Saturday, June 22, 2019

Farewell Taiwan

Warning ⚠️ Reflective and Gushy Feelings Ahead!

Goodbyes are never easy... but this doesn’t seem like goodbye. More of a sweet than bitter point in my life. I have really grown as a person and my point of view on many topics has changed. This whole study abroad experience is much more full than it looks on the surface (or at least how I imagined it would be). Not only have I been able to be immersed in the Taiwanese culture, but also be exposed to so many other cultures from my peers that were from all over the world, and from all the places I have been blessed enough to visit. Patience is an overwhelming lesson, not just in cross language communication, but with transportation, sickness, and learning a new language too. Many people have told me I am lucky that English is my first language, but I do feel like I am under accomplished only knowing one language well, and a couple others, well, not well at all, haha. So, I feel more inspired than I did before to get better at my basic other languages. My friendships here have been like no others. We all are so different, but what brought us together was our sense of adventure. This is a really good trait to share between friends. I’ll forever have these wonderful faces in my memories.

I don’t think I ever got truly homesick, but now that it is time to go back I feel like it’s a right time. There is still so much I’d like to do and see, and one day I’d like to return. As of now though, I really had a full journey. I did so many things, made so many friends, and felt so many emotions. Currently, I feel like the thing I’ll miss most about Taiwan is the food... that will probably change, haha. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t had lunch yet. 😅

Here is a blurb from an experience summary that I wrote for my university here in Taiwan that sums up some other feels as well:
“It is a crazy feeling, now after being in Taichung, Taiwan for five months, to look back on the first days here and see how something so foreign can become something that feels so much like home. Taiwan, Taichung, and Providence University has really become a place where I feel comfortable, safe, and like I am leaving a piece of myself behind now that it is time to go. I will forever cherish the special moments and memories that I have made in my time here.
Taichung, and Providence University itself, was a change for me as my hometown and university back home are both very small. So coming abroad allowed me to experience another side of college life. Also with the dorms. I had never lived in the dorms before, and being put together with so many girls of different cultures really was able to develop me as a person as friendships blossomed.
The whole exchange experience was an awesome experience, in that not only was I able to see what Taiwan was like, but be able to peak into the cultures of the different people from all over the world that also came to study here too. Now I really have friends from every continent and already have plans to travel and visit them.
It is also a very humbling experience living in some place, not just going on vacation, to a region where you don’t speak the language. It teaches you patience and allows you to see how important other non-verbal ways of communication are. Being somewhere so different from home has also allowed me to appreciate not only my experience abroad, but appreciate small things back home that I would usually take for granted.
Traveling to other areas of Asia has been a huge highlight for me. In total I will have been to nine other countries in these past five months. Each culture is so vastly different, and exceeded all my expectations on what different cultures in Asia are like. And, I am a huge fan of the food! Each area of the world has a different style or spin on dishes, and good food really helps make a trip. I really enjoyed the food in Taiwan as well. And, I will definitely return for friend dumplings, beef noodles, and bubble milk tea.
Classes at Providence University have been a slight change as well. I am a science major back home, so switching to business, cultural, and language classes has been a shift for me. I have really enjoyed learning these new topics and building an international perspective on teamwork. The Chinese language is a wonderful challenge, and I have really enjoyed beginning to learn the basics. I will continue to try and learn back home as well.
This whole experience in Taiwan has been life changing.“

This past month I have been trying to travel as much as possible, finish my courses, complete the check out processes, and just live in the moment - so, yes, I apologize my blog has been neglected! I’ve got some half finished blogs about my travels that I’ll put out there after I say hi to my family back home. Also, if you are wanting to study abroad, WRITE A BLOG or keep a journal. I am so happy I have this blog and can look back and think, “Wow, I really though that?!” or “Man, I’ve come a long way.” It’s a cool feeling. I feel so blessed and thankful. Huge thank you’s are in store for everyone who has helped and supported me! ❤️

It’s been a wild ride, and to finish my time in Taichung, Taiwan I decided to get a hair cut. What trust you have to put in someone who can’t speak your language.... HAHA. It ended up being cut shorter than I wanted, but oh well, what another very cultural experience, AND it was only the equivalent of $4 USD. Oh ya, I feel like my simple math has gotten better with all these exchange rates. Now I just hope my family still recognizes me! 😂

Now it’s time for one last adventure before returning state side! ✈️
See you then,

Monday, May 20, 2019

Singapore - A Weekend Well Spent

As a disclaimer, before going to Singapore most of my knowledge was from the movie "Crazy Rich Asians" and just knowing that it was an advanced city. So with what I expected there was still much wiggle room.

