Saturday, 29 December 2012

四個月

I was reading the latest Awake! magazine recently on the website (which on a side point is amazing!) anyhow as I was reading the article on Immigration it sounded soooo much like what I see here on a daily basis. Many women from the Philippines and Indonesia come over to Taiwan and work as a carer for the 阿媽 and then send the money back to their families. So these ladies have had to leave their children and husbands behind in order to just be able to give them the basics in life. It is a thought provoking point as of course the children are raised never really having a true relationship with their mother, but you can see why it is this way. It's really sad to see, we were speaking to a Filipino lady recently and it tears her up that she isn't at home with her children. For us from the Western world, we are fortunate enough to be able to own a laptop and afford internet we can keep in touch with friends and family wherever we are. We have become so accustomed to it that we view it as a necessity. In reality it is a luxury. Many of the women that come over here are not able to afford laptops and internet, so for them staying in touch with the family they left behind is a real mission. I book a flight to the Philippines from here and think it's cheap. To many of the Filipino's coming over here, it takes them all their savings to be able to get here. It makes me very grateful to have been born in a Western country just because I have options. Yes everything is expensive, but you get what you pay for. 

Just because of being born into a rich country I have the option of saving up money to go travelling. How crazy is that...just by where we are born we are automatically given certain advantages or disadvantages. And we have no say in where we are born! Many regular people in Taiwan only earn enough to cover the general cost of living. Travelling is not an option unless you are rich. It fascinates me that both of my Taiwanese housemates have never ever been abroad. Their whole life has been spent on Taiwan!! Back home I know people that get antsy if they don't go abroad at least once a year. We really don't pay attention to how fortunate we are to even have the option of affording a flight somewhere and the opportunity to explore other cultures and open our mind to other ways of living.

Four months has gone so fast! I knew time would fly but it seriously only feels like a few weeks ago that I was on the aeroplane in a bit of an oblivious daze. Every so often I think back to the night I arrived here. At the time it was all very overwhelming and I felt like it wasn't happening and I was in fact just looking down on an alternate life of mine. But no, it did all happen...I did wait and wait for a Japanese sister at the airport, we did get on a bus (that had a tv screen at the front of the bus and was playing planet of the apes), I did get picked up by my crazy housemate who insisted on giving me guava and honey and bombarded me with a host of new Chinese words. And ever so slowly 'I think I'm turning Taiwanese!' (Sung to The Vapors - Turning Japanese...erase Japanese and sing Taiwanese.) I am still very much a British lass, but after spending a while in another country you start to integrate into the way of living. I will still always have things I do the way I know best. I will always cut food with a knife, whilst the Taiwanese use scissors to cut stuff...seeing eggplant being cut with scissors always catches me funny. But every so often, by choice, I will do things a Taiwanese way. Sometimes I even crave Taiwanese food. What?! I know, madness! It hit me today that when I come home I won't have the option of being able to buy dumplings by the bucket load, and my favourite Taiwanese food that I can buy on any street corner, it just won't be available. (But I have found recipes for 蛋餅 and 燒餅 so I can attempt to recreate them.) But I take comfort in the fact I will be able to fill my self with cheese and hummus until it's coming out of my ears! And that milk and bread will be que rico (yummy) and cheap! And I will be especially excited to go back to my wonky house, where I won't have a battle with mosquitoes trying to fly in my ears at night and I won't have a kitchen entering routine with battles against cockroaches, bugs and lizards. Though, in a round about way I will probably miss it all. These crazy quirks have become a sort of normal to me.

Circadian Eyes - Finding Silence. Ah this song outstanding! Every so often I come across a piece of music that makes me stop everything I am doing and just take in the musical moment and really listen. This was one of those songs!

enjoying the battle between cars and scooters...

Monday, 24 December 2012

Deliciosa comida y muchos receurdos!

Everyone always asks me what my favourite thing about living in Taiwan is. For a long time I wouldn't be able to tell you. I knew I liked living here but I couldn't put my finger on anything specific as to why. I have now realised that what I love most here, is being able to embrace different cultures. And I don't just mean the Taiwanese culture. I mean tons of different cultures. I think I'm just particularly fortunate to experience it here because of being so near to the uni. I know that not all of Taiwan is like this. But I had never imagined that not only would I learn about Taiwanese culture, but also a little bit of Latin American, Korean and Japanese culture along the way.

Last night was a prime example of experiencing different cultures. Our Chilean friends are leaving Taiwan this week and heading home. (They arrived around the same time as I did, so I am really sad to see them go, we were the newbies together.) So in their honour we had a Latin American inspired party for them, complete with margaritas, mole, sour cream, quesadillas, tortillas, guacamole...yummly yummly food indeed, authentically made by our Mexican friends. And singing songs in Spanish at the top of our voices. It's wonderful being transported to various countries whilst only being in one place. A Mexican teaching you how to make mole, a Korean teaching you how to make scallion pancakes are just some of the unexpected experiences I've been able to enjoy. Variety truly is the spice of life! 

El Simbolo - Uno, Dos, Tres. One of the songs they had us all singing. How bizarre...a Spanish song will always remind me of Taiwan. Can you get much more random?!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Mystery 包裹...

