The Final Post!
Tuesday, May 24, 2005 Posted 6:33 PM CST (UTC+08)
    For the past nine months, I have felt like I was lost in a giant Chinatown somewhere in the United States, and not living on the other side of the planet in an Asian country. It wasn't until I bought my plane ticket back home that I realized that I have, in fact, completely removed myself from everything I know and managed to make it out alive.
    I like to think that I did much more than just "make it out alive", though. I know this is corny, but I have learned so much about other people, the world, and myself by doing this. I still haven't managed to form an active interest in foreign cultures (not that I intended or wanted to), but I now have an understanding of them and how to effectively interact within them. With that said, I think the most valuable thing I've learned, as a person and as an aspiring linguist, is that language is not an actual barrier between people. On a basic level, everyone is the same and one can almost always make their point by means of gesturing, drawing, but most importantly laughing. There were many situations where if I had not realized the ridiculousness of the situation I was in and laughed about it, I would have been on the next plane home. This has given me the confidence to travel anywhere in the world and not be nervous about how I would get around or survive. The bottom line of this is that I now have the confidence to do anything, and I've also realized every person on this planet is amazing in his or her own way, and I love that.
    I cannot imagine graduating from college without this experience. I have these funny memories of when I was still in high school and my two older sisters were in college. Every time I would see them over a break or something, I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, I cannot wait until I am that old and mature!" I'm sure they will laugh (very hard) when they read that because they probably didn't think of themselves that way over those breaks, but to me it was true, and I think in reality, it was. Now, flash-forward to one year ago, I remember thinking that I wasn't at the level of life experiences or maturity they were at when they were in their second years of college. I blamed it on skipping my senior year of high school and not getting those experiences, as well as going to a college where the average age is something like eighteen or nineteen. However, by doing this year here in Taiwan, I think I have not only made up for those missed experiences, but also jumped many years ahead of myself. It's such an amazing feeling.
    I think it's funny that I have written this much and not talked about what I came here to do in the first place. That's probably because learning Chinese was the only thing that wasn't different for me – going to a classroom, discussing new vocabulary, practicing new grammar, and taking tests. I don’t think I worked as hard as I could have or should have, but my Chinese abilities are night and day compared to when I first got here. Besides, I learned so many more valuable things that it doesn’t concern me in the least bit.
    One thing about my Chinese that I am very pleased to have accomplished is the ability to think with it. Now, I don't walk around all day thinking in Chinese, but I have trained my mind that certain situations can only be accomplished by using Chinese. So, whenever I walk into a store, go out to eat, or whatever, my mind instantly flips into Chinese mode. I just know that at least one time after I get back to The States I will go in to pay for gas or order in a restaurant and end up speaking Chinese to the person. It will be embarrassing, but anyone who knows me knows I will love it.
    It’s a very weird feeling - this "going home" (whatever that means at this stage). In my mind, I feel like I have stepped outside of my life, and put everything I know on hold. It seems like when I go back to The States, I will just pick up exactly where I left off and everyone will be just the same. The reality is obviously not that, so this should be very interesting.

Coming Home, Modeling, Peanut Butter
Monday, May 9, 2005 Posted 7:17 PM CST (UTC+08)
Return Trip Home
     The plane ticket back has been purchased! If you are viewing my journal from my website, then you have already noticed that I added a live counter for when I leave Taiwan. If you are reading this via Livejournal, go to http://www.bukoism.com/taiwan/ to see how many days, hours, minutes and seconds I have until I leave!
     Here is the itinerary from Taipei, Taiwan all the way to Savannah, Georgia for Catt's graduation.

          May 25th at 12:10 PM, Depart Taipei
     (One hour and forty minutes flight time)
          May 25th at 1:50 PM, Arrive Hong Kong

          May 25th at 2:55 PM, Depart Hong Kong
     (Eighteen hours and forty minutes flight time)
          May 25th at 9:40 PM, Arrive New York City (JFK)

     From there, my dad is driving down to NYC to meet me at the airport. We are then driving that night from NYC back to Boston, which should take between four and five hours, I think. The next morning we have to be at the airport by nine in the morning for our flight down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I don't know how long that will take because I don't know how many connections we have. It doesn't stop there. My sister is graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design on May 28th. So, I'll have like one day to rest, and then we all have to drive the four hours down to Savannah from Pawleys Island for the graduation and back that night.
     After that, I'm going to hang around in South Carolina for a few days, and then I am driving up to Boston. I plan on living there for the summer. I'm trying really hard to find an internship right now, but all I am getting is job offers from summer camps in New England. Hmm, I think that is about it. Oh, I want to get to Boston before the forth of June so I can go to gay pride. I haven't been to a pride before, at least one that was in English, and really want to see what it's like.

