I can’t remember the age at which I was first put in the water to learn how to swim. The only swimming lessons I remember are not enjoying learning how to do a forward roll because the water went up my nose, treading water for two hours whilst waiting for my brothers swimming lesson to end because I couldn’t be bothered to swim lengths and finally not being able to climb out of a lake onto a pontoon one time. That’s all the memories of swimming lessons I have. I wouldn’t call myself an especially talented swimmer, and I don’t fancy my strength against big waves, as most sane people don’t, but I feel pretty comfortable in most water. Continue reading “231. Be grateful that you can swim.”
Right now, I’m an English teacher in Taiwan – I have no complaints. Every day many things happen that put a smile on my face and I can hand on heart say that I love to hang out with 7 year olds.
These past few weeks, over the summer holidays, I’ve taken on some summer classes, teaching even younger kids English and getting to experience their first doses of the language. Over those six weeks, one particular moment was my favourite, where a six year old, incredibly cute Taiwanese kid called Hank wanders up to me in the middle of class (which he has been in for the last four weeks and where we only speak English wherever possible) and he asks me 老師， 你聽得懂英文嗎？(lao shi ，ni ting de dong yingwen ma?), which means, for those of you that don’t speak a little Chinese – ‘Teacher, do you understand English?’. To which I replied, in English, ‘Yes. Yes I do Hank’, at which point he wanders off again looking content with having cleared that difficulty up.
In this blistering heat, the thought of walking up and down steep, rocky inclines makes me want to curl up in a dark air conditioned room. But, if you throw a promise of fresh mountain water or the perfect Pacific at the end of that slog, then I’m sure to accept. Continue reading “229. It’s always worth the slog if you get the big blue Pacific all to yourself.”
I remember a few years ago, before I left the UK, I was out ambling through the hills of the Lake District as the sun was going down and I was having a conversation with my friend, who was ambling alongside me. Said conversation has stuck in my head for a long time. Him: ‘You know that saying, people never change, I don’t think that’s true. I feel like I’ve changed a lot in the past few years’, or something to that extent. To which I responded, ‘On an individual level, we all change. But as a group of humans, we never do.’ Continue reading “228. History repeats itself, but it doesn’t have to.”
There are a lot of things in life that it’s better for your heart not to lust after. One of the things that is most certainly not on that list is waterfalls. Chase them to your heart’s content. They’re always beautiful, big or small, they’re always a lot of fun and they’re always a welcome reprieve to dive into throughout hot Taiwanese summers.
This weekend’s waterfall hunt took me to Taichung where hidden fairypools beckon the more ballsy of passers by to launch themselves off high rocks into deep blue pools steeped with vertical rock. And given this heat and the blue of that water, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d be launching myself into it.
I think I’ve known for a while that I’m not the sort of person that takes the easy way out on a regular basis – I do like a challenge, and I do have a terrible habit of making life unnecessarily difficult for myself.
My most recent occasion went along the lines of this. My Chinese teacher asked me to give her a speech about any animal of my choice. She gave me two minutes to prepare for talking for three minutes about said animal. I imagine that, had it been any other person, they might have picked an animal that was easy to talk about – a dog perhaps, or the more adventurous might talk about a lion or a giraffe, or being a huge fan of pandas you might think I would have chosen one as my topic. Of course, I did not. No points for guessing what I did tell you about because you’ll literally never land on it. Continue reading “226. Sometimes, you just like to make life difficult for yourself.”
Everyday that passes where I’m trapped in a classroom teaching English, I grow more and more grateful that I never had to sit down and learn it as a second language because, well, quite simply, it’s really quite ridiculous. Realistically, who needs that many tenses, and why have rules if you have more exceptions to them. I take my hat off to anyone who attempts to master a language that is just one big mess.
We’re all probably aware that Chinese is no walk in the park either, particularly for western ears. The sounds, the characters, the tones are all alien to our method of communication and mastering can take a few years of really intense studying, even if you’re completely immersed in it. So, when I come home on an evening and attempt to master a little bit more of it, there are a few occasions where I’ll momentarily question my sanity for not choosing to live some place where I can pick up the language in three months. But here I am, seven months into trying to master it, thoroughly enjoying its complexities, and even more so, its simplicities. Because, whilst it’s really damn difficult, there is so much to it that isn’t. Continue reading “225. Chinese may be one of the hardest languages in the world to learn, but aspects of it are laughably simple.”
雞蛋仔 (gai dan zai) or rather Hong Kong’s most delicious of street eat treats, the egg waffle, is one of the greatest things to grace the planet – it really is and if you haven’t ever had one then you simply must go and search for one this instant. So you’ll imagine my happiness at recently finding a great stand approximately a 3 minute walk from the door of my apartment block here in Taiwan – dangerous stuff for someone who loves them as much as I do.
It’s a Saturday night and you’re going in for an early one, and you stop by said stand to purchase a singular egg waffle to round off your busy day perfectly. On this particular day I wanted a plain one, nothing fancy, just the good old fashioned original. However they accidentally gave me a chocolate one, the worst of things to happen as you can imagine. They handed it to me apologetically and proceeded to start cooking another one for free. Now, a person who likes egg waffles now and again/ who is a little indifferent to them perhaps/ who has something terribly wrong with their tastebuds might have said something along the lines of ‘No, don’t worry, chocolate is fine, don’t trouble yourselves with making another one’. Sadly, I am not one of those people and those words did not and will not ever exit my mouth.
Two egg waffles for the price of one – no brainer.
I think I’ve mentioned it before that it’s a tad hot in this part of the world at the moment, but I’ll say it again for good measure – it’s really hot. But if you’re like myself and you enjoy hiking this won’t phase you all that much – simply bare in mind that within the first few seconds of your ascent the sweat will be dripping off your nose, your hair will resemble you having jumped in a pool and your clothing most likely something similar. It’ll be hard and it’ll be hot and your skin will feel like a layer too many, but it’s sure as anything an achievement that you made it back without being bitten by a snake or died from a complete lack of water in your system because you sweated it all out.
Here’s to many more.
PS. Those cool fancy fabrics that are supposed to wick away sweat have a limit that is reached early on in any daily activity here – including brushing your teeth.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Taiwan in the summer but let me quickly paint a picture for you – it’s hot and it’s sweaty and no amount of showers or lack of clothing can ever combat your rate of perspiration. Continue reading “222. Twenty minutes is a perfectly acceptable amount of time to queue for an ice cream.”