27 and counting

A year ago, I had just moved from Taipei in northern Taiwan to Gaoxiong in the south. I spend almost all my time learning Chinese in some way, sometimes in class, sometimes with friends and sometimes on my own. Sweden felt very far away and graduation even more distant. I had decided to go home to Sweden in the summer, but I had really no idea what that really meant; I had lived abroad for a long time and felt quite used to that.

Today, I’ve been back in Sweden for what feels like an eternity. Suddenly, I’m not going to graduate many years from now, but probably after the autumn semester this year. I’ve left Taiwan far behind geographically, but a significant part of my heart is still there. I’m still studying Chinese, but the only thing that my life now has in common with my life a year ago is the amount of available time and my general satisfaction with the overall situation.

Explaining what has changed since last time I celebrated my birthday would be an incredibly complex task and something I intend to do in more detail later, but not on this website and probably not in English (I’m actually planning to write another novel). Living in Taiwan has changed and affected me in so many ways that it feels daunting even to start writing about it. Douglas Adams once wrote that one of the problems with travelling is that the soul travels more slowly than the body, leaving the souls of some people hanging in the void between destinations, thus leading to much anxiety and heart-ache. This is roughly what I feel, even though I would like to add that I consider most of these things to have had an overwhelmingly positive effect.

Personal life
Education
Creativity
General
Epilogue

Personal life

I’ve already talked briefly about what has happened since last time, but I feel that a slightly more detailed summary would be appropriate. As I said, last year I had just moved to Gaoxiong, where I lived until early July when I went back to Sweden. That semester started out somewhat uncertainly, because I had just left many friends in the north and was again facing a new situation, albeit with some familiar faces. The choice to move south again turned out to be a very good one. I think the spring of 2010 is probably one of the best in my life and will perhaps remain so for quite a while. The were of course many reasons, but being able to study Chinese wholeheartedly in something close to the perfect environment, together with spending perhaps too much time with a very nice girl were probably the main contributors. I also kept maintaining several friendships that will probably last for a while, regardless of if I move back east or not.

Of course, everything didn’t go smoothly. I had to go to Hong Kong to renew my visa, which was a lot more unsettling than it sounds, although it was also nice in some regards (Hong Kong is a nice city and the company was quite good). Leaving Taiwan was also something of the hardest things I’ve ever done and nothing else have been even remotely close to being as emotionally disrupting. I haven’t written about that properly, but I did write a short post just before leaving which discusses some aspects. Most photos of my life in Taiwan are on Facebook, but those published here are tagged with photo, so they should be quite easy to find. Here are some from Gaoxiong, 2010.

If disregard the loss of Taiwan for a moment, returning to Sweden was great. I went on vacation to Latvia with most of my relatives, most of which I hadn’t met for almost a year (a more detailed account is available, but only in Chinese). Back in Sweden, I lived with my parents for a couple of months before finding a new apartment in a student corridor here in Linköping (a corridor is simply a number of one-room apartments using a common kitchen and living room). I still live here and I like it a lot.

One of the biggest differences between living in Taiwan and Sweden is that things are much less turbulent here. I can’t think of many interesting things to say about my personal life after moving back, whereas I could spend ages discussing my impressions of Taiwan. Things are steadily moving along, perhaps astoundingly well considering doubts raised about my education (more about that further down). I have kept as much as I can from Taiwan, meaning that I still study Chinese, try to keep in touch with friends and spend a considerably time with Taiwanese students living in Sweden. However, there have been no overwhelming changes for me personally since I returned to Sweden, so let’s move on to something more concrete where a lot of things have happened very fast: education.

Education

The first half of last year didn’t contain much worth noticing education-wise, since I just continued studying Chinese like the previous three semesters. The big changes came during the autumn when I changed goals somewhat. Before that, my goal was to first become a teacher of English and Swedish, and perhaps then move on. After coming back to Sweden, various things made me realise that Chinese was more valuable than I thought and Swedish was more boring than I anticipated. This made me start looking into substituting Chinese for Swedish, shortening my education with at least three semesters. I’m now on my way towards doing that and everything seems to work out just fine.

During last autumn, I launched a new website for learning Chinese, called Hacking Chinese. A lot of time has been invested into this project, but I’m still not ready to launch the site officially (this is probably the first time I mention in publicly). It’s meant to be a site about how to learn Chinese efficiently, something I think is seriously lacking in textbooks and Chinese courses. The final aim is a book, supported by some kind of online community. The website currently features around thirty articles and there are a dozen or so in the pipeline. Apart from this, I’ve also written about my overall language learning strategy.

Creativity

Regarding creativity, little has been happening in terms of finished products, but I have still been working quite hard. I have written a significant part of my upcoming novel and I’m about to publish my big role-playing project Magneter och mirakel. I’ve also been working on a new version of our story-telling game Nostalgia (the new edition will be re-written from scratch in English). As mentioned briefly above, I’m also gathering and ideas for a novel about Taiwan, which will be something pseudo-autobiographical with a focus on impressions and thoughts rather than true events.

General

The first big thing in the “general” category is my new 101-in-1001 list, which should give people a good idea of what I’m doing and what I plan to be doing in the coming years. Most things I consider important are there, so check it out.

Last year, I had a category for media, but since I’ve read only a handful of books and watched even fewer movies, I don’t feel that’s motivated this time. However, I do want to mention the Hugo Award novels for 2010, which I read and reviewed. Most of them were quite good, so have a look here if you’re interested.

When it comes to sports, I practised diving diligently during the autumn and actually partook in a competition (Aquarapid International 2010). I also started practising gymnastics, which has turned out to be even more fun than diving, probably because of the wider diversity of exercises. I feel more physically able now than I have ever done in my life, which of course feels great. Sadly, I had to quit diving in early 2011, but that only means I can focus more on gymnastics and other related activities.

I’ve also done a fair amount of cubing, solving some new puzzles such as Square-1, 3x3x5 and rhombic dodecahedron (check my cubing page if you’re really interested). Apart from that, I also explored fewest moves and blindfolded cubing in more detail, starting to look into multi blind. I’ve also steadily progress with ordinary speedcubing, now having a best single solve of 21.49 and an average of 12 of 28.19.

Here are three more or less arbitrarily chose articles that were published during the past year that I consider important or interesting:

The labyrinthine dictionary survival guide
How I handle difficult decisions
Bedevilled books

Onwards, towards a brighter future

So, another year has come to a close, and most things seem to be moving in the right direction, especially regarding education and physical exercising. The first half of the year was saturated with emotional upheavals, so perhaps the steadiness of the second half was not so bad, even though I feel that it might be time to move on.

Leaving Taiwan is one of the major changes in my life, which means that much has happened or changed since last year. I don’t know what I will write next year, but my guess is that things will continue roughly like this for the coming year. Big changes might be on the agenda, but most of them (such as moving back to Taiwan), will not take place within one year. Even if I don’t plan to do anything spectacular, I hope that the coming year will provide me with an excellent springboard and a solid foundation for future adventures. Right now, though, what remains is just to wish myself a happy birthday…

…and there was much rejoicing!

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