Tag Archives: chinese

Globalization has come to Tainan’s Night Markets.

Aren’t night markets just amazing? It the first thing you gotta do when you visit a city in Taiwan! You can eat, drink, shop and even play some fair games.

They are crowded and noisy but at the same time lively and fun. One can never leave the night market with an empty stomach or a frown. And they are one of the things that throughout the years that I have lived in Taiwan, they never changed. Sure some of the store aren’t there any more and there are new ones instead, but the culture of the night market never changed.

As amazing as the can be, there was always one tiny thing that is slightly annoying. It is really bad when you first come to Taiwan, and then, with time one learns to accept the reality, and that is, vendors are not going to speak English. Off all the stores, maybe just around 10% of them have English menu, and the for rest you just gotta use your ability of sight and smell to know what they are selling. This is not such a terrible thing, since it works most of the times, but also it happens very often that one can misjudge a certain food. This could be disgusting or tragic, disgusting becase perhaps something you though was going to be delicious isn’t, and tragic because you restrain yourself from eating something you might actually really enjoy.

But guess what? Tainan is changing!!!

A few weeks back we were invited to an activity. It was supposed to be a foreigners friendly night. We were told that they were going to take us to the night market and give us some money to spend there. Well, it is a free ride and free money, so let’s go. What we didn’t know is that the best was yet to come!!!

 

It was not only the foreigners friendly night, but the beginning of a new era for Tainan night markets. As it turn out the Tainan’s city government, with the support of STUST (Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology ) organized a program where students help night market vendors to translate their menu into English. The students get to practice their English while contributing to society and the vendors get their menus in English for free.

Sadly some of the vendors refused to take part of this initiative indicating that they do not need it. In some cases it is because they already had English menus. Either the case, from now on, the foreigner friendly stores will have a flag indicating the English service.

 

This service is only found in Tadong Night Market (Open on Monday, Tuesday and Friday), WuSheng Night Market (Open on Wednesday) and the Flower Garden Night Market (Open on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday)

Congratulations and thanks are in orders to the organizers of this service.

I am personally proud and deeply happy to see this happening.

Just like this Tainan, this beautiful city, is taking part of the inevitable globalization.


Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed  my article.

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Fo Guang Shan  – Dual Growth

Say good words – Do good deeds – Thinking good thoughts

The first time I went to Fo Guang Shan was in the Summer of 2013. Dad was visiting me in Taiwan for a few weeks and I wanted to make his stay unforgettable. While I was looking for places that we could go I remembered that a few friends had shown me some magnificent pictures about this place. I have been in Taiwan since 2009 and I wondered why I did not hear too much about it before and as it turned out, it was new!!! It opened in December 2011.  Well, at least the Memorial Center did. The monastery was built in 1967, but until recent years they decided to be open for the public.

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Buddha Memorial Center
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Main Shrine at Fo Guang Shan Monastery

I have experience the temple in two different ways, as a tourist and as meditation practitioner.

  1. Discovering with Dad – Tourist

Of my first visit I remember being dumbfounded by the vastness and beauty of the place, there is no denying of that. But I also have a strong memory that it was sunny and very hot. What I am trying to say is the real reason I enjoyed that day was not because of the place but because I was with dad and we were both excited taking pictures at the details. Here are some pictures of things you perhaps did not notice.

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However, something happened that day, that without knowing at that time, changed my life. Dad and I were exploring the main temple and we noticed that at entrance on the right side there is a table with some brochures, candles and other paraphernalia on it. Behind it, there was a smiling venerable. (a “venerable” is alike a monk, but they do not use this word, so I will be refereeing to them as “Venerable”). She saw us and with a friendly tone started talking to us with her best English. Small talk at the beginning and the then she handed me a brochure of information of a monthly retreat for foreigners. I did not pay much attention, but dad seamed to encourage the idea. I left the temple with a “maybe I will come”.

The coming months I forgot about the temple but the idea of going back and experience that retreat lingered in my head. Then it happened, one of my best friend told me he found about this activity and, from one day to the other, decided to join. He told me all about it and I was fascinated with his experience. I had to go. Without hesitation we signed out for the next one, which would be held in March 2014.

