2013-14 Students' Monthly Updates

Daily Occurrences in Kaohsiung (written by 柯珊玉 Sam)

posted 15 Jun 2014, 23:33 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 16 Jun 2014, 01:41 by Unknown user ]

Here are a bunch of little things that have made up my life in Kaohsiung over the past nine and a half months. None of them seem very cool or funny but I feel like mundane things that repeat themselves often, usually, by nature of repetition, become the cool and funny parts of life.

 Every morning I walk out of the elevator and say 早安 (good morning) to the guard that works in the lobby of my building. The first day that this happened I got really flustered and said 晚安 (good night) instead of 早安.

Most mornings on the way to school I pass by this especially nice traffic control guy and we smile really big smiles at each other.

I always see this really skinny dog on the way to the bus stop, and I always want it to be mine.

Most mornings I text Garrett, if he is not with me already as he is my neighbor, to complain about the state of public transportation in Kaohsiung.

Every day without fail the voice on the bus that announces the stops make me laugh (particularly good are 果菜公司, and President’s New Century Shopping Center) 

I go to get dumplings at 八方 an embarrassing amount, and Josh, Garrett, and James usually scream “很高興看到你”or “好久不見” to the big man 老闆, and he screams back, even when its usually been a day since we’ve seen him. 

I take naps on Josh and James’ mats (衽席) so often that I have developed a system of ranking mats. My mat comes in around second among all the mats I’ve experienced this year. 

Every time I enter my house some member of my host family says “喔Sam你回來了.” 

Every time I go to the gym I see some Taiwanese girl “working out” by going from machine to machine, and sitting down for a few minutes checking her phone.

On clear days when the 空氣污染 is not bad, I get this crazy feeling of optimism and appreciation for Kaohsiung.

Every time I eat at home I think “how am I going to live in DC without host mom’s cooking?”

I love walking up the stairs in the 華語中心 and seeing one of my friends sitting on the bench. 

Every time one of us NSLIYers talks about another foreigner in the 華語中心, we use these entirely random nicknames that we thought up for each person in the first week of school. 

Every time I see my HTC phone I make fun of it being “quietly brilliant” aka a phone with a 4% approval rating.

Looking at my news feed on Facebook is like a Chinese lesson in and of itself, because I have amassed a considerable amount of Taiwanese Facebook friends (a large portion of I don’t know).

Every day in class I am like “damn 小朋 and 小帥 are so good at Chinese how did this happen.”

Every day in class I am like “damn this would be a hard topic to talk about in English.”

Every time Ishan or Josh uses a 生詞 in daily life, I yell “生詞~~~!” If its Josh I give him a fist bump. 

Every time I have a piece of trash in my hand in public I remember that I live in a country that doesn't seem to believe in public trash cans. 

Some of the most gratifying moments are when I am in conversation and really need a word and realize that I just learned it.

I am just doing this for myself because I will only live here for another twenty days, so it is fun to reflect on the little things that happen really often if not every day here. The big goals of this program – language learning, cultural immersion, etc. – get easily swallowed up in the fact that this is/was my life every day for over 300 days. So this was just a picture of what, within the big trips and language goals, I have spent my time doing.

We got all fancy for a last "family dinner" before Josh and James went back to America this week

On my way to Qijin on a particularly clear day I got a very good view of the southern part of the city 

The first time Garrett and I passed the Kaohsiung water tower on our way to school I wanted to take a picture in front of it, and nine months later we finally did.

在台灣的最後一個月 (written by Emily 康愛莉)

posted 27 May 2014, 00:14 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 27 May 2014, 00:14 by Unknown user ]









Beautiful Chinese Character System (written by 潘邦哲 Ishan)

posted 22 May 2014, 01:08 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 22 May 2014, 01:08 by Unknown user ]

People in the west are often marveled by the beauty of Chinese characters.  Chinese characters compose a pictorial writing system that contrasts greatly with the 26 letter English alphabet.  After studying Chinese characters for a few years, I would like to share some insight on this writing system.  

