One thing I love about Asian cultures [generally speaking of course] is the respect and honor the young ones show to their elderly family members.
I've seen it in both Taiwan and Philippines, teenagers going out socially with their parents and grandparents, and caring for them as they get older.
I'm sitting at SM Mall right now, and an older man sat down next to me with his teenage son.
A mixture of salty and sweet, soft and crunchy and slimy and crispy, this dish is a great example of a 'love it or hate it' flavor profile! In Chinese, it's called 皮蛋, or pídàn, meaning leather or skin egg. In English, it's commonly referred to as Century Egg or Thousand Year Egg.
Eating Snake at Liuhe Nightmarket: Have You Tried This Interesting Delicacy? | Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
The sign above the nightmarket shop couldn't have made it any clearer. Whatever lingering doubts one might have had as to what was being served on the menu here immediately disappeared once you looked up at the giant neon cobra flashing over the entrance way.
I am no stranger to exotic food. Deep fried chicken butt, fermented stinky tofu, boiled pig intestine hotpot, succulent fish eyes, juicy shrimp heads...these are just a few of the things I've not only tried but that I actually love eating as well.
Have you ever wondered what it's like to leave your home country and live in a foreign land? Do you need some inspiration and motivation to do this yourself?
"Chat With an Expat" takes you around the world and brings you into the homes, huts, tents and yurts of global drifters to give you an inside look at what life is like living abroad.
In this installment, we speak to an Australian with the heart of a Gypsy living in Asia.
It's always interesting to meet someone who grew up unconventionally in a conventional world. Kara is a personal friend of mine who, although she was raised in Australia, moved around a lot when she was younger. She was brought up in a household of gypsies with parents who loved to move and travel, and she never lived longer than 3 years in one house. Last year, she moved to the East Asian country of Taiwan. Here is her story of what life is like there:
It's time for another "Days Go By" write-up! This time around you guys voted for the Instagram photo of my smiling Taiwanese student, a picture I titled "ESL Student Archetypes". And that's what I came up with, a short list of 3 basic ESL student stereotypes* in Taiwan, plus a few extra contributed ones sent in by readers!
Food Stall at a Taiwanese Nightmarket [SOURCE]
In order to truly understand a culture, you need to taste its food. A country's cuisine has always been an important part of cultural identity, and Taiwan is no exception. In this installment of ourFood in Four Courses series, we'll share with you three of the most beloved Taiwanese dishes, a starter, main course and dessert. And to keep things interesting, we'll add on a dish that's definitely not for the faint of heart.
The Chinese have had acultural influence in Hawai'i since the 1800's. The language that we speak at home, called Hawaiian Pidgin English (HCE), is heavily influenced by the grammar and vocabulary of Chinese dialects. The Chinese were one of the the first immigrant populations to intermarry and quickly assimilate with the Native Hawaiians, and many of us today can trace our genealogy back to at least one Chinese ancestor, if not more.
You see the craziest things in Asia. Like the time I got home, late at night, and I almost slammed into a giant pig! The most bizarre thing was what was going on behind it. I know that the picture above is of a dog, but for the sake of storytelling, I will begin this tale with a pig.
I had just turned the corner into the alley where I live, a dimly lit backstreet lane in a suburb on the outskirts of the second largest city in Taiwan. It had been raining all day and night, so the atmosphere was foggy and gray, the road was slippery wet, and the wind blew cool. As I pulled my motorbike up to the front of my house, ready to turn in, I could see, silhouetted by the flickering streetlights, a huge shadow lumbering towards me from a distance.
I'm pretty new to the travel blogging scene, so while perusing through the latest travel tweets last night, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the hashtag#TNI, an apparently popular interactive tweet session between drifters, expats and armchair travelers alike.
The subject of the night was on the evergreen topic of 'solo travel'. This was question #10:
It happened in Taoyuan International Airport at 10:28 pm, while walking towards the Departure Gate area. I was focused on making the 12:30 red-eye out to Manila on Cebu Pacific Airlines, when I suddenly looked up to see a familiar name. Honolulu. Capital city of my native land: Hawai'i.
A distant yet familiar memory of soft sun-rays, warm golden sand and pounding surf flashed through my busy 'Asian' mind and I found myself stopped in my tracks, staring up at that familiar name. Honolulu. I read the three Chinese characters transcribed next to it: 檀香山, Tán Xiāng Shān, literally translated, Sandalwood Incense Mountain. Honolulu.
For those who are drifters at heart, the word "expat" conjures up many vivid images of adventure and excitement. But what is the REALITY of living abroad? In this weeks post, we will discuss 2 of the reasons why you should consider becoming an expat, and 1 of the most difficult things that may stop you in doing this.
