Sunday, September 21, 2014

This Is a Rant About Social Media....

When I first went to college I had a land line that I used regularly, only one of my roommates had a laptop, and most people had a limited number of text messages they could use per month. Text messages often took up to a minute to reach the intended recipient and we were still using discmans to listen to music. If we needed a recipe, craft project, decorating advice, or help on homework we would actually go to the library and get information from magazines and books instead of hoping on Pinterest. 

Four years later when I graduated from college it was unheard of to not own a laptop, almost everyone had unlimited text messages and the use of smart phones were on the rise (however iPads had not made an appearance yet). Since graduating 4 years ago technology has continued to change and has become an ever increasing presence in everybody's lives.

I began using Facebook shortly after it was created, which happened to be my freshman year of college in 2005.  At the time it was only open to college students and as a recent high school graduate I was excited to be able to keep in contact with my friends from home. At the time there was no news feed which meant that I wasn't flooded with pictures of other people's vacations, selfies, pets, or political views. There were no status updates that allowed people to overshare information they would not typically share in public situations. There were no "share" or "like" or "comment" buttons that seem to flood my news feed these days. It was a simple site that allowed people to remain connected even though they were thousands of miles away.  Facebook has made huge changes since that time and now it seems like there is more "junk" on Facebook than actual conversations. 

My opinion of Facebook and other social media sites are often wavering between disdain and appreciation (especially while overseas). However I had an experience this week that has really caused me to question the usefulness of Facebook in my life. Here are two of my thoughts about Facebook: 

1. I recently read an article about a girl from Amsterdam who fooled her family and friends into believing she was on a 5 week trip to Asia through the use of social media. "(Her) goal was to prove how common and easy it is to distort reality. She states, 'I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media.'  (

This women so eloquently puts into words my exact feelings towards social media. We only post the best pictures, the happiest moments, the most perfect parties we host. We never post that it took 500 failed pictures until we got one where we looked skinny enough, or the tears that lead up to the party because nothing was working out according to plan. We create a reality about our lives that we want others to see, and as a result our followers get caught up in the trap of comparing their imperfect life to a facade of perfection.
2. For some reason, beyond my comprehension, social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc...) has also become on on-line playground for bullies. Before technology you only had to be concerned about bullies when you went to school, now because of social media everyone has to be concerned about public criticism at all hours of the day, from people who may or may not even know them. 

Earlier this week I watched a Jimmy Kimmel segment called mean tweets- it is where he gets celebrities to read mean tweets people have written about them. I always think they are funny, but there is always a part of me that doesn't understand how somebody can say something that cruel to another human being they have never met- all they know is this false reality that the media (and sometimes the actor/actress) portrays. Well 2 days later I got the answer to why I feel uncomfortable with the "mean tweets" segment and unfortunately the answer came to me in a personal attack from a co-worker via Facebook. 

For those of you unaware of my current living situations I am living on the 4th floor of the school I teach at.  I share a room and bathroom with three other girls, and a kitchen and laundry area with 7 other people. Despite having that many people share one small space there have been little to no negative interactions. This is largely due to the fact that 7 out of the 8 people are considerate, understanding, and respectful. One person (whom we will refer to as HP) really struggles with the concept of "community" living. 
I will not go in depth about what the situation that led to the Facebook post was, as it is not relevant and I don't feel comfortable airing somebody else's dirty laundry on social media (which is a little bit funny because the altercation was actually about laundry.) 

Thursday night (after I was in bed) HP and I had a disagreement about when I should get my clothes out of the washer. A conversation ensued, I moved my clothes, and went back to bed. I thought the conversation was finished. Well imagine my surprise when I found out that HP had posted his perception of our conversation on FB which of course shows him as the kind, understanding hero, and me as the awful, bitchy, villan (granted I could have handled the situation better, he was not 100% innocent either). What really got me though were the comments that people were saying about me- people who don't even know me were calling me spoiled, awful, horrible, in need of "motivational" speeches,  the list can go on and on. What killed me even more was HP responding affirmatively to all these negative comments- this is somebody I have to see on a DAILY basis. I kept trying to remind myself that I shouldn't care what HP and his friends are saying about my life, I know I have flaws but I try to be a good person. I have plenty of people who love me, I don't need validation from his friends who are making snap judgments on somebody's perception of me. But it still hurts. I still have to fight EVERY urge not to fight dirty, not to hurt back like he hurt me. I also have had to try really hard not to shut down. So at the end of the day I would like to thank you HP and your douchebag friends for allowing me to practice my wholehearted lifestyle- after all that is one of my major goals while inTaiwan and you gave me a great opportunity to practice. 
Moral of the story: Facebook can be a slippery slope, not everyone will use it appropriately. I am still trying to determine the appropriate balance but after this experience I am pretty determined to only use Facebook to spread kindness. After all the world needs more kindness. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bright Lights, Big City- Day 1

