Believe it or not, but today I’ve reach the respectable age of 26, which is, as the mathematically gifted will already have figured out, closer to 50 than birth. As usual, I’ll take the opportunity to go through what has happened since last year. As it turns out, it’s quite a lot, but I can safely say that last year’s moving to Taiwan for the first time is hard to beat. For your convenience, I’ve divided this tale into different parts.
I started my 26th year in life in Gaoxiong, Taiwan (having moved there only a few weeks before). During the spring term, I spent an awful lot of time studying Chinese at Wenzao, using a kamikaze approach to learning the language. However, since I wanted to apply for a scholarship, I applied for a real university degree program at NTNU. The decision to stay in Taiwan another year was not easy (going to Dubai wasn’t a serious idea, even though some people thought it was) and was further complicated when I didn’t get the scholarship. During my stay in Gaoxiong, I started role-playing with some a couple of foreigner friends, something which boosted my motivation to keep working on Magneter och mirakel.
I spent the summer in Sweden, working, relaxing and trying to recharge my batteries for another year abroad. I left Sweden again in the beginning of September, heading for Linkou outside Taipei. My new life in Taiwan started out in a catastrophic manner, but got a little bit better after I found somewhere to live. Bad class management from the university added pressure, but worked my way up slowly during the first week. I had lots other problems, but after a month, I felt settled in. However, life in the north was a roller-coaster ride, with amazing classmates and friends, but with everything else lacking. I finally decided to move back to Gaoxiong, where I’m currently living.
Even though education has always been important to me, I think it’s even more important here in Taiwan (after all, that’s why I came here in the first place). Since last year, I’ve finished two semesters, one at Wenzao and another at NTNU. Apart from this, I’ve spent a decent amount of time learning Chinese in other ways. Naturally, I’ve improved a lot and my progress can be followed through my proficiency reports (number 4 describes my starting position and number 10 my current level). See my studying Chinese page for more.
In speaking, I’ve gone from being able to communicate to being able to communicate more or less fluently as long as I’m familiar with the topic. I mostly need to correct my language, not learn it from the start. In listening, I’ve reached a level where I can understand fairly difficult Chinese if it’s not too fast, and I’ve recently felt that I can partake in social chatting even if it’s not aimed at me specifically. In writing, I’ve developed from struggling to make myself understood to being able to write more or less formal Chinese, even though I still struggle with word usage (i.e. using a word that means roughly the right thing, but in the wrong context). In reading, I’ve progressed from being able get the general idea of stories for elementary school children to being able to do the same for ordinary newspapers. I’ve roughly tripled my vocabulary (around 10 000 words now) and can handle most texts apart from very formal or literary ones. In short, I’ve learnt a lot, even though it doesn’t feel like that since I’m so close to the learning process.
I’ve also taken the time to actually write about the learning process and the result is a number of articles pertaining to learning Chinese or to learning languages in general. Here are some of the more important ones:
Chinese regarded as a multi-layered web
Learning to pronounce Mandarin Chinese
Learning Chinese using ZDT’s interval filter
Don’t go abroad for your first year of language studies
He did there confound all the languages of the Earth
Learning Chinese isn’t as hard as you think
The kamikaze approanch to learning Chinese
This area of my life is perhaps the one that has been most stagnant during the past year (along with physical activities). Sure, I did finish the first part of my novel and I have planned for the rest, but it’s very far from completion. Together with a friend I also launched a new text-based role-playing game with the same setting as the novel, although we have only played a dozen or so sessions. And yes, I have started thinking seriously about the setting of that story, but to be honest, I thought that I would be a lot farther down the road now. During the summer, I started writing articles to the new version of Haragada, even though that project is also far from completed.
Still, I have accomplished one thing which didn’t require that much effort (most of the work was done from 2004 to 2008 or so): I have finished writing Magneter och mirakel. I have some feedback that has to be attended to, but I can say that I’m finished with the game I started writing almost six years ago. This is very important for me and I will write more about it later. The game will not be published any time soon, however, because I need illustrations and layout to do that, but the text is completed.
As usual, I haven’t only written things, I have also consumed a fair amount of media, mostly in the form of books. Since I’ve already talked about the individual books/films in their respectve reviews, I’ll just provide the best books and films I read during my 26th year in life. They are sorted roughly in order of importance.
Books (out of 61 in all)
China Miéville – The City & the City
Mark Lynas – Six Degrees
Cormac McCarthy – The Road
Tove Jansson – Vem ska trösta knyttet? and Sent i november
The Umbrella Academy – The Apocalypse Suite and Dallas
Salman Rushdie – The Satanic Verses and Shalimar the Clown
Matthew Glass – Ultimatum
Aldous Huxley – Brave New World
Connie Willis – Bellwether
Snigel.nu saw some major changes as well. A new design was implemented during the summer and I spent lots of time creating a more organised Chinese section. I reached a total number of 1000 posts in July, which is incredible. Posting frequency has decreased a little bit since then, but is now on the rise again. I also took the time to tag all posts, making it a lot easier to find similar or related posts.
Important content has been added mainly through the Chinese section, but also in a series of reflections on life, literature and the pursuit of dreams. Here are some of my favourites:
There are some things I’d like to bring up that doesn’t really fit in the above categories and doesn’t deserve their own. Firstly, I haven’t spent very much time on any specific sport during last year. Sure, I’ve kept in shape and had a good time, but I haven’t reached any of my goals. Recently, I have started working towards them in a more structured fashion, but I’m still far from most of them. Next year, I hope to be able to show some real results. Perhaps I should note that I’ve decreased in weight from around 79 kilos last year to about 75 now.
Since last summer, I’ve spent quite a lot of time with Rubik’s cube. I’ve learnt a lot, although I still regard this as something I do when I’m on the bus, waiting for someone or similar situations (sometimes I do spend high-quality time on the cube, but not that often). For instance, I’ve lowered my personal best for the ordinary cube to 33 seconds, learnt to solve the 4×4 and the megaminx. I can also solve the 3×3 blindfolded about fifty percent of the time.
As opposed to last year, there were no major changes in my 26th year in this world, I merely continued doing what I did last year. In some areas I’ve done well (studying), others not so well (writing, physical training). I’ve also spent another year in Taiwan and generally speaking, life as been very good to me. I hope and trust it will continue to be so in the future, even after I go back to Sweden. Recently, I’ve felt a surge of energy and motivation to do get more from life, and it’s surfing this wave I enter my 27th year. I’m hopeful and confident it will carry me wherever I want to go, regardless of where I happen to be in the world! So, happy birthday to me…
…and there was much rejoicing!