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Arriving in Taipei

Arriving in Taipei was a strange experience. It was a combination of looking at my surroundings and knowing that I have been here before many times, yet at the same time it felt like I have never been here at all. Like if I was caught in a perpetual déjà vu. The feeling didn’t last long, however. A friend I got to know in Sweden and his girlfriend met me at the airport, making me feel welcome. Taipei greeted me with a light drizzle in it’s own, loving way.

The rain was brief though and had stopped altogether when we got off the MRT (underground) and slowly began to home in on the address I had been given by my to-be room mate. I knew that it was close to the campus and to the night market next to it, but it turned out the apartment is located almost in the night market itself. It’s still outside it, however, so even though the location has all the benefits of being close to everything, it’s still a fairly quiet area. This is what the apartment looks like:

What has happened and what will happen

Apart from taking photos (and noticing that my mobile camera really sucks), I’ve also done some other important things. I have handed over the required documents to the university and they seemed happy about that, no problems encountered so far (not that I expected any, but you never know). I have also managed to get a phone number and some other things which are crucial for survival.

So far, most things are better than I thought. This might be because deliberately turned down the expectations. The apartment is great and what I’ve seen of my room mates so far is also good (they like board games, yay!). There are at least five people living here, including me, but I have only talked with one of them properly.

The next few days will consist of getting settled in and registering at the university. Assuming everything goes according to plan, the semester will start on September 10th. Before then, I have some studying to do and I want to have most practical things solved by then. Most importantly, I want to get rid of the jet lag, which is currently keeping me awake at night. It’s almost midnight here, but my biologically, I’m still somewhere in Europe. Try to see what happens if you go and try to sleep eight hours starting from six o’clock in the evening. That’s what I’m going to do now, good night!

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I could list a number of major reasons for the recent lack of activity on this website, but I dare say that the most important one is that I’ve moved house again. I moved back to Sweden again in July and stayed at my parents’ place for a few months until I had found something suitable. It’s not that I have anything against living my parents, but finding an apartment closer to the university and where I could meet more new people was a high priority nevertheless.

Something suitable turned out to be a room in a corridor in a student accommodation area called Irrblosset (fairly cool name, which could be translated to “the will-o’-the-wisp”). A corridor is the Swedish version of student dormitories, in which the tenants have a room to themselves and then share kitchen and living room with a number of other people (eight total in my corridor). In Linköping, all rooms have bathrooms as well, but that differs between cities. The corridor I’ve moved into seems very good in more than one regard, but the most important thing is that the people seem to be nice so far and they are also quite good at keeping things in order int he common areas.

I moved roughly two weeks ago, but it has taken a while to get things in order. This is a selection of photos taken, head over to Facebook for more. Before I let the photos conclude this post, I want to say that I think my stay here will be quite pleasant, and I also hope it will be reasonably long, because I’ve had enough of moving every four months or so.


For those of you who really don’t know.


Zooming in.


Welcome!


It’s not as heavy as it looks…


…at least not if you have a couple of friends!


Empty!


Snail transport.


He looks a bit sceptical.


Will there be room?


No, not here at least.


Boxes…


…boxes…


…books!


More books.


It’s done, welcome in!


This is where I am the moment, writing this.


Old sofa, hold cushions, nostalgia.


Is the bed too big?


This shelf is labelled “miscellaneous”.


Bathroom..


Cubes!


Horse.


Living room.


Living room again.


Kitchen.


Kitchen again.

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Last year, I published a post with the title “Gaoxiong everyday life in pictures“, but little did I realise that I would have the opportunity to write a similar post again (at that time, I planned to spend my time in the north of Taiwan, not the south, but after some very serious thinking indeed, I decided to move back to Gaoxiong). I write this post mainly for two reasons. The first is that people have asked me about more pictures, especially about more ordinary aspects of my life in Taiwan. The second is that I want to make the online version of my years abroad more complete, and since I have written about most aspects of that before, it seems only fair to post pictures from this the last semester as well. It was probably the one that was most important for me as a person and the one that I will remember longest. Now I’ll share some of it with you!