Today, just as any ordinary day I came home from uni after finally grasping the 把 construction in Chinese grammar...one that had always confused me in the past. Anyhow, I walk in the house...through the hallway and up ahead on the cabinet I see a parcel, assuming it's for one of my housemates...but I'm nosy so I take a peak at it...only to see MY NAME on it. What, a parcel for me?! I quickly pick it up and run upstairs to my room with it to get some scissors to open this wonderful red package! Snip snip snip. I open the parcel and instantly the biggest smile ever lands itself on my face!! A box of teabags, my favourite coffee, dairy milk chocolate, crisps, granola and a couple of lovely cards from my aunts and my favourite cousin. (Jade, don't tell the other cousins your my favourite haha!)Such a wonderful and thoughtful gift that just meant soooo much! I had just this last week learnt how to say mail a package in Chinese...so now I can excitedly tell my Taiwanese friends all about my wonderful parcel in Chinese. Ironically, I had ran out of cereal last week and because cereal is so expensive here, I had decided I wouldn't be buying a new box unless it was reduced somewhere, and that I would do fruit salad breakfasts or toast with my Indo friends bread that she gives us. So the arrival of the granola was perfectly timed! Oh, it is so exciting that I don't have to scrimp on my cups of tea any more. I was down to my last packet that I had brought with me...but now I can have more than one cup a day if I so wish! Ahhh, it is those little things that really do mean the most. Life is more than comfortable here and being part of another culture and way of life is of course exciting, but having these extra comfort foods is like the sprig of mint or parsley to garnish and complete the meal. (I don't like the cherry on top of the cake saying, because glace cherries aren't that nice...I think a sprig of a herb is much more fitting!) 

So needless to say I instantly decided to put the kettle on! A MASSIVE thank you to my aunts and my cousin!! And whilst I'm in a thanking for small things moment, a HUGE thank you to my parents also for always being there with a speedy reply to my emails, keeping me sane and all my friends that have emailed me whilst I'm away. You are all wonderful sprigs of mint and parsley! 

Another beautiful song I am loving...Lamb - Heaven. 

ooh what's this...a parcel...

pour moi?!...para mi?...寄給我嗎?!...for me?!

cue *gasp* enter massive smile...

the shock and excitement of an Abacus!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Lefts and Rights!

Always know the difference between yòu and zuǒ...(右 and 左)-(sung to the tune of when you know your scales and your arpeggios...from The Aristocats.) It is a recurring thing so it seems, my getting lost. It's a skill! Though I will always happily ask for directions. Whether I can understand said directions is another matter, but always worth a shot. Now, I sometimes have a little difficulty with my left and rights in English, but then the Chinese language likes to go and make it that little bit harder by making the two words for left and right, kinda similar! In my opinion they are similar, more so than in English anyway. The other day a very friendly guy gave me great directions, so off I went merrily...thought process of an Abacus whilst scooting went like this 'ok straight for two turnings OR traffic lights, not entirely sure what he said, ok one...two...nope must be traffic lights not turnings, ok and left!' and turn I did. So the guy told me to turn yòu. Which is right! I went left and think, oh he was wrong, this isn't the place I'm looking for. Hmmm! So I carry on and try and work it out. I then said to myself out load what he had said to be...as I said yòu I realised I was a complete and utter clown who still can't tell apart her lefts and rights. In my head I for some reason associated y for yes and yes must be left because I am left handed! I have never, ever tried learning it like that, I have always gone with z is a cooler letter and is therefore left. (That is one of my crazy Abi logics, no one is expected to understand that madness for logic.) I might have to make myself some mittens or gloves with 右 and 左 on the appropriate hands to help me! Oh 右 and 左! Even the characters are fairly similar! 

I can't stop listening to Lucia Maria - Silence. Très belle chanson!


a lizard that stayed still long enough for me to be able to take his portrait...

Monday, 17 December 2012

I see the moon and the moon sees me...

As I was scooting around last night I noticed that not only was the moon beautifully orange, but it was also in more of a U shape than a C crescent. I was intrigued. I vaguely remembered a friend mentioning the moon being like this when they were abroad. After a little research I have discovered that the moon looks different from different countries, due to geography. We see the part of the moon that is lit by sunlight as everything spins and orbits in that way that it does, meaning different hemispheres see the moon differently. Then countries on the equator are a different vantage point again. I can't work out why I can see a U shape from here...it doesn't make exact geographical sense but it's super interesting. I am such a geek at heart! I just find it really weird that we're all looking at the same moon and unless it's a full moon, we're all seeing different things! 

I went and did 'exercise' with some Taiwanese friends yesterday. When you say exercise to me I imagine breaking into a sweat will be inevitable and in the morning I will ache a little. Not for Taiwanese! It consisted of a walk around the track field a few times, (to me walking is not exercise...but saying that the Taiwanese walk INSANELY SLOW just in their everyday life, so I can see how to them it is...sometimes it does infuriate me no end...super slow and scuffing their shoes with every step. Grrrrrrr!) throwing a frisbee, (this to me is just one of those things you do at the beach or at a park, not really that vigurous.) and badminton with no net. So the badminton bit was the most exercise like thing. Exercise and fitness isn't really a huge thing over, mainly because there's just nowhere conducive to do so. Running is an almost impossible task, there are no pavements and cars and scooters don't stop or move for pedestrians. Unless you wanna go for a run around a track field it's not really worth trying. And gyms are just a little too 麻煩! But I think this is all to do with the schooling here. In England doing PE in school is pretty fun, interesting and varied. In Taiwan PE consists of running around a track field. That's it! So it's not really the most exhilarating experience. It only really gets more varied if they do PE in uni...then they get to experience badminton and volleyball. It was interesting learning how differently sports are viewed. 

I keep thinking to myself what is the one thing that unites everybody...I've decided it's not cooking or food because what one man perceives as food, another sees as garbage. It's certainly not sports. And as much as I would like it to be music, I don't think it's that either. So what does bring people from different cultures together? What brings people to have the same principles and values? How is it that a white girl, totally clueless to the ways of Taiwan can be accepted by a collection of Taiwanese people? And how on earth is it possible that amongst my friends, there are 10 different countries represented...how have we not fallen out over cultural differences? Truly a humbling thought. 

Tuneage...going all classical piano with Brian Crain - Dream of Flying.

it's really not a good shot, but this is sorta what the moon looks like here...

Friday, 14 December 2012

Come fly with me, let's fly let's fly away...

After my last trip to the immigration office, I knew I would have to leave Taiwan and come back to be able to extend my visa for long enough. Sooooo...next month I shall be travelling to the Philippines! :O Eeh, two of my Canadian friends are coming too. So exciting! My friends have been before so they know some fun places to go and have some contacts in the English field out there. The wonderful thing about the Philippines is that although the official language is Tagalog, the majority of people speak English too! If you had asked me last year if I thought I would get round to doing much travelling, I would have flat out told you no. English life is busy and we have a habit of filling it with an endless supply of tedious, sometimes unnecessary things (speaking for myself anyway). So I still can't really believe that I live in Taiwan and that this time next month I shall be in the Philippines! Mental!

