Wednesday, June 16, 2010

down south

Being a resident in the middle of Taiwan (Taichung, Feng Yuan), I was told I must visit the southern regions of Taiwan to experience a change of pace and to see some beautiful sites, and that I did!


Amy and I departed on a rainy Saturday morning at 6:30AM to head to Kaohsiung. We planned to meet up with a couchsurfer who would be hosting us for one night in her city. We were excited when Christina (our host) and her friend wanted to tour around the city with us. 

They took us to a beautiful college which sat on a small hill overlooking the Taiwan Strait.

We then zipped to Chichin Island on a quick ferry ride. 

We picked out our lunch from this array of fresh seafood (some even alive) just outside the restaurant. 

 I touched the ocean for the first time while on the island. Brandon met up with us and we all slept, read our books, and watched surfers while lounging on these rock slabs. 

We smacked down on this ice, ice cream and fruit dish, and we finished our dinner off with chocolate popcorn. 

We absolutely fell in love with The Love River back on mainland Taiwan as we took an hour ferry ride through the entire port. 



The next morning was a complete downpour but we were determined to take the two hour bus south to Kenting.

We had a rainy first day but it was endurable as we made a tour on our scooters down the most southern roads in Taiwan. Stunning scenery kept us captivated as the lush mountains were on one side and the sandy beaches on the other.

Our first stop on our ride was this gigantic rock in the ocean. Brandon felt the need to cliff jump just as non-Taiwanese tourists have most likely done before him.

We made it to the most southern point of the island where the downpour stopped just in time for some photos. 

Squinty-eyed, big smile and peace signs hunched over the most southern Taiwan plaque.


Our scooter ride led us up the east coast of Taiwan where the empty country roads and cliff views of the oceans made the scenery unbelievable. 

We had a few small dinners that night. One of them being at this famous Thai restaurant where all the guests sat outside under small pavilions. 

And no town stop is complete without checking out it's night market. We shopped the Kenting streets (after realizing it's like everywhere else) where we found this incredibly unusual large ceramic woman. 

The next day, Brandon left early to make it back to teach while Amy and I hiked around Kenting National Park all morning long. 

The coral gorges were full of crabs and lizards a plenty. 

We made for some relaxing at the beach and it's at this spot that I dropped my camera in the sand and it hasn't worked again since. 

Later that day we met up with Jamy, a couchsurfer, in Wu Chuan which is just 20 minutes north of Kenting. We had a wonderful night, without a camera, as he took us to five or so west coast beaches, dined with us at some of his favorite places, and then gave us a history tour of his town.

That night we slept at his place on his spare wood bed. 

 The next morning the sun was out and shining. It was the perfect day to hit up snorkeling and a boat ride in the ocean that included a banana raft ride. 

Here we are outfitted in our gear. At the beach, we were given lifejackets, a life preserver and a lifeguard just so we could snorkel in the 4-5 ft. deep water. We saw some great coral and a variety of fish in all different shapes and colors. Out of just the six or seven times I've been before, I think this was some of the best snorkeling I've done. 

After a refreshing morning, we made some empty stomachs very happy with this Thai food. 

We then did a whole lot of this until we had to pack our bags and head back to 'real life' in Feng Yuan.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

me speak-a chinese-a

Donghai Daxue (Univeristy) has unique architecture designed from the Qing Dynasty period

I've been studying at Donghai University in Taichung, Taiwan for 4 months now and I can't believe it's time to say goodbye. Susan and I have had (good) memories: missing/barely making transportation; dedicating 5 hours every Thursday (3 hours for bus and train rides, 2 hours for class); our teacher telling us that 'he's too kind' (in Chinese) b/c he tells us we speak well (in essence, we don't speak as well as he gives us credit for). 

Susan and I soaking in all the Chinese we can in class with Lin Laoshi (Lin teacher). 

Susan and I are the only students during our 2 hour class. In February, we decided we'd focus on learning how to speak Mandarin rather than be overwhelmed by reading and writing characters. One of the tricky parts about the language is that it's written language (traditional characters) has no phonetic equivalence. So, you can't look at a character and sound out a word. This is one of the reasons why Taiwanese and Chinese students spend many hours in school, because they have an unbelievable amount of characters to memorize. It even comes down to the stroke order of the character. My students complain about being teased if they write their characters with the wrong strokes.

The University was founded by Methodists missionaries in 1955 (which is unique because most Taiwanese are Buddhists/Daoists). The beautiful Luce Memorial Chapel, designed by the noted architect I.M. Pei, lies in the middle of campus. 

This language is challenging! To help, Taiwan has developed a national writing system that allows for phonetic pronunciation called ba, pa, ma, fa (looks like this: ㄅㄆㄇㄈ). Yep, I didn't learn that either but my fellow Donghai colleagues, Amy and Whitney, did and they enjoy it. I chose to learn pīnyīn, which is used in Taiwan and China. This is the phonetic spelling of the sounded word but this still isn't easy. For example: the pīnyīn letter x (which is used often) sounds like the English "ch" as in "church", but without the "t"-sound at the beginning. It's pronounced with the tip of the tongue close to or touching the back of the upper front teeth. All of the words have a difficult Roman phonetic spelling, which is different from what English speakers are used to. 

And goodness, I haven't even talked about tones yet! All I have to say is that's the hardest factor about speaking Mandarin. You can have the word right but if you say it with the wrong intonation (tone), the locals do not understand

It's interesting to be a small part of the campus life in Taiwan. 

I've had a great time trying to speak to the Taiwanese people. Of course there have been some slips while out on the streets like: saying pee instead of thank you, I want dumplings instead of I want sleep, or a curse word instead of the verb 'to look'. But, I've appreciated the locals patience to listen and try to understand; they are special people!

Donghai's architecture looks similar to Japanese style because of the Qing Dynasty's influence.

 It feels like I am just starting to get the hang of Mandarin just as my time is coming to an end. I hope to use it again someday, but for now, my next goal will be mastering the Slavic language, Russian!

More photos of my beautiful campus in Taichung, Taiwan: