Thursday, October 28, 2004

the last of the Taipei days

Yesterday was a fun day, for "work" we got to go to a place called "The Living Mall" I'm not 100% sure why it has that particular name, but it was probably the cooolest mall I've ever seen, magnified in coolness by the fact that I am barely ever in a mall worth calling a "mall"
Anyways, the neatest thing about this mall was the archeitecture! The mall has 15 floors in all I think, and the entire thing is round. The stores are around the outside of the circle and the middle is open, so from the top you can look all the way down and vice versa. Looking down from the top and seeing all the escalators crisscrossing through the middle at different angles gave the whole place an "Escher-esque" feeling. It was huge, and you could buy pretty much anything you might want. One the ground floor was the food court to end all food courts, and I tried something new and exciting : a Mongolian hot pot. You get your food on a tray with a meatal grill and a flame burning underneath, both the main dish and the soup. The fire is fueled by some kind of chemical (?) and eventually burns itself out, when it does, your food is done. It was really cool, but kind of scary, first of all think of me walking with an open flame on a tray... second of all, the meat in my one dish was actually uncooked when they gave it to me, which kinda grossed me out, but then i realized that it was cooking on the grill, lastly my soup had a number of strange things floating in it, including a piece of corn on the cob, a large prawn with head and little black eyes still intact, some kind of fish with a pink flower somehow stamped on it (somehow I don't think God made it that way...), soft tofu, and a mini hot dog... anyways, I wasn't too fond of the soup, but the rest of the meal was pretty good. For such a leisurely day, I felt really tired at the end of it!
Today was another strange day, although I guess we haven't really been here long enough to establish a "normal day" I went to a rally that studio classroom (one of the main divisions of ORTV) was putting on at a private school. It was a lot of fun, and really cool to see how they do the rallies. It was a pretty high-energy thing. Afterward, we got to hang out and talk with a bunch of the students (high school age) which was really amusing, because we were kind of like celebrities on one hand, but on the other hand, a large majority of the kids were too shy to talk to us! But we gave them all these little notebooks, and soon enough we were signing autographs... now that's something I never thought I'd find myself doing!
Anyways, we are leaving in the morning for Yuli; we're meeting at 7:30 am and taking the train down to Hualien which is the major city in the area, and then from there we'll have to bus to Yuli. It will be probably around a week until we're really settled, but it sounds like we will have ADSL in our house (woohoo!). My Taipei days are sadly drawing to a close for now, although it sounds like we may be coming back for Chinese New Year.
Two more notes before I sign off for the day:
1. if you want a postcard, email me your address! while you're at it, leave a comment on my blog so I know you're reading!
2. the Chinese phrases from the last post were my Chinese name, that I'm Canadian, my age, and my major, which I should add, was the most difficult one to say out of everyone's!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Vocabulary Madness!

Today was intensive Chinese lesson day… largely due to the fact that we were supposed to be gone today, so there really wasn’t a ton for us to do! But anyways, we’re leaving on Friday morning now! I’m excited, though I am getting attached to the people here, everyone that I’ve met has been so great in trying to include me, which is great, since I came here with no contacts already, which apparently is rather rare for this organization. So today were “learned” greetings for all times of the day, food, clothes, key questions, colours, and self-introductions, the last of which we then got to go practice on the bottom floor with some of the staff! It was quite interesting. I'm not sure how much of it i'll reatain, but i guess we'll see! Anyways, here is “my” Romanized version of my self-introduction: any guesses as to what they mean??
1. Wo jyao Oh Tsai Lin
2. Wo tsong djawnada ly
3. Wo er shi er sway
4. Wo ju hso shung jing huhn ing ü jyao hsüeh

I'll even give you a free one: “Wo bu huay shwo jungwun”which means “I don't speak Chinese”

Typhoon Nock Ten
Typhoon Nock-ten is battering Taiwan Monday as the storm's eye whirls just off the island's eastern coast, drenching mountainous regions with rain that could trigger deadly mudslides.
Forecasters predicted the fast-moving storm would spend most of Monday working its way up Taiwan's eastern coast to the capital, Taipei, before spinning northeast towards Japan's southern islands.
Flights were canceled between Taipei and Hong Kong, one of the world's busiest routes.
Taiwan's two largest carriers, China Airlines and EVA Airways, said flights to Tokyo and Southeast Asia were also called off.
Officials shut down financial markets, schools and government offices in most major cities.
High winds tore away shop signs in some cities, where branches, twisted umbrellas and other debris littered the streets.
Sheets of rain fell at a 45-degree angle in Taipei, where normally congested streets were eerily empty during morning rush hour.
At around 11 a.m local time (3 a.m. GMT), the typhoon's eye was about 60 kilometers (40 miles) east of the east-central city of Hualien, the Central Weather Bureau said.
The storm was moving north at 17 kilometers per hour (11 mph).
Nock-ten, which means "bird" in Laotian, was packing sustained winds of 140 km/h (87 mph) and its gusts were measured at 175 km/h (108 mph), the bureau said.

