After two days in Miaoli, here are my observations:
There are surprisingly less bugs than I expected. We do get the occasional spider or black midge in our room but thankfully no cockroaches yet. There are a lot of bats at night which is kind of cool. I also saw a lizard chilling right next to me by the windowsill while I was showering, but it left right after I put on my clothes..guess it got bored.
The school we are teaching at is really tiny. The principal and the teachers here have really put in a lot of effort to make us feel comfortable here. Our dorm feels more like a house, and one of the teachers lives here too, as well as two police officers that are around our age. The first time I met her I was in the living room huffing and puffing during a Pilates workout; she gave me a weird look but I think we’re cool. There was one thing I found that was really strange. The washing machine is in the bathroom but the pipe that drains the water isn’t connected to anything..so the water just spills onto the floor. >_> It flows into a drain into the floor. The first time I saw it someone had left a piece of paper in their pocket, so the water had a lot of particles and stuff and it was just kind of gross lol. Other than that it’s been surprisingly easy living here.
There are these two people, 常先生 and 張姐姐, who have seriously fed us like kings and queens and have shown us a lot of love through their cooking. 常先生’s wife made some chicken soup for lunch with chickens from their own backyard that were slaughtered that morning, and 張姐姐 comes by delivering amazing homemade 便當 and other goodies. She even brought us stinky tofu to eat as a late night snack. I think it’s really nice to just appreciate good old fashioned home cooking instead of always eating out or finding trendy restaurants to go to like I do in Taipei.
Everybody here has really treated us wonderfully, and I think it really is true that people who don’t live in the city are nicer. Even the 校長 is very kind, although he did bore us nearly to the point of madness by having us listen to two hours worth of several terrible renditions of the Taiwanese national anthem AND 國旗歌, as well as a bunch of different old old Taiwanese songs..multiple times. I did like some of them though. He even showed us a hymn that I’m pretty sure I’ve sung during combined meetings at HOC.
One of the best things about this place is how peaceful it is. There’s no city noise, and the weather is milder than it is in Taipei. The school has a track, so my friends and I have taken to exercising together. Our routine for the next two weeks will probably be just a mix of teaching, lesson planning, and running on the track, but there’s a certain joy to be found in that kind of simplicity. Super excited to meet the students in just two more days!!
Tomorrow marks the last week of the AID orientation. After the closing ceremony my group and I are going to Miaoli. There were definitely some pretty dull moments during the lessons but I think that overall the teachers had some very useful advice about teaching English. After hours of preparing lesson plans I can say I definitely appreciate the work all my teachers from the past have put in to presenting all their material to us. I’m glad I started with a program like this rather than jumping into a year-long program like JET or something. I am truly grateful for my group, that in just a few days we are able to bond during lesson planning, enjoy each other’s company over a plate of stinky tofu, or play Space Team and eat endless amounts of guava that one of our groupmates received from a friend. I’m really looking forward to spending the next two weeks in Miaoli with them. I’ve also had a really good time with my roommates; they are a very fun group of girls to be around and I’ll be kind of sad to leave some of them tomorrow.
I think one of the best things about this program is the fact that people come from so many different areas. Many people that I’ve met are from the east coast or Midwest or Canada. I’ve seriously never met so many people who lived outside of California, which kind of reveals to me how much of a California bubble I’ve lived in, since most of my friends at UCLA were from either socal or norcal. It’s kind of cool to learn what kind of Asian American communities, or lack of, there are in places other than LA/bay area, etc.
Tonight we were all allowed to go to Shilin night market for a few hours, which was really nice. I’ve never been there with anyone other than my family, so it was nice to hang out with my friends and show them my favorite places, since many had never been there before.
Anyways, I’m pretty curious as to how the next two weeks in Miaoli are going to be like. Hopefully there will be some interesting things to do in Miaoli…there isn’t much freedom (actually there’s hardly any), but it’ll be fun to go to a KTV or something. I’m also looking forward to meeting the students. It’ll be really great to just see how they’ll be like and how they will enjoy the lessons we have prepared for them. It’s been a pretty tiring week, and I’m glad we will have the weekend to relax/finish up any last minute planning.
