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I try to do at least one time log every time I change my habits drastically, usually because of larger changes in my life in general. This is the first time log I’ve made since returning to Taiwan and the goal was to examine how I generally spend my time. If you have no idea what I time log is, read the next section. If you already know and only want to read about the result, skip the next section. If you don’t care about my time log at all, you shouldn’t be reading this article. Read this Wikipedia article about the velar lateral ejective affricate instead.

What is time logging and what is it for?

A time log is very simple. Just write down everything you do for a given period of time and you have one. Exactly how detailed you are and for how long you keep at it depends on what your goal is, but you should be fairly specific and do it for at least one “normal” day (i.e. don’t choose a weekend or a day which isn’t typical of how you normally spend your time).

The goal with a time log is to become aware of how you spend your time. What you want to do with this information is up to you, but in my case, I want to see if my perception of how I spend my time matches how I actually spend it. Most people who do their first time log find out that they actually spend much less time working or studying than they really think, for instance. I’ve done many time logs in my life and I’m sort of past that, though.

You don’t need to be a personal development freak to be interested in time logs. A time log isn’t about controlling everything you do and trying to become more productive, it’s about awareness. I’m fine with spending ten hours a week playing computer games, but I want to be aware of the fact that I’m doing it. I want to do it because I want to do it, not because I do it without actually thinking about it. Or, to quote Socrates:

“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”

This quote obviously has problems, but it I do think that self-awareness is one of the most important abilities or skills to posses. It influences everything we do and enables us to understand who we are, who we want to become and how to get there. Doing a time log is one step on the road towards better understanding of oneself.

My time log for a week in March 2013

Since my schedule is radically different each day of the week, I decided to record a whole week. This means that I wrote down everything I did between 2013-03-15 and 2013-03-21. I also sorted everything I did into crude categories to facilitate the analysis and the writing of this article. To give you an idea of how detailed my time log is, I recorded about 300 activities in seven days.

Below, I have presented some stuff I find interesting from the time log:

  1. Time spent using different languages
  2. Time spent on different types activities
  3. A closer look at overlapping tasks
  4. What I have learnt from this time log

Time spent using different languages

People sometimes ask me how much time I spend using different languages and I have written about this earlier (Internal discourse and operational languages). Of course, it’s close to impossible to time internal discourse, so this is merely an overview of the languages I use for the various activities I’m engaged in. Note that I have omitted activities that aren’t related to languages at all, such as sleeping, eating or playing non-language related games.

language-chart

  • Chinese: 67 hours
  • English: 29 hours
  • Swedish: 2 hour
  • (Non-language): 70 hours

Is this result surprising? No, not really. Is it representative for what I normal week looks like? Sort of, although I do believe that I normally spend more than one hour a week listening/speaking/reading/writing Swedish. This almost matches my expectations, although I think I would spend more time using English than I actually did. Most of the English comes from listening to the Economist and a lecture series about linguistics, as well as editing and writing articles on Hacking Chinese.

Time spent on different activities

The list below is a breakdown of different kinds of activities in my life. The categories aren’t very well defined and should be taken with a pinch of salt. For instance, “studying” doesn’t merely include actual studying (reading textbooks, reviewing vocabulary and so on), but also using Chinese to do other things.

  • Studying (85 hours)

    • Chinese: 37 hours
    • Linguistics: 28 hours
    • Meta: 4 hours
    • Not Chinese: 16 hours

The high number for “linguistics” comes from reading a book about Chinese phonology, listening to lectures about Chinese grammar (both live and recorded) along with related homework and so on. “Not Chinese” refers to other attempts at educating myself, including a lecture series in general linguistics (the other category is only for Chinese linguistics in Chinese) and some other projects I have running in the background.

  • Essential (62 hours)
    • Sleep: 51 hours
    • Other: 11 hours

“Sleep” should be obvious; “other” means things like eating, showering, brushing my teeth and so on. This category is pretty boring in general, but I will say some interesting things about it below.

  • Gymnastics (16 hours)

This is self-explanatory, I think. Includes stretching.

  • Social (13 hours)

Mostly with classmates, team mates (gymnastics) and online (social media not included).

  • Hacking Chinese (4 hours)
    • Writing, editing: 2 hours
    • Social media, updates: 2 hours

Again, this should be self-explanatory.