I woke up to the shrill whistle of the wind howling against my window. The skyscrapers across the street are almost obscured because of the rain and mist in the air. No work, sleeping in, sounds great! Well until we discovered that our kitchen was flooding… I guess my first typhoon will be more eventful than I expected. The water on our balcony isn’t draining fast enough, if at all, and the water is coming into the kitchen/living room instead. We have been using buckets to bail it out of the balcony so that we don’t have a large scale flood! Libeck and Campbell are outside in plastic raincoat things making sure the drains are free and trying to get the water level down. We may have to do this every couple of hours. We tried to call a few people, but there’s not really much anyone can do, plus they don’t want to leave their homes due to the typhoon! So all in all, things are kind of exciting here. It’s not as bad as it sounds I’m sure, but there is a lot of rain and a lot of wind… We’re going to do a grocery run, since until yesterday, we were expecting to be gone to the east coast today! The rain has let up a little, so we’re going to venture out while we can! Maybe it's the eye of the storm...

Monday, October 25, 2004

A lovely Sunday

This morning we went to the Taipei International Church, which is an English church that meets in the American school. It was kind of cool to be at a service that was in English, instead of not knowing what was going on, and needing someone to translate for me all the time… not for long I hope! I am starting to pick words out of conversation that I recognize! Anyways, the service was almost totally made up of foreigners, I’d say around 75-80%. It seems like it is easy to come here but still isolate yourself, and continue to live much the same life as you did before, speaking to other foreigners, going to English churches, restaurants etc, and while it is nice to have that familiarity sometimes, that prevents you from being the only white face in a room (much less the only red head! Although dying your hair red/blonde is pretty popular here, it’s just not the same…), for myself, I think I would prefer a more even mix of cultures. Afterward, we went for lunch at an English restaurant, and had pancakes/eggs. Then we went shopping, mostly looking at books and clothes. I was able to pick up a few things, one being a book with 100 contemporary images of Taiwan! It would make a really good gift I think, although, I’m not sure I’ll want to part with it! Have you noticed that I’m very exclamatory with my writing lately?This evening we went to a performance put on by an aboriginal choir, it was a really great experience! Thanks to Doris and her “guan-xi” we got 2nd row seats. Sometimes it’s good to be associated with an important person! The concert lasted over two hours, and it included a variety of musical styles. First, the choir came out in their traditional aboriginal costumes, and each was unique. They were so colourful, some had headdresses and many had beads and mirrors. They used a lot of patterned materials and ribbons. One poor little boy came out in a vest and loincloth! It wouldn’t have been so bad except that he was the only one, and the air conditioning was on! Anyways, for each set of songs, the groups would come out in different costumes. There was more than one tribe that performed, and the MC’s gave some information on a few of the tribes. Fortunately, one of the MC’s was translating, although not everything. They sang everything from traditional aboriginal songs, to Disney, to gospel! It was quite a show! The kids were sooo adorable in their costumes, doing their little dances. I just wanted to take some of them home! They were so talented too: the music itself was beautiful! One of the best parts was that my roommate (and future tour guide once we get to Yuli!) Libeck sang a solo in the closing number. Her voice is amazing, I am in awe! She could hold her own with the Handel’s Messiah girls from Briercrest any day! At the end they brought out a guy in a wheelchair, who apparently used to be a member of the choir, but had been brain damaged, I think in an accident. They dedicated the song to him, and many of the choir members were crying as they sang it. It was so poignant. I am really glad I had the opportunity to experience a little of aboriginal culture before I go to Yuli, which, by the way, has been postponed due to a TYPHOON.
Today is my first typhoon day… meaning we have the day off work due to the weather. Our trip to the east coast has been postponed/cancelled. I’m not quite sure when we’ll be going now, but the news said the typhoon is supposed to last for 2 days! Anyways, there’s nothing to worry about, it just means I won’t really be leaving the apartment unless absolutely necessary… my first typhoon, I’m so excited…