I know, I know, I am so behind on my blogs! I have trips to other places in Taiwan I am dying to tell you about. So expect some back to back posts! The end is just coming so fast, and I am definitely making the most of my time left here in Asia. 

With all this in mind, two weekends ago five friends and myself set out to fly to Singapore. (If you are traveling to, or through, Taiwan the Taipei airport is usually the cheapest airport to go through.) What I expected was like I said before, mostly modern skyscrapers and expensive food with really clean streets and business men walking around. What surprised me so much was the diversity and the way the city/country accentuated it. Not only did the downtown city center area have some of the most amazing buildings, light shows, and attractions, but the surrounding areas really highlight the best of different cultures. Outside of the main city was smaller suburban areas that almost transported you to another part of the world. Places like Arab Street, Little India, and China Town had buildings, food, and people all looking, tasting, and dressing exactly like their home country with a Singaporean spin on it. Singapore was really a culmination and celebration of a mixture of cultures all coming together to create this gorgeous city/country. So here is a list of places we visited over the long weekend with pictures! I think the pictures really speak for themselves! 

1) Changi Airport Waterfall 
This water fall had just opened a couple months ago after starting construction in 2014.
2) City Centre (day/night)
Famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel

In the evening from the base of the mall by the Marina Bay Sands, there is an exquisite light show that dances across water that last for roughly 15 minutes and was a huge highlight of the trip.

3) Gardens by the Bay (day/night)
Famous Super Trees 
There is also a 15 minute light show underneath these trees in the evening. And again another spectacular site!

4) China Town
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

5) Little India
Indian Temple

6) Arab Street

Street Stores
7) Sentosa Island
Famous Sentosa Lion
Gorgeous lookout over the city
Something to note, not only in Singapore but in most of Asia, is when going to mosques, temples, or other holy places it is usually common for them to require you to cover yourself. So, no tank tops or shorts. But the good thing is that many of these places have clothes you can borrow wrap yourself with for free. But it is a good thing to read the reviews before, or have a light something in your bag you can throw over your shoulders or around your waist just in case. 

One interesting thing is Singapore's laws. They are pretty strict and could come with hefty fines. Like crossing the cross-walk on red, or spitting chewing gum on the sidewalk. Kind of cool! Also, Singapore is pretty small land-area wise, so a long weekend was plenty for all of us to be satisfied with the highlights we saw. Also, the metro can take you almost anywhere in Singapore, and cards can be picked up on arrival at the airport. 

Happy Travels,

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Hong Kong & Macau - Spring Break Trip 3/3

Update - midterms went well! Teachers have yet to grade and return the exams, but I am feeling decently good about them. In other news, one week ago the island of Taiwan experienced a 6.1 magnitude earthquake near Hualian, which our city felt roughly a 4.5 magnitude earthquake. Sadly, I was napping and slept right through it (which I would have really liked to experience it if it is going to happen😅). Friends and others said that things really shook, enough for some things to fall over. But there was really no damage as it only lasted for about 20 seconds. In talking to the locals, earthquakes are just common things here on the island. They just said that thankfully there was no tsunami or flooding that followed it. Typhoon season is June - October, so I think I will be missing most of that.

     But back to my travels... The last part of the journey took us to Hong Kong and Macau. Which are independent countries but still parts of China as I came to find out. Each has their own currency, and it is a 1:1 trade. (So if you visit, don't worry about paying to exchange money... they accept both in both places and you'll just waste money to convert - which I learned the hard way, haha.) Hong Kong is a beautiful city. It is a big city, like New York, but much cleaner. Lot's of development was happening there, and it just felt like walking into a beautiful movie.

