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As I sit here at my desk at 3:25 AM all I can do is look around the room I have shared with Phil this entire trip. It is empty and lacking the warm, homely feeling you would want your dorm to feel like. This entire 6 week trip has been packed up in to our suitcases and carry on luggage. Stowed away for the 24+ hour trip we have home to Ohio. I actually cannot believe we depart for Taipei in about 2 hours. These last 6 weeks have flown by faster than I expected and it is crazy to think that prior to this trip I had never flown before. The want to travel is something I hope I never lose. And having my first experience on the opposite side of the world was a great place to start.

Although we have certain requirements pertaining to school this was one great vacation. All of the traveling we did while on the island and experiencing the culture was absolutely amazing. Getting outside my comfort zone was difficult but in the end I’m glad I took the leap. In my opinion everyone should experience a culture outside of their own. It shows you that there is more to the world you know. Which is something many people can benefit from.

Since this is the last blog post of the trip I figure I’d share some of the things I have learned from this trip.

First and foremost, take chances and experience the unknown. Sometimes this is difficult to do because we are fearful of what will happen but in the end it is the experience that matters.

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We all took that chance when we signed up for the trip and made our way to the airport. This was huge for me because the extent of my travels were to Maryland and Florida. Cultures much like Ohio except there is a ocean and Food Lions’ instead of Buehler’s . Granted I’ll say I wasn’t sacred of my first time flying, I was just excited to get to Taiwan.

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Phil’s Ol’ Glory tape and some gauze kept the burn clean for a few days

Next don’t wash a water bottle with 100 C water and close the lid. It is bound to expand the air inside the bottle and explode. Leaving second degree burns on your finger. 0/10 would do that again.

Lastly, I want to keep this post to a minimum so I will mention what my most favorite experience was on this trip. It happened while we were Taitung visiting the Aboriginal Festival during the week long trip around Taiwan.

We got off the bus and it was scorching hot and as expected the festival was outside. Great…. So while we sat there watching the various dances we kept having the Aboriginals come up to us and wanting to take pictures. Well after I offered to take a picture a man pulled me aside and started to tie a pair of pants around my legs just like he had on! He told me I was going to dance and I started to get nervous. Little did I know it was going to be a dance that involved everyone. So after some of us got dressed in their attire we linked hands with the Aboriginals and formed a circle. As they sang we moved in a circular motion and did the dance. The women I had linked hands with didn’t speak a lick of English but they were having the time of their lives trying to teach me the steps to the dance. I could see the pure excitement and joy in their eyes as they taught me the steps and wanting to keep me involved in what they were doing. The acceptance of others and the willingness to invite them to join in their practices is truly amazing and heartwarming. My words cannot describe exactly how I felt at that festival.This is definitely one of the things I will never forget.

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Getting suited up!

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Amanda and I dressed up before the group dance

 

On behalf of myself and the rest of the AU students here in Taiwan, we would like to thank everyone who made this trip possible. Without all of the hard work this wonderful experience would not have been possible and I can honestly say that we are all grateful. Not many people get the experience that we have and it is something we will all hold dear to our hearts for the rest of our lives. Thank you again so much!

Sincerely,

 

Casey Neer

 

One last Hoorah

We have been talking about having one last get together as a group with the PU students and the learning partners for awhile and tonight it finally happened. We were supposed to have it a week or so ago but because of Typhoon Matmo we were forced to postpone till tonight. Our learning partner, Una Hsieh, graciously invited us to her home to have a BBQ. After waiting forever for the bus and then taking a wrong turn in Albuquerque trying to get to the train station in Shalu, we finally made it outside of the city where Una lives with her family. After meeting her parents we began setting up for the BBQ and we started the grill.

After setting up we finally got some meat on the grill and Phil began to work his magic. While we waited we shared our favorite stories of the trip and what we couldnt wait to do in 2 days when we got back home. Most of us talked about eating our favorite home cooked meals or the various American foods in the JFK airport.

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DSC00692Once we started eating our other learning partner Lynn put some American buffalo wings in front of us. I can tell you it tasted exactly like home. Which at this point in our trip,  was exactly what I needed. Just a taste of home to get me ready for the day worth of travel home on Sunday.