Modeling
     I went to the modeling place. Turns out, that I need to have an ARC (Alien Resident Certificate) in order to be an actual model. Without one, I can be in the background of tv commercials and print ads, but my face cannot be identifiable. So, they went ahead and measured every inch of my body and did a little talent profile photo-shoot. The photographer was really funny. I walked into the room, and he just stands there and holds out a white-board with a marker on it. I stared at him, and he looked at the board. I then said in Chinese, "I speak Chinese." He let out this giant breath of relief and asked me to write my name and weight on the board. So, I did, and then held it up against my chest. He took one picture like that, and then started yelling all sorts of instructions out at me. I had to stand with my hands on my hips, with my hands behind my head, and then one with my hand scratching my head. Then, I had to lay on my side, leaning on this cushion thing. I had to look at the camera, above the camera, to the right of the camera, to the left of the camera, and then smile but not show my teeth, smile showing all of my teeth, smile showing some of my teeth, and then look serious. The last thing he did was ask me to look like I was just about to cry. However, when he said it, it was so cute and sad sounding that I burst out laughing. He replied with "Did you understand me?" I said I did, but I couldn't stop laughing. I eventually calmed down, and he got a shot of me looking all sad leaning against an ugly brown foot cushion.

Peanut Butter
     Back in the days, you know, when I lived in the United States, I never really had any special feelings towards peanut butter. However, in my time abroad, I have developed this huge love of it. At first, I didn't even realize you could buy it here because I almost never see it. Then, on halloween this guy gave me a candy that had chocolate and peanut butter in it, and I realized how much I actually do miss peanut butter. From that point on, I instructed every person who came to visit me to bring lots of Reces-Pieces or peanut butter M&Ms, because they don't sell them here.
     Every now and then, I will buy a jar of peanut butter and just sit in my room eating it by the spoonful. When I remember, I'll invest in some bread and eat it on toast. Though, just this past weekend, I was looking for gram crackers to eat it on as per the suggestion of Jessica Anderson. I stood in the cookie and cracker isle at the grocery store and couldn't find anything that resembled gram crackers. It was then that I saw Oreos. I thought to myself, "well, I do enjoy chocolate with peanut butter, why not try mixing Oreos with peanut butter?" Turns out to be the best grocery shopping decision I have made in my life so far.
     One more thing about peanut butter. I don't know why, but it makes me hurt inside. It feels like when I eat it, it sticks to all of my insides and makes my chest cave in. I think I should stop eating it by the spoon, that's when I get the most pain. But the Oreo/peanut butter and pb on toast concoctions both cause the chest pains as well. Eh, who cares. I am liking peanut butter way too much right now to let silly chest pains worry me.

I'm Too Sexy for this Post, Broken Computer, Ticket Home
Friday, April 22, 2005 Posted 2:49 AM CST (UTC+08)
I'm Too Sexy for this Post
    Last week sometime, I was at a bar hanging out with Justin and Tim when we bumped into this girl that I have sort of met before, but not in any proper manner. The group of us got to talking, and money was brought up, well the lack of money that I have was brought up. The girl, Bianca, said to me, "Why don't you be a model?" I laughed, and then realized she was serious. Long story short, Tim and I went over to V&L International Models on Wednesday to see what this is all about. Before we left, I seriously got so nervous that I almost started to throw up. Luckily, I had the much more assertive Tim with me to do all the talking.
    We took the subway there, walk in the doors, took care of some business Tim had to do for a friend of his, and then Tim says, "One more thing - It was been suggested to both of us that we model. How do we go about doing it?" The lady instantly said yes, and asked us to hold one moment. She came back a few minutes later with "Talent Profile" forms. We both filled them out, and made a date for a photo-shoot. So, tomorrow at 2:30 PM, I will be skipping class in order to have people take pictures of me and measure every inch (well, centimeter, I guess) of me. I am so nervous.

