Warning: Declaration of TarskiCommentWalker::start_lvl(&$output, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker_Comment::start_lvl(&$output, $depth = 0, $args = Array) in /hsphere/local/home/ackerfors/snigel.nu/wp-content/themes/tarski/library/classes/comment_walker.php on line 0 Warning: Declaration of TarskiCommentWalker::start_el(&$output, $comment, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker_Comment::start_el(&$output, $comment, $depth = 0, $args = Array, $id = 0) in /hsphere/local/home/ackerfors/snigel.nu/wp-content/themes/tarski/library/classes/comment_walker.php on line 0 Olle Linge - Languages, literature and the pursuit of dreams · Gaoxiong

Gaoxiong

You are currently browsing articles tagged Gaoxiong.

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.

Tags: , , , ,

Recently, I’ve made two important decisions and I now feel ready to share them with you. The reason I haven’t said anything publicly before is that I wanted to be sure myself and I wanted to be able to explain myself, which is what I intend to do here. Neither decision was easy, but I hope you can understand my thinking.

用英文寫完之下,我也提供中文版,所以如果你對中文比較熟,也可以按這個連結來看中文版。內容不是一模一樣,但是大概意思是相同的。如果兩個語言都行,請看英文的,因為內容跟我心裡想說的比較接近。

The really short version

These are the two decision: first, I’m not going to complete my university studies in Taiwan, instead I’m going back to Sweden to complete my degree this autumn. Second, I’m moving back to Gaoxiong to study at Wenzao next semester.

The short version

For various reasons, I’ve decided that I don’t have either the time or the money to stay in Taiwan for a bachelor’s degree. As a result of this, after weighing the different alternatives carefully, I think that going back to Wenzao is a better alternative than staying in Linkou for what might be my last semester in Taiwan. Linkou has many things I like: my classmates, whom I will miss sorely; good teachers and high-standard education. However, staying in Linkou also comes with some problems, such as the remoteness and isolation of the place itself, the generally depressing state of the campus and the fact that studying for a bachelor’s degree in a Taiwanese university suit neither my personality nor my learning style.

On the other hand, going back to Gaoxiong and Wenzao offers some serious benefits, apart from escaping the problems mentioned above. It would allow me a freer learning environment where I can control what I do to a much higher extent. The class I will be attending will have very few students (three, at the moment), which means more direct interaction with the teacher. I think the level of the courses might be equal at both institutions. Moving to Gaoxiong will also mean that I’ll live with Taiwanese friends, which is a bit of a wild card, but which I hope will turn out to be very good. On the negative side, it’s more expensive than staying in Taipei and it also mean additional trouble to move yet again. These, however, are practical matters that I can handle.

Comparing these two alternatives and trying to find as much pertinent information as possible, I’ve come the conclusion that moving to Gaoxiong is better than staying in Linkou. I’m terribly sad to leave my class mates (you’re all awesome, and some of you write really beautiful characters, too), but I know you will continue to be awesome without me.

The not so short version

This decision is in reality two, one about the role of Chinese in my future career and one about how to best learn the language here in Taiwan. The first question is by far the most important one, and the second can in a sense be said to be a result of the first. Career choices are long-term and stretch far into an unforeseeable future, but before I take you there, let me start by talking a little bit about the past.

The iceberg

Since I was about eighteen or so, I’ve known that teaching is a career that would suit my personality and ability fairly well. I first started studying psychology at university, but then changed programmes and began studying to become a language teacher instead. Down this road I’ve walked ever since, because not even a three-year foray into the realm of Chinese should be regarded as a different path altogether, just a more indirect way of reaching the same goal. But is it really that easy? What if this road turned out to be so interesting and important that it became a goal in itself? What if “Chinese” turned out to be more important than “teach” in the phrase “I want to teach Chinese”?

That’s the question I’ve been pondering for a couple of weeks now. What do I really want? Has this Chinese detour become the real road? Am I prepared to stay here for three and a half years and earn my degree, and only then contemplate returning to Sweden to try to make a living on my then hopefully adequate language skills? In short, have I, perhaps unconsciously, changed course in my life, away from teaching and towards pure language?

The answer to that question is “no”. It’s not an obvious or self-evident “no” by any means; behind that single word lies a long and sometimes angst-ridden thought process. However, the answer is a certain as it’s ever likely to become (it might grow less certain in the future, but let’s worry about the present for now). I want to be a teacher and to be that in Sweden, I need to graduate from the teachers’ programme.

