Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sun Moon Lake

So I have not been doing a very good job of keeping up on my blog.. and A LOT has happened since my last Blog post. So I'm going to briefly write on the big points from these past few months.

This is Sun Moon Lake! It's the largest body of water in Taiwan. Surrounded by mountains, it's so beautiful! It's in Nantou County, which is in the middle of Taiwan. A Major Tourist attraction. We stayed in a hotel that over looked the lake (There's a picture of the view on the right above), and stayed there for two  nights. One room was for me, my two cousins, my brother and I; and the other room was for my older brother, parents, and grandmother. A bit of a tight squeeze, but we made do! :) In the morning, my parents, brother and I went for a bike ride around the lake. It's a pretty small lake compared to Lake Mendocino or Tahoe, but still gorgeous. And Clean! People aren't aloud to swim in it, but boats are aloud (Except for speed boats and such). Later in the day we went for a boat ride around the lake. (To the left is a picture of our tour boat). We visited different parts of the lake, including a Taoist temple on

the other side of the lake called the Xuanguang temple. We walked up many beautiful sets of stone stares on the mountain side from where our tour boat was tied out on the dock, to reach the temple. From the top we had a great view of the Lake (Picture of the view, under). Many tourist were also in this area, taken by different tour boats. But theu didn't just

come to visit the Xuanguang temple, but to also try some food that area is famous for. Tea Eggs! You can see a picture of them here to the right. They might look a little intimidating at first, that's how I felt; for I have never seen or tried anything like them before! But I promise you, they're delicious! Probably my favorite food in Taiwan, so far. They are boiled in
a certain kind of tea, thats how the brown lines form on the boiled egg. They are supposed to be good for the body; but that's what my host mom says for most of the things she wants me to try to eat :P. We visited a few other places around the lake, then went back to the Hotel to enjoy a buffet provided.  That night we walked along the lake to the Town Yuchi, where we got to listen to a Couple of Taiwanese Opera Singers! So cool! They were a Mother and Daughter Opera singer. The Daughter is quite famous, being in the German Opera! They performed many famous songs, one being 'Summertime'. 

The next day, we set off to visit the Formosa Aboriginal Cultural Village. Very cool. It's Taiwan's largest outdoor Museum, showcasing nine Taiwan-Aboriginal villages. Each 'village' shows aspects of these village's cultures; by displaying their native clothing, housing, food, etc. Very Interesting! Taiwan's aboriginals are like Americas' Native Americans; the were the first people to populate Taiwan, before the Chinese, and before Portuguese or Japanese Occupation. To get to this park, we had to take a cable car over the mountains. So cool! This area is more like forest than the jungles you can see in other parts of the island, but it's still so different from North California's forests! So many different kinds of trees and shrubs, colorful birds flying about, not to mention they have Monkeys! Not so many populate the forest around Sun Moon Lake, but deeper in the mountain range there are a lot! Once we reached the Aboriginal Park, we walked around; it was beautiful. Surrounded by forest (As you can see in the photo above). As we walked through, we saw statues of aboriginals, many of deer. This is so because the 
legend of how sun moon lake was discovered is the Thao Native Hunters were chasing a white deer, and the deer led them to the location of the beautiful lake, which was full of fish. Here is one of the many statues I saw in the Aboriginal Cultural Village on the right. As we walked through the rest of the park, we saw many 'villagers' in costume, educating people on the nine different aboriginal cultures/villages. We passed one woman making blown-glass jewelry, similar to the jewelry style of the villages. After walking threw the entire Aboriginal Cultural Village, we reached the One Peice Memorial Log Theme Park! (Picture of it from the cable car's view, it's a bit hidden by the trees) It's based off of a kids cartoon, so it's more 

of a kid oriented place. But it was still fun! It was my two older brothers, my two cousins, and I that went (Picture of them on the side), while my parents and grandmother took a rest. We went on a few rides, and shopped around in the gift shops. It was my first big trip out of Dajia, so fun! It was awesome getting to see the central part of the island; and spending more time with my family. I got to know my cousins better, and have a good time with my bros (Since they're away at school during the week) and the rest of the family. Couldn't have asked for a better weekend :). 