Chinese characters today actually differ greatly from their ancient equivalents.  In ancient China, characters were devised as methods to express concrete ideas or physical objects, such as animals, peoples, metal, or money.  When the characters first came about, there were actually complicated drawings, meant to closely resemble objects used in daily life.  However, through a long and extensive simplification process, Chinese characters today have been replaced with ones much easier to write and remember.  The ancient writing system (甲骨文) is used today only in certain forms of calligraphy called 篆書. This form of calligraphy uses curved lines and loops to make artistic version of Chinese characters. 

Even today, Chinese characters still retain their pictorial nature.  Each character can be decomposed into radicals (部首)which convey different meanings.  Consider the characters 銀 (silver)。  The left side of the character is the radical 金 (jin) which means gold or metal.  This radical appears in many types of metal (i.e. 銅,鉛,鈉,鈣).  The same radical is also used in the character for money, 錢, because money in gold coins were used as currency in the China following unification.  

Many characters are composed of multiple separable components (形聲字).  For example, the simplified version of the character for body or substance is 体.  This character is composed of a person and the character 本 which means basis or principal component.  Therefore, the Chinese character system uses the principal component of a person to represent a body.  In this manner, Chinese characters continue to express the same fundamental ideas they used hundreds of years ago.  

Fig. 1  The 篆書 version of the character for farm. 

Fig. 2 Character for river.  The left side resembles a flowing stream of water.  

My Remaining Goals (written by 柯珊玉 Sam)

posted 13 May 2014, 02:21 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 13 May 2014, 02:21 by Unknown user ]

Since it is getting close to the end (48 days but who’s counting?) I guess I’ll write something about what my goals are for the time remaining here. 10 months is a whole lot of time, which means that I have gone through various stages of focusing on achieving/achieving a bunch of different goals so this is kind of just what is left to do. For one, I am super worried that when I leave Taiwan I will be at my peak of “speaking like a native” ability. By no means do I speak like a native, but wherever I am I don’t want it to be my peak. Even if I study abroad again, which I plan to, and take Chinese in college, which I plan to, I probably won’t spend another 10 consecutive months in a Chinese speaking country in the foreseeable future. Therefore, before I leave I really want to get as good as I can at actually sounding like I used to live in Taiwan.

Another goal is that I want to get to know the city better. This is kind of a stupid goal after living here for 9 months, but I am really directionally challenged and if I didn't live near the tallest building in Kaohsiung I would have infinitely more problems making it home. Also I am neighbors with Garrett and we are rarely apart, so props to him. I have moved like ten times and getting to know my new neighborhood has always been an accomplishment for me, but I feel like I have kind of been slacking this time around. Time to start paying attention to where I am going!

Ok one last goal (and this is possibly dumber than the previous one) is that I want to work hard to appreciate my last 48 days here. As you future NSLIYers will know (if you read this blog) ten months is a really long time and the fact that I will be home soon makes me SO excited and not really sad. With that being said, I am trying to not wish away my remaining time here.

我們等到四十八天才會回去美國!因此,我想要滿足最後一些目的。我最重要的目的是提高我的口音能力。 因為我回歸美國就不會有那麼多練習中文的機會,所以我的口音能力應該會降下。我當然怕這個現象。因此, 我希望在我這兩個月的努力下,我回歸美國的時候的口音非常標準。這樣已經比較標準口音的情況應該造成沒有那麼嚴重的降下發生。

A view from above Sun Moon Lake 

We waited on the roof of a temple for the sunset but just got a lot of (sm/f)og 

Sun Moon Lake in the morning

四月在台灣 (written by Emily 康愛莉)

posted 28 Apr 2014, 02:11 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 29 Apr 2014, 00:32 by Unknown user ]