Please note that , obviously, I haven’t taken all of these pictures myself, but since I’m not sure who’s taken what, I’d rather say thank you to everybody who sent me pictures. Thanks, I miss you a lot!


Just after I came back, Sunny took me to some kind of exhibition. Hi.


I spent a lot of time with these guys, here a the old British Embassy in Gaoxiong.


Jana and Sunny, whom I’ve spent by far the most time with last semester, here teaching English.


Taiwanese people like group photos.


Preparations for Jana’s birthday treasure hunt.


My room mates!


The courtyard below our apartment looks nice…


…but turns quite ugly at night. This is Taiwan in a nut shell.


A nice, big living room.


Kitchen! At least the way it looked before the cockroach invasion.


My room, including a bathroom, which was really nice to have.


The only time everything looked this nice was when I moved in.


A collage of pictures given to me when I left Taipei, it will probably return in another form later.


The view from my window. I decided to leave out the garbage dump slightly to the right.


Klad hest! Teaching Ruby when I was re-visiting Taipei.


Spreading the disease! Vivian, also in Taipei.


This is how fast time passes.


Preparing to have some fun in Kenting. Jana, Sunny and Cecelia.


Still in Kenting, although without all the silly safety equipment.


Yes. Taiwanese people really, really like group photos.

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I usually only publish pictures I take when they are relevant for what I plan to write anyway, but that means that I collect quite a number of photos which haven’t merited posts of their own, but still, gathered together, deserves publication. So, like I did for the spring of 2009, I’ll now publish some more or less miscellaneous pictures taken during my time in Linkou (all pictures aren’t mine, so credit where credit is due). I will also take the opportunity to talk a little bit about the pictures and what they signify. This is part 2 of 2 (go to the first part).


Ready for action! It’s time for 滑罐. I like the James Bond pose. This method involves applying low pressure to various parts of the skin and then moving the cup producing this pressure around. It’s supposed to increase circulation and all kinds of stuff, but I’m not really an expert. Since I played lots of badminton and my back was sort of wrecked, I thought I’d give this a try.


Good someone is happy, at least! To be honest, this didn’t hurt at all…


…although it looks horrible.


Having completed the 滑罐, he went on to do some normal massage, which was really nice. Thanks for everything!


This is what it looked like later that evening. I was quite shocked myself, actually, because even though people had told me what it looked like, this was really the first time I saw it with my own eyes (so to speak).


My classmates (and teacher), whom I’ll miss sorely.


Class out in the sunshine! It would be a crime to waste sunlight when it rains so much.


On the way to Taipei after our last class on Friday.


Spreading the disease!


Meisui after washing her hands. It’s either this or zombie style, but I like both.


From the dinner with Peicen’s coworkers (she couldn’t go, she was in Thailand).


Very shy, but also very cute.


大哥 and I. And about the shirt, it’s Ian’s and the theme for the evening involved flowers.


The dinner was quite nice in general, but I had way too much to eat. The company was a lot better than the food!


Everybody, I think.


From another dinner, with Peicen and coworkers.


Christmas! Yeah, I know the chronolgy isn’t the best.


Playing with my phone, lots of mist and street lights at midnight.


Peicen in the fog.

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I usually only publish pictures I take when they are relevant for what I plan to write anyway, but that means that I collect quite a number of photos which haven’t merited posts of their own, but still, gathered together, deserves publication. So, like I did for the spring of 2009, I’ll now publish some more or less miscellaneous pictures taken during my time in Linkou (all pictures aren’t mine, so credit where credit is due). I will also take the opportunity to talk a little bit about the pictures and what they signify. This is part 1 of 2 (go to the first part).


There are trees in Linkou, but they can be quite hard to find (assuming that you don’t leave the built up area, because then everything turns either to trees or fields). This is a particularly nice one.


The pond on the campus is nice, as I’ve said before; I found it extra beautiful in this light.


Walking around in Linkou one winter day when for once it didn’t rain, I stumbled upon this place, which lies secluded behind buildings I’d seen almost every day, but never cared to look closer at.