  1. Re discovering of the temple  – Meditation

For three days we experience the monastic life. Waking up at 5 am and then quickly getting ready for joining the morning chants in the main temple. There was a sea of people, but it did not matter because everybody moved in order and being mindful of each of their movements. When the chants were over, we were directed to the main dining room, where more than 2000 people could fit, however that morning we were no more than 300. Everybody entered in order and in silence and at 6 o’clock they served the breakfast. For 15 min nobody spoke and just focused on the first meal of the day. At 6:15 everybody was finished and in less than a minute everything was picked up and cleaned. Impressive.

All the meals were served and carried out this effective and thoughtful manner. Every course was vegetarian, needless to say, and it was deliciously well done.

During the morning, we shared the temple chores with the venerables. We got simple things like planting flowers, so it was a beautiful task. In the afternoon and before dinner we were taught meditation, starting out from the most known one, sitting meditation, to walking meditation and even meditation white drinking tea. We laughed, we learned, we grew, we became better. No one told to me change religion or to forget mine, or that I was wrong, we were there to experience and learn just what we wanted, or let’s say, what we needed, and they respected that.

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Flowers at the Temple
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Helping plant flowers at the temple

 

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Sitting Meditation

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Meditation while drinking tea

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Discussing, learning, asking questions, experiencing life at Fo Guang Shan
  1. Breathing – Meditation

What can I say? Once was just not enough, so on December of the same year, I joined my second retreat. This time, it was more focused in developing meditation skills and instead of doing so many activities, we mostly stayed in the meditation hall.

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Meditation at the hall, keeping silent for 3 days

This time we were asked to remain silent and be truthfully mindful and aware of everything we were doing. This time we went meditation in different parts of the temple. I do not remember the names of all the places, but here are some pictures for you see.

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Meditation at the Buddha Land

It was beautiful, I felt so much in contact with nature, with trees, with the birds, with the wind and of course, in contact with myself. Remembering to breath, being aware of the involuntary movements of my body, realising that I am in control. Relaxing, letting go, breathing, seeing life from a different angle, living, existing, breathing. Yes! Breathing, it is amazing how we can easily forget to properly do such simple task. Realising that we are all connected, that this blog is here because you would read it, and because you would read it, I sat today to write it, and so you affected me and I have affected you.

  1. Chinese New Years – Tourist

The experience was life-changing and mind opening. I am not changing my religion, but I adopt what is useful for me from other beliefs. The next retreat I was able to join was the one held for Chinese New Year in 2015, the year of the lamb. There were less teachings and close to no meditation activities, but the temple offered a big meal to celebrate the new year and there were, parades and lanterns all over. Definitely a hectic time for the temple. Also, if one was able to visit all the key places of the temple, they would give you a temple souvenir, which I still keep very dear.

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Lanterns, Parades and other activities during Chinese New Year

After that, I was convinced that the best way to spend CNY for foreigners, was to go to the temple. So next year, in 2016, the year of the monkey, I took mom, who was visiting me, along with two other friends to Fo Guang Shan. I was finally able to tell mom all what I have seen and explain all what I have learned.

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Discovering the temple with Mom
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Chinese New Year Dinner with mom and a few other friends

We walked around the temple more than once and experience the greatness of the place. Then, at night, fireworks. Do you think the temple is beautiful? Now imagine it being illuminated with fireworks! It is simple breathtaking. The newest part of the temple was recently completed, so we were able to take pictures from this new angle.

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Buddha memorial centre from newly open area

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The retreats were an amazing experience and I wish I could do them again, but the temple has stopped doing these activities for foreigners. It is only held once a year during the month of July and it lasts for 1 month. It would be a little hard for me to join, but I will never forget what I lived and learned.

  1. One more time – Tourist

Now it is 2017. I was happy to hear that some of my foreigner friends were looking forward to go, and without thinking too much I joined the group. We were a big group, we were 22!!!

It felt good to see all those places again. The memorial center is impressive, but my favorite part is the monastery, after all that is where I spent most of the time during the retreats. I remembered doing meditation in the Buddha land, the mesmerizing morning chants in the main temple and the secluded little shrine on the top of the hill. I hadn’t been to that little shrine since the first retreat. It is a little far away and the road is a little steep. When I finally reached it, the venerable there, offered me and my friend who was walking with me, water and candies. She even turned on some relaxing music, just for us. The 10 minutes that I spent there brought back flashbacks not only of my experiences but also of the lessons learnt.

