School Life Pt. 7: Little Pee Scientist in Class

School Life Pt. 1School Life Pt. 2School Life Pt. 3School Life Pt. 4School Life Pt. 5School Life Pt. 6

The scientist studied the yellow vials closely, without any sign of fear whatsoever.

Other students saw that there was nothing scary about the yellow vials and they gathered around.

The urine test is something that we don’t have in American schools.

I was shocked at first because I’d never seen urine in a classroom, let alone being handled by students. However, students here are put in charge of a lot more things than students in America are. InTaiwan, students grade each other’s tests, collect homework from the entire class, clean the classrooms, carry the lunch food to the classrooms, and a lot more. I think this is a very efficient schooling model. Things get done a lot quicker this way.

Unexpected Happiness at Yong An Market


I finally got the chance to go to a traditional market with my host mom. It wasn’t my first time going to an outdoor Asian market, so I knew it would be very crowded.

But every seller there was very very cheerful. They were yelling at the top of their lungs, advertising and selling their vegetables at the same time. Yet they were all laughing and you could see that they were all much more alive then the cashiers at Walmarts (or Carrefour).


The carrots here are gigantic compared to the ones in America. They are more triangular and extremely thick at the end.

My host mom had three or four merchants that she always goes to. One for fish, two for beef, one for clams, and a some more for vegetables. They wondered why her son suddenly got so tan. Was it the sun? She had to explain to each seller that I was an exchange student.


I was just very happily surprised that the market was so full of cheerfulness. I look forward to going there again soon.


The Sad Cats at Hou Dong Cat Village


The cat in the guardhouse was already knocked out cold.

Now that I think about it, most of the cats were in a daze. The first cat that I saw in Hou Dong (猴硐) was on the long wooden bridge with arched concrete suppers underneath. It was on its side, head down against the floor. A tourist walked by with two small poodle dogs and the cat didn’t even open its eyes.


There are two cats in this photo.

We walked up a mountain through Hou Dong’s Cat Village, and there were tourists everywhere. Cats were on the walls sleeping. One motley cat was walking along the top of a short wall and a tourist tried blocking it. It ducked under her armpit and kept walking. She then used her entire upper body to block the cat. The cat stopped walking and turned its head down at a very sharp angle, like it’s neck was broken. When the tourist moved to the side, it continued walking.







We saw two cats dressed in vests sleeping inside a cage and a heavily made-up woman walked out of her house and told us that the two cats, like the other cats in the village, sleep during the day and wake up in the night. The cats were originally brought here to kill mice. In the last two years, over 200 cats have died because of stray dogs, disease, and lack of sleep (the woman said that tourists poke the cats awake to take photos with them). Ever since a newspaper/magazine article came out about the Cat Village, the place has been extremely crowded.



A family gets some peace and quiet.

I felt sorry for the cats but I wondered why they choose to sleep in plain sight of the tourists. Perhaps that’s how they get cat food? I just hope that the cat population stops declining and that the cats get enough sleep. I guess humans aren’t the only ones feeling sleepy.


School Life Pt. 6: “Aruba!”

School Life Pt. 1, School Life Pt. 2, School Life Pt. 3, School Life Pt. 4, School Life Pt. 5


The last time I went to school in Taipei, about 7 years ago, I was amazed and confused by the screams of “Aruba!” that occasionally burst from the class. What is this non-Chinese word doing in the classroom?

Last time I was in Taiwan, I asked a classmate what “Aruba!” was and they said it was when you grab a dude by his four limbs, hold his legs open, and run his crotch into a tree trunk. I was SO confused. But it was so bizarre and out of place in a Taiwanese classroom that I still remember it till this day.

Then today, seven years later, I heard “Aruba!” again in class, because we were talking about midterm grades with our teacher. I asked what “Aruba!” was and got the same answer. Then, because we are in high school now, I got a demonstration as well!

