Destiny Childress


Hometown: Orange Park, Florida
School: Orange Park High School
Sponsor District: 6970
Sponsor Club: Orange Park Sunrise
Host District: 3490
Host Club: Shulin


My Bio

Hey! I am Destiny Childress, and I am going to TAIWAN!!!! I am so thankful for the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and into a place I would have never imagined I would travel to! Thank you Rotary for this once in a lifetime chance! After the initial shock of Taiwan, I have become extremely excited! I think I was the only person at that the Big Reveal who was unable to figure out where they were going from their flag, but I never thought I would go to Taiwan. After some research I have learned so much, and have already fallen in love with the country. I am 17 years old, and live at home with my mom, dad, and two dogs. My dogs are pugs, named Cupcake and Sprinkles, they are so adorable! I am a Junior at Orange Park High School, I am very active in my school. I enjoy clubs and sports that range from robotics to varsity basketball. My absolute favorite thing to do is fly. I am almost done with being a student pilot, and becoming a private pilot. Being in air is an experience that I will never get tired of, it is amazing and something I plan to do for the rest of my life. Taiwan is a little far for me to pilot my own plane to my new home! I look forward to sharing my journeys with you!!

Journals: Destiny – Taiwan 2016-17

  • Destiny, outbound to Taiwan

    Read more about Destiny and all her blogs

    Disclaimer: It has been a long time since I posted, my laptop stopped working so I had to go old school and use a pen and paper to keep up with life in Taiwan. Then I used the excuse it was too sad to go back and read what I have written down. I miss my home in Taiwan, family, and friends every day. 

    My mom came to visit me for ten days in March. This will always be so special to me because I got to share my new home with her. I was so nervous for her to come, I wanted to her to love my families and friends just as much as I do. She arrived at five thirty am!!!! She knew my host father and I were picking her but we surprised her by having all my friends and all three of my host families at the airport to greet her. My friends helped me make posters and my host mom had flowers for her. The look on her face was priceless. It reminded me so much of when I arrived in Taiwan. My mom hugged all my families and friends….which is so not normal here in Taiwan. I remember thinking how strange it was watching her hug everyone. The look of being overwhelmed was in her eyes or maybe it was jet lag and I told her welcome to your mini taste of being an exchange student. In the car, my mom asked what was going on and I told her we all are going to breakfast. 

    My mom was looking out the car pointing to mountains and kept looking over at me and saying I can't believe I am here with you. My three host families had a debate over where to take my mom for breakfast. Which is normal for us to end up in a major debate of where we are going or what we are doing. I still didn’t know in the car where we were going until we pulled up to McDonald's. It sounds silly, we have McDonald's in the United States, and it was silly! But I believe my host families didn’t want to make the same error they did when I arrived, they took me to a restaurant and ordered me all meat and seafood dish. I am a vegetarian, so I couldn’t eat. The first breakfast was hilarious, I got to translate what my three host families were asking my mom, and then translate my mom’s responses to my families. Later that day my mom told me how much better my Chinese was than the thought it would be. At the time, I thought my language was okay, but I realized that I was translating entire conversations. My mom in McDonald’s had to take a picture of the famous squatty potty. In my mind, I was why this is normal to see. My mom was only visiting me for ten short days and all I could think of is how much I had to show her in such a short time. After breakfast, we said goodbye to my other two host families and headed to my home. My host family from the moment they knew she was coming told me that she must stay with them. My papa and mama were tired from getting up early from picking mom up and wanted to take a nap but my mom was ready to go explore. 