Same place as above, and in the background you can see the buildings walling the place in.


Not the same place, but it’s still nice what random wanderings can reveal.


The pond at the campus again, this time in mist. The mist (or humidity) is generally speaking really annoying, but it can also be very beautiful.


Another example of the fascinating combination of mist and water.


The pond again. I wish the weather was as comfortable as it is beautiful.


This is an example of what goes for efficiency here. The exam in question consists of letting a single student score as many points in basketball as possible in thirty seconds. This might be stupid in itself, but having all the other student watch (and thus waste an entire class just doing that) goes beyond me; I simply can’t understand this.


This must be the most depressing place I’ve ever seen when it comes to classrooms. Of course, it’s not a real classroom, but rather turned into one for the purpose of holding final exams. Still, it makes me depressed now, even though I didn’t have to take any exams even close to this place.


I started calling this place The Dungeon, although it’s supposed to be a gym.


I trusted only things with no movable parts here, most equipment was stained with rust and wearing gloves was a must. I heard rumours of bars that had snapped, so I only took refuge here when I really couldn’t do my workout outside.

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Happy New Year!

The New Year tradition as celebrated here in Taiwan is a lot more compatible with the Western way, probably because they borrowed the holiday from us in the first place. January 1st is a day off, but we had classes like normal on New Year’s Eve, just like on Christmas Eve. New Year’s Eve has no special place in my heart, it’s just a reason an good as any to get together with some friends and have fun. Which is what we did.

It didn’t start out that way, though. Ian, Peitsen and I were supposed to meet at the train station at around seven, but for various reasons, we went there separately. Everything was okay until I was about to get off the bus and discovered that my wallet was missing (here, you use the card once when you board the bus and once when you get off). Since I’m sure that I had when I got on and it wasn’t on the bus when I tried to get off (I stayed on and looked rather carefully), the only explanation is that somebody stole it. Very odd, considering that I was sitting down all the time and the bus wasn’t that crowded, but I really can’t think of any other reason. If somebody found it and thought it lost, they would have asked around or told the driver.

So, starting the evening with losing credit card, alien residence certificate, some money, student card, and so on, wasn’t that good, but with Peitsen’s help, we were still able to meet up with Ian, although somewhat late. From then on, the evening progressed smoothly with lots of good food at 月明’s place. She lives close enough to the Taipei 101 to see the fireworks without much effort, but I hadn’t realised the location was that good! In all, I had a really good time and my classmates are one of the major reasons I like studying at NTNU right now, so thanks a lot, again!

Since I neither believe in New Year promises (January 1st is like any other day, so if I thought I ought to change something, I would already have attempted to do that, see my post about postponement), nor use this day to summarise the year (I use my birth day, so please wait another two months!), I’ll round off this post with some photos (I suggest you head over to Facebook for other people’s photos, mine are somewhat random and some nice people are missing entirely):


在善,龍仔,良之


逸安,月明,瑞玫


Ian and I.


Happy New Year!

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Admittedly, I haven’t had a very good start here, but rather than ceaselessly going on about what kind of problems I have (even if they diminish both in gravity and number), today I’m going to focus on something genuinely positive: the bright side of campus. The title implies that, as with most other things, there is a darker side too, but I’ll leave that for now. All campuses I’ve been to in Taiwan so far have been beautiful, but I think parts of the this one stands a good chance in the overall competition. Enjoy!


This is the view from the road, at least the last 500 metres or so.


Entering campus and…


…meeting this guy.


Onwards.


This nice pond lies just outside our classrooms.


The advantage of not being in the city is lots of space.


Same pond as above, just another angle.


Another lake. Wrong side of campus for me, but nice for a lunch walk.


Same place, just a little further down.


The courtyard. Classrooms are in all directions, the buliding in the middle being the one I frequent the most.