Both students pictured below were fighting full-heartedly to escape the Aruba. The evil mastermind that is holding the doorknob in the back is the one who wanted to demonstrate Aruba for me.IMG_6383

This was the first student that was captured for Aruba purposes. A classmate thoughtfully took of his glasses and set them aside so that they wouldn’t be crushed in the upcoming struggle. The student being suspended in the air kicked ferociously and he was set down relatively soon.


Then the mob honed in on another student who had initially been assisting in the Aruba. He was much smaller and lighter than the first classmate.



This time, the mob got closer to completing the Aruba but this student used his hands to stop the completion of the act.

I tried looking up what Aruba was and found that it is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea. On the wikipedia page called Capital punishment in Aruba, I found out that there used to be tons of different gruesome types of capital punishment in Aruba, but now many of them are outlawed. The list is freakishly long and after reading a few I’m glad that I didn’t live in Aruba in ancient times.

I still don’t really know why students in Taiwan know about Aruba. Is it from a famous movie or book? When the students explained it, they just said that everyone knows about it, and that they’d learned about it a long time ago.

Flying Paper Lanterns in Ping Xi


Arriving in Ping Xi, a district on the edge of New Taipei City, we were immediately in the center of a tourist trap

We took a 1.5 hour train ride eastward from Taipei City to Ping Xi, which is surprisingly still in New Taipei City. We came here for one main attraction: sky lanterns (天燈). You can see one in the photo above.

It was a Tuesday during midterms for high schoolers but Ping Xi was still very packed. After getting off the train, we followed the train tracks to the lanterns. The train tracks were literally a few feet from the sidewalk that led to the lantern shops. There was no protection from the trains except for railroad or lantern shop staff that would blow a whistle whenever a train was about to zoom by. The train tracks were swallowed up by tourists as soon as the train rolled past.

The apartments next to the lantern shops have wire nets protecting their windows and balconies from lanterns.


You are supposed to write your wishes on the four sides of the sky lantern.


The lantern shop worker in the blue sleeves and black and red vest just let go a lantern for a customer

The lanterns are multicolored or single-colored, and each color has a meaning, ranging from luck, wisdom, health, muscles (?), love, and good grades on an upcoming test. Because my friend and I are exchange students, we chose the color purple for getting good grades on tests, although we broadened the meaning to learning Chinese quickly.


The exchange student from the Czech Republic is thinking of starting a Youtube channel with his travel videos. I put the link to my blog. Below, we both said we miss our pets back home (in Chinese and Czech).

After writing on all four sides of the purple lantern with a calligraphy brush, the lantern shop staff member supervising us brought the lantern to the center of the rails and he lighted the fuse-thing inside the lantern.


We let go on the count of three.

Second Trip To Yi Lan Pt. 2

My favorite part about my second trip to Yi Lan was going to the ocean. Yi Lan is on the East coast of Taiwan, and is about a one hour drive away from Taipei.

At the beach, the waves were the largest I think I’ve ever seen in person. I tried to take some action shots with my iPhone, but iPhones only specialize in close-up photos.

The sand at this beach was more like black pebbles and less like the brown thin sand that we have in America. There are lots of pieces of driftwood and beautiful stones on the beach.

At the base of the wave in the picture below, you can see a black semi-circle. That is a flat rock that is being lifted up from the beach by the wave. When the waves come in really hard, you can see rocks flip up into the air like small fish.


Unfortunately, the beautiful sea turned into a scary scene the next day.

We’d just picked up a Vietnamese study abroad college student from the Yi Lan train station so we took her to the beach again because it’s a must-see location. The sky was getting dark and the wind was picking up because of a typhoon that was traveling North along Taiwan’s East coast and heading for Japan. Rain drops occasionally dropped down but then went away.

I snapped this photo of the sunset (but it is cloudy so you can’t see the sun).

The waves look small but if you look at the bunch of trash rags on the ground in the bottom right area of the photo, that bunch of rags was about the length of a human. So the waves are the height of an adult or higher. They look pretty close because they are extremely large waves, but they are actually far away.

