Saturday, 29 September 2012


My word I've been here a month! Thinking back to the first week I was here I was thinking 'crap! what am I doing here?!', and those first few days went so slowly. Now I've kind of got used to Taiwan life and time is flying by. I don't know if it is possible to ever truly get used to Taiwan life! It's a very odd one. Don't think, Just do is the kinda attitude that comes across. I think when you live in a foreign country, it can make you feel like it's home but not home as you know it! It's all very comfortable and what not, but you're very aware that this is not how you normally live. 

Last night was a very odd one. A woman that does Threading came over to 'Thread us'. (For those of you wondering...Threading is like shaving I guess but they use a Thread and kinda pluck your hair out!) So threading is apparently quite the rage over here. Women traditionally get it done before they get married to make them more beautiful. I know we have places that do it in the UK, but here it's much more popular! Plus in the UK most people would just have their eyebrows threaded...not Taiwanese though...they subject themselves to having their whole face and arms done! WHAT! So I sat there watching my housemates getting it done, watching the tears run down their little faces! Does it hurt? Was a stupid question for me to ask! Why would you put yourself through that if it hurts so much?! (whilst I sat there also thinking, but if you went out in the sun and got a tan, no one would be able to see your hairy face anyway...not that my housemate even has a hairy face!) All in the pursuit of 'beauty'! I have always been a firm believer that beauty is subjective and everyone perceives it in different why do we deem certain things to make us beautiful? Is it merely something we do to make us feel more confident about ourselves? Or something we feel we are pressured into doing? Nonetheless, I followed the 'When in Rome' principle and got myself threaded though...I like a little bit of pain anyway so I thought why not! I only got my eyebrows threaded (as I sat down I feared I would end up with no eyebrows by the end of it) really wasn't painful at all! But I also don't think it was anymore effective than waxing or plucking. (What a girly post this is!)

A typhoon is passing through at the moment, it's not coming to where I am, but we get the tail end of it. So it's been incredibly windy, but still warm! Riding on the back of the scooter whilst typhoon winds swirl around is an experience and a half. Nearly lost my helmet at one point, and I feel I should apologise to Taiwan for choosing the WRONG clothing to wear! Note to self: Typhoon winds and riding a scooter...DO NOT WEAR A FLOATY DRESS! 

Oh and a really random side point! Milk is not the same here. But I have to keep telling myself, back home there are cows in the fields down the road and milk is easy to make for Brits. Taiwan not so much! Anyhow, really weird thing happened to my milk. It turned to YOGHURT! Yes, yes it did! I'm not sure how, but it did. My American friend told me she likes making yoghurt over here. How do you that? I asked her, milk and time she came back with. (not to be confused with thyme as initially sprung to my mind!) Well now I understand how she does it! Very odd though!!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Where did all these people come from?!

Last night me and some of my housemates decided we would go out for dinner. When you can go out for a meal for about £1 it's almost cheaper and far easier to go out! We are really near the high street so we walked it. Most of the time I've been walking around Shalu it's been daytime and it's pretty quiet, a ton of scooters everywhere but not many people milling around. Well they all come out at night! We got to the high street and there was just people and scooters everywhere! There were extra shops that seemed to pop up out of nowhere, that definitely weren't there when I walked by during the day! Where did all these people come from?!

Most little places you go to eat they have a kind of notepad of the menu and you have to tally beside what you want and then give it to the staff. I fear that made no sense, so see the picture below. I think it's a pretty sweet idea! I'm just very grateful I've always been out with people that can read most of the characters! So they can tell me what is actually on the menu. I'm sorta tempted to one day just go out on my own and randomly pick something and see what I get given ha! But hey, I can order my coffee now (or at least muddle my way through) so that's a start. I'll get round to learning the menu's at some point! 

And on the coffee front, my housemate turfed out a cafetiere that she had hidden in a cupboard. This makes for a very happy Abi. Coffee is pretty hard to find round these parts, but you can get coffee beans, so just gotta whazz 'em up and I am good to go! It's not quite the same as coffee back home. It's no Taylor's After Dark blend, but when you've gone a month with only two cups of goes down pretty well! 

I've become accustomed to doing pre study and 功課 (homework) on my balcony. Yes that's right I have a balcony! Mental! The Taiwanese hate to tan (or 'get lines' as they like to say.) But no I'm staying a typical Brit, sun's out, I'm out. Still in the mentality of got to make the most of the sun whilst it lasts! Haha! 

