Friday, September 10, 2010

愛玲的留學變成活學

As my final project for my Chinese class, I did an hour-long presentation on what I learned from my travels and wrote an essay on the same topic.

The following is the culmination of nearly a year away from work, home, family and friends...only to discover a whole new kind of work, home, family and friends.
enjoying the view of Taipei
I've included the Google Translate version in case you can't read Chinese and mostly because it is hilarious. 

愛玲的留學變成活學
大家好。我今天要告訴大家我這一年的旅行。介紹我看到、學到、吃到什麼。

可是這就要從我父母說起了。

我父母都在臺灣長大。他們年輕的時候移民到美國。遷到美國是為了找到更多、更好的機會。但是我的情形相反。我有機會離開美國的時候,就打算回到臺灣。因為我在美國長大, 一點中文都不會說。總是因為不了解我外祖父外祖母,所以覺得很難過。打算離開美國是為了更了解我親人的文化跟我自己。我決定先存錢,等存夠了,再放棄我的工作。然後我開始準備搬家到臺灣。

這幾年我不但到臺灣,也到世界各地去旅行。我花了差不多十二個月的時間,一連去了幾個不同的國家。我第一次看到那麼多國家, 吃吃看本來連看都沒看過的食物,和交了許多新朋友。

我去了希臘,義大利,西班牙, 摩洛哥,菲律賓,泰國,香港,日本,斯里蘭卡,臺灣,這十個地方讓我得到更滿意的生活。這些國家教我怎麼欣賞簡單的幸福。但是各有各的教法。

我在希臘學到怎麼找到便宜的旅館,做希臘沙拉,而且欣賞歷史的美感。我上高中的時候學藝術史。以前希臘的藝術跟文化是我最喜歡的題目。可是只在課本裡看過他們的雕塑,建築物,跟藝術。不算是真的了解和欣賞他們的藝術。我在他們的寺廟的時候,一邊慢慢看,一邊了解以前人類的能力跟努力. 因為2000多年以前的人民就能建造出 the Parthenon,所以我應該能建立滿意的生活。從這兩件事情比起來,我的生活有非常簡單的感覺。

我在義大利學到怎麼收獲橄欖 和曆數。一般來說,人民不知道他們的食物是從哪裡來的或是誰種的。我本來也是這樣子,可是農業的工作讓我發現我小的時候非常幸運。因為我父母有餐廳,所以我想吃什麼,就可以吃什麼。從來不必為食物工作! 雖然農業很辛苦,但是那些農人教我怎麼平衡工作跟生活。我們每天日出就起床,可是到了下午就在外面吃兩個小時的午飯。再忙也會停下我們的工作,看看每天的日落。不管你正要做什麼,你也會放下手邊的事,跟大家一起欣賞日落。

我在西班牙參觀了畢加索的博物館,去了非常大、非常有名的市場,還吃了很棒的三明治,很多人說那算是世界上最好吃的三明治。 巴賽羅那教我錦衣玉食的生活是怎麼樣的。以前我特別喜歡為了去很貴的餐廳花很多錢。但是因為從我離開工作開始,我沒有辦法花那麼多錢, 所以我決定在巴賽羅那吃我在西班牙的最後一頓晚餐。我是跟我朋友一起去的,我們聽說那家是當地最好吃的餐廳。我們兩個都花了六千多塊台幣, 四個小時,可是值得得不得了!

摩洛哥教我怎麼在沙漠騎駱駝,做摩洛哥菜,搭便車,和信心。不必有太清楚的計劃。我去摩洛哥的時候,一個計畫都沒有。沒訂旅館。不知道要去哪裡。可是我們沒有什麼問題。每天找得到地方可以去,也找得到床可以睡覺。發現我不必像以前那樣著急。花了再多時間準備跟擬定計畫, 也可能沒辦法實行。

我在泰國學到怎麼吃辣得要命的菜。還學到怎麼忍受有不同習慣的朋友。我跟不太好相處的朋友一起去旅行。我覺得花時間跟有一點討厭的人相處,對你的心很健康。他們教我怎麼適應新情況,跟欣賞每一種人。對我來說,這樣的態度很重要。

菲律賓教我怎麼好好地玩。我在森林,海洋,瀑布 , 山丘, 河流,和山洞玩,美不勝收。

香港教會我吃豬肉。

日本讓我知道簡單的好處。雖然大部分的他們的食物,寺廟,國家公園,跟藝術都又簡單又秀氣,可是還很迷人。日本也讓我明白忠誠。我在大阪看了一場棒球賽。我跟我朋友一起在看台上給他們加油。那天大阪的棒球隊沒得到分,而且他們的投手一連投了好幾個壞球。但是因為他們的拉拉隊很興奮,也有團隊精神,所以他們出了風頭。對方贏了,可是球賽還是精彩得沒話說!如果大家有機會去日本,非去大阪的棒球賽不可。