Broken Computer
    I have had my PowerBook G4 for quite some time now, and have used it very hard the whole time I have owned it. All of my abuse has finally caught up with me. See, I hate when the screen turns off - I don't know why, I just do. So, I keep the screen on like 24-7 mostly because I watch movies as I am going to bed, and then I literally spend the rest of my waking life sitting in front of my computer doing stuff. As a result of this, the screen has gone toe-up. Sunday morning, I went to go play some music, and the screen was very dark. I could make out forms and see that the pixels were still being placed, but there was just no light.
    I turned it off, and left it for a while, hoping my good ol pal would just come to his senses. In the end, he really just did give up on me. So, I hooked Justin's monitor up to my laptop and have been using it that way for the week. I brought it into the Apple store down the street from where I live and they said it will cost $15,500NT (about $500USD) to fix, but if I buy AppleCare for $12,599NT (about $400USD) now, and then come back in a month and say it just broke, they would look the other way and fix it for free under the AppleCare package. ...I love Taiwan sometimes.

Ticket Home
    Tomorrow morning I am going to call up my favorite travel agent in Taiwan and ask her to start looking for tickets home for me. Right now, I am looking for a one-way ticket from Taipei to New York City on May 26th. The prices online are ranging from $600USD to $800USD. I am hoping Superstar Travel will get me something cheap - they always do. From New York, I don't really know what is going to happen. I am leaving that up to my parents to figure out, haha.

