of quality time spent with my host family, I’m actually very awake to be able to write this post. So hooray for that!

I woke up today like usual and made it out the door after a quick breakfast with my host family. Breakfast food in Taiwan is legendary, and I won’t lie when I say that I love the stuff. Today’s ensemble included a pancake-like egg creation, complete with a little bit of Sichuan pepper-salt mix to make it taste like a dream come true.

Everything went well on the way to school, there were no life-ending motorcycle crashes (it happens…) and all in all it was rather enjoyable. I made it to school relatively quickly, although I did have to wait for the bus for a couple minutes (much to my annoyance). All things considered, though, it was no big deal.

Chinese class went pretty well. We went over a LOT of grammar patterns, which was a lot of work but very rewarding. Grammar is really useful because as soon as you learn it, you can apply it with all the vocab you already know. I also like learning vocabulary for the opposite reason: as soon as you know vocab, you can plug it into the grammar patterns you already know! Linguistics are so cool, and that’s one thing that NSLI-Y has definitely helped me see.

For lunch, I was going to go to Crisken (a fried chicken place with very tasty chicken) with Timi and Sophia, but there ended up being a crazy long ok from all the other NSLI-Yans who wanted to go there, so Sophia and I ended up going to a dumpling shop nearby while Timi went to the bread store we all love, Japon (note: to all future NSLI-Y Kaohsiung kids… go to Japon. The bread there is so cheap and so tasty, it will change your life. It’s right by the 7-Eleven). I got some 鍋貼 (guotie – pan fried dumplings), and they were really good!

After lunch, we had small class, which was actually surprisingly enjoyable. It was fun to get to talk about different things more today, which was a lot of the focus. It helps that the grammar patterns we reviewed weren’t too difficult.

After small class, we had another crazy language partner class. For this one, we did a bunch of stuff involving Taiwanese 小吃 (xiao chi – snacks/street food, lit. little eats), including a drink guessing game, a Kahoot (shout out to whoever made that… you’re an icon), and, most disgustingly, a gloved mystery box challenge touching some strange stuff. The highlights of the activity were: not remembering what guava juice tasted like even though I had it the other day, hilariously failing the kahoot due to a weird refreshing glitch on my phone, and (🤢) handling tripe (aka cow stomach).

After class, I headed home to meet up with my host family for the night. It ended up being a super chill night, mostly because I didn’t have nearly as much homework as I usually do. I talked to my host family a lot, which was as some!

Nothing else to report except a need for sleep… goodnight y’all!!

Day 28: Asleep in the middle of the city

Quick post today. This morning at about 7:18 I woke up and hit up some breakfast from my host fam on the way out the door. They are always so sweet, its absolutely awesome.

Class was good, all normal and quite fun. The teachers are absolutely amazing, and it was fun to see how they were able to help me learn the info.

After class, I spent the whole day out with my host family. We explored a couple different places within walking distance, and took some photos that looked absolutely hilarious. Dinner was tasty, and all in all it was a good day.

Sosososo sorry, I’m literally falling asleep right now as I write this so I can’t go into more details. Its not an excuse but its all I got! Expect more tomorrow!! Bye!!!

Day 27: Yet Another Sunday

(Who’s ready for a double post?! In all seriousness, last night I had, not kidding, 5 hours of homework to do, and by the time I finished it was 1:30 AM and I needed to sleep. So sorry for the one-day delay on this post!)

Today was a pretty normal Sunday here in Kaohsiung. I woke up, and ended up having enough time to flat iron my hair and put on some makeup before I had to leave for church. It was fun to get to wear my hair in a similar way to how I would at home, because most days here in Kaohsiung I end up wearing my hair up in a ponytail.

Church was really awesome! I finally feel like I’m really connecting with the ward (basically the congregation) I’m in, which is an awesome feeling. I had the chance to lead the music for the main meeting, which was very entertaining but also rather fun. I especially love my young women’s leaders, who are some of the most open-hearted and loving people that I’ve met during my time abroad. They’re always so welcoming, and it makes church a happy place to be.

After church, I made my way into downtown to meet up with Timi at the Kaohsiung Municipal Library, which is this absolutely beautiful (and free) library in downtown Kaohsiung. It’s a favorite haunt of mine, mostly because it’s incredibly well-designed and peaceful, even on a weekend when everybody is out doing things with their families.

After walking around the library gardens with Timi for a couple minutes, we decided to go to Ikea to look around and mooch some air conditioning from the store. But as we walked close, I could just tell that this was going to be chaos.

Sure enough, as soon as we stepped into the store, we were greeting by an ever-shifting group of individuals all clamoring for the same items. We left before too long, because we couldn’t handle the tight press of people standing everywhere talking, combined with the stares that people love to give me everywhere I go.

After going to Ikea and grabbing some fried chicken with Timi, I began the process of making my way home. I ended up falling asleep on the subwayaoplvwhile, and woke up just before the train arrived at the station. Talk about Russian inelime for bed, goodnight y’all!

Goodnight!

Day 26: Tainan (with NSLI-Y this time)

Something not a lot of people talk about with study abroad is the constant emotional up-and-down that you experience from day to day and hour to hour. While the w-curve model is very true, especially when looking at the general emotional trend a person experiences over an extended period of time abroad. But some thing that can always be talked about more is the day-in-day-out variation in emotional state throughout the trip itself.

For example, yesterday was largely a good day. I experienced some stress, I won’t lie, but all in all it was a fun and worthwhile experience. I lived a lot, and was rewarded with a lot of hilarious and worthwhile experiences.