In practical terms, this means that I will go home to Sweden this summer, and I will stay there for the foreseeable future. After graduating, if I feel that Taiwan is pulling me back, well, then I might have to change course again (for instance, I might consider studying for a master’s degree here), but that’s not the issue right now. If I’m truly so interested in Chinese that I’m willing to base my career on it, I’m sure I’ll know that after having been back to Sweden for a couple of years. I’m still young, the sky is the limit, as they say. In any case, I’m not prepared to sacrifice the relative certainty that being a teacher offers, for something which might well be more interesting, but also a lot less secure.

What I’ve just described is the true conundrum here, the question I couldn’t get my head around until very recently. The reason for this was that the larger question was mostly under the surface, and the tip of the iceberg was actually something altogether different: The question whether I wanted to move back south to Gaoxiong or stay in Linkou. This smaller question hid something much bigger that needed to be taken care of first. Since I’ve done that now, let’s look at the tip of the iceberg, which simply is an extension of the above argument.

The tip of the iceberg

Since the link between these two questions wasn’t obvious for me, I think I’d better explain it to make clear what took some serious thinking for me to figure out for myself.

If I stay in Linkou, it means (disregarding everything but the big picture) that I have the possibility to continue studying in Taiwan and earn my university degree here. However, staying in Linkou doesn’t necessarily entail that I will stay in Taiwan longer than one year, but it does include the option of doing so if I want to. By contrast, moving back to Gaoxiong and studying at Wenzao for another semester, precludes the option of graduating from a Taiwanese university. I cannot stay in this country forever, hopping between different cities and language centres. If I stay here for an extended period of time, I need some real proof of all the effort I’ve invested in learning Chinese. A degree is the only unambiguous and useful proof of that.

So, having decided that I’m not staying in Taiwan longer than this semester, the second choice (the tip of the iceberg) becomes easier to understand: either I spend another semester in Linkou, or I study at Wenzao next semester and then go back home. Even though it’s smaller, this choice was a lot harder to make, and I would be lying if I said that I’m one hundred percent sure I’m doing the right thing. Rationally speaking, I know moving is a good idea, but since I’m human and not a machine, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Let’s examine the two options and what they have to offer.

About staying in Linkou

The most important reason to stay in Linkou is, without any doubt whatsoever, my classmates and other friends here. I know that whatever happens next semester, I’d have a great time while in class, and I will learn a lot at the same time. In addition to this, the education offered in Linkou is fairly predictable (even though we will change teachers, I still no roughly what to expect). I know that the education is of high quality. Furthermore, staying in the north is a lot cheaper, recognising the fact that I have a scholarship there and the tuition fee is lower.

There are some arguments for not staying in Linkou as well. Generally speaking, I’m not too happy with studying for a bachelor’s degree at a Taiwanese university, because it feels very much like being back in junior high (attitude, courses, environment, teaching style; here is one example). I realise that this is what it’s like here, but I’m afraid that doesn’t make it any better. Furthermore, I think the campus itself is depressing in many ways (dirty, dilapidated, distant) and Linkou itself feels a bit like the end of the world (and we live at the very end of Linkou!). Last, but not least, the schedule is quite tightly packed, meaning lots of class time and much homework. I feel like I haven’t got time to study Chinese, which sounds self-contradictory, but is nonetheless true. I learn better if I have more control over what I’m studying, but as it is now, there is hardly any time for that. Also note that going anywhere else than Linkou takes at least an hour, which naturally makes it even more difficult to expand my horizons, either geographically or socially speaking.

About going back to Wenzao

There are some arguments in favour of moving back south. Firstly, it would mean returning to an institution I have very fond memories of; I didn’t leave Gaoxiong last time because I was unhappy with my life there. I know the college can provide me with courses more suitable to my personality and learning style. Secondly, if I move back south, it would mean living with two Taiwanese students (one of my friends from last year and her current room mate). It’s of course difficult to say how important this is and what kind of impact it will have on my studies and my life, but I would be surprised if it didn’t trump living alone in Linkou.

Added to that, I’m a social person, I need people around be to be happy. The only reason I live alone now is that I don’t want to live in the dormitory, (see the comments about the campus above). Living with my friends in Gaoxiong might make me happier at the same time as enabling me to understand Taiwan and the Chinese language on a deeper level. Furthermore, I do of course already have other friends in the south, and they do also play a big part in all this. I would not move into social terra incognita, like I’ve done my previous three moves in Taiwan.

