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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

Breakfast Street

One of the things that people find to be most interesting when they travel is the food. In the United States there is a lot of diversity. This diversity makes it a select place to try all kinds of different foods. It is common to go to these places for dinner, and lunch, but what about breakfast?

 

Despite being the most important meal of the day, nobody ever goes to the Chinese restaurant for breakfast. To many Taiwanese people this would seem odd as they love to eat. In Taiwan most meals are bought outside of home and the streets are lined with small food vendors. These vendors typically specialize in one item and are only open for one meal of the day (breakfast, lunch, or dinner).

 

Near our school, Providence University, there is an entire road stuffed with small shops to buy anything you want to eat for breakfast. This street has been appropriately dubbed “breakfast street” by the locals and is a very unique place to experience. To get to a shop you have to swim through a sea filled with people and scooters. If you are lucky enough to get into a shop, the most daunting task comes next- ordering food.

 

Ordering food can be a challenge as knowing very little Chinese can make for a serious game of charades. We have found the places with pictures of food as they are the easiest to order from. We now frequent the Burger Master shop as they have pictures of all of the food and they have even created an english menu for us. Here you can buy fried hot dogs, turkey on ciabatta, eggs, chicken sandwiches, and soy foods- just to name a few.

 

My personal favorite is the spicy chicken sandwich. It comes on a fresh soft bun with shredded lettuce, heavenly hot sauce, a fried egg, and a deep fried chicken patty. This sounds like a Southern American dish but it is a great motivator to get out of bed in the morning!

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From what I have read from my fellow trip-mates, there has not been much light shed upon our living quarters.  Today is one of our few slow days, so why not enlighten you of this new place we call home as I work on a bit of homework we have from our lăoshī (teacher).  We, as in the men live on the second floor and the women live on the fifth floor.  Each floor is divided by gender and members of the opposite sex are not allowed on the others’ floor.  We have vending on the second floor, so our central common area is free to both genders at any time.  Each room is divided into three two man rooms with a common room that is shared by all three rooms.  Attached to each room is a bathroom with two sinks, two toilets (one standing and one sitting), a urinal on the men’s floors, a wash room if you choose to hand wash clothing and dry it, and two showers.  

In my room of 2E2 is Bradley and myself.  As luck would have it, I would be paired with him of all people as he was my roommate first semester freshman year.  We get along well as we are already familiar with each others habits and mannerisms.  As I type this, he is laying behind me watching a movie on his mattress pad.  

A normal day in the life here at good ole’ PU as they call it consists of this:

Wake up around 8 to go and get breakfast at what we fondly call breakfast street.  Then, walk back up the hill to campus and climb the steps of St. Peter Hall to go to Mandarin Class.  We are in Mandarin Class from 9 am until noon.  We have this class every day of the week.  Both of our professors are extremely enthusiastic and love that we are grasping both the culture and the language so quickly.  They are what makes it that much more enjoyable and drives us to keep furthering our knowledge.  Then, we have break time for lunch.  Usually, we order in food which is usually rice, noodles (with or without soup), dumplings, or even McDonald’s!  After lunch is done then begins the fun.  We will either have a planned program or free time to discover the city on our own!  I much enjoy free time, because we have to fend for ourselves as far as food goes and sometimes you don’t get what you ordered….  After the evening finishes I almost always go exercise with Michael, because you definitely do not want to be out exercising and sweating when the sun is up!  Not even the locals want to be out on the track when the sun is beating down upon it.  That about does it for a day in the life of an exchange student here in Taiwan.  

 

 

 

Our own slice of Heaven.

“The facilities”

The vending station in the lobby of our floor.

The clean water dispenser.  Tap water has too much chlorine in it to be potable.

The laundry room of the building.

Our view from up here in 2E2.

When I originally prepared for this trip I knew that I would meet many new people, especially those from Taiwan.  What I did not know, is that within our group I would meet new people as well.  I have developed strong relationships with both people from Ashland, but many other Universities and states as well.  Within our group there are people from Kansas, California, Washington D.C., and even South Korea, Japan, Puerto Rico, and Guam.  I have learned as much, if not more, from them about our own culture as I have about the Taiwanese culture.  Living in Ohio has been a blessing to me, but it is not the most progressive state to say the least.  Being around others from all corners of the U.S. and surrounding countries has been a real treat!  As far as our learning partners go, we like to watch them as much as they enjoy watching us.  When we first arrived here, we were all at a night market to try stinky tofu and Demi, one of our learning partners, kept pushing us to try stinky tofu (a famous Taiwanese dish).  When I asked her if she liked it, she replied with “I don’t know I have never had it.”  To this I was shocked, how could she be forcing it upon us in the first week when she has yet to have it after over a century of living here.  Low and behold, she just wanted to see the reaction on our face after we smelled it and ate it.  If you are wondering how it tasted, it was as the Taiwanese say “還蒿.”  Which is hai hao and means okay, or not bad in English.  I wouldn’t go searching for it, but I too would force it on foreigners simply to watch the reaction on their faces.