在斯里蘭卡我學會了怎麼放鬆。以前我在美國作公關的時候,我對我的外表很重視。我寧可死了,也不能不修邊幅!但是現在如果沒辦法天天洗澡,我不會生氣。現在我不怕髒髒的東西。我什麼都可以吃喝。斯里蘭卡人不用刀叉。只用他們的手吃。他們也把食物放在廢紙裡面。他們不用乾淨的盒子還是袋子。用已經用過一次的紙,好像小朋友的工作,成績單,或是舊單子,什麼的。

我以為我來臺灣是為了學中文,沒想到我會學到那麼多東西。台北不但讓我學會怎麼寫、念中文,還讓我學到什麼對我來說是理想的生活。應該由自己來決定要選哪種生活,所以每天都變成一種新的冒險。

我在臺灣也發現了我愛大自然的一面。在臺灣開始爬山跟攀岩。沒想到我有力氣做這些運動。原來我也很怕說中文,可是現在差不多會了!本來沒想到我有足夠的力量,可是現在我證明了自己的力量。

我還不太會說中文, 可是我學會怎麼旅行。好好地旅行,不管你有多少錢或是有機會去哪個國家。能不能好好地旅行,要看你的想法。本來我打算去旅行是因為我喜歡吃吃看新東西,欣賞藝術跟風景,可是現在我覺得對我來說旅行的最重要的好處並不是這些簡單的東西。是為了得到更好的想法。

我小的時候很容易迷路,而且對我來說地圖很難了解。去了十個國家,才終於發現迷路也沒什麼關係。有的時候你得先迷路,才可以找到新東西。我旅行的時候,有好多次我在陌生的地方走來走去,忽然看到特別的市場還是非常漂亮的風景。

當然我還是愛到國外去旅行。但是如果我要得到新經驗,不必遨遊到很遠的地方。不管你在海平面底下18公尺潛水,爬3952公尺的山或是留在家裡,只要有好奇心,注意、 欣賞你的環境就可以感覺到 。一定要用觀光客的眼睛來看一切東西。現在我回國以後,不管我看超級市場,郵局,或是辦公大樓,都應該像博物館,玉山,或是日落那樣美麗。

Ai Ling's study abroad is a life study
 

Hello, everybody. I am going to tell you that I travel this year. Introduced me to see, learn, eat anything.
 

But this from my parents talking about the.
 

My parents grew up in Taiwan. When they were young to emigrate to the United States. Moved to the United States is to find more and better opportunities. However, the opposite of my situation. I have the opportunity to leave when the United States, it intends to return to Taiwan. Because I grew up in the United States, some Chinese language will not say. Grandfather grandmother always because I do not know, so I find it very sad. Intend to leave the United States in order to better understand the culture of my family with me. I decided to save money, save up, and then give up my job. Then I began to prepare to move into Taiwan.
 

In recent years I not only to Taiwan but also to travel around the world. I spent almost 10 months time series to several different countries. The first time I saw so many countries, originally did not even try it saw food, and made many new friends.
 

I went to Greece, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the place for me to get ten more satisfied with life. Teach me how to appreciate them simple happiness. However, each have their own teachings.
 

I learned how to find cheap in Greece, hotels, make Greek salad, and enjoy the beauty of history. When in high school I studied art history. Former Greek art and culture is my favorite subject. However, seen only in textbooks of their sculptures, buildings, with the arts. Not a true understanding and appreciation of their artistic. My time in their temples, while slowly, watch and learn with the previous capacity of human effort. Because 2000 years ago people could build out the Parthenon, so I should be able to build a satisfactory life. Ratio of these two things together, I feel life is very simple.
 

I learned how harvest olives in Italy and enumerate. In general, people do not know their food came from or who species. I was also like this, but I found work in agriculture when I was very lucky.  Because my parents have restaurants, so I want to eat anything, you can eat. Never need to work for the food! Although agriculture is very hard, but those farmers who taught me how to balance work with life. We got up at sunrise every day, but in the afternoon on a two-hour lunch to eat outside. No matter how busy will stop our work and see the sunset every day. No matter what you are to do, you will put aside the matter with everyone enjoy the sunset.
 