I’m aware that my girlfriend hasn’t been mentioned here, and that’s no accident. Our relationship hasn’t been working very well since I came back to Taiwan last year, and it didn’t work at all towards the end of last year. Moving might or might not improve this, but I want to make it very clear that she is not the reason why I’m moving.

Naturally, there are also drawbacks with moving again, otherwise I wouldn’t need to write such a long post about what I’m going to do. Please read the first part of that sentence again, the keywords are “moving again”. I have moved six times in two years, do I really want to make it seven times in two and a half? Sure, in the ancient past, I said that I wanted to be more like a snail with its house on its back, but I feel more like I have no home at all rather than always carrying it with me. Leaving Linkou would mean more uncertainty, even though it would be significantly less unknown than any of my previous moves in Taiwan. I know roughly what I will get if I move.

Another negative factor is money: going back south costs more money than staying in Linkou; my rough calculations tell me about NT$40.000, which is a bit less than 10,000 Swedish crowns. That’s not an astronomical sum, especially not when compared with living in Sweden, but it is still a factor. On the other hand, my decision to stay in Taiwan one semester and not more, means that I’m prepared to spend some extra money to optimise the time I have left here. In addition, I won’t go home this winter vacation, and will thus save approximately NT$30.000. I’m not a rich man, but I think I know when to spend money and when to be thrifty.

Final decision

Rationally speaking, I think there are some factors above that cancel each other out, and the social aspect might be one of them. I’m sure I’d be very happy staying in Linkou with my current classmates and friends (I feel a sting of sadness just by thinking about leaving you!), but on the other hand, I know that I can be happy in Gaoxiong as well. It doesn’t feel like that now, because Linkou is where I live now and thus very close, but I really think that both choices should be equally good, socially speaking.

So, what it eventually boils down to is paying more money to get a better learning environment. I’m convinced that I would learn more Chinese and be more satisfied with my studying if I went back to Gaoxiong; this is beyond any doubt. On the other hand, as explained above, it would also be more expensive. Is it worth paying that sum of money to get these extra benefits? Yes, of course it is.

Oh, if only humans were fully rational! Then I wouldn’t have had to spend weeks making up my mind. Alas, I cannot base something like this simply on cold logic, so I thought that if I went to Wenzao to talk to them about this, perhaps I would be able to feel what would be the right thing to do. More importantly, I needed to go to my friend’s place to see if the apartment looked okay, that it was a place I felt comfortable living and that the location wasn’t too off (hard to beat Linkou in that regard, though). I hoped that after doing these things, I would feel what was the right thing to do.

And I do. I feel that moving south again is the right choice. There are too many advantages with moving back. Perhaps moving in with Taiwanese friends is reason enough, because it would be something new, something I haven’t done before, but apart from this, I think the overall study situation will improve. I also know that there are many things in the north I fundamentally dislike, although I’ve grown used to them and come to accept them; moving would alleviate these problems, if not remove them entirely, and allow me to focus on what I like most here, studying Chinese.

I’m truly, honestly sad about leaving my classmates and my other friends in Linkou, but that’s a sacrifice I have to live with. They will no doubt move on without me and even though I think my cube puzzles will be missed in A班, I think my leaving won’t really hurt the wonderful atmosphere in that group. I’m very fond of you all and I hope I’m welcome to visit you whenever there is time.

Personally, I’m on the road yet again, and I need to find again that warm feeling I’ve had recently in class, I need to settle down in a new environment and I need to move on. I hope that those involved can understand my decision and I hope I can keep in touch with those who matter most to me in the north. Thanks for everything and see you soon?

