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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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Merry Christmas!

Even though readers in Sweden will have to wait another seven hours, it is now Christmas here in Taiwan. I would like to take this opportunity to say something about both my stay here and my absence from the celebration I am used to at home.

To begin with, Christmas does exist in Taiwan, it just is not as big as it is in most Western countries. There is a quite large minority of Christians here, who of course regard Christmas as very important. I also assume that cultural influence from the United States plays an prominent role, much in the same was as for Halloween both in Taiwan and Sweden. However, Christmas is no official holiday, which means that it is business as usual for schools, universities and companies, even though signs of an approaching celebration has been visible for some time now, including a Christmas tree outside the library, appropriate music in shops and on radio, as well as the occasional exchanges of Christmas cards.

Personally, my Christmas will be very different from every other year in my life. For the first time, I am far away from my family, friends and relatives. Vanessa turned up here yesterday evening, so even though there will be no snow (it is currently almost 20 degrees), there will be plenty of jade to make up for it. The class on Christmas Eve is not cancelled, but instead it is moved to a class mate’s home, where we will have some sort of dinner and celebration together. Of course, other people are also invited, such as Vanessa and other people not in my Chinese class.

This feels like the best possible substitute for a traditional Christmas in Sweden. Although I will miss spending it with my famliy and relatives, I will still have people I like nearby and I am quite sure it will be enough. Besides, my parents will come to Taiwan in less than a month, so I am not serously worried about feelings of homesickness and suchlike. The fact that it really does not feel like Christmas at all  (mostly because of the climate) helps a lot, but I would lie if I said that I do not miss Christmas at home. Anyhow, I am sure that I will have a merry Christmas here anyway, so all that remains now is to wish you one as well: Merry Christmas!

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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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It seems incredible to me that two months have passed since my previous proficiency report, and since very much has happened in that time, I feel a need to write a third report about my progress learning the Chinese language. If I wish to use these reports as a means of evaluating and planning for my studying, I have better start writing more often. Perhaps once a month would be enough, which would but the language reports on par with the general monthly reports. I still think it is a good idea to keep these two things separate, though, since studying Chinese is by far the most important thing I do nowadays.

Above, I stated that much has happened recently, and I mean that in many ways. First and foremost, my Chinese ability has improved enormously in these two months. I will try to pin it down more accurately in the summary at the end of this report, so for now it is sufficient to say that I keep learning ever faster, or so it feels at least. I still spend lots of time studying, but in a somewhat different way than before (see my recently published articles about learning Chinese: attitude, new characters and revision). The most important change is that I now invest much less time in learning to write and much more time on learning to read and pronounce characters. Doing this, I have increased the number of characters I learn in a week enormously. Speaking with 瓊玉 and other people (in class or elsewhere) has of course been of great help.

That being said, I am constantly polishing my study strategy. For instance, I have begun to read a lot more than before (that is, books apart from our text books). This is something I will do much more in the future, and I am quite convinced that it will expand my vocabulary faster than any other way of studying. I also plan to write (writing stories or something; I do not mean practice writing characters) much more, since that is somewhat similar to speaking, but with extra time to think things through. If I know how to write properly, all I need is to be able to do it fast, and, voìla, I can speak (this is of course a simplification; please do not take it literally).

To sum things up, I will decrease the time spent on learning how to write characters and instead invest it in learning how to read and pronounce even more characters. Computer-aided writing will also hopefully boost my knowledge of how to actually use the vocabulary I learn. As usual, I will round things off by a summary of each of the four parts of language proficiency:

Speaking: My appreciation of the difficulty of speaking Chinese has changed for each report, but last time I regarded it as a big problem. Today, I do not. I think speaking is what I do best. I can usually express what I want to say, especially if given some time to think. My pronunciation also seems clear enough for most people to understand without much difficulty. Furthermore, I have lately felt a flow, allowing me to create longer and more complex sentences without requiring much time to think. I can speak for extended periods of time without having to stop.

