So many people stumble onto this blog looking for info on Taiwan, I figured I should provide some actual information. Here are five things you should know before coming to Taiwan!
5. Food…comes when it comes
When you go out to restaurant with friends, you expect everyone will get their food at once, right? Nope. In Taiwan, it comes when it’s ready. There’s no putting plates under heat lamps until the rest of the food is cooked. If it’s done, it goes to the table. On the plus side, everything is hot, but on the minus, be prepared to wait 20 minutes before everyone else is served. And that drink you ordered? If it’s fancy, you might not get it until after your meal.
4. Receipt Lottery
SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS!! Every one is like a lottery ticket, and if you’re going to 7-11 as much as you should (see #5) you’re accumulating plenty of chances to win. The drawings are held on the 25th of every other odd month. On July 25th will be the drawing for receipts from May-June. You might not win the big prize, but you only need to match three digits to win. It’s free money!!!
If you don’t look like you belong, people are going to stare. In Taipei, it’s more subtle, but the more rural you go, the more you’ll notice it. In Penghu, I felt like a zoo animal. It’s also fun when people take your picture, or walk up to you and make you take pictures with their children. Smile!
4. Random Parades
Fireworks and processions are the norm. Expect streets blocked with drum floats and effigies and thundering firecrackers on a regular basis. I’m forever trying to find out the reason for these. My Taiwanese friends say “It’s some god’s birthday.”
Learn to love your 7-11. You may think it’s ridiculous when there’s one on each corner (I can pick from four store locations on my five minute walk to work) but you can never have too many. Eat, order taxis, make copies …the convenience is addictive!
I recently dug out my folders and notebooks of project ideas, and I was like….whaaa? How did you think of these things, brain?
It was the strangest thing. I thought of all these ideas and plotted a few of them out, and I have no memory of them. Plus…they’re really weird. Lots of girls with sucky powers, zombies, and half-finished thoughts that I wrote half-asleep.
China. Spaceships. Go back in time with the boy.
Isn’t that shaping up to be the greatest story ever??? It amuses me that I NEEDED to write that down, probably getting out of bed because I thought of the next NYT bestselling record-breaker. Right. Don’t anyone steal that idea, now.
So I’ve officially been in Taiwan for a year! I went home for a few months, came back, and here we are.
I’ve gotten so used to musical garbage trucks, squat toilets, sun umbrellas, and 7-11’s that I forget how different things are here. It’s comfortable now. Minus the heat. The heat is never comfortable.
I’ve been writing like a fiend and have a lot of super exciting irons in the fire. I’m finally writing a project I’ve been brainstorming for years (which is close to my heart and as autobiographical as I’m ever going to get) and have a MONSTER collaboration in the works.
And in other news, I AM BEING PRODUCTIVE. About time.
I leave you with my favorite gif of Taiwan. Somehow, I’m not surprised that this happened.
Most of you who read my blog know me in real life and already know my connection to lacrosse. I’ve played most of my life, including a crazy college career that I wouldn’t trade for anything. When I graduated and started the 9-5 thing, I missed the game, and in 2009 I left my job to get my MFA in writing. I went to Seton Hill University, which had an amazing program in popular fiction, and a graduate assistantship for me to coach lacrosse.
Our first season was rough. Coach T had just taken over the team, and she was the first “real” coach the team had ever had. We had players who’d never played lacrosse before, and if they won two or three games a season it wasn’t too awful. We couldn’t run a zone defense, or a clear press…we were just trying to catch the ball.
In 2010 we told the freshmen, just wait until you’re seniors. If everyone keeps working like this, the team will be amazing. That was our first winning season.
I graduated in 2011. Soon after, Coach Kristina Quigley took over the team. Under her guidance 2013 was shaping up to be the greatest year yet.
I was heartbroken when I heard about the crash. I know those girls. I coached them, recruited them, and kept following their stats after I left the team. After the shock, when I could stop shaking and crying, I stared at my computer for a numb few hours, waiting for more news. Who else was hurt?
I’m so thankful that it wasn’t worse. Even though I didn’t know Coach Quigley well, I know she’d be thankful that her girls will recover from their bruises and broken bones. Losing Coach Quigley won’t be healed so easily.
It’s a tragedy to lose such a caring woman, dedicated coach, and mother.
