再見 Taiwan! 안녕하세요 South Korea!

There has never been a point in my life where the slogan, “Time flies” was more applicable. In the past month, I’ve barely had time to breathe, let alone collect enough thoughts to sit and update all of you on all of the adventures, minor mishaps, and good times that have taken place. So, in the spirit of brevity, here goes one jam-packed month:

Final Taiwan Days

Although I have been living and breathing a full Korean life for the past week, my final weeks in Taiwan were hopping. As soon as I was able to successfully hand mime my way through ordering at all of my favorite food vendors, adjust to the sweltering humidity and finally become comfortable on the sorry excuse for a mattress that was our bamboo mat, it was time to say Zaijian. The friendships and stories were well worth the two months and my semester in South Korea has quite the bar set after TUSA. Anyway, enough rambling:

1. Kenting Class Trip

As part of the scholarship program, we went on a class trip to Kenting in southern Taiwan for an extended weekend to become immersed in regional culture  (and quite honestly, take a well-deserved vacation!). We visited an aboriginal village, where we walked across a holy, grassy swamp barefoot that due to some unexplainable event (or more likely, I missed the explanation because I was using every ounce of energy not to sink) is able to hold our weight – or most of it. There wasn’t a single ounce of skin below our knees that came out clean. After the aboriginal tour guide “washed” our legs off with muddy river water, we headed for lunch for another free traditional meal. As was everything in Taiwan, it was delicious.

The final days of our trip were spent wading in waves on the famous beaches of Kenting at sunset, taking a half-submarine through the local waters to see the colorful aquatic life, and snorkel! Besides the fact that we all looked like we belonged on mars with our black and neon colored wet suits, snorkeling was quite the adventure – but not one I’m sure I’d like to repeat.  Swimming with the fishes was a little too unsanitary and off putting for me, but nonetheless, I’m glad to have said  I did it!

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2. Weekend Getaway in the Mountains – Alishan! 

Alishan is by far one of the most gorgeous views I have seen in my life. It tops sunsets in the Norwegian Fjords and possibly skiing in the Alps. 2 other American friends and 5 Taiwanese and I headed to the middle of Taiwan on a 2 hour train ride and a 2 hour, motion sickness-inducing car ride that winded through the clouds and mountainside until we reached the top. The air quality was impeccable and a welcome change from the normally heavily polluted air in the scooter filled city we were living in. We spent the first day hiking through the woods, which included trees that were thousands and thousands of years old. We weren’t able to catch the sunset because of the overcast skies, but the next morning made the entire trip worthwhile. At 3 am we took a train to the top to see the famed sunrise. No words can describe the beauty of the sights, so here are several pictures that might do it partial justice. (There are no close substitutes, though, for the real thing. )

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3. Chinese Opera Class, Cooking Class, Teaching English and the Final Ceremony! 

In addition to Intensive Chinese lessons 4 hours a day, we participated in extra lectures and classes to teach us more about the multifaceted aspects of Taiwanese culture. Notable among them were the Chinese Opera class ( basically a 2 hour face painting session) and a cooking class at the 4/5 star hotel in Tainan. During the Opera class, several trained performers danced and sang their way through the lecture while we tried our hand at placing an uncomfortable amount of red, white and black oil paints on our face. The end result was incredible though – and most people looked entirely different than when we started. At the Shangri La we were given a demonstration to make lotus covered longyan flowers – tasty and appealing to the eye! After we were served a tasty meal – no complaints about that!

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We also had to hold a 2-hour American culture class – never have I ever felt so much like a celebrity in my life. Before I set foot in the classroom, I was greeted with ear-deafening cheers and applause, only to stand in a picture-taking queue for a solid 20 minutes after class was over. Always appreciative of the chance to get a sneak peek into school life in other countries – it reminds me how similar people are across the world!

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Although TUSA ended and we all parted ways to various locations in the United States and around the world, the final ceremony was a fitting cap to a 2 months well spent. Lucky to have made such great friends in the short time abroad and looking forward to meeting up in the future.  🙂

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Off to Korea! 

(with a quick meetup with one of my good friends from my Germany Exchange Days – It’s a Small World afterall!)

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In the meantime, I’m loving life in Korea. More on that soon –

안녕히 가세요!

-Jessica

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