該是時候往前走

最近,我作出兩個特別重要的決定,現在想要與大家分享這決定與緣由。等到今天才宣佈的原因是我之前不太清楚自己到底想要做什麼,也為了讓想知道原因的人有機會理解我的想法,再者我也需要時間好好地考慮。這兩個決定格外困難,但我希望大家會了解我的想法。

原本我用英文寫這一篇文章,所以如果你對英文比較熟,也可以按這個連結來看原文。內容不是一模一樣,但是大概意思是相同的,可是英文版比較詳細,並且有圖片及連結。

非常短的版本

這是以上提出的兩個決定:第一、我不會因想得到臺灣的大學的學位而留在這裡四年,反正下個學期之候,就回去瑞典完成我那邊的課程。第二、因為我留在臺灣只剩一個學期,我認為在師範大學繼續念書不如回去高雄讀文藻外語學院,所以我下個學期要再搬家。

很短的版本

因為缺乏時間及金錢,因此我覺得我無法完成臺灣大學的學業。因此經過深思熟慮之後,我決定回去高雄,用我可能是最後一個在臺灣的學期在文藻繼續念中文。在林口有許多開心及不捨的回憶:同學(你們真的太好了),其它臺灣朋友(讓我喜歡臺灣及臺灣人)和老師(能夠耐心得使我瞭解語言與文化)。不過,留在林口也有一些不太喜歡的事情,例如:學校地點偏僻,讓我感到憂鬱的校院(雖然表面上很漂亮,但仍有很多不好的部分)。最重要的原因是我發現我的個性與學語言的方式不適合在臺灣念大學課程,有那種回到國中的感覺。

另一方面,除了逃避以上的留在林口的壞處之外,回去高雄在文藻念書有許多的好處。在國語中心學中文比較自由,讓我自己會掌握學習的過程。由於學生比較少(我要參加的班現在只有三個學生),因此老師能夠專心地幫助學生解決他們的問題。文藻與師大的課程程度差不多,但是文藻的好像比較實用的。搬家到高雄之候,我要跟兩個臺灣人一起住,雖然現在不得而知會如何,但我覺得比在這裡一個人住好多了。當然去高雄也有壞處,像再搬一次家很麻煩,而且花費比留在林口多(在文藻沒有獎學金,並且學費貴得多)。

基於上述的種種原因並經過考量之後,我才做出要搬回高雄的決定,這當中我也猶豫了很久也為此輾轉難眠好幾夜。由於我下個學期不會跟現在的同學一起上課,因此我感到格外難過(你們都很棒,其中還有同學能寫出非常漂亮的漢字),雖然我要離開但我相信你們依然能夠繼續保持下去。

不太短的版本

乍看之下,似乎僅需作一個選擇(下個學期要做什麼),後面其實有另外一個更困擾的難題:我將來生涯的重點到底是什麼?是否要搬家到高雄是個既重大又迫切的決定,但是生涯的規劃是個更長遠的決定。為了讓你們瞭解我未來要做什麼,我需先用過去的日子來闡釋現在的情況。

冰山

從十八歲左右開始,我知道當老師可能比較適合我的個性和能力。雖然我先念了一年的心理學,但是一年之後,我還是對教育學比較有興趣,因此我轉系了。從那時起我依著當老師的計劃走,來臺灣讀書並不是個意外。雖然這不是我原來想到的做法,但卻是殊途同歸。不過真的是那麼簡單嗎?假設我在臺灣發現了這過程因為非常有趣而成為重點,假設「我想要教中文」的「中文」比其中的「教」還重要,那怎麼辦?

最近我花許多時間考慮這個問題,也跟別人討論。我到底想要做什麼呢?念中文的路途轉道是否成為幹線?為了得到臺灣大學的文憑,而留在臺灣多三年半值得嗎?總而言之,我有沒有將原來當老師的目標變成用中文來謀生?

答案是「不是」、「沒有」不過這個答案一點也不明顯;那兩個字的後面隱藏了許久的猶豫不決。雖然答案是很難得到的,不過還是很必然的(回去瑞典的時候,有可能這一方面會該變)。我想要在瑞典當老師,所以我需要回去完成那邊的大學課程(在這裡得到文憑不夠),才會再考慮中文與臺灣這一部分。

實際上,我因為這個夏天要回去瑞典而且會一直待到畢業為止。畢業之後,若是感到臺灣的吸引力很強,那我才考慮要不要為了得到碩士而回來這裡。回瑞典之後,我會更加確定是否真的對中文有興趣。我仍然年輕,畢業之後會有機會改變想法。無論如何,我不打算為得到臺灣的文憑而犧牲在瑞典的學業。

冰山一角

原則上,決定要回去瑞典對下個學期要做什麼的想法很重要。意思是,我一點都不重視文憑,因此我會專心學得中文。一個住在高雄的朋友尋找室友使我開使考慮到回去那邊否則對我的學習的情況有幫助。雖然這因素比以上的小得多,不過還是很困難決定。

