Tuesday, July 28, 2009

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!
~ Elizabeth