Me at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

After being in Taipei for ten days, I somehow feel like I’ve seen the whole city… I’m positive that’s not true but I’ve certainly seen a lot: Longshan Temple, Taipeo 101, Nanmen Market, a flower and jade market, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, a celebration for the Chinese Valentine’s Day, a celebration for the Chinese Halloween (yes, in the same week,) the famous Shinlin Night Market, Karaoke (!) and the National Palace Museum, which holds most of the world’s Chinese art, saved or stolen depending on your place in the world.

It’s really been a whirlwind of experiences so far—being both busy and a little jet-lagged, it’s all blended together a bit.  My favorite experience so far is a hike some of us took yesterday.  天上山(The Heavenly Mountain) provided a view and adventure that I thought only existed in guidebooks.  We were mostly hoping to get in a little exercise and maybe a few good pictures before our first day of classes (tomorrow!)    The almost 5 hour round trip hike took us through a Buddhist temple set in the side of the mountain.  There, we were offered water to drink, blessed by a Buddha, said to bring us good luck.  As we continued on up the Mountain both official plaques and slabs of stone had Chinese carved into them.  I remember two rocks carved with the translations of “Change Mountain” and “Blessed Rock.”  We are lucky to have “ambassadors” (Taiwanese students who will work with us on the language, but have also joined us in our orientation adventures.)  They often are able to help with translations, or the simple necessity of understanding directions well.  The end of the hike came just as the sun was setting on Taipei.

Traveling to the “must go” sites in Taiwan has been a great way to orient me to the city, get used to the public transportation (which is incredibly clean,) and get to know the other students on my program.  But on the last day activities I am itching for Chinese classes to start.  I am looking forward to both to a routine, and to start being seriously challenged with this language.