Listening: Listening is the problem. I understand 99 % of what the teacher says and roughly 90 % of what 瓊玉 says (this is not because of differences in pronunciation, but more because my teacher generally speaks slower and use easier words compared to my girlfriend). However, when speaking to most other people, I am completely lost if no context is given. If I ask a question, I generally understand the answer, but if somebody says something to me, I invariably need to ask them to repeat their question. I have listened to many hours of Chinesepod and tried to focus on listening, but it is very, very hard. If people speak perfect Mandarin, it is fairly easy, but people do not, so this remains a big problem. 慢慢來!

Writing: Learning how to write Chinese is not difficult; it simply takes an awful amount of time. With an altered system of revision, I will be able to study more efficiently. As things stand today, my writing is slightly better than my speaking (see above).

Reading: Reading is steadily improving, but my great effort to learn characters faster is as yet only one week old, so hopefully I will have more progress to report next time. My Chinese is not good enough to read newspapers, instructions in public buildings or fairy tales for fourth-grade elementary-school children, but if I am lucky, I can get the gist of an instruction or a story.

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Last Sunday, I spent the afternoon in 南寮 together with Chanel (雁文), and even though I do not care to repeat the humdrum details I have expressed in Chinese above, I will write a little bit about the kites. In Sweden, I tried to build and fly kites together with a couple of friends (Martin is the only one who has personal website, as far as I know), and even though we managed to get the thing into the air, it still was not a very big success. I think one of the reasons was that the wind was too weak. Compared to the wind this Sunday, the one we used was nothing.

Below can be seen one short video clip and several photos of our afternoon trip. Although there were other interesting things to do, the kite flying is what I will remember. I did not try myself; looking was enough this time. Still, I feel that this is something I might like to learn later, and living in Xinzhu (which is called the Windy City), now is probably a good time to do it. Just flying normal kites is one thing, but what we watched this weekend is something completely different. Enjoy:

This is a six-headed kite doing some aerial tricks. What annoys me is that before this one, there were two kites involved in some sort of competition against each other. They did not attempt to cut each other or anything, but it was obvious that they tried to down the other kite somehow. This is also cool, but not even close to being as cool as the combat.
The entrance to the main area. Colourful kites are never out of vogue.

Miscellaneous kites.
We spent perhaps half an hour looking at this kite. It is difficult do understand the tricks involved simply by looking at a photograph, but look at its tail and you will get some inkling what it was about.
Spiral. It might be difficult to grasp the scale, but I think the tail is at least 30 metres long, perhaps more.
More flying, now in company with a cool-looking five-headed kite.

It came pretty close sometimes, being hit at full speed would probably hurt a lot.

More beautiful manoeuvering.


Two pretty odd-looking kites. I really like the combination of the diver and the fish.

Even more odd, perhaps.

But all three together take the biscuit.

More of the same kind.

It seems like I am still alive and kicking.

The architecture is very odd. It seems like a mixture of many styles and somewhat artificial, but I still like the colours.

There is a much bigger harbour behind me, but this makes a much nicer photo anyway.

Bells, bells, bells.

An excellent example of weird a strange composition. Any classic architect probably turns in his grave because of the different kinds of orders used for these pillars.

This is more to my taste.

And this is Chanel!

The mentioned seafood market.

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I am now back in business after a couple of days downtime. I do not feel like writing something ambitious about this, so I will merely state that something went wrong when I installed Windows. I had to remove Ubuntu, which was a bit scary because if everything failed I would not be able to study (I rely on many online resources). However, I knew I could reinstall Ubuntu without trouble. The problem was that even though Ubuntu worked properly, my connection to the internet did not. As you can see, I have been able to resolve this issue and can now access the internet from my room.

There are certain problems associated with running Windows on this computer, because some of the hardware is not supported in the default setup of the operating system. It was stupid of me to format and reinstall my computer without having thoroughly researched this problem and downloaded the necessary drivers. The effect was that I could not use Windows for anything that counted. I still cannot do that, but at least I have both operating systems installed and they both function properly. As soon as I have downloaded the correct drivers, I hope I will be able to use Windows smoothly as well. Anyhow, I am now back in business, and even though my attention have been otherwise engaged during the downtime, I still have a few articles to write, so stay tuned.

