Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

The Outdoors Club (登山社團)

Posted in Clubs, Food, Night Life, Night Market, Taipei, University, Weather by J on September 26, 2007

NTU Sports Centre

NTU Sports Centre

Fortunate accidents are great things. I was on my way to join the Cycling club and in its place, ended up joining the Outdoors Club 登山社團 (which is much more suitable for me).

So, I took part in one of their first activities: indoor bouldering. Bouldering is indoor rock climbing without ropes and is not even 7 feet up. You’d hit the ceiling if you went any higher. Actually, no, you’d start to climb upside down. Which is rather hard to do.

So, I met my goal of completing this one route that it took me many tries to do: It felt so good to finish it. For most of the people though, it was rather easy to do. However, my poor physical ability is kind of embarrassing, though. Actually, the most embarrassing thing were my soft hands. Ahhhhh!!!! My piano hands!

The best part about all of this was meeting new people (as everyone says), getting some exercise (that wasn’t biking around campus) and seeing a different part of Taipei.

I also walked around in this pseudo night market place where I finally had my first 珍珠奶茶 in Taiwan. It was good! I also tried a little bit of this cold and sweet noodle dish. I thought it was okay. Only okay probably because I’m not used to eating at night as well as eating cold noodles. Lastly, it was my 2nd scooter ride that night.

And that’s the end of the un-cohesive rambling.

P.S. The photo is from the day before the barbeque when I was first shocked by how blue the sky in Taipei could be.

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Taiwanese BBQ-ing

Posted in Dorms, Exchange, Food, Miscellaneous, Observations, Taipei, Taiwan by J on September 21, 2007

P1010858

My conception of barbequing (bbq) has now been changed.

At the dorm bbq, we barbecued the food ourselves over a small barbeque. It was about 8 people to one barbeque thing. So, set-up all along the front of the dorm were barbeques everywhere. It was really fun because when you finally got that fire going so that you could finally cook your food, you felt that you had accomplished something.

Actually, that last sentence was just all a supposition. I actually only tried to make the fire go for less than a minute and then went off to chat with my friends and other people. There were so many people to talk to that night that I didn’t eat very much. Other than that, I was plumb surprised that we had to barbeque our food ourselves because I had expected one big grill where they’d cook the food for us and we’d line up and just eat and whatnot. Very Western, I guess. I must say though, the people were the most memorable thing that night. Oh and the door prizes were great too. They were for Sogo.

September 19, 2007 Posts: Table of Contents

Posted in Miscellaneous by J on September 19, 2007

Hi there! Since I’ve written so many posts all at once (seems to be what I do) and I want you to read them all, here’s something to make reading them a little easier:

New Posts written since September 17, 2007 (I change dates on posts):

September 10, 2007:

September 11, 2007:

September 14, 2007:

September 15, 2007:

September 16, 2007:

September 17, 2007:

September 18, 2007:

September 19, 2007:

Cheers! Have fun reading!

Commentary on NTU’s Main Library’s Study Facilities

Posted in Academics, Exchange, Home, Learning, Library, NTU, Observations, Transportation, University by J on September 19, 2007

Right now, I’m sitting in the basement of NTU’s Main Library. It’s alright. I actually much prefer the study facilities of the libraries at my university because it is much more comfortable. Here, the study areas actually promote study. They do this by having straight-back wooden chairs, lamps and only one electrical outlet per table, each of which, seats 6 people in total. However, this suits NTU’s studious atmosphere and most likely helps keep the school’s reputation as the top – and most difficult to get into university – in Taiwan.

At home, the libraries have multiple electrical outlets, extremely comfortable chairs, study space everywhere in places that look like an English gentleman’s reading room. Mind you, this is Canada, so some of the study spaces are in imitation of places abroad and have a sense of newness rather than tradition to them. I guess the state of my university’s libraries’ study spaces is indicative of the laid back feel of my university. Unless it’s exam time: Everyone’s a bit anxious then.