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I am sure you have probably seen that Fo Guang Shan is a must-see in Taiwan, but if at the time you read this the retreats are being held again, Fo Guang Shan is a must-experience in your life!

 


 

Thank you for reading, here is an origami crane for you

 

An Undying Christmas Spirit.

Seven years in Taiwan certainly change one’s perspective and feeling towards this beautiful holiday. I have always love and enjoy Christmas, from my point of it is the merriest season of all. It is all about hope, family and a spark of magic. I simply love it. Yet being away from home for so long, and living in a not-very-Christmassy country makes me stagger sometimes. Until now I have manage to dismiss the Grinchy-ideas surrounding me, but how long until I give in and allow the Christmas spirit to perish?

To try to understand why Christmas perishes and why and how I dismiss those feeling by trying to keep the spirit alive, it is important to first define the meaning of this holiday.

Definition and History

For Catholics, Christians and any other type of Christ-believers it is the remembrance of   the birth of Jesus-Christ. Quite enough reason to be joyous and grateful. It was passed on to the world as a reminder of sharing noble feelings, such as compassion, love, caring, forgiveness, etc. In the hope of some reflecting and introspective development. But let us take a further look into Christmas. As my good friend and blogger Grexxen mentioned, Jesus was not quite born on December 25th.  Yet, since the beginning, it was set to be celebrated on the already pagan holiday. Throughout the years is has further been changed, influenced by many different cultures and reinvented to modern times.

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Yes! it is profoundly commercial, it increments sales, influences the market and has strong impact in the economy. At micro and macro scale.  Complaints are that Christmas was turned into a ferocious season of shopping and honouring a gift-bringer whether is baby-Jesus, the three-wise-men or most popularly known, Santa-Claus. Are these adjustments and incursions the blameable factors of the perishing Christmas?

Let us take a look into the blameworthy suspects:

Presents

Besides Christmas, when do you consider giving somebody else a present? Birthday perhaps, sometimes not even there. Would you even consider wasting your time, money and energy trying to get something nice for someone you don’t really like? I think not, unless is your boss, but not even there. Gifts are a little way of saying “I care for you”, ” you are important to me”, “I hope to see you smile with this”, “I think of you”, “I rather invest my effort in you than in anybody else”, etc. And so much more. So even in the commercial side of Christmas, it provides an excellent opportunity to say something meaningful to someone important. So, no! Christmas does not perishes because of presents. At least not because presents are given, but perhaps it has something to do with how presents might be received.

Christmas presents piled underneath a christmas tree.

I realised a little too late, that part of the culture here in Taiwan is to refuse gifts a few times before it is accepted and sometimes they even criticize it. It is a way of being polite and to allow you to get to know them better. It is strange, but hey! I am not in my country. And so I had so learn how to give gifts here. As the years passed, I got better at giving gifts to Taiwanese and I never gave up, there is always a way into their heart. Luckily, I have always had friends to share Christmas gifts without having to change my traditions. I simply go frolic about presents. It is not receiving them that makes happy, it is the reaction I see in my friends when I give them something they’ll enjoy. Seeing my friends and dear ones happy, because of what I did for them is far more valuable than any gift I could get. But I also won’t get angry if you get me something nice. haha

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Actual picture of 2009 Christmas – first year in Taiwan

Decorations

Do we really need them? Probably not, but they are a way of materializing our thoughts and feelings towards this holiday.  Nativities honour our religion, reminding us of the gift of hope. I personally rejoice when I see mine. It is tiny, for it is impossible for me to keep a big one, but I get a sense of peace when I see the angel and when I finally place baby Jesus on Christmas eve.

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My tiny Nativity

 

If a Nativity does not means this for you, then take a look at a Christmas tree, if you had one as a child then it is a reminder of the kid in our heart, with big eyes, full of wish, expectation, dreams and a little bit of magic. And who doesn’t like magic?

Christmas does not perishes because of ornamentation. But it does if all the decorations lack of meaning and sense behind it. For there is not use of a gorgeous Christmas tree, if it was done reluctantly and then left there to dust through out the year.

The year that I came to Taiwan, things were very different. Now there are a lot of ornaments and very easy to find. Seven years ago there were not enough.  I searched restlessly for Christmas stockings, and they were no where to be found. So, I made them! Went to the store to get some cloths, thread, needles some bells, and spend most of my free time of my first December sawing them.  I still have them and place them every year. Shortage of decorations will not get my spirit down.

