As crazy and stressful my time in Taiwan was (and considering I was sick for almost the whole time I was there), I realize that... if things were different, I wish I could go back.
I'd never experienced so many things all at once before. It was tough, hard, but it was... amazing. I felt like a completely different person: Mentally, physically... spiritually (well, I was mentally and physically exhausted all the time, and that sucked), but I also felt physically nicer (besides the main fact of me being... ummm... ill for a month and a half :/ :( ). But I mean, I had had my hair cut very short several months prior and it grew back wavy, and when I was in Taiwan, the humidity and climate made my hair curly, and I was ecstatic! I had always wanted curly hair and that was wonderful! I felt wonderful about my hair. :)
I felt too, that I lost weight (a Taiwanese woman I was working with had commented that I looked healthy and had lost a little weight), and I was excited about that, too!! :D I was incredibly excited and happy.
Unfortunately, when I got back to the states, I checked my weight and realized I hadn't lost any weight but I had gained 10 pounds... sooooooooo, you can imagine my disappointment. :(
It's understandable though why I gained weight. We were fed really well at the camps for one, and I was sick and ill for forever so I couldn't really do any physical activity with the kids (besides being exhausted mentally and physically every moment since the minute I stepped off the plane into Kaohsiung). Another factor to my gaining weight was just the whole teaching-for-the-first-time thing! I was really freaked out and stressed and nervous... and all that contributes to weight gain...
Before I stricken with disappointment that I hadn't lost any weight and was under the delusional impression that I was LOSING weight, and I felt good! I felt great! I was happy. :)
As far as spiritually... I felt spiritually stronger... like I was closer to God then I had ever been before.
I guess I pretty much decided that if ANYone was going to get me through these new and frightening experiences, it was God and God ONLY. I had to rely on HIS strength, because I was so exhausted, there was no way I could muster it up for myself.
I had really rough times there in Taiwan, and I had two wonderful gals who kept me threw it. Susanna and Laura W. were my supporters. At the last two camps we would read the Bible together in the mornings and at night we'd sing uplifting Christian songs on the beach. We encourage each other and lift each other up. We laughed, we cried, we talked about life, boys (and the difficulties surrounding them and us, lol ), and we were just there for each other. I miss those times. I miss those gals...
It's really easy for me to look back and see all of the negative... like
how I was constantly sick and the doctors didn't seem to know what to do the help get me better,
or how exhausted I was the second I stepped off the plane into Kaohsiung and was spring-boarded directly into teaching the next day (I never recovered from my jet lag - I was exhausted every moment of every day while I was in Taiwan).
How stressful teaching was - I'd never taught kids before and I was stressed out (but I did what I had to do), or how I was worked non-stop. Like 40-80 hours a week (for two months straight)!
how I didn't have time to enjoy the sights of Taiwan until my last day in Taipei (with Teresa, Laura, and Kevin - which was amazing by the way! :D ), but just how disappointed I was about that I was just working working working all the time.
Or how I felt that all the (HUGE) native bugs of Taiwan wanted to greet me all at once (ants, cockroaches, MASSIVELY disgusting spiders to name a few). O.O
... or how when I was in the San Fransisco airport talking with my mom on the phone (waiting 7 hours overnight in the cold terminal just waiting for my flight home) and I how I realized that all experiences that I went through (the good and the bad) were over and I'd never experience them again. And how all the friends I had made - how unlikely it would be that we would see each other ever again... and I just cried.
But... despite all of the hardships I went through... I miss my experiences there. I was someplace new and exciting and different - doing something I had never done before - meeting new people and making new friends, and I miss it.
And above all, I was in ASIA. I'd wanted to travel to eastern Asia ever since I was 13, and even though I wasn't jumping for joy that I was in Asia the whole time I was there (because I was just exhausted lol :P ;) ), it was beautiful! It was a wonderful experience and I wish that I would go back... Even if it was to teach. I would prefer not to be worked like a plow-horse the whole time I'm there, definitely! But I know that teaching children is a wonderful experience and a good thing to learn, even though it's hard and it drains all your energy... It is something good.
