Keeping Busy

I have developed such a fear of writing something disorganized and inarticulate that every time I sit down to write out a blog post, I find myself faltering and becoming quite unable to put any thoughts down at all. Most frustrating.

We are closing in on Spring here although thankfully the weather remains as chilly and wet as ever. While it has warmed a bit and I no longer need to wear eleven layers inside the house, I am keenly aware that one day I will wake up and BAM- HEAT. I do not look forward to this day. If you know anything about me, you will probably know that among all four seasons, I like Summer the least. I’ll get into this in another post in which I discuss the future and how I only have four months left! But for now I’m still sitting in bed wearing my jacket, as I would be if I were in the States, as I hear you all are being dumped upon with yet more ice and snow. Would you groan if I told you I were jealous?

The best thing about this spring semester is that I’m much more busy. Here’s what I’ve currently got going on:

1. Weekly English on Tuesdays-this continues from last semester. Basically I present three English sentences at the Tuesday assembly

2. English Club- I finally was asked by my school to do a friday afternoon English club. I had asked a few times to do something of the sort, but was always told there was no time. This is even better, because it’s paid because it’s outside of work hours. Next post will be on the first session, which was last week!

3. English Easy Go Preparations- EEG (not to be confused with the Brain one) I am coaching the Song aspect (that has a dance to go with it) and the Reader’s Theatre, the script for which I adapted from Jan Brett’s ‘The Mitten’ story, a family favorite. The song/dance bit is to ‘The Lazy Song’ and ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ which are both, I kid you not, my least favorite songs. Go figure, right? For RT, the kids do not seem to give a flying fish about cracking down to business, which worries me, because KX (our school) has apparently done quite well in past years.

4. Contest Judging- I judged two speech/recitation contests in December, and since then have been judging anything English related at my school. While I have fun doing this, it’s mostly to see the kids take something in earnest. I throughly dislike ranking students and find this immensely difficult.

5. Yilan Project- Well you know what? I would explain this to you all if I had any idea what we were exactly doing. None of us ETAs really do. We are supposed to create something which is (from what I can gather) basically a tourist thing promoting Yilan in the form of connecting it to the US. Not blatantly touristy, but basically I think you could sort of say that, as we are covering food, family, environment, etc. We are responsible for the content, and Fulbright will hire professional people to put together pamphlets and exhibition books. Should be interesting.

6. Tutoring- I tutor one of my 6th grade students for an hour every week. His Mom said that towards finals she’d want to make it every day if he could deal with it. I balked a little. Not sure what to make of this.

7. Reach the World-First semester I was blogging for Reach the World, an organization that connects world travelers with inner city classrooms, particularly in NYC. I wrote all my posts in the fall only to be informed in December that the entire semester they had been unable to match me with a school.  This semester I have supposedly been matched and they are using my content from last semester which is great because I’m a bit busy and haven’t been doing anything THAT exciting and new.

8. Weekly Reports- We have biweekly reports due to Fulbright in which we talk about classroom life and cultural exploration. These typically don’t take extraordinary amounts of time, but they merit mention.

9. Storytelling at the Library- This began with my volunteering to take over for a fellow ETA and morphed into my being asked to do it again. I just went for the second time yesterday, reading, ‘Mama, Do You Love Me?’ do a bunch of bouncy Taiwanese children. I taught them a modified version of Mother May I? and drew some feelings on the board. Then we drew pictures. I had a blast.

So that’s my life right now.

Guess what?

96 days left!

Love, Hannah


Fortunes and Temples

My room mate, Danielle has a very active host family. They are always inviting her here and there, and sometimes she invites me. I described our last outing with the matching sisters, well this outing found me in the tiny Nissan again, wedged this time on the side of the brother and sister, answering another onslaught of questions.

We were on our way to see a ‘psychic’ although by their use of the word, Danielle and I had no idea what to expect. We only knew where we were going, south to Nanao, but nothing much other than that we were going to see a ‘psychic.’ Riding along, I looked straight in front of me as we began the drive through the mountains, trying not to be sick,

‘If you do not feel well, you can just sleep’ the matching aunts told me, so sleep I did. By sleeping I also avoided two hours of questioning inside the tiny car.