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Friday Fun and Night Market

I can’t believe I have been here a week now! So much has happened, and I have seen and done so many new things! Friday was a really busy day, we finished Chinese lessons and had a test!! It actually wasn’t that bad, it was Ellen, and she just said some words and we had to write the phonetic characters. There are still a couple that I am having trouble distinguishing between (ahn and uhn, ch and chr) but I am definitely ready to start working on vocabulary! I bought a little pack of paper on a ring today that I can carry around with me and write new terms in, as well as look back on old ones. Yesterday, we also got our laptops! I’m quite excited to have a laptop, though it is a little odd that as a “missionary” I have better technology than I did back home! But I guess our support is coming from a technology company! Anyways, our meetings went for a really long time yesterday, and it seemed like we were getting interrupted every few minutes! But in the end, we did get a briefing on Yuli, information about our schedule, living arrangement and contacts there. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks, but it sounds like the churches there are more than willing to help us get established, especially in showing us where we need to go, and helping us make contacts. I’m really excited that Libeck is going with us to Yuli! She is so wonderful. She was born in the area (in Hualien) and will be spending the first week with us! Hopefully by then, we will have gotten the hang of how things work/where things are! Last night we had bible study called Friday night live, which about 300 people go to, it is almost a production in some ways! Anyways, I got to talk to a lot of people there, and during the “class” time after music and a skit, we broke in to small groups, and I was able to discuss the lesson with 4 people. It was refreshing to be in a teaching position after a week of being the one not knowing anything! I had to get back into “English teacher” mode in my speech, speaking slowly, clearly, trying not to use idioms, and trying to find a way to act out as much as you can!
Today was a really nice relaxing day, I sort of slept in, meaning until 8:00 and took it easy, reorganized my bags, and cleaned up my room. Then went shopping with Hope, we got our hair washed, which was quite the experience! I’ve been told about it before. It consists of a head, shoulder and arm massage, hair wash, dry and style, all for less than $5.00 Canadian! The head massage was actually more rough/intense than I had expected, but in the end not too bad. The guy who styled my hair looked like a Chinese Elvis… I had to keep from laughing at that impression while he was doing my hair! Isn’t that terrible?This evening, we went to the night market, which is one of those things one must do in Taipei! It’s a lot like Rua Grande was in Brazil, basically a lot of narrow streets lined with shops and filled with throngs of people. It’s almost reminiscent of a mosh pit, an impression which is aided by the music coming out of the stores! It is really hard to get used to being that close to that many people, or even seeing that many people in one place at once! And this is not a yearly affair like Youthquake!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Today we had to "dress to impress" because we were meeting the manager and ceo of the company that is sponsoring us to go down to Yuli. We drove across town (and did see the world's tallest building). And went up to the 6th floor of a huge office building. Everything was very formal, especially meeting the people, it was kind of scary! I was worried that I would do something impolite! Anyways, after introductions we got down to our "fancy" lunch of KFC and Pizza Hut! It was not quite what I had been expecting!! Anyways, they do taste more or less the same, except that the one pizza was seafood pizza! I'm talking scallops and sole, chewy pieces of white fishy material on the pizza... haha it wasn't as bad as it sounds! Anyways, I'm pretty sure it went well, even though I really didn't understand the majority of it!
Tonight we went to Costco, which is almost exactly the same as a costco in canada, except bigger than the ones I've been to, it was two floors! We bought sleeping bags, raid, hangers and a mag light, all the necessities? Well hopefully the raid will work on the giant cockroaches we've been warned about! I had to kill a baby one yesterday, it was, well I wouldn't say an ordeal, but well... yeah, anyways, It is so crazy to be here, not just here in Asia, not just here in Taiwan, but in Taipei, one of the largest cities in the world! Things are always noisy and busy here, with people, cars and scooters everywhere! Walking down the street you can see hundreds of scooters parked along the sidewalks, everywhere! It seems like I have been comparing everything to Brazil, but I suppose that is normal, since that is so far my standard for cross-cultural experience. the next place i go, i expect, i will be comparing to here. anyways, i find the traffic here isn't as crazy as it was in Brazil, close though! it is still scary to cross the street! There is less obvious poverty here in Taipei, but i think that will be different when i get out into the countryside. The landscape is really quite lovely, there are mountains on the horizon on the one side of the city, and there is greenery everywhere! It is true that the pollution is pretty bad though, it always seems kind of hazy and when the sun sets, it is a bright orange colour - the same colour the sky turns at home when there are a lot of forest fires around. Anyways, the language is going ok, actually, in some ways, probably faster than Portuguese since my learning is more structured, but in other ways, i think i picked up basic conversational proficiency more quickly in the portuguese.
We have been learning a phonetic chart (lovingly called bo-po-mo-fo) which is definitely reminiscent of learning the IPA in linguistics, well except that there are sounds you have never actually made before with your mouth!! The linguistics background is helping me, especially since i can see the difference in something that is voiced or not etc, and the chart is sort of divided in order of bilabials, fricatives etc, although it doesn't say that.
I got my chinese name today which is Oh Tsai Lin which sort of sounds like my name (last name first here) and means "vibrant" I like it
There are only three more days until we are on our way to Yuli where we will be spending the first while just making contacts and slowly building relationships. Honestly, I think this first part is going to be the hardest, and it is the part I am the most scared of! It is like the first month in the dorm except it's a whole city, and minus the week of welcome and name tags on the doors! I am a little intimidated, but I know this will be a really big test and growing experience! God has been confirming in so many ways that this Is where he wants me, and I have been reading in Genesis this week, and I have seen that God loves to repeat his promises in many ways, and continually confirm his plans, but in return, he expects absolute obedience. This is something he has really challenged me with! Anyways, as crazy as it sounds, i am getting really sleepy! It is only 9:15, and here I am winding down for the night! I guess that's what happens when you get up at 6... everything is so much more exhausting in a foreign country!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A bit about food

