Let me describe this to you, numerous types of fish, soy sauce, shrimp, and fish sauce all on pizza crust....
I AM FINALLY HERE, well, to be technical, I have been living in Taiwan for about one week (has it really been that long?). Where do I begin? So much has happened in the last five days that if I told you all of the emotions that I have felt, or the experiences that have occurred, your head just might spin. So, I guess the flight to Taiwan is a good place to start.
On the morning of my flight I was, how you say, a hot mess. I was worried that my flight might be rescheduled (Again), frantically checking my carry on (I checked at least ten times) making sure I had my passport and forms but most of all, I was excited. My family, friends, and I have talked about my exchange and me leaving for a year, but it was such a shock when it actually happened. It’s almost indescribable, feelings that only exchange students could possibly know of.
On the morning of truth, my family and I drove to the airport where I checked in my bags and received my flight itinerary (All flights were on time, thank god). After I checked in and everything, my family and I went to security. It was bitter sweet. I know that I will see them again in a year, but it was unimaginably hard saying good bye. For a moment, I wondered if I could fit them all in my bag and take them with me, but I decided against it. After all the farewells, surprisingly no tears (that I know of), I got in line for security and I was off!
My first two flights were very uneventful. They both were long and boring. Once my flight landed in in San Francisco, I had a few hours to burn before my flight to Hong Kong so I just emailed my mom and ate Mentos. (I am OBSSESSED with Mentos, I brought like 3 packs of 5 with me). Once it was time to board my flight, I said my goodbye to America and hello to Taiwan.
My flight to Hong Kong was anything but comfortable. I had no arm/leg space, the girl next to me fell asleep on my arm, and I was sooooo hungry. (If anyone says airplane food is good, they're lying) Honestly, the only thing that got me through the flight was sleeping(Thank you Tylenol PM) and wondering what my new life it Taiwan might be like.
After what seemed like forever but was only sixteen hours, I landed in Hong Kong! It was beyond beautiful. The skyscrapers of Hong Kong would put any of those in Florida to shame. It was a really cool sight. Once I landed, I had to check in and get my boarding pass. Once I reached the check in counter I was face to face to the employee who could not be older than seventeen. Between his limited English and my even more limited Chinese, we got through it and I got my ticket.
It turned out that my gate changed, so I walked to my new gate and then proceeded to relax. For about ten minutes I sat there shuffling my deck of cards (I do it when I`m bored) until a woman dressed in a woman’s suit approached me in a businesslike manner. She worked for the airport and asked if I wanted to take a survey. Since I was just sitting there I said “Why not.” Even though she basically filled out the survey for me, she was nice company, and I was really glad that we had met. At the end, she gave me Chinese cough drops (now that I think about it, I might try them today). Anyways, my flight started boarding and I thought to myself, “Wow. I really am going to be living in Taiwan for a year. This is insane.” That was the first moment my exchange felt real to me. I knew that there was no going back once I stepped onto the plane so when I did, I felt like a true exchange student.
Once on my flight to Kaohsiung (Taiwan), I was looking for my seat number and somehow missed it. Instead of going through the congested pathways to find my seat, I decided to wait in the back of the plane and let it simmer down before going. It just so happens that I was standing by a girl from Colombia (Viva la colombiaaaaa! Hopefully that means what I think it means) who is from rotary and who will also be spending a year in Taiwan. Once we realized we were both exchange students, we immediately struck up an interesting conversation. The woman sitting next to Alejandra seemed to know that we both could use some company so she asked if I would like to trade seats, and I jumped on the opportunity! And to think it all started with something as simple as me skipping my seat. Fate? I think so.
The plane ride was really pleasant. The girl from Colombia (Alejandra, let’s just pretend I spelled that right) and I talked about our flights (her flight was 33 hours long!), our family, and Taiwan. Her English was really good so it made talking to her very fun and easy. Once I told her that I wanted to learn Spanish after my exchange she, somewhat successfully tried to teach me how to roll my r`s. It was all good fun and all, so I was really glad that we got to meet each other.
Once the plane landed in Kaohsiung we were both beyond excited! Alejandra, another Colombian exchange student (No hablo englais) and I went through customs and to baggage claim. While we waited for our bags we took a lot of pictures, including one of me holding a Colombian flag and wearing a sombrero! It was a blast! Once our luggage arrived we picked them up and, together, and headed to our host families. After the long flights we all had, we were finally in Taiwan. We never felt more ready in our lives.
Once I walked through the doors, all I heard were a group of strangers yelling “Cameron!!” I hurriedly rushed to greet them, as soon as I got there I said a well-rehearsed “Da jia hao” and my host mom immediately said “How cute, he`s speaking Chinese!” We then took A LOT of pictures with people I still don’t know as of today.
Afterwards we went to the car and my host mom said I could sit in the front! She said “You`re big, you sit there.” Unlike many exchange students who`ve had 26 hour long flights, I wasn't so tired. In fact, once I got home and settled for bed (2am) I slept for a mere 4 hours. I felt relieved because I was really worried about jet lag. The next day my host brother and I went over to his friend Chiyuan (2nd host family's daughter) house to take me and Johane (French Exchange student, we`re both hosted by the same club so we see each other a lot) to see the city a bit.