We arrived and piled out of the car. I breathed the fresh mountain air deeply into my lungs, steading my slightly car sick head, and stretching my legs which had been cramped in the same position for a while. Adding to our confusion, there seemed to be a ritual going on; all numbers of crashing and banging drums and firecrackers. We took the steps up into the temple and found it to look much like a usual temple. This one was dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of the sea:

Mazu (traditional Chinese: 媽祖; simplified Chinese: 妈祖; pinyinMāzǔ), also spelt Matsu and Ma-tsu, is the Chinesegoddess of the sea who is said to protect fishermen and sailors. The worship of Mazu began in the Song Dynasty. Mazu is widely worshiped in the southeastern coastal regions of China, especially in ZhejiangFujianGuangdong and Hainan. She is also an important deity in Taiwan. Mazu is also worshiped in East and Southeast Asia.

Her birthplace was Meizhou (湄州) in Putian County (莆田縣), Fujian Province.[1] She was born in the year 960.[1] Her family had the surname Lin (林).[1][2] She had the name Lin Moniang (Chinese: 林默娘). She died on 4 October 987.[1]After her death, she was remembered as a young lady in a red dress, who would forever roam over the seas.[1] (wikipedia)

Eva and incense

We walked around the interior although it wasn’t spacious, so that didn’t take us long. We each got some incense and baibai’d to the goddess. 

We looked into the corner and saw a regular looking woman sitting at a table. ‘She must be the psychic’ I whispered to Danielle, ‘but she’s not that old!’ she whispered back. 

We were just along for the ride, so when Roger, the host Dad suggested we take a picture with her, we went with it.

Smile before you get told something awful!

I wouldn’t help but wonder and hope if she didn’t find us terrible and touristy.

This is one of the aunts, just picture another one exactly looking like this and you’ll know what the other one looks like.

The insides of the temple were interesting. I found this next picture to be an architectural style that resembled that of the honeycomb arches in the Alhambra I studied in my Islamic Art and Architecture class.

Matsu Temple


There were other similarities as well, including stories on the walls.

Not sure about this meaning.

and of course many offerings were there.

Someone had offered what seemed to be dried Lychee, and a little girl was eating them. Roger offered them to us, thanking Matsu first, and upon peeling it I found a delightful little jellied fruit with a pit inside. I used my teeth to eat the sticky meat, and looked around in vain for a paper towel before wiping my hands awkwardly on my socks.

Danielle and I began the fortune telling process by asking Matsu if she would even communicate with the psychic to begin with.

Asking the question

she said no at first. if they face different directions it means yes.

Finally she ‘agreed’ to both of us and we got yellow protection necklaces.

circle three times over the incense.

We cannot open these or get them wet or ruin them, otherwise it is a desecration. If we want to get rid of it, we must burn it and sweep the ashes into a corner os no one can step over or on them. I enjoyed telling Roger about the term ‘desecration’ and discussing grammar with him.

Soon it was our turn with the psychic.

many business cards

I went first, and after telling her my birthday was 11/24/1990, she changed it to 11/23/1990 because ‘4’ is an unlucky number, as the word sounds like the word for ‘death.’ (both are ‘si’ with different tones). Did you know that hospitals will not have a 4th floor because no one wants their relatives to be on the ‘death’ floor?

She wrote my numbers beneath a bunch of others.

While she thought, I had some tea.

I dislike this picture, but it illustrates what I was doing.

What she told me I have taken with a grain of salt, but it is fun to think about, much like astrology and all that stuff. Apparently the gods talked through her since she couldn’t read. 

The two aunts had been scheming to ask about a boyfriend for me since last time we were together, so that was the first question. Her answer? (obviously not in English.)

‘You will meet your boyfriend next year in America. He will be an American.’

Sounds plausible. Given that a year is a long time and I’ll also be at Columbia. I asked about a career.