After checking out all 5 floors + the basement of the Main Library, I settled myself down in the study space in the basement. To enter basically anywhere that has books or study spaces in the Main Library, you need to have your student id card. You scan it before the gate to get access, much like swiping your card at the MRT stations to get the platforms.

Also, something interesting here is that in this particular study space (I don’t know about the others) is that when you swipe your card to enter, you’re assigned a spot to study in. You can change your spot once you get inside on a computer, but wow. There’s a couple hundred spots in this basement study area. The chart makes the study space look bigger than it actually is. At home, you just try to find a free spot wherever you can.

This orderliness is also something reminiscent of the MRT stations here because when people wait for the MRT, they will wait (for the most part) within the indicated waiting lines outlined on the floor of the platform. Again, I think this really promotes the work hard, study harder mentality that I’m imposing on NTU students right now.

Anyways, I still prefer my own study facilities at my university’s libraries because here, it feels too functional, too prison-like, too uniform (but it’s the most economical!). The dorms are more comfortable, thank goodness, but it’s harder to think there, that’s all. It’s a trade-off. However, go to the 24 hour room! (It’s the room that I’m in and I’ve already spent over 7.5 hours here this afternoon and tonight already. =))

PTT

Posted in Dorms, Home, Miscellaneous, NTU, University by J on September 19, 2007

PTT is a most glorious thing!

PTT (I don’t know what it stands for, google [now a verb!] it if you like) is the hub of online NTU life. It has everything from dorm complaints, chat about who’s hot (the NTU hot guy category is almost always dead), old exams (so I hear), clubs and just about anything else.

I don’t know why my dot is stopped at 台大台語文社 (NTU Taiwanese Language Club). This is a random screen shot of PTT.

Despite how confusing it might look, it’s really easy to use and it really helps me to improve my Chinese. Furthermore, this is where all the clubs and such post their information. There isn’t a website that every club puts up themselves, like at my university at home. PTT is their website.

So, if you’re anxious for information about NTU and NTU life ahead of coming to Taipei and experiencing it yourself, get yourself on PTT. You just need to download KKman or PCman for Windows or AlienBBS for Mac and then enter the address, and bam! You’re all set up!

I think PTT is the Facebook of NTU students. In other words, a possibly very large distraction. Hehehe.

Music for the Dead

Posted in Dorms, Exchange, Miscellaneous, Observations by J on September 19, 2007

Something really cool here is that from time to time, or a few times in a day, I’ll hear a sort of special music playing from a vehicle moving outside from my room because the dorm is right beside the road. And no, it’s not the garbage truck. This time, it’s actually music playing to signify that people are transporting the dead.

Before I found out what it really was, I thought Taiwanese people were partying it up all the time. Anyways, I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel something or honour their life or whatnot, but the music is cool in its distinctiveness.

Transforming

Posted in Chinese, Looking Taiwanese, Miscellaneous, Taipei, Taiwan, Taiwanese People by J on September 19, 2007

I’ve recently decided something.

I will change how I look into something that will help me blend in better than I already do. This way, I can go against stereotype – as long as I don’t open my mouth and start speaking in Chinese. My accent and pronunciation totally gives me away. I think that this will be a fun experiment.

Hmm what else needs to be fixed/changed… I need to stop liking exercise and being outside: I’m much too dark. I wonder what sort of psychological and emotional shifts this experiment will change. Hmm…

I think I’ll go almost all out (need a cushion). When? Sometime before I leave Taiwan. Also, I need some time to play out my experiment, too. Also, to do it all at once or gradually, I don’t know. I think I’ll just leave it up to my mood and daring in the near future.

That is all.

Shampoo Bottles

Posted in Dorms, Exchange, Home, NTU, Observations, Taiwanese People, Thoughts, University by J on September 19, 2007

Every day, I pass by the shelves that sit outside our rooms in the dorm hallways. I usually pay the things that sit on these shelves no heed as I operate on the idea that everyone generally has the same things sitting outside. However sometimes when I have time, I slow my pace and take a look at what actually sits outside everyone’s room.