The last few days have passed by pretty quickly. It’s crazy how much faster time seems to pass when you have company. I spent the last few days romping around Taipei with my cousins, who despite living in Taiwan for the first 18 years of their lives had never really done much sightseeing. I never really hung out with my cousins unless it was a family gathering, so it was pretty nice getting to know them better and just be able to appreciate having extended family here.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to have dinner with two Australian girls I randomly met the other day on the train. Who knew that a simple ‘hello’ to some complete strangers on a long train ride would lead to an evening full of lots of laughter and good conversation in a country thousands of miles away from each of our homes. It really made me thankful that I have the opportunity to meet friends from all different corners of the world. It kind of makes me feel like I’ve led a sort of 井底之蛙-esque existence.
Today was the first day of the AID Summer program that I’m a part of. Even though that’s the whole reason why I’m here, to be honest I wasn’t all too excited for it. However, after meeting my group I think I’m really looking forward to teaching alongside them. We were thankfully all paired by age, so everyone in my group is a college graduate and very easy to talk to. This is definitely going to be a good experience and hopefully I’ll learn a lot and be able to contribute something for the students I’ll be teaching.
I wanted to wait a little before writing about this, but since it’s been getting a lot of hype and attention lately I wanted to share. Today’s post is about…pudding ramen! Now you may be mentally throwing up in your mouth at the thought of these two seemingly incompatible foods, but don’t beat it til you try it.
Basically, the idea is this: grab a container of pudding (in Asia pudding is known as that two-toned custard/flan stuff), and your favorite cup ramen. Most people use pork flavor, which I didn’t know at the time I bought my ramen but I did end up buying pork flavor since it seemed to make the most sense. Now, there are one of two ways you can do this. Either dump the pudding in with the dry noodles before adding hot water, or add it after. I recommend adding it after so that you get that interesting temperature contrast between the cold pudding and hot noodles.I added just enough water to cover the noodles to make sure nothing would overflow when I added the pudding. I also added the entire seasoning packet, which I don’t normally do. This is recommended so that the sweetness of the pudding doesn’t overpower the whole thing.
And after the usual wait…it was time. I was still unsure about overflowing, so I actually ate like 15% of the pudding before I added it LOL. It tastes pretty good on its own. I couldn’t properly grab a chopstick-full of ramen and pudding since the latter kept sliding off, so I sort of just used the spoon that came with the pudding, scooped up a bit, and shoveled it in my mouth along with the ramen…and. Hey! It wasn’t bad at all. The pudding isn’t sickly sweet to begin with, and so just gave the ramen a slight creaminess, with the sweetness melding with the savory pork flavor in a surprisingly pleasant way. It wasn’t AMAZING, but it was definitely different in an interesting way. I think it helped that the pork ramen was fabulous on its own, I’ve never actually had cup ramen that tasted so good o_o. Anyways, I broke up the pudding a bit so that it would melt into the soup. It doesn’t really melt that easily so I ended up just eating a lot of chunks of pudding.
Now the fun part. After all the noodles were done, much of the pudding did become part of the soup, to create this creamy consistency. Drinking it was reminiscent of…cream corn soup? But there’s no corn! I dunno, but cream corn soup is definitely one of those sweet-but-salty-but-it-works kind of things, so I guess that’s why pudding ramen works. I drank every last drop and honestly, I would eat it again. I definitely recommend trying it at least once.
A few months ago I made a spontaneous (idiotic? bold?) decision to apply for a volunteer teaching program in Taiwan. Fast forward til now, and I’m five days in what is to be a two-month long adventure on this lovely island. I decided it’d be kind of nice to do a series on my experiences, mainly because I’ve never traveled alone. I’m definitely learning a lot about myself, and about this country, that I hadn’t known before.
One thing that has been a complete lifesaver while I’ve been here is a handy thing called Pocket Wi-Fi. In Taiwan there is a company called iVideo which rents out these things for a pretty reasonable price.
Basically it connects to Taiwan’s number 1 mobile data network (Chunghwa Telecom or 中華電線) and gives you Internet access pretty much anywhere in Taiwan (I haven’t yet used it outside of Taipei but I’m assuming it’ll work). For people like me who don’t speak very good Chinese it’s great for looking up directions on a map or places to go when you don’t have access to a computer. It’s also been really nice just to stay connected with everybody back home via LINE (which by the way is a million times better than Kakaotalk and has awesome stickers) or Facebook message. There isn’t much information on the iVideo rental so I was pretty skeptical at first when I first ordered it but I can definitely say that it is a great resource that people should utilize if they come here. It does run out of battery pretty quickly though (probably 6 hours?) so if you’re like me who kind of is slightly addicted to her phone you might want to invest in a powerbank/portable charger (also relatively easy to find and cheap in Taiwan).