I wish I could go back to Asia. I fell in love with Taiwan and I wish I could go back. I want to go someplace new all over again - experience new things and meet new people and make new friends and do something good by teaching children and touching their lives (even if it's just the tiniest bit).
If I had the money, and if I had the time and the mental and spiritual energy... I would like to go back.
I miss Taiwan. I miss new experiences... I miss the friends I made there...
I miss you so much, my Taiwanese friends!!
First camp orientation
Austin, me, Sarah, Joanna, Hannah, Laura, Kara, and Mei
Last get-together as a team before some of us went our separate ways
Nantou - week 1
My kids - Nantou camp, week 1
Sally, Me, Eve, and Kendra
Eve and Me
Yian and Eve <3
Beautiful scenic view
The portrait I drew of Perlin for our skit - hahah ;)
At the beach at night
Laura and I doing piles of our laundry... it needed to be done, lol ;)
(Susanna took the picture)
Laura, Susanna, and me
Teresa, me, Laura, and Kevin in Taipei
(my first and last day to be a tourist in Taiwan)
(Thank you to all my friends who took such wonderful pictures!)
Keeping an Eye on the Prize...
"Life is a roller coaster"...
Too bad I get motion sickness easily. :P
Hmmm... I was just thinking how what helps me stave off motion sickness... and how it reminds me of life in general:
If I'm in the car, I can't focus on the inside of the car - I can't rely on what's inside the car to help me NOT get sick. I have to always be looking out the window and focusing on the things that don't move - that stay stationary. If I start to get sick, I need to roll down the window to breathe the fresh and crisp air of outside.
I also can't try to ignore the motion or make the long ride seem shorter by reading a book or such... If I try to ignore it, it just makes me even more sick.
It reminds me of my dependence on God. How, when I focus on the roller coaster of this life, with it's never ending ups and downs, I get sick (but if I try to ignore it, it makes me worse).
But when I focus on, and rely on, God I can look to Him and be encouraged that He is the One Who never changes, and He's always with me through the ride. He's always by my side, and He'll never leave me. And I'm always so baffled by this.
Even though it's sometimes hard to see through this crazy whirlwind of life, what a kind, loving, affectionate, passionate, perfect, and incredible God we serve - Amen? :)
So, yes, life's a roller coaster... but there's a glorious prize at the end of the ride. And His name is Jesus
A Hole Inside... Is There a Fix?
Do you ever wonder how SO much can be going on inside you? Things like, daily struggles, lessons to learn over years and years, developing personality and entirety of your person, and how's it's like that for every other human being on the planet? And also how there will never be another you or anyone else? Isn't that baffling? Even when our struggles seem so large, sometimes we can still seem to justify that our struggles seem larger than others (or our problems – as a society – are bigger than the previous generations past).
Even when I'm frustrated with the lessons I have to learn again and again, or the hard questions in life that are posed to me and I don't know how to answer them, when my heart breaks for someone who has had to go through hell to learn those hard lessons in life, when I realize how selfish I am for thinking my problems are so much bigger than someone else right beside me who is suffering just as much or more, and when I become crushed by the inner turmoil in my soul, I always have to remember how big my God is (and that's the only thing for me that remotely puts my troubles into perspective). And also how nothing else can satisfy one's soul and one's longings. God is the only thing in this world that can fully quench this everlasting thirst.
No matter how hard I try when I search and search for things to satisfy me - when my soul hurts and I try to fill it up with things that don't satisfy, God is the only One Who can fill that missing something, that hole.
Everyone is searching. Everyone feels a need to be loved, they feel something is missing. That is what our lives consist of - searching and searching - whether it's scouring the world, or scouring the heart and soul - we all feel a hole inside that needs to be filled.