台灣的天氣越來越熱, 感覺是夏天到了。 每天差不多八十攝氏度。 我這個月在台灣過的很好玩。

我跟美國的朋友們去台灣的中部。 第一個晚上我們在一個很可愛的飯店。 在一個很偏僻的地方。我們那天去看日本人送台灣的紙頭的房子。 他們說,是用紙做的,但是我覺得不可能。 我去那邊看,以後才知道真的是用紙做的。後天我們去日月潭,那邊很漂亮,風景很美。 我們去一個很大的廟,在廟那邊我們看到日月潭的日落。 真的還不錯。 然後我們用走路回飯店。我們的飯店很好,因為很靠近日月潭,所以我們可以直接從窗戶欣賞日月潭的風景。早上的日月潭,很美。我很早起來然後去吃早飯。 吃早飯以後我們搭船到我們飯店的對面。 我們搭覽車,看風景。 我們在附近的小攤販吃了午飯。然後回高雄了。我很感謝美國政府讓我們來台灣,所以我們才有機會可以去看台灣的中部,看日月潭是什麼樣的地方。所以我很謝謝他們的幫助。

四月在台灣有一點忙。這個學期我上了很多課,有華語中心的課也有很多文藻外語大學的課。 但是我喜歡,我想知道我的台灣同學怎麼樣,他們的生活怎麼樣。 跟他們一起去上很多課我也覺得是一個很好的經驗。 可以認識很多朋友,和學到很多新的東西。 我覺得趁年輕學一些新的東西很重要。我開始學的時候常懷疑為什麼有一些人的言行舉止不一樣。大部分的時候是我們的學歷和經驗不同。 所以我們的想法也不太一樣。其實我覺得學這字很重要, 如果我想要交朋友但是他們沒有跟我一樣的想法,我就要學習如何融入他們。所以學這個字真的非常重要。學這個字雖然不容易但如果善用並學會如何用對我來說是很有價值的。

我希望我的中文會越來越進步, 我覺得在台灣學到這個經驗是很好的。我不但學中文我也在學台灣人的文化和生活方式。 不過在台灣我很開心。我覺得台灣越來越像的第二家。






可愛: A Way of Life (written by Mikayla 莫梅花)

posted 28 Apr 2014, 00:38 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 28 Apr 2014, 00:38 by Unknown user ]

It’s a word I hear at least once a day: 可愛 (ke ai). Rough English translation: cute. 

Sure, in America, it wouldn’t be unusual to hear the word cute at least once a day. However, here in Taiwan, it’s taken to a whole new level. 可愛 doesn’t just mean cute- it’s a genre and descriptor of almost everything popular in Taiwan.  可愛 is not only an adjective, it is an essential characteristic of almost all successful products, brands, and events in Taiwan. 

It’s also one of the more confusing parts of Taiwanese culture to most Westerners, including me. Why are cartoon characters and baby animals just as popular with adults as with children? Why can they be found in almost every situation and on almost every object?
I won’t attempt to answer those questions, because I honestly have no clue. What I do know- 可愛 permeates everyday life in Taiwan, to the point that I can’t think of an equivalent in American culture. Think Bieber-fever on steroids. Barbie, but popular in every age group.

So, what’s considered 可愛? 

-The cute, Powerpuff Girl-like characters that advertise for 7/11. 

-Hello Kitty, which can be found on any object, from frying pans to motorcycle helmets. One can even find entire restaurants dedicated to Hello Kitty- one is across from my house, housed in a hot pink castle which is nestled among apartment buildings. Though it looks a little bit (read: a lot) out of place, I’m told it’s one of the hottest tourist destinations in Kaohsiung for mainland Chinese tourists.

-The Cartoon Network themed bullet train that runs the length of Taiwan. It’s so popular that its schedule is listed separately on the High Speed Rail website. A Kaohsiung MRT train was recently redone in a Snoopy theme- dog footprints run the length of the train and Snoopy characters cover every window. 可愛 transportation even includes cable cars: at Sun Moon Lake last weekend, every cable car already had a seat occupied by a special guest- a large, human-sized teddy bear.

