I almost drowned in Taiwan.

It was a rainy day in Taiwan and I was chilling in a hot spring. Cool rain splashed down onto my face like angel kisses as my body lay reclined in a warm pool of water. I felt like a precious baby in the womb.

Next to this hot spring ran a river. It wasn’t a big river, but people liked to swim in it. A rope ran parallel from the riverbank to a pole fixed in middle of the river’s stream. Another rope was tied to another pole a little ways downstream. The idea was to walk into the water while holding the first rope, let go, then let the river’s current carry you downstream where you would grab hold of the second rope and pull yourself back to shore.

I watched as a couple people got into the river and floated from the top to the bottom rope. It seemed fun, so I decided to give it a try.

The water was colder than I expected but I was surprised to find that the river was actually pretty shallow – barely waist-deep. I walked out holding onto the rope, tucked my knees up against my chest, then let go, giving myself up to the river gods.

The current was strong because of the rain and my butt kept hitting rocks because the river was so shallow, but it was decently fun; like going on a waterslide while having your butt hit over and over again.

As the ride was coming to a close, I stuck my hand out to grab hold of the second rope, which hovered about six inches above the water. Unfortunately, I have the hand-eye coordination of a newborn baby’s tongue, so when I tried to grab the rope to stop myself, I missed completely and the current continued dragging me downstream.

I’d been counting on that rope to get me out of the river, but since I missed it, my only option was to swim out. I turned my body and began swimming toward the bank, but the current was too strong and wouldn’t let me out. I’d always considered myself a good swimmer, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get any closer to shore. I just kept bobbing downstream, my legs and arms bumping and scraping against rocks on the riverbed.

At this point, I wondered two things.

First, I wondered whether I was drowning. I decided that maybe I was, cuz I’d never experienced this helpless feeling while swimming before, and that’s probably what drowning feels like.

Second, I wondered whether I was going to die. I’ve always thought that I would have an earlier premonition about when I was going to die, like I would wake up knowing that today was the day. Since I hadn’t had any inkling earlier that day, I figured that, no, I was not going to die.

After deciding I was drowning but not dying, I debated whether I should call for help. Since I knew I wasn’t going to die, I figured there was no reason to be overly dramatic. On the other hand, how was I going to get out of this river on my own?

While I was debating all this in my head, I bumped into a small island of rocks close to shore that stopped my progression downstream. I got hold of a big rock, then pulled myself to my feet. I walked ashore, a little tired and scraped, but not drowned or dead (I was right!).

I walked back up to the hot springs and sat down. I watched the river and wondered whether anyone else would try floating down and what would happen in they missed the bottom rope.

Sure enough, another man walked into the river holding onto the first rope, let go, then floated down and missed when he reached out to grab the second rope. I perked up. Would he almost drown like I had? What would he do to get out of the current?

I was amazed to see his solution: he stood up and walked to the shore.

The whole time, the water had barely been waist-deep. I should have realized because my body kept hitting rocks on the river’s shallow bottom. But I’d forgotten and hadn’t realized how simple the solution had been the whole time.

So I almost drowned in Taiwan. Cuz I’m an idiot.

Fantasy island vacation

Who hasn’t fantasized about being shipwrecked on an island? Quiet, solitude, and the struggle to survive. Sounds like a really good vacation.

Unfortunately, most of us will never get the chance to actually be shipwrecked on an island, but two weeks ago I came the closest that I’ll probably ever get.

Orchid Island is a two-hour boat ride (or thirty-minute plane ride) from the east coast of Taiwan. Even though it’s technically (and officially really is) a part of Taiwan, it’s a completely different world from Taiwan, isolated by water, distance, and bad cell phone reception.

The island is only 28 miles (45 kilometers) in diameter, with one road that circles the whole island and another that cuts through the middle. The coastline is mainly cliff or rocky coral and the west half of the island has some pretty rough waves, but the east half has much calmer water and some sandy beaches, so there are a couple good swimming spots.

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The island is made up of mountains covered in dense jungle with few trails and lots of snakes, so exploring inland isn’t really an option.

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Orchid Island is a tropical island, which means that one minute it feels like the air is trying to smother you with a wool blanket, then the next minute the sky is trying to drown/electrocute you.

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When I visited, there was a big holiday in Taiwan, so every hostel and hotel was filled to capacity with tourists. Me and my crew managed to find places to sleep, but it was definitely  a tight squeeze. Even though the hostels were full, the island still felt quiet and isolated, which made me wonder how much more peaceful it must feel on a normal day.

