First two comeback weeks

For a long time I haven’t written a thing. Even when I was still in Taiwan, I wanted to write and I really needed to do that, but many things happened: I had to pack my exchange year to a 2okg suitcase, say goodbye to all my loved ones and leave those 1o months behind me. It should sound sad, doesn’t it? At least till now it doesn’t feel like it. I know that the hardest part still awaits: coming back to High School. I am spending the second week  of readaptation in Crete island with my family. Of course vacation, beach, wonderful food helps me to enjoy life and don’t think much about what I left in Taiwan. Considering all of the fears, which I had about readaptation, I think I am doing great, I can’t be very joyful about my skin and organism though… It seems that four airplanes and three different climate zones haven’t made my body as happy as my soul is…

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I tried changing my blog’s name, but unfortunately, at the moment it’s impossible. So you will need to read my posts, which won’t be written from Taiwan anymore, but will be written from the person, whose character was changed in Taiwan very dramatically. 

Before my trip home, I was very worried about my handset which was full of books, three different airplanes. Thinking further to the future and changes that Taiwan brought me, I was worrying about my relations with family, friends. I was full of questions, doubts. My “coming home” mood was changed, when couple days before my plane took of, I met an old friend-traveller. Once in Lithuania together we worked with kids and at that time, I was filling up all the documents for my exchange year, with him we used to talk about travelling, places, where he has been. When I met him in Taipei, he reminded me that feeling, that “hunger”, which motivated me to leave in the first place.  After that meeting and conversations, I realized, that I don’t want to come back home so much. Please, don’t get me wrong, I am very happy to be back, I was never as happy as that moment when in Vilnius airport I saw my friends and family waiting for me. I was never as happy, as that moment when I hugged them and we laughed together. Just because for a year I lived so far, my oppinion, about what do I need to be happy and what do I need to work for, has changed. My friend, while saying goodbye in Taipei, asked me: “So where next..?”. I imagine, that my parents, who are reading this now thinks: “where, where, to school!” this is the exact place where I am going to set my foot in the begining of September.

What have I discovered while back at home?

While you are in an exchange you understand, that you have changed, but how an why, you understand just back home, when suddendly you are put to your old environment again. At least this is the way everything is happening to me. My relationship with family got better, other people or parents’ friends, who knew or have heard, that I lived in Taiwan, started talking with me more respectful (as I am not a child, but not an adult yet). The “How was Taiwan?” thing is not disturbing me yet, maybe because I haven’t had a lot of time to really talk a lot about it… For parents or other people usually I just say a fact or two if it fits with the main point of the conversation. Sometimes I get questions, but usually even those questions are from people, who aren’t very much interested into long and detailed answers. I think the most exciting thing was to talk with Taiwanese girls (they lived for a year in Lithuania with the same exchange program), who came over for a Taiwanese style dinner. We disccused everyting, in Chinese we talked about things, that we wouldn’t have wanted to talk about in Lithuanian or English. I was so glad, that we understood each other and my parents were glad to see me actually having conversation in Chinese too. Because of the Chinese language and not hearing it around myself for 24/7 I got an “appetite” to communicate in this language. The most ironic situation I had in “China Town” shop in Crete: while observing Chinese looking sales-woman, I walked up and down between long stands with dresses, perfumes, handbags and I left without saying a word to her… Whatever, maybe next time. In the end I just thought that the Lithuanian girl in Greece trying to talk in Chinese with “China Town” sales-woman, would have been a strange situation. The time will come, when my appetite will grow and I will forget to care what others think.

Not so long time ago I met Emile, the girl, who went to Taiwan with the same exchange program, the year before me. She told me that one of the things she had spotted while being back was not seeing problems, which weren’t there (we have a thing in our country/culture to make problems bigger then they actually are). Then it made me realize, that I lost this feature of my character in Taiwan as well. I coprehended, that while in Taiwan I learnt how to stop in the eye of emotional hurricane, think for a second and calm down. Perhaps it’s going to be one of the most valuable gifts, I have brought from the Far East Asia. Last day together with my family and our friends, we went to a beach which was on the rock (it was just simply too hot in the sandy one). While jumping from the cliffs I injured my leg a little bit, but that bruise with a little bit of blood didn’t stop me from swimming and jumping more. When I got to the shore, they gave me some watermelon (yes, the same, with which you can see me in the picture above) and in that moment inside I smiled so widely. Those kind of moments before a year didn’t look surprising for me, I didn’t even try to discover what I really felt in that exact moment, I didn’t try to think how truly happy I was. I was thinking about future too much, I was planning and always telling myself, that it could be better. Now, after I had spent a year as an exchange student, I am happy about everything. I am not afraid and I’ve stopped paying attention to my doubts and my own attitudes. I guess this is what “the way to be a grown up” looks like, sometimes it’s even strange how easily I can let go of the things or my own truths, which before a year I was so strongly believing in. Because I left to Asia, I saw and I learnt, how I can communicate, live and understand world from the otherside. And that is awesome, that is unrepeatable and it’s not describable (well I am here trying second in the row…)

I have promised, that I will continue writing, so I will keep my promise and soon will be sharing my posts about Crete. Greece and Crete – it’s one of the most popular holiday spots for Lithuanians and other Europeans (they have many cheap flights to here). Without amazing beaches with very clean water and wonderful food here is a lot of to see, now and visit. About everything and more soon! Now I will share just couple moments…

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ZAIJIAN 😉

 

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New experiences and new impressions.

This time I will try my best not to write a long introduction about blog writing (I know – breaking tradition it’s not a nice thing, but sometimes it’s healthy). I was wondering, that I might continue writing my blog, after I come back home,  I don’t know if I will have time for that, because I will need to study more than I did here and also I am not sure, if I will have what to talk about, but if I will  – I will definitely try to share those thoughts and experiences with you. I was very happy when I spotted that per these four past months around 600 people visited my blog! I know it’s not a surprising huge number, but when I try to imagine, how many classrooms you can fill up with those people – it makes me proud of myself. In Lithuania I never wrote, because I was afraid to be laughed at or make a lot of grammar mistakes. Actually I thought, that if I am going to have a blog it has to be in Lithuanian, never thought of my ability to write it in English, but here you go, life is full of surprises, they say. While writing from Taiwan I started hearing from my family, friends and other exchange students, that they do read my blog and they do enjoy it. So writing became more of a therapy for me and I lost the feeling and that “you will be graded for this article, so please, fit in the frames” fear.


