September 04, 2013

September 2013 - Hello Taiwan, I have arrived!

Taiwan, I am here

And so I have finally arrived. There is still a lot more to be written about the adventures during the summer but I will get to that later – now I want to take a moment to summarise my first days in Taiwan.  

I returned to Düsseldorf a few days before heading out to Taiwan, flew in from Birmingham International Airport, after having spent the last part of the summer in UK. I saw no reason to drag all my things to UK as I anyhow was going to move on to Asia, and it gave me an opportunity to come back and say goodbye to the friends who have become my extended family.

I left Düsseldorf in a daze on Saturday, having been up late the evening before, and not being able to stay asleep – I guess I was more stressed about the move than I would let on, even to myself. I was staying with very dear friends but I did sneak out early in the morning, went for a walk, had a coffee, and when I returned to their place it wasn't much time left - I just showered, repacked a few things and then I got a lift to the airport. 

The flight went from Düsseldorf, over to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to Shanghai and from Shanghai to Taipei. Once in Taipei I caught the bus from Taipei Airport to Taichung, in the middle of the country, where I will have my base. Normally it's about two hours bus ride from the airport to Taichung don't go into town first, you can go to most places in Taiwan straight from the airport, it seems), but because of the time there was very little traffic and the whole trip took about 1.5 hours. 

Already Monday afternoon I was at the university where I will be studying, to register, get the first introduction and start to orient myself. I believe that's when I first got that yes, I am ACTUALLY really here, I am actually going to start learning Chinese – and I am going to start it now. And started I have! I haven't had any classes, but to my joy I realise I have already picked up more of the written language than I thought. It's not enough to even put sentences together, but I have to start somewhere, and at least I can feel that no, you know what, it is not that difficult, I'll be able to do this, if I just put some effort into it - at least the reading. Pronunciation is what will be tricky. Chinese has four tones, and yes, I can hear the differences,  but getting the tongue to do what I ask it? I don't know, it will take some practise...  I am happy that I can hear the differences, many non-Chinese speakers can apparently not even do that. 

I have been lucky enough to meet very helpful and engaged people that have a lot of patience, and that take their time and answer all my silly questions, because I have many. I have learnt and will learn a lot from them – I can't believe how friendly and curious, in a very very positive way, the Taiwanese are, without EVER even seeming rude or pushy. I am very very lucky, and couldn't have wished for a better start to my life here, with plenty of people offering to help me with language exchange, speaking Chinese. I can't always be easy to have some foreigner who doesn't know the language try again and again and again, sometimes asking the same questions as it is difficult to remember everything straight away; It takes a lot of patience.

I have so far learnt enough to be able to order my egg pancakes for breakfast – also in places where no one is eating (otherwise I go to the places where others are and order by pointing, that works too) – and I can of course order tea and coffee. Especially coffee – I WAS born in Sweden after all, and Swedes are said to drink the second most coffee in the world. Can also ask for water. Can there possibly be something more important than that? Now I know I will not have to starve or go thirsty. On top of it I have learnt to ask for just a little ice rather than a lot – I am not overly excited about ice but in some drinks it is just better. It IS a tropical island after all...

This IS going to be a magical experience! 


Timm Tondorf said...

You should visit Hangzhou as well:)

TravellingAK said...

Tim, definitely will make sure to get there next time I am in the Shanghai area, but it won't be until next year - the next coming months I will stay put in Taiwan, and explore it here. But it is a very good suggestion!