  • Miscellaneous (22 hours)

    • Games: 13 hours
    • Social media, news, Wikipedia: 4 hours
    • Teaching Swedish: 3 hours
    • Snigel.nu: 1 hour
    • Time-log: 1 hour

Any category system will have a “all the other stuff I couldn’t fit into the other categories” category and here it is. Games refer to various online games or Rubik’s cube (mostly the former, though). The second point is somewhat arbitrarily grouped, but since I didn’t spend much time on any of those things, it simply didn’t feel worthwhile to analyse further.

A closer look at overlapping tasks

I really hope you have better things to do than adding all those numbers up, but if you do, you will find that the total time is 202 hours. A week has 168 hours. This is because some tasks overlap. However, I only note overlapping tasks if I’m able to do both adequately at once.

The activities that most often overlap are the “essential” ones plus any kind of studying (I almost always listen to lectures or something educational while eating, walking, doing the laundry and so on). The “games” category actually overlaps 100% with other activities, meaning that I never play games without listening to something worthwhile at the same time.

A typical day in March 2013

What follows is an edited extract from my time log. I’ve removed references to particular people, overly detailed category information and some other things I don’t want to share online. I have also swapped some activities to try to make this day match what is most typical of my life right now. The time noted is the time when that activity ends. Asterisks (*) denote activities mainly in Chinese. In cases where activities overlap, I have simply omitted the less important one (often “eating”, “walking” and so on).

This is a slightly modified version of Monday 18th:

06:05    Sleep
06:12    Essential
06:47    Social*
06:59    HC    Daily check-up
07:08    Misc    Social media, news
08:28    Phonology*    Writing
08:31    Misc    Social media
09:01    Grammar*    Lecture
09:15    Social*
12:14    Class*    Teaching
14:02    Social*
14:04    Meta    Time log management
14:06    Misc    Social media, news
15:16    Phonology*    Writing
15:28    Grammar*    Lecture
16:10    Phonology*    Discussion
16:26    Phonolgy    Planning
16:30    Meta    Time-log management
17:23    Economist
17:50    Sleep
17:56    Essential
18:12    Grammar*    Lecture
21:01    Physical    Gymnastics
21:14    Grammar*    Lecture
21:23    HC    E-mail, comments
21:30    Misc    Social media, e-mail
22:00    Economist
22:31    Phonology*    Writing
22:54    HC    Social media, e-mail
23:06    Physical    Stretching
23:44    Economist

What I have learnt from this time log

These are my thoughts after doing this time log, looking through the result and writing this article:

  • I spend more time than I think doing things I want to do
  • I spend much less time on social media than I thought I did
  • I spend much more time on language consumption rather than production
  • I spend almost no time at all being creative
  • I sleep more than I thought (slightly above seven hours per day)

To be honest, though, this time log is probably the least helpful I have ever done. It mostly tells me that I’m on the right track and that I spend a huge majority of my time doing things I actually want to do for various reasons. Now, this might be useful in itself (it’s a great morale boost if nothing else), but it isn’t very helpful.

The two major things that are lacking include deliberate practice target at areas of Chinese I know I have problems with (I’m talking about actual skills here, so linguistics doesn’t count) and creative output. I need more of that. Much more. However, I also feel that I’m way behind in my reading, so as long as I feel that writing articles like this one is enough to satisfy my need to express myself in writing, I might be fine with this for the foreseeable future.

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More than two weeks have passed since I arrived in Taipei and I think it’s high time to tell you a little bit about what has has transpired during this period. I’m not going to give a detailed chronological account, mostly because I don’t like to write like that but also because I doubt many will be interested in reading it. Instead, I will write about a few topics I find important. Hopefully, this corresponds at least roughly to what you’d like to read about.

Settling in

I now feel that the place I live is also my home. That didn’t take very long, although it would be wrong to say that the process is completed. Settling in is an ongoing process that is never fully completed. However, unpacking all my things, putting up some things on the walls, cleaning up a bit and similar things helped quite a bit. I will show you more later when I think I have something to show.

Adjusting

There are many different kinds of adjustments. First, it took me about a week to get rid of the jet lag completely. It only took a few days to be able to sleep okay, but it took a week before I could go to bed at a reasonable time and sleep soundly until morning.

Second, the climate is as different from Sweden as it can be. Sweden is dry and cool, Taiwan is humid and warm. I don’t think I will ever adjust completely, but now the weather has cooled down somewhat, which makes me happier.

Third, there is food. I didn’t encounter any problems during the first week, but for some reason, my stomach hasn’t behaved properly this week. I think it’s getting better, so I don’t intend to do anything about it. It’s only natural that it takes a while to adjust, even if I didn’t encounter such problems last time I came to Taiwan.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, it’s necessary to adjust socially. This is a very complex process that works on many different levels. I think this is the kind of adjustment that takes the longest. Fortunately, this isn’t a real issue in the modern world. It’s not as if my contact network in Sweden has disappeared.