Self-made Elf Boot

Friends

Now this is a less materialistic part. We are getting to a deeper meaning of Christmas. Friendship, how wonderful is this girt. Not a gift, more like a treasure. We are humans, we are social by nature and friendships are meant to be nurture and kept. It is a blessing to spend a Christmas surrounded my people who mutually enjoy each other’s company.

So how can friends be a liable for the perish of Christmas?

During all these year, I have met many people, I have become friends with some of them and with some we have created unbreakable bounds that will last forever. The hard part, is that I have also seen many of them leave. The first few years I spend Christmas with about the same faces, but then they started taking other paths. Gladly, new friends came around, and then I found myself with a new group of people. And then they also left. And it has been like that for a while.

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Christmas 2012

I am blessed that every year I have had good friends to hug merry-Christmas. And every year it is a brand new experience. For the good friends that have left Taiwan and that are in another part of the world, well, there is always internet. Letter and postcards are also a magical detail. I feel joy and excitement when I write them and send them, hoping that my friends feel the same when they get it and read it.

For all my friends, those who are here and for those that aren’t:

Thank you for having crossed roads with me. You are a blessing. And I hope the next year is full of joy and success. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

With love, 
Adriana

 

Family

Probably the deepest meaning of Christmas. It has been 8 years! 8 Christmases away! It is one of the seasons that make me regret a little of my decision of being here.

I was one of the lucky few that was always able to convince the professor to not have test or academic activities on the 24th or 25 of December, but I know of many who had to spend their Christmas eve studying. I am also lucky to be working at a good company that is sensible enough not to make work on Christmas. So I am lucky. But nothing nothing can match the infinite euphoria of being with my family on Christmas. I hope destiny does not takes to long until it allows me to be there.

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One of the most recent picture with my family. Just dad is missing in this picture.

So? how do I dismiss the boundless yearning? Remembering good times, knowing we are bless to have each other, even in the distance, hoping to see them soon, praying and Video Cam!

Nothing could be the same as physically being there, but the camera helps. To see my mom dressed beautifully and being accompanied by my handsome dad. See my nephew’s eyes sparkle with the twinkling lights.   My little niece get excited to see everybody together. Share a good warming talk with my beloved cousin. Hear my aunts and grandma’s voice. A simple web cam chat makes my Christmas complete.

Dear Family, 

I miss you, I miss you more with every passing second and for Christmas, I miss you hopelessly. But I love you and I know we are together, and we will always be. Thank you for the unconditional support. You are the biggest blessing and the only gift I want/need. 

With deep love,

 

Mom, 

I am sorry for leaving and making you spend all these Christmases without me. Ever since I left there has been a Christmas tree in the house. You don’t know how much your sacrifice mean to me. I promise I won’t be too long now. I love you. I miss you.

Merry Christmas! 

So with all of this I refuse to be sad on Christmas. I dismiss the idea of letting my Christmas spirit perish.

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Even Jupiter enjoys Christmas!

 

It is hard being away for Christmas. but if you are in the same situation as me, don’t lose hope! don’t you even dare to feel down on Christmas! Don’t give up! Christmas is so much more, and you can find it in the little things around. And you can find it in your heart.

Merry Christmas to all! And a very joyous and prosperous new year!

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Convenient Taiwan

If I have to describe Taiwan in one word I would chose the word “convenient”. Not only because the locals use this word to describe almost everything here, but also because once you come here and experience it, you will realize you have been missing “convenience” in your life.

Last year I met some friends from different parts of the world and they claimed they do not have/use this word in their language. But that they started living with this word once they came to Taiwan. Literally and figuratively.

If you have been here before, or overhead someone talking about this beautiful island, then you are probably aware of the convenience stores, such as 7-11 or Family Mart, literally at every corner, and open 24/7 every single day of the year.  So if I was to include them in the list then everybody would agree that they would rank the most convenient feature in Taiwan and the list would go something like this:

Taiwan’s No. 1 convenient feature:

The convenience stores.  They provide a little of everything solving you life in every possible way………………………… end. 

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But that is not a very fair list. I will, however, make a list of the convenient features you can do, of get at a convenient store. I will probably focus on the 7-11 since it is my personal favorite.  In the meantime let me rank  the other convenient features of Taiwan’s life.