- This is one trip we made to a different part of the island, we've made a lot more! I'll post more soon. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Taiwan #1

    First off, I apologize for not updating my blog sooner. I haven't had much time to sit down and accumulate all that has happened so far. AND It's too awesome for words! But I'll try my best. 
       I believe I arrived here on September 5th, so it has been a month. I had a couple ideas of what I thought Taiwan would be like, but none of them were spot on correct. Like, for example, scenery. By looking at my Guarantee form (Paperwork that contains all of my contact location) I figured I was living in Taichung City. Taiwan's 3rd largest city! But that was a misunderstanding. I live in the Taichung district (Which I will post a picture of). Taichung city is located in the Taichung District, and I live in a "town" called Dajia just north of the city. On the drive home, the night I arrived, the Rotarians (Accompanied by my mother and father) were explaining to me that Dajia is a pretty small town. This is no small town to me. There is traffic everywhere, for motor scooters run rapid, and the roads are not very big. What also fools the category of "town" for Dajia is there are many stores, and at night everything is lit up like a city! We also have night markets in Dajia. It is like the Windsor market, accept way bigger, and it has a wide variety of things like food, clothes, toys, and pretty much whatever you can think of to buy! Dajia is not what I expected, but I love it. It's not too fast paced like a city, but not boring like a small town can be. Dajia is also one of the most famous religious towns in Taiwan. This is so because of the beautiful Mazu temple located down town, and a huge festival is held for it. It is called the "Dajia, Taichung Mazu Sightseeing Cultural Festival". In Spring, thousands of people will flock to our town to participate in the Welcoming and Recieveing of Mazu. Mazu is a Goddess of the sea, that is belived to protect fisherman. She is one of the most worshiped gods in Taiwan. As mentioned before, in the spring, the Cultural festival is held in Dajia, for the Pilgrimage starts in Dajia, and ends in another part of Taiwan. The temple plays a big part in the festival, for it is a famous one dedicate to the Goddess of the sea, Mazu. I am excited to participate in this awesome event! I may not be living in some huge city, but I am quite happy (and lucky) to be living in Dajia. 
       Some other differences I've spotted out, comparing my home in Taiwan to my home in California, is the houses. In Taiwan, most houses are "Tall" and "Narrow". My first host family's house is 4 stories tall, and I'm on the 3rd floor! The kitchen and living room are on the first floor, my parents and eldest brother's rooms are on the 2nd, my 2nd eldest Brother and I are on the 3rd, and the laundry/storage room is on the 4th. I try not to forget things in my room, because that walk is tiring. School is the same way, for it is 4 stories high as well. The housing structures are this way, because Taiwan is a small island, with millions of people inhabiting it. And, there is an enormous mountain Range covering half of the island, from north to south. Space is an issues.
                Something else quite interesting/different is there are markets, everywhere. Most of the are the Famous night markets. In Cities like Taichung and Taipei, they’re massive. They take up entire streets, dense with people. Even driving a motor scooter through the Market areas is extremely difficult. The markets in my town are of course, much smaller. But we have many of them! We have the “Morning Markets”, as my Bro calls them. They are stores/ venders that sell breakfast, and whatever else in the morning; and during the day they are closed. There are many venders that sell food on the streets, almost like a lemonade stand looking set up. That’s how local farmers sell their crops and meats. My mom mostly shops at these, as do many other people. It’s good food! I see some interesting foods being sold sometimes. Like Duck head/ tongue, chicken feet, ect. Most meat you buy at these street vendors, like chicken or pork, still has its head and other appendages on. A teacher of mine said they don’t take them off because it gives respect to the gods (For Taoists). It shocked me a bit at first, but I’ve gotten used to it! The most popular markets are at night. Many clothes, accessories, kids toys, food, etc. that you can buy for REALLY Cheap. 1 U.S.$ is worth 30 TW$ here, so my money already goes along far; so there’s nothing I’d feel guilty about buying at the markets.
