Days 31 through 38: Lions, Tigers and Bears.. Oh my…

Day 31

With our professional management class being over we only had our Mandarin class left. Today we continued focusing on characters and sentence structure. It was also our friend Margaret’s birthday, so we celebrated with cake and pop. After class we went down to get some food before coming back up to relax in the dorm. We didn’t really have any major plans for the day, so we went to top city mall during the night time. While there we shopped around and went out for a nice dinner. It was at a place called Brava Beer and the food was quite good, albeit in small portions. After the movie we all headed back to the dorm and settled in for the night. It was another movie night for us guys and then off to bed.

IMG_9563

Day 32

Today is a Thursday, but it is also the last day of class for the week. We continued our vocabulary building and using the new words in senates. I find myself continually using similar sentences, just with the new words plugged in. It might not be entirely what we are supposed to be doing, but I generally succeed more when doing so. The flash cards she has us use do not seem to be entirely helpful due to the lack of time we get to spend using them. But it is still a fun class and we are enjoying ourselves immensely. After class we all rushed to pack and get ready to head to Taipei. We all waited until the last minute, so our packing for the weekend was relatively frantic. Nate and myself finished packing and went down to get lunch before the bus ride. We got to ride on a Greyhound like bus for the three hour bus ride.

Once in Taipei we went straight to the youth center in which we would be staying. It was part of a large complex and even had its own convenience store underneath! On a hill beside the youth center you could see the Grand Hotel, which used to be Taiwan’s premier hotel. It looks quite beautiful in the sunset. We left the hostel and headed downtown to eat at a special restaurant. While there we met a chef who had apparently met our group from last year while they had been in Hualien. He was very nice to us and entertained us with funny stories throughout the meal. I am proud to say that I was one of the few people from our group to eat the mini octopus like thing put in front of us. It was chewy, but also quite tasty. After dinner we headed back to the youth hostel to go to bed. The guys watched In Time starring Justin Timberlake, which was on the only english channel we could find.

IMG_9585

Day 33

To the national palace museum we go! This is the biggest museum in Taiwan and one of the famous in Asia. It has artifacts that literally span thousands of years and are mostly from China. They say that if you looked at every item in the museum, most of which are rotated in and out of storage, it would take you around 10 years. We were given just a couple hours, but we gave it our best shot. There were a number of cool paintings and pottery pieces that we got to see. They also had a terracotta soldiers exhibit, complete with a few of the actual soldiers. For those who don’t know, the terracotta soldiers were statues made to be buried with an old Chinese emperor. He believed that they would help to protect him in the afterlife. Each statue is unique and has its own facial expression and appearance. It was really neat seeing the exhibit and learning about the history of the different pieces there.

Before leaving I stopped by the gift shop. While looking around I saw a really cool poster print of one of the art pieces. It only had a sticker price of 50 NT, so I figured why not buy it. Upon checking out I learned that it was only actually 15 NT. That means I got a really cool poster for just under $0.50 USD. I was happy with this deal as we headed to the Grand Hotel for lunch. I did not realize we were heading to a buffet and was quite happy to see all the food laid out. Walking into the hole was amazing and truly a unique experience for me. The food ended up tasting amazing and I ate way more than my fill. We looked round the hotel and perused the goods in a few shops. You could certainly see the clientele for some of these shops was high end, with Tea being as expensive as $100 USD for just 150 grams. A wee bit out of my price range.

IMG_9595

After leaving the hotel we headed to the fisherman’s wharf for a relaxing stroll along the storefronts. Once arriving there, my roommate and I got separated from the group in the MRT station. You would have thought that they would have noticed 600 pounds of man missing from the group. But they kept going and we didn’t see where they went. After about 15 minutes of searching we found them and walked around some more. Sitting by the water was quite relaxing and we made sure to spend most of our time on a pier. After relaxing for the evening, we left and headed back to the youth center. No movie tonight, but we did hang out in the common area and talk for a couple hours.

IMG_9603.JPG

Day 34

Today we got to go to the zoo. Once in the Taipei Zoo, Taiwan’s largest zoo, we went straight to see the Pandas. We were disappointed to find out that they were sleeping and wouldn’t really be too exciting to see. But after leaving that exhibit we got to see animals ranging from white rhinos to lemurs (Flashback to Zaboombafoo) to turtles. The zoo was quite hot and offered very little shade, but luckily also had numerous water refilling stations. The trip went well and it was off to Taipei 101 for the rest of the afternoon. This is formally the tallest building in the world and it also has one of the fastest elevators in the world. The elevator ascends at an astonishing 1010 meters per second, which is quite fast. The mall near the base of the tower was filled with stores I did not belong in. Places like Rolex, Gucci and Prada to name a few. We skipped shopping here and relaxed in a cafe for our free time. The iced latte was good and the atmosphere was enjoyable. After the drink we went to eat at a famous tumbling store in the mall. It is so popular that they have about 50 or so people waiting outside at all times. We made a reservation and then headed in later. They truly did have amazing dumplings and the meal was quite good overall.

