Days 8 & 9: Settling In

by Theresa

This week of class has been more intense than we all expected. Tuesday was an adventure of adjusting to the new rooms and becoming more comfortable with our surroundings. Little did we know that extra exciting classes and large amounts of homework were looming on the horizon. Pretty much all of last night was devoted to studying for today’s tests and preparing for a long research paper, and I finally have some time to update you all on the happenings here in The Heart of Asia.

Day 8: Tuesday, July 2

Tuesday was our second day of class. I felt excited for the day, knowing that I had slept so much the night before and enjoyed a relaxing evening.

My same old routine has really helped me adjust to living here and deal with all of the change and feelings of culture shock. I highly suggest that anybody planning to study abroad or visit a new country consider forming a familiar routine! I am much more relaxed and myself in Taiwan than I have been during international vacations because of doing this.

I enjoyed my first slice of chocolate bread with peanut butter for breakfast:

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And had fun taking pictures of our dorm view:

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During language class, our Lǎoshī brought what she calls niúshébîng, which translates to cow tongue milk cracker. Very sweet and crunchy!

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We also played a word game in language class, and I won! My prize was a type of cookie, somewhat like a rice krispie treat, but made from anka instead of rice:

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Lunch was an adventure in itself today! A group of us have tried to go to a restaurant off campus called Nu Pasta since we got here, but we’re always low on luck. Today we decided to try another time but lost out again!  There is such an abundance of convenience shops, like 7/11, and small sidewalk shops, that we knew we could stop for food on our way back to school.  Nobody working could speak english, so I accidently ordered pork fried rice instead of chicken fried rice. At least I got something!

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This was actually too much food, even for lunch and dinner! It’s too bad we can’t have any type of refrigerator in our dorm building–I hate that all this delicious food goes to waste!

Hot weather + classclassclass + a cool, dark room + yīdiǎn yīngwén (little english) + the fact that you’re always walking uphill =

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I call that a pretty good use of a lunch break!

The second class today covered Travel in Taiwan. Our instructor brought more tea and snacks for us to try, just like yesterday!   Green tea made from roasted tea leaves, candied kumquats, and some little cakes with bean filling.

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Our learning partners had scheduled a trip to an especially large night market this evening, but my roommate and I decided to keep it calm tonight and clean our room.

Plus this storm didn’t make us any more excited to go outside for a full night!

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Before the storm

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Hoping that we don’t get caught while shopping!

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During the storm….

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… & After. It’s always beautiful here!

Cleaning our room was quite the adventure! When we moved in, we found a lot of dirt and grime that we felt uncomfortable with, so we went to buy a little bit of cleaner and have some fun! I thought about sharing the before and after shots…. but it’s probably best that I don’t. 😉

The rest of our night was very calm–chatting, organizing, and reading.

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I love finding grammar mistakes in published works. Everybody’s human!

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The entirety of my desk decorations: birthday gifts I received right before takeoff and a letter mailed from my parents.

Day 9: Wednesday, July 3

Fortunately, I happened to fall asleep earlier than usual because Tuesday took me (and the other students) much by surprise!

It started off great, with a lot of Turbo Fire and dry muesli for breakfast:

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Not quite as good as the muesli I had in Germany (which was practically straight from heaven), but it did the trick! And I still get excited seeing characters on everything.

During today’s language class, we had a few quizzes, which most of us weren’t prepared for.

Unexpected #1:  Writing words in pinyin with tones is a lot harder than orally translating from english to chinese. Luckily, our teacher gave us a little bit of a break, but in exchange, we were given another written test for the next day with a new set of words.

Lunch time came and left pretty quickly, since our special classes for the afternoon required an extra hour of lecture. Today was also the last day until August that the juice bar would be open! My last on-campus smoothie ever.
Sad goodbyes. 