            Another thing that I have found quite different is all of the stray dogs! I don’t say stray animals, because it’s  literally all dogs. I’ve seen like 3 cats since I’ve been here, but definitely more than 100 different dogs. I live in a small town in California, not a big city, so of course it’s rare that I see dogs without homes; but even in places like San Francisco, there are no packs of dogs roaming the streets. This is normal here. They walk out into the streets with traffic, comfortable and used to the bustling of Dajia. There is a pack of about 7 dogs that sleep next to the tennis courts I play at. It’s funny, in a surprising kind of way, but quite sad at the same time.
            One of the most different parts of life here is school! So many things that differ from high school in America, I don’t know if I’ll be able to name them all. First off, students don’t go from classroom to classroom for all of their different classes, their teachers come to them. They have a “home room”, and teachers come to their classroom, teach them whatever lesson it is, and then leave to make way for the next teacher to arrive. So it is the student’s classroom. They are allowed to decorate it however they like, as long as it’s appropriate. Each homeroom is assigned a “Home room” teacher, that checks in on the students from time to time, is usually the teacher of some of their subjects, and represents them; if they were to ever need anything, or want to orchestrate something, the teacher would assist them. For some classes, like art or pottery, they students to another classroom, but otherwise this is the order in which classes work. The are 3 years in high school: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. When you are in your 3rd year of high school (Which is like Senior year in the U.S.), It is required that all students take a military course. I’ve seen them march, and they do a little bit of shooting practice. Otherwise I’m not sure what the course is made up of. Another big difference is appearance, as in we have to wear a uniform! Girls wear a navy blue skirt, and a navy blue collard, white button up shirt. Also, like songs to your knees, and black shoes. During the winter we wear slacks, a long sleeve white pinstripe button up shirt, with a tie! Ah! And we must tuck in our shirt. I look forward to the winter.. On P.E. days we wear sweats and a T-shirt to school. Those are my favorite days, for the clothes are laid back, and comfortable. The biggest difference in my eyes, is the responsibility these students hold over their school. They are responsible for keeping their classrooms clean, getting the food from the cafeteria for their classroom for lunch (For school lunch is free), and cleaning up after (lunch is eaten in class), mopping the hallways after lunch, and then at 4:00, everyone cleans the school, thoroughly. Everyone has a specific job. Some students are raking, some are mopping the halls (because their tile), some are cleaning the bathrooms, etc. The students are provided with a learning environment, and in return the keep the school tidy, They are the janitors of their own school. And they don’t complain about it! I never hear any complaints of “I’m tired”, or “This is dumb”, nothing. They are hard working, responsible kids, that can function and learn at school without having to have a teacher supervise them at all times. At my Windsor High, this would be impossible. I have a lot of respect for my classmates. Some of the best kids I’ve had the chance to meet. They have helped me learn a lot of Chinese. Speaking of Chinese, I think I have been doing pretty alright with the language. I didn’t study before I left, and many say they are surprised how well my speech is for only being here for a month. I study as much as I can, and I’m starting to try and memorize characters for writing. This language is hard, but fun. It’s so different, and I could never imagine myself speaking it before I left. But It’s happening! I can introduce myself, talk a little about him, talk about hobbies, family, and little sentences and phrases. I think I’m doing so well because I try and talk to everybody! Of course not random strangers, but if I go to the store, or I’m at school, or with Rotary, and of course at home. My parents don’t speak English, and my brothers are away at school during the week, so I have to speak Mandarin (Otherwise I play charades, and point at things). Getting involved in activities also helps. For example, I am a member of a Tennis Club, and I play golf and do Tai Chi with my uncle on Saturdays. This gives me the chance to meet new people, and try and make conversation. Though it is tough, I am fully enjoying learning the language.
            My transition from life in California to Taiwan is going extremely smoothly. I enjoy being with my family, hanging out with friends, and going cool places!Once again, this is a SHORT summary of my time in Taiwan so far. I am going to start trying to update my blog once every 1 or 2 weeks. This will make for more short and sweet posts. 
Taichung District, where I live.     

                                                     Part of Dajia, My Town.          