I will start my post from what I promised you in the end of the last one – meeting of Lithuanians living in Taipei. One beautiful Sunday evening we all (about 12 people) gathered in a cozy cafe close to Taipei 101. If someone would ask me to describe all the mini Lithuanians’ community here with one word – I wouldn’t be able to. And that makes me happy, because everyone, who were there that evening, had so many and various reasons of ending up in Taiwan. There was couple Lithuanian women, who were married to Taiwanese men, one Lithuanian couple with a baby and others were basically just working, studying or traveling in Taipei. Honestly it was a little bit scary to go to the meeting, because I knew just couple girls and I didn’t know how people (who were all older than me) are going to look at me. When families, before meeting wrote into our Facebook group, that they are going to bring their children, I was wandering, that I can always end up playing with little kids (which usually happens for me in all the family gatherings in Lithuania). While living in Taiwan I already got used out of the fear of talking with older people, I just stopped feeling the boundary and got more confident in myself, but when I knew I will need to speak Lithuanian and speak with people who come from the same country, in which I used to have the fear… But soon after first handshakes and first questions all the fears went away. Later I could freely speak with everyone and I was happy to have interesting discussions with mostly everyone.

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Another fun experience, which I had in a past few weeks was kayaking with Girl Scouts. When my host parents and teacher first heard the idea of kayaking they weren’t very pleased due safety, but in the end I convinced them, that I have kayaked in Lithuania before and nothing bad is going to happen to me. When I arrived I spotted that there were no scouts from my age group, but soon enough I started talking with younger scouts and with one of them we went kayaking together (in one double kayak). All the first part of the road down the river was very easy comparing to what was waiting for us when we needed to come back up the river. Kayaking was interesting also because my partner, (no matter that she is younger, than my younger brother in Lithuania) was very mature, so we talked and laughed a lot. While fighting with the wind, rain and current we used our singing power. I am very proud and happy for us, because we were one of two kayaks which didn’t need help from motorboat while getting back. The only thing, which made me sick after this activity was my brain, which forgot to take pair of dry clothes to change (When we kayak in Lithuania with my family, mom usually reminds to take dry clothes at least three times before leaving (independence and taking care of yourself lesson learnt)).

 

Now it’s the time I will talk a little bit about the weather (while I am writing this outside is about +27C, sunny, but not killing hot). These days in Taipei, Taiwan is super hot, most of the days was around +30C, while in Lithuania was snowing right now (life is an irony isn’t it?). So all these days I was hiding in the places with AC, I fell in love with MRT stations and buses, which were my worst enemies during the winter (because they keep low temperature inside all year long). Unfortunately big temperature differences and couple weeks of pouring rain a while ago, got me sick (Ok, nobody got me sick I caught a cold by myself, because “There is no bad weather, just bad preparation”). So I had to visit a Taiwanese clinic and see a doctor. And doctors are the kind of people, whom I am scared more of than I am scared of darkness, spiders and mad dogs. My host parents saw that my health isn’t getting better and insisted me on going to see a doctor so I needed to agree. Actually it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting: young doctor spoke fluent English, explained me all the medicine, which was prescripted to me and I even let him make me some local treatment (it’s kind of uncomfortable process, when doctor puts a metal tubing through your nose to your throat and then sprays some medicine).

Because of my illness and totally imbalanced sleeping rhythm I am not capable of waking up to school in the mornings. Especially these days, when it’s so hot, it’s very hard to fall asleep at night and in the early morning hours I need to fight with mosquitoes. I am trying pretty hard and I hope I will be able to find the balance in my eternal clock, at least last weeks in Taiwan. Also the thought that I will need to get up and walk to MRT through full of people market’s street is another reason which keeps me in bed. But then I think that in Lithuania I won’t have market’s street next to my house and I am going to miss people and cheap fruits, so I motivate myself as hard as I can, I get up and go.

These coming two weeks I will need to concentrate and learn Chinese, because first weekend of May I will have another exam. While studying I understood, that getting A1 wasn’t so hard as it’s going to be this time. But again, I try to motivate myself as hard as I can and try to remember all those Chinese characters. Also my self-confidence in Chinese is always powered by other exchange students host parents’ compliments. I think it’s just because I try talking with them and I always like being understood so I try really hard to explain things and I like interrupting conversations if I hear someone is talking about me. Another ironic thing is my Portuguese, which gets better and better, while I don’t even put any extra efforts in learning it. Every time when my Brazilian friends are speaking, I just try my best catching every word and try to understand what they are talking about, but when they ask usually I just say, that I don’t understand (because it’s so much more fun to listen what people are speaking about you and others while thinking, that you don’t understand). Sometimes happens, that I do speak one or other sentence, just because I really want to express my opinion, then usually my Brazilians stop, stare at me and don’t say anything for a minute. I have a dream (I just read it with M. L. King voice in my head) that I will have an opportunity to learn Portuguese, when I come back to Lithuania (maybe after few lessons I will be able to speak with my Brazilian friends fluently).


There is just about a month left till my flight home, there are still many places which I want to see, I guess I will need to make a little list this week and start intensive travelling on weekends. When my Lithuanian friends ask me if I want to come back home, I don’t know what to answer, because part of me misses Vilnius old town, family, friends, scouts, forests, grandparents and my dog very much, but a part of me will always stay in Taiwan, in those streets full of motorcycles and market stands, in the metro trains, where I have read so many books and in all the places around Taipei where I had so many interesting conversations, laughed till I started crying and danced and sang. There is one thing, which makes me super happy and it makes coming home easier, while being here I decided what I want to do with my life, what I want to study in the university, so these coming couple of years in High school will be full of completing goals towards my dreams.

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I took picture of these pigeons, while coming home one day.

Couple days ago I reached out with an old friend, who is a traveler and he, very directly, told me, that it will be hard to come back home, that I will want to travel and that very small group of people or no one will understand what I have been through during my exchange. Maybe it’s true, but I believe, that I will meet people with the same experiences and that my old friends will remain the same friends, who were together with me before my exchange. I know that scouts won’t change, those are people and places that I am very excited to come back to. I want to sleep under the tent, go to foot-trips, watch the sunsets on lake’s coast and sing while sitting around a fireplace.

