Back in Taipei, I spent a couple days helping out at Fulbright Orientation for this year's scholars and going out with some excellent new Fulbrighters at night. You can definitely say one thing about Fulbrighters: they are never boring. After that orientation was over, I devoted a lot of time to just getting my life in order: doing laundry, finding nearby grocery stores, and other such exciting activities. And hanging out with Vicky's Taiwanese friend Eggbert, who magically knows all foreign students in Taipei! (his name alone merits a mention, I feel)
ICLP (International Chinese Language Program, if you were wondering) didn't even quasi-begin until the 17th, when I had my placement test. I had spent the night before trying to brush up on traditional characters, only to discover that the test had no writing component, plus they let me take it in simplified Chinese. I ran into a funny kind of situation the next day: it was my birthday, but I didn't really know anyone in the program too well yet. I ended up having a Very Fulbright Birthday, the highlight of which was when, having no candles to put on my cake, people held up 23 wiggling fingers for me to "blow out." Yay! Then we went to the night market and had delicious frozen desserts and I bought a $3 dress that has purple trees and large green and orange cats on it. Only in Taiwan!
Side note: Can you believe that I am 23? Five years ago I could have never imagined being that old, haha, but actually in the grand scheme of things it isn't very old at all. It's merely the oldest I've ever been.
The next week we had ICLP orientation...there were a lot of lectures on various things that I didn't pay a lot of attention to because the room where we had it was FREEZING. Air-conditioning is a delightful invention, but seriously: too much of a good thing. The other main thing I did that week was try to get on a morning-class-friendly sleep schedule, but let's not lie: this effort was a total failure. Also, I tried out (successfully) for the NTU Chorus! They are super-good, plus there is dancing, and I couldn't be happier about it. Especially since they let me switch from my original assignment to the soprano section. Yikes.
The one thing that they impressed upon us during ICLP orientation was how we were going to need to spend a bajillion hours a day studying and doing homework, plus I placed into a decently advanced level, so I was a little bit afraid of what the work would be like when class started. However, at this point I've been doing it for a week, and although it's been a little bit crazy and some nights are more sleepless than others, it seems to be manageable. Also, I am learning new stuff at a slightly ridiculous rate, which is awesome. I keep hearing people using vocab words in my actual life, which is really exciting. For example, we learned the word for mission or task, and that night I had an icebreaker activity for choir where we broke up into teams and went around playing games at different stations, and at every single station, they'd say, "all right, your task here is to...(whatever)" I was so psyched about that word. Then we played a bunch of fast-paced chanting games in Chinese to learn people's names, and I was really afraid but I totally held my own! Looks like I'll be working real hard this year, but at least I am learning all kinds of stuff. English is forbidden inside the ICLP building (well, the 2 floors of it that comprise ICLP), and everybody had to create their own punishment for if they get caught speaking it. Fun!