    My mom was like omg Destiny your school stuff is on the table in the dining room, you have clothes on your floor, and all your stuff is in the bathroom. She was like Destiny it looks like you live here and I was mom I do live here, it's my home. She also said to me, I don’t want to sound mean but did you wear dirty clothes to pick me up at the airport in. I just laughed because I forgot how in the beginning of my exchange it took me forever to get used to clothes being dried outside and sometimes it takes three days for our clothes to dry with the humidity here. I just smelled normal like Taiwan and my clothes stiffer from being hung up outside on the porch to dry. I showed my mom the washer and where we hang up our clothes and she was amazed that we used Tide just like at home. After the full home tour, we headed out to explore. Our first stop was 7-11 to get a bottle of water then to MRT to head to 蔣中正(Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall). It is one of my favorite places that I love going to with my friends. We watched to changing of the gauds and took lots of pictures. I kept thinking in my head, my mom is such a tourist. Later that night we were meeting all my host families for dinner. This time they picked a French fancy restaurant for us to eat at. My mom was panicked because we were undressed but I was like don’t worry, It is normal for the exchange kids to undress or overdress. I told her, welcome to being an exchange student, sometimes you never know what is happening until it is happening. At dinner my host mom ordered everything for my mom to try, it was so much food but once again this is normal for me. After dinner, my host fathers wanted to speak with my mom about what our plans are while she was here. I had to translate all of it. They wanted to know what hotels we were staying at when traveling down south and basically every detail of our trip. They kept saying how they loved me and wanted to make sure their daughter was safe when traveling. Mom was clueless what was going mostly since we were only speaking in Chinese.

    We did so many things over the next couples days. We traveled by High-Speed Rail and slow train to various places South of Taipei. One of the funniest moments while traveling with her was we got lost in Toucheng (a city South of Taipei), we could not find our hotel, we had taken a bus and then walked around for a few hours. We saw many cool temples and statues in that time but we wanted to check in. I hailed a taxi and told him the address of our hotel, but he just started yelling “TAIWAN”, I was like yes I know we are in Taiwan that is why I am speaking to you in Chinese. But the taxi driver kept yelling Taiwan, after several minutes of this, it occurred to me that maybe he didn’t understand Chinese, but only Taiwanese. The older generation in Taiwan, like my grandparents only can speak Taiwanese. We eventually got to our hotel, it was a fun adventure and a memory with my mom I will never forget. 

    To all future exchange students if you have a family member visit, it okay to travel and show them around but don’t forget to show them your everyday life, like school and take them to host club meeting if you can. When my mother visited one of her favorite memories was attending my school event. My entire class had been working for weeks on an event for all of our parents with performances and a nice dinner, as a thank you for helping them reach the end of their final year. When I told my school, my real mom was coming that got super excited, and my classmates were also excited! So the day of the event I took my mom to school with me, she kept pointing out how many people were pointing, gawking, and talking about me. I didn't even notice anymore. When my mom asked me why, and I explained that I am clearly a foreigner and wearing a school uniform. Seeing this white girl, with blonde hair in a traditional school uniform just astounds many Taiwanese citizens. When we go t to my school I showed her all around and all my classes and teachers then got ready for the dinner. They sat my mom and all my host families at a front table with my principal and next to the "English" teacher. 

    I loved the opportunity to show my mom a tiny part of my everyday life there and she loved it too. Later that night she told me how unreal it was to her, watching me at the school interacting, she said it was just like in the Unites States, I knew where I was going, all the teachers etc. Just instead of English, I was speaking Chinese. I laughed at her because she is right, school is very different in Taiwan compared to the United States, but I was just a s comfortable.

    Another everyday experience I shared with my mom was a Rotary meeting. I was a little nervous, I love my sponsor club but they are definitely eccentric. My mom loved them, I got to introduce to everyone but the best part for me was watching her be an honorary exchange student. I attended meetings twice a month and presented once a month with notice, but often they would ask me to talk without warning. Two days before the meeting I asked if my mom would be asked to talk in front of my club, the answer was no, but if I wanted to I could do a brief introduction of her. I introduced her of course, but then they asked her to speak. She has nothing prepared and had no idea what to say, but she did talk. She thanked my club for keeping me safe and for loving me so much. She told them she only been here a short while and now understands why I love Taiwan so much. She did so well, I was extremely proud. It is normal for exchange students, having to present and talk in front of people without a warning. This is a great skill to have to speak to a lot of people with little or no prep time. 

    My host mom wanted to have a party for my mom. She invited all my host families over and I got to invite some of my friends over. I think I had about 4 friends from school and about 5 of my exchange student friends over that night. Papa ordered us Pizza Hut and my host moms cooked all kinds of food. My mom was at the table with all the adults and us kids were in the living with our pizza. Afterward, she was like that was so hard not being able to really communicate with them. I was like trust me I know, that how it was when I first got here too. During the day before the party, my mom wanted to buy something for my host mom for hosting the party in her honor. I took her to the American store and we bought some wine from the USA. Well, I had to buy the wine because she was clueless about Tawniese money. She took a picture of me buying alcohol for the first time in my life. I was like do not post that picture on Facebook, I am not breaking a D!!! 