留在林口

在國華系的同學及其它住在台北的朋友絕對是讓我想留在林口最大的因素。假設下學期繼續在師大念書,那我就知道這一方面會是很棒的;我非常喜歡你們,再者可以跟你們一起學到更多中文。另外,我想秋天的教育品質應該算是不錯的,所以有可能下學期會一樣好(但是不一定,因為要換老師)。最後留在林口的好處就是因為有學校的獎學金,而不用花那麼多錢。

留在林口當然也有些壞處(否則我不需要考慮是否回高雄的這個難題)。一般來說,我發現我不太喜歡在臺灣的學校念這樣的課程,因為感覺是我回去了瑞典的國中(環境,態度,課程,教法都令我想到好幾年之前念的國中)。我當然明白臺灣與瑞典的制度不一樣,但是我好像無法習慣這樣的教學方式。另外,林口的校園是一個令人憂鬱的地方(偏僻、肮脏、破爛的)。如果校園位於林口醫院那邊附近,那就可能沒有任何問題, 但是校園却是在林口最沒有人煙、最不便利的地方。最後,我有一種沒有時間真的學中文的感覺,因為有那麼多課程、作業,而且如果想要去別的地方,也需要花很多時間在坐公車(結果學習時間更少)。如果我只能再留在臺灣一個學期,我不要只加強閱讀與聽力,我想要有時間自己選擇要加強學習的方向。

回去高雄

回去南部也有一些好處。第一、我已經對文藻熟悉,知道那裡的課程適合我。去年選擇離開高雄並不是因為我不喜歡讀於文藻,是為了申請大學而北上。第二、若是回去高雄,我也會跟兩名臺灣人一起住(一個我去年認識的朋友跟她的室友);我無法確定跟她們一起住會怎樣,不過絕對是比現在一個人住好多了。其實,我現在會一個人住是因為我不喜歡住在宿舍裡,而且很討厭坐公車(排除住在台北)。第三、我也有些我很想念住在高雄的朋友,所以雖然離開這裡的人令我難過,但我也會找回之前失去的好朋友。

看到這裡,應該有人想問我想要搬家跟女朋友有沒有關係(她住高雄)?我故意在前面沒有提出這個問題,因為這原因不重要。我去年回來臺灣之後,我們的關係好像沒有之前的那麼好;並且最近越來越不好。我不知道搬家對我們倆人會有什麼樣子的影響,但是我確定知道這不是我想要回高雄的理由。

回去有什麼壞處呢?最重要的是,我之前搬家太多次了,那為什麼要再一次離開我習慣的地方?這樣飛來飛去使我很累,好像從來沒有真的「這是我家」的感覺。不過,這一次不是去新的城市,所以希望沒有那麼辛苦。另外,回去高雄比較貴,我估計需要多花四萬元(包括那邊沒有獎學金)。若是這是我在臺灣最後一個學期,我應該選擇對我最好的方法,既使貴一點。

最後決定

在冷靜的思考後有些正負因素會相抵,尤其是社交這一方面。假設留在林口的話,我知道朋友與同學會讓我很開心(這是讓我留在林口最重要一點喔!),不過雖然現在沒有這種感覺,我也知道搬家之後會再找回之前的朋友,並且會遇到新的。由此可見兩個選擇的結果大概是差不多的。所以,為了得到好一點的學習環境而付多一點的錢值得嗎?答案很清楚:當然是值得!

可惜人類不是十分理性的!那麼,我不需要經過幾個禮拜的考慮才決定。這樣大的選擇,我不能只用冷冷的邏輯來決定,因而,我想到了,如果去文藻跟他們討論,然後去看看我的朋友,看看房子情況如何,那可能會感到我想要做什麼。去高雄之前,我希望心裡的感覺是跟頭腦想的是相同的。去高雄之後,就是這樣,我很清楚地知道搬家是最好的選擇。

我的中文能力不夠好,所以我無法表示離開在林口及台北的朋友讓我有多難過,可是仍然有兩個補救的辦法:一、其實,臺灣很小,高雄離台北不會很遠;二、我知道雖然可能有人上課時會想念我的魔術方塊這類的玩具,但是我絕對知道我離開的事不會壞了上課的那種好氣氛。其它的朋友:我一定會回來台北看你們,而且如果有機會,歡迎你們來高雄看我吧!我希望大家能瞭解我的想法及決定,但是如果有問題或意見,請留言。謝謝你們的耐心看完我冗長的文章!

