I had never been there before and it seemed China was all the craze for those seeking to live in a Mandarin speaking country.
Well, my Chinese was poor, very poor to be exact. It is hard to learn a language in a country where it is not often spoken. Aside from our regular Christian meeting in Chinese and some service presentations you get to dish out at the doors at times, you do not use the language much at all. Conducting Bible studies helps a lot, since this is the reason we learn in the first place. But to be honest, at first, it tends to be a lot of pointing, some bizarre form of sign language, made up sounds and whatever vocabulary you learned recently. I'm so grateful and appreciative to all who had the patience to put up with these first experiences. Despite hard attempts to put rules on myself, like: ' during some days, car rides or hours, I am not allowed to speak English ', I just could not grasp the language, Again, this was how I felt.
Many seem as if they are blessed with a gift of tongue. It seems learning any word, sentence, phrase or long speech in a new new language is completely naturally and can be delivered with ease. But I am not one of these people. I never felt naturally inclined to languages. In fact, it seems nervousness can come over me for just speaking in general. So I needed some additional training or at least force myself in some kind of immersion, to get more comfortable.
I learned of a certain scholarship offered to foreigners to encourage them to study Chinese and live in Taiwan. After finding out all I could about government requirements in studying abroad, the various schools in the country, as well as the congregations zoned for the areas, I had settled on a plan. I was going to Shalu, Taichung and attending a Language course in a University in the this City.
So three of us sisters, partied, packed up and parted for our new adventure. Our fist days were just jam packed with crashing from one house to another, attending an English assembly, visiting Bethel and all while fighting jet-lag.
First thing the friends tell you when you are planning on moving there, is that it is easier to arrange your living situation once you get there. So we were stranded a few days and had great hospitality offered and given to us from a sister in our new congregation. We each found a place to live within the first week. Personally, I stayed in a Taofang. They are like dorm rooms, a one room place with a bathroom, little fridge, bed and desk. No kitchen. Very simple living, but comfortable for a single person and for some couples who do not mind sharing a small space.
Once we got comfortable, life began! School, service, scooter rides, the occasional trip to McDonald's. Yes, I typed it right, McDonald's. Taiwanese food is so delicious, but to be honest after a while, you just want to have some burgers and fries. Like a mini taste trip back home. Homesickness hits hard at times, but Shalu congregation was the best! There was a time I got really sick, so then homesickness followed along with it. I remember just when I needed it the most, a loving sister came to my taofang with lots of goodies, checking up on me. She drove me around, to the doctors, to get medicine and other things I needed. She spent the whole day just doing things for me and checked up on me periodically afterwards until I was all better. I was very touched,
The congregation is so loving and helpful. I can not count how many times I was helped, when it came to finding the taofang, learning my way around the new school, getting to field service, and getting help after being lost a few times. We had gatherings all the time and shared in such a great interchange of encouragement, A mix of Taiwanese and foreigners, East and West. So you end up learning way more than just Taiwanese culture. It was a bit of Korean, Japanese, Mexican , Peruvian, of course American and more!
|Eating lunch at Taiwan Bethel Branch|
|Our congregation made and acted out a JW history drama|
|Religious Parade, a common site, along with fireworks and music|
|Floridians in Taiwan|
|Chiang Kai Shek memorial|
|In unassigned territory|
|Biking to the night markets|
|Beef noodles. Delicious!|