Day 2: Zhù Wǒ Shēngrì Kuàilè

by Theresa

That’s Chinese for “Happy birthday to me!”

Today is my 22nd birthday (cue TaySwift and ‘twenty-twoo, 0ooh 0ooh’).

While I felt very sad to be away from my family and friends (especially my wonderful fiancé, Caleb, who is celebrating his 23rd birthday today), I was surprised by the kind and thoughtful people in my community here.

You see, news travelled through the grapevine, and during this morning’s orientation, the teachers, staff, and learning partners surprised me with a birthday cake!

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Such a beautiful cake!

Taiwanese tradition is to make three wishes- speak the first two out loud and keep the third to yourself. Making the first cut into the cake means all your wishes will come true!

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Now all my wishes will come true!

Perhaps even more impressive is that four of the students I’m living with also managed to teach themselves  the “Happy Birthday” song in Chinese, record it, and post it to my Facebook at 2 in the morning.

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Watching the singing video during orientation

This is definitely a special birthday to have, and I am so thankful!

 

So now, going into more about our adventures today:

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My Chinese name. Pinyin on top & Chinese characters beneath

Orientation was great! It started later in the morning, so my roommate and I both got up earlier to exercise. This is definitely going to be a routine for us! She needs the cooler air (it’s hotter than a sauna here!) for running, and I love getting a nice dose of endorphins to start off the day!

This is my a virtual shout out to those family and friends who asked me to keep them accountable for their own exercise while I’m away!

Before class began, a group of us went back to the juice store from yesterday and then to the cafeteria for breakfast. I ordered a cold matcha latte, which is kind of a green tea powder mixed with milk and cream. So yummy!

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Matcha Latte & whipped cream

Orientation was great! We got to meet an 11th student, as well as some other people that we’ll be working with over the six weeks. We also played a name game where everyone picked a signature pose and then we would take turns using that person’s pose with their chinese name.  It was really hard since our name cards had English on the front and Chinese on the back! But laughs were had all around, and it made for some silly pictures.

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Our two learning partners took us on another campus tour, spending a lot of time in the campus library and gym.  They showed us a wall of sticky notes that was made to honor the graduating seniors and their dreams. You couldn’t tell by looking at it, but the pictures show a face made by the various sticky note colors!

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They let us write our own sticky notes too!

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“Yay Taiwan! Ashland University 2013”

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For lunch they treated us to Pizza Hut and Coca Cola. How American!

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This wasn’t quite the Hawaiian style we are used to—mushrooms, peas, corn, and pineapple. I actually liked it!

After lunch we talked about plans for tomorrow and hung out for a while– sharing pictures and connecting on all forms of social media, with the help of the precious WiFi.

During free time, I went out with a group to just walk around the town near campus, while everyone else napped and talked to people from home.

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The streets have overpasses for pedestrians, & we loved the view!

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We found a grocery store and thought it was so much fun! I can imagine how strange we might have looked taking pictures of all the food, but it’s so unique to us that we couldn’t even guess what half of it was!

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Savory oatmeal… not my thing. L: Ham & Corn  R: Seafood

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Fried Gluten with Peanuts in Soy Sauce

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We all chipped in (pun intended) to try some different flavors of potato chips. Actually, I don’t even know what flavor I bought. Something like spicy shrimp soup? It’s good though! Super tangy and a little spicy. I’d definitely buy it in the states.

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We also got a bag flavored like seaweed, which was spot on in taste. It really did remind me of sushi!

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After the rest of the group woke up from their loooong naps, a few of us went down to the night market to explore and get some dinner. The AU students learned about night markets in our culture class, but those of you who have no idea what I’m taking out, check out everyone’s favorite source, wikipedia.

LUCKILY, before we even left campus, we ran into a friend who could translate and guide us around the market.

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Food looked amazing!!! I can’t wait to go back and eat some chǎomiàn (fried noodles).

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Our group started to get a little rambunctious when we got near the stinky tofu. You’ll definitely want to head back to wikipedia to find out more about this local favorite!

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Basically, it is what it sounds like. Stinky tofu. I’d been curious about it since I first watched a video in class and figured that it wouldn’t bother me since my sense of smell is so poor. So I took a hit for the team and bought a cup!

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I actually didn’t think anything of it. Kinda tasted like chicken? I thought it was a little sweet on the outside and sour on the inside…. but I think my tongue is wrong. When everyone else tried it, their reactions were quite the opposite—gagging, coughing, panicking, and water-chugging. Haha!

After that, we just enjoyed the night market- played some games, pet some rabbits and hamsters and dogs, and met new people.

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For dinner, we ventured to a more traditional Chinese “restaurant” that our friend suggested.  It was perfect! I ordered a tuna egg roll, and this is what I got:

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It was so HOT when I got it, I couldn’t even touch it for at least 15 minutes. It was also so different from what I expected! There was a layer of something like a doughy pancake under a layer of scrambled egg, and then filled with tuna salad and vegetables. All for 30 NT$ which is equivalent to $1.00 in the states. A great way to finish off my night!

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The view of the restaurant when standing outside. Small but mighty!

That’s all I got for now. Such an exciting day means I’m ready for a really great night of sleep! Talk to you tomorrow!