Devante Gonzalez
2011-12 Outbound to Taiwan

Hometown: Orange City, Florida
School: University High School
Sponsor: Four Townes/Orange City Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Rotary Club of Sanyi, District 3500, Taiwan

Devante's Bio

Hi! My name is Devante Gonzalez; I'm 16 years old, and a junior at University High School. I’m so excited, because next year I'm going to be spending my senior year in Taiwan! This is a once in a lifetime chance to immerse myself in a different culture and surround myself in a totally different environment than what I’m used to. I think this will be so much more of a rewarding and fulfilling experience rather than a traditional boring senior year. Right now since I am a junior, I’m taking the classes I need online so even though I will be studying abroad I will still be able to graduate next year.

I live in Orange City, Florida with my mom, two sisters, Janay and Tiana, nephew Jasiah, and puppy Cali. We have lived here in Central Florida for almost eight years now; we are originally from New York. My family and I are very close and they are nervous about the fact that I will be out on my own in a foreign land without them. But they know how much it means to me to be able to do this, and therefore I am thankful that they are being so supportive.

I play soccer on our High School Varsity Team and I have either practice or a game everyday after school, so when I come home I’m exhausted. I’m not that great at it, but it is fun and I just love the game. I love music and like to dance, and I always have a song in my head. I also like to swim. I am a very good cook, I think. I make dinner at home sometimes, and I love to bake different kinds of desserts just because. I am a very outgoing and friendly individual that is easy to talk to and funny. I love to make people laugh. I always strive to be an optimistic and positive person. I appreciate Rotary for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity that will change my life forever.

Devante's Journals

August 20

WOW! Yesterday was the first day of the rest of my life. It is not as interesting to read from a computer rather than actually experiencing everything in person! I guess now would be a good time, everyone is asleep and it is early. Also I want to write this before I forget everything. Hope you enjoy!

So… It is Friday morning. Just like any morning, but vastly different! This particular Friday morning I was leaving my home and going off to live in TAIWAN for a year which you already know! So I woke up at 6:30 with the family, walked my dog and got ready with a little last minute packing. And of course we are running late (nothing new). SO from my home to Jacksonville airport is about 3 hours away. So we were all in the car arguing at first but then reminiscing about really good memories and funny events in my life. It was nice. Then we finally get to the airport. Check in. Then head towards the security. My friend Kelly who is also going to be an exchange student to Taiwan was there waiting for me with her family. My family and I took our last pictures together and said goodbyes. Surprisingly my mom didn’t cry, though she had been crying for the past week. I guess she wanted me to leave with the image of her smiling. She is really the best mom and I already miss her!

So I go through security with Kelly by my side and I am texting and calling people to tell them goodbye. Then it’s 12 o’clock noon, we board our plane and begin our crazy journey! The flight from Jacksonville to Detroit was fast. I slept through most of it. Then when we arrived at Detroit airport were we met up with a whole group of people going to Taiwan including Elycia and Marco who took an earlier flight from Orlando airport. The other people in the group however are from rotary like me but from different states of the USA. This was the best flight I have EVER been on. All the kids going to Taiwan including myself were all together in the airplane so we got to know each other a little more. It was a huge plane and it was such a smooth flight. But the only problem was the horrible service! WHY ME!! The people that bring you your drinks and food were so rude to me! It was ridiculous! But other than that I was having a great time! So after like 17 hours on that plane we land in TOKYO, JAPAN! That was the quietest airport I have ever been to! I felt so cool because I used some of my Japanese skills to good use! Then we find another group of kids from more states of the USA. We all stuck together. About an hour passes and we go on a different plane. Taiwan here we come! This plane ride was different. Not so much exciting as it was anxiousness and nerve racking. The flight only lasted a few hours but it felt like forever!! AHHHH we finally land!! Woohooo!

When we get out of the plane we walked strait to immigration to get our passports checked. Then we go and get our bags from of course baggage claiming. I said bye to all my friends who are about to start their new life here in Taiwan including Kelly and Elycia, as I wait for my bags. I finally get the two big luggage bags that belong to me and head to where the exit is. When I went to leave the baggage claim there is a whole mob of Taiwanese people waiting there for their exchange student with signs. My family was in the back screaming for me and I recognized my host father! As the group of people waiting for me came close my hands were shaking so all I can do is hold on to my luggage’s tight so they wouldn’t notice! It was insane! I was so nervous and they were all so nice and welcoming! My host father and two guys around my age who will be a part of my second or third host family introduced themselves to me as Vinny and Filan. They both helped with the language barrier. The other people who greeted me I did not know. But they were nice.