I really have always loved Chinese food. It is really cheaper to eat out than to cook here. I haven't really done any grocery shopping, b ut there are hundreds of little restaurants around. I was given $1000NT which I think is around $25.00 Canadian. Meals come between 150 and 250 NT for Chinese food, american food is more expensive. SO basically you pay under $5.00 for a good meal!
I had a "high" class meal at an italian (sort of) restaurant the other day, which costed me NT260. I had linguini and duck breast with pesto in a cream sauce. It was quite amazing! Also every meal comes with soup and a drink. The soup is mostly broth and a few vegetables. Today I had kind of a lettuce soup. There is one I have had twice that kind of tastes like corn chowder, it has ham and some thin noodles, but it is not a cream soup.
Otherwise, I have been eating lots of rice and noodles. Today I had a kind of "dumpling" with cabbage and chicken, which was sort of similar to a won ton. There is a lot of curry here too.
And yes, most things require a good measure of chopstick skill. I"m glad I have had some practice with chopsitcks before coming here, so I don't look like a total fool! The good thing about rice here is that it is stickier (don't read mushy) and so is easier to eat withchopsticks.
Any other interesting things? Well there is a lot I haven't tried yet! I haven't been to McDonalds or Subway yet. I may not make it before Yuli, there are just too many other things to try!
Anyways, it will be good when I know how to read/order food on my own! Oh yeah, and I had a guava for breakfast yesterday, mmmm.
Tonight we are going to the American Club, it will have western food, but probably be more expensive... anyways, those are some of my eating adventures!

Oh yeah, check out my minstry partner: Hope's blog... incidentally, it is
I laughed so hard when i found that out! We really were meant to be together this year!!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

So it begins

How do I begin to describe all I have experienced already?
The twelve hour flight was not bad, though a little boring. I did make a new friend though, I ended up talking to a guy from Korea who was sitting beside me. He took some pictures of me and is going to email them to me! I arrived at the airport at around 3:30 local time, which was about 12:30 am back home! I was met by a taxi driver with a sign that had my name and we drove through the city. My first impressions were that there weren't as many palm trees as I thought, and that the traffic wasn't as bad as it was in Brazil! Not to say it isn't scary to cross the street! The walk lights have this little green running man who runs faster when the light is going to change. It's really cute actually. Anyways, last night I met some people and managed to stay awake until 9, which was not quite the 24 hour mark! Today, I met the others I will be working with and we went to church. On the way we passed through the night market (intentionally I'm told) and saw every kind of food for sale that you can imagine, and tons of people squeezing through a tiny aisle, including scooters and little carts. By every kind of food I mean piles of vegetables, freshly de-feathered chickens (with head and claws still attached), fish, and fruit. You can imagine that there is nothing I didn't see or smell today. The church service was amazing! It was bilingual, which I'm told is unusual (usually the english speakers would have to get a headset and listen to a translator through that), but there was a guest speaker from New York there. The worship was so powerful, it was really amazing to be singing alongside 1000 other people singing in Chinese. It was a really huge church!
We went for lunch, and I managed to master the chopsticks decently without embarrassing myself! I'm really liking the food so far, but then I have always loved chinese food! After that we took the subway down to the waterfront, close to where the river meets the ocean, and walked around for a few hours, we saw both historical buildings and really busy marketplaces, where i discovered that you can buy almost anything on a stick, from chocolate covered bananas to squid! Neither of which I tried today... maybe i'm not that adventurous quite yet!
I get along really well with Hope, the girl I will be living with, she is super nice, we have a lot in common too! I found out that we will be in Taipei for another week, or a little more, and then we are going on a tour down the east coast, where we will be putting on some school rallies, and then Hope and I will go to Yuli where we will be teaching. It looks like we will be there semi-permanantly, though we could take a side trip at any time!
Anyways, i'm sure there's a million other things to talk about but I am getting sleepy ...

