As many of you know (and if you read my first blog post), I am currently living and studying (kind of) in Taiwan. I am doing this through the erasmus exchange program my school in Belgium offered to us. We arrived here in September, and it currently is mid-October, so I have already gotten a good feel of what life is like in Taiwan. Has it been all fun and games? Mostly, yes. Am I completely in my comfort zone? Nope. It has been an interesting first month...
What I want to say right off the bat - the thing I found the most difficult to get used to here is that no one understands me. Here, I literally became so illiterate since I can't even say the most basic of things. Like I would like to think that I am like average smart and have fairly good language skills, but here I feel so dumb. I can say thank you and hello, but "No sugar, please", for example, is sometimes very difficult to get across. And this is of course not the locals fault; I am the foreigner here, I should be the one adjusting and making sure I am understandable enough to them, but it can be very challenging sometimes (and always a surprise with what you thought you ordered vs. what you actually receive).
We arrived here on the evening of September 4th. The landlords greeted us, we signed our papers, drove to our apartment; yes, very exciting. Because of the traveling we had done throughout the summer and the two weeks prior to arriving in Taiwan, it hadn't really hit me yet that this is where I'd be living for the next coming 5ish months. The next couple of days, we took it very relaxed in getting to know our surroundings. The way I am when I move to a new city is that I really need to stay at home for a few days to get used to my new 'home'. This is not how everyone does it (my boyfriend was very eager each morning to go out into the city) but that is just personally how I mentally get comfortable with my surroundings. It was the same in France, it was the same in Antwerp; it's just what I do.
Our neighborhood is very busy, with a night market, restaurants, bubble tea stands, ❤️7-eleven❤️, no sidewalks, and a shit ton of scooters. EVERYWHERE. When I say that there are more scooters here than anything else, I am not over-exaggerating. Also, because there are no sidewalks, we have to walk on the side of the road. So, add in some 100s of scooters and a couple busses, cars, trucks on the roads, it is quiet a trip going from my apartment to a 7-eleven down the street for a late night snack. If I do not get hit or run over by a scooter these coming 5 months, I will honestly be surprised.
The moment I really started to realize that this is not vacation is when we went to our orientation day at school. Meeting (or at least trying to meet) new people was cool, but talking about classes and course descriptions really helps you lose that vacation feeling😂. The following day our school had organized a day-trip to a popular tourist attraction called Sun Moon Lake. Most of the people I saw during orientation were there, so even though I am shy as f***, I actually talked to people and we even went out to a club in the evening -- let me remind you that I am 75% introvert and most definitely a home-body so doing this, on the first day of meeting people, is not what I usually do.
The Monday that followed, was our first day of classes (yay...). Seeing that our schedule is very light and I really have nothing to complain about, going to school for a couple hours 4 days a week is not that bad. This first week, all we did was go over the syllabus and introduce ourselves with a 2 minute mini presentation... In. Each. Class. I have some people in more than one of my classes so I am sure they were getting sick of hearing, "Hi, my name is Sara. I am almost 22 years old and I am from Belgium" (original, I know👑). But little did I know, at the end of this first week of school I would already being going on my first weekend trip with friends.
We decided on the Thursday of that first week that we would leave the next day for the south of Taiwan, more specifically Kenting. It was a great way to create stronger bonds with the group of people I had already gotten to know a little bit. Click on our picture to go to my blog post -----> about Kenting!
Starting a new week of school, I was getting into the 'back to school' rhythm. I am not gonna talk much about school, as it is basically the same every week so not that exciting (trust me..). Our school week in a nutshell: group works, group presentations, scrolling endlessly through Facebook/Instagram, not being able to order lunch because everything is in Chinese... That's basically it.
To end the week off, our group of friends decided to go to the biggest night market in Taiwan. Fengjia Night Market is located in Taichung City and it was so good. There are shops, there are food stands, there is bubble tea, crazy Taiwan foods (like stinky tofu, not recommending it🙊), and it gives you a real 'Taiwan' vibe. We went by bike, which is just a whole other experience on its own. Driving through the busy streets, with all the scooters, cars, busses... it was so much fun though. I loved it. The day after the night market, we went to visit the Gao Mei Wetlands located in Taichung. This was mostly (for me) just to go out and do something with my free day. There were a lot of little crabs on the wetlands, and the sun was going down = instagram picture heaven. After, we ate at a local Taiwanese restaurant where they bring a shit ton of huge plates with food and you all share. Very, very cool evening.
*school routine continues as normal the following week*... still not able to order lunch properly.
September ended on a pretty bad-ass note (if I may say so myself). It was our friend's birthday, and he invited us to go do archery. I don't know why but this was so exciting for me. I had never done this (except for on Wii...) so I assumed I was probably gonna suck. BUT GUESS WHAT... I actually didn't suck this one time. It was such a cool thing to go do, and I am definitely going back if I ever wanna show up someone with my shooting skills.😈 We ended the night by celebrating in one of our kitchens with pizza, cheesecake, and lots of drinks.
This month was packed with a bunch of experiences I didn't think I would be doing already. The weather is still super hot... super hot. Throughout September it was easily 31 degrees Celsius everyday. I love fall weather, like nice crisp morning air😍😭, so this definitely needs some getting used to. Besides sweating my ass off every time I go outside (getting extra shiny due to nerve sweat from the scooters flying around), this first month was incredible and it only makes me more excited to see what the remaining months have in store.