The sun has been shining radiantly these last few days, so in an endeavour to make the most of it I went for a little adventure. I didn't actually find the place I was looking for...(I shall be enlisting the help of google maps and attempt to find it another time!) But instead I ended up in DongHai and found a very cute place to have a coffee called Doob2 Coffee. It's a new place so still relatively unknown. But it's fairly Western in style (complete with Justin Bieber and Katy Perry music playing in the background.) Anyhow...this place is nice not only because of the little rabbit toys on each table, but mainly because I had a scone there! Yes an English style scone. A 藍莓 (blueberry) scone to be exact! And oh the blueberry jam was lush! It's so funny, back home we see scones in most coffee shops and to be honest I rarely ever eat one. But stick me in Asia and the thought of a scone sounds truly delightful! 

I don't know for why, but the main road near my house is now lined with red paper lanterns, at night they light up. I know there is a Lantern Festival coming up, but that's not until February. Nonetheless, to scoot through the lantern lit roads in the pitch black of night is truly beautiful! Imagine listening to epic music such as Broken Social Scene - Guilty Cubicles and riding down these roads at night. No words can describe how magnificent that is!



it looks even better when it's super dark

I love the rabbit's little green pullover. 這麼可愛!

Ok so it might not be as good as a proper Devonshire scone, but it was pretty good!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Latest Randoms...

There we were walking along a street on service. Approaching a house with a cage outside, just like the typical cage the dogs are kept in. Sadly something that has become a normal sight, so I took no notice. But then...I hear a grunt! Eh?!...that is not a normal sound for a dog...! One slowly turns one's head, with an amount of uncertainty as to what I will see... My eyes lock with those of a BOAR! What?! Yes in the cage, was a boar. I have no idea why the owners are keeping a boar in a tiny cage, but this is Taiwan we are talking about!

Then walking home from school, merrily pondering and wandering. I nearly step on a crickety, grasshoppery thing. But this fella was massive! And he did not seem phased at all that a size 5 foot had nearly trodden on him! He wasn't opposed to having his photo taken either! 

Now I know I said before that squid was 不好吃...well turns out if you cover it in tempura batter and deep fry it, it actually tastes pretty 好吃! 

And before I have mentioned the awful bread situation. The bread here is smothered in sugar...and seems to never ever grow mould on it no matter how long you leave it, like it does in the UK when you don't eat it quick enough. It's a sad state of affairs. And as I gave up on bread all together, my fantastic Indonesian friend came to the rescue! She studies cookery at uni. Recently she's been doing a lot of baking in class and she gives it to us to eat, as she can't eat it all! You have no idea how amazing it was to eat a slice of bread that wasn't doused in sugar, just wonderful home made bread! The amount of joy a piece of bread brought me was insane. The other week I was subjected to try her chocolate and blueberry cake...such a hardship. And this week we've gone French and she has graced us with croissants....Mmmmmm! Gonna put my orange beret on, pretend to be French and have me a nice French brekkie! Ahhh, je suis très heureux! It sounds so ridiculous to get excited over bread and croissants, but when you're in a country that considers red bean paste to be dessert and think that cake is not cake without meat in it and even has a dessert eatery called Tofu Pudding, this comes as a lovely sense of normal! 

As I'm going to enjoy a couple of French brekkies, let's go French in musique too! Joyce Jonathan - Sur Mes Gardes. 


EH?!...I feel bad for the poor guy stuck in there...

can hear these lovelies at night...

Friday, 7 December 2012

Rose tinted, one armed glasses...

I've realised this for a while now, but when I first got to Taiwan, I would compare all the bad bits of Taiwan with how that's not how it's done in England. Now, I don't think it's an all together bad thing. But of course there are bound to be huge differences. But I tended to remember England through rose tinted (one armed) glasses. Yes there are many wonderful things about England, but there are many faults and cons alongside too. And this is true of every country. And once you accept that fact, only then can you start loving the good things and letting the negatives go over your head a little. This is how I feel. It's strange because before you go to another country, you know it will be different. But no amount of google searches or lonelyplanet reviews and articles, can ever truly prepare you for what lays ahead of you. And I think this is because we all perceive things differently. What one perceives as a necessity, another views as a luxury. So how can a guide book tell you how you will feel about a place. In some ways I wish had smashed the rose coloured glasses much earlier, but then I do believe it is a process to go through, which makes the good things seem 更好! (This will be a good thing to remember next time I decide to up sticks!)

We have had our fair share of rain here lately. But there are still gorgeously sunny days. I adore walking to school in the mornings, whilst it's still a bit crisp in the air. Apart from the swallow like birds I see in the morning, I haven't seen much in the way of wildlife, (I don't think rats, dead toads, cockroaches and lizards count as wildlife!) but today they all came out for me. I saw some very heron like birds wading in a pond. And then...I got super excited about this one...I spied a sunbathing turtle! 

I have been a bit of a fruit lately and have been attempting to learn a little French and Spanish...Spanish because I have lots of Spanish speaking friends here, so I want to be able to inject a Spanish sentence into a conversation with them! And French...just because! Well it's most entertaining attempting even just the basics. Every time I go to say something in Spanish, I manage to spew out Chinese instead. It's like my brain is telling me that I am about to speak a foreign language and of course it must be Chinese. But it's a very good way of realising what you do know in your second language. But the most entertaining thing is when in one small, tiny sentence, you manage to use words from four different languages! My English is going to be atrocious when I get back! 

My tune of the day is...Emiliana Torrini - Jungle Drum. A wonderful random, kooky song.


look at him, he's so cute!
sometimes i just need to take a step back, look at some stunning
scenery & remember why i'm here.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Jekyll and Hyde...