Song of the day, Rae Morris - Back to Front. (she's playing at Exeter Cavern on Saturday 29th, you should go in my behalf and why not have a drinkle in my behalf too hehe!) 

a typical menu...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The cakes of the Moon...Or maybe the 饼 of the 月...

This weekend is the Mid-Autumn festival 中秋节 in Taiwan. Also called Mooncake festival. So yesterday at uni I had a cultural lesson all about it. Only thing is my teacher explained it all in Chinese, so I'm not a hundred percent sure that I actually understood it all, or whether I just made up my own story from guessing when I was unsure on certain words. (It's amazing how much we communicate not from our mouths!! Body language and facial expressions have become great friends of mine. For without them, some of the time I would have no idea what was going on!) From what I gathered though, the crux of it is, it's something to do with a kind of moon god and appreciating the moon.

But pretty much it's a bit like Christmas, in that the whole story behind it, is not really of any consequence to people any more, and it's more a time for families to get together. 

Then the moon cakes 月饼 came into the equation. In my head they are like mince pies. Not to eat no no, but that they are the food of the holiday but actually have nothing to do with anything. Apparently everyone eats grapefruit around this time too. (Is that just because it's ripe to eat though?!) 月饼 are now made in all manor shapes, colours and sorts. The traditional ones are a kinda sugary pastry with pork in. But now they come with various fillings. They're funny little things to eat. When you say cake to me I think 'mmmm sugary goodness, let's put the kettle on!' Not these cakes though, it's like they've not truly committed to being a cake. They're still trying to be savoury but with a hint of sweet. Very odd. Not terrible, but not something you would have with a cuppa! 

I like the idea of appreciating the moon. I often find myself being mesmerized by the moon. It's an amazing piece of creation! But it's there every night. Why do you need a special day to appreciate it?! Also, with all the light pollution around, can you truly appreciate the moon?! That's one thing I miss about Devon. Often I would drive home, park up and stare at the stars just because they are amazing! But there is sooooo much light pollution here, that the night sky is just a big haze of purple. (As you can imagine this freaks me out a tad! hehe) Well that's Abi logic on the moon situation! But it will be interesting to witness what these folks do.

Last night my American housemate and I thought we would give our Taiwanese housemates a bit of a Western experience. The roof, a fire and marshmallows! Need I say any more! Toasting marshmallow and the smell of a fire = good times! 

Song of the day. I forgot how amazing Oasis are! So I've been reliving the '90s and listening to the classic Oasis tracks. Rediscovered the brilliance of the track Whatever. I don't think you can ever go wrong with electric guitar and violin combination! 

an assortment of 月饼 mooncakes

Monday, 24 September 2012


Pretty much most days here I have heard fireworks! It's crazy, there appears to be no real reason for them other than the fun of it. Back home, it's pretty much November 5th and New Year's that you ever really hear fireworks. And if you hear them any other time we tend to wonder why and what they're for!

A lot of the time I see and hear kids playing in the street with firecrackers. The first time I heard it, was when it woke me up from an afternoon nap. My word, I had a slight panic the street was being blown up haha!! In England we have so many rules and regulations about when, where, who, whatever can and can't 'play' with fireworks, going overboard with health and safety rules and regs. But here you just light 'em up when you feel like it, regardless of who you are! Such extremes! It appears balance does not exist in the world ha! Is one extreme better than the other? I can't decide! 

On a side point I keep seeing loads of squashed toads in the road...I've never once seen one hopping around in the flesh. It puzzles me. 

Tuneage of one's day belongs to...Damien Rice - Volcano. He is a musical genius! And you gotta love the harmonies from the delightful Lisa Hannigan. 

a bit of a naff shot but fireworks i can see from my bedroom window.

Friday, 21 September 2012

An Ode to Cereal...

Well well my lovely American friend took me to Costco Wholesale. It's a huge supermarket full of imported foods! This is the place to go for the things you miss from home. So I'm Special K'd up for the next few months! Oh joy, how wonderful it will be to have cereal for breakfast. I really was not enjoying having rice for breakfast! The other day my housemate put before me a bowl of rice and pork fat for brekkie...I was already feeling a bit ill that morning, oh it did not go down well! I now have milk to put in my tea too. Ah my little face was beaming as I found pasta and cheese! I was so happy in fact, that I started singing songs from The Lion King as I merrily skipped around the store. You know you have a happy Abi on your hands when I start randomly singing! 