I am putting some photos, all of them and more you can find in my Facebook.

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ZAIJIAN 😉

Little insights or why is so wonderful to be an exchange student.

Hello, hello

My post in Lithuanian starts with me explaining why I took such a short time between my newest posts, but I can’t write it here, because English translation came out later (sorry guys). So here in Taiwan I have left just about one month and couple weeks and when I realized it, I thought that if I am going to write just about places I’ve visited it’s not going to be so interesting. Maybe the question is not just about interest for you, but also about things that actually want to write about. When I started this blog, I had one vision with the time it changed a lot, now I decided to come back to my earlier vision. I like that every time before I start writing I have this introduction about struggles and my own thoughts about writing. If you don’t like them, in the next post you can just skip them.


This week I have couple of free days, because of Taiwan’s national (kind of religion) vacation. In this period of time, accordingly to my host mom, it’s very important to pray for your older family members, no matter if they are dead or alive ones. Many Taiwanese go to see or visit their parents/grandparents and then together they go to pray in temples. Because I started writing about praying, I can tell you one interesting religious fact, which I recently heard from Carol’s host mom. Here in Taiwan, women and girls, who are on their period, can not enter a temple, together with Carol we tried to know what is the reason and idea behind this custom, but the only answer, that we understood with our Chinese language  knowledge level, was that it’s not respectful for the Gods.

Even though I’ve started this post with religion theme, I would like it turn it a little bit different way. The main reason why I am writing this is dinner, which I had yesterday evening. Last day together with Carol’s host family we visited some sight seeing spots on Yangminshan mountain and had really nice and fun time. In the evening Carol invited me to sleep at her place. When we got to her host home, we cooked ourselves romantic dinner: the simple pasta dish with coca cola beverage, which is all the time bought by Carolina’s host parents. This is one of the biggest struggles for an exchange student, because first you coke as a medicine for a better digestion, but after first couple months it becomes your every day drink. I hope that when I come back to Lithuania, the sugar level in my blood won’t be too high. I HOPE. When all our dishes were settled, I suggested Carol to go and it the dinner outside, because that was warm and beautiful evening. We sat down on wooden armchairs and ate, while looking to the dark sky, I can’t say that we saw any stars, because in Taipei, with it;s pollution it’s mission impossible. It felt good without stars too, we ate, talked and drank our cokes. We started talking about future and who we want to be when we grow up, also we talked about our families customs (cultural differences is a golden pot in all the exchange students’ conversations, it’s never ending theme for any discussion), later we talked about more painful things in our lifes…

When I rememeber the start of the exchange year: I would have never thought, that we with Carol would become so close, that we will learn so much from each other and that we will experience so many things together. Friendship and lessons, which I’ve learnt while communicating with people from all over the world is one of the main luggages , which I will take back home with me and also these lessons are the ones that changed me as a person. When I first discovered, that I am going to Taiwan, every night before falling asleep I would dream and imagine my future exchange year as Julia Robert’s life in “Eat, Pray, Love”. Reality was quite different. So much better: I got my Julia Robert’s moments when I was exploring Taiwan’s nature, temples and night markets, but together with cultural knowledge about Taiwan I got a wider view of the world cultural. Because of all other exchange students now I know so much more about Brazil, Turkey, USA, Ecuador, Mexico, France and etc.I would enjoy continuing writing my thoughts like this, but since I know, that reading facts is more interesting down here I give you a few things, that I have never thought about before going on an exchange, but which were the main personality’s changing features.

  • Evening conversations with best friends from your exchange. Those conversations usually start with: “Do you imagine that…”, “it’s so strange, that a year ago…”.
  • Eating in variety of countries restaurants. At this point I am very grateful for the opportunity to live in Taipei, because when you go with your native speaking friend to his country’s restaurant, you don’t just get a discount, but also you know so much about their eating culture and specific ingredients (for example: What is the difference between curry cooked at home and curry cooked at the restaurants in India).
  • Discoveries of foreigners. You walk down the street with exchange students and you see other foreigner, of course, that you are going to come up to him and you will ask where is he/she from, what is he/she doing here and you are unlucky if your exchange friend is from Latino America and the random foreigner you just met is from the same side… You have a free half of an hour to get some lunch, while they are talking.
  • Your playlist suddenly is full of songs in at least five different languages. First week of my exchange phone’s playlist was full of Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and German songs. It just happens.
  • You learn how to greet with everyone, accordingly from what country they have came from. With Turkish and French people two kisses on different cheeks (one on left one, and another one on the right one), with Mexicans and Brazilians one kiss on one cheek and with other countries you need to ask before saying “hello”.
  • You get accustom to entirely change your living environment every three months. As three months pass you pack all your life into a luggage and you move out to another place, to another host family, which usually have family members with different characters’ types. You learn how to live and how to perfectly adapt no matter how different is your now host family from the previous one.
  • You have an opportunity to travel with your friends, go wherever you want and deal with the freedom you get.  This clause is more personal one, because every exchange student in Taiwan and all around the world gets different rules and different host families. And some of the exchange students don’t really know how to deal with the freedom, which they get. But in the most cases you get to choose places, where you want to go. Then you just get on the bus with your friend you take out your earphones and dance to your favourite songs, while sitting in the back of the bus.
  • You celebrate first in your life the most strange Christmas and Easter. (And all the other traditional celebrations). I don’t know if its’s strange, because you talk with your family, which is all gathered at the grandmother’s place and you are just boiling pasta at your friend’s place or is strange because you eat meat on Christmas Eve (is not a normal thing to do in Lithuania). Also at least in Taiwan I left with no Easter celebration.
  • You start to appreciate every smell and every taste, which reminds you of home at least a little bit. It happened for me so many times here in Taipei streets, when I was just passing by and suddenly smelled  fried onion’s smell (it personally connected with home for me) or in the MRT woman, who was wearing my Lithuanian mom’s perfume passed right next to me and I looked back to check if she is not my mom. The funniest incident was when my second host mom cooked rice with meat and tomato sauce, which in Lithuanian we call “plovas”, so I got to eat the whole bowl, when with my broken Chinese language I explained my host mom, that my Lithuanian family usually cooks this.
  • You understand, that the country in which you experienced your exchange year, will always stay in your heart. Couple months ago  I thought that it’s nice to spend a year in Taiwan, but I would never want to live here. After Chinese new year I don’t want anymore to come back to my home country. It’s funny, but after six months you get used to and you start to live  , no matter about all the minuses and cultural stereotypes you had to deal before. Now it’s a little bit scary, when I think how it’s going to be, when I will need to re-adapt to living in Lithuania. But I missed Vilnius’ old town.