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We spent our time swimming, hiding from thunderstorms, and trying local food.

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Because the island is tropical, it’s home to poisonous snakes (including sea snakes) and plants, so dodging those made the experience that much more exciting.

The locals were hecka nice and helpful and the pigs, dogs, goats, cats, and chickens that ran through the streets gave the whole experience a rustic feel.

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Even though I probably won’t get to experience being shipwrecked, at least I feel shipwrecked if I go to an island that’s isolated, peaceful, and occasionally tries to kill me.

Heart of Asia

When I first came to Taiwan, the plan was to stay for six months, but in the back of my head I hoped and knew it would be longer because:

1) I wanted to be here longer (that’s not a real reason).

2) I felt like it would be longer (that’s also not a real reason).

3) I tricked myself into thinking I could learn Chinese (which technically also isn’t a real reason).

4) I literally didn’t have anything else going on (also not a real reason).

So when I got the opportunity to prolong my stay until June I was like, “There’s no reason not to.” So now I’m going to be in Taiwan until June.

What have the past six months been like?

Good. If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, I look like one of those people who’s on vacation and partying all the time. When I realized that, I thought to myself: “What right do I have to only post all these pictures of me in these amazing places? Shouldn’t I show the people how boring and sad my life is too?”

Because I do feel sad and bored sometimes. I’m single and there aren’t many people my age to hang out with and it’s impossible to call or chat with my family half the time because of the time difference. But then I realized I was being ridiculous and my reasons for being sad and bored were not real reasons.

For example, while I was on a trip to Hong Kong at the end of November, I was sad that I would miss Christmas in America, but then I realized that I WAS ON A FREAKING PAID VACATION IN HONG KONG AND DIDN’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT BUYING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS FOR MY BILLIONS OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS OR NIECES AND NEPHEWS. So then I perked up and went to the beach. Here’s a picture:

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Not that being far from people I love is easy or fun … but it is. Sometimes.

Taiwan is the perfect place to be stranded for a year. It’s beautiful and small, so being here until June allows me to see everywhere. Like, twice.

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Alishan National Scenic Area, July 2015

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Alishan National Scenic Area, October 2015 (I look like drugs.)

 

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Sun Moon Lake, July 2015

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Sun Moon Lake, October 2015

 

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Hualien, January 2016

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Hualien, February 2016

 

And my Chinese is coming along. I won’t be fluent by June, but I know enough to navigate around the whole island by myself.

So I’ll be here until June. And I’ve learned a lot. Taiwan is just a matter of perspective and happiness is a really pretty country.

wait.

Cat cafe in Taipei!!

I went to a cat cafe today. Was everything covered in hair? Did it smell bad? Did the animals get all up in my food? Was the food gross? No, no, no, and no.

Dog and Cats Cafe is a cozy little joint in Taipei. There are 15 cats, 2 dogs, and 1 bird. It felt very clean, the animals didn’t bother us while we ate, and the atmosphere was waaaay chill.

The food was super great. I went with my pal Jimmy who’s backpacking though Taiwan right now (which is a cool thing to do and I’m gonna start doing it this Friday!). He ordered the rice gratin and I got lasagna and both were *excellent*.

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lasagna

The cats and dogs were real chillaxed the whole time. They basically slept and ignored us. I thought they’d perk up once our food came, but they didn’t pay any more attention to us while we ate than before.

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Once we finished eating, though, the owners gave us some cat treats to feed them — then we got real popular. Couldn’t keep the cats off of us.

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Great place, great food, and great cats.

😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻/10

See more on my Snapcat (username gordygordyblog).

She met with Mormon missionaries and then what happened?

After she went to church, Taiwan Grandma started meeting with missionaries. Taiwan Mom had been asking her to meet with missionaries for forever, but Taiwan Grandma had never accepted the invitation until she came to church in September.

After a couple weeks of meeting with the missionaries, Taiwan Mom told me that Taiwan Grandma had decided to be baptized in December. I was surprised.

To be honest, I had been skeptical while Taiwan Grandma was meeting with the missionaries. From what I’d seen of her, she was an aloof person who liked to do her own thing. The people I’d taught and baptized on my mission were open and curious, excited to learn more about God and faith. When I’d gone to church with her, Taiwan Grandma hadn’t seemed very interested. So why was she getting baptized? I figured she was probably doing it to make Taiwan Mom happy.

So last weekend, Taiwan family and I drove down to Kaohsiung (where Taiwan Grandma lives) to see her baptism.

