I’m not sure why I’m awake right now – it’s 1:30 in the morning on Tuesday, and while I thankfully don’t have to work until 4:25pm, I’ve gotten very little sleep in the past few days. In fact, I’ll probably start writing this email, get a quarter of the way through it, realize I’m an idiot for not going to bed, and throw my laptop aside. We’ll see.

So much has happened in the past couple of weeks that this email has the potential for being overwhelmingly long. I’ll fight that urge to type every detail, but no promises.

To begin, last Wednesday was a holiday here, which meant no work. A good Taiwanese friend of mine, Hannah, scootered me around much of Hsinchu County over the course of the afternoon; we visited three temples, a major historical monument called East Gate, and the beach.

Approaching the traffic circle around East Gate

It’s interesting enough going to the grocery store and knowing you’re the only Caucasian person in the entire store; it’s a whole new ballgame when you’re the only Caucasian person in a temple wielding a large camera and staring awkwardly at statues of Buddhist deities.

A statue of a deity in one of the temples

Why the awkwardness? Because the most appropriate word to describe the noise I made when viewing many of these statues is “chortle”. For instance, one statue was a black deity staring wide-eyed and straight ahead in a way meant to look menacing. I saw it, and after making a noise I’m sure could only be interpreted by the worshippers as rude, I rushed over and took its picture. I called to Hannah, giggling, “Ooh, look: he’s mad!” She came up and explained that he was upset because his shoe fell off. Pardon me, but if you get that upset over your sandal falling off your foot, you need therapy. As a deity, I’m sure you can afford it.

I'm not laughing at you... I'm laughing wi... no. Not with. At. Definitely at.

At one of the temples, we visited a special altar where many Taiwanese go to pray for a mate. Hannah instructed me to tell the god my name, birthdate, address, and what I hoped to find in a man. I instead prayed for her, which I suppose means I’ve ruined my chances at finding love. According to the Chinese zodiac, I’m a dog (1982), and I’m most compatible with a horse or tiger; so since I blew it with the whole praying bit, maybe I’ll just try my hand at only pursuing horses or tigers. Sounds like a foolproof plan. Neh and grr, baby.

My favorite temple

So we visited the temples and East Gate, then called another Taiwanese friend, Amanda, to join us for a stroll on the beach. The three of us arrived late in the afternoon and spent our time walking around, taking pictures, enjoying the beautiful sunset, and laughing at my attempts to learn Chinese slang and cursewords.

Amanda, me and Hannah at the beach at sunset
The sunset at Nanliao

As we walked back to the scooters, Hannah and Amanda gave me my Chinese name: Luo Kai Hsin.

羅 嵦 芯

That’s me! At least, I’m pretty sure that’s me. My Google skills are strong, but my Pinyin-deciphering capabilities are shoddy.

Actually, I was quite pleased with my Pinyin skills when I was able to figure out, using context clues, what 人 meant. Why was I drawn to that character? Thanks to the way some fonts form that character, not to mention the fact that my humor sometimes rivals that of a 14-year-old, it reminded me of a butt crack.

Maybe I’m the only one. Funny enough, though, that symbol basically means “people”.

In other news, this past Friday I flew to Hong Kong and stayed there through Sunday night. One of my best friends, my former boss and a former coworker were there to manage a conference, so I flew in to see them. The weekend was spent admiring Hong Kong’s incredible skyline and architecture, doing a little to help with the first day of the conference (and by “a little”, I mean that the most significant contribution I made was finding them trashcans for the registration desk.), and enjoying quality time with a great friend.

Hong Kong is surreal. My plane landed at the airport and I easily made my way to the taxi stand after going through customs. The taxi ride was 20-30 minutes long, and most of that trip found me with wide eyes staring at the cityscape surrounding me. I landed at 9:30pm, so it was dark, and the lights of the city were unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It was beautiful. I allowed myself to take it in, making a mental note to have my camera ready on Sunday so I could take pictures on the cab ride back. Unfortunately, I ended up taking the high-speed train back to the airport on Sunday, whose efficiency meant going underground or in tunnels for the majority of the ride to the airport. It was a good 20 minutes faster than a taxi, and quite a bit cheaper, but I was still sad to miss the city on my trip out. Stupid train… though it was nice to pay $200 Hong Kong Dollars ($25 USD) less than a taxi ride.

So it’s now 2:56am. I started my fifth week living in Taiwan as of Friday. There’s still quite a bit to get used to, some things I’ll never get used to, and some things I’ll definitely miss when I leave I’m teaching myself how to cook, learning Chinese bit-by-bit (I can count to four!), and am using my time here to take a fresh look at my life and figure out what’s next. An incredible person once told me to “keep moving forward”, and with this experience I think I am, even if I sometimes feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants. Really, though, as long as those pants look good on me, I’ll be good.