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Apartment found

During the Western New Year, I went to Gaoxiong to meet Vanessa and celebrate the New Year with her. Even though the celebrations did not amount to much (none of us were very interested), it was a very nice trip indeed. Apart from enjoying a few days vacation, we also checked on a few possible rooms for me to rent for next semester (I’ve written more about moving here). Lately, this has been of some concern, since it’s not easy to find a good apartment that’s also close to the college and not too expensive. We checked four different locations, but in the end, only one of them was truly interesting.

The only problem was that the landlord was in South Korea and I had to phone him as soon as he returned (which turned out to be earlier today). This meant a lot of worry on my part, because I knew that many people would be interested in the room, and that there was a fair chance of somebody else renting it before me. When I finally spoke to him, this indeed turned out to be the case. However, he was not yet sure how many rooms would be vacated in January, so there might still be a chance. In the meantime, I’ll rent another room from the same landlord, slightly bigger and slightly more expensive. I still think it’s worth it, because the apartment building is very close to the college and also fairly close to the underground, which I’ll use to go to the diving pool, for instance.

The rent here is generally much, much cheaper than in Sweden. For instance, I would pay $6600 NT for my room, which is more or less exactly one fourth of what my scholarship gives me (keep in mind that there are tuition fees to be paid as well). in Sweden, I’d say that rent makes up more than half of the expenses for any given month, but here it only amounts to roughly one third (or less if tuition fees are included). Still, the rent of the new apartment is more than 50 % more expensive than what I pay now, although some of this is compensated for by the fact that the building is very new and internet and TV are included. I will sign the contract on January 19th, but since my parents will come to Taiwan and I’ll travel with them, I’ll not move in until early February. Having solved the apartment problem feels very good indeed, because I have one less problem on my mind. I still have a few left, but more on that later.

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Moving to Gaoxiong

I seldom make important decisions quickly, but rather the process can be likened to a giant chunk of ice slowly sliding over a roof: even though the movements everyday are pretty small, it will eventually lead to a violent crash anyway. One good reason for having a website like this is that I can take my time to explain the sometimes inexorable movements of the ice to shed light on the sudden loud noise which might otherwise be the only thing other people notice. An action might appear to be sudden and without thorough consideration, but in fact the opposite is true. My decision to change university and move to the south of Taiwan is such an event.

Before I explain the reasons for moving, I will try to present the situation as it is now. My university, 中華大學,  is a fairly young institution which from the beginning was focused towards technical subjects, but has now diversified somewhat. The university is situated roughly 25 minutes by bus from downtown 新竹, a moderately large city in northwest Taiwan. The university’s language centre is small with only two classes. I do not know how many are enrolled, but there are seldom more than ten students altogether showing up for class at any given time. The size of the language centre is both a curse and a major benefit. Studying with only two or three other students (the intermediate class in the smallest one) is awesome and the teacher is good. Studying Chinese three hours every evening is very good for my language development and I have learnt an extraordinary amount in these three months. Other advantages include nice classmates, an apartment close to the campus, free gym, free swimming pool, beautiful campus and lack of downtown traffic and polluted air.

So, if the situation is so good, why did I even begin to consider moving in the first place? There are many reasons, presented here roughly in order of relevance: inadequate Chinese courses, frustrating social environment, diving possibilities, girlfriend and change of environment. Please allow a few sentences to describe these separately. To begin with, the Chinese courses here are inadequate to my needs. Studying three hours a day in class is not enough, even if the class itself is perfect. Of course, I spend many hours every day studying on my own, but that cannot be considered to be an efficient use of the resources of this country. Also, there are limits to what I can learn on my own, and something I might as well study in Sweden (such as reading and writing). Practicing speaking and listening has proved to be difficult now, mostly because of the fact that the class is held in the evening and few peoples spare time coincide with mine.

Having classes in the evening and free time during the day wreaks havoc on social life. When I am available, most other people are either busy studying or working; when I am busy in the evening, they have free time. Of course, it is theoretically possible to overcome these problems, but it is very annoying. For example, I cannot join any kind of team sport, because of course the practice in the evening. This is a problem with increasing weight and if I do not do anything about it, I think it has the potential to make me very unhappy.