Turns out, I didn’t know the real Taiwan Grandma. At the baptism, she was bubbly, huggy, and super friendly to everyone who came. Taiwan Mom said she’d always been that way. I just hadn’t seen it because of the language and cultural barriers between us.

Her baptism was very cool. She said that she chose to be baptized so that she could be with her family for forever.

I think that people who aren’t familiar with Latter-day Saints assume that missionaries are basically salespeople taught how to give a sales pitch about joining the Mormon church.

But, in reality, the only way to be an effective missionary (or be an effective ANYTHING) is to be yourself and care about other people. I think in the past missionaries were pretty wooden, but nowadays, there’s a huge emphasis on being natural, really believing what you’re teaching, and listening to what people say. (To watch a cool documentary about what it’s like to be a Mormon missionary, click here.)

The missionaries who taught Taiwan Grandma were both Taiwanese, which is super cool since she speaks more Taiwanese (a dialect widely spoken here) than Mandarin.

What a good way to start out the New Year! Taiwan Grandma got baptized and I realized that even though I’m a “world traveler,” language and cultural barriers still prevent me from seeing some really cool things. I still have so much to learn, man!

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That’s me, Taiwan Brother (he baptized her), and Taiwan Grandma.

To read the Taiwan Grandma Saga, click here:

She told me I smell weird.

Let’s be Catholics.

MONKEYS GOT HATERS TOO

Bye, Grandma

 

Sporty Gordy

“Have you ever played baseball?”

“No.”

“But you are American!”

NOW Taiwan Dad was asking the hard questions. It hadn’t been so hard for him to recruit me onto his softball team.

He’d called earlier in the week and asked, “Gordy, can you come to my softball game this Saturday?”

I replied, “Will there be food? — I mean, yes.” I think watching sports is boring, but Taiwan Dad is literally one of the coolest people, so I figured I could bring a book and yell, “Go sports!” between chapters.

It wasn’t until later that I realized he wanted me to PLAY on his softball team.

“I’m not good at all,” I warned him later that night. “I can’t play softball.”

“That’s okay, we are all old men. Nobody is good.”

But I didn’t know how to explain to him how bad I am at sports (ALL SPORTS). Maybe I should have explained that a newborn deer learning to walk has better coordination than me. Or that a seal working for fish is more capable of catching a ball than me. Or that in a game of one-on-one between me and a double amputee, I would lose.

This is ACTUAL FOOTAGE of me playing sports:

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But the problem is that most everyone says they’re “not very good” at sports, so when people like me say they’re not good at all, everyone figures, “They’re average.”

I didn’t want to be a bad host son, though, so I kept my promise to go to Taiwan Dad’s softball game. I’d had really patient roommates in college who convinced me to play basketball with them on a regular basis. Even though I never really improved (the only things I was good at were blocking and pantsing people), I’d learned to be a good sport about being bad at sports. I just felt bad for Taiwan Dad and his team, sure that they thought of me as their ace in the hole, the American import for their softball team.

I quickly dispelled that fantasy. After failing to catch the first 20 throws during our warm-up, Taiwan Dad looked like he finally believed me when I claimed to not be good at softball. I was surrounded by men older than me who’d been playing baseball all their lives (baseball is the #1 sport in Taiwan) and here I was learning to catch a ball.

I didn’t want to be bad; I wanted to surprise myself and be good. But I don’t think it’s in me; my dad was an artillery officer in the Marine Corps, so I think dodging things falling from the sky is in my blood.

I hoped after our warm-up that I’d be dismissed and could enjoy the game from the cheering section (as I originally intended), but they were short on players, so they kept me in. Luckily, I’d done my job well enough that they put me in far-right field. They said that area of the field got the least amount of action and they were correct.

Unfortunately, softball isn’t just standing out in a field by yourself. Occasionally, everyone on the team has to take a turn at bat. I, of course, missed every pitch EXCEPT one. When I hit it, I ran as fast as I could from base to base and managed to get my team a point (or score/goaling/inning/whatever). I thought that might be my turning point in the game. Now I would hit every other ball and maybe catch one in outfield!

But I didn’t. I never hit another ball.

The team was very nice, though, and not just fake nice, either. Guys can get real upset about sports, but these guys kept high-fiving me, took pictures with me, and even asked me how to say certain baseball terms in English (of course, the only baseball terms I know are base and ball). Some even told me they respected me for having a good attitude even though I sucked so bad. It’s just another testament to the niceness of Taiwanese people.

