Thursday the 30th of January 2014
I would like to wish all of my friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues a Happy Lunar New Year or Happy Chinese New Year or 恭喜發財 (gōng xǐ fā cái) and I’m wishing you prosperity every year or 年年有餘 (nián nián yǒu yú). I was born in the year of the horse (1990) and 2014 is the year we’re saying goodbye to the snake and welcoming in the horse.
I read something rather contradictory to what I thought, as I presumed this would be a lucky year for me but supposedly “…while those born in the Year of the Horse are said to be stable, adventurous and extremely energetic, unfortunately this year they are going to have to lie low. According to Chinese philosophy, those born with the same zodiac sign as the year’s designated animal are going to have a particularly difficult year.”
However, I believe this is combated by the fact that I am starting the year overseas, which is said to balance the bad luck. I shouldn’t get married or make any big investments but I should do a lot of happy things and go to a lot of weddings… I’ll keep that in mind, no marriage proposals this year. When shopping in Taiwan, it is often unusual to see someone leave their receipt behind, which is a common occurrence in the UK. The reason for this is that the top of each receipt contains a lottery number. So, I have been saving my receipts for the 11-12 prize draw, so anything I bought in November or December.
The last three digits of every receipt I checked using this online checker:
733, 270, 353, 119, 945, 080, 261, 310, 799, 153, 221, 769, 756, 038, 048, 776, 125, 061, 176, 589, 840, 177, 357, 358, 526, 183, 150, 450, 035, 971, 967, 464, 739, 738, 903
I realise now that I had actually included receipts for the 1-2 prize draw (January and February). I’ve just separated all of them; I’ve thrown away the losing 11-12 receipts. I won NT $200 in the 11-12 Taiwan Receipt Lottery! My luck is already beginning to change! Huzzah!
I’m off work until Wednesday next week as it’s currently Lunar New Year’s Eve here in Taiwan and everyone is on holiday. I will have to wait until Wednesday to ask someone to help me with getting the prize money as there is a small form on the back that needs to be filled in and I have absolutely no idea what it says. If you’re an expat living in Taiwan and you need help with the lottery, this site is really useful.
The year of the horse begins with a Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner or 年夜飯 (nián yè fàn), usually involving a family reunion similar to the kind we might have at Christmas time. It is often considered the most important dinner for families here. Here is a Chinese New Year advertisement from Bernas, it made me cry. It’s not a new video but it’s a good one.
Yesterday I received my first red envelope or 紅包 (hóng bāo) and then I received another, I was so excited I couldn’t stop smiling. I opened them today and there was money in the first red envelope or 壓歲錢 (yā suì qián), then there was delicious chocolate and a lovely note from a TA in the second! I live opposite a temple so I believe tonight is going to be very noisy when they set off the firecrackers or 放鞭炮 (fàng biān pào)! I’m going to cook たこ焼き/蛸焼 or Takoyaki / octopus dumplings tonight for dinner. I’ll try to post a photograph later on, although I’m not really pleased with the previous photograph of my dinner.
Monday the 27th of January 2014
Here’s something interesting. I had my first actual conversation in Mandarin Chinese today, with a stranger. It’s happened before but usually I have no idea what anyone says to me. Today, it clicked; the lack of lesson language light bulb I was blessed with decided to switch itself on at the hardware store checkout after school. I bought a tube of Pringles. It went something like this:
I’ve got a cup of tea and I’m watching Mr Selfridge. It seems strange that I’m so far from home yet some things never change. I think Monday is my favourite day of the week, after Saturday and Sunday perhaps. I had a nice trip to my favourite supermarket followed by two great lessons, the first with a private client (who loves Disney princesses) and a small class of six. I then planned the rest of my lessons for the week and went to the hardware store (see above).
My appetite is back after the weekend from hell. One of the other teachers explained that I probably didn’t have salmonella poisoning and that it may have been a different bacteria. I suppose she could be right. Due to each item of food being cooked separately in the kiln (individually wrapped), it’s unlikely others would have gotten ill, which is good. I also wondered how (if the food was well cooked) the bacteria would still be alive and then I realised that it could actually have been a contaminant from the soil or water, as I probably ingested a lot of that based on the nature of the kiln itself.
