Chientan Youth Activity Center, Taipei, Taiwan – July 1
by Rosalie Chan, Web & News Editor
Tomorrow, I will be starting the AID program and leaving behind the familiar. For the past two days, I have been staying at my mom’s friend’s house in Taipei, and the nights before that in Taiwan, I’ve been staying at my grandma’s house. On Wednesday evening, my grandma took me to the library across from her apartment. It was nice because it had air conditioning, and it really was a good library, with plenty of shelves for books and plenty of tables to read or study at. Unfortunately, I can’t read Chinese very well, and I searched high and low for English books, but I only found one. Maybe two. Anyway, I resorted to looking at books with pictures. For dinner, we went to a small restaurant that served beef dishes. When we went home, we watched TV, and the movie “Bridesmaids” was on TV. We started watching it in the middle of the movie. Since the movie was in English, I gave my grandma a play-by-play of the movie.
I spent Thursday morning Skyping people, and then I went out with my grandma and her friend to lunch. The restaurant served amazing food, such as chicken soup, thee cup tofu and bamboo shoots cooked with salted eggs. (I’ve been eating a lot of bamboo shoots lately because it’s the season in Taiwan.) After that, we visited the house of another friend of my grandma’s. While there, my grandma and her friends talked, while we all ate home-grown fruits.
On Friday morning, my grandma took me to the train station. From there, I would take the train to Taipei. I said good-bye to my grandma and boarded the train. I didn’t have to buy tickets because I used my EasyCard. People can put money on their EasyCard, and it makes paying for transportation in Taiwan very convenient.
I met up with my friends, who are the daughters of my mom’s friend. That afternoon, we met up with another friend of theirs. She attends the National University of Taiwan, the best university in Taiwan. We spent the afternoon riding bikes and eating at food places around the campus as she showed us around, and we also walked into the law, journalism and biology departments. At the biology department, we went to the top of the building and got a view of the entire university. I didn’t realize how huge the university was or how much we biked until we saw the view of it.
Today we ate lunch at a small restaurant, where we ate beef noodle soup, a famous dish in Taiwan. I have to say, the food in Taiwan is the best food ever. Anyway, we then went to a stationery store and department store. Taiwan has many stationery stores, and they sell the cutest things ever, from pencils to notebooks to small gifts, often featuring cute characters, such as Hello Kitty, Totoro and more. They also feature cute animals or designs.
To get around, we’ve been riding the MRT. The MRT system in Taipei is highly convenient and it is how people get everywhere. There are many stops throughout Taipei, and people never have to wait long for a metro to come. It moves quickly and smoothly to each stop, and it is also very clean and efficient. Oftentimes, there are many people on the MRT, and we have to stand and hold on to the railings, but by riding it, we can quickly go anywhere we want in Taipei.
My friends take the MRT all the time. Yuan-Yuan takes it to school. However, going to school takes a long time because in addition to taking the MRT, she must ride the bus and walk.
We went home that night and watched “Lord of the Rings.”
Tomorrow we will go to church, have lunch and go to ChienTan Activity Center, where I will check in and stay for this week for training. Although I’m excited for AID, I’m also freaking out a bit. I don’t know anyone there, and I don’t know what I should expect when I actually start teaching. Nevertheless, there are probably other people on the same page as me, and I guess I will just have to wait and see.
Even though I’m at ChienTan Youth Center, rooming with other people who I’ve just met today, it’s still hard for me to believe that the AID program has started, and I’m going to be spending the next month being part of it.
This morning I went to Mass with my mom’s friend and her daughters, and we went out for lunch at a restaurant that served fried pork. After lunch we went shopping a bit and then went home. At around 3 p.m., we took the taxi to Chientan Youth Center. I checked in and said goodbye to them. Then we got assigned to rooms and met our roommates. There are six people to a room, and four of us will be teaching at the same school, Cheng Wen Elementary School in PingTung.
We also got assigned tables for eating dinner. Most of the people at our table are also going to the same school as me. After dinner, the program leaders introduced the rules to us, including a demerit system for doing things such as being late, bringing icy drinks onto the bus, wearing sandals and drinking. Then we did some crazy icebreaker activities.
At night we got together with all the people in our group, all of whom are going to teach at the same school. There are eight of us going to Cheng Wen School. The first thing the teacher told us was that we were not allowed to speak Chinese while teaching—only English. This was a relief for all of us. Then we split up into teaching partners and discussed what to do for the opening ceremony. In the opening ceremony, we must perform for the children we will teach, and this is supposed to be their first impression of foreign people.
We don’t know what we will do yet, but we will discuss more tomorrow. We will spend this week teaching. So far, I’ve met quite a few different people from different parts of the U.S. Hopefully, I’ll get to know more people better this week, and I look forward to volunteering as well.