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They were out of banana milk, which has received rave reviews from my group, so I got mango milk instead. It was pretty good, but do not fret. I vow to have some banana milk while I’m here, just so that I can tell you all about it! 😉

Obviously milk isn’t enough for an entire lunch, so I stopped by the family mart to pick up some other small snacks to munch on before the lecture, but it was nearly empty by the time I got there! I purchased a bag of cocoa roasted hazelnuts and a little box of what I thought was dried pasta….

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Unexpected #2: ….which actually turned out to be savory oatmeal. Oh boy!

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Dehydrated square of veggies and insta-oats! As long as I pretended that I was eating soup, the taste didn’t bother me. But like I said, savory oatmeal just isn’t my thing. I simply love my  personal oatmeal recipe too much!

Luckily, the management lecture started right away and took my mind to more interesting topics. I really enjoyed learning about the cultural influences on business in Asia. Our professor has a stronger accent, making it more difficult to understand, but he is so expressive, and he tries really hard to communicate well with the Westerners in class.

I also liked that my student group shared this class with students from Hong Kong. English isn’t their first language, so I’m sure that they had trouble understanding a lot of the lecture in a similar way that my group did.  Plus, having student perspectives from both cultures in one classroom helped to communicate the message that much more clearly.

The students from Hong Kong were so nice! They really saved us with some of the note taking—there was a point when we could not keep up with writing such beautiful and intricate chinese characters!

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Unexpected #3: Even though I knew homework assignments were inevitable, nobody expected to receive a 10-15 page research assignment due in less than 2 weeks. Some of the AU students that attended this program last year warned us that there would be a long paper due, but for whatever reason, we all thought that it would be due at the very end of the study program.

In hindsight, 12 days is more than enough time to write a 10-page paper when you don’t have anything else to work on, but I (and the majority of my classmates) chose to postpone wednesday night’s social activity (KTV!) in favor of studying for tests and getting a head start on this new paper. Plus, I don’t want to be thinking about a research paper when I should be touring and seeing the sights every weekend!

I decompressed after class with a loooong Skype date with my favorite guy, and then ventured out to town for dinner with some friends. We thought we’d take a shot in the dark and try to eat at Nu Pasta again…

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…and what do you know! It finally happened!!!!

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We only waited for a few minutes, using the time to decipher sections of the menu and, of course, take too many pictures.

They sat us in the very back of the restaurant, in a separate room set with two tables, a swing, and our new best friend:

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This is a pretty poor picture of Nu Pasta’s menu, but I thought it would be worthwhile, showing how to order in Taiwanese restaurants.

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Each menu item has a blank box next to it. An entire table will order off of one menu (or at least that’s what we’ve been doing, since we have such a large group), literally writing the number of items that you want onto the menu with a dry-erase pencil. Then you take the menu back to the front register and pay.

I’m still getting used to it, but it seems like a pretty decent system. Although you do have to pay all at once and they don’t separate the payments like we do in the U.S., it’s nice to be able to just get up and leave whenever you want to, instead of having to wait for a check. Likewise, I like that customers have more freedom to take their time ordering without wasting the time of a server or having to feel rushed.

After eating here once, I completely understand why it can be so hard to get a seat! I ordered a baked spaghetti meal with doly fish, eggplant, and extra cheese, with passion fruit green tea to drink. I also got to taste some fried calamari!

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My drink was NOT passion fruit flavored green tea. It was green tea with passion fruit in it! Every sip I took had at least 5 passion fruit seeds and chunks of flesh. Heaven in a cup! Or… would it be  passion in a cup? Ba-dum-chi!

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The calamari was very good too! I’ve never eaten it served with a sweet and spicy asian sauce, which was a treat! The breading was much heavier than I’m used to, as well. It was more like country fried chicken breading than beer-battered fish breading.

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The pasta. The cheese. The fish! And so many vegetables! Again, I am disappointed that I can’t have leftovers!

I left Nu Pasta happily satisfied and ready to start the study party! Four hours later, I felt confident to face our last day of the school week—which is coming to a computer near you in a few short hours!