Greetings from one of Taiwan’s central cities! It’s currently 10:06 am in the local time. Although there is no time difference between the Philippines, I feel as if I have been hit by a mild case of jet lag—I’m really, really drowsy. Well, sleep deprived, to be exact. This is what red-eye flights and budget fares do to you, but nope, I’m not complaining!
As much as I’d like to write about my first day very briefly, I just… can’t. I’m in the dreamland; I don’t fear I’m gonna lack things to say! But yeah, I hope to keep this as short as possible. Still another long day to come. I’ve been in Taiwan for around 34 hours right now, and in this relatively short period of time, so many things have already happened—things from the bucket list crossed out and places unlisted on the itinerary visited, among many other things. I haven’t even been to the capital yet, so imagine how overwhelming everything is right now to me.
Taiwan is one of those places I can say I know a lot about. I had my expectations before coming here (for a person like me, quite a ton, actually!) but there are also so many remarkable things that went beyond what I thought or imagined them to be. So, here are some of my first, few impressions of Taiwan, and basically my stream of consciousness in bullet points:
- Taiwanese taxi drivers are very honest people! They may not be the friendly type (which might be due to the language barrier, or I might have just consistently ridden the taxis of serious people) but really, I’d prefer people who don’t cheat you with your change than those who ask what country you come from.
- This may be a universal thing, but taxis in Taichung are really expensive. It might be the case in Taipei as well, but 85元 for the starting fare? Tai gui le!!
- The ice cream flavors we had at a restaurant last night were definitely out of this world! I think that was my worst case of culture shock so far. Pretty shallow, but true, haha. The flavors were written in Chinese. I couldn’t read the characters, but I didn’t bother translating them anymore because I thought that the colors would be a giveaway (like pink for strawberry, green for pistachio, etc). I think I had yam (no, not even close to ube!) and lime ice cream, but I’m not even sure. Lol.
- Reading traditional characters is not as hard as I had thought it would be. As three-fourths of my brain is filled with simplified characters, it can be a pain at times, but everything just goes.
- Taiwanese people speak English pretty well! And it’s not even broken English or Chinglish or anything. This was something I did not expect, and in my first few hours here, I’ve barely used Chinese. But more on that on the next.
Street names and major roads are also romanized, people will usually respond in English if you speak in English to them, and names of dishes in many restaurants have English translations. In short, yep, you can survive if you only use English in Taiwan. But definitely, knowing Chinese, even for just a tiny bit, helps a whole lot. I don’t think I would assume that Zhaoma and Chaoma were the same places if I weren’t familiar with romanization types. I wouldn’t know that we were about to chug fruit vinegar(!!) if not for a Chinese handwriting app. My Chinese is nowhere near great, but I can get by, I think. Most of the time. Of course I don’t pretend to know when I really don’t understand, and just show an Uhhhhh… face and then laugh or smile like an idiot.
As I mentioned about bucket lists in the first part of this entry, I finally scratched one off it! After so many years, I finally had my first legit Zhongwen conversation ever!! No English, no hand signals, just plain Chinese. Here’s how it went:
Basically, it was a conversation between me and the taxi driver, as he dropped us at our place. I never felt so cool, guys. I’m not even kidding. I felt like I’ve finally accomplished something in my life. Hahaha. I can’t believe how it took me three years to immerse myself in a decent, natural conversation in the most spontaneous manner. I don’t even know if people believe me when I say I never a had “free-flowing” Chinese conversation with the people I voice chat with online, let alone the fact that I know some Chinese. I am a terrible learner—afraid of embarrassing myself to people who don’t even know how I may look like. There’s really something wrong with me, I know. But then, all what I needed was a little push. I have to admit—it was fun conversing! Even my brother said that speaking in Chinese is actually fun (He said 谢谢，and the girl responded the same as well). I’m so happy! My life is now complete! Haha.
Wow, this post is so long. I knew I was gonna get carried away. Here’s to more experiences in the dreamland, and in the meantime, here are a few snapshots from our first few hours here! The trip of a lifetime of mine is just about start. Only a day has passed, but, 台湾，我爱你！！
And internet connection is very fast, it’s like the speed of light. Relevant.