Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Story of a Scooter (#15)

Tuesday, October 18:
My poor little old scooter had a rough day today! It has been through a lot in the 3+ years I have owned it. Since I bought it from a teacher who was moving back to the U.S. for about US$200, it has driven me through rainy Yilan winters, made it all the way around Taiwan, and carried many guests, including my grandma, not to mention getting me to and from all the various schools I teach at. This semester, I need to drive almost twice as much and started thinking about upgrading a little, after all my little scooter was already 12+ years old when I bought it.  Now 3 years later, I was thinking it was time to switch. But I was still a little hesitant, did I really need a new scooter? Was this a good investment? I’d been to look at some secondhand scooters last week, and still hadn’t reached a decision. Then two very odd things happened today. First, when I went to drive to school this afternoon, I found that my rear tire was almost completely flat. I ended up having to take a taxi to and from class. I was really worried about the extra cost, and didn’t really want to spend a lot of money on a new tire when I was thinking of buying a different scooter. Plus I wasn’t sure how I was going to get my scooter somewhere to be repaired. But I called the repair shop I’ve used before, and they came to get it from my house, found the leak, patched up the tire, and even tightened my breaks. When it was time to pay, I was a little confused, they told me it only cost one dollar. I was like one hundred? Five hundred? Nope. NT$1. That’s like 30 cents. Oh Taiwan, I love you! How much would the towing alone have been in Canada?
So then I drove out to my Chinese teacher’s house and on the way, it started making a strange, scary, but completely unrelated noise. I was just praying as I was driving (in the pouring rain I might mention) that I would make it. I decided that it really was time to say goodbye to this scooter. After class, we went over to look at scooters, and I drove mine over to get it checked out but it didn’t make the noise. After a test drive and some discussion I decided on a scooter that was about the same age as mine when I got it, but in better condition. The price? $10,000 (about $300 Canadian). But THEN they looked at my scooter and told me they’d take off $2500 for the trade in since it’s still in pretty good condition, which brought the price down to $7500, only $1500 ($50 dollars) more than I paid for my current scooter! What’s more, I could get it the next day! I felt at peace and you know what, my scooter didn’t make any strange noises the whole way home. I guess it was meant to be.

Update: The story doesn't end there! One of the reasons I was hesitating on buying the scooter was because I wasn't sure I could afford it, but some friends graciously offered to lend me some money to pay for the bike, and I could pay them back at my own pace later. When I found out the lower price on Tuesday, I decided to take them up on the offer and borrowed part of the money from them to get my scooter. What I didn't know until later was that the couple had decided separately to gift me the money, but didn't have a chance to talk about it until after I'd been there. So I was surprised by a text message later that day telling me! What a blessing! So many things working together for good!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

7 Years! (#14)

Our first week in Yuli
October 16, 2004 I arrived in Taiwan with no idea what I'd be getting into. I was originally only planning to be here for one year... but 7 years later I can say that I truly enjoy my life here. It still feels a little surreal that it's really been 7 years. They do all kind of blend together after awhile, there was the year in Yuli, the year I broke my leg, the year I started commuting to Taipei, and so much in between. A song that I've been listening to a lot lately is Never Once by Matt Redman, and part of the lyrics say:
Scars and struggles on the way//but with joy our hearts can say// Yes our hearts can say// never once, did we ever walk alone// never once, did you leave us on our own// you are faithful//God you are faithful
I've had plenty of struggles along the way, and one long scar down my left ankle, but it's true God has been so faithful in big and little things, and it is true, never once in these 7 years have I ever walked alone.

If you're still reading, I want to end this post with an excerpt of my first impressions of Taiwan, how things have changed!!

Arrival: 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.

Danshui: 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!
Shilin Night Market: This evening, we went to the night market, which is one of those things one must do in Taipei! It’s 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!
Learning Chinese: 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!! Today we learned greetings for all times of the day, food, clothes, key questions, colours, and self-introductions. I'm not sure how much of it I'll retain, but I guess we'll see! My Chinese name is Oh Tsai Lin which sort of sounds like my name (last name first here) and means "vibrant." 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sun Moon Lake (#13)

Fun facts about Sun Moon Lake

  • it is in Nantou county in the center of Taiwan
  • it took us about 2 hours to get into the water after we registered
  • there were over 20,000 participants in the swim
  • I got kicked a lot
  • we had a group of 13
  • we were interviewed just before getting in the water and were spotted on tv by friends
  •  we swam 3.3km 
  • it took me 2.5 hours
  • I got a certificate, towel, and polo shirt for completing the swim
  • they had rest stations every 100 meters where you could get water, chocolate, rice and other things for free
  • we were required to wear the orange swim caps we were issued and bring a flotation device into the water
  • the two oddest things I saw people bring into the water with them were a basketball and an umbrella
  • maybe I should have brought an umbrella too, because I did get sunburned, and had a nice swim cap line across my forehead
  • it was a great time... will I do it again? maybe in another 10 years...

at the starting line

the finish line
after woohoo!

soooo many people

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Update (#12)

Ok, so I kind of fell off the 30 before 30 wagon, but I still have almost 7 months!!
There are a number of things I was going to post about or wanted to post about... but it just didn't happen.
I achieved two of my 30 before 30 goals, going to Hollywood (see pics here), and swimming across Sun Moon Lake which really does deserve a post of its own.
I also had a very eventful trip home, which included a trip to Banff with my sweet nephew, my grandparents' 50th anniversary, and my great grandmother's funeral (she also has a tribute post all written in my head)
One of the reasons I haven't been posting is that I've been having issues with Chrome, which is the browser I normally use, not working, causing me to lose a couple of entries :S
But I just set up email posting, so if I can get that figured out, maybe you'll suddenly see a lot more posts!

This semester, I got a huge surprise when I found out I wouldn't be continuing my weekly commute to Taipei. Instead, I'm teaching twice a week at an elementary school, going to Hualian once a month, and teaching on the radio! This last one is really exciting for me, since I'm cohosting a bilingual program. It's taking my Chinese to a whole new level... this is very different from a speech contest!! But honestly, I'm just so thankful. God has continually given me opportunities to learn, often under the ideal circumstances, like the year I spent in Yuli. I believe that without the ability and motivation from him, I would definitely not be where I am today in my language. Doing an MA level course on second language acquisition  last semester really impressed on me how difficult it is for adult learners to master a language, and while I wouldn't say I've mastered Chinese, (and will probably always struggle with characters in particular), I'm so thankful that I've been able to get to this point. With that said... you can listen to me here. At 8:00pm or 5:00am Taiwan time (add 15 hours for Pacific time). It is a lot in Chinese, just to warn you all.... but hey I make my debut tomorrow: topic Yilan!