The first time I heard the word 'expat' I wasn't sure what it meant. I wasn't much of a seasoned traveler back then. I had only been to a few places, but it was nothing extensive or life changing. Someone I met while traveling introduced themselves to me as an expat, and although I found myself curious, I was too embarrassed to ask what it meant. It wasn't until I looked into it more on my own that I realized the word expat is short for expatriate, or someone who is living in a country not their own.
Weather can be one of the hardest things to overcome in a new place. Temperatures around the globe vary from place to place. What's cold in one part of the world is considered hot somewhere else.
Coming from a place where the average temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a chance of an afternoon shower, I was not quite prepared for the searing summer streets of Southern Taiwan. But if you put yourself out there, life has a way of beating you down and showing you the truth.
“Okay, repeat after me,” Lǎoshī stands in the front of the class commanding attention. I sit up a little straighter. “Jīntiān. hěn rè!”
I am presently in Asia, sitting under those good old golden arches, eating a fish filet sandwich with french fries and a medium sized Coke. I'm also considering the possibility of getting myself a twist cone very soon.
It seems to me that a lot of travelers would be ashamed to admit this openly, but I happen to be fine with my current dining choice. Just because I choose to stop by and say 'howdy' to the yellow-and-red clown, (literally, they have one at the front door,) does not make me any less of an avid globe drifter. Ronald McDonald and I go way back, and I am not about to forget an old friend now.
It's been about 2 weeks since I started my Mandarin course here in Taiwan. But just getting to that point was a feat in itself. It took me almost 2 months to decide whether or not going to school was the proper route here. After that was decided, than the search for the right campus was on.
I took my time narrowing it down to a few options, things were beginning to come down to the wire. My visitors visa was reaching its 60th day in Taiwan, and I would have to do my run to another country for an extension. But did I want to return as a tourist or as a student?
America is a nation of cultural variety, but what does it mean to "look like" an American? Many people around the world have preconceived ideas about the answer to this question. But what about travelers who are born in the USA but who do not necessarily fit the physical image of an American? The topic of ethnicity and nationality can be a sensitive subject to balance in any country, but for some of us, this topic of conversation is something that we have to deal with on a regular basis.
“Hello, Miiisterrrr...,” I look up, just as a moped with two young Taiwanese guys zooms by us. The kid in the back has his neck craned, and his smiling face turned in our direction. He follows us with his eyes as they disappear out of our line of sight, then points at us just as they turn the corner. Again, I hear his fading voice calling out, “Hellooooo, Misterrr!”
As we all know, the joys of being in a different country do not come without hardships, and sometimes just trying to get the simple things done can be the most frustrating part. Contributing blogger Jon Gedge writes about finding the light at the end of this inevitable tunnel.
Today I am going to get my haircut.
This seems like an easy task. I always like it cut the same way it’s growing, shorter, but not too short because then my hair stands up and I can’t brush it down, yet not too long where I’ll have to return to get it cut again in a few weeks. Normally it’s a quick errand you fit into your busy schedule of running around in this sometimes fast paced, crazy world.
But when you’re traveling, sometimes the simplest of tasks at home can seem like a mountain of an obstacle in another country.
Last night I was thinking of what to eat for dinner. The fridge was mostly empty, with just the typical easy foods, like sandwiches and some leftover pasta from a couple nights before. Yet I was tired of eating those same old foods when just outside my apartment the options for good traditional Chinese food are endless. Different shops lined up from street to street with bright lights inviting everyone to enter. Families packed into crowded corners of the restaurants, with owners scrambling to find extra seats, all of them bringing hungry appetites with happy faces, anticipating the tasty food they would soon acquire.
Yet there we were watching from a sad, dark distance, like two hungry helpless street dogs licking our lips, seeing young and old enjoying their savory dishes.
“Wow, that looks gooood,” Jay said.
Sadly, looking at the posted menu, we only saw Chinese characters that we didn‘t understand.
“We don’t know how to order here,” I said. “Let’s find a place with pictures.”
Pictures of food are our savior and the only means to eat a decent meal out, a picture of duck or chicken on top of rice, or a bowl of noodles with pieces of beef, simmered until the meat is soft. We have, in a sense, become picture hunters, hunting for restaurants that have photos that we can point to with our hands and nod in agreement to, with wide smiles.
To the Chinese restaurant workers, we probably sound like cavemen from a foreign land, our English words sounding like grunts, while we nod our heads because we want delicious “FOOOOD!”
Although a short time has past, we now have our favorite hunting grounds that we visit regularly. The restaurant workers now recognize us, and know what foods we enjoy. Little by little, life has become easier. Even though I am in a country different from what I am accustomed to, I feel the normality of life getting easier day by day.
