Wednesday, August 29, 2012,

Food for the picture hungry!
Ratio of pictures taken to pictures posted:  23741290837483/1

2:29 AM

Saturday, August 25, 2012,

I said goodbye to my state as I flew into an international airport, then bye to the country when I flew to Tokyo. It is such a difficult thing to contemplate, being gone for an entire year. Try to think back to what you were doing on this day one year ago. You might not be able to think of what it was exactly that you did, but you probably realize it feels like a LONG time ago, right? So much has changed for me just since a year ago, and I'm beyond excited to see the person I'll become after this year.
Anyway, back to my story! It took about 12 hours from the USA to Tokyo, and about 3 hours from Tokyo to Taipei. The first half of the 12 hours always seems to go by quickly for me, and I think to myself "This isn't too terribly long," but then the last six hours drag on and on, of course, because I'm so excited. The airplane food was DELICIOUS. I don't know why people joke about airplane food, I think it's wonderful. Fast forward another 10 hours, and we find myself going through security screenings at Taipei. I wonder, is it just me who gets nervous going through all of the security? I know I don't do anything wrong or bring bad things, but I still get really nervous. Especially going through the fever screening at Taipei. You just walk, and this special camera looking thing checks to see if you have a fever so they can stop feverish people from spreading illness in the country. There were like eight people with masks staring me down as I walked through though, so like I froze up, it was embarrassing.
I'm beating around the bush.
When I finally walked out of the security places, I turned a corner, and there stood about 10 people with a big sign with my name AND picture on it. They were all yelling and waving at me. It was one of those moments I truly smiled and couldn't hold it back no matter how hard I tried.:) When I got around the short wall that separated us, I was swarmed by a mob of Rotary officials, and my luggage was swept off of me, a lei was thrown on me, and I was given hugs by my host family. I don't think it could have gone better, I felt extremely welcome! They took probably, oh, I dunno, maybe 7319287938714 x 10^4 pictures, and we held up Kathryn's group for awhile while we took them, the girl who traveled with me. ;D
We took a van to my host father's workplace, where we then took a different vehicle to a night market. In the first van, I saw the ferris wheel from HUAN HUAN AIIIIIIII!!!!! Don't know it? Go watch it. I really hope I can go there. The night market? Holy goodness gracious, I love night markets. If you've read about Taiwan you hear "night market this" and "night market that," but until you go to one, you truly have no idea. The street is lined with all different kinds of yummy food, cheap shoes, cheap clothing, and phone cases and cuuuuuute things! There are tons of people, young and old, who shop there.
When we went to their house, it was difficult not to fall asleep on the way there, but I managed. They live in Yilan so it was sort of a long drive, but the hour only felt long because I was tired. I don't think it is jet lag, I just think it's a lack of sleep. My host family's house is the most amazing thing. Their little neighborhood is beautiful. When we got inside, I wasn't expecting what I got at all. They have a very new house that is four, FOUR stories high! The interior is gorgeous. It's very modern, with a theme of beige and browns with a shiny dark brown wood floor. Anything I say to describe this house wouldn't be doing it justice. When we went up the stairs to the second floor, I saw a lizard scuttling up the wall. Everyone was like "ughhh," but I was like "AWWWHHH!" It was cute.:) They told me they aren't dangerous, so no worries.:3 I haven't seen a spider yet. So maybe in Taiwan they have lizards instead of spiders. ; b I'm okay with that, VERY okay with that!
I get my own room on the second floor. The bedrooms that are in this house have a built in raised wood floor about a foot tall, and they put the mattress on that, but the platform is big enough that it doesn't take up the entire thing. My bed is really comfy!
I'm clearly very biased in my opinions about Taiwan, because it's just the best place ever, so I think it would be good to try to pick out something maybe I am not so fond of. That would be the heat. The people here must be used to it, because the house is pretty hot too. I'm hoping I will adapt to the heat! The good thing that comes of the heat is I probably won't keep a lot of water weight, haha, and I might actually be able to adapt to extreme heat. The only other possible negative thing would be my Chinese. :( I wish I could say more. My host sister speaks English VERY well, but my host mother doesn't know much. The good that comes of that is I am very motivated to learn it now.
Sorry for the longggg post!

8:15 PM

Thursday, August 16, 2012,

This is clearly my first post! I have just one week before I leave the USA to Taiwan as an exchange student for the entire year! I will be staying in Yilan City, about an hour away from Taipei. Aside from what I know from being in Japan about Asian culture in general, I know little to nothing about Taiwan. I know that they speak Mandarin Chinese, but unfortunately... I can't. I have zero ideas as to what I can expect. I have nearly all of my packing complete, and over 50% of what I packed is gifts! Gifts for my host family and gifts for other people I will meet. My biggest worry is the language. To be honest, I'm not afraid I'll get lost and the language will keep me from finding my way, I'm not afraid of not being able to read everything in the stores because I only know Japanese kanji, I'm afraid that the people I meet won't want to be friends with me because I don't speak Mandarin Chinese. Obviously I will do whatever it takes to work around it, charades, drawing pictures, you name it, but I hope that will be enough. Of course I'll be studying Chinese while I'm there, so even if it is a problem in a matter of time I think I can learn.:) I'll check back in just one week, when I will be in Taiwan! 再見!

4:49 AM