Sunday, May 20, 2018

Week 1: What did I get myself into?

So Albert and I are going to open a bubble tea franchise in Mid-Michigan and I just finished my first week of training. Surprise! Going into it I felt pretty confident because I got through graduate school with my highest gpa yet. So I felt like I could do anything. That being said, I was a little nervous because of how hard Albert said it would be. Turns out he was right! But before that let me share some photos:

My in-laws taught me how to peel and cut dragon fruit. This is what it looks like after you start peeling it. It reminded me of the eggs in Alien so I had to take a picture with it- face huggers creep me out.

Here's what it looks like after you peel and cut it- It's beet red and the color is really strong. I bet it would stain, but it's incredibly yummy. I always want to have one when I'm back in Taiwan.

Here's a couple of interesting signs. McDonald's here is promoting two new kinds of sandwiches with different colored buns. The black one is made from squid (I think), and the red one I forget. Maybe red pepper or tomatoes. Either way it sounds disgusting.

This next sign is funny. It says "The gods are watching you if you litter." It's referring to the Buddhist/Daoist religion in Taiwan. 

Okay show off time. I got my haircut! (Finally!) And they straightened it for me.

This is the view from the apartment building I'm staying in. Pretty right?

It also looks like super rich people live in that building. I found three lamborghinis, a ferrari, a mini coup, and a maserati. The lamborghinis look like the batmobile.

I also got new glasses!

Here's an unobtrusive temple hanging out near Costco.

And going shopping on my one day off.

So although the training is strenuous- 9 hour day, 6 days a week, and on your feet the whole time, I know I can make it. It's making me excited for when we can be in charge of our own store, and I'm super happy I got to learn so much new Chinese vocabulary so far. All of the signs and buttons in the store are in Chinese so if I didn't already have this threshold of reading ability I would be completely lost. This past week I was working in the back brewing tea and other materials for the drinks, and I'm going to start to learn how to make drinks in the front and interact with customers this next week. Wish me luck!

Monday, May 14, 2018

I have returned!

I am back in Taiwan for two months to do some job training. This was my first time flying by myself on this route, and, surprisingly, it was overall very comfortable this time. (I bet it was because of my new pillow). I slept well for part of the first and longer flight, but going from Tokyo to Japan I felt like my body just crashed and I couldn't get comfortable sleeping no matter how much I tried. This seems to be at trend for me, though. 

Here are the movies I watched on the plane:
Justice League: Eh... but it's what I expected
Phantom Thread: An unbearable movie about unbearable people and disfunctional relationships. I kept waiting for it to get better but it didn't.
Star Wars Last Jedi: Pretty good. I love the porgs! What I didn't get was how some characters could survive exposed to space without some kind of suit.
Half Girlfriend: I always gotta watch a bollywood movie on my way to and from Taiwan. I picked this one because I wanted a fluff movie, but I am interested in seeing Rangoon which looks more serious. 

I watched a trailer for Alifu on the last flight and I really want to see it. It's a Taiwanese movie about a boy in one of the indigenous tribes here who is exploring gender and identify. 

I've been really curious to see whether I'll experience culture shock again coming back here, and if I have it it's super super mild. I've noticed some things about myself in the 1.5 days I've been here so far:

  1. My Chinese listening skills are the same (yay!) but my speaking skills have gone a little down, which makes sense. I feel like my fluency is what's lacking (meaning I have everything I want to say in my head but doesn't flow out well). It's hard to string together multiple ideas, keeping a good rate of speech. This is only when I speak to anyone besides Albert though. For some funny reason I don't get this problem with him.
  2. Speaking of language, I find my mannerisms with Albert have also changed now that I'm here. I'm using more of a Taiwanese accent (substituting s for sh, etc.) but it's a subconscious choice, and I'm acting cutesy. It feels a little annoying but it's interesting how it seems like my behavior shifts here.
  3. My chopstick skills have gone down a little. I drop random pieces of food all the time. 
  4. I'm not used to drinking watery soup instead of water at meals anymore. 
My training starts tomorrow and I have a feeling I will be so busy over the next months, but my goals for this trip are, first, to practice Chinese as much as I can and try reading newspapers; collect a bunch of children's books in Chinese to bring back for future use in my language learning and (hopefully teaching), collect recordings of different Taiwanese speakers reading these picture books out loud for the same purpose; and have fun going to my favorite places on my days off. 

I'm pretty jetlagged! More later!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

An Outsider's Look At America

Well, I'm finally back in America for good. (Although I'm coming back to visit Taiwan at least once a year!) The first few weeks have been a whirlwind of adjusting to the time, car-buying, apartment-finding, and all-around moving in. I don't think it's at all unusual that I feel like an outsider here, having lived abroad for over 5 years and assimilated into their culture and language. It's not a bad feeling, although I'm trying to be prepared for when reverse culture shock kicks in. I just think it's interesting some of the things I've been noticing and feeling, now that I'm back for a longer period of time.