The first weekend in September we took the opportunity to enjoy The Moon Festival holiday by heading up to Taipei for the long weekend. The week proceeding the vacation, the program director in me came out and I spent a few hours coming up with an itinerary, locating destinations on the map, confirming details on Pinterest and various blogs, and color coding my book. I even looked up our hostel on Google street view so I would be able to recognize it when we got there.  
And while some of you may think that I went a little overboard (and you might be right), we had a relaxing, stress-free vacation and we never got so lost we couldn't find our way back (the navigating God's were definitely smiling upon us!!!)

Saturday, September 6, 2014
I had already purchased the bus tickets earlier in the week for NT 260 (which is about $5 American dollars). It was a 3 hour bus ride which I spent watching the American movie they were playing, it was some Wolverine/X-men movie- I didn't really care what it was, I was just happy I understood what they were saying. 
Our itinerary for Saturday was as follows:

First stop: Elephant Mountain: this is a beautiful hike up a billion stairs to catch a view of the Taipei skyline. I forgot the Chinese version of hiking is just climbing a bunch of stairs- but at least my glutes got a workout. We stopped at this spot to take a few pictures:
It was a breathtakingly beautiful view. Thinking we had reached the lookout destination we were debating whether to turn around and head back or keep hiking. After 10 minutes of debating, the girls decided to go just a little bit further- and I am so glad we did, because 20 steps away was this lookout point:

This is the actual lookout point, the one where all the photographers go to set up their equipment so nobody else can take good pictures. And to think we almost turned around and missed this spectacular view!!!

Second stop: Taipei 101
Our first stop was this sculpture:

It has always been a goal of mine to take a picture in front of this sculpture. I know there are replicas in lots of places around the world but the first time I saw a picture of the sculpture it was in Taipei- it was meant to be!!

After our golden hour photo shoot we headed up to get tickets to the top of what used to be the tallest building in the world. At first I wasn't going to go up- I had just been up the Stratosphere in February and felt like the experience would be to similar- I mean if you have seen one skyscraper you have seen them all, right?!? FALSE! We went at sunset, which made for some amazing views (or would have if I was a good photographer). All for only NT 500 or $18 (and the cashiers spoke English!!!!!!). We stepped off the elevators on the 87th floor, which was enclosed, and we were trying to take pictures, but it was so CROWDED!! Then we got smart went to the 91st floor which was outside and had breathtaking views of the city at sunset. Views that made us question why we spent so much time on the 87th floor. So once again we should have just gone a little bit farther for a better view. 

What's really cool about this architecture is they have this damper ball on the 88 floor to keep the building safe from typhoon's or other natural disasters. 

Third/Last stop: Rahoe night market/rainbow bridge
We most definitely would not be able to go to Taipei without going to a night market. I thought it would be easier to walk to the night market instead of getting on the MRT and switching lines twice so we started walking until we got to a tricky intersection. While we were looking at the map a kind young man (who spoke English) stopped in the middle of his conversation and asked us where we were going, and let us know that it was too far to walk and a taxi would be pretty cheap. The man was right on all accounts, it was too far to walk, and the taxi only cost NT 75 or $2.50. It was her first time hailing a taxi and Cassidy did it like a pro, it must be all those HIMYM episodes. We spent the next hour exploring what the night market had to offer- I am not a huge fan of night markets, but was happy to help Cassidy find her Hello Kitty sweatshirt (just in time for the Hello Kitty Cafe). I was able to find these yummy dumplings and cranberry juice as well as an awesome Chinglish shirt.

At the end of the night market we found a temple (expected) and a sign for a rainbow bridge (not expected). We debated whether we should go to the end of the night market and once again we proved why we should go just a little bit further. This time we would have missed this view:

It wasn't the rainbow bridge I was expecting but it was still beautiful and relaxing to sit and watch all the families eating BBQ. 