Anyway, so this morning I made the greatest porridge of all time. It reminded me of the congee one of the TAs gave me last week, or the jelly bean lunch my manager bought for me, it sweet and fragrant. I then sliced a red apple into wedges, added a handful of raisins and honey roasted cashews and voilà, tasty times.
Saturday the 25th of January 2014
I woke up early yesterday, earlier than usual, I had to get to school for 8:00AM. I put on the dirty Shane t-shirt I was asked to wear and cycled to work. I tried to clean it the night before (Thursday 23rd January 2014) as I was pretty appalled that they expected me to wear a dirty shirt, which was also way too big. The coach was comfortable and The Borrower Arrietty or 借りぐらしのアリエッティ (Kari-gurashi no Arietti)with Chinese subtitles was playing on the big HD screens during the journey, which was nice. I didn’t know until I got back to school later on that I had actually been on a trip to Sunflower Farm or 向日葵農場 (xiàngrìkuí nóngchǎng) somewhere in Taichung, near the coast. It was surrounded by wind turbines, which was quite an impressive sight.
I learned a lot about a traditional Taiwanese cooking technique known as Taiwanese BBQ. This involved two rows of kilns created using mud bricks. The kilns were heated with blow torches and then the food is placed inside, they then planish (flatten) the kiln in order to heat the food. Essentially, the food is buried under ground whilst cooking. If you would like to see some pictures of my day, there are a few on my Instagram. There was a metallic sack which I later discovered contained chicken legs and water. This sack was wrapped in paper; there were eggs and sweet potatoes, also wrapped in paper. Each individually wrapped potato and egg was then placed into a tin, which went into a bucket to transport it to the mud brick kilns. The kilns were flattened and decorated by the children with leaves from the surrounding trees. There were noodles with taro provided for lunch and for dinner we ate the food which had been cooked in hot mud. I ate two eggs, a chicken leg and a paper bowl of what I thought was chicken soup (as everyone had some). I now realise that it was actually just chicken grease (my ‘Christmas’ chicken came with a plastic tub of it last month).
I was supposed to have four lessons after the outing but luckily one of the other teachers covered my first lesson. Although I would have made it on time, there was no way I was ready to teach straight away, I needed to drink something as I felt terrible. I bought chocolate milk from the bakery as it usually does the trick. I fell asleep on the coach, as I had a terrible headache, the kind where you struggle to open your eyes from the pain. I taught two group lessons which went better than expected and then I taught my first lesson with a new private client. She’s older than me by a couple of months so we’re basically the same age and she would like to study in the UK. I’m going to give her a really useful book English book next lesson, as a gift. I love meeting people with determination and aspirations; I think it’s important to encourage people to follow their dreams, regardless of how cliché that probably sounds.
I got home late, I showered and then I spent most of the night in the bathroom, being sick etc. as I have got salmonella poisoning. I’ve had it before, a couple of years ago at university. So, I’m tired, I’m stuck in my apartment and I feel absolutely awful but being able to look back on yesterday, it was worth it to see the children smiling and to learn something new about this beautiful island.
Tuesday the 21st of January 2014
How many cartons of strawberry milkshake can I drink before I probably shouldn’t drink anymore? Three, I’ll say three because today, I’ve drunk three. It’s called “strawberry milk tea” (Lipton), everything is some form of tea here, if it is milk tea, how does it differ from milkshake? I can’t taste the tea? Perhaps that’s the point.
Anyway, putting my inevitable sugar crash aside for a moment, I have finally used my new cooker. It happened two days ago (Sunday 19th January 2013), I went to the supermarket where I bought a plate, collard greens (although I’m still not 100% certain that’s what they are…), meat (which I luckily managed to fit in my tiny freezer), eggs, apples, onions, sweet potatoes (a huge bag full) and various other things. I cooked the thinly sliced pork, eggs and greens with pepper. It was delicious. I don’t use salt as I tend to use margarine initially, which is salted anyway.
I took a photograph of my dinner (see Instagram) and decided that I’d try again using natural light another day. Today was that day. I made seafood noodles for lunch (see previous image post) and I have to say, I couldn’t wait to get home from work to consume more! The weather is so cold at the moment so it was just perfect to have something warm to eat.