The Famous Mazu Temple in Downtown Dajia.

My First Home.

                             The Pack of Dogs that hang out by my Tennis Courts.. lol. 

School Campus. Tidy, not to mention beautiful! Thanks to It's students :).

Some of the students lined up on the field for an assembly, that I had to speak at! Ahh! 
You can see the white school uniform, and the red P.E. uniform.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New news! :)

       Another host brother from a different host family found me on facebook! Him and the rest of his family will be my first host family. In this family, I have 3 host brothers, my parents, and a grandma! No sisters so far, haha. Which is cool, for I only have sisters here at home. This will be a new experience, for sure. I also received my Guarantee forms a couple of days ago:) So I almost have all of my required paper work filled out. As my departure gets closer (Which I am assuming is the 20th of August, since that is when most bound for Taiwan are leaving), I get more and more excited. It wasn't quite that real-feeling to me that I was leaving the country for a year, but now it has really hit me, and I still have a month before I go!
       Just in case I forget to acknowledge those that have helped me obtain this amazing opportunity through blog, I will now. First and foremost, Glenda Sales. If I didn't meet you when I did, there is no way I'd be involved in this amazing program like I am. I love you and Sergio like I do my parents, and you have literally changed my life. The South Ukiah Rotary Club Of-course!! :) And my wonderful counselor Theresa, that has also played a huge roll in assisting me in becoming apart of this awesome program. Renee, from the Windsor Rotary Club, for helping me complete this madness called Exchange student paperwork! haha. Whenever I am stressing out, whether it's Preparing for my year abroad, work, or family problems, you are always there to calm me down, and bring me to a reassured state; I love you. My dad: Though you are a tough man at times, you have made me into the young lady I am today; doing the things I am, and going on this life-changing journey. I love you pops:). And the rest of my family! I love you! AND lets not forget those darn Pinochis! Tucker, Mamma P and Papa P, I feel the love from you guys, and you have no idea how much  I appreciate it. Mr. and Mrs. Pinochi, you have helped me through some tough times; and Tucker, you're my best friend bro. If I'm ever feeling down, you have my back. You deal with my crazy, and still accept me as a friend. This has helped so much, having a besty that is going through the same experiences as me in preparation for a year abroad :). Love you. And last but not least, my community! Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club have been helping me raise money to fund this amazing trip! And other friends and family in the community that have helped me to find work, in order to raise funds for this year to come, and have been supporting me all the way. I thank you all:). To anyone I have missed, I thank and appreciate you as well.
       On an ending note, I hope to make another blog entry before I depart. If not, you'll be hearing from me in Taiwan! PEACE:)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Host Family!!

     OK, So my host brother contacted me about a week ago! I have two brothers (That are older than me) and my parents. I'm going to be the baby in the family for once. My host brother emailed me and informed me that I am to be living in Taichung with them, Taiwan's third largest city. I'm so stoked!! I don't know what club or school in Taichung I will be attending. Or what my host parents or house looks like; but I did find my two brothers on Facebook!
     I have been so preoccupied with school and work, that I haven't really stopped to think about leaving the country in a little over a month! This new information got me hyped up, and super excited for my new life to come. Every day, I am doused with a little more excitement.

Located in the central district of Taichung, Taichung Park.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Prepare.. All I can do!

A little less than 3 months before I depart for Taiwan. This is when it starts feeling more real! Haha. I have been so busy with school, family, and work that I havn't stopped to really think about this HUGE decision I am making. Though every time I do, they are thoughts of excitement. Especially now that school has ended; so much to look forward too!
I have not learned what district in Taiwan I will be staying in, meaning I am unaware of any of the host families I will be living with. I have huge hopes for living in Taipei, Taiwan's capital; a city populated with about 2 million people. But any district in Taiwan will be amazing, for it is all so different from America, and that is exactly the kind of experience I want; something really diverse. There are so many different cultures in the world that I am so unaware of; making Taiwan a great ice-breaker for becoming more educated on cultures and customs different from my own.
I hope you enjoy my updates throughout my trip. I'm ecstatic, having never traveled outside the U.S. before! :)