Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

Indoors

Posted in Dorms, Home, Outdoors, Taipei, Weather by J on January 31, 2008

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I would freeze to death if this was Taipei. There’s no indoor heating in the dormitory.

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful

~ lyrics by Sammy Cahn
from “Let it Snow”


Although I spend a lot more time indoors, and move less than before (yet consume more), it’s all excusable.

There’s indoor heating.

Clubbing at Lava

Posted in Dorms, Exchange, Learning, Night Life, Taipei by J on December 13, 2007

For my second experience going clubbing, it was on the total opposite end of the spectrum as compared to my first time.

I liked it!

I guess it’s true that you have to try things more than once before you can totally write them off as being horrid.

Xitou (溪頭) / Nantou (南投) / NTU Experimental Forest Trip

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The hike picture.

What a lovely little weekend trip arranged by the IYC/Guoqing Dormitory (國青宿舍). On a very well-planned trip for the exchange and international students at NTU, we went to Xitou (溪頭) in Nantou County (南投), which is close to Taichung (台中). Xitou is part of the NTU Experimental Forest.

The first day, we set out from Taipei bright and early Saturday morning. I swear, food was the centrepiece of everything. From the first breakfast to the last dinner Sunday evening, we were extremely well provided for. The food was delicious! If you can imagine having practically a 10-course meal at a Chinese restaurant at every meal then you’ve imagined what we ate those two days. Well, just add the Taiwanese twist to it, and you’ve got it!

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Would you willingly hurl yourself off a cliff?

For our first stop on our way to Xitou, we stopped at the Puli Brewery for lunch. Mmm… food.

As a surprise, we were offered the chance to go paragliding!! Unfortunately, the people allowed to go paragliding were limited. Despite that, it was a gorgeous day out to spend time lounging on a grassy field.

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The prettiest thing about Sun Moon Lake in the dark: Their hotel.

After paragliding, we were shuttled over in the tour bus to Sun Moon Lake (日月潭). Apparently, it’s a very famous spot to visit in Taiwan. Ironically, by the time we made it to the lake, it was already dark. We didn’t get to see much of anything, but the boat ride was almost romantic. Aren’t all boat rides with 40 other people supposed to be romantic? Hah!

Oh, and be sure to eat some of the best tea eggs (茶葉蛋) in all of Taiwan while you’re at the lake. They’re better than the 7-11 ones.

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The view from the accommodation place.

At the end of the day, we settled into our lodgings up on a mountain nearby. Supposedly it was cooler. Maybe being a Canadian makes me think everywhere is warm on Taiwan, winter or not. You know, because after all, Canadians live in igloos.

Canadian jokes aside, after a crispy and fun night, the next morning there were some tours to be had where we were staying. We had the option of hiking up to a pagoda or listening to a presentation about the making of tea. I went on the hike: The food needed to be worked off.

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The bamboo bridge.

As a last activity before we went back to Taipei, we all piled into the bus and went over to explore the main part of the NTU Experimental Forest. I ended up in the group that went to take a look at the University Pond. Although we didn’t get to see the famed Sky Walk, the bamboo bridge was pretty cool. It’s rebuilt every year and it swings and sways and bounces as you walk across it. To make it even more fun, people completely disregard the sign that says that only a maximum of 10 people are to be on the bridge at a time. I really wanted to jump up and down on the bridge as I went across it…

And before I knew it, we were back in Taipei!

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A Taiwanese Halloween

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The Taiwanese do not celebrate Halloween.

As I also found out, nor do many Europeans. It is almost a wholly North American activity. Strange, I thought it was celebrated almost the world over; it must be that North American ethnocentrism creeping in.

Despite being just another North American activity, we celebrated here at NTU with a Halloween Music Party (萬聖節音樂會)

and reversed trick-or-treating.

Halloween kicked off with many of the exchange students and some Taiwanese students taking pictures in their costumes in the main lobby of the dormitory. There were many colourful costumes. For example, I rented my costume from a costume shop in Ximending (西門町), as did most everyone else. However, the most inventive costume, a hedgehog, was hand-made. That costume won the top prize in the Halloween costume contest.

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As a large group, we proceeded to make our way to the Student Activity Center, Huoda (活大)

from the dormitory while handing out candy to anyone we encountered along the way. This reverse trick-or-treating (normally, we go to doors and then get candy from the dwellers) was odd at first, but then quickly warmed up to. By the ones who were giving out the candy (us).

Actually, I think we scared a lot of the students that were still around at 6 pm on campus Wednesday night because they were avoiding and staring at our group as we were saying, “Happy Halloween!” (in Chinese). Hmm… Perhaps our (rather) large group was scary and a curiosity because we were all dressed for the Halloween occasion.

Afterwards, after some fun at the Male Dormitories where they had games and trick-or-treating at doors prepared for us, the music concert came next. All in all, quite a fun night!

Ironically, despite the fact that most of our costumes weren’t scary (as they are supposed to be, as Halloween is a night of ghouls), I’m sure that we gave some people quite a scare because it was something so out of the ordinary. Hah! It also marked all of us as totally foreign. I hope that next year’s Halloween at NTU is as fun for more people as it was for us.

Taiwanese BBQ-ing

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

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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.

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.

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.

Typhoon Fun? Dorm Problems

Posted in Dorms, English, Exchange, Miscellaneous, NTU, University, Weather by J on September 18, 2007

Here’s the rundown of what happened on Typhoon Night:

I went to hang out in another room and then went to 7-11 at 2 something in the morning for some food with a few people after a night of studying. We came back and sat around and chatted amidst the whirling sounds of the wind and the lashing rain (no, it wasn’t really lashing). No drinking for me.

At about 3:00 am in the morning, as we sit in the lounge of the 2nd floor, we hear the loudspeaker system spark to life. What the…

For a while, some drunk people were speaking on the loudspeaker system. The horrible thing was they were speaking in English. This for one thing, implicates the announcers because it meant that they were foreigners. Secondly, announcing that they live on the 2nd floor and were exchange students wasn’t a smart move. In the lounge, we were groaning at the stupidity of it.

Blessedly, it went off after a while.

Later that day, I heard some more details:

  • there was an angry letter posted on the door of the 2nd floor in fairly fluent English: some Taiwanese grad student was pretty upset
  • there are cameras in the dorms (I had no idea!)
  • PTT was covered in angry messages within minutes of the announcement. These messages basically said to throw the people out of the dorms.

I think that if this happened on a weekend, people would be less angry. (Probably not.) But what made the situation horrible was that as a result of the typhoon, there was no class the next day, so people thought they could sleep in. Instead, they were rudely woken up by this announcement.

At the end of all this, I believe it’s a wake up call for the people that live at the IYC because now, rules will be much stricter. Oh well. The dorms are still good.