October 30, 2013

Like our imaginations were in shape then

The temples here are so whimsical. I find myself photographing the roofing from every angle, changing all of my settings, trying to capture the vivid colors and meticulous detailing. This shot is from two weeks ago, wandering around the city with a friend from couchsurfing. We realized it must have been a Buddhist holiday, because even the smallest temples had performances and ceremonies going on all day. I hope to do a temple stay over a long weekend to understand the Buddhist culture in Taiwan a little better and also just experience something very different and out of my comfort zone. Culture is best understood by active participation, in my opinion. I love seeing the temples and watching ceremonies from a distance, but the opportunity to be there with monks and learning exactly what each thing means... that is one of the privileges of living in Asia. I missed out due to scheduling and laziness in Korea, so I refuse to let that happen again. Now I am just waiting until I can take off a Friday and sign up to go! 

I've been wishing I had a video camera daily. I've decided I have to upgrade my DSLR so I can get a video recording function in it. I think it will change the way I share my experiences and give me a new way to relive these moments. 

Watch this and be completely impressed; I've been playing it on repeat today. It is the same guy who went viral for his "Porkchop vs Karate Chop" video. 

October 26, 2013

5 for Friday: Cave Junction, Oregon

Starting this week, on Fridays I will be posting entries with five pictures from a specific location.
This week is Cave Junction, Oregon. This was my first location site for Americorps NCCC (I resigned from, but that will be a longer post at some point in the future). I lived in a cabin on a nature ranch, and a wonderful friend, Mike from Korea, mailed me a fixed 50mm lens. I wandered around the property every few days, taking pictures and learning how to control the focal point with what is still one of my favorite pieces of camera equipment.

Here are five photos from around the property in beautiful Southern Oregon in November 2012:

It is easy to dwell on the negative aspects of life anywhere, and this is no exception, but I really loved Oregon's landscape. I hated pulling poison oak for hours every day and living in a crowded cabin. But, it was wonderful to have such an amazing backdrop. I was given the opportunity to learn new skills, try now things, and learn about myself. Focus on the good, of course. 

October 22, 2013

Frozen in Time

Chenghuang Temple in Hsinchu

Chenghuang, or City of God, Temple is my favorite place in Hsinchu so far. Part of it may be influenced by the fact that I found it completely on my own, making it a little more intimate. It is also a beautiful temple, of course, and it has an interesting story, being the highest ranking City of God temple in all of Taiwan (link), but it is more than that. The temple is surrounded by these markets, which I am completely infatuated with. There are areas for produce, fabric, clothing, Buddhist goods, food vendors, and even little restaurants set up. In some ways it is very familiar to the markets I've seen in Korea and elsewhere in Asia, but it is distinctly its own. I could be wrong, but it feels like in Chenghuang's markets, people come here just to be at the market, rather than it being a tedious chore to go shopping that forces them to it. People come and grab lunch, leave gifts in the temple itself, let their kids play in the temple entrance (as seen in the picture above), and pick up some things. Its even vibrant at night on the weekend, filled with people getting dinner. 

The front entrance to the fabric section, closed and shuttered at night, but bustling in the daylight. 

I like the atmosphere and the crowded stalls. I love the convenience of the set up. And more than that, being a brisk 7 minute walk from my house, it is my market - the one I go to for my weekly groceries and occasional wandering. I feel more grounded having found it, and it makes Hsinchu a little more of my home.

October 13, 2013

Finding my way

The first temple I stumbled upon in Taiwan

I've been in Taiwan a full week now, and I am feeling more settled. This is relative, as I still use a photocopied map with lots of scribbling on it to find my way around, hah. I've been lucky, having coworkers willing to walk me across the city to find a plant for my cavernous apartment, to loan me a cell phone, to take me to their favorite restaurants, and score me a free week-long trial at an awesome gym. These are huge in learning my way around this new city.

Now that I'm spending more time wandering by myself, I do a lot of walking, so street names and spatial understanding are vital. If you know me well, you should realize that this means I spend a lot of time mildly lost. Things look familiar and places stand out to me, but I am not sure which way is right or what street I am on exactly. But, every day I feel a little more confident and come home with the spoils of my success - a baguette, a pasta strainer, stationary, or paper towel... these may be simple, but every success is worth appreciating. 

October 6, 2013

Welcome to Hsinchu

The view from my bedroom window, 6 am with a typhoon possibly on its way. To be fair, this could be anywhere. Really, it isn't even that aesthetically different from Daegu. Even on my third day in the country, however, I know my life here will be much different than it was in Korea. 

I feel humbled and embarrassed to realize that I've forgotten so much of the history and language lessons I spent so much time memorizing in university. I need to study up on the culture and language, to meet new people and make friends, to learn my way around this new city.. all of the little details that are taken for granted in a grounded life. But these challenges and struggles are what I love about life abroad. I am more aware of my surroundings and am much more in tune and present in the moment. It is my "this is water" moment, only it lasts for months. And really, that is why I am here.