Mere Fragments #1 // Lost in Taichung

i guess that it is about time that i share about some of my adventures in taiwan. hahaha.

maybe i should start with this past weekend. i think what happened this weekend will give you a good taste of what taiwanese culture is like.

originally i didn’t have any plans for this weekend. so i decided that i needed to do something, but i didn’t know what. at the time, i also didn’t have any friends to do anything with so…

it’s not that i’m afraid to travel by myself. i did somehow get myself to taiwan, didn’t i? i am going to be living here for an entire year too.

it is just that usually i have at least someone with me (even if i don’t know that “someone” very well) or at least i am traveling to a place to meet up with someone. either way, i am going somewhere and i will end up being with someone.

anyways, through a roundabout way, i met this girl on instagram who recently moved to 台中 (pinyin – táizhōng) from the u.s. taichung is not that far away from me, a mere two hours at most by public transportation. (it’s kind of funny when you get to the point that you think two hours of travel time isn’t that much.)

we made plans to meet up for lunch. so i got up, a little before 4:30am, and headed to taichung. i finally arrived at the taichung main station at 8:00am.

this is the original old taichung station. it is now right in front of the taichung main station.

i went by the nearest 7-eleven and grabbed a 飯糰 (pinyin – fàn tuán). just a side note, 7-eleven and family mart can be found anywhere and everywhere. it doesn’t matter how small the town you’re in is, you’re 99% likely to still be able to find these convenience stores.

i didn’t have any plans until lunchtime. so i started googling what to do in taichung. (it’s not because i’m a last minute planner or anything. haha.)

i had been formerly told by a friend that i should visit rainbow village when i get the chance. it was only 30 to 40 minutes away (partially by train and partially by bus). so i decided i had the time so i might as well go there.

easy peasy, right? i don’t actually have that much confidence in taking the bus, but i figured since they are numbered and since i had google maps it shouldn’t be that hard.

shouldn’t be. well, i promptly got lost when i tried to go from the train to the bus. i missed the bus station and ended up walking down a highway to another bus station that took me to back to the train station. then i found the right number bus and got on it. only to find out that it was going in the wrong direction.

i got off it as soon as i thought i could, but i still had to walk a ways back to find another bus station. the bus i got on took me back to the station for the second time that day. everyone started to get off the bus, but i stayed on for it was supposed to go to rainbow village. then the driver said something in chinese and one of the passengers asked me “where are you going?”. you do not know how happy i was to hear english. i told him and he told the driver.

i won’t tell the story behind rainbow village here, but it is definitely worth looking into if you’re interested.

i finally got there…2 hours later. what was supposed to be a 30 to 40 minute trip took 2 hours. i wandered around and a lady approached me and with gestures and a little english offered to take some photos of me. i was much appreciative, since i am honestly awful at selfies.

later i saw a family of four and what looked like the grandparents trying to take a picture selfie style. i gestured, offering to help them take their picture. well i did so and what to do you know? the wife knows a little bit of english and they had many questions for me.

anyways, i found out that the family lives in new taipei city but they were visiting their parents in taichung. i got the wife’s line (the most popular messaging app in taiwan) and she messaged me later telling me that i could stay at their house when i come to visit.

most of you reading this are probably from the u.s. and you know that that kind of hospitality is very rare. strangers just don’t offer you to come visit them and stay at their house.

but i have found it to be much more common here. wherever you go, if you spend enough time with the people, you are taken in as family. and in all honesty, it doesn’t take that much time to become a part of their family.

i was able to get back to the taichung main station in 30 minutes, much to my surprise. haha. i met up with sarah and she was kind enough to bring her battery pack to charge my phone because my phone was practically dead. (that’s what happens when you get lost and are using google maps for hours.)

we wandered around, found a place to grab lunch, bought some tea, and just chatted for a few hours.

just ignore the fact that i started to eat it before taking this picture.

after she left, i walked over to taichung park, not before grabbing a 奶油餅 (pinyin – nǎiyóu bǐng). i love those things so much.

the park was really relaxing. it was cute to see the families or grandparents with their grandkids playing together.

at one point two ladies came up to me, saying something in chinese and pointing at one of their phones. i thought they wanted me to help them take a picture, so i nodded. only to have them both get on either side of me and take a selfie with me. lol. i don’t know if they thought i was someone or if maybe they don’t see white people that often or maybe it was for some other reason entirely. either way, i’m on some stranger’s phone out there.

this is just one of the two cute bridges i found in the park!

well, i’ve gone on for long enough. i could go on further, but i think i’ll stop here for now. i hope that you’ve enjoyed a little taste of my adventures. it’s only a mere fragment in the story of my life. there will be plenty more adventures to come, i’m sure!