I got myself to thinking recently and realised how different Taiwan is to what I had expected. I didn't have specific expectations, but I pretty much imagined my life as it was, but just in a different place. When you move around in the UK that's pretty much what happens. But I feel like that's not actually how it has panned out. Well in some aspects it has. But I do feel like there are two versions of Abi, in a Jekyll and Hyde fashion.  There is England Abi, and then there is Taiwan Abi. England Abi is confident doing whatever and just toddles through life in a slightly eccentric, spontaneous manor. And Taiwan Abi, is organised, not quite so confident in daily life and not half as quirky. Why? Not sure. Quirky doesn't exist here so that's probably why my quirks have toned down (except when I'm with other Westerners) as it just wouldn't be socially acceptable. And the confidence, it's a case of over thinking...I think! I guess I'm still working out how things are done here. Though Taiwan Abi is more confident talking to complete strangers...which I find odd. So when I come back I think we are gonna have a 6 months worth of Abi quirks explosion. I apologise in advance! It's really odd to think about how life can be so different in different places. But it is fascinating. You of course have control of how you act and portray yourself, but cultures truly do mould that to a certain point. And cultures also mould how other people perceive you. But despite feeling like a different person in some senses, I have had some wonderful epiphanies on life and other such things. So being in a different culture does help see things from another dimension. Which is fantastic! And I mean would English Abi have ever had a dog? No. Would English Abi ever teach crazy kids? Possibly not. Would English Abi ever have the chance to ride a scooter in her daily life? Not a chance. So many experiences being had. It will be interesting integrating back into English life. Will it all just go back to how it was? I don't know. There are a lot of things that have a question over them for when I return to England. But that makes it exciting.

Happy Anniversary to my mum and dad. I am missing yet another family event! I will make up for it when I get back. :) 

My song of the day is Regina Spektor - How. I adore the piano in this song.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

三個月

WOAH!!! 3 months have past since I came here. That means I am half way through this journey. Mental! In some ways it feels like I've been here way longer, just because so much has happened. I'm still fascinated at how we just adapt to new surroundings! 

It's just insane, I first came here and every day was a challenge and just a tiring experience. It still is challenging, but not to the same degree. Now I can have small conversations with shopkeepers about what size feet I have. (I was in a shoe shop, I wasn't just randomly talking about my tiny feet on this occasion. Though it does sound a lot like something I would do.) And when I don't understand something, I just play the game of guess what was just said. Sometimes I win. I'm super interested to see how my Chinese fairs back in England. 

After my week of adventures. I am back at uni. With a new teacher. She refuses to speak any English in class, so it's a challenge, but amazingly I understand what's going on. So far so good! Actually quite enjoying it.

It's been raining a fair amount lately. When it does rain, it tends to rain all day long. But then the next day will be glorious weather. It's not been cold when it's raining, just a little damp. So a nice cuppa at home in the evening, always goes down well. Apparently acid rain can be a bit of a problem here. Which I was a little surprised at. Makes sense why everyone are so shocked that I never take an umbrella anywhere.

Scooting in the rain is interesting. I would love if someone could invent a detachable windscreen wiper for helmets!! And also, if you've had to park your scooter out in the rain and then ride it you end up with a wet bum. I was driving the car the other week, driving on the highway where the speed limit is 110 kph. So I got to thinking...goodness how fast is that. It doesn't feel fast but sounds like it is! Turns out it's just 70 mph...which was a little disappointing hehe! 

On my adventures I have seen so many beautiful flowers. I'm not really a flower person, but they have caught my eye...

one of my favourite little parks... 
no idea what it is but it looks interesting...
looks like a more sophisticated daisy to me...
Tune of the day Fun - Some Nights. I find myself singing it a lot when I'm riding my scooter recently. Then I suddenly realised I'm stopped at a traffic light and other people can hear me. But then I remember hardly anyone can understand English anyway...so I carry on belting it out. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Abi's new favourite game...

So my new favourite game is...see how many times Abi can get lost. It's great fun. Set off on scooter, have a vague idea where you are going and proceed to lose yourself in the process. Why is this so fun I hear you ask? Because there is some stunning scenery to be seen here and if I didn't get lost I wouldn't find it. Although Shalu downtown is pretty built up, in between all that crazy chaos are some beautiful sights. Today riding up a hill, and we all know once you go up a hill you must come down the other side. Well from the top of the hill and riding down it I could see so far out across the countryside. GREENERY! I always knew I was a country bumpkin and not too much of a city girl...but when I saw the mountains and greenery it made me smile like the craziest cheshire cat ever. And then I just love when there is a small road between two rice fields...when you look out it's epic. And at only around £2 to fill up the tank, I don't mind getting lost. 

Ooh everyone uses the phrase 加油 here. It's kinda the same as our 'keep going'. It's a funny little phrase though, because translated literally it means add fuel. Which is kinda appropriate. Also asking 你吃過了嗎? (Have you eaten yet?) is to the Taiwanese and Chinese as to us starting a conversation commenting on the weather is. I stupidly never know what to say though...other than the obvious yes/no. I'm always left wondering after yes/no what more can be said...do you wanna know what I actually had?! I personally stick with the commenting on the weather. Keeping it British! 

My puppy has gone to her new home now. It's very odd not having her around. I have officially been converted to a dog person.

The children of Taiwan are beasts! In their cram schools they are the naughtiest things ever. I think possibly because they don't really want to be there but their parents make them go to learn English. My theory on Taiwanese kids, is they are cute until they are five and then they change! But the classes have about 20 kids, all at different levels, so it seems an impossible task to be able to entertain all of them! The Taiwanese teachers just smack the kids...doesn't seem to make much of a difference though. So I have come the conclusion that cram school teachers, are just glorified baby sitters! 

Side point...Congratulations to Becca R and Dan who are getting married today! So exciting! 

Tuneage of the day belongs to The Black Keys - Set You Free. 


i like to laugh at the misspellings and bad translations of things...
shoulda used spell checker...

anyone else think i need new glasses...
but look i pull off the one armed glasses look so well...
that's my crazy cheshire cat smile in case you were wondering...

