Sunday, April 14, 2013


I feel ashamed that the intervals between my posts are drifting further and further apart. Call it busy, laziness, lack of motivation, whatever you call it, it has definitely felt harder to keep up with this blog as much as I'd liked.

But, as promised to a friend, today a new post MUST come to existence!

So let's see, I have done so much here that it's becoming quite difficult to keep up with everything. Life is settling down. Everything has started to feel more routine here, where I'm starting to feel more like a resident rather than a tourist. That's a good thing, I guess. Yet in a way, I'm a little worried that once the novelty of a new country wears off, will my love for Taiwan wear off as well? But so far so good, I'm still keeping busy with teaching, and most definitely, still traveling around almost all my weekends and seeing new things.

It's rain season here, which means endless days of incessant rain, gloominess, and cold chills. Not the best motivation to get up in the morning to teach, or do anything else for that matter. The kids have been so dead this past week, barely giving me murmurs in class when I asked for their response. But I don't blame them, not when I want just as badly to be in bed and hidden under the cover. Let's hope this dreadful weather passes soon before all my students turn into "zombie students".

But asides from all the rainy weather, we were actually fortunate enough to enjoy an extremely nice perfect-weather weekend last week on Green Island, Taiwan. It was a 4-day weekend, since Thursday was Children's Day, and then Tomb Sweeping Day right after that. Tomb Sweeping day is a Taiwanese holiday in which the families gather together to visit and clean up the tombs of their ancestors. Taking advantage of this rare opportunity of a long weekend, a few foreign teachers and I decided to explore the Green Island of Taiwan. Green Island is a small island in Taitung County, on the east coast of Taiwan. We took the High Speed Rail to Kaohsiung, and rented a car for the 3.5 hour drive to Taitung, where we took a 1 hour ferry ride to Green Island. The drive was very pleasant, especially after having to rely on public transportation for so long, it was definitely a treat having our own car. We were accompanied by breathtaking scenery of winding mountain roads and blue ocean for most of the drive.
The ferry ride, however, was a completely different story. Now, we were warned of this infamous "seasick ferry" before we even embarked on our journey, so we were all prepared with motion sickness medicine. But that still did not adequately prepare us for the crazy waves we encountered. It was almost impossible to stand up right without grasping on to something. Some of us got a little sick, but we managed to get there safe and sound.

The next two days composed of some very nice relaxing activities on the island as we drove our rental scooters around the island (it's small enough to circle the island on a scooter within 1 hour) and taking in all its scenic sights. We went to the salt-water hot springs the first night (one of the only three salt-water hot springs in the world). Definitely a luxurious, relaxing experience to be bathing in hot springs under the starry night while listening to the ocean waves. Next day we got to go snorkeling, which was absolutely wonderful! It was my first time snorkeling, and I was a bit nervous at first (especially since I can't really swim), but we were safe under the watchful eyes of our snorkeling instructor. Excitement quickly took over as we opened our eyes to the amazing underwater world of colorful corals and fishes, a stunning sight which I have only seen on TV before. We even got to feed the fish with bread and feel them swirl around our bodies. It was such an amazing experience! For the rest of the day ,we drove around and explored some more before taking the dreaded ferry back.

We spent the night in Taitung and met up with another FET Eden, who teaches there, and also Kathleen, visiting from Hualien. So it was a nice little reunion for us. We went to a cute little pizza place, owned and operated by an American guy Pete, then checked out the local art district, where a weekend handicrafts market and outdoor concert was going on. Eden was our gracious tour guide the next day and took us to several really nice places around Taitung city, including a delicious Tex-Mex restaurant (surprisingly good for Taiwan). We headed back that Saturday afternoon, in the drizzling rain, but still extremely thankful for the much needed getaway and the perfect weather for all our outdoor activities.

I definitely miss the island and the warm temperature we last enjoyed there. 

On a side note, while making small talk with one of my 6th graders the other day, he told me that his English had actually improved quite a bit since I came to the school because he gets to practice speaking to me. That, was all it took to fill my entire day with a special kind of warmth. That is exactly what brings me here, what keeps me going. I have been waiting to hear something like this for so long...Oh, how it warms the soul!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Living Alone

This post would probably make a lot more sense had it been written several months back, but I never really thought about it until now, after stumbling upon a video about "living alone."'s a big step in my life, a GIANT step, yet I never really gave it much thoughts. Until now.

So it has been about 7 months since I moved out half way across the world to live on my own. In all honesty, it hasn't been too bad, well, most of the time. There are definitely many perks of living alone, especially when I'm venturing out to a new country. First of all, no curfew! Yea, that's a biggie, since I had been living under strict curfew pretty much my whole life before coming to Taiwan (I know, hard to believe for someone my age, but it's true. My parents love me a little too much.) So that was probably one of the most exciting things I look forward to about moving out. I can go anywhere I want, anytime I want, as long as I want. Freedom is sweet! Well, there is that one little thing called public transportation that I had to consider to catch the last train back to town before everything stops running and we had to count our luck to meet some nice strangers who happen to be on the way and offer to give us a ride (but that may be a story for another time).