Alison Came and Left, Photo-Log Update
Thursday, April 7, 2005 Posted 4:48 PM CST (UTC+08)
Alison Came and Left
    Alison was supposed to leave Amsterdam two weeks ago on Sunday, but because of day-light savings time and some user-induced errors with her alarm clock, she missed her flight. After much hassle with the airport people, she was able to switch her flight to two days later, and she ended up arriving Wednesday night, instead of Monday night.
    Her flight here was by-far the most hectic thing I have ever heard of. It went from Amsterdam to Paris. An hour and a half layover in Paris, then an eleven hour flight to Vietnam. A nine hour layover there, and finally a three hour flight to Taiwan. So, when she arrived in Taipei, Justin and I picked her up from the airport, then promptly made our way to my favorite bar, Underworld. The three of us hung out there for a bit catching up and what not, then we headed home.
    The next morning, Alison was jet-lagged and feeling sick (Taiwan seems to have that effect on people). So, she spent most of the day in bed, but finally got up the energy to go out. We went and got ganbangmian, which is what I call the Asian chicken noodle soup, because even though it has nothing to do with chicken noodle soup, it has the same medicinal effect. After that, we walked around the ShiDa market a bit, but she was feeling more and more sick. So, we headed straight over to a pharmacy and got some medicine. The rest of the day was spent hanging out in my room...as did almost the rest of the trip.
    When I went to visit her in Amsterdam, we spent the majority of our time hanging out watching movies and talking, just like we did back in the States. So, for basically the whole week she was here, we would sit around my place all day watching movies, playing card games, and going out for food when needed. Most of the nights consisted of us going to one or two of the only three bars I go to in Taipei: Underworld (a hole-in-the-wall bar that plays good Western music), Chocolate & Love (a jazz bar owned by a guy from The Netherlands that serves Absinthe), and Fresh (a quirky little gay bar with a nice and quiet roof top garden to hang out in).
    Just in the one week she was here, we managed to make more friends that either of us has made on our own in our respective countries. This realization has led us to one conclusion - we must live together at all times, otherwise we will lose our sanity...well, what is left of it. All throughout the week, we kept on talking about how much fun it would be to move to Taiwan after I get my bachelor's and she gets her master's.
    One of the few days that we did not just sit around all day was when I took her up to the northern coast line. We took the MRT (subway) as far north as it goes, then a bus about thirty minutes northeast from there. We had a lot of fun sitting on rocks talking about random stuff, and trying to figure out where this group of six or so American teenagers came from. Well, they were clearly the sons and daughters of ex-pats, but we (at least I) really wanted to know what their story was. Anyway. Alison took all the pictures while we were there (but only because I made her), so all the pictures in the gallery of the beach are hers.
    Yesterday was the sad day when she had to return to The Netherlands. We managed to get a few hours of sleep before waking up at like 3:45 in the morning. We took showers, got dressed, hopped in a cab, and got the first bus to the airport, getting us there a little before six. We walk in, get in line, get to the counter, and this is when the story gets crazy. The person checking Alison in said that because she missed her flight here, her return tickets had been canceled. The person working did not speak that great of English, so I explained to her in Chinese that Alison did miss her original flight, but got it changed to two days later. They then said that their records did not show that, and there was not much they could do because all the flights were overbooked as it was. Crap.
    At this stage, Alison is starting to get very nervous, as was I. So, I pull out my bitchy side1 and said it is not our fault that they failed to properly change her ticket, and they had better find a way for her to get back, which I followed up with, "And she is not going to pay a cent. This is your fault." The employee instantly became much more compliant and said to hang on one second. She came back a few moments later and said she "managed" to get Alison a confirmed seat on the flight from Taipei to Ho Chi Min City, and on the flight from Ho Chi Min City to Paris, but not on the flight from Paris to Amsterdam because that was Air France, and not Vietnam Airlines. At first, we thought we were in the clear, but we when realized that Alison only has like an hour and a half in Paris, so she could get there, and not have a seat on the flight to Amsterdam. So, we told them that would not do. The person did not understand and said "Oh, do you still want to go to Amsterdam? Paris won't do?" As much as I wanted to laugh in her face, I told her that Alison has to go to Amsterdam, and they had better find a better solution.
    That was when the manager came over. He was much more helpful. He completely understood why Alison would be nervous doing that, but he said all the same flights were overbooked until Sunday. For a while, we got used to the idea that Alison would have to stay a few more days, and even made some plans to go bowling, but then Alison realized she has a lot of university responsibilities to attend to, and that actually is just a bad idea. So, in the end, the only option was to go ahead and confirm her flight from Ho Chi Min City to Paris, buy a China Airlines ticket to Ho Chi Min City that left later that day, and try to contact Air France before her flight left. The manager felt bad about this being the only option, and he was so incredibly helpful about it. Instead of having me use my cell phone minutes to call the Air France office in Taipei, he called them, got the flight confirmed, and called a travel agent to come to the airport to sell Alison the ticket to Vietnam. If she would have purchased the ticket at the airport it would have been a little shy of $500 USD (without taxes and fees), but with the slightly shady travel agent, it was just a little over $400 USD (with taxes and fees).
    After the few hours it took to get that all sorted, we still had like four more to wait before her flight. So, we got breakfast, and then explored the airport a bit. For a bit of the exploration, Alison sat on the front of a luggage cart, and I pushed her around the airport. After exploring, we sat in a restaurant, played with our datebooks and then looked at pictures from her trip on her laptop. Eventually, the time had come for her to leave. We said our goodbyes, and I booked it back into the city just in time to make it to class.
    I think Alison is probably back in, or just about to land in Amsterdam right now, assuming all went well. I got a note from her while she was in in the Ho Chi Min City airport, and there didn't seem to be any problems as of then. So, I am just going to assume for the best, and also assume I won't hear from her for a while, because I bet she is going to go straight to bed when she gets back and not wake up for a while.

Alison's Visit view
    The coolest cat in the world, Alison, came to visit me from Amsterdam!



1] At some stage during me getting this all sorted, Alison (whether or not she knew it) gave me the best compliment ever. She turned to me and said, "You know, it's sort of insane that you can discuss all this plane ticket stuff in Chinese, and not just like basic conversation stuff." It made me all happy and warm inside, aww.

Alison Has Arrived!!
Thursday, March 31, 2005 Posted 12:02 AM CST (UTC+08)
    Mr. and Mrs. Berge, your lovely daughter has arrived safely here in Taiwan. Her luggage, however, is still in Vietnam. Everything is sorted, and it will arrive sometime tomorrow afternoon at my apartment. More news on all this later.

earlier