Monday, 19 November 2012

I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien. I'm an English girl in Taiwan...

I have the week off from uni. A half term if you will. So I plan to make Abi Adventures. Today was a spiffing adventure. 

After a wonderful little lay in and leisurely getting up I went into Taizhong city. I needed to go to immigration to extend my visa. Which is way easier than imagined. I always think it's going to be really difficult and that they're gonna ask me lots of questions...but no as long as you have the right papers they just stamp you're passport and that's it. The only questions the chap asked me were why was I dressed so cute and is punk music still popular in the UK. Though I face a small quandary  My visa is extended until Feb 25th and can't be extended any further. But my flight back to the UK is March 1st. Oops! But I have a few options.
Option 1: Just pay a fine at the airport on my way home. It's about £25.
Option 2: Get it all over and done with in a few measly hours and fly to Hong Kong and back. When I land back in Taiwan I will have 90 days, taking me way past March 1st.
Option 3: Go on holiday! I have 3 weeks off of uni from the end of January, so I could easily go somewhere nearby for a week maybe...the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Thailand (all take no longer than 2 hours flight from here.)And again when I land in Taiwan 90 days visitor visa automatically. Hmmm! 
Option 4: Change to a student visa and commit to another 2 semesters. 
Option 3 is my most preferred! So one shall be having a sneaky look at cheap flights! Let's get another stamp in the passport! Hehe.

After all of that the fun Abi Adventure began. I went to a very random place for lunch. It was trying to be Western but not overly succeeding. But it was CLEAN and cheap. The staff were really cute. The girl brought me over my food and then also brought me over some little donut type things, just because. She made a smiley face with ketchup on it! How random but cute! As I was walking out an American chap walked in. It's really funny, there is a real sense of community between all the foreigners here. I guess it's just because we are all outsiders and all face the same difficulties and challenges in Taiwan, so that kinda unites us. It's not weird for stranger foreigners to just chat to each other. 

Then I went shopping. Yay! I got myself totally lost, but I had all the time in the world so I couldn't care less. Also I kinda anticipated I would probably would lose myself. Did I turn left at this 7/11...or was it that one...or that one...! They are everywhere so never try and remember where you came from by them! 

I honestly can't remember the last time I had a day where I had no time restraints, and could just do what I want whenever. I had a wonderful scoot around, amongst the buildings of Taizhong there are some beautiful parks around. And scooting when the sun is setting was gorgeous! Ah if only I could be so carefree more often! Though I have it pretty easy here as it is. I think I've had the most fun when I make my own adventures. It's great as I have no one else to rely on for speaking to shopkeepers, waiting staff, the guys at the gas station and all that jazz. I have to use my efforts of speaking Chinese, and well it's great for realizing how much you do or don't know. You kinda learn your survival Chinese pretty quick...how to order your coffee, how to ask the guy at the gas station to fill up the tank (here you don't pump the gas yourself, they have staff to do that for you...they honestly do have some very useless jobs here. Someone to pump your gas, someone to help you push the shopping trolley onto the escalator...in England we are hardcore and do it ourself!), all those things that you need to know to get by in your daily life. 

Onto the next adventure...

My song of the day is Sting - Englishman in New York. Just walking around the city today made me think of the song, it seems apt. But of course in my version I sing 'I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien. I'm an English girl in Taiwan.'

nice little park and greenery...

random kinda funky art where i had lunch.


funny little things the waitress gave me, so cute!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A splattering of thoughts, makes a puddle full of rain...

I have quite decided Taiwanese kitchens are not designed for cooking. Besides the daily battle of wits to be had with the creatures of the kitchen...they just are not conducive to do anything in. I find it hilarious that in our kitchen we have the rickety stove to the right of the extractor hood, not under it - who would ever think of doing that! (Also it doesn't work anyway!) There are no worktops for chopping or preparing any sort of food...though in all honesty, even if there were I would still probably chop and prepare on the dining room table. I try to keep my time in the kitchen to a minimum! It saddens me...I used to love sitting on the worktop and kicking my feet like a small child back home. And of course cooking in it!! The kitchen back home was a rather sociable place. My housemate here also just seems to use the kitchen as a place to keep all manor of random things. So yes, it is easier to eat out in Taiwan. I refuse to be beaten though. I cook the strangest of meals here...talk about student food. My word...potato smilies, roasted veg and sausages was a step up for my cooking out here. Yes I did say potato smilies...haven't eaten them since I was a kid, but as I walked by them in Carrefour I thought I would give in to those little smiles. Taiwan are missing out, I find it really sad that kids have never baked fairy cakes or anything here. They don't have ovens so can't. I've not seen rice krispies...so it's not even like rice krispie cakes are an option either! :O I totally miss bread. The bread here is an epic fail. So I thought to myself, well I could try and make it in the little roasting box...or hey I could make flat breads on the stove. Genius idea I thought. Check t'internet for recipes. Awesome, I have all those ingredients. Ummmmmm...no scales. Curses! Re-think required! Back home I don't eat bread that often at all. Take the option away from me and I get all twitchy! Nutter!

In England we're always told not to talk with our mouth full. I just thought that was a kinda worldwide shared etiquette. Apparently not! I personally don't wanna see what your regurgitated breakfast, lunch or supper. But it's no big deal for the ol' Taiwanese. I find it really weird. Because every time someone does it, it really irks me. I guess it's because from our small years if we ever did speak with a mouthful of food we would immediately be told off for it. So I always feel like you should be told off for it. Plus I can't always understand Chinese at the best of times...how on earth can I understand it behind all that rice and tofu?! Isn't it stupid, we all eat food, it's something every single person has to do and yet we have different methods and etiquette about it! 