Studying

My main reason for coming back to Taiwan is that I want a master’s degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. My previous experience of the university (National Taiwan Normal University) was mixed (to say the least), but now after finishing the first week, I can at least say that the courses look promising in theory (and so do the teachers). How it will be to actually study here in the long-term I don’t know, but I like what I have seen so far.

I’m taking three courses this semester:

  • 華語文教材教法 (Chinese Language Teaching Methods and Materials)
  • 話語語音教學研究 (Studies in Phonetic Instruction in Chinese)
  • 漢語語音學 (Chinese Linguistics)

I don’t know yet how much time it will take to complete these courses with a reasonable grade (I need 80/100 for my scholarship, 70/100 is the normal pass score). My advantage is that I have studied most of these subjects before, apart from Chinese linguistics. I feel that I have a fairly good grasp of Chinese phonetics and phonology, at least in English. I need to (literally) translate this knowledge and expand it. My obvious disadvantage is of course that most classmates are native speakers and that I will require much more time than them both to read and write the required amount.

Apart from this, I also have Chinese language class twice a week. I don’t know much about this yet,so I’ll tell you more about it later. I just hope that the content of that course is geared towards our program, so I don’t end up with having to learn lots of extra stuff that isn’t really applicable to anything else I’m doing.

Practising gymnastics

I will be able to practice gymnastics very seriously during my time in Taiwan. We’re talking about ~20 hours a week, depending on how much time I feel that I can spend. This makes me very happy indeed. Perhaps this is hard to understand for people who don’t know me well, but having a physical activity that I enjoy is very important for me. The alternative would have been swimming and gym, and compared with that, gymnastics is much better in every single way. I will write about this more later as well, for now let it suffice to say that everything is working well.

Conclusion

So far, everything has been working very well. I have encountered no serious setbacks but have instead stumbled on (or actively found) some really good opportunities. It remains to be seen what I will think in a month or so, when I should have settled in more completely and when I should have a better picture of what my courses really entail in terms of workload and how interesting/worthwhile I find them. I’ll probably write articles about other topics before then, but expect a post like this again in a month or two!

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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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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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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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One of the differences I’ve noticed between university education in Taiwan and in Sweden (and probably most Western countries) is that here the number of mandatory activities not directly related to studying is a lot higher than at home. It might be in the form of meetings, social gatherings and whatnot, activities that in Sweden would be arranged, but would never be compulsory for students to partake in. Last week, we had two activities planned, and we needed to attend at least one of them. For various reasons, later frustratingly enough rendered void (I had planned to meet with Vanessa), I decided that the Sunday Hakka Yimin Festival would be better for me. I knew very little about the activity when I left home six o’clock on Sunday morning, but as it turned out, I had quite a good time.

We arrived in Taipei City around eight and changed clothes (I’m still not entirely sure what function we foreigners played, but there were lots of groups dressed up in a traditional fashion, not only Hakka people, with us having had the opportunity to choose among a wide collection of clothes earlier during the week. Lacking something Swedish, I decided to go with Richard (who is from London), and thus chose something British. This is what I ended up with:


Soldier boy.

This festival of the Hakka people (one of the many minority groups in Taiwan, with a distinctive culture and language) commemorates the ancestral warrior who died to protect their people during a number of civil wars.During the Qing dynasty (18th century), the Hakka people helped to quench a rebellion against the dynasty, for which the they were awarded the name Yimin (義民)or Righteous People. See the bottom of this post for more information about the festival itself.

The day can be roughly sketched using only a few words: walking, having our photos taken and eating, mostly in that order (I did watch some of the performances and shows, but since it’s all in Chinese and quite enigmatic, I didn’t learn very much from it).

The photos below are Ian‘s (the other guy from England in my class), who has been kind enough to let me use his pictures here. These are but a minuscule fraction of the number of photos taken of us during the day; I’m quite serious in saying that if I tot up all photos ever taken of me, this day probably doesn’t miss the halfway mark by much. In short, the day was great and apart from the photographs, it also left a lingering wish to buy a nice hat, although perhaps not the one I wore today.


Richard and I parading along.


Enjoying a brief respite in the shade.


Alas but a  brief moment in the limelight.


Well, normal photos do get a bit boring. Please don’t notice the shoes!

More information about the festival
TaipeiTravel Net
Taiwan Today

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