My host father Richard asked me “are you hungry” and I said “YES!” We went to McDonalds! Taiwanese McDonalds is so much better then American McDonalds. After we ate, we brought home Filan. My host father Richard and I went to Vinny’s house to get washed up. Then we finally got to my host family home where I met my host brother Lucas! He is very kind but not very good English. They showed me my room which was awesome! Then I met my host mom. She is so nice and doesn’t know any English. She was very worried I wouldn’t like her house or the room she and the family prepared for me. But I LOVE IT! They really wanted to make sure I liked everything. There hospitality is the best. They always check to see if I am tired or hungry. Very nice people.

I am very happy to be here and I am so excited to become close with this new loving family.

February 3, 2012

August-

Well after I wrote the first entry that night I didn't sleep much. (I had slept too much on the plane.) So when the morning sun came up, I was up with it. I waited for everyone to get up so I could know what to do. I finally made enough sounds unpacking to wake everyone up! No, I didn't unpack last night. I unpacked in the morning because I was just being the lazy American!

After I was settled in my room my host brother knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted to get breakfast and of course I said yes. We took his moped to this breakfast shop close by! Oh yea, it was HOT outside 好熱! Summer in Taiwan is just as hot as Florida, if not more!!! My host brother tried his hardest to use his horrible English skills to tell me he will order me some "America breakfast." The food here in every resturant is fast. I recieved my breakfast in less then 2 minutes. It was an egg and cheese wrap thing. It was good except for all the extra cheese. Apperently every american likes extra cheese on all of their breakfast foods. But not me. So I ate most of it and we went home, took an hour break and then Vinny came to the house and we went to lunch.... I wasn't hungry and they were suprised. We went to a common noodle shop in my small town of SanYi. It was good but I was NOT hungry!!

The next few weeks were mostly the same thing because it was summer and all the boys were off from college so they were usually with me. The boys: Lucas, Nikky, Yi wei lai, Vinny, William, and Kevin. Those are all of my host brothers from the three host families I will be living with. I have a little host sister but I seldom see her. They are all cousins. Nikky and Yi Wei Lai are brother. Kevin, William and Vinny are brothers. Nikky, Yi Wei Lai, and Vinny were all exchange students to America before so their English is very good! I became closer to Vinny the most, I think. The whole summer was just us spending the days together and helping out in the family restaurant. It was like everything they did was with me and it felt great to be apart of the family. They were literally like real brothers to me. I never had brothers before.

We went to Taichung together many times to go to night markets which are very famous in Taiwan. The name explains it all. Its just locals who sell anythings and it just becomes a big market on the street, at night. You can buy really good food for cheap and you can walk around and it's just something to do. In small towns a night market would only be once a week. But in big cities like Taichung and Taipei they have night markets all day, everyday! It's interesting and very different!

Also in Taichung there are so many nice movie theaters! One movie we saw is very famous! It is a true love story in Taiwan about a boy in senior high school who was in love with this one girl, who many boys liked. It was a very good movie (my favorite) its called: You are the apple of my eye!

We took a charter bus (very common) and went on a family trip to the southern parts of the island with the boys and other family members from my host family including the grandfather. The grandfather was very sick and weak. He needed much help from everyone. But I know he had a nice time. It was a great trip! We stayed in a 4 star ☆☆☆☆ hotel in Kaohsiung and just had fun. It was very cool to see the beaches in Tainan that look nothing like Daytona or New Sumyrna. No waves!! A little boring! I burned my lip really bad from the grilled oyster! OW!!

Yi Wei Lai and I went to a Taiwan singer's concert in Miaoli where I met a my friend Edern who is an Exchange student from France. He is also in my district! He is cool! The concert was amazing! It was a singer named A-Lin! She is a very famous Taiwan singer. She is extrodinary live!!! Taiwanese people love to give encores. She had about 4 encores!

The first District 3500 meeting with all the exchange students was unbelievably fun and there was so much talking!! The thing I was most happy about was seeing a girl named Hunter! I met her on the plane from Detroit to Japan! She was so cool! But the only thing I could remember about her was that she was from Colorado! So I thought when I was leaving the airport that this was the last time I would see her! But HERE she was!! She is so funny! One of my favorite exchange student friends! There is also Evelyn from California who is my really good friend, she is crazy! The meeting was great! Our district is a normal size but with a small group of exchange students! We ONLY have about 20!!!

That was the best summer of my life. I was starting this exchange off so well! I had families I loved and considered them as real family! I met the exchange students I will see the most in my year here in Taiwan! And I was getting use to the life here! It had to be the highest part of my exchange. But of course all good things had to end and ALL of my host brothers had to leave to go to their college for the new school year. It was sad. To be honest, I cried when Vinny was leaving because it was like I would never see him again. He was my brother. I wonder if my sisters in America felt this way when I left to come to Taiwan. Lucas and William go to school in Taichung 30 minutes away. Yi Wei Lai went to the military. Kevin, Nikki, and Vinny went go to school in Taipei 2 hours away... I havn't seen Vinny since.