After what seemed like a few hours, and many helpings of food, we began to light off fireworks. It was so much fun. But sadly it all had to end at some point. It was tough realizing that this would be the last time seeing all of the learning partners. It is amazing the friendships you make while abroad. Especially when they are your lifeline with navigation and translating everywhere you go. They we a lot of fun and we all hope to see them in the future.

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Grill Master Phil using his expertise

Taichung is Moving on Up!

In the long but short 6 weeks we have been here in Taichung, maneuvering the city has always been a challenge. At home we are so used to just jumping in our car and taking off to our destination. This is not the case here in Taiwan for the AU students. The public transportation has been our main medium of transport this entire trip. Luckily everything we could ever need is along Highway 12. From the Top City department store to any food we could imagine, Highway 12 has been there for us.

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The Bus Rapid Transit Station out front of Providence University

Since June 22 there has been construction 1 lane into the 6 lane highway. We had no idea what it was but we guessed it had something to do with the buses. Lo and behold it was bus stations for the all new BRT (Bus Rapid Transit). This new mode of travel is not much different from the normal bus system we have been taking all summer but the kicker is that it is much longer with more room and has a dedicated lane for it to travel. Making traffic jams a thing of the past.

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DSC00677 Dedicated lane for BRT and the BRT bus

This new bus has made it much more efficient getting around the city along highway 12 and I wish we had it from the beginning. Also the best part about this BRT is that it is free and from what we have heard it is going to be free for about a year!

I would also like to mention that currently Taichung has plans for a metro system (at the cost of  NT$53,491,000,000) and it will rival the one in Taipei. Not only will the BRT be extremely fast but the  plans for the MRT will make getting around Taichung a breeze. Hopefully students here in Taiwan will have the opportunity to ride this in the near future.

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MRT projected map

The past six weeks have gone by so quickly and yet, I look back to our first day here and it seems like forever ago.  The friendships I have made here in such a short amount of time have been one of the greatest parts of this trip.  Getting to know our learning partners was a great experience.  It is incredible that we were all able to become friends despite a slight language barrier and the fact that we come from two different cultures.  Having international friendships has made me realize that the world is not really as big as it seems.

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Sean, Demi, Irene, Lynn, Una, Nelson, and Greta. We will miss you so much!

Our program coordinators, Greta and Sean, can never be thanked enough for everything that they have done.  They have made this trip incredible for us.  Our learning partners, Demi, Irene, Lynn, Una, and Nelson, have given us a personalized tour of their Taiwan and have shared their favorite aspects of their country with us.  They all have dedicated their lives for several months preparing to make this trip amazing for us…and it definitely shows because this program was a trip of a lifetime.  We are going to miss our teachers so much.  They have helped us to learn so much in such a short amount of time.  They have been so supportive and always willing to help us.  They obviously love what they teach and their passion for teaching gave us a passion for learning.

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Helping Greta put on her necklace at the Farewell Party

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Although we are so sad to go and to leave all of the friendships we have made here, we hope that we will meet again and we will keep in touch.  It’s sad that we are leaving Taiwan in a few days but, we all can’t wait to see our families and friends again.  I can’t wait to share all of the experiences and adventures we have had with my family.  I will probably have to get used to saying “thank you” in English again after saying it in Chinese for so long!

Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Alan Roth and his family for making this trip possible and for supporting this fantastic program.  Your support means so much to us and we appreciate your dedication to this great program.  This trip has been an unforgettable experience and I am so glad that I was able to travel and live in such an incredibly beautiful country.

See you soon, America!

Amanda

Today was our Chinese calligraphy class.  We began our lesson by writing an archaic version of our Chinese last name.  We did this using calligraphy brushes to practice and get familiar with the character.

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Practicing painting Chinese characters that stand for our Chinese last names

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Hundreds of years ago, people would use a customized seal as a signature to protect documents, letters, and artwork from theft.  When a piece of artwork was created, it was claimed by placing a unique and exclusive stamp directly on the art.  This was a sign that the particular piece of art was under their possession.  Some greedy emperors would claim thousands of pieces of art as their own regardless of if the piece was rightfully theirs.  This tended to decrease the value of once-priceless pieces of art because the dozens of seals stamped on the art detracted from the art itself.  Nevertheless, seals were a way for people to confirm that any particular item was theirs.