I visited the Picasso museum in Spain to a very large, very well-known market, but also eat a great sandwich, a lot of people say that it considered the world's most delicious sandwiches. Silk clothing Yushi Barcelona taught me how life is like. Before I like to go to expensive restaurants spend a lot of money. But because I left work from the beginning, I can not spend so much money, so I decided to eat in Barcelona in Spain, my last dinner. I go with my friends, we heard that home is the best local restaurant to eat. We both spent more than six thousand NT dollars, four hours, but incredibly worthwhile!
 

Morocco taught me how to ride camels in the desert, so Moroccan, free riding, and confidence. Do not have a very clear plan. When I went to Morocco, a project no. No hotel bookings. Do not know are going. But we do not have any problems. Find places to go every day, but also find bed to sleep. Find that I do not worry, as before. It took more time to prepare with a plan, it may not get implemented.
 

I learned how spicy Thai dishes to pieces. Also learned how to endure different habits friend. I live with is not very good friends to travel together. I feel a bit annoying to spend time with people who get along very healthy for your heart. They taught me how to adapt to new circumstances, with the appreciation of each person. To me, this attitude is very important.
 

Philippines taught me how to play properly. I am in the forest, ocean, waterfalls, hills, rivers, and caves to play, beautiful.
 

Hong Kong taught me to eat pork.
 

Japan let me know the benefits of simple. Although most of their food, temples, national parks, with the arts are another delicate and simple, but very charming. I understand loyalty to Japan. I watched a baseball game in Osaka. I told my friends in the stands to give them fuel. Osaka's baseball team that day did not get points, and their pitcher to vote several consecutive balls. But because their fans are excited, but also team spirit, so they out of the limelight. The other side won, but the match was brilliant too impress! If you have the opportunity to go to Japan, baseball is not to go to Osaka.
 

In Sri Lanka, I learned how to relax. I used to make public relations in the United States, I very much attention to my appearance. I would rather die, not slovenly! But now, if can not take a bath every day, 
I will not get angry. Now I do not Pazang dirty things. What can I eat and drink. Sri Lanka do not need knives and forks. Only eat with their hands. They also put food on the paper inside. They do not clean the box or the bag. Has been used with a sheet of paper, like the children's work, transcripts, or the old list, whatever.
 

I thought I came to Taiwan to study Chinese, did not think I would learn so many things. Taipei is not only taught me how to write, read Chinese, but also what I learned for me is the ideal life. Should be to decide which to choose life, so every day into a new adventure.
 

I also found in Taiwan, I love natural beauty. Mountain climbing with climbing in Taiwan began. Did not think I have the strength to do the exercises. Originally, I was afraid to speak Chinese, but now almost be it! Originally did not think I have enough strength, but now I have to prove their strength.
 

I also do not speak Chinese, but I learned how to travel. Good to travel, no matter how much money you have the opportunity to go to any country or. Will you take to travel, to see what you think. I intended to travel because I like to eat new things to see and enjoy the art and scenery, but now I think for me the most important benefits of travel is not such a simple thing. The idea is to get better.
 

When I was small I can easily get lost, and the map is difficult for me to understand. Went to 10 countries, it has nothing to do with finally found lost. Sometimes you have to get lost before they can find something new. When I travel, there are times I walk around in a strange place, suddenly see the particular market is still very beautiful scenery.

Of course I still love to travel abroad. But if I want to be a new experience, do not travel to far away. Whether you are 18 meters under sea level scuba diving, mountain climbing 3952 meters, or stay at home, as long as curiosity, attention, appreciation of your environment can be felt. Must use the eyes of tourists look at everything. I returned home, whatever I see in supermarkets, post offices, or office buildings, should be like a museum, Yushan, or as a beautiful sunset.






Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Kandy is Dandy But Liquor Is Quicker" -W. Wonka

I can't believe how much Kandy we crammed into just two days!

1. Went for a run around the lake. My second time around I noticed so much more (plants, animals, men bathing)! Just shows you how important it is to take a closer look at things. There is so much to gain just by paying a little more attention. Saw turtles, giant crocodile-sized iguanas, ducks, so many kinds of birds, snails the size of my fist and a monkey riot! There were over two dozen jumping on cars and causing an awesome raucous. It felt like Kenmore Square after the Red Sox won in 2004.

2. Temple of the Tooth: The sacred relic was obtained from the sandalwood pyre in which the Buddha was cremated. It has a long history in Sri Lanka, before it arrived in its current resting place in Kandy. My favorite part was actually the story of Raja the Maligawa Tusker, whose body was taxidermied and has its own little shrine on the temple grounds. Apparently when the elephant came across the sacred tooth relic, he kneeled down as if to pay his respects. From then on it was his and only his privilege and duty to transport the tooth as it traveled from town to town.

