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July 1, 2012 / windlessly

Taiwan Travels: Day 1


Wow, I’m actually here. And wow, it is HOT. The familiar waves of humidity rising from the ground, the nagging mosquitos, the cancerous-like chain of 7-Elevens on every single street without fail, the mass of cabs and motorcycles and pedestrians…. it feels good to be back. I’m actually extremely jet-lagged right now so I don’t know how I’m making any amount of coherent sense right now.

It’s been a long day. I stepped off the plane and just marveled at how different the airport at Taipei was from anything in the states. Just the structure, the designs, and of course the chinese signs haha. Anyways my uncle and aunt and cousin from my dad’s side came to visit me briefly at the airport. I gave them a package from my family and also received a working cellphone from my uncle. I found out (after taking forever to get through customs) later that I was the last person to arrive for our AID Summer program. There were people from the program in yellow shirts to greet us and shepard us through the airport to a bus. It was the same awkward hi-I-don’t-know-you-but-we’re-kinda-spending-the-next-four-weeks-together-so-let’s-talk moment but conversation flowed pretty easily. We stepped out of the airport and IMMEDIATELY got blasted by typical Taiwan humidity. It wasn’t hot, only about 80 degrees, but the air was stifling. It got hotter throughout the day, and we all groaned when we realized that it was only 7am in the morning and we were already dying of heat.

Thankfully the bus that would take us to Chientan Youth Activity Center was air-conditioned. I also met my first friend Kevin, who also was determined to vlog his whole trip.

Our little group that met at the airport was only one of many (there were around 20 of us), and it turned out that we were one of the earlier groups. We arrived at the center and discovered that we had 7 or 8 hours to kill. We arrived at 6:30 am and had our official first meeting at around 2. Our supervisors basically gathered us together, took our luggage, had us sign these wavier sheets, and told us to go wherever we wanted. It was sudden but we decided to just go walking around the city for a bit. We ended up exploring some alleyways, finding some interesting places to eat, and just experience the classic weather. It just got hotter throughout the day.

If you’ve never been in a humid environment, it is more oppressive than you think. It doesn’t matter how hot it is in degrees, you WILL  sweat just by standing outside. Arriving in Taiwan… is like stepping into a massive hair dryer. The breeze is hot. We all went out of our way to travel in the shade, and even then it only lowered it a couple of degrees. People are regularly seen carrying around umbrellas like these.

And just in general, it smelt and felt like a busy city. The local vendors exuded their own exotic smells, mixed with the exhaust on the street, coupled with the nature-y smells of blossoming trees, certain bushes and bodies of water. We couldn’t take the heat much longer so we went back into the (air-conditioned) Chientan Center and hung out for a bit. We talked and chilled, played the name game and never have I ever, and just waited around for a bit until it was lunchtime. We went out walking as a big group (everything about us just spelled TOURIST) but it was still fun. We had our first official jay-walk and trust me, drivers are a lot more aggressive here in Taiwan (the old ones especially get grouchy and zoom by on their motorcycles a bit too close for comfort). We found lunch at a place that could accommodate all of us and had a good time. Restaurants rarely offer soda or even free water- instead we had a form of cold iced tea. I ordered short ribs with some fried noodle, which came with complimentary corn chowder and some sort of sweet bread pastry. First meal of our stay =]

Kind of ironic that this was what we saw outside of the window, but that’s okay.

So yeah, I stuck around the friends that I made today and we had a good time today. Dinner was provided at the center, and that was decent, and we survived the long ordeal of getting room keys and sorting luggage. I’m rooming with 5 other guys in a fairly spacious room, which I forgot to take a picture of but it’s not that important. During the evening all 350 something of the volunteers gathered in one place, where we watched an introduction presentation by the supervisors and proceeded to play some of the weirdest, silliest, but actually pretty fun ice breakers. Our “spirit leader” was hilarious. We also got into our groups that would work together to teach at a certain school in Taiwan and met with the respective teachers from each school.

The place that we’re staying at is nice- it has a convenience store on the first floor. There are about nine or ten floors of rooms, and I’m currently on the fifth floor. Lots of people are in the lounge trying to get wi-fi, and it’s pretty energetic. It pretty much sums up the day. There is a lot of excitement in the air and just finally being here. I’m tired after a long day and a long flight, but being able to meet all these new people is awesome. Name? Check. Home city? Yup. Grade? Got it. Facebook check? No problem. It’s gonna be a fun trip =D

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