    Another normal life thing I took my mom too was speaking at the elementary school. Each month the exchange students from my club get a topic and we prepare a PowerPoint to share with the students at the school during their English class time and then they practice their English by presenting about the same topic to us in English. This month topic was our childhood games. After we did our presentations we went to music class. The class prepared a song and dance for my mom since they knew she was coming. It was so sweet. Lunch time they ordered us pizza and we eat and talk with the teachers. After we were done at the school, I took mom to see Taipei 101. Then later that night we met up with my exchange friends at Xiamen night market and all went out to eat a Thai restaurant. 
    My families planned stuff for us all to do together, we went to the oldest street called 九份 (Jiufen), hiked many mountains, shopped, went to tons of temples, gave mom tours of all my homes, they took us to their jobs to show us around, we went to Papas Lions club meeting (he is the president of his club) and we ate so much yummy food. On the tour of my first host home, it was funny how my host mom was saying sorry to my mom because she didn’t know the hot water in my bathroom wasn’t working for the longest time when I first got there. She was like daughter didn’t tell us, we would never make her take a cold shower. Sometimes it the small things like this that make your exchange the best! Afterward, my mom was like you were so comfortable in all your homes. This made me happy because I know I did what I came to do and that was to become a member of each of my families. 

    The time my mom was in Taiwan was a memory I will never forget. The chance to share with her my life there and my home there was priceless and I will forever be grateful to all of Rotary for my exchange. If you visit your kid on exchange it will be a memory shared together for a lifetime, but remember as much as you are there to visit them, take the time to meet their families and friends. It is so special now to me that my mom knows my other families and my friends. You might end up doing things you could do in the USA with them like going to movies but trust me when you go to the movies with a group of exchange students, you will never be the same again. It really is the simple, everyday moments that make your exchange so special. Thanks again to everyone for all the love and support. 

  • Destiny, outbound to Taiwan

    Read more about Destiny and all her blogs

    So I have just past the half way point of my exchange and this completely blows my mind! It feels like I have only been here for a month, not half a year! This has had me thinking about all the things I am going to miss about my home here in Taiwan.

    I will miss my classmates so much. My Taiwanese classmates are funny, and crazy. They are amazing people and I have grown very close with some of them. To all future exchange students: it is harder to get close with your country’s classmates then other exchange students. It takes work, but it is 100% worth it. I may be closer with other exchangers because they understand me, but by making close friends with my Taiwanese classmates makes me more connected to Taiwan as a whole.

    I am going to miss my host families. They are like my real family, I can talk to them about anything and I know they love me. This for me is more than just my host mothers and fathers it is also my cousins. My cousins from my second host family are super close with me too. I meet them during Chinese New Year, they showed me all around Penghu and we had some the most fun adventures on vacation together. I got to attend one of my cousin’s weddings! It was beautiful, different than a traditional wedding from back home, my favorite part was the pouring of tea. It was stunning and I am so thankful that I got to take part of my cousins wedding. 

    I am going to miss my other exchange student friends the most. I see some of them every single day, Sunday through Sunday. Not seeing them is going to be weird. The connection and bond developed between us is unfathomable. They are not my friends, but have become my brother and sisters. I know they understand and I know they have my back no matter what. Whenever I missing the United States, I call them to help cheer me up. Whenever my host mother makes me angry (just like a real mother does….) I call them to complain. They are the same people I call freaking out to when I talk in Chinese to someone and the person actual understand. They are more than just friends they are my family. They say home is not a place but a person. If this is the case, then I have a home in Taiwan, U.S., Poland, Mexico, Brazil, Lithuania, Thailand, Spain, Denmark, pretty much everywhere. 