3. Hit the shops: included tea, scarves and spices. Some awesome finds! Thank goodness for our Sri Lankan hosts and "local" prices.

4. Tea plantation. I never realized how tiny the actual usable part of the plant is. What tedious work to harvest! I'll have to remember this the next time I enjoy a nice cup of tea.

5. Drive through the hills above Kandy. The light was gorgeous! Views that help you understand where cliches such as "breath-taking" and "awe-inspiring" come from.

6. Drive through downtown Kandy in a trishaw. Makes you realize where cliches such as "death-defying" and "scared shitless" come from.

7. Traditional Kandyan dance show. Interesting costumes, fun instruments, fire dancing, hot coal walking.

8. Hiked around rock caves and giant rock of Sigiriya, home to a monastery in 1-2 centuries BC and then the palace/fortress of King Kassapa later on (plus his hundreds of mistresses). 

9. Several quick, drive-by views and activities on our way back to Kandy from Sigiriya. Wood carving workshop, Golden Temple at Dambulla, fruit stand where I tried bale fruit, "Ayurvedic" (legitimacy of this place questionable) spice garden tour (aka the place where I was offered "a full body massage, ma'am"), Aluvihara rock cave temple in Matale, Hindu temple in Matale.

10. The food: bittu (rice-shaped noodles made of coconut and flour), more curries of course, egg hopper (an egg fried inside one of those thin crepe bowls), egg roti, parata.

11. Drinks with cast and crew of Sri Lankan cricket film at Queen's Hotel. Met the Sinhalese voice behind Antonio the mouse on "Tom & Jerry." He's also guest-voiced for a few villains on "Scooby Doo!"

12. Three-hour dance party in room nine at Devon Hotel to send me off properly for my 2 a.m. solo ride to the Colombo airport.

13. The next time I'm given the opportunity to take a risk and embrace spontaneity, I hope I will always remember this trip. It doesn't have to mean spending a month's worth of income on a plane ticket across the world, but I'm glad this time it did.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Training it in Sri Lanka

We opted to take the train for the six-plus hour ride from Hikkaduwa to Kandy as I heard it was "unreliable" and was looking for the adventure of a scenic train ride and the good photos that would inevitably result. We were not disappointed.

1. Sri Lanka is truly beautiful. At times the tracks ran parallel to the palm tree-lined Indian Ocean -- so close that it felt like we could graze the waves with our fingertips. At times verdant and lush. At times embelished with dilapidated shacks and bony cows instead of the waves and palm trees.
 2. Train snacks. Our lovely Sri Lankan hosts treated us to a number of goodies from the peddlers passing through the aisles. Lentil fritters. Spongy, coconut oil bread. Corn on the cob.


3. The cars got so packed that men were literally dangling off the side of the trains for hours. As every banana leaf, sign post and tree branch whizzed by, I held my breath and sighed with relief upon confirmation that our side door friends' limbs were still all intact.

4. For the second half of the ride, two goofy Brits were forced to cram into seats directly across from us. They were impossibly chatty and I would say obnoxious if I didn't find them so endearing in the most tremendously entertaining way. It was like watching a three-hour spin-off of "The Office" that involved a pair of young med students lost in Sri Lanka instead of employees at Wernham Hogg. My dear friend Candice did not agree, but she also admitted that she hates British comedy.

5. Inspired by the dangling man, I too hung from the side of the moving train for a bit...just for fun. And it was!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hikkaduwa: Food...and other things that happened

Sunday is market day in Hikkaduwa, and lucky for me, our guest house is a one-minute walk down the railroad tracks to this amazing temple to all things delicious in this town.

I know this may sounds sacrilegious and gluttonous to many, but the same reverence and love people sometimes reserve for their faith, I hold for food. Especially when I'm traveling, I regard every meal as this sacred, precious moment in my life to experience a new flavor in someone else's culture -- to appreciate and savor all the time and labor sacrificed by farmers, traders, cooks and everyone else in between that made this dish possible.

My mother (no joke) told me recently that love always changes in a relationship. I have to remember that it's temporary and can disappear as quickly as it manifests itself. But my stomach will always be hungry -- this I can count on. I must find a man who knows how to eat like I do, so we can happily share meals together every day.

So when I stumble across markets like this one in Sri Lanka, it's like finding this special place of worship -- an edible holy grail. I love the opressive heat, the dust, the smells of ripe fruit and exotic spices, the frantic yelling in Sinhalese, the fresh piles of produce and unfamiliar sweets, the chaos!