IMG_9623

After eating it was time to ride the elevator up to the 89th floor of the tower. We did so and were greeted by an interesting sight. They had a number of stores and shops on the floor, with a 360 degree view of the surrounding city. We spent some time relaxing there and then headed to the center of the building. There is a 6 tonne ball there, that sways in order to protect the tower during earthquakes and other random events. The ball counteracts any disturbances and keeps the tower straight up. It was truly impressive to see. Our group then fractured into smaller groups to go see other things.  My roommate Nate and I decided to visit an Inn we had seen on the internet. The journey there took us through a market and past a number of cool stores. The inn itself is called the Three Lions Inn and provided a really neat atmosphere. It also made me miss home a little, since this was a western themed establishment. After leaving the inn we headed back to relax and go to sleep.

IMG_9641

Day 35

Today we headed home, but not before exploring more of the city. We first went to he Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. It was explained to us that he had helped to broker a truce between China and Taiwan that lasted to today. But many Taiwanese dislike him due to the fact that his actions had led to the death of a number of Taiwanese people. The memorial was a huge area and had a few large buildings on it. We went in a couple of them and then left to visit a marketplace. The marketplace was quite large and was also difficult to navigate through. We ate at the Toilet restaurant for lunch, which provided us with quite a few laughs. I’ll never get over eating chocolate ice cream out of a toilet shaped bowl. That was certainly unique. We walked around the market afterwards, stumbling upon a small mall. This mall was 5 stories tall, but quite narrow and shallow. Once we walked up to the 5th floor and explored it, we took the elevator down. That was practically a death wish, due to the fact that the elevator had plywood walls and looked to be in terrible condition. We rode it down and hoped the whole time that the elevator would not break while we were on it.

After the marketplace it was time to go. While we had a good time at the market, we were ready to head back. We picked our stuff up from the youth center and headed to the train station. We got to ride back on a bullet train! The train barely felt like it was moving, yet we made it back in 1 hour. That is including a half dozen stops to load people on and get people off of the train. Once we arrived we rode busses back to dorms. A few of us topped for fried chicken, which is always a great choice. The fried chicken shop near campus is amazing! We ate it and went to bed quite full and happy.

IMG_9689

Day 36

Next to last day of class today! We also focused on doing art projects in class, which was a huge plus. I made 4 cup holders and they all had the symbol for wealth on them. If you use that symbol, it’s supposed to be good luck for your finances. After class we had an enterprise visit with Jonnesway. They are a tool manufacturer in Taichung. There facility was really neat and we were personally escorted by the founder! He was very nice and even took pictures with all of us. We found out that they mainly produce tools for companies and not for individuals. They do business in over 100 countries and have been in business for just over 30 years. They believe in the age old mantra of making promises and sticking to them no matter what. We were all given a small screwdriver set as we left and I got to take a picture with a giant wrench. My parents would be so proud…

After Jonnesway we headed to the Wetlands. The view was beautiful and you could see thousands of baby crabs all over the ground. We walked past them and towards the water. In the distance you could see a large cruise ship, which reinforced how close to the ocean we really were. We left the wetlands and finished the evening at a tea shop. I enjoyed the food, but liked the tea even more so. I bought a bag of oolong tea as we left, which ended up costing me about $20 USD. I feel as though that was money well spent. A very busy day, but it is all starting to wind down. We will head home here in less than a week!

IMG_9720

Day 37

The last day of mandarin class! Today is was not about learning, but seeing what we have learned. We played a game designed to test this by having a number of cards with characters, phrases and vocabulary. If you missed a card, you would get a burglar token. If you received 9 burglar tokens, you lost the game. We practiced a few times and then went up to play in front of the teacher. I tied in my round, getting 6 out of 10 correct. I lost the tie breaker, but I couldn’t help feeling like Rocky after he lost to Apollo Creed. Yes, I went the distance. Yes, I am horrible at Mandarin. I got a little too excited.

After class we had a painting cultural class. I was super excited until I remember how terrible I am at painting. She showed us how to do the right strokes and movements, but I still did terrible. Both of mine came out looking dramatically different then what the examples we had looked like. I was so far off on one that she kinda looked stunned for a second and said “Very different. At least you’re being creative!” I believe that my second grade self would look at my artwork of today and realize that we haven’t improved in every skill since then. It is alright though, I certainly enjoyed myself. After class it was time to relax for a while and then off for dinner. We split up into our smaller groups again and headed to separate places. I ended up eating half an order of fries and popcorn chicken, along with some Doritos (The dinner of champions). The off to bed and to watch the Wolf of Wall street.

IMG_9733

Day 38

The first of our 3 free days. I slept in and relaxed in the early morning, heading to our banquet at noon. Once there we got certificates and a gift of tea and pineapple cakes. They also made a video of our adventures during this trip, which we all enjoyed. It is weird to think that 6 weeks went by so quickly. We only have two full days left and then we leave this Saturday. Thats pretty crazy to think about for me.

After the banquet we went out to eat at a pizza buffet. The food was amazing and we all ate so much. They bring the food out to you, which was dangerous for me. I ate so many different types of pizza that I thought I might explode. We shopped around after leaving and I bought a small gift for my cousin. When we got back it was time to relax for a while and then head out. Tonight was our last time eating at our favorite dumpling store. The food was as good as always and we enjoyed it. Now it is time to relax and watch a movie to finish out the day. Life is good.

Advertisements

Days 26 through 30: These are the voyages of the hefty traveler…

Day 26

The best way to enjoy a Friday is to start if off with Mandarin class… right? Today’s class dealt with further studies of vocabulary and characters. Our studies have lead now encompassed about 60 or so characters. They still are very hard to remember and most of us seem to be struggling. But we enjoy the struggles and keep trying to learn. The vocabulary and sentence building seems to be going much better.