I haven’t been sleeping very well recently. I the combination of the cold weather (particularly at night), gale force winds and feeling under the weather generally are to blame. It’s also hard to get out of bed when the wind is blowing your curtains through closed windows. The walls are incredibly thin and there is no insulation. It seems that beautiful apartment buildings built to withstand earthquakes were not built to keep the inhabitants warm. I’m currently wearing two jumpers, two pairs of socks, pyjama trousers and my bedding around my shoulders. I have exams to mark tonight, so with a cup of tea by my side, I’ll end this post.
Friday the 17th of January 2014
I woke up this morning with a cold. My head hurts, I can’t stop sneezing, my skin feels tight and my entire body is craving ridiculous amounts of food. I have eaten several sandwiches tonight as I bought chocolate spread yesterday (or the day before, I can’t remember) from a baking supply store a few doors down from the school. Unlike regular chocolate spread, it comes in a can, it reminds me of chocolate icing (or frosting), the kind one might use for decorating cupcakes.
I’ve been panicking about waste disposal for a while now. This morning I decided to bite the bullet and separate the contents of my rubbish bin, one bag for recyclable waste and one for non-recyclable waste. I brought both bags to school with me (in my rucksack) and placed them in the appropriate refuse containers outside. One of the other teachers gave me an ultra-modern electric induction cooker; I bought a beautiful pan for NT $99 and so far both cooker and pan are for decorative purposes only as I have yet to buy anything that actually requires cooking. I’m going to the supermarket tomorrow. I’ve written a list.
It is 02:17AM; I spoke to my mum on Skype, then tried to drink the remainder of my Lemsip (which is almost impossible to drink cold) without pulling a face. My room is cold; I regret not bringing a hot water bottle with me to Taiwan. The weather here is interesting, there were six earthquakes yesterday and I didn’t feel any of them. Another teacher sent me a useful link for tracking earthquakes:http://earthquaketrack.com/p/taiwan/recent I cycled to Changhua City or 彰化市 (Zhānghuà Shì) last week (Saturday 11th January 2014) to meet up with some of the other teachers, we visited Baguashan or 八卦山 (Bāguàshān) which is incredible, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and it was great to finally see the giant Buddha statue (which contains a small museum). We also saw an animatronic hell display inside a dilapidated temple nearby! I ate dried squid for lunch and an ostrich hot plate for dinner. If you’re curious, I’ve put a few photographs of the day on Instagram.
Saturday the 18th January 2014
I’ve spent the entire day in my room, with the curtains closed. I am so ill, I desperately need to go to the supermarket tomorrow. I managed to redesign my other blog and website. According to the online earthquaker tracker, there were less today than yesterday. Someone knocked on my window earlier, I ignored it as I really didn’t feel like leaving my room to open the door for the forgetful neighbour who misplaces his keys on what seems to be a regular basis. It could have been someone else but I doubt it, I live in Hemei Township or 和美鎮 (Héměi Zhèn)… There’s a middle aged (possibly older) man who regularly says ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ to me as I cycle past his house every week day which happens to be two doors or so from the gate of my building. I find it interesting that he speaks English but I’ve never stopped my bike to have a conversation with him. I think it’s for the best, there are plenty of gangsters around here, nice cars, facial scars etc.
Friday the 17th of January 2014
Things that can be recycled:
Things that can’t be recycled:
Wednesday the 8th of January 2014
It’s 00:05AM; I have just been driven home (on the back of a scooter) from a really nice dinner with some of the other teachers. After a quick papaya and strawberry milkshake from the night market, we headed to the same restaurant chosen the night I arrived. I am no longer the fresh teacher as one of the other schools has got a new recruit. I ate some delicious sweet and sour chicken with fluffy white rice; I decided to keep it simple as I had no palate for adventurous flavours this evening.
It’s 22:04PM; I didn’t have four back to back classes today (which was a relief), on the contrary, that’s actually happening tomorrow. Luckily, I’m well prepared and it should go reasonably well. I finished planning a presentation last night (for next week), which I need to plan again tonight. I think presentations should be given by teachers who have observed presentations. There should be a clearer structure, whereby every presentation given is done so in a similar way. Luckily one of the other teachers gave me a tried, tested and praised structure with which I can work.