‘As long as you follow your heart, everything is good’

Sounds like a cop out answer, but okay. I was almost looking forward to hearing her tell me I should actually be a doctor or something. I then asked about where I should live.

‘As long as it is a western country, everything is good.’

Can you guess what she said when I asked her about anything bad that would happen or things to be careful of?

‘Everything is good’


Danielle’s fortune was much the same. Afterwards we skirted off to a corner and talked about how general our fortunes seemed. We walked outside to talk some more.

the temple in the middle of nowhere.

The ride home was little short of unbearable. The winding mountain roads finally got to me and I ended up requesting all sorts of things I would normally have shut up about out of politeness like ‘could you please move over/pull over/open the windows/drive more slowly’ We sat at the side of the road while I had space to sit with my head between my knees and stuff Danielle’s peanuts into my mouth in hopes to quell the rolls of nausea and spinning vision.

I thought the car ride would never end and I had to go lie down the moment I got home. I don’t even remember saying goodbye to my ‘host’ family, as I just sort of exited the car with my head tipped to the side and slid into the house and into bed. I felt sick for the next two days. Well, now I know why people go to Nan Ao by train.

And to think I brought a book to read in the car.

Love, Hannah

Taipei Thanksgiving: Part Two

Welcome back to my Thanksgiving series, which will be in three parts, the third of which hasn’t happened yet so I can’t tell you whether it will happen at all. As you know, we work on holidays here, so Thanksgiving might just be another boring day at work. 

I woke up, popped down to breakfast the second it opened (perks of being an early riser!) and finished all before my room mate (and I imagine everyone in the hotel but the other five people at breakfast) were even out of bed. The air conditioning in our room was broken so that it kept blowing freezing air all night no matter how much I tried to turn it up, so I’d slept fitfully in my coat and was eager for a nice cup of warm tea.

After my room mate, Taylor, had showered and breakfasted, Mary Kate came over and we chatted for a few hours about life. I haven’t had this experience so it was really nice just to bond with some friends. We lost track of time even, and had to scoop our belongings into bags to check out in time! Off we set for the Longshan temple, after checking our bags at the hotel.

Longshan Temple, first stop. 

We got off of the MRT and somehow ended up being led by a woman towards the temple. I wasn’t sure where she was leading us, but she didn’t seem to want to let us go. Chattering on and on, she turned around, grabbed our arms, eager to steer us in the right direction although we did know where we were headed.

This waterfall is supposed to purify your heart.

Making faces, as ever.

Mary Kate, my lovely friend.

typical Taylor pose-ugh stretched again.

Inside the temple were many people milling around, each with their individual agenda. There were huge tables piled with offerings of fruits, incense, and cakes.

The detailing on the temple was ornate and beautiful.

Beautiful as the temple was, I failed to get the etherial feeling I get when I enter a Church or Cathedral.

Still, with so many people around me devoutly ‘baibai’-ing (as they call the devotions with incense) I felt something had to be around me, it couldn’t just be all the incense. 

Can you spot Mary Kate? We couldn’t either!

typical Hannah contrast picture

I wandered around, taking pictures. Somehow got separated from the other two girls, but not feeling lost.

Finding them again, Mary Kate had bought some incense for NT 10 and handed us each three sticks. Taylor and I proceeded to stand with ours for a very.long.time.

After the temple, we moved to lunch. We walked past this strange TV area in the MRT underground walkway. Many old people watching TV and eating lunch. The TVs weren’t even playing the same programme!

Walking down the street, we ran into Samantha and Allison, who we were going to meet for lunch at Macho Taco, somewhere they’d been wanting to eat forever. Although I’d pledged not to eat a) with a fork or b) anything eatable not Chinese this year, I relented for social graces.

It actually ended up being delicious.

We all had a super wonderful time. Stretched?

A tiny hole in the wall place.

Allison and Mary Kate.

burrito bowl with black beans (to die for), guar, sour cream, pico, salsa, tomatoes, pickled veggies, and cabbage.

I usually dislike guacamole and detest sour cream, but I’d forgotten to ask for it without it and just rolled with the punches. Surprisingly, they added a delicious dimension to the meal.