After class we left to go to a burger and waffle restaurant. We sat down and most of us ordered burgers. I saw an awesome sounding peanut butter and cheese burger, which I immediately ordered. I made another translation error it seems. Apparently unless the description mentions meat, you shouldn’t expect meat in your order… So I ate a wonderfully underwhelming bread, cheese and peanut butter sandwich. After lunch we headed back to the 711 and waited for the time to meet up and head out on an adventure.

Our trip today was to the rainbow village, but first we stopped by to look at a local church. The church was small, but the design was quite unique. It’s roof sloped down straight to the group and it looked like a giant teepee. After the church we continued our journey through town to the Rainbow Village. Don’t let the name fool you though, because the village is actually just a few buildings pained in a number of colors and images. It was kinda underwhelming with what we expected. But we did witness a kid of about 11 or 12 years try to open a pop and have it explode all over him. That was very entertaining! After we left the village we headed to go eat dinner and then back to our rooms for the night. Of course us guys all watched another movie!

IMG_9478

IMG_9486.JPG

Day 27

Today was a free day and so we treated it very much like that. There was an unspoken concusses that today was meant for sleeping in, so we slept in until about 11:30 and left at 12:00 to go see a movie. The movie theaters in Taiwan are on the top floors of their malls, which is interesting. We went to the IMAX theater at the top of Top City mall. Before hand I had some wonderful spaghetti, soup and bread. Once in the theater we decided to watch Star Trek: Beyond in IMAX 3D. This was a great choice and the movie was phenomenal. Even the couple people in our group who hadn’t seen all the new Star Trek movies enjoyed this one a lot. I ate something labeled a hamburger on their concessions menu, but it ended up being a hot dog with relish and ketchup. It only cost us 1 NT with our tickets, so it was a very cheap deal (about 3 US pennies). We left the theater and spent most of the rest of the evening working on papers for our professional management class. We finished the evening with a movie and then went to bed.

IMG_9490.JPG

Day 28

Trip out of town to Lugang Township, which at one time help Taiwan’s second largest city. The city was neat and had a number of fun temples. We got to tour some of them and further lear about Taiwan’s culture and beliefs. While walking around the city we came across a large dispenser of tea outside a shop. It turns out that some shops put the tea out for people to drink free of charge. It also turns out this tea is scalding hot and supposedly better for you than a cold beverage on a hot day. Tell that to my burnt tongue.

After we left Lugang we traveled to a glass factory, store and museum. They had a number of wonderful exhibits there and it kinda reminded me of home. I’ve always enjoyed rising the glass blowing studio at The Works in Newark, Ohio and this reminded me of that. I bought a gift for my mother at one of the shops in the glass factory and also got myself a free glass mug with a cup of cold coffee. We left the factory to head home and work on papers. I ended up wasting most of my time, but I did finish the paper. We ended the night with another movie and that was it. Another good day in the books!

IMG_9499.JPG

Day 29

The always dreaded early morning class slot went by surprisingly quickly. We focused on conversations and senate building, with more vocabulary and characters mixed in. It’s humorous seeing how some of the characters came to be. It also seems to limit the usefulness of them, since most of them wither have very specific meanings or very general meanings. Its hard to use words to describe something new. We left class, ate lunch and headed out on an enterprise visit. This visit was to a company called Raystar, which is owned by Waystar. Raystar specializes in making OLED displays for companies across the world. The OLED is different from an LED because it has an organic layer mixed in with the traditional layers that make up an LED. The OLED also seemed to be more refined and bright than the LED. Their factory was very clean. We even had to switch shoes or put on shoe socks when we went into production rooms. Their offices and factory space being so close together was very interesting. It certainly made touring their facilities easier.

After leaving the factory we headed back to the dorm, but first a few of us got out at an acupuncture pharmacy. My roommate Nate had hurt his wrist during our martial arts class and Greta told him this would help. After sitting in there for about an hour we were informed acupuncture wasn’t the answer for this and they wrapped up his hands. Those of us who came with him were quite disappointed in the fact that we didn’t get to see him poked with needles. We left the studio and had fried chicken for dinner. They certainly know how to make some good fried chicken in Taiwan!

IMG_9507

Day 30

This day was a day of class. It is our last day of our professional management class and we also had another mandarin class. The mandarin class was focused on characters and recognizing them. It was quite hard, because we can’t quite recognize that many yet. But our professor taught us that if we memorized the characters we’ve learned so far, we should be able to communicate with anyone. After mandarin class we had lunch and then our Professional Management class. Today in class we presented the presentations based off of the papers we had written. My paper focused on studying abroad and how it prepared one for the global workforce. I also tied in emerging markets and how studying abroad in one of them can be even more helpful. The statistics back up that studying abroad helps students transition into the workforce and also helps them grow as individuals.

After class we headed out to go find something to eat. Tonight a small group of us went to Pizza Rock. I had pasta and a small pizza, which were quite delicious. After we left dinner we stumbled across a small coffee supplies store. Inside the store they had a number of different coffees and coffee brewing devices. It was impressive the different number of coffees and coffee products they had. I personally bought a Jamaican coffee and just enjoyed the atmosphere of the store. It was an ice night, capped off by watching Tropic Thunder. The trip is starting to wind down, but we are all still enjoying ourselves a lot.