Tags: , , , , ,

Revisiting Gaoxiong

I have only visited Gaoxiong once since I returned to Taiwan, and that single time I didn’t even have time to meet half the people I really wanted to meet. Since our midterm exams are over (more or less, I have one more on Monday), I thought that it would be nice to get away for a few days and relax. This time I made sure to make appointments with people in advance, because even though Taiwan isn’t very big, Gaoxiong is still a couple of hours and a couple of thousand Taiwan dollars away.

I left on Thursday evening, but ran into problems more or less immediately. The bus took almost 30 minutes longer than I had expected, due to traffic conditions. I missed my HSR (High Speed Rail), but fortunately, it’s easy and painless to change tickets in this country. I arrived in Gaoxiong around nine and was picked up from Zuoying by two friends from Wenzao and we went to the night market close to 巨蛋.

Just as last time, I’m very fortunate to have friends like Ruf and his wife, who let me stay in their apartment when I’m visiting. Not only do I appreciate the accomodation, but it was also great to meet them again. On Friday, we went to 澄清Lake for some tea and a walk around the lake. In the evening, I met yet another friend from Wenzao, again making me feel really happy to be back. I also notice that my Chinese has improved, because I feel that I can discuss even fairly complicated matters without too much trouble. Yes, it’s taxing, but I can do it.

In short, the past few days have been really good. The weather is a lot nicer in the south, too, which perhaps further added to my sunny disposition. In addition, even though it feels like a vacation, I probably spoke more Chinese during these two days than I’ve done in class during the entire semester so far. Make what you will out of that.

Writing this, I’m sitting on the HSR approaching Taizhong and I will be home shortly. Clouds are gathering outside the window and it look like it’s raining not far away. I have some formal studying (vocabulary revision) to do, and I need to review for the test on Monday, but on the whole, I’m in a really good mood. There are reasons I shouldn’t be, but revisiting Gaoxiong was truly great. Thanks!

Tags:

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.

Tags: , , , ,

I just received my results from the TOP (Test of Proficiency), i.e. the standard test of Chinese listening and reading. For my scholarship, I was required to pass at least one level (there are four), but there are no rules specifying which level. After having tried the intermediate one (level three) on the pilot test and failing big time, mostly because the time was too short, not because the content was to difficult. I decided to take the two lower levels for the real test to be on the safe side. That was a very fortunate decision. Not surprisingly, I passed the first level without any problem, but, rather unexpectedly, I failed the second level.

Partly, I can blame this on the extremely bad conditions for the listening exercises (large class room, forty students, low pitched sounds inaudible and lots of echoes); some mistakes I can also blame on the questions themselves, since some of them were incomprehensible (and that had nothing to do with language). I did pass the reading and grammar sections, but I would have needed almost twice as many points for the listening to pass.

So, what is this, a reality check or simply an aberration? Is my Chinese ability only between “beginner” and “basic”? I refuse to believe that’s the case, so I need to come up with some other explanation for the result, which is hard because the test itself is of course classified. I can think of two things. Firstly, the texts we study now are much, much more difficult than those on the test, which means that I have little or no use for what I’ve learnt this semester. Thus, learning Chinese on a “too advanced” level might actually be one reason for my points to drop. Secondly, I very seldom focus on exact meaning when I read, but rather go for the overall meaning. I can read pretty difficult texts and still understand the general idea, but extremely detailed reading for easier texts might not be that good (the grammar part of the test is definitely of this kind).

Of course, two aspects aren’t tested at all: speaking and writing. Although my reading is better than both these, my speaking and writing is definitely better than my listening and I also spend a lot of time studying characters. If the test were more comprehensive, I’m confident my score would have been higher.

Still, this is a kind of reality check. It’s an indication that perhaps I’m advancing too fast, leaving more basic parts of the language before I have mastered them fully. This is strategy is only wrong if achieving good test results is my only goad, which it isn’t, but it would be stupid to shrug the result off as bad luck or unfavourable conditions.

I will now go on with my standard evaluation of my Chinese ability, focusing on what I can improve in the future. As it looks now, I might only have little more than one month left here in Taiwan, so I intend to make the most of it.