P.S. Today I am going to meet with Lithaunians who live in Taipei, maybe I will write about it later too.

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France, Mexico, Thailand, Lithuania, Brazil, USA, Brazil, Korea, Ecuador, Brazil. Exchange models, in Rotary’s photo-shoot last weekend.

 

ZAIJIAN 😉

The comeback

Couple days ago together with Easter wishes, I got complaints about  me not writing my blog. So I decided to write a new post, just to let you know, that I am alive, I am fine and… I am blonde! Yep, I changed my hair color again (for those who doesn’t remember or doesn’t want to remember: after first change  I was brunette). The main reason why I did all these changes was nothing else, but love… Per one year while being in Taiwan I fell in love twice and twice changed my hair color, I hope third time doesn’t happen, because then I will need to change my hair to colors which are included in the rainbow. I would love to tell you more about my feelings and my heart’s business, bet I will keep it for the future, or maybe just to myself. I wanted to say just one thing: during exchange year I am learning from everything about everything: from all the situations, that I get into, from all affections and loves (believe me, now I am specialist in Korean hair dyes’ matter). I think I should stop writing about my hair… For the introduction it’s more than enough. So what have I done through the time, while I was gone?

Oldest news – in the beginning of this month I passed A1 level Chinese language exam, also I have already changed to my third host family.  Now I live even more far away from my school, but I have nice host family and two active host sisters, also they have a piano, so I think now I will have a good opportunity to remember, what once was forgotten.

Not long time ago school let us change our schedules, all of my cooking classes were gone, well they practically were gone from the month, when I started preparing for my Chinese exam. Now I took dancing, make up and computer science classes. How will everything go? I don’t know, don’t ask me, we will live and we will see (I just literally translated Lithuanian saying). Maybe after beauty I will come back to chopping again…? Just don’t get me wrong, I still love cooking, but this past half of the year I got tired of standing in the kitchen and listening to the language, that now I do understand better, but I still don’t know specific words and names used in cooking Chinese. I am writing this and thinking, that maybe I will come back.

All the weeks till now the weather was very bad, it was raining day and night. So I didn’t have a lot of motivation to write, honestly, I didn’t have motivation to do anything. Had couple emotional days, when while riding a bus with sad music on my playlist, I started crying. One day in school while eating lunch, I was talking with my Ecuadorian friend and I burst into tears again, even though there was no big reason for that. My Brazilian friend Carolina, wasn’t at school these days, but after she told me, that she was siting at home and also crying, so we were laughing, that even not being together, we felt the same. Now weather got better, our moods have went up and also these three weekdays we didn’t need to go to school!

Couple weeks ago Rotary held football mach in Taichung, for all Taiwan’s districts. And guess who won? Of course #3490! I am Especially happy about my Chinese classmates and two best friends Brazilians, who scored a lot that day, but if not feeding their egos, I want to say, that I am proud of all our team’s guys, who with hard work got what they deserved. At the same event I met another Lithuanian from Kaoshiung. For one hour we left the field and just walked around and enjoyed being able to speak our lovely, native language. First time in Taiwan I enjoyed making people around us feel awkward (that was for you, all my dear Mexican and Brazilian friends!).

Another wonderful thing started last month – Hip Hop practices! Our Rotary district organised teacher for us and now two times per week we train and dance for performance in May. As I mentioned before, I had to overlive couple falling in loves, so Hip Hop was the best medicine for the last one. Every time while dancing I think, that I won’t be able to walk tomorrow, but every time I come out of the dancing studio and walk down the street with my headphones on – I fall in love with my life in Taiwan more and more. Everyone, who is reading this and is at the moment feeling not well should dance, dancing and moving helps and heals.

Last weekend one Brazilian friend invited me to go together with him and another Indian guy to watch orchestra’s performance in Taipei Concert Hall. Of course, that I did accept the invitation and went to listen how Taipei’s orchestra was performing Latino American music. Concert was interesting not just because it was my first time in Taipei Concert Hall, but also because I had an opportunity to show my knowledge about orchestra’structure and music pieces. I understood how grateful I am for my parents and grandparents, who took me to all the concerts, ballets and operas from a little age. I am thankful to my mom and granddad who always answered to  my stupid questions about orchestra, conducting and music pieces. All those things in Lithuania for me seemed so natural, I remember there even were some Sundays, when I was crying to my mom, that I don’t want to go to that Philharmonic. Sitting in the concert with Brazilian and Indian friends, who never before Taiwan had an opportunity to go see a concert (because in their countries it’s very expensive), I understood how stupid and ungrateful I was on all those Sundays… After the concert I let myself act more freely and together with my friends we started taking photos in all the Concert Hall’s corners, here you can see results of our photo-shoot:

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This weekend started from Chinese speech contest, which were organised by our Rotary district. I gave a speech together with Bruno and Augusto, I am very grateful and happy to have these two Brazilians as my good friends, it’s always nice to have someone to call at night and ask for an advise. After the speech contest together with Andrea and Carol we went to Andrea’s host home, because there were no people we were just laying around, doing nothing for almost four hours. We enjoyed spending time together, listening to music and drinking green tea lattes. Next morning I woke up with a little fever, but because in the afternoon we had Rotary photo-shoot I stopped myself before reaching thermometer. Just tried to rest and don’t step out of my bed all the half of the day, till I had to leave for the photo-shoot. The photo-shoot was interesting and it was so much fun to work with photographers, who were happy about any pose, that  I initiated.

