November has been interesting for sure! An example would be, for about four days I didn’t have a voice because I was sick. This definitely created an out of the ordinary language barrier! It was fun playing charades with Taiwanese people.


A noteworthy thing within my high school life was the hiking trip we had as an entire group. We hiked up a tall mountain that proved to be a challenge since the steps were slippery. Every which way you would hear someone say, “小心!” This literally translates to ‘small heart’ but the meaning in Chinese is ‘be careful/have caution.’ It’s pretty hard not to learn that new phrase when you hear it hundreds of times in several hours. I effectively mastered it really quickly under these circumstances. Yay!


For school we have to choose only one club and we meet eight times in one semester. I jumped at the opportunity for martial arts club because that’s yet another authentic culture aspect that I can be exposed to during my exchange. That and I think it’s really fun to do! We’ve been doing a kung-fu routine since the beginning but this month we were introduced to lion dancing! Our teacher brought us some lion dancing costumes for us to take a spin in. Boy, was it exciting! Being both the head and bottom was fun but in the end I was assigned the head. When done properly, a lion dance is very energetic and exaggerates every movement. You get an effective workout from it!


Regarding my host family life, it’s been crazy, tiring but absolutely wonderful! I was moved to a temporary family because my first assigned family went abroad. This temporary family was at my Rotary club’s president’s house. It was completely different there with a bigger house and a much larger family. In total nine people, including a baby boy and myself lived in the same household. But in the eleven days I stayed with this family, I was totally and completely accepted amongst the family as one of their own. We went on trips and I learned so much Chinese from them.


Once eleven days were up, my Rotary club decided to prematurely switch host families and exchange students, having an American boy and I swapped host families. So I’ll have had four host families total instead of the original three by the end of this year. I think that’s a great experience because it showed me yet another Taiwanese family living style.


With that being said, I am indeed currently at my second host family’s house. (Note: I distinguish the families with ‘first,’ ‘temporary’ and ‘second’) They are very friendly and welcoming people. Did you know that one of their sons is in Texas right now on an exchange in our Rotary district? If you’ve heard of a Tommy from Taiwan, that’ll be their son! It’s very enjoyable to share the Texan culture to this family because they are really interested in what their son is experiencing at this moment.


The biggest Rotary events in Taiwan have amounted to two this month. One was a country fair where all the exchange students had to make a booth of their country for applying Taiwanese exchange students. Most every country had a sample of their food set out for people to try. To name just a few, Canada had maple syrup, Japan had special rice, France had crepes and the USA had our classic PB&J sandwich. It was funny sight when many Americans sentimentally savored the flavor of our beloved creation because it had been so long since our last. But food samples weren’t the only thing we had at the booths. Inbound exchange students would present their country and basically try and convince the applying Taiwanese students to pick their country. It was almost like a battle in a way, but a battle among friends of course.


A culture trip to a place called Shifen was the other remarkable Rotary trip. Here we did three principal things. First was view a waterfall. Second was to make a traditional bird toy from a stick of shrubbery like kids had to do for entertainment in the olden days. Third and finally was to create DIY flying lanterns and launch them up into the night sky! This is a very unique part of the culture and special that the exchange students were given the opportunity to make them. We had to glue the paper together, write our wishes on the paper and then WHOOSH! Off they went glowing and dancing in the sky! It was a beautiful sight and I’ll admit, I’ve always wanted to try flying lanterns so I’m very grateful for the experience Rotary gave the exchange students!


Well that just about wraps out the major events this month. I’ll see you wonderful people next month!

Andrea Clark