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Vanessa

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One month is quite an arbitrary period of time to expound on, but almost five weeks should be enough to have settled in and to have gained some sort of general impression of what’s going on and what my future studies here will be like. I arrived in Taiwan on September 11th, and the semester started a few days later. In this post, I’ll try to express my feelings, impressions and thought about what’s happened since then and also what I think about the future.

The start of this semester was shaky, to say the least (I was honestly pondering if it was worth it or if I’d better just go home again, but decided to stay and give it a chance). Since I’ve already written a fair amount about that, I’ll move on. If you’re interested to read more about my arrival, kindly check the Taiwan category for September 2009.

A month has now passed and no bureaucratic problems remain, all registrations, selections of courses, filling in of forms, etcetera, have been taken care of. I have somewhere to live, I know my schedule and I’m familiar with my classes. There might be new things popping up later, but I’m quite sure what I’m experiencing now is what everyday life will be like for a while.

Starting with the university itself, I’ll first refer to the post I wrote after one week, in which I outline more general information. Superficially, nothing much has changed since then, although I have cancelled the Chinese Festivals class and the English, although the latter is substituted by two hours of teaching English instead, which suits be fine. The courses are fairly hard to keep apart, since they all cover roughly the same texts and in a similar manner. The name of the course seems to bear no resemblance whatsoever with the actual content (we might do more conversation in our reading class than in the conversation class, and more reading in the integrated class than in the reading class, and so on).

Overall, I think the education as such is okay. It’s not brilliant in any way, it’s not as good as I hoped it would be, but it is enough to keep me satisfied, at least for now. The two main problems are lack of opportunity to actually speak Chinese, and the amount of time spent on things which has nothing to do with Chinese (such as endless meetings to give out information everybody should already have or that should be obvious, often asking people to stay even though the information doesn’t even pertain to their respective situations). The first problem I can probably alleviate on my own, and the second can be endured, I suppose.

More importantly, my situation outside school has improved. I have settled in in my new apartment, I have things to do and i have reestablished contact with some people from last year. I still feel a little bit under-stimulated, but I’m sure that will take care of itself gradually. I and Vanessa seem to be on the way to figure out how, when and where to meet, which is a great relief (although I shouldn’t say that until it’s actually been proved to work in reality and not only in theory). Maintaining a good relationship with her is probably the single most important factor to my well-being here now that the problems with the university and the apartment seem to be settled.

I could dwell more on details, but I don’t see that it would benefit anyone very much. Things will of course appear in the future, in which case I’ll write more about them. As usual, if there is anything you think I ought to write more about, just say so and I’ll consider it. I have a number of reasons to write about my life here and one of them is to keep interested people up to date.

To put it briefly, I have settled in properly and I know I can manage life here as it is now, so barring big changes, I’m sure I can be happy here. Exactly how much I like my life here and how worthwhile I think studying at NTNU is will of course change over time, but I’m satisified at least for now.

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Back on track

As you might have noticed, the server has been offline for a few days, which was due to the fact that Hannes (and Caroline), who is kind enough to host my site, moved house. Now, everything seem to be working again, but since the new server has a new IP, it might take a short while before all IP redirecting propagates properly.

I’m also back on track in another regard. I spent the previous weekend in the south of Taiwan, where I lived last semester. I stayed at a friends place for two days and was able to meet up not only with my friends, but also with Vanessa. The time leading up to that meeting was a bit insecure, because we hadn’t met for a very long time. However, after meeting her on Saturday night as well as on Sunday morning just before going home, I don’t have even the slightest feeling of insecurity. I’m sure we’ll be able to make this work, even if we live on different sides of the island.

While the site was down, I’ve also read a couple of books, thought about lots of other things and settled in a bit more in my new home. Posts regardin these topics will be published in due course, so keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned!

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


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


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


More “studying”.


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


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


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


Campus.


Students.


More campus.


One, two, one, two, one, two…


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


This is my favourite restaurant and its proprietor.


Group photo!


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


Someone wants to cut my hair, hide!


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


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


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


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


…burrow the food in the smoldering ruins.


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Sandstone on Taiwan’s northern coast.


More of the same.


The view from the small village Jiufen.


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


Nice lighting in Danshui.


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

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


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

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


Good-bye!

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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!

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