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.