I have avoided the wee matter of the loos here...(no pun intended!) But I think it's time to release the cat amongst the pigeons! (I totally miss all the silly English sayings we use and the ones I make up!) Soooooo...normal toilets in your homes are fine and dandy, bog standard bog. Apart from the not flushing loo roll down, nope they just have a bin for that. I personally don't get it, it does flush down - it's not a plumbing issue like it used to be. So why it's this way, I will never know. BUT outside...ooh it's a scary world. Most places have squat toilets. Needless to say most of us Westerners try and avoid them. Though you do kinda face the fact that's how it is. The odd place will have a real toilet but they are few and far between. Or sometimes there will be one normal toilet and a bunch of squat toilets. So you are there hoping and praying that when you're at the front of the queue, that the next person to come out of a loo is coming out of the normal loo. In my opinion, you wanna have a squat loo that's fine...but my word the smell, someone clean the ruddy room!!!!!! Makes my stomach churn. Kinda wish I had a silly little mask that all these Taiwanese wear, just for the sole purpose of wearing for any time I have to walk past, go near, or even go in one! And you know with female loos there is ALWAYS a queue...so you have to wait there, enduring the smell, knowing the prospect that awaits...a cubicle with a door that probably doesn't lock, the grimiest cubicle you've ever seen, a stench that can strip your nostril hairs right off and misfires from those before you! I find it hilarious that back home, we can be really fussy about the state of the loo and sometimes we'll even refuse to use it. Because we know that there are much nicer ones elsewhere. Well if you refuse to go out and about in Taiwan...I strongly advise just staying at home! 

Moving swiftly on...

So the whole time I've been here (coming up for three months...say what! Half way, oh me, oh my!) it hasn't rained. I think twice there has been a feeble attempt of a drizzle and that's it! Well, these last 2 days that changed. It has rained solidly for 2 whole days. I love it! Yes call me crazy...but remember I am used to living in a country where rain is a daily occurrence pretty much. I love the sunny, hot weather here. But just the sound of the rain, randomly ending up with a huge raindrop landing on your nose...I have strangely missed it in a roundabout way. It's not cold bizarrely though...I mean I still wore a woolly hat, just because, but it's not actually been cold!

Tuneage of the day...mixing it up a bit Lindsey Stirling - Crystallize. She is a really talented violinist, but with a kinda dubstep ish twist. Truly amazing!   


extractor hood nowhere near the stove,random aluminum foil. welcome to the kitchen...

and i consider this a step up in what can be done in a taiwanese kitchen.that's some random food. ohhhhh! 
...

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

One's mother tongue...

Lately I have been really understanding how much of a difference it makes learning things from your mother tongue and a different language. I'll have the same books in English and Chinese in front of me. Whilst I understand the words being said in the Chinese...it always has a deeper impression upon me in the English. In English I can read something which can evoke and stir up emotion. In another language I just don't experience that. Yes this could be because I'm not fluent, but I genuinely think that no matter how good you are at another language, you're mother tongue will always have the most impact on you. So I'm really appreciating how difficult it is for people that move to different countries! I have such respect for my friends that have been here for 3/4 years, even though at times they've found it tough! Sometimes I think languages are wonderfully fascinating...then other times I deem them to be a curse, just because it's so frustrating if you're unable to express yourself. It's like being a baby all over again. Wanting to tell you something, but just unable to communicate it out. 

All this being said, I'm finding myself thinking in part English, part Chinese. Sometimes a Chinese word just fits in my English sentence better! The other day I went into the kitchen...now, I always approach the kitchen with caution because I've been chased out by numerous creatures too many times! So now I turn the light on, wait a few seconds for the beasts to scuttle away and then gingerly tip toe in blissfully unaware of their existence  Such a fruitcake, I'm not scared of the bugs, just don't like being caught off guard by them! So the other day I do the usual kitchen entering routine...think to myself 'yes success, no bugs today!'. Then I look down! Eyes popped out of their sockets to see a HUGE army of ants! Naturally I run out singing to myself (yes singing) "很多bugs, 很多 bugs"...I then laugh at myself for speaking Chinglish! But I quite enjoying mixing up the two languages...probably won't go down so well when y'all are having a right nightmare trying to understand me when I'm back! Looking forward to not having a kitchen entering routine...count yourselves lucky if you can waltz into your kitchen without a care ;) 

My tune of the day is The Cranberries - Zombie. I have been reviving the songs of my youth.  

interesting beetle...I'm fine with him there as long as he doesn't move...
when he spread his wings I fled

Saturday, 10 November 2012

It's the 10th...

Today is the day...I've hit two little ducks!! Not literally, I'm just 22! I spent my first few moments of being 22 drinking awful beer with some Western friends, playing card games and beatboxing (badly). A pretty good way to start off being 22 I think! I find turning older a really weird thing. Does anyone ever actually feel any different?! 

But an interesting thing with age in East Asia. Some people count their age differently here. (But not everyone, so it's super confusing!) Some count themselves as 1 year old the day they are born. So we say they are 20, they say they are 21. They just have no year zero...! 

Today is also the day my little cousin gets married. So congrats to Reu and Zara. Sorry I'm not there but have a lovely day!

I feel like there are different cycles and stages you go through living in a foreign country. I'm sure it's different for everyone. For me at least, it's gone a little something like this...First it's all very new and exciting. That soon wears off and you find the differences very weird and can't get your head around them. Then everything weird just annoys you. Then you come to the point of accepting the weirdness, embracing it and being ok with it. I guess it becomes normal as you see/experience it everyday. I'm not sure what the next stage is...I'll find out soon enough! 

My tune of the day is Ben Howard - Esmerelda. The man never ceases to amaze me! This song gave me tingles the first time I heard it...and still does now! Amazing!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The masters of stationery...

I hereby crown Taiwan the king of stationery! I remember having a perusal in Paperchase before I came out here and noticing how a great majority of the stuff was 'Made in Taiwan'. Well yes, they really are the masters of stationery. Stickers galore (I think we all know how much I love stickers!), all sorts of stationery! It's fabulous! And it's so cheap! Importing stuff really does whack on a lot to the price of stuff!! I'm not sure why but I find stationery wonderful! All stationery lovers should unite in Taiwan.