Clearly I disliked it 🙂


We moved from being utterly stuffed to walk to the Huashan Culture Park. I had looked this up online, decided it was a bit odd looking, but followed along with the pack. I was so glad I did, because it ended up being amazing and reminiscent of home.

Inside one of the buildings were many little stations showcasing Chinese arts and crafts. I had my name drawn by a guy who wasn’t very good at it. I’d been hoping to get the other lady, but my paper was passed to him first. Oh well.


artsy sushi. I wouldn’t eat this. Notwithstanding that I also dislike rice.

mini rock statues?

We are National Geographic’s best and newest cover.

We heard there was a building in which they sold spiked cider and my friends wanted some, so off we headed to try to find it. 

Eventually we came upon this lovely vintage inspired fair type thing. They did indeed have cider and my friends left happy. I was filled up by the fact that it felt like a Waldorf Christmas fair. 

Samantha sneakily captured my face at discovering hand dipper candles.

A little bit of a farmer’s market thing made me miss London. It’s everywhere I’d rather be. 

shoemaker boy

Here’s where it really began to remind me of the holiday fair at Waldorf school.

A fuzzy friend

While I was meandering around taking pictures and drinking in the cosy, holiday cheer, my friends were waiting for the home made spiced spiked cider.

The man made each individual cup by hand adding the brandy, apple juice, slivers of apple, cinnamon sticks, and sugar together in a pot, then boiling it unitl piping hot and steaming of fragrance.

He had a little bowl for everything, just like Martha Stewart.

99 bottles of brandy on the wall…

I marveled at the atmosphere. and my beautiful friends.

All in all, a wonderful weekend that made me miss home more than ever.

Love, Hannah

Thanksgiving in Taipei-Day One

Maybe you knew, but this is my third Thanksgiving out of country.

Thanksgiving in Scotland, 2008

The first time was with my cousin, Katie, while she was studying abroad in Scotland. I was given tickets for my 18th birthday and what a time we had! It was proper cold.

Proper. Cold.

I ate vegetarian haggis that year. Made of Lentils, it was actually delicious.

You can tell I like it.

The second time was in London, and it was actually my birthday!

Can you guess which one is mine?

Somehow I don’t think I’ll be doing anything like either of these events this year. I’m not sure I could quite make up dishes like those I”m used to at home. It’s not that I can’t find marshmallows or brown sugar. Yes, they have both, but we don’t eat those for Thanksgiving. One thing that always makes me laugh is that outsiders think we all eat the same things for Thanksgiving. No, I’m missing steamed brussels sprouts, green beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, squash, and fresh cranberry sauce, etc. I’m not able to find most of those things here, sadly. Next year, there’s always next year.

Even though I am not going to be fully celebrating this year, due to my determination to keep holidays nonexistent so I can pretend they don’t exist until next year, we were invited to Taipei last weekend for a Thanksgiving banquet of sorts.

Bad quality of picture, apologies.

We piled into a banquet room at the Far Eastern hotel which had carpeting that I felt I ought not to walk on with my shoes that had seen the day tromping all over Taipei’s dirty streets. I scoped out the two sides of the room where the food waited, glad I could skip one side entirely as it was just meat!

the side dish side.

I didn’t take any pictures of the food because if I’m honest it wasn’t very vegetarian friendly and also didn’t say ‘thanksgiving’ to me. Most of the things I’d liked to have eaten contained bacon! (Where they got bacon I’ll never know)  I really did not take many pictures of the event either, but luckily my friend Aria took some lovely ones as usual. I’m not a big fan of photographs of people, but she is, so I always trust her to capture moments.

Me, Seth, some guy, Christie, top row more people whose names I forget.

I wish this picture weren’t squashed, but I”m still figuring out how to reformat it. If you know, please tell me! Seth is from Kaosiung and we only get to see each other at these events, but he’s a lot of fun! Christie is from Yilan and we’re good friends in fact, she might room with me if she gets into graduate school in NYC!