On Monday I woke up in Carol’s house and I felt so much better, I don’t know was it Carolina’s Brazilian medicine or just sleeping and eating well. Carolina’s host parents took us together with Andrea to Yangminshan mountain to see blooming Callas and visit one big and beautiful temple. I am very grateful to Carol’s host mom, because she tried very hard to explain us everything in Chinese and also made a wonderful photo-shoot for all three of us. On Tuesday I asked my host dad to take me to the mountains again, there air is more clean and the green color all around helped me to heal faster. First we visited couple parks, later we went to see some hot springs, after we went back to the city and visited former residence of Cheng Kai Shek. Long time ago USA president Nixon was also staying in here, as a guest. I was very happy, when I knew, that they had English audio-guides, so house exploring’s quality was increased.

Today started with my host mom, she took me to see elementary school and meet it’s principle. Starting next week I will start attending this elementary school on Monday mornings and hopefully will have opportunity to teach and learn with little kids, in Chinese they usually call them 小朋友 which translated to English means “little friend(s)”. For me it sounds very cute and maybe even better than “kids”. After the visit, my host mom took me to eat lunch at a steak house, so I am fool for the coming two days… I was eating and thinking, that my parents won’t be able to recognize me, after I come back. After lunch, we went to one tea shop, where I was taught how to drink Oolong tea in the right way, also all the lesson went down in my notes. In the afternoon I attended my Chinese class, in which we started second book, I hope we will be able to pass A2 level Chinese exam. When I came back home, I found package from Lithuania, so now I am sitting and eating “Šalnos” cookies and also I am ending writing this post.

P.S. I just realized, that I haven’t mentioned scouts! Per all this months together with USA Girl Scouts Overseas I engaged in couple activities. First one was Thinking Day, where we presented different countries, my troop had a lot of joy presenting Lithuania, also I had an opportunity to give a speech. Second event happened just couple weekd ago – “Father’s and daughter’s day” for me it was Mother’s and Daughter’s day, because I went to an orientation game together with my Indian scout friend’s mom, with whom we did a great job and were third ones to finish the tasks! I am very grateful for scouts for excepting me and I feel happier and happier with every opportunity to represent Lithuania, every presentation is different and is always led by more and more interesting questions.

P.P.S. Photos in this slideshow is a little bit out of order, but many of those with explanations are also in my facebook profile, so if you are interested you can just go and check or you can ask me in the comments under this post!

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Turkey for Christmas Eve’s dinner or how did I celebrate Christmas

Hello!

Just before Christmas my friend asked me to JUST don’t stop writing… Oops! (Vyte, I am sorry:)). So it happened, I stopped. I usually hadn’t time or I would write something and the next morning, woken up, I would decide not to post it. Now, when I finally sat down to write, I started to think in what kind of order, I should put all the events, which happened. In the end I decided to start from the oldest – the most important one and in a few coming Mondays, I will try to catch up with the present.

My strange Christmas Eve’s dinner…

First plan for Christmas eve was to go to Taipei’s American High School organized service, but the day before Christmas my Mexican friend invited to join Mexican exchange students, who were planning to go eat dinner at the restaurant with very good turkey. I accepted this invitation without long consideration, just after that I thought, that this Christmas Eve will be the first Christmas Eve on which I will be eating meat (in Lithuania on Christmas eve, traditionally families don’t eat meat). So on Thursday’s evening I got ready, dressed up and went to look for the restaurant…. And I got lost, and soon after that my phone died, aaand the guy in 7Eleven didn’t have charger (it happens like always, everything at once). I decided to walk along the street, that I was into and look for the most luxury building I can find… I tried not to loose my optimism (because HEY! It’s Christmas time – magic time) So I came across this strange minimalist building and on the side it had some deep quote about taste, so I concluded that was the place. I walked up to two guys standing next to the door and tried to speak in English, then in Chinese, but none of them seemed to understand me. They invited administrator, who spoke English, so she explained me, that this is not the restaurant I was looking for, in the end I asked if I could charge my phone. They not just let me to charge it, but also gave me water with lemon and cookies. While phone was charging I told to the administrator, that I am just sixteen years old exchange student from Lithuania. She knew where Lithuania is, that was nice. After I got the information, where I needed to go, administrator offered to take me till the place with the car, which they use to drive clients. I was very pleased, but tried to say no as politely as I could, but she found the guy, who gave me water and cookies, and he joyfully agreed to take me, so I was driven till the restaurant’s door. When I finally showed up at the dinner and told all this story to my Mexican friends, hopefully I lifted their Christmas homesick  moods. Oh and yes, I got to eat the turkey.

Christmas first and second days…

First day of Christmas, I asked my host mom to let me not to go to school (because here in Taiwan they don’t have Christmas holidays) and I went to eat Christmas breakfast at (almost my sister’s here) Polish friend’s house.

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In the afternoon I met with my Brazilian friend and we went to do some shopping at carrefour, after that we went to cook Christmas dinner in her host house. In the fever of cooking, my friend was consulting with her Brazilian boyfriend, while I was skyping with my family back in Lithuania (who were in the middle of Christmas lunch at my grandmother’s place). In the end, our masterpieces (Brazilian mac and cheese and Italian (don’t ask me why I didn’t come up with anything Lithuanian) bruschettas) were ended, all family ate and enjoyed.

Next day (The second day of Christmas) together with our Rotary district we went to Yilan city, where we sold roses for strangers in the streets. I need to say, that our team was very successful, in less than an hour we sold 40 roses for 4000TWD (105eur), also we exchanged gifts and danced.

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On Monday after Christmas weekend, I met and had dinner with Lithuanians living in Taipei. We cooked a lot of food, we couldn’t even finish all of it. Also we listened to Baltasis Kyras, FOJE (and many other Lithuanian singers), it was so nice to speak Lithuanian and to talk with the people, who have the same kind of thinking, that you have, they understood me and I could fully understand them.

ZAIJIAN 😉

Life sweets | Visited places.

Do you know, that kind of mood when all you want to do is to write? Usually it doesn’t even matter what about, your soul just wants to pour out herself. When I used to do something while influenced by this kind of mood, my mom would ask me to stop polluting the ether. In Taiwan when I get influenced by this mood, I dance or sing (of course, everything is classified, it happens in my room and nobody except me or my lizard roommate can know about this). Unfortunately, circumstances don’t let me do neither of those things at this time, so I’ve decided to write a blog post and tell you about my weekend. Life sweets… As sweets I will leave them for a dessert in the very end.