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Since the first report I have studied Chinese for two weeks. Before I tell you about how things are going, I am going to explain a little bit about how the course here works. As I said last time, it seems to be quite similar to my education in Sweden, with the important exception that everything is in Chinese, including grammar most of the time. Sure, sometimes the teacher resorts to English when everything else fails, but this is not very often.

For those of you who have not studied Chinese in Sweden with me and therefore do not know what it means that the two courses are similar, it basically means that we spend the lessons reading texts, discussing texts and explaining or asking questions about grammar related to the various chapters of the book. Conversations usually focus on topics mentioned in the book, but soon drift to completely unrelated subjects. So far, we have been revising the first five chapters (or rather, they have been revising, since I had never heard of the book when I came to Taiwan, most things are new to me). From now on, the pace will slow down since the texts and vocabulary will be new to everybody.

The book is very good compared to the books we used in Sweden (Short-Term Spoken Chinese Threshold and Elementary), mostly because the authors have avoided the ghastly mistakes made by the authors of my old books. Also, the English is as good as it gets, so no phony, complicated explanations of grammar that simply do not make any sense. Also, examples are provided for each new word, which is a great help.

Class normally begins at 18:30 and ends 21:30, which is both good and bad. It is good because it means that it is possible to do a lot of things during the day which would be more inconvenient during the evening or night (such as practicing or shopping). The bad thing is that most people are free only in the evening, so meeting them might be tricky sometimes.

Apart from that, I have been studying rather ambitiously on my own. My goal is to be able to catch up as soon as possible, meaning that I want to cover the two books preceding the one we are currently using. I am now finished with the first book, but since the second will be much more demanding, I reckon it will take at least another month until I am completely up-to-date. This means that I will know all the characters and have a general grasp of the grammar, but of course, it will require much more practice than one month to be able to use it. As it stands, I spend approximately ten hours daily studying Chinese, which for the moment feels great. I have not yet experimented enough with learning characters to be able to say something definite, bu I have devised a decent revision schedule; which looks like this:

So far, this seems to be working fairly well. I try to study a chapter for the first time before I go to bed. This takes roughly two hours (each green square). Then, the following morning directly after I wake up, I do an initial writing test (blue squares), meaning that I see how each character is pronounced and then I try to remember how to write it. This might take roughly an hour depending on what chapter it is. I then try to review the characters during the day just by looking at them (I have lists of the om my cell phone). Then, the next day, I do pinyin recall (yellow squares), which means that I see the characters and then write how they are pronounced. Such a check only takes about twenty minutes.

I have yet to figure out what do do in the long run, but considering the results for chapters one, two and three, it seems to be working pretty well. Progress is indicated by a percentage of completely correct answers. I also have a separate category containing characters I have written or remembered incorrectly from the third blue square and onward, because if I fail three times in a row, I feel that character needs special attention.

I have spoken much more Chinese during any of these two weeks than during my first, which perhaps is no wonder. I have so far found three people to do language exchange with, meaning that I teach them English and they teach me Chinese. Since I enjoy teaching English, this is a fairly good deal. It is very interesting to teach on a one-on-one basis with talented and motivated students. However, language exchange is something rather important, and, therefore, I think I will devote a separate post for that later. Let me instead sum up things for you:

Speaking: Last time, I said that speaking was a comparatively small problem. I was wrong. Speaking has been really hard, but I have done my best over these two weeks. I have felt frustration and despair during this time. However, yesterday, I spent five hours talking with one of my language exchange friends, and even though we of course spoke English as well, it still felt like a qualitative leap from earlier such occasions. Of course, I have a very long way to go, but I have at least begun to gather momentum.

Listening: Listening is much better now. I understand almost everything said in class, and if I do not, I do at least understand the general meaning of what is being said. I still have problems with out-of-context phrases (like somebody saying something to me in the street or in a restaurant), but if I sit down face to face with someone who speaks slowly, I am okay. It is not a qualitative leap compared to last time, but I can feel progress.