Speaking:  Continued slow development, vocabulary gradually improves and so does fluency. I could practise a lot more than I do, but on the other hand I do spend quite a lot of time on this already. It doesn’t feel like I improve very quickly, but I’m satisfied with the development here anyway.

Listening: Listening is the problem, a lot harder than anything else in Chinese. The problem here is that it’s easy to deceive oneself; I understand almost everything my teachers say, even though we discuss fairly complex subjects and words in Chinese (form news articles, for instance), but I still failed the listening test and I also find non-standard Mandarin pretty difficult sometimes. I’m going to focus a lot on listening in the future, particularly after this semester comes to a close at the end of June.

Writing: Roughly the same as before. I can express almost anything I want, provided I have a dictionary available. Although I still make a lot of mistakes, I very seldom get reactions such as “I don’t understand what you’re trying to say here”, which happened at least once per article before. As usual, you can follow my development on my Chinese blog.

Reading: Regardless of what the test result says, I’m improving a lot when it comes to reading. In the five weeks that have passed since last proficiency report, I have added about 1000 words (reaching 5400 entries) to my vocabulary database (these I words I review regularly and know, it’s not simply a list of useful words). Of these, I can write at least 3000. In other words, the pace is a little bit quicker than the first half of this semester; 24 new words every day since the previous report. I could learn more and faster, but I doubt that it would be worth it.

Regarding characters (as opposed to words), I obviously lack a reliable method to count, because last times 2100 out of 3000 has decreased to 1800 (checked twice as many characters this time). Of course, I still know a lot of characters outside the 3000 most common ones, but it seems like I have quite a few left to learn.

Tags: , ,

Last time I thought it odd that a full two months had passed since the report before that, but the fact is that this time it’s been more than three months! I think a lot has happened in this time and if I want to keep any continuity whatsoever in these reports, I need to keep them reasonably updated. A new term has just started, but so far the new environment has had no chance to influence my Chinese (even though I’m sure it will soon enough). This seems like a good opportunity to shed light on my current Chinese ability.

There is not much to say in general about this, except that two months in class and one month on the road has improved various aspects of my Chinese (I wrote a separate article about travelling to learn languages). It was a well needed break and I now feel more motivated than ever to study diligently and learn as much as possible. Below, I refer to a number of methods and so forth, and I’ve elaborated on these before in series of articles starting with a text about attitude.

Speaking: I can feel no qualitative difference in my speaking ability compared to last time. Of course, that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened, but the feeling I have seems to be the same, and thus the change is quantitative. I can converse freely about a lot of subjects with reasonable comfort and fluency. Needless to say, I still make lots of mistakes and lack key vocabulary, but people understand what I mean, and with I usually get by with a little help from my friends.

Listening: At last, a quantum leap! During my vacation with my parents, I realised that I actually understood what normal people around me said, sometimes even when they speak with each other rather than with me. I still consider listening ability to be the most difficult part of learning Chinese, but I’m progressing. If it’s everyday conversation, I can understand what people say even if it’s spoken with accent and sometimes even if it’s fast. This feels very good to say the least! Hearing what somebody says without context is still out of the question, though.

Writing: I have now stayed with the same revision method I was thinking of when I wrote the previous report and it works very well. It doesn’t guarantee that I know all the vocabulary, but that isn’t the point. I’ve also started a new blog in Chinese to practise my writing, even though I’ve only written a few posts so far. In this manner, I hope to improve not only my ability to write characters, but also to compose longer and coherent texts.

Reading: The method I talked about last time, about not focusing on learning to write every character, but separating them into two categories (one for writing and one only for reading), seems to have payed off. I know a lot more words than three months ago, even though roughly 1400 of them I can only read and pronounce. My database contains roughly 3400 words in all (not individual characters, mind you) and it’s increasing rapidly. Before, I said that I could get the gist of stories, instructions and so forth only with luck, but today I think it’s fairly common that I get the general idea without using a dictionary. Reading is a gradual progression over many years, but I still hope to be able to read newspapers at the end of this semester.

Tags: , , ,

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!

Tags: , , , ,

Touring Gaoxiong isn’t something I feel like writing a lot about, but I do have some pictures I’d like to share with you. I’ll also take the opportunity to explain the pictures and the events surrounding them.


Here I am, new city and everything.


This is the view of the same place as the first picture, but from the skyscraper in the middle of the picture called the Tuntex Sky Tower, standing 378 metres tall.  Even though the sky was a bit hazy, the view was nice.