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

Relationship Struggles in a Foreign Country

lately, i’ve talked a lot about all these different uplifting things.

how love crosses language barriers.

how love makes all the differences.

but, as they say, life is not all sunflowers and roses.

life is not always fun or full of happiness.

last week was not a great week for me. at least, that is how the week started out. i made a lot of mistakes while teaching the kids. mistake after mistake after mistake. i forgot things. i didn’t prepare. i didn’t finish the entire lesson in the amount of time that i should have. the list goes on.

more than that though, was this feeling of isolation and loneliness. i have talked to very few people from back home since moving here. sure, i’ve sent some marco polos and texts here and there. but even those have been sparse. i think there has only been a handful of friends that i’ve actually talked to once or twice each since coming here more than a month ago. for me, that’s a very small amount.

if you don’t know me, i’m a very social person. i used to be more of an introvert, but now i tend to be more of an extrovert with introvert moments. so spending time with people is important to me, essential even. and not just spending time with people, but actually talking and building relationships with people.

and that’s probably one of the hardest things about living here. because of the language barrier, it is so hard to communicate and build those relationships. it’s going to take a lot more effort and time to do what would be so much simpler in a place where english is the official language.

that doesn’t mean that it is impossible to do so. it isn’t. you can still build those relationships even if you can’t necessarily communicate directly with each other. there are ways to bridge that barrier. but for someone who puts so much into the communication aspect of relationships, it’s a real struggle.

and communicating through that language barrier takes effort, mentally and physically. i’m realizing that it is necessary to balance the time spent resting and time spent socializing (both with people here and people who it is easier to communicate with back home). it is necessary to have both.

finding that balance is going to take some time. last week was rough. i didn’t balance things well and i could feel it. there may not be a perfect way to balance things, but i do need to find a way that works for me. and what works for me may change from week to week.

but nothing truly worth doing is ever easy.

i don’t claim to have all the answers. honestly, i don’t claim to have any of the answers. i’m still trying to figure things out. i’m still struggling. but realizing that i’m struggling is a step in the right direction i think. you have to first realize the problem to be able to fix the problem.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

Love Makes All the Difference

another week of teaching has started. and i find myself looking forward to it. it’s exciting to see new life enter into this camp. this is an entirely new and different experience for them.

i hope that i can make them feel right at home. i have learned more and more that kids need love. they need love in order to grow and mature. each and every single person has so much potential if we only give them the encouragement and love that they need.

just think of the people in your life who have shown you love and pushed you forward. those people were important to you being the person that you are today, right? can you imagine who you would be without those people in your life? you wouldn’t be the same, would you?

so these kids. they need people who love and support them. i don’t know where they are coming from. i don’t know their stories. they will only be with me for a week, not even that, before going back to their schools. it is really such a short amount of time when you consider the entirety of their lives.

but life is made up of moments, millions of little moments. and all it takes is one moment. just think of those few moments that had such an impact on you that you still remember them vividly. that’s how life is. just because time is short, doesn’t mean that i shouldn’t put forth all the effort that i can give to make it meaningful.

“give your complete attention to these matters. throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress.”

-1 timothy 4:15

so that’s what i want to do. i want to give all the love and encouragement that i can give these kids. every moment counts. they may not remember me. they may not remember this week. will that stop me? no, because you never know whose life you are going to impact. and i most likely won’t see how it impacts them.

but that is not what is important. what’s important is that i do my best to show them all the love and support that i can. what more can i do? that’s all i can do and it is worth it. they could forget everything, but i don’t think they’ll easily forget the love that was shown to them.

love makes all the difference.

so i hope that you have people in your life that you can rely upon for encouragement and love. and i hope that you can be the kind of person who loves and supports those who need it.

no matter what your situation, you can always rely on God. he is only true constant in your life. his love and encouragement are never ending.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