It’s now 02:36AM; I finally got round to editing the html on my blog and am determined to add an illustration to every post by the end of the year. I also decided that it was about time I shared this with the world: http://tiffanyhoran.blogspot.tw/2014/01/a-case-study-on-curatorial-studentship.html I’m slowly becoming the queen of procrastination, I have so much to do.
Tuesday the 7th of January 2014
Here’s something I didn’t know until today: In Taiwan, you will be fined NT $6,000 for not recycling. There are no bins in my building, so I’ve taken to leaving the rubbish in front of the main gate as most of my classes take place in the evening (which is when the rubbish is collected). I noticed other people’s bags there, so I thought it was ok. This morning, I heard the most vicious row imaginable happening outside. Now, I don’t know what it was about (I was in bed trying to keep warm) but I’m presuming it was about rubbish.
In certain buildings, there is a person employed to sort through the rubbish, which is fair enough. I’ve been here since November 2013 and I still don’t understand what I’m supposed to do with mine. I’ve even brought rubbish to school and sorted it that way using the schools recycling bins but I won’t be doing that ever again as cycling to school with a bag full of rubbish made me feel sick and made my rucksack smell weird. I have looked in the supermarket for the special ‘none recyclable waste’ bags to no avail. There are plenty of regular plastic bags, which can be used for ‘recyclable waste’. I won’t go into detail but you’re not even supposed to flush toilet paper here, as a general rule. Now, I haven’t been following said rule because I live in a one room apartment, on the ground floor with a small bathroom. Am I supposed to live amidst organised rubbish? Do other people? Hoarding feminine hygiene products because I have no idea what else to do with them? I think not.
The rubbish trucks here are similar to ice cream trucks; they play music to alert you of their presence. Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska’s ‘A Maiden’s Prayer’ and Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ are popular choices and can be heard almost constantly for some reason (including when I’m trying to teach). I have yet to see one for myself but I’m sure it’s a perfectly ordinary tuck full of rubbish, trash, garbage, recycling etc.
I promised you a more positive post. Well, here is a paragraph (or two) of (almost) positive writing. My ankle feels a little better this morning and although I haven’t been to work yet, it’s not as bad as it was yesterday. It is currently 14:38PM; my first lesson starts at 16:20PM. Tomorrow, I start at 13:50PM and finish at 8:30PM, which means tonight I will be planning four back to back classes. On the 4th of January 2014, I was picked up (at home) by a TA and my manager at 16:00PM; we drove to Taichung for the End of Year Celebration Dinner. I spent a while getting ready as I wanted to look nice. I used the sock bun technique to curl my hair the night before and I wore my favourite red dress, the same red dress I wore for my graduation in 2012. I decided not to wear my glasses but put them in my bag just in case. I ended up putting them on as soon as we got to the restaurant as I couldn’t see a thing. I usually feel like crying when I’m in public and I don’t have my glasses on nowadays, it’s like walking through thick fog, particular if I’m in a new place or if someone waves or tries to talk to me.
Once my glasses were on my face and I realised it didn’t matter what I looked like, I started to enjoy myself. The food was amazing, the company was genuinely lovely and it was just a really fun evening. We went to a buffet restaurant called Harbour or 漢來海港自助餐廳 followed by drinks at Britannia Bistro Bar. I got a taxi home with three other teachers and then had a nice Skype conversation with my boyfriend; whilst I ate my handbag cookies (I might have over filled my dessert plate so they went into a napkin) and drank some tea. The taxi driver seemed pretty concerned as he was driving me home, Hemei Township or 和美鎮 (Héměi Zhèn) doesn’t exactly look like the safest of places to live, especially at night.
Tuesday the 7th of January 2014
20:30PM, I’ve eaten half a loaf of white bread with Nutella. 23:00PM, I’ve spilled milk on my desk whilst trying to add powder to an over filled water bottle. 1:10AM, I’ve made myself a cup of tea and some chilli noodles. 01:21AM, I should have gone to bed a couple of hours ago.
