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Thursday, April 25, 2013,

Here's a picture of my speech partner and I at the Chinese speech contest. He also goes to my school in Toucheng, and we are the only two foreigners in our school. Our Rotary district held this speech contest for all inbounds (around 40 people) to sort of check up on how our Chinese was going. I don't hang out with any of the exchange students, so I had no idea if their Chinese was good or not, but I was quite surprised because some had really good Chinese, and some not at all. It's not that any of them aren't capable of learning it, but you can definitely tell between those who tried and who didn't. We ended up winning in one of the couple categories.

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3:26 AM

Tuesday, April 23, 2013,

Rotary, being the kind people they are in my district, took us (exchange students) to get studio photography about a month ago. We had two changes of clothing, traditional Taiwanese and our own, and took the pictures in with different backdrops and different people.

When I got the pictures, I was surprised because unlike in the USA they didn't claim copyright or make me pay to be able to put it on Facebook or put a watermark on the photos. It was just a person who took pictures for me professionally, then gave them to me. I sort of feel like this is the way it should be!



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6:45 PM


Seems like a silly topic, sure, but actually if you plan on becoming an exchange student in Taiwan (which it would seem most of my blog is geared towards) this is helpful to know!

First, are there Apple products in Taiwan? Of course! iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, everything Apple is all the rage. They have Apple stores here just like in the United States, and unlike mainland China, as far as I know there aren't any "fake" Apple products.

Next, a big big big question that is going to be your first if you have an iPhone:
"CAN I USE MY IPHONE IN TAIWAN?"
Oh man, I am not a computer or cell phone expert, but I bet if you ask one if you can use it internationally they will tell you "it depends on the country" so I will answer that part, in regards to Taiwan.
iPhones, as far as I know the iPhone 4s and 5 for sure, but also the older models, are international phones, meaning you CAN hook them up in other countries by replacing the SIM card (done by phone companies) with one that is hooked up to the respective country's services. However, you can not just go out and buy one with an American contract and hop over here and expect things to go well. I got my iPhone 4s December of 2011, and knowing that it was an international phone thought I would be able to hook it up here. I went to the phone store, they put in the SIM card to see if it would work, and it wouldn't. This is because my iPhone wasn't "unlocked". A "locked" iPhone has continental restrictions among other things. When you buy one, if you do, request one that is "unlocked" because when you get to Taiwan no company is going to want to unlock it for you because either it is illegal or really dangerous to your phone, I'm not sure which, I'm not sure what this lock is either, but I am sure that you need to have one which is "unlocked." Wifi will work on any device just as it would in any other country, it's just the service that won't. I understand this is confusing so if you have more questions feel free to contact me at TristanHilderbrand@gmail.com and I will look further into the issue, talk to people who know, and give you a definite answer.

Now, how does the service work? Just like every other country Taiwan also has those contracts that are unlimited call or unlimited text, same as in the USA. However a pay as you go phone is much cheaper, and you can actually buy cards from 7-11 that put money on your phone and you CAN "pay as you go."

This is also important, do not plan on buying Apple products in Taiwan! If you are in the USA, buy whatever you need there. The prices here are A LOT more. There isn't a contract that I know of that allows you to buy an iPhone for $200, the cheapest I've heard of is $600 and $800. Yeah, ouch!

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6:37 PM

Monday, April 22, 2013,

Taiwanese and Chinese are not the same. Although Taiwanese people speak Mandarin Chinese, some Taiwanese people also speak Taiwanese. I don't speak fluent Taiwanese, but let me at least introduce the language.
Taiwanese doesn't have any written form, so people here will read traditional (not simplified) Chinese characters with their Taiwanese pronunciation. Mandarin Chinese has four tones, each tone making a word have a different meaning, but Taiwanese has I was told around 13. The sounds are not the same at all, although some of the words sound the same or are the same in Mandarin Chinese as in English.
So, now to my question, who speaks Taiwanese? Farmers, elderly, and their children. People age 70 and older generally all speak Taiwanese as their first language, and therefore their children, around 40 years old or older, will also speak Taiwanese, sometimes as their first language, but often as a second language. As for the children's children, age 20 and younger, my generation, some know it well, some know a little, and some know nothing at all. I think it depends on the family's will to keep Taiwanese alive instead of Mandarin Chinese. However, all schools where I am teach in Mandarin Chinese. Some of this information could be skewed based on where I am, however. I am in the north, west coast of Taiwan in the Taipei and Yilan area. I have heard that people in the south speak Taiwanese more than Chinese. I can't vouch for this.
The picture is of my own roman "pinyin" written out for the Taiwanese pronunciation of the traditional Chinese characters. Note: To date there has been no developed system of Roman characters for Taiwanese pronunciation.

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8:44 PM


Taiwanese opera, oh boy.
At our district conference this month I was forced to do a Taiwanese opera performance. Normally I would be more than happy to participate in anything related to dancing or performing, but this was too much for me. We had a lot of hours of practice and I didn't really like that, I had other dance like hip hop and breaking I wanted to do instead! However, I was still required to do it. The other foreigner in my school also hated it with a passion, and in fact I hated it up until the time when they put on the makeup, wig, and costume. I don't know why, but that sort of tied it together for me. I still don't like the teacher because she is mean to me, but now I see that it's a very praise piece of Taiwanese culture and I respect that the other teachers put a lot of effort in to making me so Taiwanese. These pictures are of me, REALLY not like me, I know!!!



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8:18 PM


On April 6th I had my first ever dance performance! In a show with around 100 dancers, in an audience of over 600 people, I was the only foreigner. I'm Taiwanese on the inside, though!
This was the first time I have been a part of a team in Taiwan, or in the case of breakdancing, a "crew"! I was worried that the endless hours of practice would be full of problems and misunderstandings, but it was nothing like that at all.:) There were plenty of words I didn't understand and times I couldn't remember the routine because I am new to breaking, but everyone was extremely understanding. In the end, we all became best friends, boys, girls, and teacher alike. I put up with the teacher calling me a peacock because I had blue in my hair, then giving me cookies and telling me there was real peacock in it. I was able to make fun of them back and we just became close through everything. Take a look at our shirts, they even named our crew after the stupid nickname they gave me, "Peacock Crew" :) The day of the performance all dancers and teachers gathered on stage to light incense, offer food to the gods, and pray. I'm not sure how to be Buddhist, but I'm definitely not close-minded when it comes to trying out new cultural things. My friends and crew were worried that I would feel uncomfortable praying with them, but I went with them anyway and it was really unique to me. I knew all eyes would shoot on to me when they saw my blonde hair, so naturally I was nervous before going on stage, but then I heard from the audience several friends screaming my name and all of the nerves went away. This was such a great experience for me, and I'm sure will stay my favorite memory here in Taiwan. ♡



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8:09 PM


I'm not sure if I have said this before, but I am always telling people. It's hard to know what the outside world is like if you have never been there, but in the outside world, everybody must study English!
English is the international language of business, and in as far as I know is a required class in every Asian country. It isn't like Spanish where you can just learn and forget, it is likely that the Taiwanese people will need to remember the English to get a job, really. Nearly everyone here speaks a little English, but that doesn't mean it's good. Well, it's a chance for you to help out and do a language exchange. It could drastically increase their chances of getting a good job in the future!

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7:48 PM