Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

Rock Climbing at Longdong (龍洞)

Posted in Chinese, Clubs, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Taiwan, Thoughts, Weather by J on October 24, 2007

Wow.

Wow.

Taiwan’s natural scenery is beautiful. Outside of Taipei, that is. Taipei has its own kind of splendor. A type of city-bright, neon-lights, living-beauty. (Are there really neon lights in Taipei? I forget.)

This past weekend, I went with the Mountain Climbing Club on an introductory rock climbing day trip. That’s what 登山 of 登山社團 really means. It’s not actually an outdoor club but a rock-climbing-hardcore-mountain-doing-things club. My revelation aside, it was fun to go outside and see somewhere else in Taiwan that wasn’t Taipei.

Earth is beautiful.

Earth is beautiful.

To practice the belaying and rock climbing skills we learned at the last two “classes” that the club put on, we went to Longdong (龍洞), which is about an hour away from Taipei.

With gorgeous weather for an October day and nice grippy rock, practicing belaying and rock climbing was a nice way to spend Sunday. We were right by the seaside, which was an added bonus.

So beautiful, yet so dangerous. Not.

So beautiful, yet so dangerous. Not.

Haha! Getting to the rock climbing area was interesting, if not a little dangerous. I remember looking down as I was made my way to the climbing area and thinking to myself, “if my hands get too sweaty and I accidentally slip, I’ll probably die. Those rocks down there don’t look too soft to land on…”

Tall.

Tall.

Other than that, there was lots and lots of Mandarin speaking to be found: free for you to tune into or tune out just like a radio, or, even school (or life). Almost a television analogy. The digital age! Or was it analog?

All in all, there is so much more to Taiwan than Taipei. Taipei isn’t Taiwan. Just like how Guangzhou is not Guangdong. [Historically, Guangzhou (Canton) came to be taken as the name for the whole province because the city represented the province – somehow.] I feel like I’m just getting started on getting to know Taiwan.

It feels good to exercise outside.

Looking at our climbing area from a distance.

Looking at our climbing area from a distance.

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A Trip to Tofu Alley

Posted in Food, Home, Miscellaneous, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Transportation by J on October 13, 2007

Lots of people.

Lots of people.

This weekend, I made a trip to Tofu Alley. Or that’s what my friends called it.

Anyways, after riding the brown line of the MRT to its end at the Taipei Zoo stop, we caught a bus to take us to this alley. I’m looking at my map and it tells me that this “Tofu Alley” could possibly be in the Shankeng Township… Anyways, it’s a bit east of the Taipei Zoo MRT station.

Mmm... tofu.

Mmm… tofu.

The alley is a lot bigger than I expected it to be. Filled with people, too. Hehe, the most ironic thing is that not everything is made of tofu. For sure, many things are, but there’s other things like chicken and rice that are obviously not made out of tofu. Hehe.

So, we were so hungry that we ducked into a restaurant and tucked-in into this huge set-meal rather than buy a bit of 小吃(snacky food) here and there. The meal was possibly a 10 course meal. I forgot to count. Very delicious and none too expensive either. When we split the bill, it came to about 250 NTD each.

10 course meal?

10 course meal?

After feeling very full and walking around for a bit just checking out the alley, I had enough room to buy some ice cream. Tofu ice cream, that is. Mmmm, it was good! It wasn’t so tofu-tasting as I had expected, so that was a welcome change. Green on one side and white on the other!

All in all, I’d like to go back again for some of that tofu ice cream and that set-meal. The set-meal reminded me of the big dinners at home with my family during special occasions. That and the meal was good. Mmmm…foooooood.

The Green Island Trip (綠島)

The place we stayed at on the island.

The place we stayed at on the island.

This post needs to be subtitled. Thus, it shall be subtitled by the following:

The Green Island Trip: An Exercise in Group Synergy

I liked the trip a lot! However, I think that was a result of not being particularly attached to any certain group of people (I felt). I know that for others it wasn’t quite as fun as it could have been. I’d like to suggest that this was so for a few reasons:

  • A lot of people went on this trip together (17 people)
  • There were a bunch of different groups put together
  • Communication was spotty at times
  • Different cultures were put together (Taiwanese, Cantonese, Japanese, American, Canadian)

Despite this, I thought it was interesting to watch, observe and take part in all the seen and unseen developments that happened over the Mid-Autumn Festival break at Green Island.

Next time, if there is a next time, I’d suggest a smaller group of people (if the same people were to go) and clearer communication. I felt that communication at times wasn’t too clear perhaps because of cultural differences. Certain actions could have been misconstrued as impolite by one person when another thought they were being polite. Lastly, clearer communication would be facilitated by proper introductions. In this way, the potential of group synergy could have been realised.