We went and saw a Chinese temple and it was stunning. I can honestly say that I have seen nothing like it before. Although it was beautiful I really didn’t enjoy it, you know why? JET LAG, (Yeah, apparently I didn’t beat jet lag) It was the worst. I felt like I was going to throw up (or simply die) at any given moment during the day, it was awful. Since you can never skip a meal in Taiwan, even when you are sick and don’t feel well, (It's basically the biggest insult you can ever give to a Taiwanese) my host family insisted I eat lunch and dinner. They said that it will make me feel better, even against my feeble attempts at saying it won’t. The worst by far was lunch, Pizza.
You might say, “Pizza? That’s my favorite! You`re an American, why don’t you like pizza?” It’s not that I don’t like pizza, (because obviously I love pizza!) it’s the fact that I don’t like seafood pizza( In theory, it sounds quite good, but in reality it was absolutely terrible). Let me describe this to you, numerous types of fish, soy sauce, shrimp, and fish sauce all on pizza crust. It looked and tasted as if the ocean threw up on pizza crust and some business man sold it as a “Specialty pizza”. Even though it doesn’t sound bad, it was. I almost threw up after the first bite. (Don’t worry, I ate it all. I remember the rotary motto, “Try everything twice even if it looks like the ocean threw up and someone put it on pizza crust and called it pizza”)
All I could think was, I hate the food, I want to sleep for the next trillion years, and I want to be back home. That pretty much was my train of thought all day. Even while we were saying good bye to Wei (Older brother who left for France the day after I arrived) all I wanted to do was hitch a ride on a plane going back to the States.
I progressively felt worse throughout the day so I turned in around 6. Not surprisingly, I fell into a deep slumber and didn’t wake up until about nine am the next day. I felt a lot better, jet lag, in a word…..sucks. Even though I felt physically better, I still missed my family. As I have come to realize, I don’t think that feeling ever leaves you. You can have good days when you hardly think of them, or you can have bad days when all you can do is think about your family. Either or, you always think about them. Even though I missed my family terribly, I was not about to stay and brood in my room for the whole year, so I did what I do best, stayed busy!
The next few days were a blur. I played Badmitten (It’s really popular over here) with my host dad and Johane, by the end we were sweating like dogs. The badmitten gym (I think that’s what you would call it?) has no AC, so by the end of my host father teaching us how to play, we were both drenched. It was fun, different, and a great way to exercise!
The next day Johane and I went to Wenshan and got registered at the school. It was pretty fun; some of the teachers even showed us how to play a Chinese card game! It was a memory game and I completely bombed it and got last place, but it still was tons of fun. Even though I had fun playing Badmitten, Chinese card games, going to temples, eating rice covered in goats blood at Chinese restaurants’, nothing could compare to my day at Kenting. It all started a few days ago when my host father was showing Johane and I pictures of Kenting, a city about two hours from Kaohsiung that the Taiwanese travel to for vacati on. In the pictures the beach looked amazing, we both told my host father they were beautiful. He then asked if we would like to go one day, we both said yes thinking that he was just making conversation.( HELPFUL HINT TO FUTURE TAIWAN OUTBOUNDS: If you so much as ask about a place in Taiwan, even if it’s just out of curiosity you host family will make it their mission for you to travel there and have fun. That is basically all they want you to do, have fun)
Anyways, one night my host father then went up to my room at about 10 pm and told me that I would be going to Kenting in the morning with Kirsten (A girl from Germany) and Johane. I was basically shocked and giddy with excitement all at the same time. Looking back at my day in Kenting, to say the very least, it was perfect. We arrived at Wenshan, my school where Kirsten and Sunny (Taiwanese who went on exchange to Poland) picked us up. For the car ride, we talked and chit chatted. It turns out that Kirsten is really good at English which made for a pretty fun two hours.
About half way through our “road trip” we saw the mountains of Kenting. Let me just say that when I saw Kenting`s mountains, my jaw dropped. It was absolutely breathtaking. Mountains dotted the horizon, and the beaches that were at the bottom of the mountains would put any Floridian beach to shame (Yes, it was that good). After we gawked at the mountains for about another ten minutes, we finally reached the marina! It was so busy, and there were fish everywhere. People were buying and selling some of the most exotic fish I have ever seen, it was spectacular.
We decided that we wanted to eat before we went snorkeling so we decided to eat at the marina! We walked upstairs we sat at a huge round table where the waiter put down about 16 full sized plates of food. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not, the Taiwanese are dead serious about food! After lunch Sunny, Johane and I changed into our wet suit (Kirsten, the girl from Germany didn’t want to go) and then we were off on our not so deep aquatic adventure.
Once we reached the ocean, we jumped in, and fortunately the water cooled us off after the sun pounded us with waves of heat. While we snorkeled, we saw a million different kinds of fish (we saw all of the nemo fish), and so many different colored rocks and coral. After our snorkel tour was over, we went to the dock farther out in the sea to go Tubing! Honestly, if you know me at all, you would know that I hate tubing! However they insisted that I go along with them, so I did. Let me just say, I'm glad I did. It was scary, but so much fun.
After our adventure at the beach was over, we went to Kenting's night market!! Ahhhhh so amazing, so much food and it was dirt cheap (Like a huge hot dog and a drink would probably only cost you a dollar, maybe). However, it soon rained so we had to get back on the road….. to go home. (I was really sad because I wanted to live in Kenting!) It by far was my most exciting day in Taiwan!! I will post more soon! But until then, Zaijian!!