Writing: When I wrote the first report, my studying had no real structure. With a genuine idea of what I want (catch-up) and with a notion of how to achieve that, I feel that I have learnt very much. Learning characters takes a lot of time, but diligent and structured studying will take me there.

Reading: As with the other parts of this report, I am also much more optimistic about reading. Yesterday, sitting on the bus going home from the city, I realised that I can read a fair amount of signs, advertisements and so on. It felt great. Reading is like writing, but easier, so I hope to be able to increase my reading ability quickly. I have not yet begun to shift focus to literature exterior to our course books, but I will as soon as I have caught up.

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Today I had my first language lesson. Beforehand, I knew very little of what studying here would be like, but it turned out that so far, it is much like home. Except that everything is about twice as difficult. The reason for this is that most of the other students have studied twice as much as I have, and that they have done this in Taiwan. I think my Chinese education in Sweden was very good, but there is a big difference between studying Chinese in Europe and studying Chinese in a Chinese-speaking environment such as Taiwan. There are differences in the language, but at the moment, that does not seem like a problem.

However, even though the level is so high, I do not feel entirely lost, because most of the time I can understand what is said, both by the teacher and by the other students. The problem is that do not know enough words and that I cannot express myself properly in Chinese. Hopefully, this will change with time. Tomorrow, another student has offered to help me find the book shop in which can be found our course literature. Since I have a lot of time on my hands, I plan to buy the previous volumes in the same series, just to make sure I pick up more vocabulary (which might also be needed for volume we will actually use).

These first few months of catching up will be demanding and perhaps also frustrating, but I have no doubt that I will cope. I think this is an ideal situation to really learn Chinese fast, since the course is just on the right level (meaning that it is way too difficult and that I will need to study like crazy to pass). If I would have had other subjects to study, this would not have been such a good idea, but since I have not, I find this an ideal situation.

But wait, am I really so ambitious and optimistic about this? Yes, I am. Of course, I realise that this will be far from easy, but I also think that I stand a good chance of learning very much Chinese. Since that is the whole purpose with my going to Taiwan, it would be pretty bad if I did not take the chance, would it not?I certainly think so.Stay tuned for further updates on language, even though I think it will take a while to even begin moving.

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Typhoon Sinlaku

Although the hurricane Ike in the The Gulf of Mexico seems to be the focus of most Western media, the Pacific has given birth to quite a storm of its own. It is called Sinlaku (or Marce,  if you prefer) and, depending on how you count, is the 9th to 13th typhoon of this cycle of the pacific typhoon season. Here follow two pictures, the first a forecast from this morning and the other a satellite photo from yesterday:

Source: Typhoon News

Source: Weather Underground

For those of you who have had no opportunity to familiarise yourself with this kind of weather, a typhoon is a tropical cyclone formed west of the international dateline and north of the equator. Tropical storms east of the dateline are called hurricanes instead, so the name indicates where the storm is. The ocean outside East Asia is prolific when it comes to giving birth to cyclones; almost one third of the annual share is formed here. They are named collaboratively by a number of countries being affected by the typhoon (from what I gather, Sinlaku is a goddess worshiped on a Micronesian island).

The energies involved in forming a typhoon are derived from moist air ascending into the atmosphere, thus cooling down and giving off heat. A low pressure area is then established, into which more warm and humid air is sucked. Coriolis forces due to the rotation of the Earth make sure that there is a slight twist, leading to a counter-clockwise rotation of the whole forming storm system (on the southern hemisphere it would be clockwise). Such a system can provide very strong winds and also waves calamitous to coastal areas. Fortunately, they also lose momentum quickly when the encounter land masses such as Taiwan, and since I live on the north-west coast, we are shielded from the worst effects of most storms.