      First, right after we flew in, we stopped at a giant buddha. It was really gorgeous - right in the middle of the mountains. Here there were feral cows roaming, and they were very sweet. After this we headed into the heart of the city, and viewed the Monster building where one of the Transformers movies was filmed. At night the sky line of the city was a site to die for, and they had a light show where the buildings lit up and shown lasers to music from across the harbor. After this we viewed the Hong Kong Space Museum, because of your's truly, and it was very lovely. I would have loved to see what other museums had to offer in Hong Kong. Next we went to a night market, which sold fabulous knock-offs of any name brand item you could ever think of! I didn't take any pictures there because I was too nervous, haha. But I definitely picked up a few souvenirs.😉After this we went to the world's second tallest sky bar, the Ozone on the 118 floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. It was an amazing site looking down at all of Hong Kong in the night.

      After this amazing day, we really slept hard. This was the end of the journey, and we were both beginning to become very tired from the late nights and early mornings. But we got up the next day and headed to Victoria Peak, which has a very famous view of the city. And then we headed to catch the ferry to Macau. The ferry ride was about one hour, and the boat was very nice - set up just like an airplane with air-conditioning and all. Macau meets its expectations as "the Asian Las Vegas". It is just like a newer version of Vegas. Full of large lavish hotels full of gambling machines. Macau is also under development, and you can see many different large hotels being built. At the Wynn there was a fountain show, similar to the Bellagio in Vegas, and it was a truly gorgeous site, see video. From there we headed to the airport, and stayed the night there. By this time we were both feeling a little under the weather, so we didn't have a very restful night there. And upon returning back to Taiwan we slept for 12+ hours straight! It was truly a great trip, and so much fun.

Currently I have two more flights booked to different countries, and hopefully I will visit a few more after these as well. Stay tuned to hear about what's next!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Vietnam - Spring Break Trip 2/3

Last week I had two exams, and this week I have two more exams! Half way through midterms, stress is fully activated... but now I am taking a good break to blog and reminisce on much more relaxed times in Vietnam. 😌

     After traveling solo in Thailand for a few days, I flew from Bangkok into Hanoi, Vietnam to meet up with a lovely new friend who was willing to adventure to three countries with me. Upon arriving we took in Hanoi. It is the home of pho (the noodle soup), which were really good. Tried egg coffee, which is like a latte drink, but subbing the milk out for whipped egg white - tasted just like creme brûlée dessert. And spent the rest of the day relaxing before we headed off to our next adventure early the next day. 

     Early in the morning we woke up to go to Halong Bay, which is known for its "emerald green waters and limestone islands" (taken from wikipedia)... but our experience was equally as beautiful but much different. We boarded a boat, with 12 other foreign travelers and headed out to see the hundreds of islands up close. The weather was very cloudy and rainy, and stayed the same way for the entire trip. It wasn't like we had seen in the pictures online, but had a spooky and eerie feeling about it will all the fog, which made it seem more mysteriously beautiful. Island after island had its head in the clouds, and far in the distance you could make out rough shapes where other islands would be. It was all very enchanting. That day we explored a very large cave on an island, and hiked to the top of a different island that had a beautiful overlook of the foggy bay. 



     That evening we were set to stay the night on the boat and anchored in the bay in the middle of the amazing islands. We went squid fishing, and a woman from France caught one! It was amazing to see one changing color and spots up close. After resting for the night, we headed out bright and early to kayak around more islands. This was probably the highlight of my time in Vietnam. Sadly, I didn't bring my phone to take pictures, wouldn't want it to fall in the water, but going in and out and through these gorgeous islands was really magical. At one point, we paddled into a narrow channel which let us into the center of an island. We were far from the sound of boat motors and human laughter, and were completely encircled by the solid island. Amidst the newfound silence the sounds of birds and the light pat of rain on the water flooded into our ears. It was peaceful. It was breathtaking. I could have stayed there for hours. Absolutely lovely.

     After this, we headed back to the mainland, and back to Hanoi. We finished our time off in Vietnam by chasing food, souvenirs, and a train that famously goes through the town. (We had to talk a tuk tuk, or rickshaw, driver into pedaling us across town to catch it, haha.) Overall, I found Vietnam to have the most confusing currency conversion and the craziest traffic.

    Even though the weather was poor on this leg of the journey, we didn't let it dampen out spirits. After all, there was more adventure to be had in more countries! ...Which I will write more about after my two tests! 😄

Looking forward to the weekend,