Everyone. Front row: me, Kim, Mary Kate, Danielle, Samantha, Allison top row: Adam, Michael, Reilly, Taylor, Kelly (our coordinator), Christie, Sarah, Rebekah, Aria, Will

Again with the stretching, but I quite like the original version of this photo. Note the shoes I am wearing. Can you see why I felt at odds with the carpet?


Let’s backtrack a bit. Earlier that day we had been toured around Old Tamsui and the pier and a castle thing, which seemed to be a very quick tour indeed. The weather couldn’t have been better. I noticed that the Yilaners all had brought umbrellas, rain jackets and layers, while the other three counties were significantly less dressed in outerwear. This just goes to show you the weather differences between our counties. I, myself, was wearing at least 5 layers and was toasty warm with a pashmina scarf nestled under my chin.

Visiting a castle.

View from the castle, which was on a hill

Apparently this castle had been used way back when for British prisoners, and also had stood as a consulate at one point (and perhaps still does?)


After the short jaunt through the castle, we boarded the bus again and made off to the Old Tamsui pier.

beautiful shoreline. Could be London if I pretend.

Guess the year in which this was taken?

We stuck out, I’d imagine, in more ways than one.

Flag us down.

Away down the pier

It was all rather lovely, and I stuck with Seth as we walked, eventually just meandering through the streets to see what we could find. We only had about 20 minutes by the time we’d all finished taking group photographs. There was even a couple getting their wedding photos doe who wanted us all in the background!

Kim and I

(I hate how it stretches!! Computer savvy folks, help me out!)

Taylor and I

being silly

the group

I found a store with all sorts of Owly things inside. Of course, I had to take a picture.

and also in front of the Hello Kitty sign. The shop lady came out and said, ‘Welcome to Hello Kitty World’ in her best English. I smiled and took a photo.

Ice cream which looks amazing but I’ve heard is tasteless.

three old guys.

The Taiwanese seem to love their arcades!


I wonder where they get all the squid!

Then it was the dinner. Do you all follow my reverse chronology here?

Stay tuned for part two of the Thanksgiving tales, which is much better.

Love, Hannah

First Impressions

It has been a long two first days.There is so much to say, I hope you don’t mind word heavy posts.  I can’t even believe that I’m sitting here writing this post, because at 6pm I was laying prostrate on my bed fast asleep as can be. I have no idea what came over me, but lately I’ve been so tired. I leave the house mornings at 6:45 am and get back around 5pm, so those are long hours, so that could be part of it.

The bus. After waking up, showering, getting dressed, and stuffing breakfast into my mouth, I set off for the bus stop. The bus is a little shuttle bus, not the kind you’d think of as a city bus, but then again, Yilan City is kind of a small city. This particular morning I felt a bit ill for some reason. The route of the bus goes over the train tracks, to the transfer station/bus station, and every time it is a recreation of every roller coaster I’ve ever been on. My stomach flops as the driver careens over the tracks at a speed that shouldn’t be allowed near any sort of alternative transportation. Lately I’ve taken to bracing myself as best I can, although I’m fairly sure I always end up making some sort of unseemly face. Sorry fellow riders.

When I got to school, the principal was standing at the entrance, greeting everyone. He said “Good Morning’ to me, as I passed him on my way to the teacher’s office. A bit later, before he got busy, I gave him the gift I’d brought from the states with me; a shirt from Burnt Hills, my hometown school, that said ‘Burnt Hills Ballston Lake Spartans’ on it. I had to explain with the help of my LET, but I think he liked it? Of course, I’ll never see him wearing it, because it is too casual for him to wear to work (but the other teachers were casual things…) but I hope it fits. He told my LET to translate that he felt bad that he had no gift for me. I countered by telling him that I only had wanted to bring a little of my school to his school, no need for a gift. I hope he understood.

Speaking of gifts, I’ll be having my own Earthquake Banana hat. I’m more than excited, although I hope I never actually have to use it, as we are on the 3rd floor. Is that safer or not as safe, I’m unsure. When I actually get it, I’ll be sure to take a picture.