We were able to make our own seals with our Chinese last names.  We took pieces of soft stone and etched the character into the seal.  This was a difficult and tedious task because the lines had to be clear and etched deeply into the stone.

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Our teacher showing us how to etch the character into the stone

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Very intricate seals that our teacher made

 

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My seal

Once that was completed, we aged the look of the seal by pounding dents and marks along the edges of the seal.  This made the stamp look more authentic like the seals of ancient times.

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Aging the seal

We dipped the seal into bright red waxy paint and pressed firmly into our paper.  The result was incredible.  The seals looked exactly like the ancient seals.  It was truly an awesome experience to create our own seals and use them just like the people of past.

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Dipping the completed seal into waxy paint

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The finished product!

Thanks for reading!

Amanda

This weekend, we visited Taiwan’s beautiful capital, Taipei.  We began our trip at 6am on Friday morning.  After taking the high speed railway, we arrived in Taipei.  We visited the National Palace Museum.  The museum consists of gorgeous pieces of art including priceless pieces of carved jade.  We caught a glimpse of the famous Jade Cabbage but, we were not able to see it up close because there was a two hour line…so we enjoyed the other pieces of art at the museum.  

On Saturday, we visited the Taipei Zoo.  We were able to see pandas, penguins, camels, elephants and several other animals.  One of the animals we saw was not part of the exhibit but, was naturally hanging from trees…It was a huge spider that was about 6 inches by 4 inches (at least!)…Not scary at all, right?…Just kidding! it was absolutley terrifying.  We don’t see many of those in Ashland, Ohio!  

Panda at the Taipei Zoo!

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Scariest thing ever. Yikes!

 We took an awesome, Hello Kitty-themed Gondola to view the city.  Taipei is a gorgeous city because there are cluster of buildings between hills of trees and then surrounded by mountains.  We were able to get another incredible view from Taipei 101.  Taipei 101 is the most famous skyskraper in Taiwan and is currently the 5th tallest building in the world, reaching 1,670 feet. We were also able to ride in the world’s fastest elevator!  Our ears were popping from the rapid change in elevation.  

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IMG_6415 Hello Kitty cable cars

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View of Taipei 101 from the cable car

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IMG_6486 Taipei 101

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View of Taipei from the 89th floor of Taipei 101

Today, Sunday, we visited The Grand Hotel.  It was so fancy inside and there were several expensive boutiques inside.  The Grand Hotel, according to Sean Wang (our program’s co-coordinator ot Providence University), is very old but extremely famous.  They have to do renovations often because it is so old but, it is beautiful inside.   

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The Grand HotelIMG_6562

Talk to you soon!!

Amanda

Typhoon Ahoy!!

Today Wednesday July 23, 2014 we have our first typhoon day!  It is much like a snow day except you DO NOT want to go out and play in it.  The entire city of Taichung both businesses and schools alike have been closed down due to typhoon Matmo.  We have been cooped up in our dorm room for the entire day.  We are allowed to leave, but they highly recommend that you do not.  This morning around 11 am the students at the front desk came over the loud speaker and told the building that if anyone would like to order lunch and not venture out into the madness that they would do that for us.  All of us guys on our floor took advantage of the opportunity!  It was very kind of them to go outside on our behalves, just another fine example of the generous hospitality that we have been experiencing during our stay on “Isla Formosa.”  I enjoyed a movie in our dorm room with Brad and myself while we ate and now it is time to churn out some pages on my homework that I have been putting off!  I think that we will venture into the city later tonight and see all of the damage and really just enjoy the fresh air.  

I would like to apologize in advance for the lack of photos of the current happenings outside, as I do not particularly want to venture outside with my camera.  Please enjoy the photos that were taken last night, the calm before the storm.  

The view from our balcony overlooking the majestic city of Taichung.

Another view of the city.  

That’s all for this world traveler.  I look forward to seeing you all stateside!

Best Regards,

Jake

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