Power, food and football

Yesterday evening, my neighboir Ben lent me an adapter which would allow me to run my laptop on AC. I still have no transformer, but since the equipment I got with my computer is able to transform 110-240V to the correct voltage, I am happy to announce that computer usage is no longer limited. Not only does this mean that I can study, write things and so forth, it also means that I can spend time on my own more easily.

That, of course, was only in theory, because after we had struggled for a while, failing to connect to the internet, Ben and his friends invited me to drink some beer in town (downtown Xinzhu is about 30 minutes away with car). Even though Ben and I took a taxi home fairly early, I had a nice time. However, I do not like the notion of alcohol being mandatory in a culture like this. There is probably a way around it, but I would like to find it pretty soon. Of course, drinking occasionally is great, but it is not something I would like to do as the default option for the evening. I would also like to be able to spend time with friends without drinking at all.

Having regained access to my computer, I spent this morning studying. To start with, I need to learn three things to survive here: Zhuyin, food vocabulary and traditional characters. I will tell you a little bit about these and why they are so important.

Zhuyin (commonly known as Bopomofo) is the phonetic system used in Taiwan to transcribe the sounds of the Mandarin Chinese. Previously in my education, I have used Pinyin, which is another way of romanising Mandarin sounds. The transition between the two seems pretty easy, but it is necessary to learn Zhuyin, not only because it is required when I study at the university, but also because text messaging and computers use it.

Even though it is not essential, knowing some characters used in restaurants is neat. In most places around here, it works like this: There is a list of dishes, drinks and whatever else is served in the restaurant. One is then supposed to mark which dishes one desires and hand in the list. Easy? Yes, because it is possible to check any dish and see what happens. I just arrived home from my first dinner entirely on my own, which was an experience in itself. Learning more characters will guarantee that I do not get soy milk for dinner or a steak for breakfast.

Normally, I like having things comfortable, so I feel a bit uneasy entering a restaurant I know nothing about, which is full of chatting Chinese people and where I see no obvious way of ordering anything, Fortunately, I was helped out by a little girl, probably the owner’s daughter. This was awesome, because it was obvious that she understood what I said when I asked questions about the menu. Unfortunately, I missed most of what she said, but obviously I understood enough, because five minutes later I was served a steaming bowl containing vegetables, pork dumplings of some sort and noodles. Very tasty. This adventure might not sound like much, but for me it was. Doing things like this without being uncomfortable is partly the reason why I think a year abroad would be good for me. A nice start, anyway.

I still do not know quite how difficult it will be to change to traditional characters. As some of you might now, on the mainland (i.e. China), they have simplified many characters to facilitate the process of learning to write. In Taiwan this is not the case. The problem is that I only know simplified characters and shall have to relearn much. Fortunately, this is not as bad as it sounds, because the simplifications are consistent. It does, however, mean a whole lot of extra strokes in many characters. It also means that I constantly run into characters I know in their simplified form, but not in their traditional. Here is an example from a washing machine, with the simplified version in brackets: 洗衣機 (洗衣机). As you can see, only the last characters differ, but if one knows only the simplified version, the traditional is confusing. I have heard the opposite is not true.

It is surprisingly easy to get used to the heat and the humidity. Fairly soon, I realised that it does not matter what I do; I will be sweating ten minutes after taking a shower anyway. This made me relax somewhat and now the heat does not bother me that much. I even spent four hours playing football today, which might have been the most water-draining physical activity I have ever tried. Even though I have not played football for ages, it went alright, especially considering the heat. On my way there, I also took the opportunity to take some more pictures of the neighbourhood (the picture quality is annoyingly bad, but this will have to do for now)::


This is behind the apartment building.


So is this picture.


This is the street below. My window is somewhere high on the right.


This street leads up to the university gates, approximately ten minutes from my door.


This is the way from the university.


And this is where the entrance is from that direction.


From halfway up the stairs.


Corridor.


And my room, which you have already seen.

So, having spent most of the day running after a ball and most of the evening trying to get something to eat, I almost feel ready to go to bed. However, it is not much later than eight o’clock, so I shall have to occupy myself for another couple of hours before callapsing time. I think I will spend that time studying the menues I brought from the restaurants. Perhaps I can even choose what to eat next time.

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  1. Martin’s avatar

    “it is not something I would like to do as the default option for the evening. I would also like to be able to spend time with friends without drinking at all.” Välkommen till studentlivet, errr… :)

    Reply

  2. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Ja. Det är ju en av anledningarna till att jag inte är så förtjust i studenter i Sverige heller. Det verkar dock som om det här, precis som hemma, beror mycket på vem man umgås med. Det gäller nog bara att hitta en rätt blandning av människor. :)

    Reply

  3. Xhakhal’s avatar

    Vinn på lotteri, bli miljonär och skaffa dig en digital systemkamera som alla andra turister :P

    Jag tycker fotografikvalitén är otroligt bra för att vara, vad var det du sade nu igen, din mobiltelefon?

    Reply

  4. Svante’s avatar

    Jag håller med xXx. Du måste definitivt sluta klaga på bildkvalitén.

    Och så är det kul att du har det bra, också. :)

    Reply

  5. margarette’s avatar

    OMG! It’s Taiwan. I am so homesick. You’re in a nice part. Hsinchuang is much more crowded. Eat some yummy steamed taro buns for me. You can get them in 7-11 or any quickie mart. Taro buns are in the steam case and are purple. Yum!

    I will be reading as often as I can.

    And I loved rear window, so I have to read your review.

    Reply

  6. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Xhakhal, Svante: Okej, jag har ju faktiskt ingen koll på hur bra bildkvaliteten borde vara, men om ni är nöjda kan jag nog tänka mig att vara nöjd också. :) En riktigt jävla enerverande grej är dock att det inte går att stänga av “slutarljudet” när man tar kort! Det -måste- låta, vilket gör att jag drar mig för att ta kort där jag tänker att det “stör” fölk (vilket det förstås inte göra, men försiktig hest som jag är tänker jag ändå att det gör det).

    Margarette: I’ll do that. :) Right now, it’s pretty confusing just to read the traditional characters, but I think it will take a month perhaps to convert what I knew before. I’m a little bit surprised to not find it crowded, but perhaps it’s because I am very close to a big university which semester hasn’t yet started.

    Reply

  7. Caroline’s avatar

    Vad vackert det är! Jag vet inte riktigt hur jag hade tänkt mig att det skulle se ut, men tydligen inte såhär, för jag blev förvånad. :)

    Reply

  8. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Mm… samma här. Jag hade tänkt mig att det skulle vara mer… mosat. Mer folk, mer byggnader, mer av allting. Men istället är det inte så mycket mer trångt än hemma. Universitetet är ju fantastikt vackert, ju!

    Reply

  9. Caroline’s avatar

    Ja, det var nog ungefär den bild jag hade också.

    Reply