It’s been one month since I arrived to this beautiful country I now call home. 31 days of adventure, exploration, chaos, and joy. Each day has presented a new opportunity for growth and learning. Here’s to many more.
I clearly remember the moment I woke up on my first day in my new home. 9:00AM, with not a single clue as to where I was. It took a few seconds for everything in my mind to settle on the idea that I was, in fact, waking up in a new country with a new culture, language, and lifestyle, rather than my first thought of “wow, what a vivid dream”. After the initial wave of confusion had settled, a new feeling began to creep in. It was the “I have no idea where I am, how to contact anyone, and no idea where my host family lives” feeling. You see, I live in quite a unique situation. I live on the fifth floor of an apartment building. Also on the fifth floor is a random woman who lives in the room beside mine. Our communications have not exceeded a simple “ni hao” (1) in passing. My host mom lives on the fourth floor, and my host grandparents live on the second floor. That first morning, I vaguely remembered the instructions from the night before. “Go to YeYe and NaiNai’s (2) house at 10 for breakfast” I remembered hearing. However, in my sleep deprived state, I completely blanked on which floor the grandparents lived on. Additionally, I had no memory of any way to contact my host mom, who was at work, or my host sister. I didn’t feel like banging on every door in the building to find my grandparents on the first morning was something I was so excited about, so I decided to wait. It was about 11:00 when an old man knocked on my door. A quick introduction in my almost non-existent chinese managed to break the ice. YeYe and I are close now. We have short conversations, but I always appreciate his assistance in finding new places, like 學校 (3), or the location of my 中文課 (4).
The first week comprised of simple explorations of Taipei, with Joanna, the daughter of my second host mother, who is the sister of my current host mom, and Lorenzo, an exchanger from Italy who currently lives with Sun Yu, my second mom. We visited numerous landmarks that define Taipei as a city. One of the first days, we made the arduous journey (walk across the street) to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, a well known landmark in Taipei. It was erected to remember the country’s first leader. I found it to be absolutely incredible. I also climbed elephant mountain with a few other exchange students. It gave us a stunning view of the entire Taipei City. It was only 15 minutes to the top, so I am planning to return to take more photos.
The next weekend after arriving, the Inbound Orientation took place. It was the first time that I met the other 60 exchange students that are here in Taipei City. There are even more in the surrounding region, as New Taipei City, which surrounds Taipei City, is an entirely separate Rotary District with students of its own. The 60 of us from district 3480 were sent to Yilan, a small city on the east coast, just over one hour from Taipei. We spent the two days combining fun activites with lectures. Capture the flag, BBQing, and visiting the coast were a few of the highlights from the weekend. I met so many amazing people. I can’t wait to spend the next year hearing the stories and wisdom from each of them.
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to visit Jiufen, an ancient mining town perched upon a delicate hillside. I was stunned by the view from the town down onto the roaring Pacific Ocean below. We explored numerous shops, restaurants, and museums. I enjoyed seeing the history of the town in the architecture and especially the old tea and pottery shops. Once again, I truly hope that I will be able to return for a Taiwanese sunset.
In my next blog entry, I will discuss my experiences so far with the school and education here in Taipei. It is a unique system, with many differences to what I have been accustomed to back home. For now, however. I have written enough. Until next time!
- Ni Hao – Hello
- YeYe and NaiNai – Grandpa and Grandma
- 學校 – Xue Xiao – School
- 中文課 – Zhong Wen Ke – Chinese Class