I grew up in Lancaster, California and am the only person in my family to have ever gone to college. After years of working on my own, I came back to school when the job market turned bad, I am a computer science major and as an older student, I was not sure how to make myself stand out on a resume. Then the idea came to me to learn Chinese. I chose Chinese because I believe that it will hold the most opportunity for me in the future.
I was not sure how people would react to an older student in a foreign country. Almost all the responses have been positive and I feel very accepted by my fellow students. When I return, I plan to finish my degree and find a company in California that will place me in China or Taiwan. In today's job market any skill that you have that will set you apart from others is an absolute necessity. This is where it all starts.
These are the new BOT dorms at Shui Yuan- Prince House. They are great to live in. Clean and comfortable, making it easy to study and stay on track.
There are many ways to get around in Taiwan. The MRT (subway) is always available for long distances and cabs are everywhere, but the most convenient way around campus is to ride a bike. As you can see, everyone has one. I bought my bike the first week of school and am glad I did as it has also given me a great deal of pleasure (and good exercise) riding it through riverside park.
One of the great things I have found in the city of Taipei is that there are lots of peaceful, beautiful settings tucked away in the city landscape. This is a classic example of a small garden in a park. Great way to get away and relax by just viewing the scenery and enjoying the flowers.
The world comes alive at the night market and we often went to the night market to spend time together and enjoy the sights and food. The food is awesome here in Taiwan and the night market has something for everyone. From performers to products, even if you did not buy anything, there was always something new to see.
Most people in Taipei don't have kitchens in their homes (or at least not like ours in America), and therefore don't cook for themselves. That means a lot of restaurants are available and it is super inexpensive to eat a meal. Here I am trying a local delicacy.
The beauty outside of Taipei is amazing. It does not take long to get to any of several locations that are beyond description. This waterfall was an easy hike into the forest. It ended up that there were four waterfalls on this hike with the next being more breathtaking than the last. I would try to get out of the city about twice a month so as to "unwind."
Sometimes a more challenging hike is called for. On this hike we climbed a mountain after grappling up ropes and slippery hills. The payoff was the amazing view! Hiking in Taiwan is different from hiking in the US and there are plenty of trails to choose from.
One of the things about the Taiwanese people is that they are the most hospitable and polite people I have ever met. Here we are sitting with a group of Taiwanese whom we had only met an hour before because we got lost on the hiking trail. It ended up that they lived in a "cave home" (literally a cave with a home front for the opening) nearby. Before long we were sharing a meal with them. Great company, great food, great experience.
Anywhere one goes, one must experience the culture of the place or the opportunity to learn is lost. We went to the ancient Li house in Dasi and had a wonderful time. We were taken there by a friend from class and met with one of the ancestors of this ancient family, who still lives in the area. He gave us a special tour of the old home (open to the public) and explained a lot about the architecture and layout. Then we went to the old town and experienced what Dasi used to be like.
What do two French, two Taiwanese, one Chinese and one American have in common? Friendship! This was our team, and we were challenged to go to the local traditional market and cook a traditional Chinese or Taiwanese meal. What fun we had getting to know each other and enjoying out newly created dish.
I was invited to the home of some Taiwanese in the area. We had a great meal together and talked for hours. They were very kind in helping me with my Chinese. These people did not live in the city of Taipei and therefore had a kitchen in their home. And the mother really knew how to cook! I established some long-term friendships here.
When I took this photo I was standing at the bottom of a temple and this was on the roof. When I looked at it later, I thought, "wow, I need to pay more attention to detail!" I am amazed at how much of an experience I find that I missed because I did not pay attention to the details. This photo was a great learning moment for me. I was able to tour the temple also, but I think the detail of these painted carvings was the real cultural gift for me.
In the ICLP program for learning Chinese, we become very close to our teachers because the classes are so small. Here I am with one of my classmates and two of our teachers. Awesome people that have dedicated their lives to helping others to read, write and understand the nuances of one of the oldest languages in the world today still spoken.
The last stop on this photo tour is fitting. It is the little town of Shifen. This is a town that is special in that the most common business here is kite launching. We were able to take a paper kite and write our well wishes and blessing onto the outside of it. Decorating it how we wanted and then lighting a little fire inside, it floats away to the heavens to carry our blessings with them. We watched the kite float off until it disappeared as a dot in the setting sun. Our kite had wishes for health, happiness and friendships renewed and that is what I wish for you.
Learn more about the study abroad program in Taiwan