 


First of all – places, which I have visited.

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picture belongs to: http://universes-in-universe.org/

 

On Saturday morning I decided to enjoy culture, I invited my Mexican friend to accompany me and at 11a.m. together we walked out from metro forward to almost empty museum. On our way to Fine arts museum we met our friend, another Mexican, whose mom not just took picture of us and anime style dressed girls, but also showed us where we can find flowers’ exposition. We walked around it very fast (didn’t even take pictures).

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“Anime heroines and us”

When we arrived to the museum, we heard the joyful news: because we are New Taipei’s students (we needed to show our ID cards) we can visit exhibitions for free (later I knew, that all museums in Taipei are free for us, students). All exhibitions and the building itself looked a little bit like CAC (Contemporary art center in Vilnius). At first exhibition I pulled out my photo camera and after apologising to my friend, explained, that today I am going to take photos of everything, thanks God, he was ok with that…

First exhibition’s theme was “Alice in the wonderland”, actually we didn’t know that until while going out I accidentally saw a huge poster next to the exit. Anyways, we still got to listen for a classical music in narrow tunnel, we tried to understand moving instructions in Chinese, but in the end we were left as an audience.

Before entering the second exhibition we didn’t repeat mistakes of first one and read the information about exhibition, before going inside. The thing we found written on the wall next to the entrance amazed and scared us a little. Sadly, I don’t have picture of it, but on the wall were written rules: what you can’t do in the performance, to avoid injures and destruction of sculptures. Pretty quickly we found out  dates of the performance and decided to go and see it. This is how looked room, which had to “prepare” our brains for the performance (actually I understood it just after the performance):

taking photos or videos of the performance was forbidden, maybe that was a good idea, not just because of a copyright law, but also because of a feeling, that you get after the performance is over. We needed to sign under the rules, that I have already told you about and then woman took us (about 15 persons group) through narrow passage and let us into cube’s form room. Room’s floor was covered by autumn leaves, which smell was nice, but very strong, above our heads were about 6 different white plastic sculptures hanging. Performance was meant to be about life’s speed and death. A way to do it: was played a game with our brains, using music, lasers and visual materials. First we watched how sculptures are moving above us, then we understood, that the main idea is in the shadows, which they make, but very soon after that all room was dark. Then we watched naked old man walking through a field of strange plants, soon after this we saw a parking lot and a car riding in it, music went to the breaking point and views on the walls showed us, that the man is dead, suddenly we saw leaves through which the body was being dragged, then the leaves’ view got on the ceiling, that was an allusion, that we are dead. The break or the “thinking time” between two themes was time when lasers started lighting up and “running” on our clothes in the dark room. For me personally, that was most scary moment, I grabbed my friend’s hand and tried to calm myself and my claustrophobia down. The second theme – life speed, was more just videos, we watched bugs walking on the naked human’s body and also many little pictures were moving around us on the walls till, those got into some kind of swarm. In the last moments of performance lights turned on and shined out two Taiwanese girls (believe me their faces were priceless) and the leaves started falling down from the sky, the same leaves, that we were standing on. Ending was unexpected, but logical – it softly brought us to reality.

After we left the performance, we had to sit down and talk about everything that we saw and felt, because both of us, were full of chaos and we couldn’t understand some of the performance’s parts. So we tried to explain all the things to each other.

When we walked out of the museum, we got into Taiwanese December’s warmth (that day thermometer showed +25C). We walked around the museum, so I took some more photos…


Life sweets:

  • First scout gathering.
  • I found wonderful band – Arcade Fire.
  • Started new Chinese classes.
  • Not so long time ago I saw “Blue Valentine” (who haven’t seen it, watch it).
  • Super cute Starbucks cup, which I got as a present.
  • Colder weather, finally lets me put my favorite autumn shoes on.
  • Changed host family and Christmas.

ZAIJIAN 😉

 

Escape from the city noise | Trip to Yilan

Seven months left until I will need to go back. Do I want to go back to Lithuania? No, not yet, but lets wait until Christmas, then I will be homesick and I will be truly missing my family, all little cousins. Also I am already missing decorating Christmas tree and all the house. For now I am feeling happy and I am glad to spend my winter, when outside temperature is always more then +20C. Besides we had some cooler days: on one of those days together with German friend we decided to go on the trip to Yilan city.

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This and all following picture are made with Canon analogical camera in Nanfang’ao.

In Yilan I had already been twice or three times, but because those time I traveled with Rotary or my host family’s community, all those trips were strictly planned and I had no free time to walk around and explore.

On a bright Sunday morning we met in a bus station, there quite quickly  found the right bus, for which we waited just about 15min. In Taipei the transport system is developed very good: buses and MRTs are clean, new, with comfortable seats and TV screens. While seating in the bus we faced just one problem: our legs were too long and we barely fitted into our seats, girl who sat in front of me decided to bend her seat to my side, but our bus journey took just one hour – so we were able to survive.

In the moment we got out of the bus, we started laughing, because it was raining, we couldn’t see city around us and we weren’t sure where we were supposed to go. In this kind of situation the best help is your smartphone. With GPS we found train station and after that – city. We decided to visit music and theater’s museum, but our plan was quite fast changed by a bubble tea stand and an interesting cafe, that we found on the street. After our lunch, we went back to the train station, because we wanted to visit Nanfang’ao (little seaside city) until the sunset (because sun in Taiwan rises and descends at 6).

Yilan and all the surrounding area – one of the most humid parts of Taiwan, so all trip was a bit wet and all the Nanfang’ao city was in the mysterious smog.  While we walking around and appreciating the view: we found old military buildings on the sea shore. Also on almost every corner we saw some unseen animals and insects.

In the city center of Nanfang’ao (which a little bit reminded me of Mediterranean seaside cities) we met a lot of Filipinos. I knew that many Filipinos immigrates to Taiwan, because of better living conditions, but till Yilan trip I hadn’t seen so many Filipinos in one place. Even when we were taking pictures of sea (the ones you see upside), there was a Filipinos family having roasting fish and just eating with the family.

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One of nicest things, which I found in this city was a huge Christmas tree decorated with … Fish!