-Anything to do with London, Paris, or New York City. Extrapolating this a little, anything with an American or British flag, as well as anything written in French or English is 可愛, regardless of meaning (which most likely isn’t understood by the owners).


-The random feel good phrases in broken English-always English!- that adorn most notebooks and shopping bags: “Let love house my heart,” “Shiny happy life, “Let us appreciate uniqueness of individuals,” “It’s meaningless to oppress yourself.”

And the most 可愛 thing of all?

At least right now, that honor most definitely belongs to the Yellow Duck, an art installation that came to Taiwan’s many harbors last fall. Want yellow duck slippers? Or maybe a yellow duck phone case? Or yellow duck backpack, hand soap, or bed? Kaohsiung’s got them all. In fact, the Yellow Duck is so 可愛, and thus so popular, that it will be returning for a second visit sometime in the near future.

Sure, 可愛 may not be the most historical part of Taiwanese culture, but it’s a part that’s too important- and 可愛-to be ignored.

美國沒有可愛文化,但是可愛文化越來越流行,所以有的美國人也喜歡可愛的東西。很多人已經喜歡Hello Kitty東西,但是越來越多人喜歡別的可愛事情-例如說拍照的時候,用V字手勢。我覺得美國將來不可能有台灣那麼多可愛的東西,因為美國人真的喜歡比較簡單的東西。

Meet my newest Taiwanese friend

The 可愛-est dumplings in Taiwan

My Trip to Central Taiwan (written by Garrett 蓋英力)

posted 28 Apr 2014, 00:09 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 28 Apr 2014, 00:09 by Unknown user ]

        This month we went on a trip to see more of central Taiwan, an area that I had only been to very briefly earlier in the year. On our first day we went to see a house made almost entirely out of paper called the Paper Dome in Taomi, which was made in order to remember an earthquake that had ravaged Kobe, a city in Japan. The Paper Dome was originally built in Japan, but was later moved to Taomi in Taiwan once it was no longer needed in Japan. All of the benches were made out of cardboard and paper, and yet they were strong enough to support our group, which was quite impressive. We then went to our home for the night, the Bear Meets Moose Bed and Breakfast. It was a very modern looking house loaded with stuffed animals and looked quite quaint on the inside. We of course took pictures with all of the stuffed animals, including a massive human sized teddy bear.
After leaving the hotel the next day we traveled to the tallest Buddhist temple in Taiwan, which totaled about 25 floors in height. It was extremely beautiful inside, and we were able to take a sort of behind the scenes tour during which we saw magnificent statues made out of marble in addition to other things. After leaving the temple we went to Sun Moon Lake, or 日月潭。The lake is known by everyone in Taiwan to have beautiful views, so much so that my host mom jokingly asked me to take her along. We watched the sun set over the lake from a temple roof and then went and got a delicious dinner by the side of the lake. Our hotel had great views of the lake, and the majority of the time Ishan and I spent in our room was spent at the table on our balcony overlooking the lake. The trip was a great trip from the pressures of school, and I was also very happy to get a closer look at central Taiwan.

這些照片是我們在所謂的Bear Meets Moose 住宿加早餐 拍的,戴他們動物的帽子, 還有一個是那個住宿加早餐,還有一個是剛剛那個Paper Dome可以讓你們看一下。

A day on the NSLIY Taiwan program (written by Ishan 潘邦哲)

posted 24 Apr 2014, 02:09 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 24 Apr 2014, 02:09 by Unknown user ]

It’s occurred to me that I have not really explained an average day on the NSLI-Y Taiwan program.  Although, we do have many opportunities to explore different regions of Taiwan, our many goal here is to study Chinese language in depth.  

Every day, we take Chinese class from 8-10 in the morning and also an afternoon once a week.  I also have three classes taken at Wenzao with local students.  Until about 4-5 pm everyday, I am pretty much in class at Wenzao or Zhongshan University taking a wide variety of courses.