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In the end, my team lost, which I think was my fault (apparently, actually hitting the ball and scoring points is important), but I felt good about myself afterward. I’d tried something I’d never done before and even though I sucked balls (appropriate in this situation, right?), people still liked me. And I got a good blog post out of it.

Taipei Museum of Drinking Water

Drinkable water is the only type of water that people should drink. However, most of us take for granted that the water we drink didn’t start that way. That’s why the museum of drinking water. People have been drinking water for forever. Why not a museum?

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This building is Naboo-worthy.

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And wedding-worthy.

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And cosplay-worthy (or is this another wedding)?

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“I’m so glad you came to my wedding at the Taipei Museum of Drinking Water.”

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Very important levers.

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I got to be Mr. Manager!

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Finding my place in the world of drinking water.

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BAAA!!” McKay found his!

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You better believe we took all the FREE drinking water we could!

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BELIEVE.

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If you call someone with good legs “leggy,” does that mean I’m “butty”?

Taipei Museum of Drinking Water 10/10 would recommend.

Looks like crap

POOP IS FUNNY. POOP-THEMED RESTAURANTS ARE VERY VERY FUNNY.

Note: To fully enjoy this post, you need to know that squatter toilets are common in Asia and what they look like.

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Voila. (But never ever this clean.)

Just like any good joke, poop jokes have to be surprising, out-of-place, and so wrong they seem right. And that’s why having a restaurant where all the food looks like poop is funny.

Modern Toilet is located in Ximen, one of Taipei’s biggest shopping districts. If you have trouble finding it, just look for the giant toilet outside.

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Modern Toilet’s idea is simple: put normal food in bowls and dishes that look like toilets. The rest is magic.

Enjoy delicious golden curry while being reminded that poop isn’t always brown.

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Enjoy some refreshing shaved ice while reminiscing about the last time you filled a toilet to maximum capacity.

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Have some chocolate soft serve while embracing what you’ve always thought about it.

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Not only does the food look like crap, but everything in the restaurant reminds you of the special time you spend on your cell phone.

The walls.

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The lights.

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The seats.

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Even the bathroom (aka the “VIP Lounge”).

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This is a fancy potty that squirts water on your bum-bum.

Modern Toilet serves hot pot, curry, pasta, and ice cream. All meals include a dessert (poop soft serve) and beverage. The prices run from 350 NT (hot pot) to 120 NT (big ice cream) and all the dishes are big enough to split between two people. You have to spend at least 90 NT per person when you eat here (it’s a very popular joint).

If you like poop, you’ll like this restaurant.

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I like poop.

How boring is your life?

I am a BOMB teacher and all my students love/adore/want to be me. Even so, what I really live for is the weekend.

The thing is, living in the city is a drain: it’s loud, smelly, crowded, and full of concrete. I have to get out into ~nature~ once a week to rejuvenate.

Taiwan still has a lot of undeveloped land. Even though this small island is home to millions of people, the mountains and eastern coast have remained undeveloped, probably because of the steady tide of typhoons that roll in every year.

So even though the city’s loud, crowded, and smelly, I can easily escape once a week. I just hop on a bus for an hour or two and I’m free.

A waterfall or two this weekend? Sure.

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Waterfall on the hike from Houtong to Shangdiaoling.

A small mountain town next? Cool.

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Alishan

A breezy coastline? Easy.

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Longdong

Hot springs after that? *Cake.*

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Wulai

So there’s that. I probably could have and should have done something similar while I was living in the States. I mean, it’s not a small island, so there’s A LOT more ~nature~ to explore.

If you want to try having an adventure every weekend, try this app/website: TripAdvisor.com. It makes finding new places in your current location easy. Find your next adventure! Or confirm how truly boring your hometown is:

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MONKEYS GOT HATERS TOO

I went into a jungle the next day. By Kaohsiung is a small mountain called Shoushan and it’s a designated national park. I had been there and explored a bit the day before when Taiwan Grandma dropped me off, but I saved the heavy hiking for the next day.

I was very excited to go because there were supposed to be monkeys all up over the place. I’d only ever seen monkeys through glass or in a cage before, so I was excited to see some real ones in real nature. I mean, that’s why people come to Asia, right?

The day before the big hike, I’d looked up how to get there (without Taiwan Grandma scooting me there) and read some reviews of the park. All the reviews said the scenery was amazing, but a lot warned about the monkeys.

I knew monkeys could be a bit crazy (I’ve seen Jumanji), but these reviews said that a single monkey would appear and look all cute, then there would be millions of others surrounding you, their emotionless monkey faces staring you down as they closed in to steal whatever they could from your hands and backpack. I imagined their little monkey fingers touching me and pulling at me and bossing me around like the kindergartners I teach, which made me nervous about going into the jungle alone.