So one more week passed and then it was time for me to go to school!!

May 16, 2012

School. It was that time of the year. I guess it wasn't clear enough that I was ready to hurry up and leave the house because I was getting very antsy and a little impatient with my host father because he was just taking his sweet time! That bugged me! So we finally set of to the school in Miaoli, 30 minutes away. This morning was not what I expected at all. When I first arrived with my host father we sat down in the office/lobby and waited for I don't know what but then we went home... what was that???? Never found out but all I knew was that the next day was the real deal!

So of course I couldn't sleep. My host father told me where and what time I needed to be at my bus stop so I got up, got ready and went off. My bus stop is on the next corner of the street next to a 7-11. So I go get some coffee and waited for my bus. Just then this crazy man drives to the bus stop like a maniak almost hits some students and parks in the middle of the road and gets out the car. It's my host father! What is wrong with this guy? He looks like he just rolled out of bed and he looks crazy! What was the deal? So he walks fast over to me and says "where are you going?!?!" and I said "i am at the bus stop waiting to go to school." and He says "NO! I drive you to your bus stop!" In my mind I am just thinking how crazy this man is to rush over here and tell me he wants to bring me to the bus stop not even 100 meters away. I have been there for a few weeks already and i was prety familiar with my small town. If i didn't know how to get around in my town then I would be an idiot because my town is litteraly one main street... So back to my crazy host father- he end up just standing with me at the bus stop like I am 5 years old and talks to all the students there telling them who I am, giving them my phone number, and basically just telling them I am incapable of surviving alone so I need to be watched at all times. The most embarrasses I have ever felt in my entire life!!!

Finally the bus comes and after my host father talks to the bus driver for a good 10 minutes we are off to school! The buses in Taiwan are all like charter busses. They have cushions and is very comfortable and big! The Taiwan students of course where so nervous to talk to me they would just turn around and stare! Their stares where not comforting. When i arrived at school 30 minutes later i go to my classroom on the 4th floor and there is my class. Classroom 114. In Taiwan you never leave your class like to change periods. It is like elementary school when you have "your" classroom. But we dont have just one teacher. When the classes change the teachers do. So students stay in the same classroom all day everyday. When i first met my classmates in 114 they were extremely shy and timid. Also they were very quiet. When I would walk in the halls during break time in between classes everyone would just stare like I was a ghost! A very tan, tall, big eyed ghost! I would always smile and say hi to everyone (I still do). they usually would either say nothing or just burry they face in their hands and laugh shyly with their friends! They are so shy! Some people were very brave and would ask me my name. So I told everyone my name is "Gonzo." It is a nickname that my host brothers and my host family like to call me because apparently my normal name is "too hard to say." So I am Gonzo.

Days passed like months and the students loosened up more and more! Everyone would say hi to me! They would ask me a million questions now! Like:

-how old are you?

-how many siblings do you have?

-do you know Obama?

-what is your blood type?

-do you have many girlfriends?

-why are your eyes so big?

My school is huge! It is two long building. One with 5 floors and e other with 7 floors! It is very tall! We have to wear these horrible uniforms that are very comfortable. They are mustard yellow shirts with bright royal blue pants! My classroom 114 is a freshman art class. They are qa special class for students with special art abilities! I however, am not strong in art at all anymore. So they are very shy and quiet even without me there. Some of them are very crazy and outgoing and I made very good friends in that class. Also when we have break time i visit older classrooms and make friends who are closer to my age and very cool and fun. Like classroom 205. I went to a night market with a few friends from 205 on the last day of september. It was great. That was the first and last time i had stinky tofu! GROSS! I love all of my friends in school they are great! The thing i love most about Taiwan is the people! They are so warm and kind after you get passed the shyness! The nicest people on earth, I think!

October-

So when October rolled around, I am still very fresh meat in Taiwan so everything is still new and unexplored! It was still a very weird thing for me to be here in this school. In Taiwan, school is so important and it takes up your whole day so everything is inside school, like clubs and events.

You can imagine I received so many different friend request on Facebook. So many people wanted to know me. There was one girl I talked to a little more then the others. I met her the first day of school and I thought I remembered who she was and what class she is in. But I remember asking her asking her a question and she said… “no, that’s not me. Are you sure you remember who I am?” so I told her “ok if I run into you in school say something so I will know it is you” she said “ok” and I said “How about taco?”