I took the photo right after arriving at the beach. I walked through a wall of people who were lined on the edge of the sand, looking out into the waves and took the photo. The family friend that I was with overheard some people in the crowd who were speaking Taiwanese (which I can’t understand) and I was told that the undertow of the waves had pulled in a 60+ year old woman.

We all sat down on a hill overlooking the waves and watched as emergency workers arrived at the scene and had nothing to do but walk up and down the beach. The waves were too dangerous to do anything. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must’ve been for the family members of the old woman. It was very horrifying to look at the waves and imagine the body of the woman within the grey tumult. We left when it got too dark.

Just a day before, we were walking along the steep shores and letting the waves touch our feet, and today the same waves killed somebody.

Second Trip To Yi Lan Pt. 1

The first time I went to Yi Lan was the day after I arrived in Taiwan. Last weekend, I went there for the second time, this time with family friends instead of my host mother. Last weekend was a three day weekend because of 10/10, 雙十節, double-ten day, Taiwan’s Independence Day.

The family friends had an apartment in Yi Lan. It’s supposed to be a retreat location so there is no Wifi or TV in the apartment. To pass the very small amounts time between activities in the apartment, we played card games and read books.


The red apartment in the distance looks like a castle overlooking a moat. The green pasture in most of the photo is actually a floating carpet of water lilly-type plants on top of a lake.


I later learned that this plant is called Heat Seed, which makes a ton of sense.


Started off the second day of the weekend with breakfast in a bag. From the top, going clockwise: Sunny side up(荷包蛋), pork bun(豬肉包), and veggie dumpling(素餃子).

Eating out of a bag isn’t that uncommon in Taiwan. In night markets I’ve seen Indian chai poured into black bags and tied at the top around a straw.

My favorite part of this trip to Yi Lan was going to the beach.

School Life Pt. 5: Ramen Day!

School Life Pt. 1, School Life Pt. 2, School Life Pt. 3, School Life Pt. 4

On LINE last night, the boys in my class suddenly coordinated a ramen day for lunch today. We’d joked about having a ramen day after seeing a girl classmate eat ramen instead of the school lunch.

In the morning I went to 7-Eleven and tried to find the largest bowl of ramen that was selling for the cheapest.


This was NT$53 at 7-Eleven. I expected it to be much cheaper but this turned out to be high quality ramen.

90% of my classmates who brought ramen today also had the same brand.


The student in this photo wasn’t actually posing for this photo. He was daydreaming for real.


Most ramen brands in the US only have a powder packet and a dried veggie packet (cough Shin Ramyun), but this popular Taiwanese brand had a meat/sauce packet (big one), a powder packet (small one), and a spicy oil packet (transparent one).

In this photo, you can already see that I’ve made a mistake. I completely removed the top cover on the bowl. The top cover is supposed to come in handy later in the process.


Here’s my cover-less bowl of ramen waiting at the hot water machine.


There are water machines like this on every floor. No water fountains here. There are three different temperatures of water in one machine (the red, yellow, and green numbers are in Celsius).


My music textbook is taking the place of my bowl cover that I ripped off.

We arranged the desks in the back of the room to form a long cafeteria-style table. I think all of these students have paid the monthly fee for their school lunch (NT$50 per day) and they are sacrificing their money to have a ramen party. I still don’t understand my class’ thinking process.


I didn’t want my NT$50 to go to waste so I added green vegetables and more meat to my ramen.


My ramen noodles were flat and thin, which was much different from the Shin Ramyun that I eat in the US which has round noodles.


A lot of my classmates weren’t used to eating spicy food because they were all sweating a ton. In the end, we were all sniffling and praising the ramen. A few classmates who hadn’t brought ramen were swooping in to get a few spoons of the salty, spicy soup that was left over. One dumped rice into the soup and ate the rice that way.


Two classmates arrived late holding freshly made ramen bowls. They’d gotten kicked out of the student council meeting because their ramen smelled too good!!!