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I have officially been in Taiwan for over 2 months now, and so far it has been everything I hoped for, and more. Every day I do something different, learn something new, eat something strange, and meet someone new. I am living in Taipei, the big city, and am very glad, because there is so much in and around the city to see. Learning the language is very difficult, as I expected, but it is going faster than I ever expected. I am not only learning lots of vocabulary, but am learning tons of characters as well.
Starting from the beginning, I had a very difficult time getting to Taiwan. I won't go into to much detail, but I ended up having to stay the night at the airport in San Francisco on my first night of traveling, because I wasn't going to get a flight to Taiwan until the next day. I did finally get to Taiwan though, and met all 3 of my host families in the airport, as well as my host club counselor, and some other people. I spent my first 2 weeks here getting acclimated, learning the MRT, getting used to the food, working off Jet lag, etc.
I started school a couple weeks in, and it has been quite an experience. While my host family speaks pretty good English, my classmates definitely do not speak as much. That made it difficult, but it has helped to improve my Chinese a lot.
Of course the food here is one of the biggest changes. There are lots of exotic Taiwanese foods that you hear about, but it takes some getting used to to have that kind of stuff every day. Jellyfish tentacles, pig intestines, stinky tofu, iron eggs, fried milk, chicken feet, pigs blood cake, just to name a few. Although just the names of some of these dishes would make me cringe before coming here, they don't even really phase me now.
Then there are the rotary events. I have done so many rotary events here I think I have lost count. Every weekend they might go to sun moon lake, or a music festival, or a beach to pick up trash. I always go to whatever they have, and its always worth the time. Even if things don't go to well, its better than sitting in my room.
So far I have been having the time of my life, though it has not been without work. In addition to my school, I have Chinese classes with the other exchange students at the Chinese Cultural University, on every Tuesday and Thursday for the first half of the day. I also have cultural classes at a different high school for the second half of the day every Monday and Wednesday.
Chinese has been very difficult, and the writing characters is still a huge challenge for me, but every day I make more progress with speaking and listening. The more time passes, the more words I understand out of each sentence I hear. As I am still only 2 months in, this gives me great hope for how much I may know by the end of the year.
So far I have been here for 2 months, but it feels like so much less time, and yet it feels like I've been here forever. My leaving America feels like a distant memory, and yet I am stunned that I am already 1/5 of the way through my exchange. I am loving every moment of it though, and want to thank Rotary for making this all possible.