Aside from learning from others, I am learning from myself.  I recall going on family vacations and learning of the places that we would travel to, though through all of the fun and happiness by week two or so I was ready to be out of the close quarters.  One thing was for sure with a “Miller family vacay” and that is that there was always a good verbal spat (and if it was between my brother and I, we may or may not have duked it out).  Now that is with people that are extremely familiar with each other, and knew that it would be best to work out the problem there rather than push it back to a different time.  Imagine it with 20 some strangers that are constantly together and will more than likely not see each other (those from different states).   You could imagine tensions get pretty high at times.  I have seen many a moment where I was sure that there was about to be a few words exchanged between my classmates, yet they take a step back and just breathe.  That is the beauty of world travel.  It takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to dig deep down and find the strength and patience.  You are not in your house, you aren’t able to get an American cheeseburger, you are not able to hug your loved ones or go and see a movie with your best gals.  We are fortunate enough to have this experience and it is just that, an experience!  I read something today that went like this, “No one will remember the special days in their life, they will remember the special moments in their life.”  Yea…I will let that one sink in until my next post.  In the mean time, enjoy the pictures of what we have been experiencing.

 

Our group at the Central Science Park

Gong Fu class…hit ‘em with the high kick! 

Mountainous views to make you appreciate how small we as humans really are.

 

Peace in Taiwan

Wanderlust.  It is what brings many of us together.  Some people have the insatiable thirst to travel, to see new things, to experience them with all of their senses, and at the end of the day only a view that can be witnessed in person rather than from a National Geographic magazine can make a difference.  The group of us Ashland University students that have traveled together share this amazing bond.  Walking down crowded streets, climbing snake infested mountains, tasting the bitter salt from the ocean mist, and smelling the exotic spices mixed in the local foods will be remembered by all of us.  Most importantly not only will we remember the sights that we have laid our eyes upon but we will remember the smiling faces that we have so often turned to when a smile had stretched from ear to ear on our faces.  The situations that draw at the small amount of humor left in our body at the end of an exhausting day from something as simple as waiting to get back into a building but it being locked for fifteen ore minutes or even a simple “good morning” while we are laying in our bunks from our close roommates. We have all learned to take things with a grain of salt, we have learned patience, and among all we have learned to smile, because nothing is ever worth a frown.  No matter what a smile can make anything just one bit better, and sometimes its just that one bit that you need.  Don’t forget to smile people.  You never know how much better it will make someones day, whether they are homesick, or if they are just missing a loved one.  Happiness is universal.

 

 

Enjoy my fellow travelers, bloggers, and readers alike!

 

Brad

 

 

 

 

Hey Ya’ll,

I’m back again to catch you up.

Looking back at this past week there is so much to share, from the hostels to the countryside, from the beaches to the clubs in Kenting.

One of the coolest places that we went too was the beach in Kenting for many reasons, we also went to visit Sanxiantai ( in Taitung ) and also watched an Aboriginal Tribe dance, we were even treated by an invitation to dance with them!  Talk about an experience.  Just think, the natives who wish to hold onto their history and lush culture so firm, are happy and willing to extend a hand and share that with people that they hardly know!  Taking a step back and thinking to oneself about this act of kindness brings a tear to your eye, letting you realize your own tendencies and others and where you lack in sharing and spreading joy to all.  Whether it be in physical possessions or customs and traditions just as these natives had shared.  They opened up a piece of themselves to us, they made themselves vulnerable, but above all they trusted us.  Take a moment and let that sink in.

The endless oceans… a cold drink… and a few friends. That is all you need.

Look and see how these roads are made and the guts it takes to negotiate them!  It was an adventure in itself looking out the window and not being able to see the road that the bus is on but rather the drop to the river canyon below.  These roads went up above the mountains and down to the valleys where the water flows.  I can remember many times people on the buses would ask if anyone needs gum to chew due to the elevations that we were reaching and our ears were popping!  I can remember being so exhausted that I had woken up and looked out of the bus window only to realize that I was looking down on the clouds! Talk about breathtaking.

There was a few fraternity brothers that wished to take a photo at these elevations in the mountains, representing who they are and what they stand for, working to spread their motto and their values.