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This day has been incredibly hectic and made a lot worse because of lack of sleep and food. I woke up fairly early to make sure I got to the university in time to solve some of my most urgent problems (like where the classrooms are, which group I’m in, how I should register, etcetera) if not fixed, then at least outlined so I know what to do. Not knowing anything is the worst imaginable situation and even if I only had to suffer it for a couple of days, it still counts as one of the worst episodes in my life (more on that later, in another post).

At five o’clock I had learnt several things. First, I’m going to be in group A (which is the highest level for freshmen), at least unless something weird happens (they have too many students and have to change some into another class, but I’m going to fight hard to stay where I am). Second, I know the courses seem interesting, but very different from the language centres. The teachers seem to think it’s better than language centres, but I’m not so sure. At least three times as many students as I’m used to just can’t be an advantage. Third, there are, at least so far, no problems concerning my late arrival or anything else related to the more bureaucratic aspects of my education here.

At five o’clock, I also went to my temporary room to check with the landlord if the other room (mentioned here) was vacated. It was, but I was only able to inspect it at eight o’clock or so. It was alright, but I was still set to stay in the dormitory at the university that night, just to see what it was like. I told the landlord that I couldn’t decide now, and left for the dormitory. The moment I crossed the threshold, I knew that I didn’t want to live there. I can’t explain why, but I really did want to go back and rent that room.

So I did. Had I called five minutes later, the room would probably have been rented to somebody else, but I suppose I was lucky and the room is mine now. It isn’t super, but it’s good enough. In short, it’s fairly small, well-furnished, has a nice cable connection and is located around 25 minutes walk from the university. On the downside, it costs a bit (5500 per month, which is about 1200 Swedish crowns; cheap compared to Sweden, but it’s not very good here) and the building seems to be fairly poorly isolated, at least when it comes to sound. We’ll see about cold in a few months. I’m going to stay here at least for the first semester, and then I’ll see what happens.

This is what it looks like. I’ll publish more photos of the town, the university and so forth, but all in due time. For the moment, I’m happy to know I have somewhere to stay.


It almost feels like a cabin in Switzerland, but only almost.


Small but adequate, I hope.


And the bathroom door is one centimetre too narrow to fit my chin-up bar.

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Since I’m not a big fan of compulsive photographing, I usually only care to post photos when something special happens or when I go travelling. However, I think some of the things that happen everyday are worth recording as well, because even though I might not find it very interesting now when I’m in the middle of it, that will of course change. Similarly, most visitor to my website will be unfamiliar with what my everyday life here looks like. For these reasons, I’ve tried to collect some photos of the environment and the people I spend most of my time with. Enjoy!


This is my teacher and classmates for my regular (ten hours per week) class. Siting from left: Tai-tian, Guo-xiong. Standing from left: Yu-xia, me, teacher Zou, Qiu-heng, Bao-luo.


It looks like a promotion campaign for the language centre, I know.


More “studying”.


I think we have these two ladies to thank for the fact that regardless of what we are studying, class is never boring.


Final “exam” in my Taiwanese class, consisting of recording dialogues.


We were supposed to learn the dialogues by heart, but let’s just say that some chapters are longer than others. If it isn’t clear, the pink text is the dialogue and the white lines are the tones.


Campus.


Students.


More campus.


One, two, one, two, one, two…


Wenzao has a lot of students who are going to be teachers of Chinese in the future, and they find foreigners to practice on. I’ve spent a couple of hours every Tuesday with these two. As is the case with my normal class, I have a lot of fun at the same time as I learn a lot of Chinese.


This is my favourite restaurant and its proprietor.


Group photo!


And this is the result of my ordering. Sometimes I ask them to chose for me and they give me extra food to taste occasionally (this time sugar cane).


Someone wants to cut my hair, hide!


Here Vanessa doesn’t look as intimidating. I love the hat!


These are the only westerners I meet with regularly. From left to right: Evan (US), Robert (Canada). Ruf (Germany). We’ve been role-playing on Fridays since I moved to Gaoxiong, mostly Shadowrun.


These people I got to know through the guy on the left, Riccardo, who I’ve been doing language exchange with for some time. This is from a barbecue last weekend.