Anyway, freedom. Lots of it. It's my own place, I can decorate it however I want, no longer the need to make my bed every morning, doing the dishes after every meal, waiting for the bathroom...But I'm a pretty clean person, so I do try to keep my room pretty clean and tidy. It's definitely nice with no one else around, because I can play whatever music I want, drink out of the bottle, and heck, even walk around the room naked if I really want to. Yea, freedom!

Nevertheless, as with everything else in life, freedom comes with its own price. As much as I have enjoyed being on my own, there are many things I miss from living with my parents, many things I have taken for granted before. I miss the warmth of a family. I miss coming home after work to the sound of my parents' chatters and laughter, my dad's random singing to his made-up tunes, my dog, everyone talking and sharing about our day at the dinner table, enjoying hot tea and fresh-cut fruits after dinner in front of the TV with my parents. I especially miss being under my parents' tender care when I'm sick (I've noticed my homesickness hitting the hardest here during those times.) Overall, I miss the feeling of being the baby of the family.

Probably what I miss most of all, though, is my dad's cooking. I have always loved my dad's cooking, but what I miss the most is not just the food itself, but more of the gestures involved. Nothing feels warmer than waking up in the morning and coming downstairs to a warm breakfast waiting at the table, prepared by my caring father just to make sure I have a good meal to start the day. Then there's coming home after school and work each day to the aroma from the kitchen as my dad busied himself preparing for dinner. Often times at night, while I buried myself in front of the computer working on homework, studying, my dad would quietly come into my room with a little bit of warm snacks, hot tea, milk, whatever he conjured up that night. Those I call my "comfort food," to carry me late into the night until I finish my work. These are his way to show how much he really cares for me.

I guess all these things make me seem pretty spoiled before. I do feel spoiled, but it is little things like these that I have come to cherish so much now that my parents are no longer by my side. My mother showed her love through the daily conversation that we shared, fussing at me to get things done as I should, and my father showed his love through all the food he prepared for me. From this experience, I find myself to value family so much more than I did before, I find comfort in seeing my parents smile, knowing they had a good day, and I treasure each day I get to spend with them.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Not just another Auld Lang Syne

Another year passed and gone, it's the time for many of us to start reflecting upon the last year and all our accomplishments, our ups and downs, the people who have come and gone through our lives, and how much we have overcome the past year. I guess I will join in the fun and do a bit of evaluation of my own year as well.

First of all, this was definitely not just another New Year's Eve for me, for this marked my very first time greeting the New Year away from my family, one that was spent purely with friends, a bigger celebration than I've ever experienced before, with crowds, excitement, an actual countdown, glorious fireworks from Taipei 101 that I could only dreamed of seeing before from watching TV, an all-nighter of karaoke afterward, and even a flag-raising ceremony with Taiwan's president to greet the first dawn of the new year. Exciting? Definitely. Exhausting? No doubt, but well worth it. This New Year was definitely worth celebrating. Being in a new country, new experiences, new friends, all a part of a new beginning.

2012 has definitely been an intense year for me, with much drastic changes, realizations, discoveries, and LOTS of learning and growing as an individual. Life has surely taken me a long way in the past 6 months, considering just half a year ago, I had absolutely no clue where I was headed. I was fed up and unfulfilled by my life at the time, and desperately wanted to leave. I never thought that Taiwan would even be a possibility for me. As much as I like the country and the culture, working in Taiwan was not an option I was considering, for it would mean that I would be half-way across the world completely on my own for the first time, something that my overprotective parents would strongly frown upon. Yet somehow, as if by some mysterious force of fate, I happened to glance at the program book of my school's job fair and spotted the Taiwanese Embassy on it, the ONLY international organization out of all the local school districts on the list. Out of curiosity, I decided to check out their booth. One thing led to another, and next thing I knew, I have landed a job teaching English in Taiwan! The surprising thing is, my parents actually supported the idea and urged me to try it out, for the program seems well-organized and reliable. So in a way, it was also a very big leap for my parents as well, to learn to let go of me and send me out to face the world on my own, no longer sheltered under their protective arms. I love them dearly for doing this for me!

The months following my arrival in Taiwan were a whirlwind of getting settled, adapting to the new life and job, culture shocks, excitement of exploring new places, meeting new people, new discoveries, everything that a colorful life should be. I have never felt so alive, just breathing in the freshness of a new life! Being in Taiwan has definitely challenged me to realize many things about myself, what I'm really capable of, what I can live without, who really matters and truly cares, and helped me realize what I truly value in life. I feel like I have accomplished much more in the past 4 months than I have in years spent in the U.S. I hope to accomplish even greater things in the next year, with even more exciting adventures in the making. 

Anyway, to follow traditions, here are some of my resolutions for this new year:

1. Travel and explore more of Taiwan (definitely doable!)
2. Explore other countries
3. Meet more people & make more new friends
4. Keeping in touch with old friends who matter
5. Get into a better sleeping schedule
6. Learn to cook better
7. Improve my Chinese (drastically!)
8. Keep up with my blogging more

Even though I really hope to achieve all these for the coming year, there is a one other resolution that I long to accomplish most of all. I think I can actually do without any other resolutions as long as I can find a way to achieve this one resolution. Ironically, the achievement of this "one" resolution remains completely out of my control...