Love Crosses Barriers

last week i completed my first week of teaching English.

wow.

where to even begin?

i was nervous. afraid. how do i teach kids when i don’t even know their language? will they really listen to me, some stranger from another country? i’m so new. what if i make a mistake? will i be any good at teaching? what if i’m awful at it? what if i hate this?

there were so many nerves going into last week. so many times the thought went through my head: i’m not ready; i’ll never be ready. but just when you want time to slow down and the day to never come, it seems that time only speeds up. monday came.

and with monday came my first class.

i work at a camp. so kids come in from nearby schools on monday morning and stay until friday afternoon. then the next week there’s a new group of kids. not every week do we have camp though, there are a few office weeks here and there.

class went well. it wasn’t as awkward as i thought it was going to be. most of the kids seemed to be very energetic. they looked like they were actually having some fun, even if they were shy.

and as i taught more and more classes throughout the week i found my enjoying it. i even started to look forward to my classes. outside of class, the kids started to warm up to me. during break times, we would play games or sing songs or draw together.

even though i know barely any chinese and they have very limited english, they still were willing to spend time with me. they didn’t care so much about the language barrier. somehow, those “barriers” just…didn’t exist. yes, it was still hard when they would say something and i didn’t have a clue. but that didn’t stop us from having fun.

so i found myself trying to spend every moment that i had with the kids. i knew that each moment was a blessing. time is short, especially here at camp. i wanted to hold tight to every single moment with these precious kids and make it last forever.

but i don’t get forever. nothing is guaranteed.

friday arrived. and i was giving the closing speech, i just started crying. i couldn’t even speak for a minute. even if i wasn’t an emotional person (which i am), seeing so many of the kids crying just took me over the top. i couldn’t take it. i was able to finish my speech, through many tears, but it hurt. it hurt to see them leave.

i miss their smiles. i miss their laughter. i miss hearing “hello teacher gabi!” when i walk by. i miss getting those “high fives.” i miss all the hugs. a few even told me “i love you”. just writing this makes me want to cry all over again.

my point is, you don’t have know the language to be able to love. love requires action. if you show that love, people will know, whether or not they speak the same language. i think those kids know that i love them. and i know that they love me.

maybe if we spend a little more time showing our love, the world might change a bit for the better.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

On to a New Adventure

it is finally happening.

i’m setting out onto a new adventure! something totally different from anything i’ve ever done before.

where am i going?

taiwan.

what will i be doing?

volunteering by helping kids learn english.

how long will i be there?

a little over eleven months.

it’s hard to believe, isn’t it? even for me it is hard to believe.

if you know anything about me, you know that i love to travel. you might have even seen my post about that. this time will be different though. this won’t be like the missions trip i went on or all the vacations i’ve taken to foreign countries. this time, i’ll be permanently living there.

the idea of living in a foreign country over nine thousand miles away thrills and terrifies me at the same time.


well, it has been awhile since i started writing this post. and believe it or not, i am in taiwan.

it hasn’t even been that long and i feel like i’ve been here for weeks. so much has happened in such a short amount of time it just doesn’t feel real.

i’m still dealing with some jet lag (for some reason, i just can’t seem to sleep in at all.). the number of different kinds of food that i’ve had here probably number more than the different kinds of food i’ve had over my entire life.

okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. but still, almost everything that i have had here is something different.

in all honesty, it has been a bit overwhelming. there is so much to take in. too much. i mean, it is good. great even! but it is a lot.

maybe this is what culture shock is. in all my travels, i have never experienced culture shock so i don’t know. maybe this is what it feels like though.

jet lag doesn’t help, but either way, i’ve felt consistently exhausted. there have been multiple times that i’ve zoned out or nodded off during the day. (i have had so many embarrassing moments.) and my sleeping habits often don’t leave feeling well rested.

i still go in and out of feeling so excited and loving it here to feeling absolutely terrified and thinking i am crazy.

askdjhflsadkjflaksjhfekjshldf.

there are so many feelings and thoughts and things going through my head right now. i can’t really process it all.

but i’m doing alright. things are going well. i’m learning so much and having fun while i’m at it. i know there will be hardships, but i i think this year will see a lot of growth in me too. in the end, i think it will all be worth it.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

have you ever experienced culture shock? or have you ever lived abroad for a extended period of time? let me know!