Later we took a bus to another city, we went to have dinner at the night market. The night market was full of people and food. It was hard to choose what to eat from that kind of an abundance. We had to walk around twice until we decided that we will have pancakes with baked egg, beef and onions, for a dessert I bought another Taiwan’s special pancake with ice cream, while my friend had a papaya milk (a wonderful cocktail from papaya fruit and milk).

Journey back home took longer than expected, because it was Sunday and everyone were coming back to Taipei after a weekend. So instead of one hour on the bus, we spent two. The difference, which I felt after stepping off the bus in Taipei, was the taste of air. Usually when you live in Taipei you would never feel the difference. You just get used to it, but there was one moment when I felt it. Also I hope to have more opportunities to travel and explore new places. Actually there are so many things worth to see around Taipei.

P.S. All the pictures are taken by William, his blog you can find here.

ZAIJIAN 😉

Acquaintance with Michelin star in Taipei and cinnamon salvation.

Acquaintance with Michelin star.

This was my first time eating at restaurant, which has received a Michelin star. before writing about food I would like to briefly introduce what is the Michelin star. First of all Michelin company, which rates restaurants is the same company, which sells tires (you have seen the guy made from white tire and waving  you with his hand, somewhere for sure – so it’s Michelin’s logo). From about 1926 ratings are made by anonymous assessors, who come to restaurant, eat and take notes of the food, service and environment. Restaurants, which have gained the Michelin star, has to keep their standards high, because Michelin star can be lost or ‘taken away’ from the restaurant.

 

While searching an understandable way to explain  the Michelin stars’ system, in foodtravel.about.com site I found very good explanation, in which everything is explained from the travelling perspective:

  • One star:  A good place to stop on your journey, indicating a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.
  • Two stars: A restaurant worth a detour, indicating excellent cuisine and skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality
  • Three stars: A restaurant worth a special journey, indicating exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients. (All credits of these explanations goes to foodtravel.about.com website).

Din Tai Fung – first Michelin star for Taiwanese taste.

The ironical part of thisstar is that Din Tai Fung restaurant gained the Michelin star in it’s branch, in Honk Kong. In 2010 it was the first Taiwanese restaurant to get, that kind of award.

When my Taiwanese friend invited me to have dinner with her, I was quietly hoping, that we would go to some western cuisine’s restaurant, somewhere where they would have ‘normal’ food. Now I have realized – it’s impossible to call any kind of food ‘normal’ and I was so stupid thinking, that western cuisine’s food would be better. Visiting Din Tai Fung have showed me the other side of Taiwanese cuisine. We ordered steamed dumplings (which are very famous at this restaurant), cucumbers, fried rice with pork, noodles with sesame sauce, something like soy meat and Oolong tea. To get a table we needed to wait for half an hour, but from the moment we sat down all the staff was very friendly and helpful, I even got special box for my bag and the cup with the Oolong tea was regularly filled.

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Steamed dumplings.

Prices in this restaurant was twice and sometimes even three times bigger than the street food, but if I would have to compare this place’s prices with Lithuania, food cost the same as in acceptable quality’s pizzeria.

Home taste in Taipei.

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After we had dinner, my friend told me about French bakery. Most of the food in Taiwanese bakeries looks more delicious, that it actually is. I had already lost the hope in finding something at least a little reminding home, but here I have been proven to be wrong again! In on of the little streets behind the Zhongshan MRT sixth exit, stands a minimalistic interior and good music’s paradise called “miss V”. Behind the glass you can see real chocolate’s cake, various kinds of cupcakes, two kinds of cheesecakes, also they make their own yogurt and panini. I bought cinnamon spring roll, for which I didn’t have big expectation either, but I was pleasantly surprised, because the quality was very good and it brought up the good memories of home. Now I will know where to go, when I will feel homesick.

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Photo from: https://www.facebook.com/missvbakery/
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Wonderful cinnamon roll.

Finally winter came to Taiwan! Temperature went down just to 18C, but because of the wind I was freezing (Today to school I wore: T-shirt, sweater and a rain coat). I know that sounds ridiculous for people from Europe, but believe me all Europeans I’ve talked to so far were also freezing these days.

ZAIJIAN 😉

Stereotypes in Taiwan: for them it’s casual, for me took some time to get used to.

While travelling to Taiwan I thought that Taiwanese people aren’t different from Chinese. Now, when I have been staying in Taiwan for more than month, I realize how wrong I was. Although Taiwanese people aren’t Chines they share some common features with other Asians. On the other hand they have their own traditional ways of doing things. So I decided to share a series of facts about Taiwanese stereotypes, some of those you would never know if you hadn’t stayed in Taiwan.

6a0134862d8a02970c019b004b6d73970c1. Have you ever seen movies with Chinese people who are wearing the special straw hats for working in the rice fields? This is not just a movie thing, some of Taiwanese wear them even if they live in Taipei city.
2. They don’t care about the outside temperature, the month and seasons are the things which are the most important ones, when it comes to choosing what to wear. If it’s autumn, no matter outside it’s +20, they will wear sweater or winter hat. Thought they outfit will also include shorts or slingbacks.