Has anyone ever truly loved you to the absolute fullest? Has anyone ever completely fulfilled that need for love that you long for and need? Do you ever wonder why would God created people with this deep need to be loved? It's because we are spiritual creatures, each with a distinctive soul, each meant to have a relationship with God. But we're cut off from Him, and only God is big enough to mend us back together with Him - only God is big enough to fill the hole. Only God can satisfy completely.
To become fully satisfied with God – that is my goal. That is a hard lesson I am learning time and time again. It's hurts every time I learn this lesson, and sooner or later I pray it will sink in. And I can't wait until I stop constantly searching for frivolous and fading things that don't satisfy... because I have a God Who is the King of Kings, a Wonderful Counselor, and the everlasting Father Who gave His life for me so that I could have that connection with Him and so He can mend the pieces of my soul in turmoil and fill the hole inside.
A Small Update
Hello family and friends!
So I'm here in Taiwan, and it soooooooo rocks!! The culture here is so rich and beautiful, and almost everyone is so nice - I've had hardly any troubles at all with people! The kids we teach are always so cute. There is always one or two in each camp that are stubborn and loud, but we just try to have grace with them and correct them whenever needed. I love teaching. The kids are so fun. Almost every single kid I've taught absolutely loves UNO. It's like part of the kids' culture here!
Since I've been here, I've hardly had any culture shock. Everything seems so natural because everyone else does it (type of thing) and it's been so wonderful! Everything seems soooo natural, I haven't had hardly any shock! :D
As soon as I first arrived in Kaohsiung, it felt like I had just travelled across a state. I wasn't shocked, and I wasn't overly-ecstatic. At first, I was disapointed because I didn't feel like jumping up and down every single moment of the day because I was finally in ASIA(!!!), but then I realized it was kind of cool. I reacted (and am reacting) like it's just another place. It and it's people are not any better or less better than than any other countries or peoples. Everything seems so natural, like at home. People are people too, no matter what continent they live on, or no matter what language they speak. :)
There are some pretty small but unique things about the culture that I'd like to share with you all (because I think they're just so fascinating! ^_^
1. The traffic rules in the U.S. hardly apply for Taiwan. People do whatever they have to do to get to where they want to go. If this means driving towards oncoming traffic until almost grazing a car headed straight for you, they do that. Or making U-turns that graze mopeds and other cars... or maybe passing a huge bus on a curve up a mountain. Yeah. I've been in each of those situations. :P They are really something! And the weird thing is, is that because everyone is so used to just doing what's needed, there's hardly any road-rage. Everyone is doing the same thing, so there's nothing to be mad about, I guess! ;)
Oh, and there are mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles EVERYWHERE! In a city, you'll only see a handful of cars, and whole street-loads of scooters! It's quite a sight to see. ;)
2. When the kids come to camp, almost all of them bring their own little bowls and chopsticks for lunch. After lunch, everyone washes their dishes and puts them away to dry to use for the next meal. It's always so cute to see little kids eat with their chopsticks (one of my girls had some cute little Hello Kitty
chopsticks too! Hen ke ai! <3 ^_^
3. Because of the SARS sickness that spread through Taiwan several years ago, the Taiwanese people have become much more concerned about sickness (especially with the Swine Flu scare). So, many people wear hospital masks over the bottom half of their faces (covering the nose and mouth) everywhere they go. And these aren't just standard white or green cotton, no, many are considered fashionable made of cloth with patterns of anything you can imagine! Like checkered, flowers, different colors... you name it! It's really neat! I kind of like it. I know that I totally could have used one on one of my flights over to Taiwan. The guy sitting across the aisle was coughing a quite a bit. :P And I like the idea of not wanting to breathe in a lot of bad air, especially in the city with open, underground sewers... :P . I'm actually thinking of buying one so I can use it in certain areas I might travel in, but also as a fashion statement. ;D
4. Another thing about health the Taiwanese people are concerned of is skin cancer. People carry umbrellas with them almost everywhere, because it can rain without hardly any notice here. But the other reason they carry their umbrellas is to use when the sun is out. So when it's really sunny, you;ll see many people pull out their umbrellas, or put on these really big sun visors (they're kinda like one big sunglass shaped like a BIG visor for the whole front of the face).