So here it goes, my TOP convenient features of Taiwan.

5. Public Transportation.  

Let me start from the biggest to the smallest. There are 4 major international airports and 14 other minor and domestics ones in an island that is only 400 km in length. So you can practically fly anywhere in Taiwan. But let’s face it, flying might not be that convenient. That is why there is the the High Speed Rail, train and buses. You can purchase tickets online or with an app with your credit card  or by cash at the station or even better at a 7-11.

Here is the HSR link:

https://www.thsrc.com.tw/index_en.html?force=1

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But if you chose to get the ticket at 7-11 you will even get a discount coupon at Mr. Donuts or Starbucks. Now! isn’t that convenient?  You can also take intercity buses. They all have Wi-Fi, USB charging port, bathroom, and some even have massage chairs and movies.

City transportation is also convenient specially at Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung, where they have buses and MRT (mass rapid transit, al known as subway, underground or however you want to call it. It runs well in Taipei and Kaohsiung but it is still under construction in Taichung).  Just get your “Easy-Card” and you are good to go. You can recharge it at the station or guess where else? yes! at 7-11 or any other convenient store. Too lazy or too far to walk? get a Taxi. Wait for it at at the street, or use the 7-11 ibon to call one. I personally think, that is the easiest way, it gets there in less than 5 mins and I can wait in the freshness of the store. All taxi-drivers use the taximeter and are usually very friendly.

Uber, yes we have Uber, and it is expected to open in all Taiwan, but for the moment only in Taipei.

Overall, public transportation is very convenient, but the reason I am rating 5th is because there isn’t a direct convenient transportation from the HSR station to the airport or from Taipei. I heard rumors that this system is already under construction, but in the time being, there is only one line of shuttle buses that are usually overcrowded and the luggage ends up rolling around.

4. Scooters

Oh yeah! They are fun, they are fast, they can get into small alleys and you only need about NT$ 100 a week to fill them. There is no doubt that Taiwan can be a little overcrowded sometimes and it can be a little hard to find parking spot for cars, but for scooters, never! This might be a little different for Taipei-people, but for the rest of Taiwan, it is the scooter-life you want.

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Image: jafabrit.blogspot.tw

You can get a second hand scooter for about NT$ 10,000, more or less, depending on the scooter. Most foreigners will chose a second hand scooter, since most of us stay for about 2 years or less, and there are scooter mechanics on each street.   Getting the scooter drivers licence is really easy. The test is no more than common sense and some practice. Here is the link for the mock test:

Mock test for motorcycle driver’s license.

https://www.mvdis.gov.tw/m3-simulator-drv/

So, Get up early, do the medical examination, which is usually in front of the motor vehicle office and about 10 am you will be a legal driver in Taiwan. Your scooter will be your best companion in this beguiling Asian country. The only thing you will regret is not having enough time to discover more of Taiwan.

I say scooters, but if you are into motorcycles you can also get a small one, about 125cc. You will mostly use it for the city and maybe going to cities around you. A bigger motorbike is too big for the roads here and you will most-likely have problems parking it.

I love my scooter, but I place this feature in 4th place because even if you were best and most careful driver in the world, there is always the risk that somebody else is not having a good day and crashes with you. So if you come to Taiwan and decide to ride a scooter, open your eyes, drive safe and always, always, always, wear helmet.

3. Food

What time is it?

4-10 am? sure you can get something to eat, the breakfast are already open with delicious sandwiches and Chinese omelettes waiting for you.

10-11:30 am? Either breakfast place, rice rolls (飯糰 Fàntuán) or the lunch boxes store are just starting , but perhaps coffee at 7-11 is just good enough.

12-2:30 pm? They typical question is:”rice or noodles?” Here in Tainan you get a very complete lunch with only NT$ 60, with NT$ 100 you will be more than full. If you live near a university you will be able to find a street full of food shops and restaurants, there are just so many options. Spaghetti (義大利麵 Yìdà lì miàn), dumplings (水餃 Shuǐjiǎo), fried rice (炒飯 Chǎofàn), rice covered with vegetables (蓋飯 Gài fàn or 燴飯 huì fàn), Japanese soup (拉麵 Lāmiàn). The list goes on and on.

