Alex McInnis

Taiwan

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
School: P.K. Yonge Developmental Research
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Gainesville, Florida
Host District: 3482
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Taipei Far East


My Bio


Hello my name is Alexander McInnis. I am a senior at PK Yonge Developmental Research school and will be taking a gap year in Taiwan. The elation that over took me when it was announced that I was going to Taiwan was too much to handle. I am so thankful for this opportunity to travel abroad. I have participated in many activities over the years but the ones that have stuck with me have really helped me become the person that I am today. The first being the Martial Art known as Aikido. Aikido is a Jiu Jitsu and Judo-like martial art which aims to not injure your opponent. I have practiced this for roughly 6 years and have helped teach the kids classes on Saturdays for some time now. I have been playing the violin for roughly 5 years and helped teach the orchestra class at my school for about three years (until its ultimate dissolution last year). When I'm not doing either of those things I will go with some friends to downtown Gainesville and busk, eat at deliciously over-priced restaurants, and play games with friends. I feel like this exchange opportunity will give me some much needed perspective. Through my life I rarely ever traveled and subsequently, have a narrow grasp on the ever changing global community. I feel as thought the world can be a much better place if there are open-minded people who inhabit it; and what better way to expand one’s mind then to travel and live in the shoes of others.

Me in front of the sign for the doctor

Me in front of the sign for the doctor

Journals: Alex-Taiwan Blog 2018-19

  • Alex, Outbound to Taiwan

    October was a really odd month. Pretty much only because of the Halloween party. It was decided early on in the month that would dress up as Miss America for Halloween. But before that I was really training hard with the track team. The track team trains six hours a day everyday. Three hours in the morning and three hours at night (or rather after school). I was doing my absolute best to attend all these practices in an attempt to get closer with my classmates. My schedule looked about like this. 4:30 wake up, leave at 5 to catch the 5:12 train to arrive at Taipei main station at around 5:45 walk to the green line and arrive at roughly 5:50. From there ride three MRT stations and transfer at Nanjing Fuxing arriving at roughly 6:05-6:10. From there ride seven stations to arrive at school to make the 7:00 training (allot for time to wait in lines at MRT). From there I’d train until roughly 11:00 and start class with my classmates. Training starts with warms ups and in the mornings during off season its strength training. I never knew how out of shape I was until training with people. Lord Almighty. It was usually squats and other sorts of exercises specifically for track. After class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we’d go to the gym and continue training at school. However on Tuesday and Thursday we’d leave school and 14:00 to go to Taipei arena and train in the large arena there. This was super cool the first time. I asked my classmate if she thought it was cool that we caught to train in Taipei arena and she looked at me and laughed “it was cool the first time, but it’s extremely exhausting.” I’ll never forget her saying that. At the arena we warm up of course then we run… we don’t actually stop running. It starts with 15-17 laps around the 400m track, then we divide into which events we are doing. I had no idea what I was doing so I just asked what I should do. The coach put me in 100m dash which I thought was pretty nice. “Shortest distance, less to run, not as hard” was my reasoning. Needless to say I was severely mistaken in the line of thinking. I don’t know how many times I ran that 100m but it was coaches goal to get me, and the rest of the team, to vomit everyday. I say that and it sounds really bad but his philosophy is that it means you’re pushing past your mental limits. This was one of my seemingly unmeasurable goals for exchange, to push past all of my limits as much as possible. But now I had a sure fire way to know whether or not i pushed or not. Although this is not to say that my goal each time was to train hard that I vomit but it was just a bit of a test, a right of passage so to speak. Anyhow, after all of this I also asked my Rotary club to see if they could help me find some Tai Chi or wing chun to practice. They found a really wonderful women who teaches in taoyuan on Thursday nights 7:30-9. So I also practice taichi every Thursday in taoyuan. It became a sort of way to strengthen my spirit. The way in which we trained was quite difficult for me. It was very slow and extremely precise. Each practice challenged my patience and frustrated me. I was constantly being corrected and at first I was really embarrassed. Everyone else in the class couldn’t have been a year shy of 67 and I was the only one struggling. A part of me was extremely impressed and another was confused as to why I was unable to reproduce these seemingly simple movements. However after thinking about it for a long time I think it really doesn't matter how accurate the movements are its the mental benefits you gain from it. The ability to be relaxed and still have control and power over yourself and things around you. A lesson I’m admittedly still struggling to learn but am happy to have figured something out. NOW, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Me, dressed in a dress constructed only of the flag of these United States (well actually we just bought an American flag pattern dress). I went to a Rotary sponsored event in drag. I showed up, and we went to a night market to mess around for a little bit. Then Rotarians and Rotex lead us to this bar they had rented for the evening for us to eat at. The food was really good, all fried and gross you know? They had each person walk down the aisles of the restaurant showing off their costume. The time finally came for me to walk around the restaurant. I didn't really know what to do so I just danced to the music that was playing. Which was okay. Then the Rotex called for a pseudo awards ceremony. They’d ask people to nominate someone for best costume, sexiest costume, most unexpected, and best overall. Apparently a lot of people really like my little bit so I won best over all and won 500 NT and a cool little phone lens. The Rotarians thought it was really funny so I thought the whole night was a win.