Recently, I was walking down the hallway and all the shampoo bottles caught my eye. This was a result of last week Monday’s Orientation put on by NTU. My schoolmates from Canada and I were walking to the dinner and well, I had a cloud of flies flying above my head the whole way there. Or so they told me. I’ll choose to believe their words. No matter where I moved or how much I swatted the flies (or tried to), I couldn’t get rid of them. This situation was a result of my fruity smelling shampoo. Flies seem to love that or something. Mmm…

Everyone’s shampoo bottles were different. They weren’t different in that they didn’t do that same thing for everyone’s hair, that is, clean the hair, but all the bottles were like little flags proudly proclaiming where everyone was from.

That was interesting.

When I looked at my shampoo bottle, it had English and French on it. When I walked by the German girl’s room, her shampoo bottle was in German. The same went for the shampoo bottle sitting on the shelf outside the Japanese guy’s room.

So, without actually writing where we were from on name tags on the doors or something like that, if I paid close enough attention, I could decipher who exactly lived inside the room. However, that’s only for now. Once everyone’s shampoo bottle runs out of shampoo, we’ll all become a little bit more immerse into the Chinese language. Oh how we change bit by bit and day by day.

Informal Learning

As mentioned before, day by day, my Taiwanese Feelings Gauge Radar (TFGR) gets better and better. But first, let’s just examine what I mean by TFGR.

I find it difficult to tell if Taiwanese people are actually nice or if they’re just being polite. Just now, in the library, I had no idea how to get on the wireless network. So, I asked. This girl helped me out to the extent of looking it up on the internet about how to get on, helping me to try to get on and even pointing me in the direction of the building on campus that could help me out. People at my university at home wouldn’t go this far to help someone out unless it was a friend. Was she being nice, or was she being polite?

Interestingly, or perhaps not so much anymore, she took me for an American that was coming back home to study in Taiwan. You can see a bit of my rant about this in my post: “An Experience with a Taiwanese Guy (Part I)”

At home, I’m used to things like if you’re asked if you want something or not, you’ll get it regardless if you want it or not. For example, if someone is getting everyone rice, and you say that’s enough rice in your bowl (about 1/2), it’ll be topped up regardless of your wish. It’s just courteous. Another example from home that I grew up with is fighting over the bill. Let’s say that you’re out for dinner with friends and when the bill comes, (if you’re not poor students), you argue over who gets to pay the bill. Getting to pay is a kind of trophy. These actions are considered polite and the right thing to do.

Here in Taipei, it’s different. Perhaps it has to do with urban youth or something like that. However, I’ve noticed that things you say here are taken at face value despite underlying intentions. For me, that was a large jump to make when dealing with other people who look Asian.

So, every time that I come into contact with more and more Taiwanese people, I like to believe that my Gauge is being tweaked to be a little better.

And why the radar part? Aside from being able to gauge how Taiwanese people are feeling at the moment, with Radar, I’d be able to forecast what sort of emotions and mannerisms would be coming my way. Thus the naming of the TFGR, the Taiwanese Feelings Gauge Radar.

A handy little tool because every day here, I go out and practice speaking and just talking to people using Mandarin despite how stupid I feel most of the time for looking Asian (Taiwanese) and not being able to speak or read Mandarin. I know, it’s my problem. Students here at NTU are really nice! Or polite. I still haven’t gotten my gauge tweaked quite right, yet.

However, I have a riot here every day =). I love it in Taipei and especially being at NTU. For example, watching the “typhoon” yesterday from the under the covered area in front of the main doors of the Main Library for a few hours. (The library was closed on account of the typhoon.) It was so luxuriously warm that I didn’t mind the light rain falling on my books. It was a very wet day though. I no longer regret bringing my rain jacket from home. Hehehe!

So! I’ll let you know how good (or bad) I think it is by the end of my experience/adventure here!

*Note: The TFGR is patented by me. Haha!