Chloe, Outbound to Taiwan

I am now halfway through my exchange and I am feeling a mix of emotions. On one hand, I feel like I've been here for so long, but when I realize that it's been 5 whole months I find myself wondering where all the time went. December was a very busy and exciting month, which was exactly what I needed. I wasn't really homesick at all and I think its because I was so busy with my life here. At the beginning of December I went to Yulin with my parents to stay with my 奶奶 and 爺爺 (grandma and grandpa), and my family took me to a huge night market. The market had lots of fun games and I ended up winning two betta fish. I named them 火 and 冰, the Chinese words for fire and ice, because of their red and blue colorings. I unfortunately caught the flu shortly after this, and I am just now recovering (over a month later!). That meant a lot of days at home, but it gave me plenty of time to catch up on all the books and movies I had been meaning to watch. I was even able to find Spongebob in Chinese, which helped me practice my listening skills.

Speaking of movies, I finally got to go to a U2 with friends this December and it was incredible. In a U2, instead of a few blockbuster selections being played in a big movie theatre, almost any movie of your choosing is played on a projector in a small room full of couches and pillows. You can order food and drinks to bring into the U2 with you and it is such a relaxing and fun experience. Another fun Taiwanese past time that I got to try was KTV. At the KTV in Ximen my friends and I sang our hearts out to different karaoke classics for 3 hours. By the end we had all lost our voices and had to go get milkshakes to soothe our sore throats. It was an absolute blast!

The highlights of December were definitely Christmas and New Years. On Christmas Eve I bought myself a hot cocoa and went to see the giant Christmas display at Banqiao. It was definitely worth the visit, as the entire area was absolutely covered in Christmas lights. The lights hung in the sky resembled stars, and there were stalls selling different wares everywhere. It was so colorful, exciting, and beautiful, and I'm grateful that I got to experience it. Christmas was a little melancholy but our district threw us a Christmas party, so no one was too sad. We did secret santa (I was gifted wonderful fuzzy socks and some different Taiwanese trinkets), played cards, went on a hike, and did Christmas song karaoke. It was really nice to be surrounded by other people who were also spending their first Christmas alone.

As soon as Christmas passed everyone turned their attention to New Years, and it definitely lived up to the hype. My closest friends and I joined nearly one hundred other exchange students at Sun Yat Set memorial hall, which had an incredible view of Taipei 101. We all counted down to 2019 together and watched in awe as Taipei 101 was lit up in an explosion of color. The fireworks were so beautiful, and it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

I am excited to see what 2019 has in store for me here. As I reflect back on the last few months, I realize how much I have dealt with on my own. My Chinese is good enough for basic conversation now, and I can talk about my day every night at dinner with my host parents exclusively in their language. I have been sick with several different illnesses but I've been doing my best to take care of my health. For the first time I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years alone, but I did my best to make the holidays fun and interesting instead of letting myself be homesick. I am definitely on the upswing, and with Chinese New Year coming up I am sure to have even more incredible experiences to share in my next report. I think the first 5 months are all about getting into a rhythm and figuring out how to self soothe and that can be messy and difficult, but it makes the next 5 months all the more worth it and I am thrilled for what the second half of exchange has in store for me.

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