Monday, January 31, 2011

My Second Host Family

This post is going to be dedicated to talking about my second host family  because I know a lot of people are really wondering what host families are like. This time around I got really lucky with my host family.

The structure of the family is my host mother, my host father, and me. Their daughter is in Denmark and they have no pets. In America I would have thought that this wouldn't be a good thing as it might be awkward or boring or something like that. But every family is different and this family has been great. I like it better this way. They have more time to help me and talk to me. And things aren't loud all night long.

My host mother speaks pretty good english. My host father doesn't speak english. But they're both very attentive. If I have any problem, my host father will be the first to notice and solve it for me even without me saying anything. This family is totally willing to compromise. They are doing some things they never did before, like buying chicken nuggets, snack food for me, not using basil when they cook, allowing me to teach them about Christmas (I gave them a small tree and helped them set it up and I gave them a christmas stocking and they have it displayed in the living room!), etc, etc. They also still live mainly the way they did before I came, which allows me to see into a normal Taiwanese family. They show me all kinds of Taiwanese foods and the ones I like they always make again for me.

Sometimes we watch movies together as well, Taiwanese TV has HBO movies which are in english with Chinese subtitles, we also watch Chinese movies with english subtitles. It helps us bond. And sometimes we have family talks with my host mother sitting in between my host father and me and translating what we're both saying.

When my host mother isn't home, it's good for my Chinese because if I want anything I need to talk Chinese with my host father. It's great because they don't pressure me into speaking in chinese with them around their schedule. They let me come to them when I have a question. I really don't like to feel forced or pressured into something. Let it come naturally.

They're both very calm and nice. They have a very wise and relaxed outlook to life. My host mother is really into the Chinese zodiac which is great because so I am and we talk about it a lot. We always do different matching test to see if our different relationships will be good or bad or etc. She knows so many of them.

They are very into health and Chinese medicine. My host mother often takes me hiking with her on the weekends. When I was sick my host parents gave me some Chinese medicine.

They cook and buy food for me. I clean my own room. I do my own dishes about half the time. I wash my own clothing. They're bedtime for me is 11 pm. They're willing to talk about it if I want to watch a movie or whatever. It's a loose guild line. I'm not allowed to eat snacks in my room.

They work with computer stuff and they started their own business. They work at their office or from home sometimes. They work a lot and really hard, but they make their own hours and so it's flexible.

I really adore them. We haven't had any problems.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hamburger of Taiwan!?

A famous Taiwanese food you should try is Gua Bao. It's known as the hamburger of Taiwan.

This type of food is traditional to eat before Chinese New Year. However, you can get it any time of year very easily.

I know I promised a big post about some of the bad that comes with an exchange, BUT I'm sick right now so I don't feel like bitting off more than I can chew. Sorry! Anyway, today is the first day I could actually get myself out of bed, so I'm feeling a little better thankfully! And I got so rewarded for getting out of bed and deciding it was safe to eat again.

My host mother showed me this delectable delight and at first I was unsure about it. Taiwanese food is often hit or miss. She showed me a bag of pork I couldn't really get a clear view of, a bag of peanut powder, and some steaming buns. I wasn't too excited, peanuts with pork? BUT once I put my own "hamburger" together and took a bite from it, wow. Amazing!

The pork is steaming hot and melts in your mouth, there is no bones in the meat; the peanut powder somehow goes really really well with it too.

I'm sick and I can't think, but wow, this is my new favorite Taiwanese food.

Sorry, the food was steaming up the camera lens.

My host mother told me to take a picture of this. That golden thing is an egg, it's there to show size. My host father went to the countryside (taizhong), and his friend give this to him. This is much larger than what it should be. I still don't know what it tastes like. I will show you soon when I find out.

Better picture of Gua Bao

UPDATE: new picture I took the next day:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chinese Calligraphy!

Taiwan is really one of the best places to learn calligraphy. Why? Because in Taiwan they use the traditional characters, maybe it's not so practical to use these characters, but one thing is for sure; they are meaningful. When the Chinese government simplified the characters, yes they indeed became more simple, but they lost a lot of culture and meaning in the process. The characters are much more beautiful and complex here in Taiwan.

So if you come to Taiwan, I really recommend you accept anyone's offer to teach you this art. As for me, I have to pay for it, so that really sucks. But I wouldn't miss this chance.

Let's get to it:

This was the room I had my first and last real calligraphy lesson. 

As you can see, it looks cool, but it's not exactly a ritzy place. In any case, I have decided not to continue my lessons here because it's too much money for me. 

Another reason is, despite the teacher's kindness, he can't speak english.

I have to say, it was a lot of fun and really helped make my mind up that this is something I really want to do. In this picture, the teacher wrote my name. It's so nice isn't it?