In the tower were other thins to look at!


Love River.


MRT (mass rapid transit, Gaoxiong’s underground) station.


Fireworks on the last evening of the New Year Holiday.


Official fireworks is nice; I’ve never liked private.


Not only the sky is illuminated.


This is the restaurant I’ve been talking about before. It’s a hotpot restaurant here in Gaoxiong were you choose, cook and eat food until you can barely walk.


Vegetables and mushrooms.


Seafood.


Meat.


Dinner!

Tags: , ,

I have now moved to Gaoxiong and everything here is fine so far. My apartment is located in the Sanmin (三民) district to the north of downtown Gaoxiong, a city of roughly three million people in the south Taiwan. I live around fifteen minutes walk from the underground and less than five minutes walk from the college at which I’ll study next semester (Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages). The price is not bad, NT$ 6600 a month, which is about 50 % more expensive than my previous apartment, but only about half of my rent in Sweden (the price here is roughly 1600 Swedish crowns). To have something to compare with, my scholarship gives me NT$ 25 000 each month and the tuition fee for the college is close to NT$ 40 000 per semester.

The building seems new, everything is high-standard (much better than my old apartment) and I’m in general very positive.  Furthermore, the window faces a small courtyard and some alleys with almost no traffic; I can hear a fountain five stories down. Having a northward-facing window somewhere in the middle of the building is excellent for two reasons: I’ll have no direct sunlight during the summer, which will make it a bit more bearable, at the same time as five stories up is enough to escape most pollution. Perfect.

Rather than going on about it, I’ll give you a few pictures, nothing fancy, but they’ll convey the basic idea:


I guess most streets here look something like this, but this happens to be mine.


It’s a quite nice street, especially since my window faces away from the street.


No, all the shoes aren’t mine.


Drawers and cupboards are nice when you’ve lived without them for five months.


Hello Kitty!


Yes, it’s a bit barren so far, but I’ll try to change that as soon as possible.


The courtyard directly below my window.


Night view from the roof of the building.


Night view from the roof of the building.


Night view from the roof of the building.

Tags: , ,

Leaving Xinzhu

More than four months ago, I arrived in a dark, humid, warm and, most importantly, unfamiliar place. I remember my first impressions clearly, from the students who picked me up at the airport, the short trip by car to the university and the first glance of the place that would be my home for almost five months. I knew little about what to expect, everything was new, but my attitude was optimistic and determined. The first time was pretty difficult in some ways, especially before I had a daily routine settled. I needed help to do most things, and since my Chinese was not good enough, I needed help most of the time. I am infinitely grateful to those who helped me out in the beginning; without you it would have been unbearable.

The university and the city I leave behind today is of course more or less the same as it was when I arrived, but for me it has transformed into something completely different. Today, it’s a place of routines, of study and of daily life. I’m still a tourist in Taiwan, but I’m not a tourist around here anymore. I know my way around, I’m well settled in routines for studying, exercising and other parts which make up my life. The hot weather has gone away, taking with it the sense of wonder in experiencing something new. When I take my habitual walks around the two lakes of the university campus, it’s no longer for the purpose of experiencing something new, to explore, but rather to breathe some fresh air and release some tension.

After moving to the south, there are some things I’ll miss here, but most of what I cherish I’ll be able to bring with me. My schedule has not allowed me to create a large social network, nor have I felt the need to. I will miss my Chinese and English class, though, and also some other friends, but there’s nothing preventing me from keeping in contact with these people anyway. Sadly, I cannot carry the fresh mountain air with me to sprawling Gaoxiong, but I will at least bring the sense of security and stability about living abroad that my months here in Xinzhu has given me. For that I’m grateful, but now I need to move on.

More practically, moving on means going on roughly three weeks vacation with my parents and then returning to Gaoxiong to once again begin a new life in a new city, but this time at least not in a new country. Our plan isn’t entirely fixed, but will include (links are to Wikipedia articles): Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, Taroko National Park and Green Island, to name a few destinations. I’ll try to write and take pictures if something worthwhile happens, but my posting here is more dependent on internet access than desire to share experiences on my part. If nothing else, I’ll begin to write regularly again once I’m settled in Gaoxiong, which should be around February 5th. Goodbye, Xinzhu, and thanks for everything.

Tags: , , ,

« Older entries