Saturday, 29 December 2012


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 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 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 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 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 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. 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.