It was a few days that passed and when I was going to sign up early for a school club I had to bring my sign up sheet to classroom 205. I go inside and give the teacher my paper and this girl in the front row keeps saying “taco”. It took a few seconds but then everything clicked and I said “… OHHHH TACO!!!” so loud! Everyone started laughing. So from then on we called each other “Taco”

This month there is such a cool event in the school. It is when you choose what club you want to be in. There is a big courtyard and every club sets up a type of booth for people to go and sign up! There is every kind of club you can think of in this school. Swimming club, basketball club, badminton club, dance club, anime club, Japanese club, music club, magic club, mountain climbing club, movie club, game club, poker club, and many many more. So apparently they ring the bell and people have to run from their classes (remember 5 floors of students) and try to hurry and get a spot in the club they want. I don’t know for sure how it went… I couldn’t make it that day because I had to help my art class set up for an art show in a location close by. But I missed that whole thing. I was a little annoyed by that. But is ok I already joined the club I wanted before this day. Many people wanted me in their club. But I joined the mountain climbing club! It is not ha rdcore mountain climbing but we get out of school for an hour every other Wednesday and go travel somewhere and walk and chat and eat. What is better then that? I was so tempted to join dance club because I really like to dance but I am so busy and in dance club you have to practice every day after school but I cant because I will start my Chinese class in the University soon.

Speaking of… my Chinese class started this month! Oh it is so cool. In my class I have a teacher who is so very nice. She is the sweetest lady. Then I have two other classmates. All three of us are Rotary YEP students. My friend Edern is from France and Julian from Germany are both my classmates. All of us are beginners with Chinese so it started off well. Edern is in my rotary club so I see him often but he lives in a different town. And he excels with Chinese so much better then me. But that’s ok. Everyone learns at different paces. Chinese language is not as hard as it seems. When you are around it a lot you get accustomed to how things are said and you can pick out different words and understand what people are saying. Of course at this point I am not good at all with Chinese but still I am trying and working on it. You have to put effort in learning Chinese or else you will fall behind.

I didn’t really have an after school life yet because I didn’t know where to go or how to get there. So school was the highlight of my day! I never wanted to be home. On weekends I just wished it was the weekday so I can see my friends. I started to be with the classroom 205 more instead of my home room 114. 205 had Taco and her whole group of friends who are so funny and crazy! I loved spending time with them! Whenever I was with them I was so happy. Classroom 114 students are so very nice too, but they were very busy in art classes and I don’t have any art skills anymore so I didn’t enjoy being in the classes with them. Classroom 205 was just a normal class. Though the students in 205 are anything but normal. They have so many talented people. There is Kiki who is one of the best singers in school. There is 3 students who are really good dancers in dance club and then we have some of the star basketball players like LuLu and Jo-Ting-Wei (wei-wei)! We i-wei is the biggest guy in school (tallest and most muscle) he is just a monster. But he is so cool and hilarious! The only thing about this class is it had the lowest test scores. But that’s ok they made up for it in skill. We also won the tug of war competition in our school. And I say “we” because I was basically a part of that class now. They are awesome. Taco was the first to bring me to a night market near my school one Friday. It was nice. A little smaller then the ones in bigger cities but it was just nice to spend time with my friends.

November-

My favorite month! Not yet winter but over with summer. That’s right, FALL! Also my birthday is November 8th so I am pretty excited! This month has a lot of surprises!

Well to start off my month it was my birthday and some of my classmates in 114 asked to come over my house. So I asked my host father and he agreed. It was nice we picked them up from the train station and went to my home. We ate noodles and watched a scary Korean horror film! Then they surprised me with a cake! Where did they pull that out of? I didn’t even see it with them at the train station! It was so sweet of them! Then we had a cake frosting fight! In Taiwan they love to do that. It was so fun and I got frosting everywhere.

In my few months here I have experienced so many birthdays in school that it was inevitable that something would be thrown at my face, like frosting. For some students in my school they get eggs thrown at them for their birthday or they throw shaving cream everywhere! When I went to school on my birthday SO MANY PEOPLE got me a gift. I got maybe 100 cards and the rest are food or candy or something! Some student I have never even met before made me such a nice card that was hand woven. It was crazy! My friend in classroom 214 knows I love Korean music so he purchased a Girls’ generation album for me with posters and other items. On this same day my favorite class 205 had a surprise cake for me in their class. It was so nice and in Taiwan when you make a wish you have 3 wishes. 2 you say out loud and 1 is secret. I was crying, it was so nice of them! Oh that was such a special day. Birthdays are huge things here. HUGE!!! So it was a little upsetting when my host family f orgot my birthday. Yea… Some people could say maybe it was a culture difference but it wasn’t. Birthdays are very important here. So that made me sad.

On November 21 I went to a SHINee concert! It was amazing. SHINee is a Korean pop group who is really popular out here. The concert was amazing even though it rained. Taiwan audiences are not very great. They don’t get excited easy so the crowd is mostly quiet. But it was still nice.

Winter is almost upon us. The weather here is dropping like crazy so be prepared new outbounds! It gets really cold here!!! REALLY COLD IN TAIWAN!