Tropical cyclones are divided into five categories according to the Saffir-Simpson scale (see Wikipedia article for more information), one through five, with five being the severest possible with winds exceeding 250 km/h. Sunlaku is currently designated as a category 3 tropical typhoon, which means sustained wind speeds of 178-209 km/h. Gusts exceeding 225 km/h have been recorded during the night. For those of you who live in Sweden to use as a reference, the hurricane Gudrun, which hit Sweden in January 2005, measured sustained wind speeds of 126 km/h and gusts of 165 km/h. It was a category 1 hurricane. Typhoons are common in Taiwan, so even though this is my first, it will definitely not be the last.

So, what does all this mean? Boredom, mostly. As long as the typhoon is looming over Taiwan, most things are closed down (including schools, business and shops). The wind is constantly howling in the alley outside my window and the rain is pouring down. Most people advise against going outdoors in these winds, because of the risk of being hit by flying objects such as signs, parts of roofs or whatever. I can hear things clattering in the street below now and then.

This is boring because it confines me to my apartment. If that was not the case, I would have done three things I have been looking forward to: meeting a new language exchange person, trying the swimming pool and going to a Moon Festival party with Pei-ying. Still, none of these setbacks are permanent, but a small delay still feels bad. And since some of you have asked, no, I am not in the least worried by the typhoon. I would be if I had been caught out hiking three days from civilisation, but I am not, so I will probably be okay.

Some useful links
News article about the typhoon
Taiwan Central Weather Bureau
Weather Underground
(with nice satellite pictures)
Article about Sinlaku
Article on tropical cyclones

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Yesterday, I had my first real look at Xinzhu, which is the city nearby. I have been there before, because Jerry took me there last week, but that was with a very specific goal in mind. This time, I went there to meet a new language exchange possibility (I will write about that later, this is about my adventures on my own) and to have a look around. I am tired of buying groceries at Seven Eleven.

The first challenge was finding the bus station and boarding the right bus in the right direction (the ride itself was estimated to thirty minutes). Apart from the fact that it was necessary to have the exact fare in coins (25 TWD), everything was alright. Thanks to the authors of my previous Chinese text book, because this would have been tricky if I had not known the word for “change” in Chinese. I was able to run to a nearby office and change money and return just in time. The bus was much like buses at home (and elsewhere in the world), but for one important aspect. Every time someone pushed the button to let the driver know they wanted to alight at the next stop, a little melody was played. This sounded like nostalgic, tinny music from some forgotten NES game when a level is completed and the score comes up. Quaint.

Unfortunately, I do not know very much about Xinzhu itself, apart from some basic things. According to Wikipedia, the city has population of 400 000, which is roughly half the size of Stockholm and four times the size of Linköping. It is very difficult to tell how big a city is just by walking around in it, but perhaps you can glean something from the pictures provided below. Xinzhu is the high technology centre of Taiwan, and many technical universities are located in or near the city (the one where I will study is of course one of them).

Since I did not do much apart from familiarising myself with the environment, I do not feel there is much more to write. Instead, I will let the pictures speak for themselves (or nearly so, at least):

This is Xinzhu train station, which is where my bus stopped.

This building was my landmark for my first forays into the jungle.

This is what a typical street looks like.

This is opposite to the train station.

The landscape is often crowded, but places like these are not uncommon.

As you can see, there are no pavements, which makes traffic more of a threat.

Still, the traffic was not as bad as I had imagined it would be.

Taiwanese people like scooters.

This stream with surrounding lush plants ran like a thread trough downtown Xinzhu.

The blend of trees, bushes, concrete and Chinese still feels exotic to me.

Even though it does not show very well in the picture, the stream was teeming with fish.

Cool trees.

A whole row of them. And the ubiquitous scooters.

Here is a crowd of them waiting for green light.

This area is an excavation of…

…the old city wall and a gate in it.

Random street.

I decided to follow the stream.

Which did not turn out to be a bad idea.

Chinese characters silver on red look nice.

At night, it is probably possible to hear this tree moving around, snatching children and tourists.

Actually, there are smaller streets as well.

And some sort of semi-indoors walkway.

Nightfall in Xinzhu.

Time to head back to the train station to meet Chen Yan-wen.

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