When asked if we wanted the opportunity to go surfing a group of us had chosen to go.  The most amazing part was that it took place after a typhoon!  The best time to surf where the waves are strong and the they crash often.  The lessons were not only affordable but personable by the amazing surfer and surf shop owner who owns the only surf shops in Kenting.  We had talked to him for a good amount of time and had realized that his passion for the ocean was as deep as his thoughts on life.  I would highly recommend the A-Lang Club when visiting Kenting.!

 

The business buildings to the houses in the populated cities was quite an experience.  You never know what is on the inside.  We had walked by a house with an open door and saw a man painting.  We had asked him prices on his art and he chuckled, explaining to us that his work gets hung in the art galleries all around the world and many of his arts make it to France and stay there.  The prices ranged from $1000 USD to $100,000 USD.  What made it interesting was the honesty and genuineness in the artist.  The modesty in his lifestyle, and the love and passion in his eyes when looking over his masterpieces.  The wonder and awe that had emitted from me was not just from the priceless works of art in my vision but the innocence in the lifestyle that we were witnessing right before us.

Please be patient and remember, there is more to come!

 

Brad

 

 

 

Hey Everybody!

It has been a long week that was riddled with many obstacles to overcome, one being reliable internet connection to do blog posts and keep everyone updated.  This was not a big deal as it provided much time to think and separate oneself from the rest of the world.

This week there was quite a quick itinerary that seemed to just fit in with the hustle and bustle of the travelers mindset and pace of life.  It all started out on the first day getting up early and taking off shortly after the sun had peeked the clouds.  On the first day we had left Taichung to venture to Hualien.  At Hualien on Monday we went white water river rafting!  This was an experience as our rafts had hit the water there was a fleet of native Taiwanese citizens rafting with us, and by fleet I mean possibly over a thousand others rafting.  We had seen how they were very playful in the water but at the same time wanting to stay ahead.  We took this as a challenge and took off down the river, by doing this we could bond well with others in our group and learn teamwork.  The constant shouting and the struggle of communication over the loud rapids created and exciting atmosphere to work efficiently in.  We had actually gotten so far ahead that one of the river workers had flew down the river in a small motor boat to pull us back with the rest of the pack.  After waiting for them to catch up we were on our way again!  It seemed to be imminent that we were to land first at the end but we had heard the sound of a motor and to our surprise looked over our shoulder and had saw twenty rafts in tow at a time behind motor boats of all the rafters.  They were motioning to us to grab on and get pulled to the finish line but our pride was too strong and we insisted to finish without the aid of the river workers.  The native people who saw this acknowledged this and clapped for us as we had pulled into the docking area.

When drying off several of us had some pretty bad burns including myself.  These needed to be taken care of because they were not just your average sunburn but rather they were a solid contrast from bright red to white skin.

On Tuesday morning we had left Hualien to go to Taitung.  At Taitung we had visited the city and stayed at some pretty interesting places to say the least.  These were called Hostels.  Now for those of you who do or do not know what a hostel is, let me tell you.  You never quite know what you are going to stumble into after a long day of running to make buses, spending countless minutes flagging down taxis, or even attempting to find directions from locals.  The only thing that can be certain is the comfort from seeing a smile and a friendly presence with a place to lay down.

After a long day we had found our hostel… it was no more than a small building taller than it was wide and long.  A house in the downstairs and front from the owners and even a hair cutting salon ( or what appeared to be one ).  When getting the tour there was dust on books and a small kitten roaming the building that put a genuine smile on everybody’s weary faces from the monotonous rush of daily travels and life in yet another huge and unfamiliar city.  When venturing to our rooms they were separated by outside metal steps with a bathroom not in the building or on a floor but rather on a spot outside the building.  The rooms had no insulation and the electric wires and plumbing lines were exposed from the frame with only siding holding the elements back.  The character that these rooms had was amazing.  The stories that they could tell would be enough to keep you on the edge of your seat for a lifetime.

There were people within our group that did not really care for how the building looked and felt but at the end of the day it was an experience and we all had each other.  The gentleman that helped and showed his hospitality to us went by the English name of Gary.  Now let me tell you something, Gary had a heart of gold and wanted nothing more that to please our group, he wanted to do anything that we wanted to do and go anywhere that we wanted to go.  He did so with a smile on his face and tried his best to please, his English was not the best but he tried his hardest, and he radiated with happiness that he had made new friends.  The morning we left to go to Kenting he said that his most favorite thing in the world was to meet new people… one of the most touching displays of kindness and hospitality that anyone could have said and or showed.  I will be posting a few more times but could not throughout the week due to travelling away from the university and not having reliable internet to update on the blog.

Here are some pictures.  Please live vicariously through these images.

 

Brad

Burnt.

Taroko Gorge

Aboriginal Style Food

Views of the ocean.

Buying fireworks on the street!

 

Many more to come!!!

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