However, I’d like to just note that this is from a Westernized point of view, so on my part, I’d like to acknowledge that there is also bias and misunderstanding. Still, though, I had a bunch of fun on this trip and I think that watching and taking part in the group(s) was a useful and enlightening experience.

Other than that, please enjoy the pictures and the commentary about the trip!

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To kick off the trip, we traveled down the west coast to get Taitung (台東).

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(L-R)
1) Early morning on Green Island. Pretty little waterfall.
2) Early morning on Green Island. Gosh, steep hill!
3) Early morning on Green Island. Don’t think that I went to that pagoda.

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1) The docks at Taitung. There’s a wall around most of the harbour with a painted mural that for a moment, I thought were real sea creatures were in the harbour.
2) One of the boats that ferries you between Taitung and Green Island. They’re killer on the waves, so much in fact that the first time we went on them almost everyone threw up. I didn’t.
3) The road back to the place we were staying at.

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1)The goats kept walking away (agonizingly slowly) from me. Snooty things! XP
2) Pretty Green Island. It’s really green.
3) Lizard!

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1) The crab is different from the ones at home..
2) No, really, it’s _not_ a cliff.
3) Sharing a moment in the pondering of the world beyond.

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1) What a cute sign! Hard to decipher at first glance, though.
2) The steps to the ocean. We had golf carts that day. No longer stuck by lack of transportation!
3) Trying to capture the fantastic lightening storm.

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1) Golf cart racing at night. I like this shot. We couldn’t rent scooters.
2) Apparently, I scared them when I jumped in front of the carts to take the picture. This is the backside.

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Coming ‘home’ to Taipei.

Autumn Commentary

Posted in Exchange, Miscellaneous, NTU, Observations, Outdoors, Taipei, Thoughts, University, Weather by J on October 2, 2007

NTU Main Library

NTU Main Library

Between summer and autumn here in Taipei, I’d definitely choose autumn. The sunny days here are just gorgeous. Yesterday, there was even a rainbow. In the fall, there’s a blue sky, a light breeze, and green things. Somehow, I have a hunch that green things don’t change colour here: No reds, oranges or browns. Something I miss, but autumn here feels like a perfect (almost, for nothing can be really perfect) summer day at home.

NTU Campus

NTU Campus

I’m writing here in what I consider to be the most beautiful part of Taida’s (NTU) campus and again I’m struck by the similarity to my university campus at home. Large, beautiful (for the most part), people don’t care what you do. Just an hour ago, I climbed a tree that was beside my picnic table right after eating my thousand -year-old egg with lean pork congee (疋蛋瘦肉粥). No one cared. If they did, they spoke about it until after I left. (There were lots of ants in that tree… hopefully no ants in my pants!) Now, I lie on a bench outside. I was told that if you do this here it means that you’re homeless. It’s possible.

Taipei 101 from NTU Main Campus

Taipei 101 from NTU Main Campus

It’s eternally green here. Not a complaint but a statement. I don’t quite know how exactly I feel about that – it might contribute to helping have a proper excuse about being in summer mode all year long. By this I mean being lazy and procrastinating more than I would in a colder climate. Can surroundings really influence a person that much? I just think it’s an excuse for myself. But a pretty good one at that. (Where’s those scientific studies to back me up? Practically every point of view has a “scientific” study to back it up. Hah.)

However despite this all these differences that I find, I really enjoy Taiwan.

Piano

Posted in Clubs, Exchange, Miscellaneous, NTU, University by J on October 2, 2007

NTU Main Library

The photo of NTU’s Main Library is also from the day before the bbq, when it was shockingly blue! Well, in comparison to the summer sky. 

A quick post on this:

At first I thought that you had to join the piano club to be able to play a piano (something I didn’t want to join), but thanks to a tip from my classmate I found out where I could play for free! All you have to do is go to the 2nd Student Activity Centre (二活) and just sign-up for a two hour block ahead of time.

The only thing is that the rooms that you play in aren’t sound proof. It was something that I quickly found out because that day that I went to play the piano, I think next door had a drumming session. I liked that though, because it made me feel better about being so out of practice – it took me nearly an hour and a half to feel that I was playing fairly decently: my sweet spot. Haha, but I think what contributed to such a long time in reaching my “zone” was that my hands were really tired from the indoor bouldering 2 nights before.

Anyways, the piano I played on was a Kawai, a little bit iffy here and there but good nevertheless. And, that’s it. I’m so glad that I found out where the pianos are.