Natasha Liberto

 Taiwan

Hometown: Palm Harbor, Florida
School: Tarpon Springs
Sponsor District : District 6950
Sponsor Club: Tarpon Springs, Florida
Host District: 3250
Host Club: Chiang Kai-Sek Memorial


My Bio


Hi! My name is Natasha and I'm 17 years old. I live in Palm Harbor, Fl with my mom, dad, younger sister, and golden shepherd. I'm a senior at Tarpon Springs High School in the Leadership Conservatory for the Arts as a member of the color guard and orchestra. Being part of the music program, I've been able to have many amazing opportunities, from preforming in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade to winning the Grand Nationals Championship. When I'm not at practice (which is rare) I love to volunteer at a local elementary school teaching orchestra. Occasionally, when the teacher is out, I get to run the class by myself. As a result of handling thirty, third through fifth graders, my patience has grown exponentially. I also have taken part in my schools NHS club, Mu Alpha Theta, and Academic Team. I really enjoy taking challenging classes, particularly in math and science, though I still enjoy social studies and english too. When I've been graced with free time, I like to go shopping with my friends. I enjoy the feeling of a bargain, and I'm usually found hovering around the 'Last Chance' clearance items. I've been wanting to experience being an exchange student for years and I'm incredibly thankful for the opportunity I have to live and study in Taiwan. I'm excited to experience all the Chinese culture has to offer and developing my fluency in Mandarin.

Chiang Kai-Sek Memorial

Chiang Kai-Sek Memorial

Arriving with another RYE student from Idaho!

Arriving with another RYE student from Idaho!

The view from my room

The view from my room

Taipei 101

Taipei 101

So many characters

So many characters

With the other exchange students on the first day!

With the other exchange students on the first day!

Watching the pottery teacher closely

Watching the pottery teacher closely

Our dinner

Our dinner

I'm great with kids I swear

I'm great with kids I swear

Archery

Archery

Traditional dinner

Traditional dinner

Bamboo rice after cracking it open

Bamboo rice after cracking it open

Digging up taro plant

Digging up taro plant

Receiving our Truku names

Receiving our Truku names

Journals: Natasha-Taiwan Blog 2017-18

  • Natasha, Outbound to Taiwan

    Already into 2018! It’s been a while since the last journal entry because I felt like there hasn’t been too much to write about. The holiday season is quite different form what I’m used to in America. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years were fairly uneventful.

    What was had been really fun was a trip I got to take with my school to 鳳林 Fenglin. It was a camp for elementary schoolers from Taipei and Fenglin. There were students from my school that came as camp counselors. The camp was about learn about one of the aboriginal tribes, the Truku (pronounced Te-lu-ku).

    Thursday 1/25

    After meeting at the translation with all the elementary schoolers, we left for Fenglin. It was my first time taking the train such a long distance and with so many people getting on the train at once there was a bit of a jam of people trying to find a space for their luggage and their seats. When we arrived at the Fenglin train station, it was clear how far out of the city we were. The air was so clean, you can notice the difference. It was really quiet (besides all of us) and there were hardly any other people. We loaded our bags in some pickup trucks and squeezed into cars to drive to the school. After getting organized into our groups there were a few presentations on Truku culture. We learned how to say ‘good morning, good afternoon, and hello’ in Truku, as well as a story about one of their traditional foods and I think a brief history on the area we were in.

    Friday 1/26

    The second day there were several actives planned for the elementary schoolers. The morning was games and the afternoon was more cultural actives. First a language class where we learned some more phrases and how to count to ten. Then a dance class and a music class. In the evening we had barbecue. As part of their culture they kill a pig so I got to see a pig die up close and personal. The way they do it is tie front legs back and have a rope in it’s mouth to keep it up. Then after a prayer it’s a knife straight to the neck to bleed her out. They held under the hole to catch the blood so they can make soup with it. After the pig is dead they use a flamethrower to clean the body and they scrape off the top layer of skin with a shovel. Watching the pig getting butchered was pretty interesting too! First the head gets chopped and set over to the side where will shave all of the meat off. Then they make a long incision down the stomach, where they first pull out the intestines before opening the body and start cutting pieces out. Two men chopped up the ribs while another worked on cutting the spine out. I kept watching as they continued to take apart the pig, but before they finished we were ushered inside to participate in a talent show. Both elementary schools had a dance performances with Xilin Elementary (the Fenglin school) doing a traditional dance and Xiushan (the Taipei school) dancing to a pop song. The high schoolers also danced to a song and as the exchange students we sang to a couple songs. After the show and dinner we got to talk with some of locals and everyone was super nice!

    Saturday 1/27

    The morning we went out to a local attraction. In the afternoon we went to do some more cultural actives: pottery and making mochi. The pottery was pretty fun, as we were allowed to make what ever we wanted, all of the exchange students coincidently picked sea animals. The mochi was also really interesting, as the way it’s made, you take a huge stick and pound rice. It takes a lot of strength to do, and I was only about to try for a fairly short time. That night we went on a hike into the mountains to search for frogs. The best part of that was when we all stopped and were completely silent, listening to the sounds of the woods around us.