GuanQian Road

3.  Here none looks to traffic light, they just go. But in the busses Taiwanese people give their seats to elder ones.
4. They spend all their days (from 7a.m. till 7/8p.m.) in school. Usually they hang out in schools on weekends too. My dad used to say: “If you think you are good at something, there will always be an Asian, who will be better” and now I know it’s not true. Yes, they do study more, because of big population rivalry here is very fierce. To pass the exams they are studying much theory, but in this way they get less experience and I guess this why they get mature slower, but the current case has impact from many other factors.
5. People here walk their dogs without frenum and here Taiwanese people seldom pick up their dogs; shits, so all the time you have to be carefully while walking.
7-116. In the convenience stores you can get whatever you want starting with T-shirts ending with brushes for doing kaligrafi.
7. Buses here don’t stop in the bus stops you have to come into the street from the bus stop and wave for the driver to stop, and when you want to get off the bus you need to push the “stop” button (Yeah, the same one, which you avoid pushing in Lithuania because you probably will be shouted at by bus driver).
8. They like to eat food which was cooked by someone else. Because it’s cheap so they usually eat out or eat the food they brought from the street market. Also here nobody has ovens, I have heard that some of the families don’t have kitchen at their houses.
9. You don’t sea trash cans on the streets here, it was kind of banded after people started throwing their house trash in to those.
oyster-woman-street-vendor-660x46110. Taiwanese usually smile and help you, especially if you are a foreigner. It’s normal if someone drives the motorcycle and when they are passing you they tell “Hello, nice to meet you”. I have heard that sometimes evens cars stops to say hello.
11. In my school is forbidden to eat while walking, my host mother explained me this like a bad thing for your stomatch.
12. They don’t have sidewalks, well there are lines, but usually the parked ewith motorcycles..
13. Here is never calm, if in Lithuania 1-2a.m. streets are empty, and here you can always hear truck or motorcycle passing by..
14. They don’t touch each other. And I got used to this cultural thing very fast. In the bus or in the MRT nobody “accidentally” hits you, even if I touch someone with my elbow I start apologizing them right away.
15. Everytime they leave a bus, they say “thank you” for a driver.
16. Toilets at home are normal, the ones you sit on, but in most other places, including schools, cafes – toilets are standing ones. Also at schools there is no toilet paper and sometime even soap is missing, but the public toilets’ have everything and they are really clean.
17. Washing machines here washes everything just in the cold water, so you have no fears of putting colourful and white clothes together.
taiwan-photography-attractions-top-places-to-visit-taiwan-cities-Taoyuan-police-car18. Taiwanese people like everything about American culture. That’s why they all have their English names. Whilst their police cars not just look like from American series, but the number to call is 119 (911 reading from the other side).
19. All the buildings: cafes and shops here are built to a height and thing as urban design – doesn’t exist here. But there is nothing to be surprised of because the island’s size is the same as Lithuania’s, but population is 20mln bigger.
20. Taiwanese people adore hot food, even salads here are made from boiled lettuce leaves. Even if outside is +30 (Celsius) they still choose to eat hot, just cooked food.

To write these twenty facts was very easy and when I realized that I could write more and more about these from the first sight strange things, I thought of writing couple more posts. So be ready for more strange facts and also next week I will bring up my post about feelings to the daylight.

P.S. Big Thank You to Ula, who has lived in Taiwan longer than I did and who shared some of those facts with me.

ZAIJIAN 😉

Moon Festival = 中秋節

You go outside and suddenly burning coal’s smell hits your nose, you go down street to the side from which comes voices and children laugh, you reach the garage, which in the day time was full of broken cars and sweaty men, who were trying to fix something, but now this garage has been cleaned from the cars and is transformed to the dining room: inside of the garage a little bit closer to the street side, adults are sitting around round table and enjoying Taiwanese beer. Youth and teenager are frying snails, chicken, octopus on the roaster in the street and they are eating them just from the roaster. The part which is left from their frying they bring to the adults’table. The little ones are running around garage chasing after white puppy. No, this is not the scene from a film about gypsies life – this is Moon festival (中秋節) celebration in Taiwan. Why are they celebrating the full moon? Why exactly this day? And those strange round cakes…

Many these kind of questions popped up into my head, while participating and watching this festival’s celebration (four different celebrations, if being exact). I will try to explain everything in a simple way and that’s why I am not going to rewrite the myths (if you want you can find these here).

Why this festival is named ‘Moon festival’? And why people celebrate it?

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rice fields in Yilan, New Taipei

Moon festival is celebrated every year on the 15th day of eight month in the Chinese Han calendar. It is celabrated in Taiwan, China and Vietname so it has many different names, but in Taiwan it is called ‘Moonn festival’. There are many reasons why. First and the most popular one is because of the “Ching E flying to the moon” myth, I will just mention that Ching E is moon goddess or immortality (If you interested in all the story you will find it here). The seciond explanation is full moon, because this day moon is always full and people who live closer to the mountains usually go to watch the moon, before going they take a little table outside their homes, put some food on it and then they pray with burning incenses, because they need to thank to gods for food, long time ago the thanksgiving was for harvest and according to the myth the thanksgiving is for the goddess Ching E.

The main three Moon festival celebration’s ideas and what are those mooncakes?

yolk-moon-cakeGathering, gathering and praying – from the very old times those were main festival celebration’s ideas, which still are the basis of festival’s traditions’ development. Of course as time went by technologies changed life got more busy and these changes adjusted some of the old traditions. Gathering previously meant that all the family comes to one home and harvests the rice fields, now it means two hours drive till the grandparents house. Thanksgiving previously was for successful harvest and family’s harmonious union. Praying is the one idea which haven’t changed much during time. When families pray the have to have mooncakes on their table. I want to start describing these cakes from the material side – these cakes are expensive, they are expensive, because it takes long time to make them, but on the other hand they are expensive, because it’s necessary for every family to have them, so sellers can let their selves to raise the price.  Mooncakes can be with various fillings, the ones I tried was with pineapple puree and sour Taiwanese style egg (that sounds kind of disgusting, but the taste is really wonderful). Making and sharing mooncakes is one of most important Moon festival’s tradition, unfortunately nowadays you rarely will fin family which still makes the mooncakes by their selves.

How did I celebrate Moon festival?

Snails in the frying process
Snails in the frying process

I went to four different dinner. First one was held by my host parents for our village’s community, people were invited to eat some food and see the show. Me and Andrea (My Ecuadorian friend from school) had to participate in the show and introduce ourselves to everyone. The second dinner was held by my Rotary club, my club also asked to prepare some kind of performance, so Andrea helped me out one more time. In the Rotary dinner I had a chance to see Chinese dolls’ theater. And of course what a Taiwanese party without karaoke? So dinner was ended with karaoke songs. Third dinner was the saddest one, because we went to have barbecue with Andrea’s host brother and sister, but all the time it was raining and it was so much smoke around that we barely could breathe. I had a chance to make a fire, so Taiwanese people were shocked that tall blonde girl can make a fire. One neighbor even took secret selfie with me. The fourth dinner/barbecue was hold by my classmate’s family, this dinner was very nice, because I was treated as ordinary teenager, my classmates family gave me lots of food, asked just basic questions. I was let to fry food on the roaster (that was a lot of fun) and for the first time in my life I tried fried snails, oysters and sausage which was done from rice. After dinner we just watched a cartoon movie, it sounds like a boring activity, but I have missed that.

ZAIJIAN 😉