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Change of the day

Sometimes things change so fast they leave my head spinning, a few hours of quiet, then a flurry of phone calls and emails, and then nothing until the next day. This will mark my life for the next year, things will be pretty constantly in flux, which is something that is exciting and exhausting. But it is possible to prepare myself for it, to rely on the laidback side of my personality, and choose to not become too flustered by the perceived instability.
With that said, I'm not leaving until Wednesday, but of course, that could change. Some good news is that there is someone associated with ORTV who is going to help me out in Vancouver, take me to the Visa place and everything! So no lost in Vancouver adventures, which is just fine with me!
I also found out that I will be getting regular Chinese lessons, which I found out when I was told about a test I would have to take! I was a little concerned at first, until I found out that this test would be after a few months of instruction, not on arrival! I'm really excited about the opportunity to learn Chinese (i'm guessing Mandarin), because I love learning languages, and I really desire to be fluent (or as close as I can get in a year) instead of just dabbling... it's valuable to know the basic phrases in a number of languages, but even more valuable to be able to hold a discourse. Language is key to building relationships, and that's what I'm all about!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Slight Change in Itinerary

It turns out that all the flights from Vancouver to Taipei on October 14 were full... who knew?
So anyways, I am now leaving Castlegar around 5:00 on Monday, and flying to Taiwan at about 11:30am Wednesday. It will be a long flight, my longest yet 12 hours and 25 minutes, nonstop.
So, only 4 days left to go... so much to do, especially since 3 of those days are the weekend!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Just a week

I only have a week left until I leave for real this time! Now we just have to hope they will give me the visa, or I don't know what I'll do!
Next Tuesday, October 12, I'll be flying to Vancouver, the next day, I'll find my way to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre and apply for my visa.
On October 14, I'll be flying to Taipei!
So, I have lots to do before I go, and lots of arrangements to make!
I've had the words to this Switchfoot song in my head for the last few days:
don't spend today away
cuz today will soon be gone,
like yesterday is gone, like history is
gone, just trying to prove me wrong
and pretend like your immortal
she said he said live like no tomorrowevery day we borrow
brings us one step closer to the edge (infinity)
where your treasure, where's your hope
forget the world and lose your soul
she pretends like she pretends like she's immortal
don't say so long
your not that far gone
this could be your big chance to makeup today will soon be
gone, like yeterday is gone,
like history is gone,
the world keeps spinning on,
your going going gone,
like summer break is gone,
like saturday is gone
just trying to prove me wrong
you pretend like your immortal
we are not infinite
we are not permanent
nothing is immediate
we're so confident in our accomplishments
look at how dark it is
gone, like Frank Sinatra
like Elvis and his mom
like AL Pachino's cash nothing lasts in this life
my highschool dreams are gone
my childhood sweets are gone
life is a day that doesn't last for long
life is more than money
time was never money
time was never cash,
she said he said live like no tomorrow every moment that we borrow
brings us closer to the God who's not short of cash

Friday, October 01, 2004

God works in mysterious ways

So, I have been feeling quite a bit of stress lately, because I have been waiting and waiting to hear about my Visa... on top of it I was offered a 2 week substitute job in Kelowna at the end of the month. So here I was in the middle of two decisions, waiting and having to choose, should I commit to this knowing I may have to go at any time?
I emailed Taiwan and told them about the situation and they said they would get back to me by Monday. As of this morning (Thursday), I hadn't heard a thing. So when the people from Kelowna called today and wanted to do a phone interview, I decided to go ahead with it, thinking that if I hadn't heard anything by now, maybe I do have another month of waiting.
At 11:00 am I spoke with the people in Kelowna and they offered me the job, starting October 18 (but arriving there October 15). I went for a walk, and by the time I got home at 12:15 there was a message on the phone from Taiwan! They are going to book my flight on October 13/14.
Sooooo it has been quite a day!
Anyways, some changes in my situation are that: I will be flying out of Castlegar to Vancouver, and then applying for a visitor's visa, which I will have to renew every few months once I am there. My position will not be stationary as I once thought but will likely involve travelling around quite a bit possibly even to Beijing! I will probably be sharing an apartment with the other teacher that is going. Anyways, it is all a little overwhelming, I think I'm still kind of in shock! I can't believe how fast this has all happened.
Just when I was getting discouraged, God provided me with the answers I needed. Relief.