Now these 7-11 stores. I have now learnt, that every time you spend 66NT (about £1.50 ish) you get a little sticker. The woman gave me my sticker and I was thinking, oh how cute. I then found out that you are supposed to collect these stickers and then you get a free toy or some other tacky thing. I don't really want the toy but I am happy to have a sticker! It made me feel like when I was kid collecting the FIFA stickers! 

Epic tune of today = Metric - Gold, Guns, Girls. (Acoustic version is also 很好听!)

this is the little sticker from 7-11...and this chap is everywhere. I think he's called Doraemon
from some Japanese manga series.

and as I walked to 7-11...look what I saw on the pavement! I just found it amusing.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Cooking, Washing and other such housewifey things...

For a while it has been puzzling me why all the Taiwanese wear their little face masks everywhere. Then I realised that actually Taiwan smells weird most of the time and all the fumes from the billions of scooters flying around probably ain't that great for the ol' respiratory equipment! Cough, cough, cough.

I was doing my washing today and thought to myself, this weather is an English housewife's heaven! I don't have to watch the weather and decide whether I can put a of load of washing on or not. We can just do it whenever we need clean clothes! (Vixylix, imagine all the towels one could wash AND dry in just one day of Taiwan weather!) 

General rule about food in Taiwan...if it looks sweet it's probably not. My housemate gave me what I can only describe as Taiwan's version of a donut/doughnut (I'm not sure how to spell anymore?!) Anyhow, the filling was red bean paste. First few bites it didn't seem so bad...after that it was just weird. And the other observation...if it's not supposed to be sweet, it probably is. I had a bit of a craving for toast so I got some bread, and it's really sweet. Not quite what I was expecting ha! Gee Taiwanese like their white powders eh! If it isn't smothered in Salt, it's drowned in Sugar. It makes eating quite the game for your tastebuds! Haha!

So think of your camping cooking experiences. You get your gas hob going and try to think of different things that can be cooked on a hob for a few days. Well cooking for yourself in Taiwan is just like that! Basically people only really have a gas hob here. So if you don't want noodles or rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you're a tad screwed! All suggestions for things that can be cooked on a hob warmly welcome!...and before you go and say ummm Abi...pasta! Don't! I am yet to find a store that sells pasta! 

A track I am in love with at the minute is Paper Aeroplanes - Lost. The lyrics are beautiful and made even more beautiful by Sarah's stunning vocals. Oh the melody just gets me every time I listen to it! 

red bean paste something or other...even the thing itself doesn't look happy ;)

Monday, 17 September 2012

Night market...

So I found myself at a night market last night. Well what an experience that was! I'd read up and heard about them before I came out here. But wow, experiencing them is a very different thing! There are sooooo many people, so many different stalls with various foods, which thus means all manner of smells from all the different types of food. Then there clothes shops packed between all the stalls. Lights flashing everywhere. It's just like being in a big city...except it's night time and you feel you should probably be in bed, but no you've gone out and your senses are being attacked from every direction! The atmosphere is bizarre and you never know what you are going to see next!

I got rather excited when I saw a place with frozen yoghurt...and it wasn't half bad tasting either. The Taiwanese have come up with their own version of a jacket spud too. I mean they put very weird things in it, but it was rather refreshing to have something mildly like home cooking! The vendors give out little samples of their stuff too, so half the time I'm not sure what I'm about to try, but hey it's all very exciting! 

And my most exciting find last night...a lovely orange dress for...wait for it...100 NT! So that's a little over £2. What a bargain. How long it lasts, we shall see! 

weird kinda tapioca/jelly like drink things...

Taiwan's version of a jacket spud...

this was a relatively quiet area...

funky 衣服的商店

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Small victories and Bugs!

I'm now learning that we must take great joy in the small victories we achieve. I will not be able to speak Mandarin fluently overnight. But today I managed to have a little conversation with a friend who doesn't speak English. It was nothing amazing, but it's something I couldn't do two weeks ago! Partly due to the lack of confidence. So HURRAY!

