Winter Break- Taiwan Trip!

        Well, another semester has started and I am tasked with trying to re-learn a lot of the Chinese characters I forgot over the break (I should have studied, but…, well… laziness and procrastination are hard to overcome). It was strange when almost everyone in my program went home over the break. Even other year long students (like me) went home to visit their families. I had other plans though. Instead of having to bear a ridiculously long flight to go back to Kentucky (and another one to get back to Shanghai), I decided to do something fun, and went to Taiwan instead. I had been planning to visit Japan over the break, but ultimately decided on Taiwan. I figured it would be warmer and it would be more interesting to visit Japan over spring break (I’m hoping I’ll be there in time to see the cherry blossoms). I have to say, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. When I left Shanghai, it was bitterly cold and had actually snowed the day before (the advisor for my program lied. Back in September she said it never snowed, and it’s snowed at least 3 times this winter, including today).

         I was a bit nervous when I arrived in Taiwan since it was foggy and rather ominous looking, but the next 4 days turned out to be gloriously warm. I was so appreciative of this that I walked almost everywhere. I would always start off with a coat, but by midday I would be walking around in my short sleeved t-shirt. I was continually astonished by all the other locals still bundled up in their winter clothes when I had been sweltering in mine. Like I said before, the weather was perfect for walking, which came in handy when exploring the Flora Expo.  I had only heard one or two things about the Flora Expo before I left, but when I arrived in Taiwan the Flora expo was everywhere.

        In case you’re wondering what it is, the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition is an exposition that promotes “a harmonious co-existence between nature and civilization”(It’s still going, they might need to change the name). You’ve probably guessed from the name that at the expo there is a lot of outdoor flower exhibits, and you would be right. Of course there were a lot of other things to see at the expo. I had a lot of fun wandering through exhibitions and taking in the sites.

        The first day I visited the expo was a Friday, and I ended up seeing a lot of school groups there. It seems that many of the teachers told their students that they would probably see a lot of foreigners (it was the international expo after all), and that their assignment for the day was to find a foreigner, have a conversation in English with them, and take a picture with them as proof that you did the assignment. Now when I was there, I noticed that I hadn’t seen lot of foreigners (I was comparing everything about this expo to the world expo in Shanghai and I had seen way more foreigners in Shanghai), so as a result, I ended up being approached a couple of times. One group of girls even had an extended conversation with me. They gave me advice about what sites to see in Taiwan, asked me what the world expo had been like when they found out I was studying n Shanghai, and even gave me a pineapple cake as thanks for talking with them. Overall I was pretty pleased with how this turned out instead of being bothered.

        I ended up taking a ridiculous amount of pictures throughout the exhibits. I even have some videos of some rather strange things I saw. During my trip, I also visited Taipei’s Fine Arts Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (MOCA Taipei). I felt pretty cultured visiting art museums (The fine arts museum was inside the flora expo grounds and people with a ticket for the expo got in free to the museum. I love free. Free is good). I also had a blast figuring out the subway system which is a little different from Shanghai’s (I’ll admit it took me a couple of minutes). It uses electronic tokens for one-way rides. Through the subway I managed to get to Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest buildings, and it also apparently has the world’s fastest elevators.

        Overall, I was extremely pleased with my visit to Taiwan. From the exceptionally nice people, to the incredible weather, I would definitely recommend going to Taiwan if you’re looking for a travel destination. I was a bit disappointed to go back to Shanghai (back to the freezing weather), but it has become like a second home to me. Besides, I finally got to go to the China Pavilion from the expo (China is keeping the China Pavilion and had reopened in to allow people to still be able to tour through it). Now I can’t wait until spring break so I can see what Japan has to offer!

Shanghai, China

I’ve got to say that time has passed by quicker than I expected here in China. I intended to write a post on this long ago but I’ve been kept so busy with my classes and exploring that I’ve just never gotten around to it until now (my bad). It feels weird that the semester is almost over. I remember how nervous I was when I first came here, not only because I was in another country, but also because I only knew a few words of the language (those were ni hao, xie xie, and wo yao shui). Looking back at everything I’ve seen and done, I can’t help but be amazed. I can now say that I’ve been to the Great Wall of China, I’ve seen the terracotta warriors, I’ve explored the Ming tombs, and I’ve also somehow survived going to the Pearl Market (Beijing and Shanghai). However, going to these historical sites just scratches the surface of what it is like to live in China. Every morning, when I go to class, I see the local people practicing their tai chi. People young and old will randomly say hello (in english) to me. I do find it a little weird to hear Justin Beiber being played inside of stores though. I’ve become accustomed to riding the subway (I think I have been on one only once before). A lesson to learn quickly while living here is to avoid the subway at rush hour. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people packed together in a single space in my entire life. Despite this, people will still try to get on. It’s funny how little things can throw you off living in a different country. Things like how different the milk tastes, or how in China they have green tea flavored chips(and that’s only the beginning of weird flavored things they have here). While I’m on the subject of food, I might as well say now that Chinese food in China is nothing like Chinese food in America. It’s just another thing to adjust your expectations to. Some other small things I’ve noticed is how in the summer time many people walked under umbrellas even when it wasn’t rainy. The people here try to avoid getting tan because they see darker skin as lower class. They sell skin lightening creams in the stores so people can try to improve their complexion. This amused me because I just thought of how in America we have stores selling tanning lotions and have tanning salons. I walk around every day enjoying the time I have here. I’ve learned so many things just by living here than I ever would sitting inside of a classroom. Once the semester is over many people from the USAC group will be going back to their respective homes. I’ve often heard the people in my program say how much they miss home and how excited they will be to go back to see their friends and family. I’m excited about the fact that my journey isn’t over yet. I’ve still got another semester to go. I wonder: what will I learn next?