This is allegedly a traditional way of cooking (sweet) potatoes. Build a pile of stones, heat them up as much as possible and…


…burrow the food in the smoldering ruins.


Of course, it’s not that easy to find the food again.


Riccardo again, now with food. I ate about as much this day as the rest of the week taken together.

I hope I can keep in contact with these people even when I move to Taipei next semester. They mean a lot to me and have made the previous semester possibly even better than last year, and that’s to say something. Good-bye, I’ll miss you.

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Earlier today, my parents went back to Sweden, and as I write this, the trains zooms south from Taibei, heading for Gaoxiong and my new home. In all, travelling with my parents has been great in almost every respect, but nevertheless, I look forward to going back and beginning to build up a normal, stationary life in the new city.

The last week of our tour around Taiwan consisted of the island’s two major cities,  Gaoxiong (roughly three million people, located in the south), and Taibei (roughly ten million inhabitants, located in the north). After having dropped Vanessa in Taizhong, we continued north to the capital. Spending three nights in the city, we had time to visit Shilin night market, Yangmingshan, Taibei 101, The National Palace Museum, Danshui, among other things. The seafood safari continued, but with a bit more variation. I will dwell briefly on some of the tourist attractions mentioned above.


Time to go. But what should we do without Vanessa? A map is useful.

Shilin night market is a huge area with a plethora of shops, stands and all kinds of possibilities to spend money. However, most of what is sold is rubbish and I would need much more time to look around to find something I actually need or want. Of course, there are lots of “normal” shops around, but I was unlucky with sales (three times in a row, lack of fitting sizes was all that lay in between me and a really nice pair of trousers).

Taipei 101 was really bad. It is the tallest building in Taiwan and, when it was erected, the tallest in the world (the architectural height is 509 metres). However, the weather was not very good and we hardly saw anything from the top. Also, the audio tour was only focused on daytime visitors and was therefore almost useless to us. Most of our stay there consisted of “To the far east, you can see something very interesting” to which the reply was “no, we can’t, because it’s dark”. I enjoyed Gaoxiong’s Sky Tower much more, and that was almost free of charge.


As was the case in Sky Tower, there were other things to look at than the view. Sadly, I have no nice pictures of the building itself, but I found this and this on Google to give you an idea.

Yangmingshan is the place where many Taibei residents go for vacation when they want to escape the sprawl of the big city. It’s a large, mountainous scenic area with the highest peak at a little more than 1200 metres. We spent around five hours hiking around here, enjoying most of the time. It’s not the prime example of beautiful nature, but considering that it’s so close to the city, it’s still worthwhile.


Hiking in Yangmingshan involved some tiring stairs in the beginning, but got better and better as we gained elevation.

Danshui is not the commercial port of Taibei, but rather a more tourist-friendly harbour with lots of small shops, stands and restaurants. The atmosphere was highly enjoyable and considering the fact that it’s possible to go here using the MRT I recommend a visit to everyone who goes to Taibei for a few days. Furthermore, please don’t forget to have a look at the north-eastern coast.


Sandstone on Taiwan’s northern coast.


More of the same.


The view from the small village Jiufen.


A small street in Jiufen, saturated with small restaurants and souvenir shops.


Nice lighting in Danshui.


More seafood. This is what we got when we ordered, and we then proceeded to barbecue the food ourselves. Delicious!

The National Palace Museeum was smaller than I had expected, but that’s not necessarily a disadvantage. I found the layout of the area somewhat confusing and the presentation of objects was far inferior to other big museums I’ve visited, such as the British Museum in London. However, the visit was still worthwhile and since it’s fairly easy to reach and also not very expensive, please have a look if you happen to be in the vicinity.


This is the best picture I have. Since no photographing was allowed inside the museum itself, this is also all you get.

To conclude, I’d like to thank my parents for visiting me and bringing me along on their tour around the island. I’ve not had the time or inclination to travel around and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. Taiwan is a really nice place to go as a tourist, something I didn’t realise until very recenly. I plan to write an entry about why Taiwan is so nice, but that will have to wait a few days. Stay tuned!


Good-bye!

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