Pics from the East Coast

As my wise friend Aaron messaged me the other day, the easy part is putting the blog up - the hard part is writing stories. I’d add that the story-writing part is especially tough without an internet connection, which I’ve been lacking for the past couple weeks, and is ultra super-tough when Blogger decides not to let me publish new entries for a few days. But I think we’re good to go again.

I thought I’d start by adding some photos. When we first arrived in Taiwan, we did a quick trip down the east coast, stopping first in Hualien to visit Taroko Gorge and then in Taidong where we visited a nature park near Chihpen Hot Springs. Check out some pictures of each in my gallery.

Off to Thailand tomorrow! Assuming technology doesn’t mess with us, we’ll be writing regularly, so check back soon.

Chinese Lessons and Modelling

So 5 months have gone by since we left Vancouver, and Jon and I are feeling a lot more at home here in Taipei. Sometimes I stop myself and think, “Wow, I really am here, living life in Asia”. It amazes me how I’ve gotten used to things that were so weird for me when I first got here, like hearing garbage trucks playing “Fur Elise” and seeing people chewing on betel nuts, which is like chewing on tobacco, except that your mouth and teeth turn all red and you are spitting constantly. At the same time, there are still some things that will always make me laugh, like how people here walk around with umbrellas over their heads on a beautiful sunny day.

Jon and I have been taking Chinese lessons for about 3 weeks now, which is really fun! We have class from Monday to Friday for an hour each day in the morning. Our class focuses on speaking, and we’ve spent the greater part of these last 3 weeks working on pronunciation. Mandarin is definitely the most challenging language I have tried to learn to speak. You may think you know how to say something, but when it comes time to use it on someone here, it is often the case you will get a “Huh?” kind of response from the person you’re saying it to. Mandarin is a “tonal” language, meaning there is a specific tone of voice (there are 5 different tones) assigned to each syllable you speak. If you get the tones wrong, instead of saying something like, “Hi, how are you?” you might end up saying, “Look out! There’s a tiger wearing a pink helmet coming to eat you!” Anyway, the Chinese lessons are definitely helping us communicate a lot better here, which is great. It makes you feel a lot less detached from the community here.

Along with teaching English, I’ve been trying to get into the TV commercial and modelling scene here a bit. So far I’ve been a background actor in two commercials, one for Toyota, and another for China Airlines. I’ve also done some modelling for a Taiwanese photography website, where new photographers get together and take pictures of amateur models, then later they post their pictures on the web to get feedback from each other. It’s a good start for me to learn how to pose, because really I have no idea what I’m doing! The first photo shoot was really funny. Here I had no idea what it was going to be like because I wasn’t told very much given the language barrier between me and my agent, and I walk into the studio, and there are 8 photographers with top of the line cameras all ready to take pictures of me at once! I couldn’t stop laughing for the first 10 minutes, thinking how everyone back home would react if they could see me! Here you can see one of the pictures that ended up turning out pretty well.

In traveling to Taiwan, I think that Jon and I find ourselves in a unique situation. Being here has allowed us to make good money and still have extra time to try new things in a new culture and also to pursue our creative interests. Personally I have noticed a healthy change in myself, now that I have had the opportunity to step away from my life back in Vancouver. You realize some things when you are able to look at your own culture and home from the outside. I’ve found that certain pressures have been lifted and I’ve been able to listen to myself a lot more. It really is a freeing feeling, and I hope that when I do come back home I will be able to remember it and keep it with me. I’ve always known that traveling does good things for a person, but you don’t really know what that means until you do get up and leave for a good while. So if you’re reading this and thinking about traveling, stop pondering and just go!

I think that’s all for now, write to you all soon…