Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

Term 1 is Ending! The Final Push

Posted in Academics, Culture, Exchange, Exchange Students, NTU, Taiwan, Thoughts, University by J on January 6, 2008

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The year starts off slightly off-centred. A new adventure to be found every day!

A news brief to kick off the new year…

With this week left before the finals start, it’s starting to get a little… how shall I say this? It’s time to turn the gas on! Vroom, vroom!

Reporting on other areas:

This month has been the preparation and steeling of feelings, for people are departing throughout this month. Many of whom I will probably never see again. But hey! At least there’s the internet… and visitation rights.

So, in culmination, in contrast to December’s mostly party-like atmosphere (as much as we could make it), January looks to be a balance between send-offs and school.

Finally a posting related to academics.

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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Mail from Home

Posted in Exchange, Home, Miscellaneous, Thoughts by J on November 8, 2007

home mail

This picture embodies what it feels like to receive mail and packages from home. Email, too.

Thank-you.

(Borrowed image.)

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.

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.

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. =))