The end of my Taiwan trip has finally arrived…in less than 8 hours I’ll be en route to Seoul for a (hopefully) adventurous time in Korea. I have very mixed feelings about leaving; when I first arrived I kind of wanted to get on a plane and go right back home. But over the past two months I’ve grown more and more comfortable with living here, and it feels really good to know that this is the place where my family has come from.
The end of AID was a really bittersweet time, saying goodbye to more than half of my groupmates from C2-2. I think it’s safe to say that we will stay friends for a very long time. The past two and a half weeks following AID have also been packed with fun, from a four-day adventure to Tainan that left me tanner than I’ve been in the last five years to afternoon tea with new Taiwanese friends. In just a few days it’ll be back to LA, back to real life. I am really thankful I had the opportunity to spend so much time here and it was a good time to reflect on the past four years of college and to just learn more about myself. Hopefully this next stage of life will be another season of growth and I pray God will give me the strength to overcome the challenges that are sure to come. Anyways, I have to wake up in about 4 hours and schlep off to Taoyuan at around 5AM, so I guess I’ll just end here. Taiwan, you’ve been good to me.
Tomorrow is the last day of our program..it’s really bittersweet. The last four weeks have been the most jam-packed days of my life. I haven’t consistently woken up before 7AM since high school… Anyways, I wanted to blog a couple times before this but was kind of too lazy so I may break this up into a few parts.
The two weeks of teaching we did in Miaoli was probably one of the most unique and challenging experiences that I had. Most of the volunteers in the program underestimated their students’ ability; we sorely overestimated. Imagine going into a classroom fully expecting to speak in only English, only to find out that your students know, well…NO English. Like, barely can recite the ABC’s. It was a shock and it wasn’t because the students hadn’t learned English or were stupid, but…just unmotivated. So it was really discouraging at first. The hardest part was to keep believing in my kids and not give up on them even when it was clear they weren’t interested in what we were trying to teach them. I had to really ask God for patience and to understand that even though we may not see results now, hopefully they would appreciate the whole experience afterwards. And in the end we did see gradual improvement; I was so happy to see the students really start to learn and enjoy the things we were teaching them. In the end we did switch to using pretty much 80% Chinese, but it was okay because we were able to communicate and bond with them more after doing so.
The people I’ll miss most from our school is our mentor, Lexie, and the two military guys who took care of us. They showed us endless love in the form of food, fun conversation, and lots of precious time to make sure we got everything we needed to get done while preparing lessons and such. It’s crazy to see how quickly friendships can form in such little time. Our goodbyes were definitely bittersweet, but hopefully next time I’m back (which with luck will be soon) I’ll be able to visit. But I’ll cherish these memories forever, whether it’s our five hour karaoke sessions or playing ninja in front of Lexie’s house while our legs get ravaged by mosquitos. I’m actually excited for the program/tour to end (although the tour was really fun and I’ll write about it later), but not looking forward to saying goodbye to most of my teammates. But that’s not till Saturday, so till then we can still make the most of every precious drop of time we have left together. :D
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.