 

Days 22 through 25 : Back to the Grind

Day 22

Back to class for us! Today we just had a regular Mandarin class. We learned more vocabulary and characters. We are slowly coming along in our abilities to understand and communicate in Mandarin. It helps that our teacher explains why the words mean what they do. The combination of the characters with the words they represent helps to further cement them in our minds. After class we had a quick lunch in town and watched a movie back in the dorm. The movie choice of the day was Labyrinth, of which my friends walked away confused. Seeing it through their eyes, I could see how trippy a movie like that may seem. For dinner we went downtown to the Charlie Brown Cafe. This was an enjoyable experience, because it combined reminders of home with great food. I had fish and chips, along with special milk tea. What made the milk tea special I will never know. All i know was that it was creamy and good. We left the restaurant and relaxed for the rest of the night.

IMG_9403

Day 23

Another day of classes in the books! Today was spent primarily on new vocabulary, which was fine. The class flies by when Professor Yang makes work on sentences and speaking. Between classes we had noodles and then our professional management class again. This class doesn’t go by very swiftly, but it does make you think. Professor Hung likes to ask philosophical questions and asks us our opinions on a number of issues. For dinner my roommate and I decided to forage out on our own to find rice. We saw it looked stormy, but didn’t think about it. That was our mistake. It poured like I have not yet seen while in Taiwan. We were drenched to the bone and could not find the place recommended to us. After giving up we walked into a random restaurant, which turned out to specialize in rice. Go figure! We had some good food and headed back to the dorm. Back in the dorm we watched a movie and headed to bed.

Day 24

Third day of classes for the week. Today we began more heavily designing sentences and using differing tenses. I personally enjoy saying beer in Mandarin, so that is what I manage to put that into most of my sentences. My teacher gets a kick out of it and it also gives me a good laugh. We were asked to make a dialogue and present it in front of the class. My dialogue consisted of going to 7-11 to find all of the beautiful wives, since we couldn’t figure out beautiful women. Ah, got to love learning a new language. We got out of class and headed up to our one time martial arts class. I was super excited about the class until I realized he only used guys as examples for his defense moves. There were only three of us males and the class was just under 3 hours… It was a painful few hours. My hands and arms got contorted into some pretty crazy angles. It was a fun time though and we all enjoyed ourselves. I still don’t forgive the instructor for smiling while he did those moves… he enjoyed it a little too much. For dinner we decided to go out to a western restaurant called “Gary Bee ’69”. They are known for their hamburgers, so thats what I figured I’d try. This of course led me to ordering the largest, most expensive burger on the menu. The burger is called “Giant Beef Burger” and truly lived up to its name. Holding the burger in my hand made my hands look regular sized. Which they aren’t. They are quite large. I enjoyed this huge burger for under $10 US dollars and left quite a happy man. Starting to get into a certain rhythm for this trip and everything is flying by! Its part of how these kind trips work I guess.

IMG_9432

IMG_9442

Day 25

Another day of Mandarin, another day of failing miserably at learning the language. Today we got even more in depth into make sentences in the language. I had to make 16 sentences and it is not as easy as it sounds. But in the end all ended well and I was fine. We began learning colors today, which was also fun. I personally like Red, because it was the first one I learned. We had a professional management class today following the mandarin class and talked more with the Professor on different ways of thought. He challenged us to think about things from different perspectives and reminded us that the welfare of our fellow man is sometimes on us. He talked about charity and how in many asian countries you’ll sometimes have 3 or more generations living together under the same roof. After Professor Hung’s class I went back to the room and watched “Full Metal Jacket” with the guys. We sent to get dumplings after and had a nice evening of conversations. It was a good day and hopefully tomorrow will be the same! Thanks again for reading my blog and I am sorry this week was so boring. Not as much time for adventures when you have work to do! This weekend will be much better!

 

Days 17 through 21: A Little Catching Up To Do

Wow, I have failed recently in updating my journals. During our week long series of excursions I was busy traveling and exploring, while also updating another blog. The other blog was for the Dauch College of Business and Economics. I posted similarly to here, but just through that outlet. But I’m back now!

Day 17

Today we headed out to the beach. We began our trek south down the coast to get to the southern tip of Taiwan. On the way we stopped and toured Honor Seiki, a vertical turning center maker. Their machines are used various companies, including many in the aerospace industry. These companies use the vertical turning centers to perform precision cutting and drilling. The machines take up to 6 months to build are built to customer specifications. As we toured, their factory had many similar machines but not too many looked exactly alike. A highlight of the factory tour was seeing a Cincinnati Machines logo on one of the machines. Its just cool being halfway around the world and seeing something destined to be sent back near you.

We left the factory and continued on our way. We had one more stop and that was the Taiwan Soya-mixed meat Museum. They started out with a mom and her roadside stand, eventually growing into a large display of taiwanese cuisine and agriculture. We ate noodles and continued on the way to Kenting. Once at Kenting we checked into our hotel. They gave us the best rooms they had, which were wonderful. We left the hotel and took taxis to a night market in the city. The night market was large and we got to experience even more exciting foods. We even got handed fliers about a local strip club, which we laughed down and kept walking. That certainly was not anything we were remotely interested in. I personally tried dragonfruit for the first time and I loved it! We walked to the beach and got a wonderful view of the ocean at night. It was a wonderful evening, followed by a good nights sleep.