Days don’t always seem like being in a battlefield, where I have to be on my toes. No longer am I scared of walking, or riding my bike on the busy street, with cars and motorbikes flying by me at arms length. I don’t bother caring about loud fireworks popping at random parts of the day. Sure, I can't speak Chinese, and I don’t know how to buy everything I want, but in reality I have been getting by just fine.
Now for my next battle: What do I say to my barber today?
And now we ask you: When living in another country, how do you deal with not being able to get seemingly everyday things? Or what hardships do you imagine you might face if you ever made such a move? Comment below and let us know!
Contributing Blogger: Jon Gedge
Jon grew up in Honolulu,
Hawaii, and has worked as
a community volunteer in
the cities of Altamira and
Puerto Escondido, Mexico
One of the most exciting things about moving to a new place is discovering all those little every day spots.
You know, like where you'll pretty much always end up eating whenever you feel too lazy to muster up any motivation to explore anywhere else, or like where you need to go to do your laundry, or shop for goods, or what's the fastest or most convenient route to the subway station.
All of these simple little first timers will get old after a while. These are things that you will eventually find yourself doing day in and day out. So take that exciting first time feeling that you get the first few times that you do it and try to remember how exciting it was for you when first discovered it!
When arriving at a new place, two of the first hurdles you must overcome are language barriers and jet lag, For the first few days it feels as if your body is thrown off track, what's night is day and what's day is night. And forget about everything you thought you'd learned about Mandarin before you got here, you don't understand a single thing that they're saying!
I wake up in the middle of the night to the sounds of growling coming from the streets below. I rub my eyes, sit up in bed and look out the window, peering eleven floors down, to see a pack of wild dogs roaming the streets, looking for a fight.
Oh, the joys of Kaohsiung, I think to myself.
I contemplate the possibility of throwing something at the snarling pack, but I realize that eleven floors up is a long way down, and who knows where a random object might land, like on the upturned face of one unsuspecting local. The last thing I need is my own pack of angry Taiwanese ganging up on me, the silly waiguo-ren living all the way up on the top floor.
But what am I thinking? The people here in South Taiwan are actually pretty hospitable and laid back. Not to mention the fact that I don't really have anything in my possession I can afford to throw out of a window at 4 am.
In any case, I realize that it is way too early for me to try and process such random thoughts of superficial in-consequence, so I shake my head, lie down, and I fall back asleep to the humming sounds of early-morning mopeds and growling street dogs.
Sometimes it feels like I am in an alternate universe, where the buildings and streets vaguely remind me of Hawaii and the people look like the people back home.
But the words that I hear are foreign to my ears and the words that I see are indecipherable in my mind. All too often I find myself feeling both mute and illiterate.
And yet, through my inability to communicate in ways that I am familiar with, I find myself having to get creative, speaking with my hands and face, or listening intently with my eyes.
I know now that if I can't find it, I can sheepishly motion to the clerk, asking, “Where can I find a toilet bowl plunger? Yes, a toilet plunger.”
Or if I don't feel like eating pig knuckle again, a flap of the arms and a loud 'Bok-BOK!' gets me shredded chicken on a scoop of rice. Of course, the lady over the counter tells me, “Ji.” I stare at her blankly, “Umm, Ji?” And then slowly I get it, “Oh, okay...” I nod enthusiastically, “Yeah... ji!”
Here in Taiwan it's really true that a smile and a laugh goes a long way. It can even get you an extra piece of sausage on your lunch plate, along with your ji.
There's also those times when I realize I shouldn't presuppose. Like when I passed by a street window filled with roast ducklings and crispy roast pork.
As I walked on, I kept that street corner in mind, and when I went home, I pulled out my Mandarin phrasebook and conquered the words for duck and pork, “Ya” and “Ju”.
I smiled to myself, I was finally ready to speak to the natives.
When I went back a few days later, I stepped up to the window and waited for the duck-man to acknowledge me.
But when he nodded in my direction, fear took over, so I just reached around the glass, pointing at my items of choice, and said, “Duck and pork.”
My mouth was watering hungrily and I was too embarrassed to try and make myself understood. But in clearly pronounced English, the man asked me, “You just want duck and pork?" I blinked. "How about rice?” he said.
And what about my sleeping habits now? Well, thankfully the dogs were no longer outside tearing each other to shreds this morning.
But I was still shocked awake by the sound of 'Eye of the Tiger' blasting through loudspeakers.
I lay there in a deep sleep, only to hear through the thick darkness...”DUNH, pause, Dunh dunh DUNH, pause, Dunh dunh DUNH, pause, Dunh dunh DUUUUUUNH!”