After school, I usually study and chat with a few friends or go to places around Kaohsiung.  Socializing in a casual atmosphere is actually a really good way to practice both speaking and listening.  Also, many of my local friends are very interested in practicing their English and learning more about life in America.  With mutual interests and goals, time passes rather quickly, and with a blink of an eye, it’s time to go home!

At home, I usually talk with my host family about my day and watch Chinese news with them.  






不過,白天埋頭苦幹地上學,但是夜晚生活就迥然不同。。 哈哈



This past weekend, we visited a rather odd vestige of Taiwanese history.  As a result of 1999 earthquake, many buildings in Taiwan were destroyed and subsequently rebuilt.  However, a temple in JiJi Township was purposely kept in its collapsed state in order to serve as an emblem of the devastating earthquake.  Visiting the collapsed temple, reduced from its former glory to a decrepit pile of rubble, really made clear the power of Mother Nature.  Natural calamities like these affect every corner of the Earth and continue to cause devastation every year.  

FAQs from My Family's Visits to Taiwan (written by Sam 柯珊玉)

posted 6 Apr 2014, 22:13 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 6 Apr 2014, 22:13 by Unknown user ]

I am lucky enough to have had two visits from family members in this new semester and these final months. Fabulous in its quirky ways, it means that I got to act as a guide to Kaohsiung, translator, cultural liaison, and interpreter all rolled into one overwhelmed and excited package. This post is a little bit about adventures had while my grandparents visited me in January, and when my nuclear family visited me in March.

While the physical ability and interests of these two groups varied, there were a few things that stayed constant about both of their visits. For example, many similar questions were asked:

1) Where are the sidewalks and how hasn’t a motorcycle hit you yet? 
Well, curious asker, the sidewalks got bored of Kaohsiung and decided to move to Taipei. The ones that stayed were then consumed by the ravenous masses of motorcycles. To avoid becoming prey to them as well, I have developed the new skill of being able to sense when a motorcycle is going to run a red light and unexpectedly drive up onto the area meant for walking (not necessarily a sidewalk), and have honed my depth perception to know exactly when I need to jump out of the way. For better or for worse, Kaohsiung people like their motorcycles. This leads to some interesting traffic and pedestrian conundrums, but at least there are that many less cars on the road!

2) What’s the deal with all of the swastikas?
Well, Jewish family members, the symbols that resemble swastikas are actually Buddhist symbols. The points are pointing in a different direction, so they are not swastikas. The symbol has been around for ages and can be seen in ancient art from many different geographic regions. The Sanskrit word for this symbol is svasti, and it means luck, well being, and good fortune. 

3) You’re fluent in Mandarin, right?
Only in my dreams…. This could come out of the fact that I assume my family loves me and love can be blinding (deafening?), but there seems to be a common misconception among the visitors that my Chinese ability is way above where it actually is. Regardless of the facts that I took Chinese throughout high school and that I have been here for seven months, Chinese is a really hard language to learn and I am far from a self-proclaimed “language person.” I started Chinese classes because I thought French and Spanish were too hard after studying them each for 5 years, so I had no other options for fulfilling my language requirement. So when my biological family comes and hears me talking in not broken and relatively quick Mandarin about simple things like travel plans and local food, I guess they get a little tricked. I should invite them to my CCL class and let them hear me stumble through a very slow and painful explanation of the difference between an economic depression and recession (my class’ current chapter is on economics) and then let them decide my level of “fluency.” On that note, though, I shall move into (not fluent) Chinese to talk a little more about the experience of hosting my bio-fam in Taiwan…

