Today I woke up to the singing of a nearby temple. Their singing is beautiful. As I was walking back home yesterday I saw them setting up a tent. I don’t know what it’s for but it makes waking up on a Saturday morning really nice.
The people here are lovely. They really are. These are some of the nicest people I’ve met and they are super friendly as well. They make you feel welcome within a few minutes of meeting you. The number of times people have taken me out to eat and treated me is obscene and I try to reciprocate, I really do but then I get yelled at. The culture here is that adults take care of children and the host takes care of the guest. Being that I’m a student I’m not allowed to pay for things. In America, college students are considered adults and we are responsible for our actions and we’re more or less responsible for taking care of ourselves. Here, you can be thirty and parents still consider their children adults. Actually, the children are so sheltered here that they don’t really get to go out until around college. As I’m walking through campus, there are people milling about and they look like middle school or high school students to me but are actually 20-22 years old. Back to hospitality. People I’ve met for only a few hours say that they’ll take me out and show me a place to eat. The first time I said okay, I thought it meant “I’ll take you out and show you a place and we can both pay for our own food.” Not the case. It’s driving me crazy. The next time we go out I tell them it’s my treat this time but it doesn’t work.
The streets are pretty clean here, you don’t really see gum spots like in NYC but the streets are really really crowded. I mentioned the amount of scooters/motorcycles here and they crowd the streets like no other. Imagine Manhattan and replace the cars with scooters. The only thing about these streets from what I heard is that the sewage system is aboveground not underground so occasionally you the smell of sweet sewage wafts up from the drains. I heard that Taichung is pretty good with the sewage because they cover it, but in other places they don’t cover it. I can’t imagine what it’s like in the summer. It’s definitely colder here and January and February are going to be the coldest months. It feels like a late fall though so the temperature here is still pretty decent. A note about the houses here: they don’t have insulation so on a nice day like today it’s actually colder inside the house than outside the house where there’s sun. Talking about houses, the bathrooms here can be considered “universal design” meaning the light switch is lower on the wall (and actually outside the bathroom and in the hallway) and there’s no bathtub…just a stand-up shower. I noticed this in particular because a) the home care doctor I interned with the past summer stressed how important the design of the house is. When people get to a certain age, the house can become like a jail to them because the stairs they could once climb and the bathtub they could once get into…their limbs no longer let them. I asked about this and I was told that here, they keep the elderly in mind a lot more than in America; which is true. Going back to children being seen as children even when they are twenty and still living at home at the age of thirty…they have stronger ties to their family and there’s just this culture of taking care of your own parents when they grow older. Actually, I happen to be living with a family that is currently taking care of their parents and I think it’s incredible. Even though I spent a summer working with elderly folk, there are some people I can easily talk to and there are others I find myself at a loss for words. Here, however, talking to elderly folk comes naturally to them regardless of their cognitive abilities. I think one of the grandparents had a stroke and I’m not certain of the circumstances for the other one. Granted, there is a slight language barrier because they speak a lot of Taiyu or Taiwanese (which I don’t know) and not Mandarin but I would like to be able to converse with them like the other people here by the end of my stay.
I live right by a park and I go there to exercise in the morning. There are different groups of people all exercising and once I got dragged into one. They used two wooden sticks to exercise and most of the time you’re either in horse stance or bow stance. I actually started sweating after a full set. In the park, you also see a lot of elderly folk exercising and the groups serve as a social gathering as well as an opportunity to exercise. Just two days ago, the people who take care of the park cut down some of the tree branches surrounding the park…kind of like real life bonsai. The garbage trucks that come to collect the garbage are really fun. One of them was playing Fur Elise, and other ones play random songs. I saw a few people standing outside waiting for the garbage truck to come so that they can toss their garbage onto the truck. I haven’t yet figured out if everyone does this or if some people do and the rest the garbage truck people need to pick up.
I went to the Feng Jia Night Market last night again and snapped some pictures. There’s an incredible crowd that gathers there and there are so many stands that sell food. I found a stall that sold Tang Hu Lu which is like candy apples but on a kebab. For those that came to our ASU event…we kind of failed in making the candy but I snapped some pictures so you can see what they are supposed to look like. Just a warning…you’ll get an enormous sugar high from eating them. In addition to the candied fruit kebab, you can choose what sauce to put on it and then they wrap it in edible rice paper. Speaking of fruit…I need to dedicate an entire blog post on fruit because the fruit here is crazy. I love fruit and I’ve had a ball here trying and eating them here. Taiwan has a very strong agriculture and the fruit here are all very sweet, juicy, and delicious. The funny thing is, the fruit aren’t as big as the ones in America but somehow they have more flavor. Boiled peanuts are a thing here and I remember my parents cooking them in America and thinking they weren’t that good but the boiled peanuts here are yummylicious. They’re more starchy and have a distinct flavor. The boiled peanuts I had in America were pretty much flavorless. Speaking of food. The meals here are legit. The norm in America is to eat whatever for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a sit-down meal for dinner. Here, they have a sit-down meal for every meal. The first week if I ate breakfast I couldn’t eat lunch and if I ate lunch…I couldn’t eat dinner.
Tonight’s Christmas Eve here and so far all I’ve heard is that not many people celebrate Christmas here. I’m also working at the clinic (it’ll be my first time) tonight as part of my internship, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m definitely going to miss Christmas in NYC because well, it’s NYC. I got invited to a hospital end-of the year dinner tomorrow though, so that’ll be fun.
But anyway, pictures to come soon!
Happy Christmas everyone! =]