I always thought that when one visits another country, one should get completely involved in the culture. I always thought that if I were to live a Western life in an Eastern country, then this is cheating and you're not experiencing culture. Whilst I still think this is true to a point, I'm realising that it is sooooo important to have some sort of 'normality' in your home life, but still enjoy the culture and live in and amongst it. For some people, their constant thing they need is home food, for others home tv...for me it's music! I realised that if I can't get by in British life without music as my on earth could I manage in another country without my constant?! 

The bugs are bugging me now! There are ants everywhere! It's like when you go out on a picnic and then end up having a battle with an army of ants, except it's constantly! Then we have the jumping spiders, they're pretty small so no big deal, but you go to swat them and then they outwit you and jump away. I'm pretty sure I saw a cockroach the other day, but it scuttled off and I don't know where it went (a little perturbing!) But I did see a very interesting gecko looking lizardy thing the other day, that was pretty cool. And oh the mosquitos...the first week they left me alone, not a single they've decided I taste good. Though I'm doing pretty well compared to a lot of my friends, I only have a few bites. So I can't complain. I am happy to report I have not seen any silver fish...they were my nemesis back home, so I am glad they don't seem to be around over here! 

The Paper Kites - Drifting. Seems kinda fitting for the thoughts here. I spent the day listening to this on repeat...I love the lyric 'there's no way of showing if we, ended up where we planned' Genius!

no i'm not off to play tennis today. just gonna smash those mosquitos! this is an amazing device, very satisfying when you see the fizz from catching a mosquito.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Salt will make me 死掉了!

SALT will be the death of me! If I don't return it will be because of the excessive consumption of salt going on! It won't be from driving the car, or riding the scooter. No no, salt! 

It seems that salt is added to pretty much everything! My housemate put salt on chopped up pears! SACRILEGE! And in case you were it doesn't taste good. How are the Taiwanese, on the whole, so tiny and healthy with the amount of salt they have in everything? I mean, I don't even put salt in the water when I cook pasta! I've always heard the old wives tale of if you have problems with slugs eating your plants or what not, then you must put salt out and they will explode. Well, I think I am a slug. Because I feel like I'm going to explode at any given moment! 

It's pretty weird being a foreigner in Taiwan. You are always very aware of it. You will always get stared at when you walk down the street, when you walk into a restaurant, everywhere! I guess in European countries and the States, and most Western countries really, you can almost blend into the background and the only thing that will give away that you're a Brit is by your actions. But here, you definitly stand out. It made me wonder whether I do the same back home. Do I stare out a foreigner? I hope I don't! Because now experiencing it, it feels like someone is always watching you, or giving you a double take and judging your Western ways. But I think it's just in human nature to try and suss out something that is different from yourself. But all that being said, the Taiwanese are really generous and hospitable. I've been given all manor of teas, drinks, weird foods, fruit and various other things. Today I went for a little stroll around Shalu and we had this kinda ice dessert in this place. The owner just sits down with us and chats away (of course I don't understand much, but the Taiwanese seem to appreciate when you try to speak to them in Chinese.) Then he gives us this freshly made tea on the house, and tells me next time I come he will give me some free desert. It's moments like that, that make being in a strange land pleasant and exciting. It makes me want to be more hospitable back home. I think our reserved British ways sometimes hold us back. That along with the stupid amounts of crime that make you afraid of trusting a stranger. Here, I've seen police once. Everything seems to be pretty lax and chilled out. Though I am living in Taiwan's version of the countryside...perhaps the big cities are different. I don't know. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Turning the corner...

I have been getting all frustrated with my lack of Chinese language skills. Then I got to thinking and decided that foreigners come to England with very broken English but we still understand them. So I decided, JUST GO FOR IT! I realised that the things I fear the most are the unknowns and the things that 'may' happen. And all too often these unknowns either never happen or aren't as bad as we play them out to be in our heads. So yes I am making mistakes but that really is the only way for me to learn. And those mistakes are stepping stones. I think when we learn skills as adults we want to be an expert straight away. So fearlessly trying is by no means easy, but if it gets you closer to the goal you want to reach then surely it's worth giving it a shot! 

So I was told how there is a 7-11 shop on pretty much every corner of every block. (7-11's are a convenience store, similar to our Spar I guess.)'s true! On pretty much every corner you turn, there you have another 7-11. 

We had roast duck (烤鸭) here yesterday. The Taiwanese love the skin and bones and aren't so keen on the actual meat. (This works out great for me...I get to eat the meaty bits that no one wants.) And apparently the most delicious bit is the brain! I'm pretty adventurous with my food but not even I could stretch myself so far as to try it. Just watching someone eat it got my gag reflex going! It is funny how our culture and upbringing dictates what we deem to be good/bad. Here, it is just a fact that the skin and bones are the best bit of the animal. Back home we tend to throw away the bits we don't want. It's a strange thought. Who decided in each country or area what is/isn't acceptable? And how much does culture have a bearing on our actions in life? We all have a moral code but every country views things differently. It's fascinating to see as an outsider looking in. 

My tune of the day is Erin K & Tash - Keep Her. 

my nearest 7-11. the one of many...

Saturday, 8 September 2012


I ordinarily hate big coffee chains and would much rather go to a cute, little cafe. But today I was soooo happy to go to Starbucks and have some actual decent coffee. JOY! Think I'm going to have to learn how to order my coffee though...I was most grateful that I had a friend with me to help! Ha! I will get this lingo eventually!

I spied out a music shop too, so I'm gonna have to go and take a cheeky visit there.

Just about getting used to driving here now. The traffic lights give you a countdown to when they are going to turn green. Which I think is genius! Roundabouts don't exist here either!

Yesterday some of the neighbours came round with some fruit for us. They gave us the tiniest bananas you have ever seen. Very cute. I love that the Taiwanese use their local produce, it's so fresh and just wonderful. Guava and Mango = The best breakfast. It never made sense to me that us Brits import things that we can grow ourselves but hey! 

aren't these the cutest bananas ever?!

and this is a little center piece at my friends place. I love it! 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Study, study, study...

Well I've finished my first week at uni. The first day was super easy, so I got moved up a class. Now it's difficult!!! EEK! I'm understanding all the words, but I need to catch up on reading and writing the characters. Oooph it's difficult. But getting there. Well I'm getting there with recognising them and I can just about copy them. But remembering how to write them off the top of my head. Oh that's tough!

Last night we went out for something to eat. Here it's normal to go out to eat at  like 10 or 11pm. I found food I like, woohoo! I had dan's like an omlette but better. And milk doesn't really exist over here, so I had a mix of soy and rice milk...surprisingly really nice! (And it's even nicer when you warm it up and add honey and crushed almonds! Lush.) You know it's a good day when you can go out and pay for your meal with one coin...and still get change!! :O

It's so amazing having so many different cultures all in one place. Of those of us that went out last night there were Mexicans, Americans, Canadians, Koreans, Japanese and me the solitary Brit. It's just incredible the diversity!

Ooph writing characters is HARD! 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Today I tried squid...uhhh 不好吃 I don't muchly like it!! I also don't get what the rave about bubble tea (珍珠奶茶)  is all about, I didn't really like that either. It's a weird really milky tea kinda drink but it has these weird little chewy balls in it. WEIRD!  

It's really weird how us human beings can just adapt to new surroundings. I mean, yes the Taiwanese have weird ways of doing things (they don't have showers in the way we have's a case of here's a shower head, now you use improv!) and lots of things like that. But you just adapt to it and get on. Now seeing scooters parked everywhere and seeing rice fields in between blocks of houses has become normal to me.

My song to go along with that thought is by an amazing band I found recently called The Paper Kites, their song The Mortal King Boy is sooooo hauntingly beautiful. Go check it out! (I'm struggling with the lack of a music scene out here!)

typical 'street'

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Here in my car...

So today I drove a car over here for the first time. Yep I'm still alive!

It's a weird thought having the steering wheel on the left and driving on the right hand side of the road. But it's not as scary to do as I thought. Yes I did keep whacking the door in an attempt of using a clutch that was not there! But hey I'll get used to it. 

It is insanely hot over here right now. So everyone has a fan in every room and they are on constantly. But just one more month of unbearable heat and then it starts to cool down.

Oh and a side point...which those of you who know of my hatred of purple will find amusing. My room here has a trim of purple around the entirety of the room. It was the first thing I noticed as I walked into the room. ARGH! Beth and Vic do not be getting any ideas!!

Today I managed to get the internet hooked up to my laptop....Eventually! So I am happy to be able to listen to GOOD music again! YAY! Today's song of the day is Kyla La Grange - Walk through Walls.

ma ride!