Oh and on the point of 'Made in Taiwan'...I always imagined everything was made in factories. I think that's a fairly reasonable assumption. And yes, a lot of stuff is made in factories. But also a lot of stuff is just made by people in their homes. A lot of people seem to have their front room as a workshoppy kinda place. People just make stuff or sell stuff from their living room. I've seen all manor of things people sell from their living rooms...clothes, cosmetics, car/scooter parts, accessories and the list goes on. They either just sell it from their homes or sell it to other companies/shops. So now when I see something that says 'Made in Taiwan' I shall wonder whether it was made in a factory or just in persons home.

Today I had a real confidence boost regarding my Chinese. (I am by no means good, but compared to 2 months ago, I feel like it's a nice little bit of progress!) First, today I had a study with a Taiwanese lady, she is so lovely and so patient with me. I managed to speak to her in Chinese the whole time I was there with her. I am sure my tones were all over the place but she seemed to understand what I was trying to say! It was difficult at times and I didn't understand absolutely everything she said, but I muddled through nonetheless. Though hopefully in another 4 months I will have improved even more. And secondly, I went to Carrefour again today and well it was very exciting...today they were giving out samples of stuff. Because I'm a foreigner everyone seemed to stop me and ask if I wanted a sample...I reckon you could probably skip lunch and just go to Carrefour and make a lunch of all the samples hehe! Anyhow, as they stop me they spiel something out, in Chinese of course. I was really surprised how much I could understand. At the minute I feel like I can understand more than I can speak. But it's all steps in the right direction. It's just incredible how much your brain can absorb when you are immersed into something. 

I am now ready to truly embrace the roads of Taiwan! Vrooooooom! I bought a new helmet today. I have been using a spare one we had at the house, which is a little naff as it's just like a bicycle helmet...so if I did ever plummet to the ground (I don't plan to, but you never know!) it wouldn't be all that useful. But now I am completely ready for the madness that is Taiwan scooting! Bring it on! Hehe.

I don't have a tune of the day, I bring you a band of the day instead. They are a new discovery to me and I think they are amazing! Think White Stripes meets The Black Keys and out of that equation comes Little Hurricane. Check out their tracks Crocodile Tears and Give 'Em Hell. They are truly epic! Plus the female drummer CC gives me hope that female drummers can be good. (I also just love how she pulls off playing the drums in the cutest tea dresses!!) 


my wonderful assortment of stickers and stationery...all bought for a measly few pounds

bring it on Taiwan...me and my red helmet are ready for ya!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Carrefour has arrived!!!

We have a new supermarket here! It's called Carrefour and they sell real food!! It's massive and has a whole aisle dedicated to Western foods. You even get to see brands you've heard of before! :O And they also sell real brands of alcohol. I can't believe how excited I am about a supermarket. But it's those little things that can make such a big difference! I guess because everything in Asian life is soooo different, to be able to have a few little Western things can somehow keep you sane! 

And what's even more wonderful about this supermarket, is that I have to go past it on an almost daily basis, it's so close and super convenient. Costco is great but it is a good 30 minutes away. So all of my Western friends are very excited! (We celebrated with cake in fact!) 

As I took my puppy out for a walk the other day I realised that the ol' saying of: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. is true of every nation. In Western countries you usually have affluent areas. You associate with with a certain neighbourhood or village or something. Here, sometimes that is the case, but also you can have wealthy persons house right next to a scummy house. Just the wealthy person has had their house completely torn down and rebuilt with grey stone. (I don't know why for sure, but all wealthy peoples houses are grey. I am wondering if it has something to do with that it looks the same kinda material most of the temples have. Just my surmising though.) The wealthy person just has their home completely surrounded by wall, security gate, cameras and locks. Whilst the humble abode of most Taiwanese is pretty old and at least a few things are patch worked back together. Things break and people make do here, whereas back home most people have probably bought a new whatever before it has chance to break. Or if it breaks we buy a new whatever. I'm very much a make and mend kinda person, so I do find it refreshing being around that kind of mentality. 

But I do find it crazy how excessively elaborate a temple is here, to every last detail. Everything is carved, engraved or something else elaborate. But surrounding said temple are people living in houses that are falling apart and clearly just scraping by. It's just so extreme. I find it fascinating looking at the temples, but the justice behind the showy display whilst the neighbouring people are struggling to get by, that bothers me. But for now I guess that is just the way it is. These kind of problems of justice are bigger than us humans. 

Tune of the day...The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby. Just an awesome tune. And if you disagree that The Beatles are amazing, then you are wrong! Hehe. 


I got on a bit of a picture snapping spree. This was the journey of my walk. Contrasting scenes in the space of a few footsteps...


abandoned bus 142...?
one type of typical house in TW

living off the land. there are plenty of crops growing in most streets

a temple and surrounding it typical housing in TW. a tad extreme.

every corner of a temple is detailed eleaborately...

the grey stone used for temples...

right opposite the temple is this house...

and just down the way, this rich persons house.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Betel nut and Beer...

Chewing betel nut here, is to us like smoking is. It's common practice by many, and you know it's bad for you, but once addicted it's a habit that's hard to break. A lot of Taiwanese chew betel nut. Become addicted to it. Rot and turn their teeth black. Constantly have to spit from having far to much saliva slurring around in their cancerous mouths. Give themselves throat cancer. Filthy habit!

But Taiwan isn't really helping it's citizens kick the habit. No that would be preposterous! No instead they have these, what I can only really describe as a service station. Just a little shop on the main highways at various places. At these stores they sell betel nut, fags and other bits and bobs. All sounds pretty harmless, yes? Well to entice people to stop at these shops, they only employ young, 'attractive' girls and get them to wear the skimpiest of outfits and totally tart themselves up. The front of the store is a big window, so the girls are basically selling themselves. We spoke to one of these girls recently (I wasn't buying betel nut, just to clarify!) She was only 19! She said she studied to be a beautician but didn't know what she wanted to do, so was working this as a job until she figured it out. It was hard to take her seriously as she stood before us in her underwear with a short, little lace skirt on! But what I found even more appalling, was that in the store, they have a shrine to a  Buddhist deity. They're burning incense to appease the spirits. What?! Is that not a little hypocritical?! Also, this is right on the main road, not like you have to go to some seedy area, it's just right before your eyes...what kinda message is that giving little kids? 

