00:52 AM, Tainan December 9th
The last 24 hours have been a blur, to say the least. I woke up to my phone ringing with a reminder that I needed to start thinking about getting ready and soon sat down to have a last breakfast with my grandparents before the almost two-month adventure that awaited me. The anticipation had me rushing to leave as soon as possible, not wanting to get stuck in the morning traffic or have any delays in boarding the plane.
The early morning Auckland sun was ready to give us a wonderful goodbye before the weather began taking a turn for the worse, and the traffic cooperated enough for me to arrive at the airport at precisely 7:20. After what felt like forever, I was finally able to get my bags and get in line to check-in. I had never travelled alone from New Zealand, so it was an exciting opportunity to learn what another airport looks like. I was surprised that I was going to check in on one of the machines available, but I was even more surprised to find that I did, in fact, need to check in in person for some reason or another.
I was finally able to check in my bags and walked to the entrance to the security check, ready and somewhat nervous to start my journey. After some bittersweet goodbyes, I took my first step towards the PMSA opportunity and made it past security. After some time, I met up with some of my 同学, and we all looked for the gate together. It had not quite sunk in that we were going to 台湾, even after getting on the flight.
It was a long journey which was not very interesting, but I was very glad when we landed. It was so different landing in an airport where I could not read most of the signs. I was also quite tired and was just glad when we were given our sim cards and made our way to the bus. The bus ride was also quite interesting until we all fell asleep and woke up outside the hotel. We made our way to our rooms, and now that I have written this out, I want to sleep so, 晚上好！
10:52AM, Tainan December 15th
This past week has been so busy! Not only have we been able to explore the city a bit more, but we got to meet many cool people and started our classes.
After we settled into the hotel and had a well-deserved night’s sleep, we planned to wake up as late as possible. Jetlag had other ideas, however, and I was up at 5:30 AM, ready to go! Luckily my roommate was also awake, so we decided to take some time to organise ourselves before going on a walk to explore. We walked to Chikan Tower (赤崁楼) before heading back to meet the rest of the group to attend the orientation.
We rode a taxi for the first time since arriving in 台湾, and within 15 minutes, we arrived at the campus. I had not spoken Chinese in about a month, so it was a little overwhelming but motivating to study hard and learn as much as possible! We then had an introduction to the programme, met the coordinators, had a wonderful lunch, and got to meet our language buddies!
We then met the teachers and were spoken to in very fast Chinese. I soon realised that we had a different timeline than the rest of the students due to being here for a shorter period. We were then invited to play a game where we had to read some questions and find the answers throughout campus! It was a great way to learn where everything was on campus and understand how everything worked.
Then I was lucky enough to explore a bit more around the campus as my roommate’s language buddy showed us around. After some exploring, it was starting to get dark, so we decided to head back. Walking was quite far as our hotel is in the West Central District, and we did not know the city well, so we decided to take the bus! We were a little nervous, but all ended well because we ran into some more people in the group!
Finally, after an exhausting day, we had dinner and went to bed.
We were left to our own devices over the next few days, so on Saturday, we visited a few touristy places. But as with any good day, we first had to have coffee! We visited one of the places that quickly became a favourite for 早饭: Carpenter Café. If you get the chance to come to 台南, I suggest you go there at least once. There is one close to the hotel we are staying at, as well as by one of the big malls. After a much-needed caffeine boost, some photos and cake, we were ready to head on our way.
The first was 赤崁楼, which we could not go into on our first day because it was open later. We took a lovely walk in the warm weather, amazed by the beautiful lanterns, the different 台南 is from Auckland and the smells of the many food stalls around us. We could also get into 赤崁楼 for free because of our NCKU student ID!
I won’t overwhelm you with the history too much. However, it was interesting to see how much of a European and Japanese influence is still present in 台湾, especially in 台南， as this is where a lot of the European ships docked before making 台湾 part of their “world map”. It was also interesting to see that it was not just the Dutch but the Spanish and Portuguese that also landed here! I was not expecting to see a map written in Spanish in this hemisphere, but as it turns out, before the Dutch came the Spanish.
Afterwards, we decided to take a look at the Japanese mall in the area, which was both nice and more expensive than anything else we had seen up until then. It was made very clear that the “kawaii” nature of a lot of Japanese products translated to 台湾国的东西. Finally, we looked for a place for lunch, and I was so happy to find fresh fish! Fish in 纽西兰 tends to be fried and seasoned in a very European style, and I missed the whole fish being served (bones and all) with flavours that you cannot always explain but are 很好吃！
We also went to one of the night markets later in the day, an amalgamation of many different flavours, smells, colours, and so, so, so many people! It reminded me of the markets in Cuzco, with its slightly intimidating number of stalls but a beautiful variety of 东西 (for lack of a better word). As I was not very hungry, I only had a 油条, which was crispier than I expected! After some exploring, I was 很很累, so I went back to the hotel and almost immediately fell asleep.
The next few days were a bit of a study and food focus, as not only did we have a class on Monday, but those of us in the B level had a “review” test on Tuesday! It was unfortunate as it was not actually reviewed, and we knew very little of the key vocabulary. Still, it was also good motivation to learn more vocabulary we did not know.
Monday came very quickly, and we were off to class, both our one-on-one and our small group classes, which were 很有意思 but very tiring as well! I was surprised to see the diversity present in the class and was happy to find that everyone was very kind!
I also met with my language buddy on Monday to go to DaDong Night Market, where I tried 地瓜吃藕， 葱油饼, and quail egg skewers. All of it was so yummy! Then it was time to go home, do my 中文课的功课, sleep, and repeat. On Tuesday, I also met with my language buddy, and we had 汤圆, normally eaten with red bean soup. I had not had dessert soup before, but it was also so yummy!
That is all I have to tell you for now! Stay tuned for more food, places, people, and language-learning adventures!
Thank you for reading,
Glossary of Chinese used:
- 台湾 – Taiwan
- 星期一 – week one
- 同学 – classmates
- 晚上好 – good night
- 纽西兰 – New Zealand
- 油条 – youtiao, fried dough, basically
- 很很累 – very, very tired
- 早饭 – breakfast
- 很好吃 – very yummy
- 台湾国的东西 – Taiwanese stuff
- 地瓜吃藕 – fried sweet potato balls
- 葱油饼 – scallion pancakes
- 中文课的功课 – Chinese homework
- 汤圆 – sweet dumpling eaten at the beginning of winter
- 徫曦靈 – my Chinese name!