I think the worst thing about Taiwan that I’ve experienced so far…is definitely the weather. If you can come anytime other than summer, please do so. Taipei is especially moist relative to the rest of the island, so it is prone to…SURPRISE THUNDERSTORMS! Yay! There is nothing better than strolling merrily home and suddenly be accosted by a giant torrential downpour complete with thunder loud enough to set all the car alarms off. It’s only been five days and I’ve been caught in two…hah. Thankfully I always carry a sunbrella with me which can double as an umbrella in a pinch. However, once your shoes get wet you better make sure to keep them in a nice dry air-conditioned room with lots of newspaper to absorb the water. Things don’t quite dry properly here…bath towels stay slightly damp, and everything kind of just..ferments. Humidity also = lots and lots of mosquitos. Off Deep Woods Dry bug spray has been another one of my best friends this trip so thankfully I’ve gotten away with only a couple bites so far.
An interesting thing I learned is the huge difference in how people treat you depending on what language you speak. Before I got here I kind of freaked out at the thought of being dropped off in a country where I am probably about 40% fluent in the country’s main language. But honestly, Taiwanese people, at least the vendors, try pretty hard to help you out if you can only speak English and are quite friendly in the process. Speaking in English can also get you out of some awkward situations; it seems like if you’re walking alone you are an easy target for people to come up to you and advertise random things to you. A lot of the time I actually have no clue what they are talking about so I just speak in English and they kind of just scurry off and leave you alone. It’s easier than trying to fend them off using my limited Chinese.
All in all, it’s been a pretty positive experience, and I’m excited for the teaching program to start so that I can meet people. It’s been a fun learning experience romping around Taipei alone, but some company is always nice.
Tired. I think that’s the best way to describe my state of mind lately. Not just because of the flurry of wrapping up college and making the most out of this last quarter, nor of being sick for the past week and half, but just this mental exhaustion.
Matthew 11:28-30 states, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This verse, to me, really reflects God’s power and sovereignty. He is the ruler of our lives and His plans are for our good. But I think somewhere along the way a part of me has almost stopped trusting in that sovereignty. I know He is good, but there is this constant wondering of what He is trying to teach me throughout all the daily trials and burdens. I ask myself if there is anything God is leading me to do as I watch helplessly my little brother fighting what seems to be a losing battle with his inner demons, or how I’m supposed to crush the deepest yearnings in my heart and get over the disappointment of so many broken promises and dreams. The future is a big blank right now, and I hope to paint the next chapter of my life with a season of growth and productivity as I prepare for life beyond UCLA. But I know I haven’t given Jesus my burdens, for I have not found rest for my soul. It’s hard to remember that I am not the main character in my life, and I just want to be able to trust that one day I will understand all the things that are happening right now. There have been so many moments when I refused to walk with Him, and He carried me lovingly anyway. But this time I want to walk, no matter how much I want to look back. I just have to give him the weight on my back, on my chest, and walk with supreme confidence in Him.
Today, more than four years after I accepted Christ into my heart, I became baptized into the family of God at Lighthouse. It has been such an incredible journey throughout my walk with God and I know, without a doubt, that this is the best family to be a part of, with Christ at the center of it all.
I waited a very long time to be baptized, desperate for my parents’ approval, convincing myself that baptism wasn’t necessary. But after today, seeing how many people were able to witness God’s work in me, were able to hear the Gospel proclaimed, I can safely say that baptism is absolutely critical in one’s walk with Christ. And I know that when times get hard I can look back on this magnificent day and remember how far God has taken me from my life of sin and how infinitely loved I am. I think that the timing of everything worked out pretty well; even though my parents were not there to witness my baptism, I think that they have been able to see more of my faith in the past 9 months or so than they were able to before. I am glad that my decision to get baptized, despite their reservations about Christianity, let them know the power of God in my life and I am thankful that they have been supportive. I’m so thankful I got to see people who have touched me from so many different parts of my life…HOC, TCHS, UCLA AACF and many more. However, we must not forget that while baptism is a beautiful testament to God’s work in a believer’s life, it is ultimately not about us, but about Him. He deserves all the glory; I have done nothing to earn my salvation and it is only by grace that I have been saved. The past four years have been filled with incredible highs and devastating lows, but God has been right next to me through it all.