Day 18

Beach day! I’ve been extremely blessed during my lifetime to have been on some amazing beaches. From San Diego to Capri to Cancun, I’ve stepped foot on some amazing beaches. The beaches near Kenting are definitely up there in their beauty. We got to the beach in the morning and walked around the surrounding area. There were a number of neat shops right off the beach and I bought a coconut. It was neat, because the man used a simple to tool to punch a hole into the coconut and then placed a straw straight into it. The liquid was tasty, but quite different than I expected. My dad later told me that there are some potential sicknesses that can be inflicted by doing this, but hey, I still think it was worth it. Besides, drinking straight out of the coconut wasn’t my worst decision of the day. The worst decision I made that day wasn’t wearing sunscreen.

I don’t always listen to my mom and this time wasn’t any different. I went and laid on the beach for a number of hours in the heat of the day. I was smart enough to keep my upper body under an umbrella while also wearing a shirt. I wasn’t smart enough to keep my legs covered or in the shade as well. The sun burn I got was of tremendous proportions. I am writing this a week later and my skin still is quite red and covered in old blisters. So yes, I should have listened to mom (Which I’m sure she is going to screenshot and hang up as soon as she reads this). So we left the beach later in the afternoon and went back to hotel. While there we barbecued and relaxed in our rooms. Which is where the most magical thing ever happened. Our tv broke! Yes, I know, thats not what you expected. But when we called down to service, they sent someone up to fix it. When he checked it out, he said I’ll be right back. He came back up within 10 minutes with an entirely new TV. This is at 10:30 pm. He installed our new Tv and we suddenly had a fixed tv within 45 minutes of calling down. The best customer service I’ve ever received!

IMG_9269

Day 19

To the East coast we go! We left Kenting today and headed up the coast towards Hualien. My legs were quite sore today from the sunburn I had received the day before, so riding in a bus for a number of hours was quite the experience. We stopped along the way to see a different part of the cost line, one of which had a small island attached to it. The walk along the bridge to the island was nice, but the view from the island was even better. It provided a great vantage point to look at both Taiwan and the sea. We spent an hour here and then continued along towards Hualien. Once in Hualien we stopped to get something to eat. We sat down in a noodle shop and were entertained by the workers. It turns out that the shop was family owned, as is very common in Taiwan, and even the small children worked. It seemed that the parents cooked in the back, while their 10 year old son took orders and brought out the food. There also was a daughter who looked to be about 6 or 7. Sometimes she would take orders out too, but she was quite shy. We left the restaurant and headed towards our bed and breakfast. Once there we were escorted to our rooms, which was a surprise for myself and my friend Nate. We were treated by pink bedsheets covered in hearts. They even had these wonderful white lace canopies. Yes, we were certainly sleeping manly that night.

IMG_9284

Day 20

Today was a relaxing day for me. Some of the group went white water rafting, but my sun burn was at quite a bad point. My legs were in no condition to be outside all day, so I stayed back with a couple of friends. We walked around and explored the city near where we were staying. This first involved lunch at a place called the Three Koalas. It was a wonderful Australian owned Italian restaurant, which sounds weird now that I think about it. I had honey pizza and milk tea, which turned out to be a pretty sweet lunch. We met the owner and then left. After leaving we shopped for the next few hours. Stopped at a number of clothing, grocery and miscellaneous stores. I happened to even find a hobby store that sold Magic: The Gathering cards. I like to buy magic cards in the native languages of the countries I visit and this was the third time I’ve been able to do so. We went back to the dorm that night and then headed out to the night market with the rest of the group. The night market was good sized and even had a concert going on. We stopped at the concert and enjoyed an hour and a half of music we didn’t understand. It also turns out that the mayor of the city was there. We had never heard of any of the acts, but they certainly entertained us for the night.

IMG_9303

Day 21

Today was relaxing, but very adventurous. Greta stayed with the three of us today while the group went river trekking. Again, our bodies just were not good to be in the sun. We decided to take a bus around the scenic areas near the city. Once we got to the station we were greeted by a taxi driver who promised us a better deal. He was so insistent, we ended up going with him. The benefit of this is that he knew better spots and would be more patient than the bus service. We got to go at our own place and see more than we would have before. It worked out great for us! Our first stop was along the side of a mountain, beside a river. We got some great pictures and walked along a trail. We drove farther into the mountains and stopped at a national park. They had some awesome ice cream and great views from the lodge there. It was neat being completely surrounded by mountains. The beauty and lack of human touch here was breathtaking. Even where there was human influence, such as roads and villages, they were so overrun with nature they almost looked natural.

It was truly breathtaking and something that I will never forget. After leaving the national park we went to a monastery. There was a bridge there that stretched between two mountains. I saw the weight limit of the bridge, which almost scared me crossing. But in the end I manned up and walked across. It looked quite sturdy, but swayed just enough to make me hurry across. We left the monastery, went to another park for lunch, and then headed back to meet with the group. We left for the night market again and went to the second night of the concert.We got there early and got great seats. The acts this night weren’t as good, but there were some english songs! Adele seemed to be a popular choice and luckily the guy singing her songs had some good pipes. There were random english words and phrases scattered throughout the songs we heard. It was entertaining hearing a song in Mandarin and suddenly hearing “I am the champion!” three times. At the end of the concert we witnessed a fireworks show, which sorta made up for being out of the country during the fourth of July. It was a good way to end our trip around the island.