    Sunday 1/28

    The elementary schoolers were paired up today, so they spent the morning with their buddy. For the high schoolers, we got to go to a farm and help pick some of the food we were going to have for lunch. We picked a lot of peas, and we also got to pull up taro plants, which is the main ingredient in the bubbles for bubble tea. I was really surprised, because I hadn’t looked up a picture of the plant before, but they resemble potatoes and the inside is white. When we got back, we mashed the taro up in a similar way to the mochi from yesterday. We mixed it with sweet potato and made a soup with it. After that we had barbecue and KTV. Elisa and I decided to go for it and sing a song and when we saw Five Hundred Miles, we immediately picked that one. Unfortunately for us, it was not the version that we know and instead is a different song with the same name. We could barely sing we were laughing so hard. The kids came back in the afternoon and we had an obstacle course set up to race in. Each team would try to get to the other side, but when you run into the opposing person, you face off in rock, paper, scissors, losers has to turn around. I was really lucky, because when I went to run, I won every round of rock, paper, scissors and broke the tie for my team! For dinner one of the locals invited the high schoolers to their house where we had a home cooked traditional meal.

    Monday 1/29

    More cultural activities today! In the morning we got to do archery, and it is definitely harder than it looks! Some of the kids from Fenglin were really good, while many of the Taipei kids had a hard time even just shooting the arrows. Afterward we learned how to build animal traps using only rocks, sticks, and a little bit of string. We had another talent show this night too, which each group either dancing or singing to two songs. It was fun and at the end of it they thanked the high schoolers for helping out. Afterwards we got to talk with some of the adults again and ended up paying with their kids for a bit. Tomorrow we were leaving for Taipei and I didn’t want the night to end.

    Tuesday 1/30

    Our last day in Fenglin. The morning we took a hike up the mountain and got to see the gorgeous scenery. Living in Florida, the land is so flat that everyday in Taiwan I still lose my breath at the sight of the mountains. After getting back to the school, they let everyone put on tattoos that were like the traditional ones members of the tribe would get, and they gave everyone from Taipei a Truku name. We then loaded of stuff up, went to the train station and returned to Taipei. This was probably one of the best weeks of exchange so far, and I was really sad when it ended. Sometimes it’s the things that you think might not be too fun, or that you don’t even know what’s going to happen that are the parts that you enjoy the most.

    Click HERE to read more about Natasha and all her blogs

  • Natasha, Outbound to Taiwan

    So in the two months I’ve been here I’ve been through a few different school schedules. The average Taiwanese student, the classes for exchange students at my school, and now my schedule with Chinese class everyday.

    My school is one of the top schools in the area, so the students study a lot. School is from 7:20 to 5:00 (Wed. And Fri.) or 6:00 (Mon., Tue., and Thur.) Each class is 50 minutes with a 10 minute break in between. The classes taken vary day by day, with some classes happening once a week to twice a day. The teachers switch class rooms, which I was expecting, but what surprised me is that all the teachers use microphones! Another thing that is very different from American school is that everyday, the students have a 20 minutes break in the afternoon where they have to clean. They also have a nap time after lunch everyday, which I totally understand because their days are so long! They don’t get to pick any of their classes, even electives, and every day they have tests. A lot of students go to cram school after school is over or on the weekend to take extra classes. Tests are the most important thing here and your scores are the largest determining in where you can go to college.

    Because the other exchange students and I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, the school was very helpful in offering us other classes to take. There is a community college across the street from the high school so we were able to take calligraphy, Chinese dance, and TA an English class. We also have Chinese painting and Home Economics with the middle schoolers. Everyone is very nice, but the average age for the classes I’m in is either 15 or 50, because the seniors study too much to be in a class with them.

    Now my schedule is a different from the other exchange students at my school. They are all from a different district than me, so they have Chinese class twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, while my district has classes on Tuesday and Friday afternoon. I switched out of the regular class for the Rotary students because I have already taken Chinese for a year and I wanted to take a class that was more my level. My club was very helpful in calling the school and getting things worked out so now I have class everyday from 1:30 to 4:30 with college students. I really like the class and I feel like my reading and writing of Chinese characters has progressed a lot since switching. There’s more homework, but when I’m at school my teachers let me study Chinese during the classes that I can't understand.

    Overall no matter what class I’m in the people are very nice and I’m enjoying the opportunities to learn new things about Taiwanese and the culture (even if I don’t always understand what’s going on)!

    Click HERE to read more about Natasha and all her blogs

  • Natasha, Outbound to Taiwan

    Click HERE to read more about Natasha and all her blogs

    So, it's been a little under a month since I have come to the island of Taiwan, and while everyday isn't an epic adventure, I have been immensely enjoying my time here. After traveling for nearly a day I was greeted at the airport by my my families, exchange students and other Rotary members. I thought my Chinese was pretty okay, but after being surrounded by it constantly I realized I have much to learn. My listening comprehension has definitely improved the most since arriving, but I have had A LOT of practice speaking as well. My second day here I went with my host mom to Taipei 101 and the Chiang Kai-Sek Memorial. The memorial is absolutely beautiful! It reminds me of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. One thing that really surprised me is that by the memorial there are concert halls, and there were several groups of students dancing in from it. Street dancing is really popular here and there anywhere there is a large free space, the re are groups that meet up to dance.

    One of the things I absolutely love here is the MRT (subway) system! I've used the subway in New York City, but I was always pretty confused and it was my parents who always made sure we were going the right way. In Taiwan, after one use of the MRT, I was able to use it myself. Everything is in Chinese AND English, so I'm able to read the maps and the signs. I have an easy card, so every week I put some money on it and I'm good to go! It helps that my apartment building is directly above one of the stations, so I don't need to take buses very often. I love being able to go anywhere I want whenever I want (with my host parents permission of course) and it's really great to be able to meet up with the friends I have made here!

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