School Life Pt. 9: Refuge


On rainy days, umbrellas are great shelters for phone-users.


School Life Pt. 8: New Game Called Deemo

This weekend we went to Academia Sinica in Taipei, which is a pretty big research park. On the bus ride there and back, one classmate brought his Sony tablet on the giant tour bus and sat in the back playing Deemo.

Deemo is a game that’s like Guitar Hero, with buttons flowing down towards you like the credits of Star Wars in the opposite direction. There aren’t six strings like guitar hero. Instead there is a ghostly white line at the bottom of the screen, and you’re supposed to tap the dots as they hit the line.

The whole theme of Deemo is creepy and under worldly, with zombie-like characters that are supposed to look cute. There is a story line to the game but I don’t really want to know what it is.

This entire week, Deemo has been appearing on the phone screens of classmates in between classes and during lunch and nap time. You can hear eerie piano music if you walk to the far end of the classroom, where classmates are clumped against the cabinets, obscured by desks and chairs from the eyes in the hallway.

It’s hilarious to see some students become possessed by the creepy music and tap ferociously at their screens. In high schools in America, social media was much more important than games. Phone games were seen as childish. But in Taiwanese high schools, games are just as important as social media. Girls play phone games here too.

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.

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.

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!!!

School Life Pt. 4: Teacher Appreciation Day

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

Teacher’s Day was supposed to be celebrated on 9/28, but since that’s a Sunday, our school celebrated it two days earlier. After further research on Taiwan’s Teacher’s Day, I learned that 9/28 is Confucius’s birthday. Since Confucius is the most respected teacher for the Taiwanese, Teacher’s Day on 9/28 makes sense.

We were all ordered to go to the athletic field in the morning (where we have the flag raising ceremony every Tuesday morning) and we listened to a student ensemble then a teacher talked to us about why we should thank the teachers. By this time, the chatter from the crowd of 3000+ students had already swallowed up the sound of the microphone.

Most of my classmates were studying for physics:

We were ordered by the teacher with the microphone to give our teacher shade with an umbrella and some cool breeze with a fan. Our class leader held the umbrella over our teacher’s head while the vice leader fanned our teacher with a folder.

The students were then told to give our thank you card to our homeroom teachers that we’d prepared earlier in the week. Each class had a giant card for their homeroom teacher.

The photo above is badly focused because I had to take the photo really quickly. There were school policemen walking up and down throughout the giant grid of students at all times, and phones aren’t allowed during school. Here’s a better photo, but the student who presented the card had already backed away in embarrassment from showing appreciation to our teacher:

Somehow our vice leader’d brought a chair down three flights of stairs and he’d offered it to our teacher. He sat in it for a few seconds then said he preferred to stand:

The chairs in our classrooms are super tiny and you can’t slouch in them, otherwise the top of the chair back will poke you uncomfortably.

Teacher’s Day was a new experience for me because there isn’t one in America (I think??). After the ceremony in the morning, it wasn’t really mentioned in class for the rest of the day.

School Life Pt. 3: Grilling Meat

School Life Pt. 1

School Life Pt. 2

My classmates’d planned to go grilling meat since the Mid-Autumn Festival (the Taiwanese way of celebrating the festival is to grill meat while people in China celebrate with duck and moon cakes) when I told my classmates that I’d had hotpot instead of grilling meat.

It was the day after a typhoon so there were still lingering showers, and we walked for about 20 minutes in the rain to a grilled meat restaurant.

These two classmates are a good team. These two didn’t even look up from the screen whenever we crossed streets :

At the grilled meat restaurant, we each payed NT$500 for unlimited meat, soda, and ice cream. The meat was raw and sliced thinly and came in large plates.

Each table had two grilling pots, which were filled with hot coals and topped with a metal grill mesh. We were each given a pair of metal tongs but one student took over the grilling and kept bragging about his expertise. None of us complained though, because it was like having our own personal chef.

He liked to slap the meat with the tongs. When the oil from the meat dripped onto the coals, flames would pop up.