3-5 pm? Some restaurants take a rest in the afternoon, but they start selling onion omelet and the egg cakes

 5:30 pm – 1 am? dinner time. You will find as many options as at lunch time, but it gets even better and better. Now the Lu wei’s (滷味 Lǔwèi) are open (I don’t know how to translate that), where you can chose what you want and they will boil and flavor it for you. There are some breakfast places that open at 5 pm and close the next day at around 10, so it is a great place to get a  chicken sandwich (should I even call them breakfast places? Maybe just snack places). And the best at night are the night markets. Tons of different food, drinks and snacks. People and lights everywhere. It is the best way to live and feel Taiwan. What is the first you should do when you visit a new place in Taiwan? go to the night market, you will certainly have a lot of fun.
Since I live in Tainan, I am providing the schedule of Tainan’s night markets.
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The only two reasons I do not give food 2nd or 1st place, is because not all places have English menu and you might need certain level of Chinese to know what they are selling and the other reason is that some food can be very oily.

2. Clinics

I hope you are never in the need of any doctor while you are here, but it is not a bad idea to be prepared.

Taiwan has one of the best medical services, if you are here for more than six months, they you can apply for the national health insurance. This will allow you to see a doctor at a clinic for a price ranging from NTD 50-150, and it includes medicine. If you don’t have this card, then a visit might be around NTD 300 – 500, still cheap and it also includes medicine. Normally you don’t need an appointment, you just pop in and the doctor will see you in 10 or 15 mins.

Finding a doctor is also very easy, just translate the type of doctor you want, google it and you will get at least 10 options around you. Doctor at clinic do not necessarily speak English, but they make themselves understandable. If you still cannot find what you want, then maybe you will decide to go directly to the hospital. Their English level is usually better, and they will provide you with a general doctor at first, and he/she will direct you with an specialist. The hospital might be around NTD 500 with insurance or about NTD 1200 without insurance.

Special Honors

Pet shops.

I did not give pt shops a spot on the list because not everybody has pets. But Pet shops in Taiwan are really convenient. They are open up until midnight. What kind of petshop is open until midnight? Anyway, if it is 11 pm and you have the sudden need of a fluffy hamster or a bewildering lizards like mine, you can just go to the pet shop and fulfill your desired. NOTE: I am not saying you should, since we are talking about LIVE ANIMALS and owning one is something you should decide responsibly.  You can always find one within a Km radius and they have everything your pet might need.

As for me, I am the proud owner of two magnificent geckos, and one of the reasons they keep so healthy is because even if I had a busy day I am always able to find them food at any time of the day.

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Jupiter and Nova after a well deserved feast.

If you like my geckos, check out my other blog: Jupiter, the Jubilat

And the moment you have been waiting for…. 

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1. Tea shops

Yes!  TEA SHOPS is the absolutely most convenient feature of Taiwan.

For the intense heat of Taiwan mostly all year long, tea is what you need. I am a coffee lover, but without a doubt tea is a delicious feature of Taiwan. Sure, you can buy drinks at 7-11, but there is nothing like a drink made specially for your taste.

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When you finally make up your mind between the infinite choice they have just tell them the amount of ice and sugar you want.

It is usually like this:

Sugar ( Táng)

Ice (Bīng)

Normal Sugar(正常Zhèngcháng) Normal Ice (正常Zhèngcháng)
80% Sugar (少糖Shǎo tang) 60% Ice (少冰shǎo bīng)
50% Sugar(半糖Bàn tang) 30% (微冰wēi bīng)
30% Sugar (微糖Wēi tang) No Ice (去冰qù bīng)
No Sugar (無糖Wú tang) Hot (熱rè)

Each person has its own preference, but my three favorite drinks are

  1. Winter melon with lemon (冬瓜檸檬 Dōngguā níngméng)
  2. Black tea with lemon (檸檬紅茶 Níngméng hóngchá)
  3. Green tea with yakult. (多多綠茶 Duōduō lǜchá)

The tea shops are something I will definitely miss when I leave Taiwan. They are healthy, they are delicious and they are everywhere.

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Depending on where you live you will find different stores, here in the magnificent south Taiwan I recommend:

  1. Magic Hand
  2. 50 Lan
  3. Fox tail

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So what do you think? Would you also rank Tea shops as the number convenient feature of Taiwan? 