5. Many cities have what are called afternoon or night markets. The night markets are always the huge attraction for the people. It's a time where a whole street route is closed off and and people set up their booths and little shops for selling things. These little booth shops range from selling candy, to jewelry or clothes or shoes, to little restaurants that you can sit down and eat hot food. There were crowds and crownds of people at the one I went to! It was such a huge esperience of the culture; squeezing through people with the sellers shouting their goods all in Chinese (a few shouted some basic English phrases like, "Only 25 dollars!!" ;) Some booth owners just smile and wait for someone to stop by and look and their products. It's a really crazy, but neat experience. I know that if it had just been myself, I wouldn't have know WHAT to do, but I was with a large group of fellow teachers, and we just had so much fun looking and buying and walking and talking! ^_^
6. Okay, so when it comes to food, people are very open and free about it. Hardly anybody minds having somebody else eating off of their chopsticks or eating out of their soup and sharing their food! It's really free and just very sharing and open. I kind of like it. It's just very personal and food is very easy for everybody to connect to, so when someone wants to share something they like with you, it's just really cool. ^_^
7. Most bathrooms do not have their own tiolet paper, so people must carry around their own packets whenever they go anywhere. It's a huge part of the culture. People buy cute little packets of pocket tissues to carry around wherever they go! It's really something. ;)
8. 7-11 and Family Mart (little convient stores) are a HUGE thing over here, too. In the city, you literally see one every street corner (or every other street corner). It's really neat. It's a place for teens to hang out on hot summer days and read magazines, drink slurpies, and buy snacks. You can also buy basic necessities and food, too. It's extremely convenient! I loved just being able to walk down the street from our apartment to go the 7-11! Now up here in the mountains, it's like a 20 min drive into town! :P
9. The Taiwanese people are very much into being friendly to the earth. Recycling is very important to them. There are so many different types of recycling, too: There's paper, plastic, glass, can, general trash, waste, compost, etc. etc. It can be VERY confusing at times (even for the Taiwanese). o.O :P
10. The Taiwanese people are also very conscious about not wasting anything. Wasting food water are considered especially big sins. When the kids are done with their meals, there is a compost bucket that they can throw their chicken bones, orange peels, etc. in. There is always a TA sitting next to the bucket and watching what the kids are throwing away. If a kid hasn't finished all his food, and wants to toss it, the TA will tell him to go sit back down and finish what's left.
Hmm... I can't really think of any other things of the culture differences (or mini culture-shocks, I guess) right off the top of my head except for maybe the food. I tried "stinky tofu" at the night market. After I stopped to buy some ice-cream (becuase it was like 30 U.S. cents! :) ) the group stopped into a booth and they bought some stinky tofu. I was eating my cold ice-cream, and as they were gobbling up the tofu, I was shocked that it didn't smell bad at all. In fact, I thought it smelled somewhat decent and good. ;) So, I asked if I could try some and because my hands were sticky with the ever-melting ice-cream, one of the girls held out her chopsticks with a piece on it and put it in my mouth. As the piece broke apart in my mouth, there was an explosion of a horrific taste. Because it was so hot, I had to blow all the hot air out, and then... I smelled something horrible. I could not believe that that smell was coming from MY MOUTH. It was very disturbing. :P ;) So, now at least I can say that I have tried the infamous "Stinky Tofu" of Taiwan. ;)
There are other weird and small food differences like cooked rice and (chicken?) blood cakes in soup. Yeah. I had a bite and thought it was okay. That is until a fellow teacher came up to me and told me what it was made out of. Then I couldn't finish it... No thanks... :P ;)
Well... I think I'll close up for the night (it's almost 9:00pm here). Sometime I willl have to write to you all about all the wonderful people I've met here and all the wonderful friends and relationships I've made! God has been so good to me my whole time here, in the huge ways, and even in the little ways that I never expected! I can't even express my thanks to Him!!
Love you all, and miss you all a lot!