“Jet Lag In Taiwan…Maybe?”

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To start off, I’ll begin with a quote from a polish game called “Something Ends…Something Begins”. As cheesy as that quote sounds, I feel it reflects my journey thus far; the quote describes the feeling that everyday’s a different day…a new day where I get to experience something new. Before the start of my trip, I was deathly nervous, stiff lungs, sweaty palms, and most of all, I didn’t know what to expect. At the time of writing this blog, my nervousness has dissipated like cold ice-cream in the sun. In this blog, I’d like to try to explore the “Critical Thinking” characteristic. I titled this blog “Jet Lag In Taiwan…Maybe”, because, often I feel as if I’m tired mid-day, and to be quite honest, I feel that “Jet Lag” describes that emotion best.

To start, I’ve never flown by myself before, much less internationally. From the midnight arrival, to waiting hours on end, from switching flights, to arriving at Taoyuan International Airport, it was all very interesting. I’ve met people whom were traveling with my same intentions, to study abroad at National Taiwan University. The gentleman who sat next to me on that what-felt-like-a-eon-flight was from Kentucky as well; in fact, he lived just an hour away from me! When I arrived at the airport, I luckily encountered someone who traveled to Taiwan for schooling as well. We used the MRT System (Taiwan’s subway) to arrive in Taipei, and from there he referred me to an hotel called Chez Nous, a nice hotel where I slept like a log until the next morning. What a pleasant trip thus far!

(In retrospect, the term “confused” is an understatement to explain my first encounter with Taiwan’s MRT. As a person who has ridden New York’s subway before, Taiwan’s subway isn’t as complex; however, it was in Chinese. To explain, Taiwan’s different subway “lines” are colored corresponding to their specific route, so it’s far simpler than it seems at first glance. The problem for me was trying to figure out how to pay for a ticket. At first, I was looking for the equivalent of a New York metro-card, but soon I learned that the “tickets” came in two packages: one-way tickets given in forms of a chip, or there are “accessories” in forms of cards or key chains that are used as identification. At the time, I did not have any means of using an ID for MRT payment, so I got myself an one-way chip to Taipei Main Station.

In the city, there is walking (takes forever), taking the bus (waiting), waving down a taxi (expensive), driving a vehicle (too expensive), mopeds (expensive), MRT (very quick), and most interestingly, the U-Bike system (city-bikes). Around every few blocks or so, there will be lines of bikes with a “Ü” caption, and with a Taiwanese ID, or in my case, my student ID, I am to “rent” the bike through an electronic currency that is input-able through a machine. Interestingly enough, this type of currency storage method works for both MRT’s and U-Bikes. Through this amount, I am able to “rent” out U-Bikes at their stands anywhere in the city as long as I have value in the ID. In my opinion, this is by far the most convenient means of travel besides the subway)

I digress, it has been exactly one week since I arrived in Taipei. In summaries, what I’ve witnessed so far include amicable people, variety stores, amazing delicacies, crowded traffic, and clean streets. In this one week’s time, I learned to navigate through the majority of NTU’s large campus as well as the surroundings of my apartment. I still have trouble with the MRT and new locations, but I hope to adjust soon.

I’ve met students from San Francisco, New York, Oregon, Mississippi, Indiana, Rhode Island, California, Georgia, Hawaii; it’s interesting to meet people with different backgrounds, it’s refreshing to hear their stories and to talk with them about their life, they’re strong willed people, celebrated people with a joyful disposition, and I’m grateful for their presence.

I visited Longshan Temple, a famous historical temple in Taiwan with numerous visitors native and abroad. I toured NTU’s campus, met most of my teachers at ICLP (International Chinese Learning Program), and we as a group visited the Office of the President. Yesterday, our program’s students visited a Zoo, and through that I had an opportunity to meet even more Taiwanese people, they were kind, conversational, and very eager to learn more about us students as we wanted to learn about them.

In the daily life department, I always use a certain route to get to the MRT, campus entrance, or even to the different restaurants (they’re all amazing) around the area, the more I walk these paths, the more familiar I am becoming with the city, even if it’s only a small part of it. (Interestingly, I’ve never been to a 7/11 until I came here) I often become tired several hours before midnight, so I’m trying to adjust to the new time-zone here. I’m unsure if it’s the Jet Lag or I’m just walking around so much, I strangely get tired around midday and I just want to nap away. But that’s the point I suppose, to keep persevering through this uncomfortable heat and to explore more of the city is an rewarding experience.

Beyond time, I am thankful for the people here, they’re all kind beyond words. At times, I feel as if it’s okay to get lost, because I know that the natives will always guide me on the right path; though, I never try to get lost on purpose. One aspect that I love about Taiwan is the price-comparison to the US. The food and the transportation fees is very inexpensive compared to the fees back home, I would say the average price of dinner would be about half as to what it would be in the US.

I digress again, at the end of the day, I still think I’m in La La Land, where everything seems great, mysteries to be solved, curiosities to be piqued, truly, an world viewed through rose-colored lens. I hope it stays that way and that I get to maintain this positive vibe throughout my stay here, and I’m sure I can do that if I learn something new everyday, because to me, experiencing new things is always wonderful no matter where I am. I need to go explore more, converse more, dive into the unknown, and once I have done all of that, then maybe I can say I’m living the fulfilling experience abroad, for that is one of my goals this summer!