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For you, a colorful origami flower:

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Being Here

Oct.-09-2016

I should have started this blog years ago. I should had written all my experiences here. I should had made better record of what I have seen, experienced and thought through all these year. But I didn’t, so now I will.

This blog is not intended to be a record of my life in this foreign place. This blog is so much more, but it is inevitable to talk about being here.

Perhaps, the reason I am writing about Taiwan is because tomorrow is their “birthday”, as they like to say. Or at least that’s how they always explain to me what they celebrate on the double ten-day.

Oh Taiwan! What not to say about you? I have been here with you for seven years. I have done and learned one million things, and yet as times passes by I realised there are still a billion new things to discover from you.

Year 1. Studying Chinese

I was like a baby, become aware of everything. With big eyes to try to observe as much as possible. Paying attention to the details and trying to remember as much as I can, because I wanted to do it again later.

I wanted to show everything to my mom and dad. I knew they would come one day, so everything new I did, I pictured myself explaining it to them.

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Mom in Taiwan

I perfectly remember this day at the chinese breakfast near the place where I used to live. I ordered a Chinese omelet with bacon and cheese, not because bacon and cheese were my favourites, but because it was the only thing I could say. But it didn’t matter, I was happy with my meal. I imagined my mom sitting in front of me and enjoying the same breakfast just because it was a new experience.

At that at time, my roommate and best friend  was Edgar, one of the best friend I had in my life. But this post is not about him.  We didn’t know anybody, and for the first 4-5 weeks it was like that. The two of us against the world. The Marco Polos of our time. We had some help from the office-girls in the language center. It was not their job to introduce us to Tainan, but they were our angels. Dora, Ashley and JiaJia. I am still thankful to them for being so kind to us.

After about a month we got to know some other foreigners, who slowly pointed us to the right direction, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes eager, nevertheless it was only on us to succeed or fail in this quest. We began going to classes and soon the adventure became normal life.

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First X-mas tree

First Christmas, first new year, first chinese new year, first spring, first birthday, then summer and just in a blink we were already in Taiwan for 1 year. For me it helped that mom came to visit and help me settle a few things.

After 1 year we had succeeded. We were both accepted into THE UNIVERSITY and were ready to begin. Our acceptance was a little problematic, as we were both not accepted in the department we wanted, but we would start nevertheless and then change to achieve our dreams. Nothing would stop us.

Year 2. First Year at University

We were like a 5-year-old children. Eyes still wide open and still eager to discover.

We went to our first class with high hopes and enthusiasm. We had survived one year of Chinese language and this was now our most important tool to survive. Now I was able to order a little more than just bacon and cheese omelets. Now I could actually make friends. And I was determined to become the best student in the class, make my family, my country and most important myself proud. I could see myself standing tall on graduation day. I was going to be the best.

How long does it take to break a person? Well, the positivism lasted for about 3 months. I was trying really hard but it was impossible to approach the professors, the assistants were never to be found and my classmates cared as much for me as one cares when a fallen twig breaks. You see it on the ground, step on it to hear that breaking sound and then continue your way. Those were my “lovely” classmates and I was the twig. Edgar and I were in different departments, so we started to distant from each other. Sometimes there were days in which we  didn’t see one another at all. One year passed and I was feeling lonely and broken.  But the show had to go on, it would go on. And I? I  would NOT fail. I had cross the world for this I was going to get it.  So I transferred university.

Year 3. Nantai University

I felt like a teenager now. I had learned plenty of things and I was pretty much able to take care of myself. Specially with my new life at Nantai University.

It was great! It all started when Darby, from the international affairs office, received me in his office with a big smile and with out many obsticles accepted my application. Once again, I had encountered an angel. And things could only get better.

My classmates were the best. Maybe you are thinking, this is not important, but it is.
When you are the foreigner, the stranger, the different in an unknown culture with a difficult language as is chinese, you need friends. My new classmates made life bearable again and then actually enjoyable.

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We became great friends, we supported and cared for each other.

My professors were approachable and the assistants were always there to help. So I was learning, I was acquiring the knowledge and tools I came here for.  And soon I was back on the road for excellence. Ok! Maybe not the number 1, but very close. Begin the only foreigner in the class and in the department, it was not easy, but I had the proper environment to succeed.

Edgar did not transfer with me and  a little while after, he decided to leave and I didn’t see him anymore.