To those who couldn’t make it, I’ve posted my testimony for y’all to read, without me in all my crazy blubbering/snot running down my face glory…haha.
Throughout my life I met many Christians who talked about how much they loved Jesus but were slow to forgive and very hypocritical. However, that opinion changed the moment I first stepped foot in church in October of 2009, during my senior year of high school. At the time I was dating someone who had grown up in church and wanted to introduce me to God. I remember being so nervous on the way to that Friday night youth group, scared of being judged or made fun of or ignored. But when I got there, I was welcomed with open arms. I was amazed to hear people pray for the first time, and found that these Christians had a real relationship with God where they sought to glorify Him rather than ask Him for a bunch of worldly blessings. I wanted to know this God. Throughout the next few months, I began to hungrily seek Him, reading about who Jesus was in the Bible. I was amazed at this man who poured out so much love on people who would ultimately reject Him. I learned about grace and love in a way I had never before; it was like a fire had been ignited in my very soul and it spread so rapidly. Throughout my journey there were so many people who encouraged me, answered my questions, and showed me how great the love of Christ is by loving me. Before I knew it, I had one foot in church, ready to commit my life to Christ, and another in the world. I struggled very hard in my mind to reconcile all of the concrete tangible things I had learned my entire life, of science and logic and evidence, with all of the things I was learning about God that I knew deep down were true. In February of 2010 I finally decided to take the leap of faith to accept Christ into my heart, and it was like seeing color for the first time after living out my entire life in black and white. Though I wish I could say that after I became a Christian that my life was changed to the point where everybody could see the beauty of God in my actions, it wasn’t so simple. I struggled with the same hypocrisy I had seen in those Christians I had encountered before, of thinking I was somehow better than my non-believing friends. It wasn’t until after I entered UCLA, that I truly began to understand what it meant to be a witness of Christ. I thank God for bringing me to Asian American Christian Fellowship, where I have made some of the deepest relationships with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether it was a casual conversation over lunch or a 7 hour discussion that lasted the entire night, I have been blessed by how much each person in AACF has taught me about God. Thank you to everyone who has ever encouraged me, prayed for me, cried with me, and pointed me to Christ, even during my darkest moments when I could not feel God’s presence in my life and started doubting even my own salvation. If it were not for AACF I would not have found Lighthouse, and would not be standing here before you today.
Throughout my walk with God the most important thing that I’ve learned, especially at Lighthouse, is to love unashamedly, deeply, without abandon. With God we never run out of love to give to others, whether it is our family, roommates, classmates, or even those most difficult to love. And it is comforting to know that God loves me unconditionally, despite having done nothing to deserve it. I will never forget the words my roommate Shela said to me a few weeks ago when I was feeling worthless of His love: “Thoughts that you have to ‘fix’ yourself or that you aren’t good enough are lies that you have to fight with truths God says about you because His standards are greater, right? He accepts you and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you more or love you less.” This truth is something I forget all too often, that we are made righteous before God due to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross for our sins. However, we can trust that God will never abandon us, even in times of utmost loneliness. He is in front of me to guide me, behind me to watch out for me, beside me to hold my hand, above me to watch over me, under me to keep me from falling, and inside me to work through me. He has changed my life in every way I could ever imagine, and I pray that those around me could be able to experience the beauty of Christ, His magnificent glory, and His unfailing love.
One thing I really enjoyed about today was reading the notes that everyone in my class at AACF wrote me. And I’m really glad Esther reminded me of these lyrics from United Pursuit, which really had helped me get through some tough times throughout college.
I lean not on my own understanding
My life is in the hands of the Maker of heaven
I give it all to You, God
Trusting that You’ll make something beautiful out of me…
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open
So..to those of you who have walked alongside me in my spiritual journey, thank you for the prayers, encouragements, and even the rebukes/criticisms that were said out of love, to refine me. I have been challenged in so many ways thus far and there is no way I’m giving up this incredibly difficult fight that God has placed in front of me. And to those of you who aren’t Christian, thank you for the love and patience you have shown me despite my imperfections and times of hypocrisy. We may not understand so many things that happen in this world but if we proclaim Christ we will be united with Him in His glorious kingdom, the God of the universe. He takes away our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh, constantly refining us and making us into the people He wants us to be. God is a God worth trusting, worth believing in; He has never failed and is so, so, infinitely good.