Moreover, my current situation does not allow me to practice any individual sport I care much for, such as diving. I miss practicing something which requires great skill and a good coach. I miss having ambitious goals for an activity like that and aligning my personal physical exercise to that activity.

In addition to this, I can move closer to Vanessa. Some of you might find it a bit odd that I ascribe such a low priority to her, which somehow might indicate that she is not that important. This is totally wrong. The only reason the priority is so low is because a move would not allow me to meet her more (perhaps less, even if we live in the same city!). This is because she studies in still another city and moves around a lot. When she is home, she is busy teaching dance and will not have much time to meet me. However, moving closer to her would still mean that it is more convenient to meet, even if it would not mean a drastic increase in the time we spend together.

Finally, a change of environment is desirable. I have lived here in the north for a few months, and even though I have not spent a lot of time travelling around, I still feel that a different climate and a different city would be a valuable experience. Also, a change of environment might also be desirable for personal and social reasons, although the fact that I place this argument last should be interpreted as an indication of its relative importance to the other factors influencing my decision. I have a few good friends here, but not many.

Having considered all the arguments above, a random move is of course not on the menu, but instead I aim for  文藻外語學院 in particular, a language college in Taiwan’s second largest city, 高雄, situated in the south of the country. I am convinced that the studying environment there will be equal or better to that of the university here, but having classes in the morning is an important argument for transferring. Also, I will be able to practice diving every day if I want to (which of course is out of the question, but changing gym practice and swimming for high quality diving is something I look forward to a lot).

Admittedly, some things will be worse. For instance, I highly doubt that the schools staff can be more helpful than the people here. Also, changing from a quite suburb on a mountain to a sprawling city of more than three million people is probably not good. I will also have to restructure my everyday life from scratch again, including food, studying, sleeping, exercise and so forth.

However, I think there is only one way. The inconveniences mentioned are minor compared to the most important reasons for moving. The exact details are unclear at the moment, but finding an apartment at the end of this month and moving in early February seems to be the likeliest way forward. I am satisfied with my life here in Taiwan so far, but I am convinced that this move will make it even better.

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Diving in Gaoxiong

Tuesday morning shortly after seven o’clock, I left my room in order to catch the bus into town to start a trip that would take me to Gaoxiong in the south of Taiwan. Even though the trip involved some unplanned delays, I still arrived in Gaoxiong around two o’clock in the afternoon. Vanessa picked me up at the bus station and we immediately went to the diving pool in Gaoxiong’s National Sports Training Center. The complex hosts much more than a nice diving pool, but this time that was what interested me. I have not been diving seriously since June, so I was very excited by the opportunity to practice again. Needless to say, I was equally excited by going to Gaoxiong to meet Vanessa, but this post is primarily about diving (I will publish another entry shortly about the rest of the stay in Gaoxiong).

Diving the first day felt awkward in the beginning, not only because I had not practiced for a long time, but also because I was the only one diving. Later, however, some other people (see picture below) arrived and it felt more natural. The second day felt even better and made me wish to do more diving in the future, if possible. Of course, going to Gaoxiong often is out of the question, because I need to skip classes and the way there is far from conveniet. However, going once or twice every month or so would be an option, especially if it is possible to go over weekends instead of weekdays. Writing about diving is perhaps not very interesting, so instead of doing that, I will use pictures and some minor commentary to let you know more about the trip. In all, I spent close to seven hours in the diving pool.

First, however, I would like to thank everyone who made this possible, especially  謝明璟 (who allowed us to come and practice with him) and Vanessa (who spent lots of time finding somewhere for me to dive). This means very much to me, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I and Vanessa had excellent company all the time!

Me and 謝明璟, thanks again for everything.

A little bit better than our diving pool in Sweden.

Having five three-metre springboards is pretty awesome (and six one-metre ones, whereof two are on land).

Having a pool just for the diving is also sweet, not having to care about swimmers or non-divers.



Trampolines are also nice, especially as a complement for diving practice. I spent a lot of time on these a long time ago, and even though I did not have much time to spend this time, it would be awesome to have for daily practice.

Something like this would be even more awesome. Springboards on land with the possibility of attaching lines to the diver in order to safely try new dives.

A similar set of lines for a normal springboard, also extremely useful for trying new things. So far, I have had to do it the hard way (i.e. trying and see what happens).

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