It was a period of many changes but I was adapting. My chinese improved and now I was finally able to actually understand my classes. I could maintain complete conversations and give longer explanatory answers.  I was able to understand their culture a little bit better. I was not feeling like a zoo animal anymore, I became part of the city, part of Tainan.

Year 4 and 5. Continuing 

I was like a young adult. I was sure I had everything under control.

I stopped looking for new things to discover. All the new experiences came to me by chance, and I never said no to them. Karaoke? Let´s go! BBQ in the middle of the road? Let’s do it. Gear bike? Let’s learn! Guest at a Chinese wedding? Eh, yeah why not! Stinky tofu? Bring it on!

It was also in these years that I started teaching English. Many people who come to Taiwan do it, but not everybody. For me, it is one of the best experiences. As a student, you see a lot of people who are about the same age than you, but how about spending time with children, with adults? I became charged with their energy and their knowledge.

My only regret was that I did not start earlier. I am still teaching now, and I love my students and my classes. Thank you all for sharing a little piece of your life with me.

Regarding university, it was time to start bachelor graduation project. I had to choose my advisor, because the coming years would depend on that. I took a little longer than usual but then I finally started at Prof. Lin lab. He is a high important figure in the university and in Taiwan, and yet his heart is humble. I was oblivious of who he really was, until I graduated, but I was lucky to be his advisee. Now I consider him to be not only my professor and advisor, but my friend.   With his help I was becoming the scientist I always wanted to. Experiments, research, methodology, discussions, that was my life. And I loved it. I was in the lab from 8 to 5, and I would have stayed longer, if I didn’t have to teach. I loved my lab. Sometimes I would go back home with some weird smell on my clothes and some other times I had strange stains on my finger that would not wash off for weeks. But I loved it.

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Dad in Taiwan

Dad came to visit, and since I was a more experienced in the art of living I Taiwan, we enjoyed our time together. That was a nice boost to continue. A little after dad left, both my advisor and the chairman suggested I should stay in the lab and continue with master’s. I took some time to think about it, but if I did, I could finish in only 1 year. So, it was the perfect plan. The topic? Well it was inspired on my pets. If you are curious to know my pets, go to my other blog, Jupiter, the Jubilant.

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Bachelor Graduation Day

I started my relationship with Thomas, the love of my life, who not only makes me happy, but completes me. We already together for my bachelor graduation day. I finished as the fourth in my class. I had succeeded. I survived and persevered all these years, and it was only the start. That summer I was invited to Japan for nanotechnology courses. After discovering the nano world, I did not want to leave it.

Year 6. Master’s

I was a mature adult at this point. I knew exactly where I was going and how to get there. I did not only think I was in control, I actually was. Almost nothing was new and just a handful of things would amaze me.  

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The research

My thesis, as any normal one, had its up and downs, but it was overall going well. At this point I need to thank my friend Miguel, who was indirectly part of this journey and has been one of my mentors in life.

Then it hit me, all the things that I experienced in Taiwan, happened a long time ago. Most of them when I first came. So… Let’s do them again! and I did, I went to those places one more time. With a new perspective it was like I was doing them for the first time. And I understood one things I kept telling me all these years:

Circumstances, depend on the people, a time and a place. The more one tries to understand them, the more one will realise there are too many variables.

It is true! The more one learns, the more one realises we don’t  know anything.  I would never fully comprehend Taiwan, I couldn’t experience the same thing two times.

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Watching the Ping-Xi Lantern Festival for the first time and being amazed by it. 

I knew this all along, but it was until then that I truly grasped it.

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Master’s Graduation

Mom came to visit me again to be with me when I got my master’s diploma. And what do you do with a diploma? You work!

That is what I do now.

Year 7. Another side of Taiwan

I am starting to feel like a baby again. With the rest of my life ahead.

Most of my friends have come and gone. Thomas moved away, and we are struggling the distance but we will be together soon.  Nanotechnology PhD is still waiting, but for the moment I am enjoying work. I have a good boss and nice co-workers. I believe I was lucky to find such a good place. I am now experiencing this other chapter of life in Taiwan. Which is absolutely different from just being a student. I will succeed one again, I know I will.

As a person who doesn’t know anything about being here, my only advice is: “Embrace every moment and never stop discovering.”

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Waking up and welcoming the future to come

 

 

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