IMG_9384

Day 21

Heading home to Providence! We left Hualien and traveled through the center of the island. We were told this was supposed to be a 7 hour journey, but it ended up being a 10 hour journey. We traveled literally to the top of the mountains. We were 3000 meters up, where the temperature was quite chilly. This was too my liking, since my body is covered in a nice furry coat of hair. The stops along the mountains were neat opened my eyes to the entrepreneurial spirt of Taiwan. There would be random restaurants just on the side of the road, high in the mountains and away from anything else. Inside you’d find some small shops and specialty foods. They all had decks overlooking the valleys and mountains near them. It was cool seeing places like this having so much success so far away from any other signs of civilization. We traveled for most of the day and finally got to Providence at about 6:30 pm (We had left at about 8:00 am). During that trip I ate a bowl of noodles, some weird chocolate bar, a roll of Mentos and two bags of Doritos. Yes, I take after my father in my love of salty goodness.

IMG_9384.JPG

Days 13, 14, 15 & 16: Getting Wet and Experiencing Painful Massages

Day 13

Well, typhoon Nepartak was certainly mild in the east coast. We had been warned how the east coast had been devastated, so we had prepared for the worst. We were then really surprised when the typhoon basically missed us completely. It had curved up the east coast and largely avoided those of us on the west coast. Seeing some of the damage it caused on the east coast further increased my thankfulness. I was very blessed to have many people praying for myself and the other students here. Providence also did a good job preparing us for the storm, so we were very well taken care of overall.

Classes were preemptively canceled for Friday, so we suddenly had no storm and nothing to occupy our time with. We still decided to spend most of the day in the dorm, only leaving to get some lunch from the 711 near Providence University and later to see a movie. We chose to spend most of our day watching relatively intense movies on Netflix. We first watched the Hurt Locker and followed it up with Platoon. If you have never watched those movies, then you would only need to know that one deals with a bomb squad in the Middle East and the other deals with the Vietnam war. We decided to end the night with a light hearted watching of The Purge: Election Year at the Tiger Mall in downtown Taichung. It was a good way to spend a day that was supposed to be ruined by a storm.

Day 14

Today we started out early and headed out to Xi Tou National Educational Area. It is basically a large national park located roughly 2 hours away from Providence University. We hiked all over the park and most of that hiking was uphill. It kind of reminded me of my times at Tar Hallow 4-H camp when I had to climb up a steep hill to my cabin. Except in this case the hill did not end after a hundred meters or so, but instead kept stretching upwards for over 1300 meters. It took us quite a while to climb up that hike and see what we were told was the giant tree. It turns out the giant tree died a couple years ago and is now a husk of its former self. So we labored up the side of a mountain for a very disappointing site. Some of us chose to continue down the hill a different way and see other sights. We got lucky and saw some beautiful mountains, ponds and forest. I happened to try and hop across the rocks on one pond and fell in. That was not my most shining moment. Others decided to continue up the hill, which was their mistake. They ended up climbing for over an hour and had to run back down to be back in time.

We left the park area and headed to a tea processing and making site in Chuxiang. It was awesome picking our own leaves, putting them out to dry and then massaging them to break their membranes. I happen to love loose leaf tea and purchased three different types of tea. It turns out that they had 5 types for sale and that all 5 types come from the same plant. It is how they process the tea leaves that leads to the different types of tea they sell. The problem with the tea industry in Taiwan right now is that young people do not want to come pick the leaves. Tea leaf pickers get paid by the weight of their pickings, which isn’t very much today. This had led to a number of tea farms being bought out by Chinese investors and caused tea prices to go up. We went back to the dorm and relaxed until the late hours of the night. During those, we went out to the club Lobby. It was a lively time dancing and enjoying the music. A very full Saturday in the books.

Day 15

Sunday was a very uneventful day. I woke up and went to get some food in town. This was followed by a day of watching Netflix and playing Pokemon. Yes, I spent the entire day watching episodes of That 70’s show and playing Pokemon. It was a good way of relaxing and recovering after a week of classes and adventures. I’ve learned through my very limited experience abroad that it is important to experience as much as possible, but it is also very possible to burn out. Spending 6 weeks in Taiwan is not a time to always watch Netflix, but it is important to take time to relax and spend some time doing something I enjoy.

Day 16

Today was much more eventful then the day before! We woke up early, got breakfast and left to visit the Dajia Jenn Lann Temple. This was another temple visit, but it was neat to see a much smaller temple then before. This is a actually the oldest and most famous temple in Taiwan. The different floors of the temple were dedicated to different deities, but Mazu is the primary deity respected here. There were food offerings and incense spread throughout the temples floors. It was very interesting to see the compare my experience here with traditional Christian churches. There seems to be a much lower emphasis on services in Buddhist and Hindu temples, but a much higher emphasis on offerings and random personal visits. We left the temple to have rice and noodles at a nearby shop. Following that we headed to one of the more painful experiences I’ve ever willfully subjected myself too.