Today, however was more than a little… difficult. I woke up on the right side of the bed, and ate my breakfast with enough time to make the bus and get to Wenzao in time for our Tainan trip. Then I decided to ride the same bus as one of my friends, requiring me to walk across the street to get to the right station. Buuuuut I miscalculated which side of the road I needed to be on and had to basically run through oncoming traffic to get to the stop. While waiting at the stop, I realized that some time between leaving my apartment and arriving at this second bus stop, I’d dropped my debit card (yes, the new one that finally came in the mail on Tuesday) and my bus pass on the ground. Cut to me madly scrambling to search everywhere I could to try to find the cards, only to come up empty handed. To make things worse, in my frenzy to try to find my bus pass and debit card, I’d missed the bus I needed to take and would end up horribly late if I tried to wait for the next one. Because of all of this craziness, I ended up calling an Uber to take me to school, and spent the entire 10-minute ride bawling my eyes out in the back of the car while texting my American mom everything that was happening.

To put it simply, it was not a good morning.

A huge part of the study abroad experience is being faced with challenges and learning how to work through them. It’s what facilitates so much of the amazing emotional growth that comes about as a result of living in a foreign country. And part of that growth is learning how to accept that not every day will be exciting, ideal, and altogether fun. Gaining skills like that are an integral part of why study abroad is so valuable, especially in high school.

After I finally arrived and settled into the bus, I buckled down for the “long haul” (a.k.a. the 45-minute ride from Kaohsiung to Tainan). The ride felt relatively short, but was definitely entertaining, thanks (in large part) to the speaker Will and a couple others bought at Dream Mall last night.

Our first stop of the day was a beautiful Taoist temple. We started off with a really awesome boat ride on a little creek-ish river near the temple itself. Although the ride was humid, hot, and veeeeeery slow, it was actually really enjoyable! The view of the low-hanging trees on top of the smooth water was absolutely to die for. The Taoist temple was also really great. It was so gorgeous, with lots of symbolic gold and red accents, and also smelled awesome from all the incense in the temple. I really only wish I could’ve seen more of the temple and learned more about its history and cultural significance.

After we’d finished up at the temple, we headed to the ruins of a military fort with a little old town surrounding it. It was so fun, and honestly an absolute blast. We also ate lunch there, and were #blessed to have time to be able to explore and get to know the area better. I was really only hungry for boba, so I bought some and went on my merry way (no tea mom, no worries 😄).

After we finished lunch, we rode the tour bus our final location: an old sugar refinery turned into a type of urban theme park. Throughout our time at the sugar refinery, we watched a drum performance, attempted to steer a boat with only a bamboo pole, rode down a slide in a slippery slide in a modified body bag-type thing, and altogether had a very good time. We all hung out as a group and had a blast.

After the refinery, we hopped on the bus and headed home! We ate dinner at the plantation (I accidentally ordered mushroom dumplings instead of normal ones, but it all worked out in the end.

That’s all I got! I went straight home after we got back to Wenzao, and I neeeeeeed to sleep.

Goodnight y’all

Day 25: Cijin Island

Today I had the chance to do a bunch of really really fun activities! I woke up perfectly on time and made it successfully to class without any issues. It wasn’t even raining, which was super awesome!

After I made it successfully to school, I tried to study as much as I could in prep for my midterm. Unfortunately, because the midterm was cumulative for all our units up to this point, it was really hard to know what to study and focus on.

After taking the test, I honesty felt like it wasn’t my best by any means. I breezed through the listening section relatively easily, then hit a major roadblock on the reading section that served to help guarantee my test-taking downfall. I didn’t complete the test in the time period, much to my disappointment and disdain. In the future, I want to prepare more for my tests so I can successfully pass them using the knowledge available in my head.

After the test, we had another mini-talk and pronunciation clinic like r did a couple weeks ago. It was nice to get to talk with my teacher and get some insight on my Mandarin. She’s going to start correcting me more on my tones, which will be good for my speaking in general, but also slightly difficult on my confidence speaking in class. Hopefully everything works out well though!

Once we’d all finished our language assignments, we hopped on a bus to the Cijin ferry terminal. One (relatively short but wet ) ferry ride later, and we’d made it to the island. Throughout the course of the day, our giant group of NSLI-Y kids plus these high school students who we got to spend the day with, had the chance to do a LOT of different activities, starting with a visit to a bunch of ginormous and really elaborate sand castles on the beach, as well as a tunnel with a bunch of star signs (which was a little odd but also very fun), to a stop at an old Japanese fort where I got sooooo many pictures, to a lighthouse on the top of a hill overlooking the ocean. The highlights definitely included all the crazy ocean views, and also the fun conversations I had throughout the course of the day.

After our tour around Cijin ended,a bunch or us (as in like 96% of us) headed out to get some Bing. We went to this store where we got to write our names on the ceiling, and we made sure to commemorate it with lots of NSLI-Y everywhere. Hopefully future generations of Kaohsiung Summer kids can go back and find that restaurant (called 海之冰) to see the names of the O.G. Kaohsiung family.

After getting Bing, a bunch of us decided to go to the Pier 2 Arts District with our RD. Unfortunately, it was too dark to see basically anything, so we mostly just talked about different things. After walking around, 7 or so of us decided to go to the Dream Mall so they could buy a speaker and Colton could buy some stuff from the Nike store. A couple of us ended up getting split off from the main group, but in the end everything worked out great! All in all it was a fun adventure and a great chance to see a part of Kaohsiung I don’t usually get the chance to visit.

Goodnight for now! Tomorrow is our NSLI-Y Tainan trip, so stay tuned!!

Overlooking Kaohsiung from the tip of Cijin!

The best friends a girl could ask for!

The view from the lighthouse on Cijin looking towards Kaohsiung harbor.

The absolutely beautiful view from the fort out towards the sea!