Sunday afternoon

Today it is Advent Sunday and Sweden and many other places start the Christmas celebration. People hang lamps with star shapes in their windows and light the first candle in the Advent Wreath.

Here in Taiwan the election just got over and DDP will be in charge of most of the Taiwanese districts for the coming period, if you are interested you can read more here.

As I could neither celebrate advent or understand the Chinese news programs I decided to take a walk.

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Here in Taiwan I am constantly surprised by how easy it is to start speaking to people on the street. Sometimes just walking past is enough for some auntie or uncle to walk over and start asking me questions. Most of the time it’s the same questions: Why are you in Taiwan? / How long did you learn Chinese? / Where are you studying?  Easy questions that I can answer without feeling it get’s too intrusive.

But there was once incident today that felt strange: a complete stranger in my age asked if she could join me and started to follow me around. She kept on looking up words in English and used them to make questions to ask me. In some way it was cute, she really wanted to communicate. But as I didn’t know how long she was intending to follow me around it made me feeling uneasy. How to handle that?

I tried to be as much Taiwanese as I possibly can: indirect but still polite. I started walking through stores faster and faster, with her following behind, and I answered her questions without making eye contact. After a bit she got the hint and said it was time for her to go home.

In a park some Indonesian girls started to talk to me. They were here as immigrant workers and are taking care at elderly Taiwanese in their homes. I would really have loved to learn more about their situation but there was no time. At least we took the a group photo!

 

Being a Biotechnology student in Taiwan

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Studying with the Biology Engineering student here at NCTU has been a little of a challenge. Back at home I major in something completely different. Linköping University gave us one course in Genomics and one in basic Chemistry before I came here, but that was far from enough. And even if my  high school was good at many things the biology and chemistry side was weak. My classmates here are third or fourth grade students and they had a lot of similar courses before attending these ones.

Some days in class – especially that day when we were started with endocytic pathways – I looked around and wondered for myself if we are even supposed to understand what the teacher is saying. In my case: probably not, after all it’s in Chinese.

The beautiful thing with being a human is that we can actually learn. When I don’t understand what the handouts mean I take a deep breath, and open the book. And I read, I read until I understand. If neither the written text, the figures or the extra explanations work for me I’ll read online. And watch clips on YouTube. And I slowly learn.

Isn’t that amazing?

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Our lab course is a full story in itself. In the beginning of the course I felt totally lost. Whatever happens the lab assistants will talk loud in Chinese and give us instructions, while my labmates are running here and there doing the tests. I try to catch up with them as much as I can.

Every time they make a smart conclusion they will have to spend some minutes to brief me about what’s going on, or I will ask them to translate something for me. I am happy they are still being patient with me.Now and then they will ask me to do some test while they are carefully watching over what I am doing and explaining how to do it properly. I feel like a giant baby, but I do learn a lot.

Last session when we came into the lab I was staring at the samples. ( The picture above.) Am I getting crazy here or is it really Chinese characters written in the broth? I had to look again.

It turns out our lab assistants joked with us and left words behind when they prepared the samples. They translated what was written in our sample to “Slime-fish brain” and told me it was a used for describing someone as stupid. “This is what we call our president!”

With that said I hope they will all go and vote in the elections this weekend.

Day of thankfulness

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Today it is the last Thursday in November and America is celebrating Thanksgiving. I was planning to write something about how overwhelming my studies been lately or how tired I felt this morning, but maybe this is not the right day for whining. So let’s find something to be thankful for, shall we?

Life in Taiwan is quite much as I expected it would be. I thought life in the dorm would be hard and that the courses would be driving me crazy.

Turns out that the life in the dorm is quite good, right now I can’t imagine myself living somewhere else. And the studies are indeed a little over my head but I think I can put it all together, somehow.

When I left Sweden my darling told me to leave my home with a thankful heart and later return with a thankful heart. Thankful that I can be here, thankful when it’s finally time to move back.

Photo above: The plants and salads we keep in our dorm. If you consider how little space we have I think it is quite impressive.