Erin McNeish
2005-06 Outbound to Taiwan

Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
School: Douglas Anderson School of the Arts
Sponsor: Ponte Vedra Beach Sunset Rotary Club
Host: Chung Ho Full May Rotary Club, District 3480, Taiwan

October 2 Journal

I'm not quite sure where to start and I'm not much of a writer. I guess I'll begin with the first thing I can remember: I will say that I really didn't have a fear of coming over here till I stepped off the plane. I met about 9 exchange students in the terminal in Detroit. And I connected with 5 of them instantly, we ate a Japanese side shop thing, and the flight was the longest 21 hours of my life. Although we had good movie choices, but yeah then when we got off the plane I clinged really tight to my friend's hand. After gathering our luggage, exchanging money, and taking pictures, we walked down the terminal. I could see a huge sign that "Welcome to Taiwan ERIN MCNEISH " that my mom was holding!!! I was driven home by my older brother and his friend was in the car, and we chatted a little bit. When we got to the house, which it's really more of an apartment but not the same way that we think of apartments, because my building is 26 stories high. Taipei is huge - it takes at least 1 1/2 hours to get from one side to the other and not because of distance.

It's a really crowded city, and there are lots of cars, but I think that mopeds definitely outnumber the cars at least 5-1. They race down street zipping between cars and buses, sometimes on the side walks!! Trust me any one you think is a bad driver can out drive anyone here. I personally prefer now to sit in the back seat of cars, although my brother has driven me to school on a moped. And I clinged to him so tight, one hand on his shoulder the other to my skirt so it wouldn't fly up!!! Yep I wear uniforms, not the prettiest things but I like the gym uniform!!!! And my classmates are quite funny, because they are willing to be my friend without even knowing anything about me!!! But there are a few groups of them that I like to talk to!!!! They also are very concerned with my health, you see they have instant noodles at school and they told me several times that I need to stop eating them. I wasn't going to but then I found out that the rice with vegetables was a lot better!!! It's really funny too, because my first week here all of my classmates wanted to take my picture or they would just wave or just scream my name!!! Crazy huh, yeah actually, the first day there was a poster that was placed at the front of the school with the our names on it (yes there are four of us that go to my school, 3 from the US and 1 from Poland.) There is actually a ton of students in the district that are from the US. But I get along well with all the exchange students!!!

Yeah so I go to about 3 schools right now. My first one I call my home school because I go there 1/2 day on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and a whole day Friday. The other half I go to my 2nd school, except on Wednesday when I go to my 3rd!!! You see I go to my 2nd school for Chinese class three times a week and a culture class one day a week. You may think that this is cool but for me it's just exhausting!! After I get home around 6pm, school ends at 5pm and it takes me 1/2 hour to get home but I usually have to wait for the bus and that takes like 20 minutes, then I have to walk in my building and when I get home I'm so tired I collapse until dinner!!! Which is usually when I talk to the family which is a split of the Chinese I know and the English my mom or sister knows, so they usually speak in Chinese (just have to tell them to speak slowly, because sometimes I hear a word but am not sure what it means, and sometimes I don't understand how they are using the word, because depending on the tone they use, which there are 4 tones, the word can mean way different things)!!!! Yeah well when they speak Taiwanese then you really don't know, because I don't know any (I take that back - I know 2 words in Taiwanese) but there are 8 different tones in the Taiwanese language, I think that's cool but I know that there is no way for me to really learn it. Just think about that - the same word with 8 different tones means 8 different things!!!!

But I must keep going!!!! When I first got here I learned the 2 most important things when eating Taiwanese or Chinese food. We are talking the real stuff, not the American version. #1, don't look at it when eating it, and #2, don't ask what it is!!! Upon arriving in Taiwan and following these easy steps to eating you will just kidding!!!! I've actually really come to love their food, and they tell me to eat like all day. We have all 3 meals and then we have snacks in between. But I can remember when I first got here... you see, you start with a bowl of rice (the table is set in family style) and you just pick off the plates what you want with your chopsticks and put it in your bowl. and then to end the meal you eat soup. One thing that I did notice, though, is that they don't drink anything while they are eating dinner (and for me this is impossible you see because daily I drink more than I eat, so not drinking anything during a meal when be next to impossible for me!!)!! I did ask one lady why they did this but she said that they believe that when you eat and drink at the same time it makes your stomach bigger!!! It's strange though because sometimes I will ask them a question about why something is this way or that and they will respond with an "I don't know" or "that's the way that it's always been." which is strange because some of the things that I ask I would think to have simple answers. But yeah!!!!

My family is kick butt, no really they are really sweet to me!! I have mom (mama), dad (baba), older brother (guh guh), younger sister (may may), grandma (nini), a maid (she is more like hired help) and a little dog named shao pong which means a little bit fat!!! Yes at one point in time I thought that the dog had multiple personalities, because is was nice one second and would try to bite you the next. But now I guess it just accepts me, so all is good!

Everything over here is very fun and exciting and just good. So, sorry, I'm really tired and am going to bed now!!! Night?!

December 19 Journal

Sorry everyone that you haven't read a journal in quite a while. I always seem to be doing something, which is always good of course. I have recently switched families so now I'm in my second. My mom who likes to be called CP, is a widow but has a 29 year old son that still lives with her. Her daughter (husband, 2 kids, and maid) lives in the building almost next to ours but not quite. Although this family is small, well at least the two members I live with, it's still believe it or not interesting. You see CP as she once told me "I may have an old body but in my mind I am still young" and that's exactly how it is. She really seems to be more western than my first host family, so she can understand me more and actually I'm her first American exchange student. But she has had 8 so far, so when it comes to understanding she probably can the best. Some nights she will take me out to dinner and we will talk about her factories or school and what not. Or we will stay at home and watch a movie or just be at home. But she will tell me stories about when she was my age and how she was a "rebel," or when she was young and wanted to go to high school for flower arranging. So my mom now is pretty cool, and I really just think that she is just a funny lady.

School is the same, but we mixed things up on Halloween. The three other exchange students and me dressed up and went around to all the classes in our school and asking questions about Halloween. Whoever could answer them right got some candy, it was fun but I don't think that some of the teachers were happy with us..... And on Thanksgiving my mom took us to Costco and we got a turkey. So on Thanksgiving about 10-11 exchange students came over to my house and we made a real Thanksgiving dinner together. It was a lot of fun. And I think on Christmas I'm going over to my friend's house (with everyone else) and we are going to make food from our own countries and celebrate Christmas together. Then I think some people are coming to my house to spend the night, and we are going to midnight mass. So that's going to be cool!!

And last weekend me and 2 other exchange students in my club got to participate in a fashion show which was interesting. We got to wear gowns and get our hair and makeup done. Anyway let's just say that I know I'll never be a model again.

Anyway I've just really been busy and am trying to enjoy Taiwan everyday, but got to go