I’m sad for the girls for so many reasons. I can only imagine what they’re going through, and losing some or all of their season makes it that much worse. It’s trivial really, when you consider what could’ve happened, but I think the world deserves to know how hard these girls—and especially the seniors, Morgan, Rachel, Kate, and Alec—have worked. You would’ve seen all that effort on their scoreboards this year.
It’s amazing to see the lacrosse community rally around Seton Hill. It proves how tightly knit we are in the sport, and how compassionate. Too often, lacrosse receives negative attention. Go to the Play for Seton Hill Facebook page and tell me these aren’t wonderful people. It’s run by players from another school, and programs all over the country are wearing red and gold ribbons, and donating to Gavin Quigley’s scholarship fund. These are the same programs that will play games to raise money for suicide awareness, breast cancer, autism, and other charities, but no one ever hears about that.
This sport is full of amazing people.
To the girls at Seton Hill: I’m so proud of you. Always have been.
You’ve overcome so much to get where you are today…remember the tornado that hailed golf balls on our practice? Or in May 2010, that first time so many of you saw New York City, and we were on the verge of another tragedy. All of those morning practices in the snow when you were exhausted and your hands were half-frozen to your sticks. Shoveling the turf. Losing games that came so close. Winning after more overtimes than we could count.
You are so strong. You can keep going.
I can’t play for you anymore, but I will write for you. I added this to my lacrosse book. You know? The one I already stole all of your names for? Someday I’ll finish it and show the world this amazing lacrosse family of ours.
It’s been a long time and a lot of traveling, but I’m finally back in the U.S.
I’m terrible at posting regular updates, but I’ve gone to tons of amazing places in the past few months. About 3,000 photos worth of amazing places. Here are the ones that have stuck with me the most!
Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan
A peaceful oasis in the center of Taiwan. We hiked up to get this view over the lake and hills at sunrise.
Martyr’s Shrine, Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
A shrine to the workers killed during the construction of the road through Taiwan’s mountains. The waterfall cuts under the temple.
Tiger Temple, Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Playing with the baby tigers was my favorite part of the day-long program at the temple.
Kao Shan Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Just about all that needs to be said about Bangkok! Why would they bother to check I.D.’s when you can buy them at the stalls outside?
Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
One of my favorite photos of Angkor Thom, mainly because it is one of the few without other tourists. Every corner is packed with people during peak times.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
I went to Cambodia to see the Angkor temples, and I wasn’t disappointed. Watching the sun rise over the central temple was amazing.
Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider Temple), Siem Reap, Cambodia
None of my pictures do it justice, but Ta Prohm took my breath away. The trees have taken over the complex, and it makes everything that much more beautiful.
Tonle Sap Floating Village, Cambodia
This one opened my eyes. The area is so beautiful and so rich in resources, but the people are so poor. You wouldn’t know it from their friendly smiles.
Choeung Ek (the killing fields), Cambodia
Thousands of people were executed by the Khmer Rouge at this site, and this tree stands near one of the mass graves where the bodies of women and children were executed. Chilling. Haunting. A terrible history. Visitors leave bracelets and tokens of memory. Most of the red yarn ones have been blessed by Buddhist priests.
Sam Mountain, Chau Doc, Vietnam
Sunset over Sam mountain, from the hammock bar at the summit. Hammock bars are one of the greatest ideas ever. You have a drink, pull up a hammock, and watch the sun set!
Boating along the river. This area of Vietnam is dominated by the Mekong, where boats and the fishing industry are everywhere.
I wanted to share some pictures from my recent round-island trip of Taiwan, so I’ll be blogging them one location at a time. There is so much beautiful scenery and history to see!
Green Island was probably my favorite part of the trip. Also known as Ludao, Green Island is gorgeous and restful. The ferry ride was a little harrowing…I’ve never used a mode of transportation where vomit bags were so plentiful and easily accessible. But we survived the crossing! The island is fairly small, and circumnavigating by electric bike (recommended! So much cleaner and quieter than scooters) only takes about an hour and a half. It can be touristy, but the Taiwanese tourists generally crowd to a spot, get their pictures, then move onto the next scenic point. My friend and I hiked out a bit, and left the other crowds behind, finding secluded coves, caves, and beaches. Despite some heavy damage from the last typhoon, which shut down the hot springs, deer park, and destroyed some of the overlook pavilions, it was an amazing trip.