I spent less than a couple US dollars total and come away with a 100-piece bag of "honey corn" cookies (orange, cone-shaped pastry filled with basically pure sugar...the filling has this nice grainy honey texture but is unbearably sweet); a bunch of adorable, little bananas (apparently there are over 60 varieties of bananas in this country!); and five small packets of spices.

Other notable happenings in Hikkaduwa:

1. Afternoon of splashing in the ocean, playing in the sand, and starting an in-the-water beach brawl among a dozen Sri Lankan teenagers and 20-somethings. Punches were thrown. Bodies slammed into the water. We later realized our snorkeling guides were defending our honor after one of the opposing group of drunken drum circle boys rather inappropriately groped me underwater and then asked in Sinhalese how much I cost to rent. Have never witnessed such a dramatic display of misogyny and chivalry all at once.

2. Refreshing downpour during our snorkel. Beautiful. Saw a big turtle! Got a sea cucumber shoved in my hand. Dazzled by fat, neon fish.

3. Food. Glorious food! Crazy spicy, incredibly flavorful, veggie curries with rice. Coconut sambal. Dal. Green beans. Cabbage salad. Coconut roti. Veggie stir fries and omelets. Papadum. Cucumber and tomato salad seasoned with lime (fresh from the backyard!). Papaya smoothies (also from the backyard!). Milk Ceylon tea. Coconut water.

Everything here is infused with coconut, and from this day forward I would like to infuse my entire life with coconut.


4. The family who runs the guest house (Star Holiday) is lovely. We flip through wedding albums. Discuss the 30-year history of the place. Inquire (without success) about favorite Sri Lankan specialties...after much discussion between the wife and her mother-in-law, they turn to us in English with only these words: "Watermelon. Yes, or Cucumber."

5. The mom, wife of the late owner of the establishment who passed away last year, cooks our meals, and she seasons each entree with the love only a mother could possess. Her dal curry is the best of the trip thus far.








Friday, July 16, 2010

Colombo: The Yang to Yesterday's Yin

I am a drama queen.

I'm finally OK accepting that about myself. The drama tests me and keeps things interesting. I look back at my childhood and appreciate all the conflict because it helped me grow.  Now, because I know the drama of life can't be avoided, I almost relish it...every problem or awkward situation is a new opportunity to watch how I internalize discomfort.

And it's getting to be quite comfortable.

After what was a pretty unstable upbringing, there's a balance of conflict and resolution and of sadness and happiness that I'm slowly understanding more and more. I needed that dark period to be able to enjoy the lightness of my life today.

My dear friend and current travel companion Candice put it beautifully when she described the contrast of our first two days in Sri Lanka: "I don't think we could have appreciated today without yesterday."

"Yesterday" being filled with drama, stress and general feelings of unease, and "today" being perfection. Here is why:

1. Breakfast of string hoppers (noodles made of rice or flour and formed into floppy, thin disks), curry, veggie and fish roti, samosas, stir fried rice. The flavors here are so intense. A very heavy hand used with salt and all these amazing spices. 

 2.  My friend's friend's Sri Lankan friend arrived from Dubai and gave a wonderful tour of places of worship in Colombo (with almost every major Sri Lankan religious temple represented with the ironic exception of a mosque as most of the group is Muslim). The highlight for me was the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple. We even saw a Protestant church!


Fun fact: Telling of what a big part of the culture the diversity of religions is here, the Sri Lankan flag is made up of three blocks of colors -- green, saffron and crimson, which represent Islam, Tamil and other minor religious and ethnic groups respectively. Buddhism, the country's major religion, is represented by the four leaves of the Bodhi Tree.


3. Stroll through the beach. Admire Indian Ocean and a mix of adoring and angry looking couples under umbrellas.

4. Went for a lounge around and a dip in the hotel pool.

5. Dinner of Kottu Roti, which are chewy noodles made of sliced roti. The fast paced chopping is so rhythmic and entertaining -- it is the most musical meal I've ever seen prepared.
video

6. Hit the clubs. My travel buddies are an incredibly dynamic, thoughtful and fun bunch. They also hang with fro-yo shop tycoons and Sri Lankan American rappers. I'm not cool enough to have heard of the rapper guy, who is now apparently starring in a Sinhalese movie about cricket. However, I was very familiar with the fro-yo shop...wonder what that says about me.

I later found out that the rapper was trying to take advantage of me the whole night. Neat, right? Maybe I could have morally compromised myself into the next music video.