This painful experience I am referring to is a massage. Yes, a peacefully neck, shoulder and foot massage. Or so one would think. Only we went to the twisted house of pain version of massages. The taiwanese massages involve finding specific pressure points on your body and really working them. I mean elbow grinding into your shoulder working them. It was truly hard to not cry out in astonishment when he originally placed his elbow on my upper trapezius muscle and began to press down. But it was over in ten minutes and I sat off to the side. Only to willingly submit myself to more torture in the form of a foot massage. MY Of my, this was twice as bad as the neck and shoulder massage. The pressing and prodding by this guy left me writhing in pain. I am not too proud or manly to admit the exclamations of pain I made while getting my feet massaged. Nor am I happy to admit the look of pure pleasure my torturer had on his face as he massaged me. But it all happily ended after 20 minutes. I failed to mention that after these massages you feel great. Incredibly loose and limber, with all of the massaged area feeling better than before. It’s just a tortuous process getting there. But I’m glad I did it and I also ended up supporting a great cause. The people massaging us were blind or nearly blind. They mastered the message craft and this was their way of supporting themselves. It was cool to be able to support such a great group of individuals. Even if they did delight in my pain. We left the massage place and had a nice dinner at The Pizza Rock. This was followed up by a late night Netflixing of Kingsman: The Secret Service and now bed. Thank you all for continuing to read my blog!

 

Days 9, 10, 11 and 12: Tea, Tours and Typhoons

Day 9

I had thought that I had already written this post, but when I checked again later it turns out that it never posted! So I will give you a much fuller blog post today than usual. I was also informed that I wasn’t posting enough about the wonderful educational opportunities that I am getting here at Providence University. Our Mandarin class is 3 hours every week day and includes education in both Chinese characters and language. My skills in the class are not the best, but I am getting better. So far this professor has not pretended to stab herself in the stomach over my lack of ability. Yes, I used to be that bad at Mandarin in my class in Ashland.

The day started with Mandarin class, where we began our education in Chinese characters. We then left for a cultural trip, which is also part of the program. Our trip today involved us going to a tea house in downtown Taichung city. We rode a series of busses and got to the tea house in the middle of the afternoon. It was like a a green oasis in the middle of the city. Being from rural Ohio I grew up with a love of the outdoors and its scenery, so it was nice to be in a more natural beauty for a couple hours. We walked into the ancient looking wooden building hidden amongst all of the greenery and were escorted back into a small tea room. On the way there was a beautiful small pond with Koi fish in it. While in the tea room we all were asked to take off our shoes and sit on the floor. There are few smells more pungent than 15 people taking off their shoes after walking around in 90+ degree heat for the past hour or so. After a time the smell went away and we got to appreciate the cultural significance of the tea house. We were served a number of taiwanese pastries to start off, with the sweet potato balls being the crowd favorite. They served us both iced and hot teas. The hot tea was an oolong tea, with the iced teas being honey and berry flavored. We greatly enjoyed these in a wonderful setting. As we left the building we were allowed to feed the fish! They went into a feeding frenzy and it made for a great spectator sport.

After leaving the teahouse we decided to head to an American diner for dinner. Since it was the 4th of July, we had to celebrate! Even the non-Americans in our group seemed excited to take part in any celebrations we planned on taking. Patrick, our Canadian friend,  has since been converted to being an American (In our opinion at least). We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Early Bird Diner in Little Europe, which is part of Taichung City. Our dinner made us feel slightly more at home. I’ve been extremely blessed to be able to travel all over the world these past few years, but I’ve grown to appreciate the United States more with every country I visit. There is something to be said for the freedoms and liberties we enjoy in our country. Many others aren’t as fortunate as us. I’m loving my time in Taiwan, but it certainly helps me to appreciate living in the greatest nation on the planet.

Day 10

Today was a day of classes, with no real adventures to report. We had our mandarin class and learned more vocabulary and characters. There is a history involved with each Chinese character, many of them based off of ancient meanings. Anything from a waterfall to a pregnant women have been used to help make up the symbols involved in Chinese characters. Over time the characters have morphed away from their original shapes, but you can still see their general origins. After Mandarin class we ate lunch and then had our professional management class. Our Professional Management class covers a lot of ground, ranging from traditional Chinese texts to modern Macroeconomics. Today was more of an overview and did not delve too deeply into any material. We learned about what was expected of us in the class and the homework we would have. This class is to serve the dual function of teaching us more about business, while also teaching us more about asian culture. The rest of the day following the class was uneventful and did not involve any real adventures. We simply went out to eat and explore the city more. Our day ended with a movie in the dorm, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and sleep.

Day 11

Today we started out with Mandarin class again. We began to learn about food terms today. Terms ranging from Han Bao (Hamburger) to Yi tali Mian (Pasta). Professor Yang is very patient and gets a kick out of mispronunciations. She keeps the class at a fast pace and puts up with students who may seem to not always be fully into the lesson. She mixes in culture while teaching us about various terms. Todays class went by relatively fast and we went on to lunch in good spirits. Instead of a class, we had a company visit planned for the afternoon.

