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Moving house

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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.


It’s not as heavy as it looks…

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


Snail transport.

He looks a bit sceptical.

Will there be room?

No, not here at least.




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”.




Living room.

Living room again.


Kitchen again.

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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.


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?





















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。









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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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Yesterday, I said that by this time today, I would hopefully be able to tell you about the wonderful new apartment I’d found close the campus. Sadly, that’s not true at all. I’ve found temporary lodging reasonably close the university, which means I can continue my hunt for an apartment tomorrow, but I’m only a little bit closer to finding somewhere to live than I was this morning.

It started out quite badly this morning with my leaving the hostel, heading for the underground station from which a bus would take me and another student (Joy) to Linkou township close the campus. For half an hour, I thought I had misunderstood something about the directions, because nobody was there to meet me (and nobody answered phone calls either). This was solved about forty minutes later when it turned out that Joy had overslept, but was now on her way. I don’t consider this a problem, though, because as it would turn out and the topic of this post implies, she offered invaluable help during the day and I’m greatly indebted to her for that.

Arriving in Linkou, we met with a guy who was a representative for a housing agency or something like that, and he helped us find different places we had checked out beforehand. We were unable to contact some of the landlords, and the other apartments were out of the question for other reasons (too big and thus too expensive, or old and dirty but affordable). Perhaps I had evaluated the situation badly and apartments would be a lot more expensive than planned?

Not so. The last apartment we checked was quite nice and was also reasonably priced, but when we were about to sign the contract, I suddenly noticed that my mobile phone said “Emergency calls only”, which of course meant that my provider had no coverage of the area. The area in question turned out to be very local indeed, and the phone worked outside the room, but not anywhere inside it. This meant that nobody could call me while I’m home, which would be very bad indeed. In addition to this, the room has no windows, which I think is okay, but combined with the phone problem, it simply isn’t worth it. I decided to continue searching.

At this point, it was around six o’clock, which meant that I would get no more looking around today, and besides, Joy had been with me all day and didn’t deserve to drag me around any longer. I had two options: either going back to Taipei and find some temporary lodging there (very inconvenient since I would’ve had to go back here again first thing tomorrow) or check with the university if they could accept me for only one night. The second option turned out to be impossible for some reason, so I was resigned to going back to Taipei with a heavy heart.

Then the landlord from the last apartment we checked called (the one without phone coverage) and said that I could stay in the apartment I didn’t want for two days if I wanted to, without signing or paying for anything. He said that another tenant would be moving out on Monday, and if that apartment was better, I could rent that one. He also said that I didn’t have to promise anything, I could live here for two days even if I decided ultimately to go somewhere else. So here I am, with somewhere to stay at least for tonight and tomorrow, and my plan is to keep on searching. I simply just don’t dare signing a contract for half a year without being satisfied with the accommodation.

Today’s events in some ways illustrate what I like most about Taiwan. As a foreigner, I’m welcomed with open arms and most people are very friendly and helpful, even if they don’t have to. Joy could have said she needed to go a lot earlier and the landlord had no obligation whatsoever to offer me to stay in the room for a couple of days. But everybody so far chose the most friendly and welcoming approach, making me feel a lot better than I would’ve felt otherwise. I’d be lying if I said I was comfortable and happy, butit could have been immeasurably much worse.

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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.

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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.

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Apartment found

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

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

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

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Moving to Gaoxiong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Settling in

As some of you have noticed, we managed to fix the internet connection yesterday. I have no idea what the problem was, because I know too little about Ubuntu and so does Ben. However, after manually copying the configuration (including parameters that should be set automatically by the ISP) from Ben’s computer, the connection suddenly came alive. I do not think I can explain how important this is. Even if I spend much time with other people right now, and even though I did not go to Taiwan only to speak with friends in Sweden, it is a great relief to be able to communicate properly with people I know. It is nice with new experiences, but overload is a danger, I think. Anyhow, I will probably be online around the clock, even though I obviously will not be available all the time.

Today, I spent a fair amount of time on my own. I needed a day of rest and I needed to settle in, establishing some of my old habits from home. This included studying, reading, hand walking and stretching. There is a fairly large track and field area on the campus, which is excellent for all sorts of exercise; I even found a nice staircase ideal for practicing hand walking! I noted two things, however. First, the running track gives off its colour, something I only noticed when my white t-shirt looked like it was soaked in blood (although it is pretty cool to have gloves that look like that). Second, exercising is best done after eight o’clock. The temperature dropped below thirty and a cool breeze made the evening pleasant. Possibly, the weather is even better before sunrise, but I will see about that later.

After stretching and showering, I set out on a new food adventure (I assume there will be at least one every day for quite a while). I found a place close by and after ten minutes or so, I managed to get something to eat. The proprietor knew one word in English (“okay”), but he was very kind and eager to talk anyway. My Chinese vocabulary is fairly limited, so I spent most of the time searching for the right word or trying to understand what he said. Still, we managed to speak a little bit about Sweden, Taiwan, China, names, where I live and what I do in Taiwan. This was excellent practice, because the option of using English to cheat simply was not there. I spent around two hours in the restaurant and I will definitely go there again. Apparently, they close at two in the morning, so it will be an excellent place to go when everything else is closed down.

I am still either a little bit anxious to make some mistake or just too shy, because I feel uneasy approaching a group of stranger, none of whom speaks English, and try to make myself understood in Chinese. Everybody will listen and even if I know that nobody will mind my taking my time, I still do not like it. This time it went better than last time, and my chat with the old man was great. In a few weeks, perhaps I will be able to do this without feeling uneasy at all, which would be a big step indeed.

Walking home, I noticed that it had rained while I ate; the air was fragrant and pleasantly cool. Climbing the steep street leading up to the university gates, I felt very happy. The chat with the proprietor boosted my confidence enormously. Writing and reading will of course be very hard, but since there are so many opportunities to speak with Chinese people, I think I will learn to that fairly quickly. Also, I assume that it will be even easier once I have raised my level a little bit, because then I will not have to rely on the patience of strangers. This evening has been very good indeed, a sweet mixture of old habits and new experiences. Assuming that I will enjoy my language studies, I think I will like it here.

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Since it is very late, I will be satisfied with stating that I am very happy with my new accommodation so far. The last of my things have been moved and though I have not yet arranged everything in the way I want, I am well under way. This is what the snail’s new shell looks like:

I thought it was impossible in Ryd, but I actually have rather a nice view…

…but unfortunately the effect is rather spoiled by ghastly daylight (the window is facing north east, so it is not direct sunshine as it might seem to be).

Bed, sofa. Nice plants.

I am not yet living in a library, but I am working on it.

This is where I am at the moment. Please do not notice the bundle of cables and the awkward loud speaker arrangement.

If you think that this brief exposure of my room is not satisfactory, I urge you to contact me and arrange to have a closer look for real. I will have the last things fixed tomorrow, so any time after that is at least possible in theory.

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