July 23, 2015:
It’s been a wonderful two weeks teaching 9th graders in Pingtung county of Taiwan. There’s lots of pictures online of me with them and there’s even more videos of my lessons. I go on a central tour tomorrow so it’s a bittersweet feeling and I’ve said my last goodbyes to all my students. My impressions of Taiwan and life here has definitely changed from how I initially felt.
July 12, 2015:
It’s already been one week in Taiwan and a lot can happen within that time period especially in a new environment. I was anxious since I haven’t left the country since I was three years old and I’ve stayed in the tri-state area for as long as I can remember. The United States is pretty but once I arrived in Taiwan, I noticed a huge disparity between the U.S. culture and Taiwan’s rich history. The food, peeing (and pooping) into a hole in the ground, and the swelling heat that came with eventual bouts of typhoon, these were all unknown to me until I landed.
I’m Chinese-American and this made a huge difference when it came to visiting Taiwan, a very much independent island that distinguished itself vehemently from mainland China. I cannot say I know much about Chinese culture either but the Mandarin I spoke was slightly tinged with a Chinese accent while the others exerted a greater Taiwanese accent. I came into this summer program with the assumption that not everyone is Taiwanese because ‘anyone can apply since speaking Mandarin is not mandatory’. However, I discovered the majority of the 429 people in the program were either Taiwanese and/or have visited Taiwan at some point in their life. I, on the hand, haven’t visited Taiwan in 20 years. (I’m 20 years old, btw.) Aside from the discomfiture and how I stuck out like a sore thumb even though I’m Asian, Taiwan has treated me fairly well.
The heat is unbearable due to the humidity levels that exceed those in the Americas. People from California have told me they also have trouble adapting since Cali weather is hot but dry. Everytime I take a shower, I feel cleans but still sticky. My clothes are difficult to put on and take off since I’m perpetually sweating and the program mandates long pants and the same assigned t-shirt. I practically peel off my jeans at the end of the day.