The strangest thing I've felt so far is having to readjust to the language, specifically the pace of it. Of course I had to use English everyday in Taiwan when I was an ESL teacher, but I'm used to talking with non-native speakers, focusing on their accent and correcting mistakes. Over the course of time I've slowed down the pace of my speech and simplified my vocabulary, and I'm used to hearing similar language. So I'm trying to get used to how fast some people speak here. I sometimes have to pause before I reply in order to catch up with what someone else is saying. Also, the fact that I spoke Chinese all the time outside of work has added to the situation. I sometimes have problems thinking of the word I want to say because I have the Chinese word in my head, or sometimes I just draw a blank with both languages.

HOWEVER, I know I'll be able to catch up again. It's my native language after all, and I can get my old vocabulary back, especially if I have to retake the GRE. (Looking into master's programs in bilingual education & Chinese studies)

A really cool thing I've noticed is the racial diversity. I missed that a lot in Taiwan. However, now where I live I don't often see many Asians. So I miss that now. I relish the time I spend in Chinese restaurants because then I might get to hear some Chinese spoken in the background.

Something I'm really shocked about is how expensive everything is. I can't believe the prices of food, for example, and I can see my small amount of savings quickly draining away. So I'm holding tight to my wallet and keeping hawk eyes out for sales on the things I need. On the other hand, I can't wait to be able to shop for clothes and earrings here.

Another striking factor is the commercials on TV. They're all for prescription drugs!!! The wonders of medicine are wonderful but sometimes taking a pill is not going to fix the underlying problem. There's just so many commercials for them and it's shocking to me sometimes.

I still have yet to finish a full meal with the portions given here. Ok, I lied. I can finish the small dish you can get at Noodles & Co. (My favorite place) I feel a little weird though that I'm always the only one who has to get a box to take my leftovers home.

I'm LOVING the music here! Although the quality of songs nowadays is not so great- ("Shuttup and Dance with Me!") What's the deeper meaning in that? I think I'll mostly stick to country music for now.

All in all, I'm hopeful about being back and ready for anything. Trying hard to find a job! Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Guan Zi Ling 關子嶺- Mud Spring Resorts near Tainan

So the last part of our trip in January was to go to the Guan Zi Ling hot springs near Tainan. From Tainan we had to take a train and rent a car to get there. I've been wanting to visit this place for a while because they have mud springs here and it sounded like fun.
On the train.
We went to the King's Garden Villa Resort. Before entering the hot spring you could put a facial mask on and you could choose from either apple, mung bean, or mud. Of course I went with the mud!
Then you could put your feet into a mini spring while your face dried.
Also included in this resort are what I can only assume as fat-reducing machines. In the picture below you had to put your feet on the gray thing and it would shake your whole body from side to side.
For this one you would wrap the belt behind you and it would shake your midriff. We didn't have enough time to try them out but I think it would've been funny if we had. I don't believe they would help you lose weight- or if they did it would take a LONG time.
Then after you washed your face you could go into the actual hot springs. There were various pools of different temperatures and ingredients. I felt like I was being cooked in one it was so hot. The actual mud spring was just mud tinted water- you couldn't actually put mud on yourself and get in. Then there was a Chinese herbal bath. It smelled very different and the sign on it said it had lots of benefits- mostly for the elderly, like relieving joint pain. Lastly, there was a spring that had Chinese juniper oil in it. I guess there were no health benefits- it's just supposed to smell relaxing.
And it was- the whole experience was very relaxing and it's a great thing to do in the winter when it's cool.
On the way back to the train station we tried one of the special foods in the area. It's chicken that's cooked in a huge clay pot. Maybe the picture doesn't look great but it was VERY delicious. My mouth starts to water thinking about it. The broth was especially good.  
In the restaurant was a shrine to an interesting deity: Ji Gong 濟公. He was a Buddhist monk who supposedly had magical powers which he used to help the poor stand up to injustice and he didn't abide by Buddhist rules by drinking alcohol and eating meat. He's usually represented holding a fan like the one on the top shelf.
This is the device it was cooked in. I would call it an oven but Albert maintains it was a pot.
So that was the end of our Tainan adventure. I'll tell you about what we did over Chinese New Year next time!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tainan Souvenirs: Sword Lions and Puppets

So Tainan is famous for its "Sword Lions." They were first used on the shields of Koxinga's soldiers and later they became symbol that is believed to protect you. The number and direction of the sword means different things as well. If there's two swords it means it's extra strong, if the blade points to the right it's meant to expel evil spirits, if it's pointing to the left it will supposedly bring good fortune and luck. I thought it was a pretty cool souvenir and I like the design of it.
Also, puppetry is a tradition in Taiwan, called Bu Dai Xi (布袋戲). I'm really into the story Journey to the West and I found a puppet of Sun Wu Kong, the monkey king. He's known for being mischievous and intelligent and he's pretty funny too. The cudgel (the long stick in his hand), is said to grow and shrink at will and this puppet can twirl the cudgel by a small rod in the back. These puppet shows are common on TV and sometimes are performed live. However, they're all in Taiwanese and I have no idea what they are saying if there's no subtitles.
Pretty cool, right?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tainan Revisited: Yummy Snacks, a Catholic-Temple Fusion, and Koxinga's Park