It’s super easy to get around the island by bike or scooter. As soon as you park and venture out a bit, you can find yourself pretty isolated. The north end of the island has some great coves and outcroppings.
The currents on Green Island are too strong for much ocean swimming. Our innkeeper told us we’d end up in the Philippines or Japan if we went out too far. Beside the lighthouse, there’s a sheltered cove where swimming is safe, and there’s a concrete ocean pool/jetski departure point elsewhere, but the cove is much preferable. We went for a morning swim, and had the whole place to ourselves!
The island also has great snorkeling and diving.
While the sea is great, the land is lush and green. There are many scenic overlooks (most of which had their tops ripped off by the last typhoon) and cultural places of note, including a cave temple, with a famous stalactite. We visited the Little Great Wall and Sleeping Beauty Rock. We were told that Sleeping Beauty is one of the few rock formations in Taiwan that actually looks like its namesake.
Green Island was, and still is, a prison island. The old prison is slowly decaying, but is open to visitors and has an on-site museum telling its (rather unpleasant) history. It was the home of many political prisoners during Taiwan’s unstable period. Now the island hosts a modern maximum security prison. We had the pleasure of watching some new inmates be offloaded from the ferry.
It was such a great trip, and the island makes for a good balance between exploration and relaxation. There’s great fresh seafood, and the town is pretty English-friendly, unlike Penghu and other Taiwanese Islands (I’ll get to those later!). We stayed at Jack’s boutique hotel, and Jack arranged all of our ferries and taxies to get us out to the island, plus arranged for our electric bikes. The place doesn’t have a website, but Jack’s English is great, so give him a call. The staff is super helpful and friendly, and carried bags, kept our bikes charged, and disposed of a giant spider that we happend upon. Their breakfasts are typically Taiwanese, but they went above and beyond, cooking me radish cakes when they realized I didn’t eat ham.
I’m definitely planning to return to the island once the hot springs are back in action!
I’m excited to announce my new position as Acquisitions Editor at Evernight Publishing! Their new YA line, Evernight Teen, will debut in January 2013, and I’m a part of the search for engaging new voices.
A new website is in the works. For now, submission guidelines are here.
We’re looking for fresh teen fiction, and are open to any sub-genre of YA (but sorry, no MG or tween). I particularly like sci-fi, fantasy, well-written paranormals, and sports contemporaries. Anything is fair game as long as the story is tight and the characters are original.
To query me specifically, follow the house submission guidelines, with an attn: Elle Stone somewhere in your query or subject line.
Can’t wait to read what you’ve been working on : )
It’s been three months since my ESL journey began. Throughout the first two months, I had to make a lot of adjustments, but I never lost that I’m in Asia/this is so cool state of mind.
Sometime around the end of April, the culture shock hit. I don’t know what triggered it. I missed some things at home, and realized I’d miss a lot more things as the year goes on. I accidentally ate something that might have been sauced in duck blood—not fun as a vegetarian. I got stared at one too many times.
It wasn’t any single thing, but all of a sudden I was looking at flight prices and panicking. I just wanted to walk down the street without feeling like a sideshow, and to order plain food with no surprises or language barrier.
It was even more a shock to me when I realized I was going through culture shock. I’ve lived in other countries. I did a semester in Auckland, and took classes in Paris and Prague. I know a little French, and no Czech, yet I’ve always thrived in Europe.
The difference with Taiwan is that no matter what I do, I can never fit in. If I don’t open my mouth, I can blend into anywhere in Europe. Where I live here, I’m just far enough from Taipei that Westerners are an oddity. People stare. I am not one of them, nor could I ever be.
I’ve never felt like an outsider before. It’s an odd experience, but I know I won’t be here forever, so while I am, all I can do is be myself and go about my life. My experiences in Taiwan are definitely broadening my horizons.
And as quickly as the culture shock came, so it went. A new frozen yogurt place opened near our school, I got more teaching hours, and started planning a vacation. The flow of life is the same here as it is at home. There are ups and downs. Good days and bad days.
I miss my family. And pizza. But where else in the world could I drink all the bubble milk tea that I want? Where else could I work two or four hours a day and get healthcare and all the money I need to be sufficient? Where else would I have this much time for writing?
I’m happy 95% of the time, and working on keeping perspective during the other 5%.
Wherever you live, 95% happiness is not too shabby.