In order to get back to our hostel we decided to take a taxi back to Taipei 101 and catch the MRT from there. Cassidy got us a cab, we sat down and I told him where we were going (in Chinese!!!). We got to our destination at 11:01 after he circled the block and stopped at the longest red light of my life. I went to pay him NT 100 and he tried to charged me an extra NT 20 because it was after 11 am. I was annoyed- just on the principle that it was 1 minute over and he circled the block. I tried to rationalize with him and gave him and he wasn't hearing it so I paid him NT 10 and shamelessly pouted until he said "ok ok". I then proceeded to feel bad for denying this man what would be pennies for me. It was more of the principle- as you can see I am still trying to rationalize it. 

We came back to this arrangement in our hostel. Oh the things we do to save money. 

Stay tuned for day 2 and especially  day 3- it was full of "Classic Tiffanee" moments!

Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) August 24, 2014

Surprisingly, there is nothing too crazy to report about this trip. We were able to easily navigate the train and bus station, we got on the bus and made it to Sun Moon Lake with no major incidents. The original plan was to rent bikes and ride to the famous temple, pagodas, and other local touristy spots. Due to my reputation of getting lost, I gave the responsibility of navigating the lake to Carolyn. We easily rented bikes and started down the trail. We were really struggling at the beginning and almost got ran over several times (we were a hot mess), but we eventually pulled ourselves together and started biking around the lake. Only to find out two hours later that we went the wrong way and would not be make it to the toutisty spots before the bus left to go back to Feng Yuan. We were still able to get beautiful pictures though.

What's a trip without a little Mango Shaved Ice!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Little of This and a Little of That

This post is dedicated to all of the little moments these past three months that can't fill a whole post but still deserve an honorable mention.  

1. Bukka Cafe and Costco
  As was mentioned in my last post, I was invited to a bear cafe and Costco back in July. After the mornings fiasco (see previous post), I was really lacking any desire to be adventurous - luckily these moments were full of things that reminded me of home. The cafe had a cute hipster charm to it. The only thing that would have made it feel more American would be music I can understand and menus I could read.

2. Laughing Buddha 
Several blocks away from our church building is a laughing buddha. One Saturday we went to go visit. The end.

3. Language Exchanges
Early on in the semester Peggy asked me if I would be interested in doing a language exchange. I was thrilled because even though I am not gifted in language I have made a much larger effort to learn the language this time around (it only took me three times in a foreign country to get there). Every Thursday Ib, myself, and several other secretaries go out to dinner or some other activity and practice our language. These nights are often filled with so much laughter and memorable experiences. It has turned into one of my favorite nights of the week!

4. Night Markets
Night markets are a big deal here. I don't really care for them, but yet I still find myself there most weekends. Some of the more popular ones are packed and can get crazy. Luckily we have found ones by our house that aren't too crowdad. But regardless of what night market you go to they will all have one thing in common- they STINK! For some reason the Chinese people love to eat stinky tofu (yes, that is really it's name)- it smells like raw sewage. I hate it. However there are occasionally some good finds at the night market like these roasted corns you can get for about 1 USD.
Or these jiao zi (dumplings) we found at the night market in Taipei for about 1 USD (seriously the best I have ever had).
There's always money in the banana stand... And occasionally yummy chocolate dipped bananas.
And no trip to the night market would be complete without a mango bing sha. This is a little spendier at 2 USD. (But do worth it for the whip cream)
Then there are the not so good finds:

The great thing about night markets is you never know what you are going to find like this shirt: 

Or even this:
Which is why I even though I don't love night markets you can still find me there on a Friday night.

5. KTV
There is a little past time that Chinese people love- in America we call it Karaoke, here they call it KTV. I have so many memories at KTV from all my travels to China. There was the memorable first KTV experience at the young age of 19 with Collin-oli. 
There was also the time when Jameson's face said it all as 10 girls busted out "My Humps" in honor of Haley's favorite shower jam and who can forget this dazzling duo busting out some Chinese song at our Christmas party festivities.  
Even though I have been KTVing so many times it never gets old. Plus it is fun to see others experience KTV for the first time, and let me just say this group killed it. If there was ever a place made for Cassidy, Josh, and Ib it would be KTVing. I will say the Chinese take their KTV very seriously, but that didn't stop us from having fun... I even busted out a tune or two (or three or four), despite my natural tendency to not sing in front of others. 

6. Typhoon  Matmo
Back in July we experienced our first typhoon, which really just meant we got the day off teaching and stayed in our PJ's all day. We eventually ventured out in the afternoon to go to the store/McDonald's.