LET Ellen has given me a set of textbooks, one each for grades 1-6, which I will be coteaching with her. The teacher’s book is in Chinese, but I kind of like being left to imagine up lesson plans for myself. Because Ellen is so busy, I sat for most of the morning making up lessons myself; pages and pages of handwritten notes off the top of my head to expand on everthing from ABC to the weather. The books are quite skinny, and take a semester, so we only cover about one or two pages a day! More on this in future posts, because there is a lot to say already, and will certainly be more as I actually start using the lessons I create. Having minimal experience in planning, I’m interested to see how this goes.

I’m fortunate enough to have a nice desk of my own in the teacher’s office. My LET provided me with a toothbrush as well, which is something of which I approve. I’d always wished that I didn’t feel so stupid brushing my teeth at school in the states. I can walk around the faculty office and say hi to others, but most don’t speak English at all/so well, so it’s limiting. I’m supposedly going to be teaching the teachers English too, so hopefully we can create some sort of relationship that way. I’ve seen other Fulbrighters posting about their schools and the environment seems a bit more welcoming. Some teachers awkwardly say hi to me, but that might be all they can manage. I was told yesterday that my pronunciation was perfect, which was really kind. I’m trying my best, but I’m so frustrated about not really being able to speak as much as I thought I could. More in another post on that.

The computer on which I type is all/mostly in Chinese. It is also somehow unfortunately connected via wireless to the other classroom’s smart board with some extremely frustrating program that draws randomly when the other class moves their mouse. I’m thankful for access to the internet, but have been known to grumble about the mouse moving randomly.

So I shan’t bombard you. There is a lot to say, and I could honestly write about everything, but I’ll spare you every inner working of my mind. In typical Hannah fashion, I have a different journal for every purpose under the sun, which helps keep my thoughts organised in their right places. Hoping the wrong thought doesn’t spill over into the wrong place.

Love, Hannah

ps: Anything you’d like to hear about?


I was going to begin this post by showing you a few pictures of ants. Ants in the United States; the big ones and the small ones. But wait! You just think they’re small. You haven’t seen the ants here in Taiwan. The ones that crawl everywhere and get into every place you can’t reach with your smallest finger. Those and the fire ants. I’ve been fortunate not to have had a run in with one of these suckers yet, although there was one in the shower the other day. I left it alone and shampooed my hair looking at it to make sure it didn’t jump on me.

It seems to be a trend for me to write about ant infestations on my blog. Once upon a time during my sophomore year of college, it rained and all the ants came marching in to my room to get out of the rain, boom boom boom. Soon, they were in my bed, and crawling everywhere. Obviously discusted, I did whatever anyone who wanted to go to bed but couldn’t would do, slept in the hall. Significantly disgruntled, I tried everything. I plastered my windowsill with duct tape and sprinkled cinnamon on it and the bed by the spoonful.

Which leads me to today’s ants. I pretended they didn’t exist. I took the food out of my room (read: ate it) still nothing helped. Underfoot crawled little ants the size of pencil lead. At first I had no idea what they were, mites? flies? They are in the other rooms here too, and the kitchen, of course. Upon squishing one, I found that it had the three ant body parts. Welcome to Taiwan’s mini ants, I guess.

I got fed up today, however. My stone floor had become a mass grave of tiny ant bodies, littered around like flecks of dirt that stuck to my sticky feet and came to bed with me. Obviously not what I wanted, so after breakfast I painstakingly scrubbed my floor with wet paper towels to kill and clean up the ants. I bet countries wishes battle fields were that easy to clean. After this, I put all my clothes on my clothing rack and used up my 5 hangers. I’ll be needing to buy more.


Everything fits though, I know I didn’t bring too much. Thank goodness. I could even have even brought less. Mom and Dad, when you come, get ready to bring home basically all of my shorts. They aren’t really suitable for school and school is what I’ll be doing the rest of the time here.


Feeling accomplished, I also organised everything else in my room. Now that the floor was clean, the rest of the room might as well be. I always say that the state of someone’s room reflects the insides of their mind. If you’re feeling scattered, your room will also be scattered. I can hopefully keep my brain in line by keeping a tidy space.

