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Saturday, September 29, 2012,

A very wise lady once told me never to trust the food from street vendors anywhere, but particularly in foreign countries. However, in Taiwan many things are just so different from the rest of the world. The question is "Is it safe to eat food from street vendors in Taiwan?"

I'm sure there are of course places where you shouldn't eat the food, but in Taiwan, everybody eats the food from street vendors. I ate food from probably the most sketchy looking street vendors in the entire world here, yet the food was the most delicious food I have ever eaten, and it was totally safe. Food in Taiwan is a mystery to me. All of the places my family, friends, and I have eaten are places that nobody would EVER consider eating at in the United States. They are run-down, old, and a little dirty looking. Still, the food from these places are way better than any food I have EVER eaten in the United States! Everything I have eaten here has been incredibly delicious. Not to mention the price of food here, it is also incredibly cheap. It's so mysterious.

If you happen to visit Taiwan and get really hungry, I recommend buying food from the random street vendor over the food from a 7/11 any day. Not only is it cheaper, but it will most likely be some of the best food you've ever eaten!

12:31 AM


If you're a wise traveller, you should be aware that you can't go to every country and drink the water like you can your own. There have been many people who travel to other countries and even just the ice in their drink ruins their entire trip. Being an exchange student, you are informed prior to departure not to trust the water. You are told not to drink the water, drink a drink with ice in it, not even brush your teeth with the tap water. This doesn't apply to every country, of course, but I wasn't told if Taiwan would have safe water or not. I couldn't find the answer online, either. Not being able to trust the water is an unbelievably inconvenient thing, so I'll tell you about Taiwan's water. This may not apply to everyone, but where I come from in the USA, my water is almost the cleanest water in the world, if not THE cleanest in the world. So, my experience should apply to most people who have clean water.

It was my third day in Taiwan when the tall glass of water set on my table in the restaurant looked SO good. It was deathly hot in Taiwan that day, and I was really thirsty. Completely blocking out all of the warnings I got from officials not to drink the water, especially water with ice, I drank the glass of water. I didn't even realize it until the second after I drank it. A few hours later... I was fine. A day later... I was fine! :) There isn't a problem with the water or ice you are served in restaurants in Taiwan.

However, asking around to my friends here, I have been told to be VERY cautious of the water straight from the faucet. Not even the local people drink that water without boiling it first. Therefore, many houses have a special faucet from which you can dispense safe drinking water. My house has one, thank goodness. It IS safe to brush your teeth using a little of the tap water here, but there isn't a high fluoride content like with my water in the USA, so don't swish around the water after you brush your teeth, just use the water to wet your toothbrush a little if you must, and use it to rinse out your toothbrush.

Most hotels will provide bottled water, if you run out they also have a kettle to boil your own water. Don't be overly worried about the water here, but just think a little cautiously and you'll be okay.

I hope this can answer questions about water in Taiwan if anybody has them, but if there are any other questions you have, don't hesitate to send me an e-mail at TristanHilderbrand@gmail.com .

12:05 AM

Wednesday, September 19, 2012,

Taiwanese people use the New Taiwanese Dollar (NTD). The current exchange rate is 29.35 NTD for every 1 USD. Unlike how the Euro and Yen uses a different symbol, people in Taiwan often use the same as people in the United States, the "$" sign. So, often times seeing a $100 hamburger at McDonald's is startling, although in truth it is around $3 USD. However, they also use this symbol "元" frequently. It is difficult at first to become accustomed to how much each price is worth in USD, but after my time here I've come to realize the easiest way for me to convert amounts. While in Taiwan, I haven't converted USD to NTD often at all, only to explain how much a MacBook Pro costs in the United States, or something like that, because I've heard it is a lot cheaper. Converting NTD to USD is far more useful because NTD is what all of the prices are in! There isn't a good, easy, and accurate way to convert it in your head, however if you divide by 30, you get a rough idea. I never can divide by 30 without a calculator because it usually doesn't come out evenly, however if you count how many hundreds are in the price, then multiply that by three, you get a ROUGH idea of the cost. It won't be the most accurate, but you at least can get an idea if something is really overpriced or not. For example:

$400
There are 4 hundreds in 400, so take 4 multiplied by 3, and you have 12. Does that make sense?
You could also just take off the last two digits and multiply by 3. Whichever is easiest for you!

Although it is confusing at first, I'm sure you will get the hang of it after a couple of days if you try. :)

4:15 AM

Friday, September 7, 2012,

I wanted to stick with one post a week, it's so difficult when there is so much to say!:) I'll start doing two posts a week, one post to tell about the things I've done, and another post to cover more informational things. I can't believe I've only been here for two weeks. Usually time flies when you're having fun, but I think that I've had so much fun and done so many new and crazy things that it definitely seems longer. Seeing as my last post was just pictures, I'll talk about my past two weeks in Taiwan. My first, second, and third host families are all related, so I've had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my second and meeting my third. It's so interesting, because every day everything is boring to them, and the most exciting and different thing to me. Every street, person, television channel, and even candy wrapper is new and exciting. I try to reflect back and think about how boring the parallels are in the USA, and although they are quite boring, I just can't possibly see how someone could see all of these things in Taiwan with the same boredom.

The first full day here began with a breakfast of some strange fruit I had never eaten or seen before. I couldn't tell what it was, but it was really good! The fruit is better here than the fruit I've had in the USA. I gave them the gifts I brought, and I had fun explaining the different things to them. They drove me to a place in I-lan called Luna Plaza, which is I-lan's biggest mall. The drive there was really the first time I got to see Taiwan in daylight, because it was really dark when I came home the night before. I wish I could describe the atmosphere here. I-lan is a combination of very old and very new buildings, it somewhat resembling Japan, but with many palm trees. Not to mention scooters, everywhere. That afternoon was the first I got to be among many people outside of the airport, also. As soon as I stepped out of the car instantly all eyes followed me. I laughed a little to myself because it was funny. You know those awkward moments when you look up at someone and they were looking right at you, too, so you both look away? It's like that, except with everyone. I can't look at anybody without having awkward moments. So naturally, I think it's a little funny. Anyway, I'm used to it by now.

I have so many cool smaller stories, but seeing as this post has already become long, I'll just mention a couple of the bigger things I've done. I went to Taitung, which is in southern Taiwan along the eastern coast, to see an event with hot air balloons. It was my first time seeing hot air balloons, it was really exciting actually. While I was waiting in the ticket line to be able to ride in a hot air balloon, the person right in front of the person in front of me bought the last ticket. It was unfortunate, but I was grateful enough to even be there!

Later that night the hotel we stayed at had bikes you could rent out to ride around the town, so my host father, host mother, host sister, and I took a late bike ride around the city. It's actually quite safe at night in most places in Taiwan. I believe it's because of the night markets that offer a safe alternative to some of the many not so great things people in other countries like the USA do at night. It was a great trip.

Then I also went to Hualien (also spelled Hualian), a big tourist city about 2 hours south of Taipei by train, with my second host sister and her friends. I met some really cool people there who brought their sugar gliders everywhere with them.:)

All in all, Taiwan is a very friendly place. Many people are extremely curious about foreigners here, and I think if you take the initiative and talk to people, you can easily make some really good friends.

9:33 AM