Mou, Mi Xue

Teacher gives an assignment in orange, and corrects in orange.

It's harder than it looks. Circles mean it's correct.

My homework.

My host mother not only drove me there on her super cool motorcycle, but she stayed with me the whole two and a half hours, never leaving my side. She translated everything for me and helped me in every way possible. She really is great. She offered to have her dad or my host father teach me. And when we got home, she gave me these calligraphy papers. 

Actually this week I'm really sick, and she's a little sick. And my host father is away on business. But it's been really nice. I haven't wanted to leave the house so we just stay home and eat together and watch movies together. It's really nice. She's the nicest lady. I adore her. 

Oh and, Peggy is the one who found me these classes, so I big thanks to her. She spent a lot of time trying to find classes at night. But I wasn't expecting it to be over 7,000 NT, and the teacher not speaking a word of english, and having to pay for it all myself. 

I really need to buy winter clothing. It's the reason I'm so sick right now. And I have to buy shampoo and conditioner, and I just bought a chinese textbook (mandatory), and I need to get a haircut, and I have a lot of big purchases I've been putting off but I can't wait any longer for. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Today my Host Mother Took me to a Mountain! Liyu Mt.

It was really so fun. We didn't go all the way up but I think we will work our way up to it someday. My second host mother is really so nice. She took so many pictures of me in beautiful places. The air is so clean in the mountains too. You see, right now, I live in Neihu and it has many mountains. I will post pictures later.
I really enjoyed it. Probably because we didn't push it. We stopped before I was too tired. I think that's so smart. It would be so nice to show my boyfriend this mountain. I asked my host mother why no Taiwanese couples went to the mountain. It's really such a romantic place. She said it's because taiwanese couples only go to the city for KTV, MTV, drinking, and dancing. It's a pity, I think. They should do both!

We also took motorcycle. It's so scary! But fun. I actually love it. It's like a roller coaster.

If you shake the ball in its mouth, it's good luck.

This is when we were leaving. It was very fun.

Advice for Going to a Taiwanese Wedding!

Keep in mind I'm talking from a students point of view.

~Clearly, if you are a student, you will not have to give a gift of any sort.
~There are many types of weddings and some are less formal. This is for a formal wedding. It's the same with a less formal wedding but you might be on the street.
~Taiwanese people will tell you not to wear black or white. This is because those are for death. BUT you may not have formal clothing in color. The best color to wear is red because that is wishing the couple luck. Try to wear red. If you can't: don't. It's okay! Really! Many Taiwanese people themselves will wear black and white. But if you wear black or white, try to wear a red scarf or something like that. Red tie. Maybe red earrings or hair clips. Don't stress about this. I promise no one will call you out.
~Taiwanese weddings have like, 10 courses. It's a lot. You could get very full by the second one if you're not careful. Try to pace yourself.
~There is no dancing at a Taiwanese wedding. Just eating. Then you leave.
~Relax, smile, toast when everyone else is toasting, if you see the bride and groom just smile, and enjoy all the free food.

So this weekend I went to my first Taiwanese wedding. Rotary club invited me to it. It was a really good experience. First, I had to find the hotel by myself, so I spent like an hour on google maps and drew myself a map. Google maps are your best friend in Taiwan. Then I had to walk into this grand hotel by myself and, well, my rotary counselor didn't know the name of the groom and bride, so I had to call my rotary club president who didn't answer, so then my counselor asked me to give my phone to a door man and I don't know what she said but he took me to the wedding room after that. Once in the wedding room, I had no idea where to sit and everything was in Chinese, so, I walked around until I found rotary, then a nice rotary lady went to find my seat. Finally I was at my seat. I got really lucky and the ladys next to me both spoke english. Then 30 minutes later my counselor arrived. I'm not going to lie, the start was stressful, but you will probably have someone take you and that will resolve that problem.

 Anyway, the wedding was very interesting because although the people getting married were Taiwanese, they lived in Canada and spoke very good english and Chinese. The wedding was beautiful. Their pictures were beautiful. It really made me think about what I want at my wedding. Most of you already know I have a boyfriend, and I almost cried at this wedding; it was just so beautiful. You could really see the couples love for each other.

So the bride's family lives in Canada but the groom's family lives in Taiwan. The couple got married in Canada, but the bride and groom flew back to Taiwan so the grooms family could have the reception in Taiwan. After this reception, the groom and bride will move back to Canada together. I actually talked with them a bit. They were so nice. And the bride, she was so beautiful.

I got to try Sharks Fin Soup. Also, did you know in Taiwan, the bride wears about three dresses? And if they are rich, they wear five or six? Gave me some ideas...  I asked my host mother about it and she said, the first one is white, the second is red, and the third is any kind the bride wants. She also said 98% of Taiwanese people rent their dresses.

Taiwanese weddings are so nice.