    Click HERE to read more about Alex and all his blogs

  • Alex, Outbound to Taiwan

    The first few weeks of my exchange have gone very well. The first two weeks of August were all about getting acquainted with Taiwan and my responsibilities here. My first night with my host family was really brief. I arrived at their apartment and immediately fell asleep. The plane ride was exhausting. The next day they told me that I was responsible for my own room, my own clothes and so on. I was honestly quite relieved that they were willing to accept me as a family member so quickly and easily. A few days later I had a meeting with the school at 13:30, however I was complaining of some shoulder pains. So my host dad suggested that before we leave to meet the school we see a traditional doctor. To be honest I was really nervous about seeing a traditional doctor because of the things I have heard and read. I wasn’t really on board but I was like, what the heck might as well right? So I said “sure that sounds good.” But it wasn’t at all what I expected. We drove outside of Taipei into the mountains down these tiny roads. With each turn the road got narrower and seemed not as well maintained, until there was no road. Then there was what looked to be a really small parking lot, almost on the edge of a cliff with the mouth of a trail at the back of it heading downward. So I, extremely confused, was wondering what I’m about to see. We get out of the car and walk down this tiny dirt path to this small shack with a few patients and this old man doing what looks like a judo technique on another old man hanging upside down. I am scared. My host dad speaks to him in Taiwanese and explains what the problem is. The doctor gestured me to lay on my side on this old massage table in the center of the small shack. I do so and he proceeds to do… something and he tells me host dad exactly what the issue is. He finagles my arms in sorts of positions and my shoulder feels a lot tighter by the end. It really helped. I think it was a super cool experience. He said to be really careful with it for the next three days and put some herbs on it. I then went to meet with my school which was productive. I met with the other exchange student at my school who was also from the US. We sat through the meeting and learned what was expected of us. We were essentially expected to show up and be respectful. There was very little in the line of school work that they expected us to do. I was placed in the athletic and sports class and thusly I was obligated to join a sport. They had three available; Track and Field, Archery, and Handball. My obvious choice was archery but they said that I didn't bring a bow, and lacked experience to be on the team, I had no idea what the heck handball was, so I sufficed with track and field. The other exchange student did so as well. Although she was placed in a different class. The next week school began and my first meeting with my classmates was almost like that out of an anime. The teacher walked me in, introduced me, had me introduce myself in Chinese (which was admittedly very rough) and sat my in the corner at the front of the class closest to the windows. Although one of the first things, or rather people, I noticed were two people; One was another foreigner which I was surprised to see, and the other was a boy who wouldn’t stop staring at me. The other foreigner was a girl who had lived here almost her whole life. Her Chinese was perfect and she had agreed to help me with mine, thankfully she was also on the track team. School was slow for the first couple of weeks so I was thankful to finally have my orientation. I would be able to meet all of the other exchange students in my district(s). The designated meeting time was 6:30 am which sucked. But once I arrived I saw a few other exchange students, but they had all mostly circled up into their own little groups by this point. It was so fast, people had already formed little groups. Thankfully I was able to sort of go around and introduce myself to everyone. I had brought my violin to this event which was a great conversation piece, it really helped me find an opening to conversation. Exchange students are always very curious I find. Any how we arrived in Yilan which was a little ways away from Taipei but it was beautiful. Most people were complaining about the heat, but me being the Florida man I am I enjoyed it. We were all assigned into groups in roughly 8 people. The Rotex took us through the itinerary of the things that were to come and they leads us through some icebreaker activities. The icebreaker stuff was honestly a little cringy but it was effective. We sat through several hours of lectures, not unlike our first orientation, and were given chances to earn little prizes by answering questions. It was boring but a worthwhile activity. That about sums up my first month of exchange.

    Click HERE to read more about Alex and all his blogs

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