This was our breakfast on the second day! Tainan is famous for congees (rice porridge). This one had fish and other unidentifiable things in it. I prefer not asking, otherwise I might not have dared to try it. It was really delicious! Oh, and Albert's eating fish stomach lining. (Ew!)
So there were a couple more used book stores we stopped today but I won't get into that. We had a midday snack of "NGUA GUI." It's Taiwanese and super hard to pronounce and spell. Basically it's made of turnip and it's served in a bowl. I thought this one was great! Better than the one I tried in Taipei. Oh, and by the shop was a really large and cool looking tree.
Would you try it???
Something that also keeps Tainan apart from other parts of Taiwan is its abundance of churches. I was very surprised to notice it this time. I wonder why they are so prevalent here. Maybe because of missionaries? It was the capitol for a long time. Anyways, today we wanted to visit a special Catholic church that had traditions and decorations fused with Taiwanese style temples. (Don't worry, it's legit!)
Welcome to Our Lady Queen of China Cathedral!
The Chinese characters above me say: "Catholic."
Among the many different things about this Church, Mary is depicted as Chinese. The volunteer who let us into the Church and told us about it said she was modeled after the empress CiXi (慈禧). I don't know if I believe her but that's an interesting thought. (CiXi was called the Dragon Lady and considered the worst and cruelest leader in Chinese history)
This crest was on the entrance. I wonder what it means. Albert thought the hat was funny.
Isn't the ceiling gorgeous?
There was also Chinese writing on either side of the front doors, which is common in temples. It's about Jesus though. Don't ask me to read it... it's a little too formal. (:embarrassed:)
The church looks a little dark in the pictures because it was about to close. We were lucky we walked around the back and found a volunteer who was happy to let us in. I would have been so disappointed if we didn't get to look inside.
So here's the side of the church. Notice the "hobbit hole!"

This is the inside of the Church. Again, it's a little dark because they were about to close and no one was there. Notice the octagonal opening at the top? The shape of the room itself was octagonal as well. This conforms to the Chinese philosophy of Ba Gua. I'm not quite sure how to describe it because I personally don't understand it (although I tried). The opening though is to allow your prayers to reach heaven easier... and it looks nice. Notice the incense burner in front of the altar?
Here's a close up of it! We use incense during some masses, correct? Well, the volunteer we talked to explained that the priest holds a lit incense stick to enter every mass and first puts it in this "tripod," for lack of a better word. 5 years here and I still haven't figured out how to call it in English (or Chinese either)... Oops! Laymen can also add incense whenever they like. It's a symbol of your prayers going up to heaven.
The container for holy water is also Chinese-style. :)
What else is special about this Church is the family shrine:
I asked the volunteer to explain how this was okay in the Catholic church. She reminded me about All Souls Day, where we pray for the dead. In this church, all of November is dedicated to all of the souls that have passed and this allows the parishioners to keep their tradition of paying respects to their ancestors. Instead of separate shrines for each family, this is a communal family shrine, and, again as with the incense, anyone is allowed to pay respects at any time.
Let me show you some more pictures of the church.
The Chinese says the name of the church.
I really enjoyed visiting this place and seeing the meld of Western and Taiwanese culture. I especially liked how these traditions were acceptable to the Catholic church. I'd like to go to mass there someday if I'm in Tainan again.
Next, across from the church was a park and memorial dedicated to Koxinga, a half Japanese pirate who helped kick the Dutch out of Taiwan in its early history. This wasn't part of our itinerary but we saw it and thought it looked interesting.
There's a big Koxinga idol!
I love the style of architecture!

Look at the beautiful woodwork!
I can't help it. I must take pictures with animal statues. This lion had an interesting style to it!
Ok... so the piece de resistance. (Excuse my lack of accent marks) I have been wanting to try this food in Tainan for years now, ever since I was told about it in my Chinese class. Last time we were here we didn't make it our priority, but, behold, we found GuanCaiBan (棺材板) or "coffin toast." It's a hollowed out piece of toast with gravy and other random things in it. Originally it was stuffed with organs. Luckily mine was not. (Barf!)
I thought it was pretty delicious! At first we only ordered one in case I couldn't handle it, but I scarfed it down and Albert had to order another one. Sorry!!! But it reminds me of biscuits and gravy. I think I'll try to make it myself someday too!
Also, there's another dish from Tainan that I have to mention. Now, I'm not too fond of oysters but if you are you should try "O-A-Mi-Sua." It's Taiwanese so I have no idea how to spell it. Basically it's thin rice noodles in broth with oysters. I skipped out on this one because I have tried it before and I was too full from my "coffin toast."
So that was the end of our second day in Tainan! It was a blast! I forgot to mention the two things I bought in the Old Street, but this entry is already picture heavy. Let's leave it for next time!