Though it hasn’t been long since I last posted, my time in Taipei is quickly drawing to a close. Soon I will return to the arduous life of a graduate student. Time passes surprisingly quickly when you are bent over your textbook, trying to discern the delicate strokes of each 繁體字 (traditional character). There’s no shortage of things to do in Taipei and the surrounding area but on a weekday I usually end up doing this:
5:45 a.m. I wake up every day at this time despite my repeated attempts to sleep in until 6:30.
6:45 a.m. I walk under as much as shade as possible to the Being Fit x 7-11 Gym on Songjiang Nanjing Road. Though it’s pretty cool at this time of day (84 degrees qualifies as cool at this point in the summer), the sun is brutal. Luckily, the gym is air conditioned and according to the TV screen at the entrance, has extra clean air. I’m wondering when American 7-11’s will open gyms and if they could ever be popular.
8:00 a.m. I like to eat some surprisingly fresh fruit in the 7-11 (coming to store near you in America?) then walk over to the local breakfast place. Though many Taiwanese breakfast places are now offering Western style breakfast in the manner of peanut butter toast, sandwiches, or eggs and bacon, traditional Taiwanese breakfast for me is what is called a 蔥蛋 (Onion Egg). Sometimes, this delicious egg wrapped in a mysterious Taiwanese tortilla. Another choice for breakfast is 蔥抓餅 (green onion pancake) that I can grab on my way to class.
10:20 a.m.-1:10 p.m.For three hours, my 9 classmates and I work with our teacher, 吳老師 (Ms. Wu) to improve our Chinese. This usually includes forming sentences with new vocabulary, reading, and learning new grammar.
2:20 p.m.-4:10 p.m. For lunch I like to go to the cafe right next to MTC’s building or a vegetarian 自助餐廳 (self-serve canteen). After lunch, I usually return to the library and study some more.
4:20 p.m.-5:10 p.m. Since my class is after this, I have a number of options to learn Chinese. I can go to the library and study amongst my peers (which include students from countries all over the world, professionals, monks, nuns, retired folks, and people from any occupation you can imagine).
If I don’t have anything in particular to study, I can head to one of the required classes. There’s a number of options available, from Chinese in the Media (last class we discussed a famous Youtuber’s visit to the hidden 小吃店 (snack shops) of 淡水), Chinese Cuisine and Dining ( last class, we discussed 東坡肉 -a cut of pork marinated with a strong history behind it), to Taiwanese for Beginners. Participating in these classes usually involves answering questions or roleplaying.
Sometimes, MTC has a showing of a famous Taiwanese TV show called 光陰的故事 (Time Story). This series spans several generations of five families in a small village. Expect high drama with occasional public service announcements (the last one encouraged people to donate blood). Otherwise, I stay in the library or head out to a cafe (a cafe that preferably has a resident cat) for tea where I can study or read (see picture for my reading list).
Finally, after watching Time Story, I head back to my humble apartment at then to another self-serve vegetarian buffet.
Lexi Wong is a Sigur Center 2018 Asian Language Fellow studying Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan at National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center. Lexi is currently a first-year graduate student at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs where she is studying International Affairs with a regional concentration on Asia.