我會先說,我跟我的美國家庭有個非常密切的關係。 這不僅是我跟我的父母,媽媽, 和哥哥的關係的情況,也是我跟我的外婆外公的關係。因為我們都住在美國的華盛頓特區, 所以我們都常常一起花時間。 我來台灣之前, 幾個沒有跟他們碰到的月還是不可思議的事情。 因此,我一決定參
加NSLIY, 他們就開始打算去台灣旅行。在他們的奉陪下, 我會愉快地陪他們觀光台灣。 我在當他們的導遊中,我比較容易的會發現台灣優點眾多。雖然在日常生活上我當然會發現這樣的事, 但一直回答, 一直告訴他們跟台灣有關的消息真讓我很欣賞我國。

Don’t be mistaken, Fo Guang Shan does not have swastikas on its giant Buddha

My host family, grandparents and I enjoying dinner on Qijin island 

My family playing games with my host sister

A Notebook of 記憶, Memories(written by 莫梅花 Mikayla)

posted 26 Mar 2014, 23:53 by Logan Krusac   [ updated 27 Mar 2014, 09:59 by Unknown user ]

I’ve had a constant companion thus far this year, in the form of a small, A5 notebook.

Now a bit tattered and missing both covers, my notebook took early retirement last week, its 200-some pages finally full of Chinese vocab words jotted down over the past seven months.

With about a page (or more) per day, I’ve come to realize my notebook serves as the best record of my time in Taiwan thus far. It’s become a study guide where memories are attached to every vocab word.

There’s the running chronicle of world news- 化學武器, chemical weapon (02/09/2013), stemming from a discussion about Syria. 冬奧會, Winter Olympics (11/02/2014). 烏克蘭, Ukraine (18/03/2014).

There’s my first day in Taiwan- page 1, entry 1: 珍珠奶茶, bubble milk tea (24/08/2013)- arguably the most important word of the Chinese language.

There are the endless experiences that have resulted in new vocabulary: enjoying 柚子, pomelo, during Mid-Autumn Festival (19/09/2013). Inferring the meaning of 地震, earthquake, from the surprised shouts of my host mom when the house began to shake (31/10/2013). 春聯, Chinese New Year couplets, learned while helping decorate the house for CNY (15/01/2014).

徵兵制, conscription system, added while telling my host mom about a good friend who had just begun his two year mandatory National Service in Singapore (05/02/2014). 懸索橋, suspension bridge, and 木屋, cabin, both recorded after our expedition to Qilai Mountain (17/02/2014). The sudden influx of environmental words on Mondays- 臭氧, ozone; 平流層, stratosphere- thanks to Wenzao’s environmental science class (17/03/2014).

There are the three straight pages of political vocabulary- 槍枝管制, gun control; 憲法, constitution; 民主黨人, Democrats; 共和黨人, Republicans- stemming from a particularly intense conversation with my Chinese tutor (06/11/2013). And then the follow-up a week later: 幫派, gang; 負債壘壘, heavily in debt (18/11/2013). 

Not to mention the missing dates that tell a story in themselves, the most conspicuous being the recent 10 day break when we were 寰島, traveling around Taiwan (10/12/2013).

Plus, the ones that just won’t stick in my head- I’m looking at you, 獎學金, scholarship, which has the dubious distinction of being entered in my notebook at least 5 times.

And then there are the signs of my progress in Chinese- words that I tried to figure out using context clues from conversations and got blatantly wrong. For example, 捷運, long-distance (08/09/2013)- it really means MRT/subway. It’s fun to laugh at them now, and see how my Chinese has improved.

The coolest thing about my notebook’s collection of words is that so few of them were written down during my Chinese classtime- after all, those vocab words are already properly written down in our textbook. However, just by virtue of living in Taiwan and speaking Chinese everyday, I’ve been exposed to so many words that will never appear in my textbooks- and that’s where the real value of this experience lies.

懸索橋, suspension bridge, crossed during our February trip

So that’s a , tree

At the高峰, summit of Qilai South Peak, 3357 m above sea level, approximately 6 am, temperatures somewhere way below zero, hair and eyelashes completely frozen- but we made it!

And back to warmer temperatures- Kaohsiung’s 海邊, seashore 


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