Everyone’s favorite was bacon and in Chinese it’s pronounced like “Pagan”. It was the thinnest and therefore grilled the fastest and held the most flavor when you dipped it in sauce.

My classmates all had a great time. One table was noticeably more lively because the people at the other table were addicted to their smartphone game.

We were given ice cubes to extinguish any flames caused by dripping oil. We might’ve been using them incorrectly:

In the end, we’d all gotten too much smoke in our faces and stepping outside into the rain was soothing. Overall, I enjoyed grilling meat. Although there weren’t any vegetables and it was slightly expensive, I had a good time with my classmates and laughed a ton, which always happens when we’re together.

School Life Pt. 2: Typhoon Fung-Wong and Acnes Facewash

School Life Pt. 1

Last night it rained pretty hard because of an incoming typhoon. I’d just gotten back from a very windy and cold day at the Formosa Fun Coast waterpark on a Rotary trip. On the news there was a little box in the bottom-right corner that listed which areas of Taiwan where school and work were canceled.


The rain was continuously pouring throughout the evening. But my school was not canceled.

Looking out the window today at school, I could see so many raindrops falling near and in the distance that I imagined surface of the earth was getting pushed down by the weight of the raindrops.

All the students came to school prepared:



On another note, today in class we were all given Acnes face wash packets:


As one of my classmates said, it was more of an advertisement because there was one slim gel packet wedged inside of a paper card that was plastered in info about the product.


Back to the typhoon: The older sidewalks on the walk back home were greener than I’d remembered them being:


I bet I looked so stupid bending down and taking photos of the ground, but I could’ve sworn the sidewalk looked so much greener than before.



The temperature at school today was tolerable because of the rain so we didn’t use the AC for the first time this school year!


School Life Pt. 1: Night Market and Phone Games

The title of this post is designed to force me post more about school in the future.

My school has about 3,000 students, which is 10x bigger than my former high school. It is a public, prestigious high school with many students going on to attend good universities in Taiwan…. But I’m going to focus on the interesting stuff.

I was put into a high school first grade (sophomore) class in my high school that is a science-math gifted class. The class as a whole is full of very lively, rule-breaking kids. Every day at school is full of laughter.


For the last week, my classmates have been addicted to a smartphone game called 刀塔傳奇, which is “Legend of the Turret” when directly translated. I have no idea what the game is about but whenever I look at a phone screen it looks like Candy Crush Saga, with different colored tiles that you arrange to destroy.

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There’s no wifi in my school but a couple classmates have cellular data and they can somehow share the cellular with other classmates.

The passing periods are put to great use. The phones have to be concealed from the long-line of windows on either side of the classroom (much more exposed than a classroom in America: you can see every bit of the classroom from the outside). If a teacher sees a phone, it will be confiscated. Students have resorted to sitting on the ground behind desks:


Or creating large groups of students so that the phone is completely obscured from a teacher in the hallway:


My classmates have even developed a new way of cramming for tests during lunch:


I can’t wait to see how the class evolves over time !

My school is close to Le Hua Night Market (樂華夜市) and after class there’s always a good portion of students who go to the night market. A night market is a lattice of shop-lined streets, usually two or one-lane streets, with a main street that has a big chinatown-style gateway on either end of the street. The night market is born around 3-4 pm every day and reaches its full maturity around 8-9 pm, when the streets are lined with food carts and the street narrows considerably. I’m not sure when the night market retires at the end of the night, however, because I haven’t gone to one after 9 pm.


My classmates took me there after the first week and a half of school, after the last class which ended at 5:00 pm. We went there after going to a classmates house but got there at 6 pm, which is the night market’s adolescent stage. There were a few food carts lining up but there were still scooters zipping by, making it a little uncomfortable.


I’d told my classmates that I hadn’t tried stinky tofu yet, so all 9 of them sat down at a food cart and we each got a plate.


The smell of stinky tofu is just a more severe version of the taste, which makes it unbearable to smell. Once you taste stinky tofu, you’ll understand that the smell is just a heavier version of the taste.