I need to reset my biological clock; my sleep cycle doesn’t make any sense here. I can’t continue living in darkness until I cycle to work, I’ve been getting about ten minutes (or less depending on the traffic) of sunlight a day. If I don’t leave my apartment at the weekend, it means I get under an hour of sunlight a week, fifty minutes of sunlight. If I were a plant, I’d have died by now. It’s always dark when I leave work and it is starting to play havoc with my entire being. Bearing that in mind, I plan on going to bed late and waking up early. I hope that by doing so, I’ll be tired tomorrow night and I will go to bed almost as soon as I get home from work (depending on the amount of time I spend lesson planning after classes).
My hands are often black with pollution and grease from my bicycle when I get into school. I usually wash my hands before doing anything but today I made the mistake of not doing so. I felt quite embarrassed as it’s the second time someone has noticed. I need to buy contact lenses. The inability to wear a mask whilst cycling because my glasses steam up is really quite upsetting. The air pollution actually causes my glasses to get surprisingly dirty. I want to be able to see without anything touching my face. Although, I know Taiwan is not as bad as mainland China when it comes to air quality but when you compare it to the fresh blasts of cold sea air found in the North West of England, it certainly hits your lungs and your skin hard. I’ve probably got heavy metal poisoning from the amount of instant noodle products I’ve been eating (which contain traces of lead, copper and my favourite, arsenic). I have stopped using the flavoured oil provided with the noodles now; the dried powder is sufficiently flavoursome and is less likely to kill me.
I was told over the weekend by one of the other teachers that even if you’ve fractured your ankle, it’s still possible to walk. I didn’t realise this and I’m now slightly concerned that it wasn’t x-rayed. I don’t want to trouble anyone so I’m waiting it out. It’s 2:47AM, I’ve just taken my sock off to check and it’s still noticeably swollen so there’s definitely something wrong with it. Perhaps my naturally high tolerance for pain (and/or cognitive ability) combined with a cocktail of ibuprofen and paracetamol enabled me to just ‘get over it’.
This post could be considered to be rather depressing but that’s fine as I will be writing an additional (potentially more positive) post later on in the day (once I’ve actually slept).
Thursday the 2nd of January 2014
Wednesday the 1st of January 2014
Starting the New Year with some chocolate Häagen-Dazs and family orientated Skype was nice. Although expensive, I felt like buying myself something from my ‘luxury item list’. I have decided to save a substantial amount of money whilst in Taiwan and it is therefore necessary that I purchase wisely, particularly when it comes to food. I made the mistake of buying two 7-Eleven ‘cheese’ bagels last night; I believe that the cheese was in fact sugar and food colouring as it certainly didn’t taste like cheese. Cheese isn’t supposed to be as sweet as the bright yellow substance in that bagel; I was absolutely horrified when I bit into it. I ate all of it none the less and had the second for breakfast this afternoon. I say afternoon as I couldn’t sleep at all last night and it’s now 14:00PM.
I have decided to take more pictures (of Taiwan), blog daily and develop more of a consistent Instagram feed. I feel as though mine resembles that of a teenager with a new toy (iPad) etc. I also need to stop deleting things, that’s always been a major issue of mine, the Internet can be whatever you want it to be and I feel as though by utilising its ability to archive, I can create an interesting album of progression, of personal development, my sense of style or taste. I started the process when I was sixteen and at nineteen during a stress fuelled moment of weakness, I completely destroyed several years of work over night. 2014 is the year I don’t regret the things I like, post, follow or write, 2014 is the year of self-realisation through social media. I learned that building a prosperous network of subscribers, friends, fans and followers only happens when you completely ignore that aspect of social media, when you create a realm for yourself, rather than for others.
I was watching The Big Fat Quiz of the Year on 4OD (VPN) last night when I stood up to put the kettle on, my ankle crunched as though I had landed on a bag of crisps and I felt the same sharp pain shoot through my body that I had felt just over a week ago. I’m not sure what happened but it definitely hasn’t healed yet, it’s rare for me to feel physically sick but I can’t help but feel nauseous even thinking about the pain. My plans for New Year’s Day involve trying to generally organise my apartment and attempting to create an inventory of things I would like to do while here in preparation for my boyfriend’s visit in March and for my brother and sister arriving later on in the year. I think I might get a bus to Changhua City or 彰化市 (Zhānghuà Shì) on Saturday morning to visit The Temple of Confucius or 彰化孔子廟 (Zhānghuà Kǒngzǐ Miào) as I still haven’t seen it and as I mentioned previously, I have decided to take more pictures.