    The Holiday seasons has passed! This year Christmas fell on a Sunday, and I was thankful for this because, there is no break Christmas here, if it had been a weekday, I would have been at school! To me that is crazy but it is the culture here. My RYE host district is really amazing though, they arranged a huge party for all of us, and we got to exchange gifts! Then school the next day of course. The next holiday is New Year’s, which was really fun! For New Year’s Taiwan has a huge firework show, they shoot off fireworks from Taipei 101! It was beautiful! The cool thing for exchange student is that all of the exchange students in Taiwan are brought to see the fireworks so, it is a huge party with all of us! We all meet up in a park, close to 101 and had a blast until about four in the morning! After that is goes back to normal life until Chinese New Year! This was amazing, my host family took me traveling. I got to go to the shores of Penghu Island. My host father is fro m there, and his entire family travels back there for Chinese’s New Year every year! I was staying with my host grandparents, which was funny most of the time, because they didn’t speak any English or Chinese….just Taiwanese. The national language is Mandarin Chinese but the older generation of Taiwan only knows Taiwanese, so often if you try to speak to an older person they will understand you but you cannot understand them. It made me feel like I was back to my first few months of exchange trying to play charades to get a glass of water. My cousins took me to the beach and even though it super cold, I spirited into the water. I hadn’t been to a beach until this point and was dying to go, the water is crystal clear, and the entire view was breath-taking. It was nice because from my grandparents’ house I could bike to two completely different types of beach with 5 minutes! Then from Penghu we flew to Kaoshuing, a city in the South of Taiwan to celebrat e with my host mom family! This is the number one place I wanted to go in Taiwan because Keenting, has the aquarium. I love marine life, I was extremely excited to see the Whale Sharks, and sadly the whale shark had been moved because it grew too large. I got to see a lot of other really interesting fish native to Taiwan though, which was really cool. We returned back Taipei via HSR (high speed rail), and break was over the next day. I went back to school and back to everyday life here. That is the craziest part of all this for me, everything feels normal now. Like this is where I have lived my whole life. Yes, things still surprise and confuse me but my normal schedule is just that normal. I wake up, I go to school, I study, I hang out with friends and do family things, everything I did in the United States the only difference is I am in another country. 

    I just moved in with my third host family this past week, changing host families is really difficult. I have grown very close with my second family and didn’t want to leave. Also moving points out an issue, I have so much stuff! There is no possible way for me to bring all back the United States! My third host family has been amazing so far. I have a sister here! It is the first out of my three families I have a sister! My room here is my favorite I think, it makes me feel like a princess, it is huge, and pink. I have a large make-up desk and full length mirrors. It is awesome. Not to mention the view from my third home, it is breath-taking. I live on the 15 floor now, and I have a private balcony connected to my room. It overlooks a part of Taipei and the view at night is breathtaking. It is like a million dollar view!

    My friends and I got to do one of the coolest things ever, we saw a famous actor! Hugh Jackman, he is known for playing Wolverine in X-Men. There was a premier here in Taipei for the newest movie Logan, and we all went. We got to see him in person! It was a really cool experience, there were hundreds of people there. We were lucky to be close to the front so we got to see everything!

    I can’t express my gratitude to RYE for this opportunity. It is a once in a lifetime chance that has changed me for the better and I do not want it end ever. Taiwan has become a part of me, it will always be my home. 

    Lots of love from Taiwan, Destiny

  • Destiny, outbound to Taiwan

    Read more about Destiny and all her blogs

    Hey everyone! I have reached my three month mark of my exchange and I don’t believe it, it feels like I have only been here a week but yet my whole life too! I have made so many lifelong friendships in such a short period of time. Each day is filled with ups and downs but that what makes being an exchange student so rewarding. 

    I have really settled into a normal everyday routine, Monday through Friday I attend school, and weekends I spend having adventures with my friends. School is really fun for me, it is so different from the United States. My classes consist of cooking, baking, and beverage classes, my cooking skills have improved quite a bit. Being in cooking classes is really perfect because we are learning how to make traditional Taiwanese dishes, such as moon cake. Moon cake is absolutely delicious! We learned how to make this yummy cake for Mid-Autumn Festival, which was a blast! Basically during the festival you eat moon cake and have a huge BBQ with family and friends! Tuesdays and Thursdays are some of my favorite days of the week, because all exchange students from my district leave school early and head to a university for Chinese lessons. It is one of my favorite days because I get to see everyone from my district but also because I enjoy learning Chinese. For all future exchange students coming to Taiwan, Chinese is difficult but not impossible. I have had an extremely hard time with the language myself but continue to improve every day, understanding more and more. I love my Taiwanese classmates and I have made some very good friends at school. 

