Monday, August 6, 2012


So I finally had time to sit down and write a post after only 2 and a half weeks of traveling. There is so much to write about that I don't know where to start. 2 weeks ago I flew to Beijing to sight see and acclimate myself to Asia which was an interesting process for someone who had never traveled across the pacific. Since I flew from Detroit the culture shock upon touching down in Beijing was pretty palpable. One moment everything is in English and 12 hours later everything is in Chinese. it was quite a rude awakening to how useful 3 years of academic Chinese really is. Thankfully while I never really tried a full conversation with anybody I was able to make myself understood with a combination of pigeon Chinese and pointing. After I met up with a friend in Beijing he was also kind enough to translate when I didn't know the Chinese word for something. This was especially helpful when his parents invited me for dinner. Aside from being incredibly generous hosts and making the best Chinese food I have had so far in Asia, because they only spoke mandarin they also afforded me good practice in speaking Chinese. It was great preparation for coming to Taiwan for language study.

The voyage from Beijing to Taiwan was uneventful but as soon as I arrived there was a rather difficult placement test. I was incredibly grateful to not have any jet lag because it took all the brain power I had to complete the test. The oral portion was not too difficult although apparently I have a rather thick Beijing accent. (adding er to everything and emphasizing the sh sound) The oral test however was taxing. While mandarin in Taiwan is much the same as on the mainland (with some small differences) the writing system in Taiwan still uses traditional characters like those used during the Qing dynasty. These characters are useful for learning etymology but they are considerably more complex then those that I have learned. I had to look carefully at every character on the test. As an example the sentence several really tasty fried dumplings in simple characters is 几个这么好吃的饺子 but in traditional it is 幾個這麼好吃的餃子. Its quite annoying to have to look up characters that I have taken for granted for two years, but I have found that humility is at the heart of leaning Chinese.

Aside from language classes Taiwan has been a great place to live for the past week. The air is clean the food is incredible and the people are very friendly and patient with foreigners. The lifestyle here is not all that different then what you can find in America. While the building facades often look run down and in need of repair it is all just superficial, most interiors are well decorated and modern. Apparently the outside of buildings only look run down because the Taiwanese don't see the point in repainting after every Typhoon and rainstorm. Since these storms are very common I cant say I blame them. The Taiwan that I have seen so far is one of the smartest, friendliest and welcoming places I have been to and I look forward to learning more and sharing it with anyone who reads this blog. 再見

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