I sit up in bed, this time wondering if I'm in a movie running up stairs, or if my mind just decided to start playing a soundtrack to my life.
I rub my eyes and look out the window, peering eleven floors down to the streets below. I get up just in time to see a big covered truck barreling down the street, loud speakers blaring.
But fortunately for itself, the truck plows off into the distance, moving too fast to be hit by any random objects thrown from a top floor apartment window.
Regardless of how much planning you put into it, when the plane tires screech on the tarmac of your destinations arrival city, you're nervous! You may not know what really to expect; Will there be a bank kiosk to exchange notes? Am I standing in the right immigration line? Should I have filled out that paper that everyone else has in their hands? Is my visa really valid? And if not, do they really issue visa's on the spot here? What about my luggage, will it still be there after I get through this mess of a line? And how will I get to my final destination?
All of this may cross your mind, but as soon as you sit down in that first taxi, or find your seat number on that first bus, or step inside as the doors close behind you on your first train, that feeling of initial accomplishment rushes over you, and you realize that everything's gonna be alright.
First impressions oftentimes stick the most in your minds. The feeling of having touched down on foreign soil, with no real idea of what might happen next can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking! Some of the most memorable trips were built on first impressions.
When I witnessed the fight while standing in the immigration line, I realized this would be a whole new life.
Okay, so it wasn't really a fight, but it was definitely different. What I mean is, it's not everyday that you see a grown man in some kind of official Taiwanese uniform shoving middle aged Japanese women, along with the rest of us disrespectful little 'non-citizens', shouting at us at the top of his lungs in an effort to get us to all stand in line properly.
And he wasn't just shoving us, but he was literally herding us with his baton, pushing us as if we were one large mass of madness. Of course, it worked, we lined up like sheep. And if that wasn't enough, the offended Japanese women took their stand against the officer tyrant man, shoving back at him and shouting in their mother tongue.
And the gentleman's response? “Sumimasen...sumimasen...,” he said, bowing apologetically while continuing to shove them back roughly, "Sumimasen.” Well, I thought to myself, at least he has the courtesy to apologize to them in their own language.
Rewind a half hour: As our plane touched down onto the tarmac of Taoyuan International Airport, one hour west of the capitol city of Taipei, the first faint glimpse I could get of my new home was smog. And not just gray air, but thick, heavy, almost oppressive looking, the kind that scrapes it's way down your esophagus and clings to your lungs.
It's no wonder than that, upon disembarking, more than a few of the locals donned masks, some decoratively patterned and printed, to filter out the thick smog air.
I realize that these first two paragraphs paints our arrival into Taiwan as if we were entering some hazy and depressing country. But this (so far) is not the case.
In reality, what few interactions we've had as of yet with the locals has been pleasant and helpful, albeit brisk and efficient. And did I mention the green? Stepping off of the plane, Thuy remarked about how much greenery and life there was around the city.
Coming here, I had expected the stereotypical Asian tiger concrete jungle of highrises and clogged streets, and although our gateway city of Taoyuan is not Taipei, I was 1surprised to see the countless rice paddies squeezed between colorful buildings as we rode down the highway.
And the further south we went, palm trees and bamboo began to dominate the scenery. Even now, as I sit back in my huge bus seat the size of first class airplane seats, and stare out the window, we pass green hills of trees and plant life. I notice too that the smog begins to thin out as we make our way further from Taoyuan.
Our departure from Eko and Thuy was quick and painless. We stepped off the plane, exchanged money, went through immigration, picked up our bags, and Eko helped us buy our bus tickets to Kaohsiung. The bus station is in the airport, which was very easy and convenient.
And what of our inappropriately massive amounts of unnecessary luggage? We didn't even get a blink from the the waif thin bus ticketing agent. She whipped our luggage up onto a baggage cart like it was nobody's business, weaving her way through the crowds as she wheeled along with her one of my huge suitcases that must have weighed half her weight.
She directed us to our bus, told the bus driver to watch out for us, showed us all of the nifty first class contraptions that were built into our seats, and then left.
But of course, all of our thanks goes to Eko, who really helped us get on our way as quick and seamlessly as possible, before giving us both hugs and waving goodbye.
You told us you'd come and visit us down here some day, I'm going to hold you to that promise.
And now here I am, on a Ho Hsing bus en route to the city of Taichung, where we transfer onto another bus, which will eventually take us to our final destination, the southern city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest metropolis. Arrival time to Kaohsiung? 7 p.m.
But for now, I guess I'll just kick back in my fat lounge-chair like bus seat, have a little snack, and reflect on what few experiences I've had so far here in my new home. And of course, look up every once in a while to look out the window and enjoy the beautiful green.
And now we ask: What are some of your most memorable first impressions? Comment below and let us know!
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...