The next morning, I found my way to Shoushan and walked into the jungle. It was 100% covered in trees, the clouds and leaves blocking light from coming in. It was a legit jungle!

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There were a lot of people on the main path, but I took a side trail into what looked like a denser part of the jungle. It was only a couple minutes before I heard rustling in the branches above me and could see monkeys. They were just hanging out in the treetops, chillaxing as branches bobbed up and down in the wind. They didn’t pay much attention to me, but I was still nervous. What if one of them TOUCHED ME ? So I just stood there until a group of Asians walked by, the monkeys not paying attention to them either.

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After the Asians passed through, I decided it was safe for me to go on. A couple monkeys came out of the bushes, crossing my path as I walked. I watched as they crawled over the path, coming close but not too close. They seemed a little afraid, but not as much as squirrels or birds. More like ducks, I guess.

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I made it to the top of the mountain without being touched/jumped on/raped by the monkeys. There were a lot just hanging out in the trees and crawling along the side of the trail. They didn’t beg for food or anything. The pretty much ignored the people and the people ignored them.

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So I don’t know what’s up with all these people cyberbullying monkeys. I’m sure they can be cray, but I think that, generally, monkeys are good people.

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Wooden stairs in Shoushan.
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Path through some rocks.

Fancy in Taiwan

Life here in Taiwan is just like life back there in America. I have a Taiwan Mom and a Taiwan Dad and they feed me and take me places and tell me I’m the most handsome. We live in our Taiwan house, which is really a two-story apartment on the top floor of a really tall apartment building, just the three of us. We just need a Taiwan dog and Taiwan 4 cats and everything will be perfect.
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Me, Taiwan Mom, and Taiwan Dad (I’m the one in blue).
I got here Saturday and things have been going 100%  smoothie … smoothly. Taiwan Mom and Dad’s kids are all grown, so it’s just us in the apartment. “Mom” is the lady who had me and some other white kids come in July to teach English for a couple weeks. She’s hecka nice and so is her husband and they’re legit like my real parents (Taiwan Dad gave me dating advice the first day I got here).
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Taiwan church is nift. It’s all in Chinese, so I don’t understand 100% of it, but I do understand the words wo men (we) and nu-guh (um), which they say A LOT, so I’m getting there.
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An LDS hymnbook with characters and pinyin.
Today I found out what my job is. I’ll be teaching six classes of kids aged kindergarten to high school how to read, write, listen to, and speak English. The teachers have given me my textbooks and lesson plans, but they’re basically like, “You’re gonna mess up a lot, so just send the kids to us when they annoy you.”
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They’re going to learn the best, most useful English from me.

So I’m nervous butt excited to start my new life. It’s raining a lot, I’m exploring a lot, and I think my hair looks great. Things are A++++.

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The rooftop of an abandoned building I found on my morning run. Did *not* get locked up here.

Picture vomit: Taiwan

These are some pics I took of some places I went during my last week in Taiwan. 😉
Sun Moon Lake Wen Wu Temple
After being in the big city for two weeks, it was nice to bust out and get into nature. We (my fellow white American teachers and I) were able to visit rural areas, including this temple on a secluded lake in the foothills of Taiwan. The grounds are pritt, the temple is made from granite and jade with super cool carvings, and there’s a stairway with 365 steps leading down to the lake (one step for every day of the year). You gotta check it out.
View of the lake from the temple.

Steps leading down to Sun Moon Lake.
Took the liberty of taking a shot with my birthday stair.
Alishan
The word “shan” in Mandarin Chinese means “mountain,” so Alishan just means Ali Mountain. This mountain is part of the mountain range that creates the spine of Taiwan. It’s a real popular place for peeps to come and watch the sunrise. Just be sure to bring a jacket or sweater so you’re warm enough. Also, bring running shoes so you can appreciate the scenery on a jaunty little morning run.
View from up top.
The forest.
The beach!
I got my fingers in this pic for artistic purposes.
Honestly, I don’t love Ocean (because sharks and fish), but when it’s hot and humid outside and you haven’t been swimming in three weeks, it feels pretty good to put on some jaunty European swim trunks and dip in water for a bit. We took our tour bus down to Kenting, which is a party destination on the southern coast of Taiwan. We swam in the evening and partied all night. It was trick.
#jaunty
#nightlife
Crowds block traffic because #nightlife.
So these were my some neat places places in Taiwan. I appreciated them.