My desk organised with books and decour and tea. Essentials.

Everything has a place. There is something satisfying about having minimal things. I didn’t bring too many of anything this time, and I don’t have a drawer of random stuff that somehow snuck its way into my suitcase.

(L-R) leftover gift bags, my shelf with electronics, food/tea, toiletries, empty suitcase with just coats in it, my rack.

Being that my room is basically unfurnished, save the desk, chair, bed, and shelf, I had to set up the rack as my closet and am using a cardboard box as a laundry bin. It does the trick nicely.

Hey, how’d my phone get in there?

Because school is starting, I bought myself a cute new planner. I’ll have more to keep track of soon enough. It’s nice because it actually starts on the first, when I need it to.

New planner.

There were so many to choose from at this cute stationary store, but I chose this one because the design was good and it had organising capabilities.

also not too overwhelming

Lastly, we’ve been invited to the Fulbright Welcome Dinner in Taipei next weekend. I think my going there weekends is going to become a habit. I do realise I have yet to write about my weekend there last weekend, but I promise I will do so!

Of course we’re invited. We ARE the party.

Here’s a preview 😉

View from their neighborhood!

The Fishbowl

Looking different. It’s not something I have very much experience in dealing with, coming from an all or mostly white town in Upstate New York. My curly hair, pale skin, brown eyes, they have always been, if not ‘normal’ at least something people have seen before. Part of the typical and wide spectrum of caucasian attributes. Take off the ‘cauc’- however, and I am most certainly not the definition of the remaining half of the word, ‘asian.’ This is, I suppose, what leads to the fishbowl that so many of us foreigners experience when abroad.

Walking down the street incites stares even in America. People are naturally curious and are therefore prone to look. The fishbowl occurs when the tame passing glance turns into a blatant stare-down or even a comment. Their eyes will follow and their head will turn. They will whisper, call out to you ‘Hey! American! Hello!’ Here in Taiwan, people on scooters will pay more attention to you than to the road, making for lots of honking and traffic confusion. (No one here follows the rules here anyway, but that’s for a different post) The babies will not return your smile, finding your face unfamiliar. Little children will certainly stare, eyes wide, with whispers of awe, or complete dumb struck expressions. They may follow you at a distance, or gingerly approach you saying, ‘Wo xihuan ni! 我喜欢你!’ (I like you!) and scamper away soon afterwards. I have heard whispers of ‘Waiguoren 外国人’ (foreigner) or ‘hello’ to a stranger who just wants to speak English with me, or shake my hand, in the case of the vegetable stand man who sold me two ball shaped red kuri squash this morning.

People will be curious about you. In my three visits to Taiwan, I have had gifts offered (or foisted, if you will), free trinkets given, people asking for my signature, autograph, photographs with me, and locks of my hair. I have been gifted with free chocolate waffles, large jade eggs, and key chains off the random backpack in the MRT. ‘You are so beautiful’ they will say, ‘oh you look so young!’ If they ask, you should mumble, ‘oh nail nail!’ an expression of modesty. It is up to you to decide whether they speak the truth.

The moment you enter a store and hear the store clerks welcome you, their umpteenth customer with their pre scripted greeting, you cannot wait for the glances of curiosity after your not being who they thought you would be. You will not have black hair (although you might) but you also will refuse the fork they give you to accompany your lunch, telling them, ‘wo bu yong, wo yao kuaizi!’ (I don’t need that, I want chopsticks). Buying things will be a mishmosh of English and Chinese, both parties eager to use the opposite language and communicate easily with others. Perhaps you will end up buying three tubes of toothpaste with a forth free instead of three for the price of one, like you’d thought.

Despite this feeling of constantly being watched, I go outside and I explore the city. Let the stares happen. I am ready to learn a culture and let them learn me. First, by exposing them to people who look a little different. I want to let people know that not all Americans look the same way, act the same way, are not all from big cities (yes, I’m from New York, no, not the city!) When it comes down to it, you may relish or hate the stares, but they will still happen. Make up an interesting story. It’s all in good fun.

Love, Hannah