There are soooo many reasons why this enrages me, but I'll save that little rant for another day!

On a less serious note, my puppy is so clever...but naughty. She has been moved to the third floor of the house. So she now has her own room, it's a long story. We put a make shift puppy guard at the stairs so she couldn't escape. Except she did escape! She has always refused to walk up/down steps before. But she somehow jumped over the guard, ran down the steps and knocked at my bedroom door. Soooo clever...but naughty. They do say pets are like their owners. Does that make me clever but naughty?! Hehe.

And onto an even better topic...BEER! Last night, my favourite Western friends took me to a bar! Bar type place, hard to describe it. Anyway, it was this German themed restaurant/beer house. And the beer was gooooooood! I forget how quintessential beer or a good ale is to my British life. (Not that I'm an alcoholic, but who can deny that on a sunny day, you don't want to go to a beer garden?! It's sunny here a lot and my nearest good beer place is this one...30 minutes away!) The beer comes in a 1000cc (1.75 pint) glass tankard...two hands were required to pick it up! :) The staff had the most wicked uniform ever...proper lederhosen. The cutest black shorts with embroidered braces...I'm not gonna lie, I was jealous and wanted the outfit for myself! Hehe, I could try and pull it off :P Oh and they also wore a cute hat with a feather! Every so often we would forget we were in Taiwan, until a Taiwanese drunk girl would randomly scream. Asians, really cannot hold their booze like Westerners. But it's funny watching them try to be Western. It's just always great to do slightly Western things with a twist! Top night!

A song I am absolutely in love with at the moment is Lotte Kestner - Falling Snow. Such a beautiful voice! Check her out!


check out the lederhosen...i want them! i want them!

hello 1000cc dunkel beer...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

兩個月

2 months down! I still have days where I hate it here and days where I love it. But I'm pretty sure that's true of wherever we are, and it's not actually the place, it's the people around you and your accomplishments that make the days. The days I hate it here, tend to be the days where I'm particularly stared at! The other day there was this guy staring at me, he covered his mouth and whispered to his friends something as he stared. I know I'm technically an alien, but I'm an English alien...not an outer space alien. I do know that when you do that, you're talking about what you're staring at...me! Seriously, just be a little more coy!

I find the Chinese language a really blunt one. In English you have a choice as to whether you want to say something politely or bluntly. And you're only ever really blunt with your dearest, who you know well enough to be able to that without them taking too much offence. But in Chinese, it all seems very blunt to me. So a lot of the time to me things come over as rude in Chinese, but I think that's just the nature of the language. There is no other way of saying it! 

The electricity worries me. Every so often I'll hear a random crack, fizzle or hissing from the plug sockets. I fear it shall all explode one day. 

There is a resident lizard living in the kitchen. I'm all fine with lizards outside, but I'm not so keen on them being in the kitchen! If you keep your place clean you don't to get too many bugs though! You can't leave your dishes to wash them later...because later they will be covered in ants and all manor of strange bugs. (Beth and Vic, I'm gonna be a whizz at doing dishes IMMEDIATELY when I get back!)The Taiwanese don't seem to fussed about sharing their homes and restaurants with bugs though. I guess we become complacent when we see the same things every day. I however am not so keen on sharing with bugs!

It's still pretty hot here. Every few days it gets cooler and a tad windy. But is only really cold when you're riding the scooter on a windy evening! 

I learnt something kinda interesting the other day. A lot of the time you see little kids walking around with no shoes on outside. But it's not because the parents can't afford shoes or anything like that. It's intentional. We met a wealthy chap and his kids were running around with no shoes. The Taiwanese do this to kinda build up the kids immunity. I see the logic, but I also foresee tetanus along with that! In the UK we can often be a little too cleanliness minded, kill all the germs. But some bacteria IS good for you. I don't think I would force kids to go around with no shoes. Play in the garden with no shoes yeah, but walk around everywhere with no shoes...especially in Taiwan, where a rat will randomly scuttle out of nowhere! I certainly wouldn't want to walk around bare foot but it was interesting to hear out the Taiwan logic on the matter. (Taiwan isn't ready for Abi logic hehe!)

2 months has gone pretty quick and a lot has happened in 2 months. Crazy!


Tuneage of the day: Daughter - Landfill.

interesting little den like thing on my walk to uni...

my baby...it's gonna be so weird when she goes to live with my friend
 at the end of the month! (at least  I can still go over to play.)

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The war...

There seems to be a distinct war between scooter riders and car drivers!! The cars beep at the scooters (I'm not always sure why), the scooter riders laugh in the faces of the cars by weaving past them. And no one really pays any attention to the laws of the road. The number of times you see riders with no helmets. Or a mother and three children on one little scooter!! Running a red light is nothing here. So when it comes to rush hour, it's a ruddy nightmare! Just a bit of a free for all and hope that you make it through! (Not a big fan of scooting in rush hour, I fear for my life.) And if you attempt to be a pedestrian...you should fear even more. I'm so confused by the pedestrian crossing. You wait for it to go to the little green running man before you cross...but whilst you have a green running man, the lights are green for the cars and scooters too. So it's not exactly all that safe crossing the road! ODD!

Scooter riding is going much better now I use it more. By jove, I think she's got it! I love scooting at night here...though there are far too many flashing lights, making it a tough call on which are traffic lights and which are shop lights! 

Is PSY -Gangnam Style big in the UK? It's a horrific Korean pop song, with a crazy dance (reminiscent of Super Junior - Sorry Sorry Sorry.) Well it's massive over here, the song itself is appalling but to dance it like a loon with some crazy people can be a laugh. 

But an actual good song to listen to...Alt J - Taro.