    One of the benefits from bonding with my classmates is, that my class invited me to go on the graduation class trip with them. It was such an honor and blast, it was three full days of traveling around Taiwan with them. I am not even sure of all the places we went, but I can list a few. We went to Raohe which is one of the oldest night markets in Taiwan. We also went to two different amusement parks, one being Janfusan Fancy world, as well as Rosehill, an architecture research center. I will always be thankful and grateful for getting to spend this special time with my classmates. 

    My host district provides extra classes, events and trips, and are just so sweet and kind. Our classes that they pay for us to have include my extra Chinese lessons but also taekwondo on Saturdays. Taekwondo is a really neat sport and I am excited to perform at the coming of age ceremony soon! My host district goes way beyond what is expected of them by providing so many extras to make sure our time on exchange is perfect. One of our trips they provided was to Pinxi for the lantern festival. It was so much fun, and I truly cannot explain the beauty. We began by hiking up a mountain to look at a waterfall, it was breath-taking. Then we headed to an old street to shop and eat, the old streets and night markets are cool because the culture is so rich there. Then we finished by learning to make lanterns and sending them off. As tradition goes, you write wishes on the side of the lanterns then send them floating off into the sky. All of us got to make two, then when it was dark, our dis trict told us we would be sending up 112 lanterns all at once! It was so amazing and then they shot off fireworks. It was just perfect, and on top of that, they gave all of us a gift! A miniature lantern with our individual names sewn into them! This really must be one of best host districts in the world, and I am so blessed to be a part of it! 

    I cannot thank RYE 6970 enough for this opportunity and everyone that made my exchange possible! I love you all and thanks again! 

  • Destiny, outbound to Taiwan

    Read more about Destiny and all her blogs

    See you later or good byes are never easy and I had to do mine more than once. The first one was after my going away party on Saturday night and I was schedule to leave Sunday morning. My best friend and my cousin spent the night and we stayed up most of the night, all my friends could come to the airport….the perfect send off. I woke and rushed around to get ready and as we were about to load the car and I got the email I was rebooked for the next morning. I called the airline to find out why a whole 24 hour delay and it was a two and half hour wait to speak to customer service. I was NO, let’s drive to airport and talk to someone there. I could see online other flights later on the day flying to Taiwan with open seats. I get to the airport and wait in line to find out flight number two was already canceled. She gave me a different number to call and said they would know why. And the reason I found out was Typhoons (yes, there was more than one in my way). For two days, I tracked those typhoons until I got to finally leave on Tuesday. A school day for my friends so it was just my mom and dad at the airport to send me off. I got to fly over with the other exchange student from our district, Hayden Hulihan. Of course with so many flights canceled and delays we didn’t get to sit next to each other but we really did not care as long as we were on our way. We finally arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday night! I was welcomed with a huge group at the airport, we took a lot of photos together. Then we went to dinner, my host mother ordered me some strange sea food dish platter, it was okay…mostly gross and I almost threw up. The first thing on the dish I tried was the best, a little chewy and I think it was octopus. After we ate we went to my first home here in Taiwan, where a party was waiting for me with another group of people that were waiting for my arrival. My host mom was beyond stress and worried about me making it to Taiwan and I think she was more upset about my delay in arrival then me. At the party I meet three other exchange students staying in the same area as me, two will go to the same school as me. I was so tired but wasn’t allowed to sleep until later that night. 

    The next day my host mother woke me up so early, and fed me and sent me out the door with my host brother. It was a crazy first day in Taiwan! It started with me almost getting hit by a scooter, we walked to 7-11 but there are no sidewalks so you walk on the street with the speeding cars and the crazy scooters. At 7-11 we meet up with other the other exchange students, we got on a bus, then switched buses, and arrived at the National Palace Museum, it was so pretty! Beautiful mountains in every direction. The museum had so many cool things, but no photographs were allowed. The exhibits ranged from fans, digital art, to furniture and bronze pieces. After looking at everything in the museum we got on a bus, when we got off we got on the MRT. The MRT is so fast, we had to switch trains too, but when we got off the MRT we were at a night market. It was really interesting. We arrived early so it wasn’t that busy but later into the evening it got very busy. There were so many strange things, one of the strangest was a game. The game was for little kids, but they were like hooking real live shrimp and turtles. I felt bad for the shrimp and turtles. I saw a lot of squid in many different forms. I tried new drink, it was banana milk, and it was so delicious! My first full day in Taiwan was crazy and fun! I am beyond thankful to family and to RYE 6970 for this once in life opportunity. 

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