Our company visit was to Ocean Technologies Company. They are a privately held company based out of Taichung and have been in existence for just over 15 years. In that time they have opened up two separate factories and expanded their influence globally. They produce high tech drilling machines for various companies, including BMW. Their drills can drive a hole as small as .08 mm wide. That is an extremely small hole, only .01 mm bigger in diameter than a human hair. The visit was very educational and we learned a lot about what it’s like to operate a company in Taiwan. We left the company and went to visit the first traditional Chinese style manor in Taiwan. It is also the best preserved o its kind remaining in Taiwan. We toured the grounds and were given the opportunity to enjoy some tea inside one of the rooms. Inside one of the last rooms we visited was a collection of ancient guns. One of the guns was so long that it required two people to hold. Jokes aside, that gun certainly looked like a small cannon. After touring the grounds we left and went to a nice Italian restaurant. They served salad, soup, bread, steak, desert, milk tea, a glass of wine and unlimited water all for around $13 us dollars. The affordability of being in Taiwan, again, is astounding. Our night ended with a movie back in the dorm, “The Dictator”, and sleep… at least we almost went to sleep before my roommate found a cockroach in his bed. Which entertained me for about the next 15 minutes. He apparently is not too fond of cockroaches and freaked out purposely. Yes, I love Taiwan.

Day 12

Today is the day that a Typhoon is supposed to hit Taiwan! As I sit writing this it is a category 5 and is also supposed to be the largest storm of the year. It has not fully hit us yet, but the dorm is basically on lock down. Classes for tomorrow have already been canceled and we are simply waiting to weather out the storm. Today started with Mandarin class, of which today was focused on sentence building and learning drink related terms. We learned Hong cha (Red Tea, which is black tea in reality), Hong jiu (Red Wine) and Pi Jiu (Beer), among others. We practiced our senates with each other and had some interesting results. Nate, my roommate here, came up with the sentence “Where are the beautiful wives at?” So yes, sometimes learning can be fun! After class we had our professional management class and that also lasted 3 hours. During the class we talked about our career aspirations and what we want to learn while here. About how someday we could be stationed in a foreign country and that it may be undesirable. We talked about the attitude of how you work and how that effects your productivity.

After class we took a walk to the 711 and bought more provisions for our room. We were told to buy clean water and foods that could last us 1 to 3 days. During the typhoon there is a chance the electricity could go out and we don’t want to be stuck without clean water or food. We ordered pizza to the dorm and ate it for dinner inside the dorm. We were told to eat inside the dorm and not leave. We happily obliged this and settled down to eat. Currently we (Myself and 4 other guys) are chilling in our dorm room watching “Saving Private Ryan”. The storm winds are quite intense, but the rain hasn’t started yet. We are prepared, but aren’t looking forward to this storm. It’s supposed to be quite intense. Electricity could go out for a few days, so I’ll try to update my blog again in two days. I’d like to put a dramatic ending to this post, but I feel that’s a little overdramatic. So I’ll just sit shirtless in my room and eat Oreos. God bless.

Days 7 & 8: A Monastery, a Lake and a Jade Market.

Day 7

On the bus at 7:30 and off on adventures we go. We had a new bus driver, but thankfully he also let us play music over the microphone. The journey went by quickly to the likes of WHAM!, John Denver and Ricky Martin. We arrived at Chung Tai Chan Monastery, a Buddhist Monastery, in the early morning and got some amazing pictures of the surrounding mountains. Steep mountainous terrain makes up roughly 30% of Taiwan’s geography and some beautiful scenery. The monastery was beautiful and melded with the surrounding mountains in an enchanting way. We took a tour and left to travel to Sun Moon Lake.

The day in Sun Moon Lake was awesome! We ordered fried hot dogs and they turned out to be corn dogs… which makes a lot of sense in hindsight. Sun Moon Lake is basically an uphill amusement park, a small city and also a lake. We rode cable cars up the mountain to the lake part of Sun Moon Lake. The journey up was beautiful, but kinda scary. You begin reading the weight limits on the cable cars and then question every loose end you ever left in your life. But I survived the cable car ride and walked around the town at the bottom. I witnessed honeycomb being used to make organic honey and then got to sample the honey. There is something to be said for the quality of a purely natural product. After walking around the town we watched a cool dance and singing routine by a local group. We crossed the lake in a boat and decided to ride two other boats across the lake. The waves made the ride a little too exciting for my tastes

Day 8

Some days are best spent in travel recovery. Today was mostly one of those days. The morning was spent by waking up late and then visiting a dumpling place for lunch. I made the mistake of not only ordering the wrong dumpling type for half of my dumplings, but the wrong type for all of my dumplings. I wanted Spicy Korean pork dumplings, as well as corn and pork dumplings. I instead ordered leek dumplings and garden dumplings. Neither of those types of dumplings held any meat in them, which did not make me entirely happy with myself. It brings to mind some ancient Wendy’s commercial about “Where’s the beefWe went back to the dorm and relaxed for a few hours until it was time to head out to the Jade Market later that night. It turns out that it is very hard to tell if Jade is real or fake. There are a number of methods to tell, but in reality you most likely have to just hope what you’re buying is real. I decided against spending thousands of NT on a piece of Jade and instead bought an old style painting. The painting it turns out is of an ancient story of a wise man who was thrice asked to be the advisor for a king. He denied him the first two times, but was so impressed by the king on the third attempt that he agreed and became the advisor. It is an interesting piece of art and one that I bargained down to two fifths of its original price. I left the Jade house quite a happy man… That was until I stepped outside and was hit by a torrential downpour. That was followed by a trek back across the city via public transportation and my own legs. I ended the night happy, but not entirely dry. Ah the ups and downs of travel!