A week in Taiwan

Roughly two weeks ago, I decided to write keep track of what I’m doing with my time. I did this for a couple of reason, the most important being that I’m curious myself about how much I study, how much time I spend on exercising and so forth, but in addition to this, I do get some questions about how I study and how much, so perhaps somebody else will think this is interesting too. Also, this shows a little bit what my life in Taiwan is like.

My idea for this post is first to present a summary of the data, sorted into meaningful categories. This is everything I did during last week, i.e. April 20th to 26th, 2009. If you are interested in the raw data, I put a text file here with my note for activities during this period. I intend to discuss each category in more detail after each piece of data, and then go on to handle some more general topics after that.

This week is fairly typical, except for the fact that I generally spend around six hours on role-playing with my friends on Friday nights. This week, the session was cancelled. This was also the case with Vanessa one day, which gave me a little bit more time to study, but less social contact. Apart from these two incidents, though, the week should be representative enough.

Creative, role-playing 8.33
Creative, website 3
Creative, total 11.33

Role-playing meant two things this week. First of all, I did some writing (most of the eight hours), trying to wrap up my big role-playing project. I still have quite a bit left to do, but I’m at least working on it. More than one hour per day is not a bad average anyway, considering that I spend so much time on studying. The website category is simply about writing reviews or anything else related to this website.

Essential, food 8.25
Essential, household 1.67
Essential, sleep 43.08
Essential, total 53

There is not much to say about food, really. The advantage (and curse) of living here is that I buy most of my food. It’s good because it doesn’t require much time for cooking and shopping groceries, and it’s also relatively cheap (around 15 SEK per meal).On the other hand, it’s bad because the food is not always healthy and sometimes it’s nice to be able to decide entirely on my own what I want to eat.

Regarding sleep, my habits are the result of long and painstaking experimenting. As you can see in the detailed data, I sleep four to six hours during the night, and then two or three power naps during the day. This works fine, but I do feel a little bit tired when sleeping four ours for a couple of nights in a row. Going up at exactly the same time everyday of the week (07:50 AM) is extremely helpful. As you can see, I average around six hour per day, including power naps.

Exercise, total 9.67

Well, not much to say. This is a lot less than in Sweden, but better control of diet has improved my physique a lot. I don’t think anybody will notice significant differences, but I do.

Studying, characters 9.42
Studying, class 19
Studying, detailed reading 9.67
Studying, language exchange 9.5
Studying, preparation 1.25
Studying, reading 14.08
Studying, writing 4
Studying, misc 2.25
Studying, total 69.17

Trying to estimate how much time I spend on studying was one of the main goals with this experiment, and here you can see the results. It seems like I spend a lot of time reading (which means reading for meaning and pleasure, not for detail, new words or grammar). I enjoy these books and it has entirely substituted my reading in English or Swedish for the past month.

Then we have three parts with about nine hours each. The language exchange is mostly in Chinese, actually, even though it’s still exchange, meaning that we do speak English a well. This is an important part of my social contact as well, since we don’t focus very much on formal language. My language exchange is more about meeting friends and chatting with them. Studying characters simply means that I focus exclusively either on writing (not that much) or reviewing old vocabulary (most of the time). I have covered this topic in my article about revising Chinese characters. The detailed reading is almost exclusively about previewing texts for class. Because the courses I take are too difficult, I need this badly to keep up.

Misc, film 4
Misc, misc 2.25
Misc, online 11.5
Misc, orientation 2.58
Misc, social 4.67
Misc, total 25

Having a miscellaneous category is usually a sign of a bad system (having a subcategory also named miscellaneous is of course even worse), but in this case it’s got more to do with laziness. Here I put all the things I couldn’t fit into the existing categories. The most important bit is the online subcategory into which I sorted chat, blogs, surfing etcetera. It’s usually in very short intervals and it functions as a release from studying.

In addition to all this, I managed to listen to one edition of the Economist (roughly eight hours) and half of Stephen Donaldson’s The Mirror of Her Dreams (at least thirty hours).

Some thoughts
To begin with, I like my life in Taiwan. I like studying Chinese the way I do, I feel that I have enough social contact and it seems like I’m doing something useful with my life. I would perhaps like to interact more with people informally, but that’s a question of personality rather than time or opportunity. I’m simply not the kind of person who likes idle talking with strangers. It would be good for my language development, but I seem to be able to do quite well in that area anyway.

I don’t think there is much I want to change here, which makes me very happy. It means that how I want to live my life is roughly the same as the way I actually do live. I might wish to invest more time in creative projects in the future, and slightly less in studying, but I still think my current distribution is quite good. I thought that this experiment would bring more surprises in the form of how small things add up, but even if I spent more than eleven hours surfing, chatting and so forth, this can’t be considered as very much. Even I need to relax sometimes.

Even if there were no big surprises, there is at least one. I didn’t think I spent 70 hours on studying every week (I thought it would be much, but not that much). No wonder I can improve my Chinese so quickly!

By way of rounding off this report, I would like to say that even though this experiment didn’t revolutionise my view on myself and my life, it did make me more conscious about time, which is crucial if I want to be able to achieve a lot in a limited time. And to answer the obvious follow-up question to that, no, I don’t feel stressed. I don’t feel I put too much pressure on myself. I study Chinese because I like the challenge ande because I like the language, not because somebody else forces me to. That would be unbearable, but nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t want to live like this forever, but considering that I would like to take the chance to learn as much Chinese as possible when I’m here, I’m satisfied.

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  1. Svante’s avatar

    Hur kan du ha bättre koll på vad du äter i Taiwan, jag trodde det snarare var tvärtom?


  2. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Jag har inte bättre koll, bara bättre disciplin. Jag gissar och följer ganska bra vad jag själv sätter upp. Det visar sig att jag gissat rätt bra i alla fall, även om jag inte vägt mig på hur länge som helst. Skillnaden syns dock. :)


  3. Svante’s avatar

    Ah, mindre pizza och mysoptimerare och så menar du?


  4. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Precis. Mysstundsoptimerare saknar jag dock lite. :) jag är inte jättemycket bättre på det än hemma, men bättre är det i alla fall. Det går i perioder också, förstås. Just nu är jag ganska dekadent, men så blir det också rätt mysigt. .)