Lots of stuff to talk about, 好久不見啊. . .I know I should have written a lot sooner (host family updates, PDO, etc.) but it felt so surreal to be actually leaving so I kinda avoided it for a while. If you guys know me at all, I’m definitely an over-thinker, and five months is way too long to be thinking about going away for nine months. Anyway, while I was (and still am!) very excited to be in Taiwan finally, I’ll admit to being pretty down my last week in the states because of all the goodbyes and thinking about things and people that I’ll be missing. But of course, 好夢難成, and I know I’ll be experiencing all sorts of my own adventures alongside a ton of new friends.
First, host family info was released about two weeks ago– I have a mom and a dad with three younger sisters aged two, eight, and eleven. While I was anticipating a host sibling around my age, it will definitely be fun and exciting to have younger kids in my host family. Kids are pretty approachable and fun, and they use simple, easy-to-understand vocabulary while will be Great for me. Furthermore, all my childhood Saturdays spent learning Chinese nursery rhymes will finally be useful! I exchanged a couple emails with my host mom, and they all seem very kind and enthusiastic, which is always the basis for a positive host family experience. The girls are very into art, so I brought along materials for art projects as a type of host-family gift and ice-breaking activity.
Second, PDO (Pre-Departure Orientation) in New York was Monday through Wednesday of this week. NYC is a big city, obviously, but actually being there I was amazed by how foreign and unreal it felt. Flying in over the Hudson (besides being reminded of that one scene in Secret Lives of Pets) the scale of the city was tremendous, on par with Beijing or Shanghai despite the much smaller population. Walking around the city I was no less impressed by the huge sidewalks and gargantuan skyscrapers.
PDO itself was held at iEarn headquarters and was pretty nondescript: basic but necessary. We went over goals of the program, program rules, and health and safety tips- nothing too revolutionary. The best part of PDO, by far, was meeting the other NSLI-Y Taiwan students. Most of us had been in touch for quite a while via social media group chats, but I was still really impressed by how seamlessly our rapport translated into comfortable in-person interactions. Everyone in my group is super cool, nice, dedicated to the Chinese language and culture, and very enthusiastic to learn. We have a great group atmosphere, and despite only really getting to meet and know each other for a couple of days, we’ve already had a variety of adventures together: competitive games of Egyptian Rat Screw and Cards Against Humanity, visiting a Hungarian pastry shop,walks in Central Park while its raining, a Fro-Yo excursion, and even a facial mask party.
Of course, our biggest adventure to date has been coming to Taiwan, which took 27.5 hours door to door from our New York hotel to our Taiwanese one. New York to Tokyo was 14 hours which felt like forever, though I was lucky to be the only one in the group to have a window seat. (I may or may not have sweet-talked the check-in person to trade me the seat. . .). As per usual, I was only able to sleep on the plane for about thirty minutes total, and so a lot of my time was spent listening to music and staring out the window. I also spent 4.5 hours playing plane Tetris (which payed off on the Tokyo-Kaohsiung flight when I got the eighth best high score in the airline 🙂 ).
We had a 3.5 hour layover in Tokyo, so us Taiwan kids decided to go out exploring in search of stationary shops. Didn’t find one, but we did visit a Japanese activity center to make our own wood block prints. Afterwards we went out for much-anticipated ramen.
At 5:15 it was time to say goodbye to the Korean kids and the board our flight for Kaohsiung. I honestly fell asleep before we took off, woke up and got a high score on Tetris, and then went back to sleep until we were taxiing on the runway.
Upon arrival we quickly met some of our support staff in Kaohsiung and checked into our hotel by 9:30 where I promptly crashed.