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Nathan - Czech Republic 2015-16
Shayna - Thailand 2014-15
Nathan - Taiwan 2013-14
Erin - New Zealand 2012-13
I am going to start off with the only thing that can express my adventures so far…..WOW!! It’s been about three months now and everything has been simply great. I have participated and seen so much here already it’s hard to believe there is more out there to see. The first thing that happened when I landed was the many hugs and immediately a new name. 林宇軒 (Lin yu xuan) is what I am called now…I guess they didn’t like Nathan hahaha.
The island country of Taiwan is large, beautiful, and is located just off the coast of China. The large mountains are beautiful and everywhere around the city, which keeps the city safe when the regular typhoons hit. City life is jam packed with great activities, many people, and so much unique culture that it makes it so much better to be here. There are so many things to do in such a little place that just makes Taiwan so great!! I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
The city that I am currently living in and will spend my exchange in is the city of Taipei, which is the largest city on the north end of the island. The city is very nice with some of the nicest people you will ever meet and they are always willing to help. The city is very accessible with the subway (here we call it the MRT) and traveling by bus is very common and easy. Both these ways make it very easy to connect with people and allow me to explore the city that much easier. There are many exchange students who currently live in this city and there are as many as 150 students from around the world. I have made some of the greatest friends among them and never want to leave them. The driving here is crazy here though. They don’t follow standard driving laws (and most are the same as Canada) and they are everywhere. They also love the mopeds and zip around on them anywhere they want. If I survive their driving, I can survive anything. The city is so great and I have experienced much in the time I have been here, but I am hoping to explore and experience so much more!!
School here is interesting and has many differences to school in Canada. The high that I am attending is 京和高中 (Jing He Gao Zhong). Some of the major differences are the amount of time they spend studying and attending school. School starts from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., a lot, I know!! I still enjoy it very much because my classmates are the best. Another difference is that classes are only 55 minutes long, which gives them a variety of classes to take during the day and makes things a bit more interesting. One of the biggest shockers though was the fact that they have no custodians at the schools here. Everyday for about 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon is the students job to clean the classroom, which includes sweeping, washing the windows, moping, cleaning the hallway to their class, and emptying the garbage. It is not as hard as it sounds if you have 42 other classmates to help. Lunch is paid to the school every 2 weeks and the school provides the lunch from an outside company who choose what we eat each day, which gives us a variety of things to eat. We also have to learn a second language at the school (not including Chinese and English, those are mandatory), so not only am I learning Chinese and Taiwanese, but I am also taking Spanish class. Wow will my head ever hurt, but it is a challenge I am willing to take.
The language is coming along although it is very difficult, and I mean difficult. I attend a language school with the other exchange students from my district for 3 times a week for 3 hours each day before going back to my high school. The teacher is very encouraging and always willing to help. So as my Chinese slowly increases, the less people understand me as I try to speak as much as possible in Chinese haha. The Taiwanese language is not as much of a priority to learn as it is not spoken commonly and is very similar to Chinese anyway. Everyone here is very helpful though in trying to teach me Chinese and they are very patient and I love them for that!! Currently I know how to write in two styles of Chinese perfectly, and am working on the third one. The third one is the most commonly used and consists of all the Chinese characters. Spanish is fun and fairly easy due to my background in French, although this is not my goal for the year.
My host family is great and is always there to help me. I am currently have two host sisters, one being 17 and the other one is 6. They both are the best and the oldest can speak some English and is always willing to help me when I need help communicating with my host parents as they do not speak English. My host parents are the best and could not have asked for any better!! I live in a four story house in the district of Banshiao. This style of house is very rare as most people live in apartment buildings or have smaller houses. The hose is not like a normal Canadian house as it is perfectly square so it fits in with the streets. I am very fortunate for this opportunity. My parents are always trying to include me in activities with our family events and their friends. They are the best!!
Rotary is great here and have scheduled so many events for us already. They include us in everything that they do and encourage us to speak Chinese all the time. Although we only get to go to rotary meetings once a week because they would rather us in school, we keep involved quiet a bit. They always try to make sure that we are having the best time possible time we can.
The culture is very different and very male dominant. You will always see the man driving and rarely do women ever drive, the women will only drive the mopeds unless they have a far drive and there is not a man in the car. At the rotary meetings, you will see the men sit together near the centre and front of the room and the women together at the back and sides of the room. It is also very disrespectful to hug someone that is not close to you and has to be in a private area. Even when you are sick, you have to wear a mask so that others know you are sick, and that you do not get your germs on anything as they are really afraid of disease here, no matter how minimal it is. The food is amazing!! I never thought it would be as good as it is, but wow was I ever wrong. The best place to get cheap, amazing, traditional Taiwanese food is the amazing night markets. The only odd food is the stinky tofu….and the name says it all, you would not believe the smell.
Some of the trips that I have been on are great!! I have been mountain hiking a couple of times and was amazing each time. I have been to local farms to see how they grow and produce their food. Bus trips to large Buddhist monasteries, different places on the island, and more. What makes it all the better is the other 51 exchange students in my district. So much fun with them!!
I am having a great time in Taiwan and am so glad I have been chosen to spend my exchange here!!!
Thanks you Rotary soooo much!!!