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  • Summer. Finally a break after University. I was a young 20 years old man, always used

  • to staying inside his room, looking at the world for the screen of his computer. But

  • there it was. The day I'll finally discover Asia. I had no idea of what was going to happen

  • to me, but the best was yet to come. Day 1

  • Everything started July 13th. I hadn't got much sleep the day before and I was still

  • trying to figure out what was going on around me. It was the first time I'd take the plane

  • alone, and it didn't look like an easy task. But eventually I found my gate and headed

  • to Shanghai... The Shanghai Pudong airport was an extraordinary

  • thing to look at. It was pretty modern and you couldn't drink water under 30 degrees.

  • But I heard the airport was imagined by French architect Paul Andreu, which kind of makes

  • you feel more comfortable. Being in a plane is a little scary. But staying

  • in it for over 10 hours becomes very painful. Thank god the air company found a way to cheer

  • things up a bit. After 15 long hours of wait, 4 movies and

  • 4 meals, I finally landed in Taiwan. Boy I felt numb. I realized that I hadn't slept

  • that much during the flight, but it didn't matter. I was really excited to meet the other

  • students. I then arrived at the airport, where I met

  • David for the first time, a mechanical engineer student who was going to take care of us during

  • the summer school. I also had to convert my US dollars into Taiwanese dollars, and I was

  • scared I'd end up with a lot of money. But Taiwan's smallest coin is 1$, so didn't have

  • too much cash to carry after all. The bus trip to the NCU went pretty well.

  • I finally met some of the people I'd stay with, like Reda a French student from Reims

  • majoring in math, and two Hong Kong Guys Chi Kwan and Bryan studying math too.

  • Right after unpacking, we all headed to a little restaurant where we'd have dinner,

  • the right time for us to chat a little with each other and try figuring out where everybody

  • came from.

  • Day 2 My first day at the NCU started smoothly.

  • After a quick breakfast just below our dorm, we headed to class. Except that our classroom

  • was located at the other end of the campus. So we walked all the way there, discovering

  • our new environment at the same time. The NCU had been ravaged by a typhoon a few days

  • ago, but hopefully there were no casualties. Later on I discovered our classroom where

  • we were going to have 3 hours of Chinese language courses every day. This is Gun Tae, and here's

  • Ki Sung. Both Korean students I'll study with in class A. Yeah, we're all beginners in Chinese.

  • The rest of the day passed by pretty fast, and I didn't really have time to realize where

  • I was or what I was doing. I crashed on my bed after class and took a look at what was

  • on TV... wow. I didn't understand a thing. So I decided to go out and eat with our counselor

  • David and Hayato, a Japanese student. We tried out some beef and noodles soup, which was

  • delicious even if I had a lot of difficulties eating with chopsticks.

  • My day ended after some pool games. I was surprised at how cheap it was, because the

  • fee was proportional to the time spent playing, instead of the amount of games played. By

  • splitting up the price I think I ended up paying 20 cents for 1h30 of play.

  • Day 3 The following day went pretty well. After

  • visiting the campus I joined the cultural course class, where we created our own necklaces

  • using nail polish. I started to feel more and more comfortable with my new classmates.

  • Even if 10 of us were French, there were a bunch of Koreans, and a lot of girls. This

  • is Matthias, a French student studying Chinese back in Lyon and staying for one whole year

  • at the NCU. And this is Adrien, another French student coming from the UTBM, which is the

  • school in which I study engineering back in France.

  • By the end of the afternoon, some people got the chance to present their creation in front

  • of the class. I met Boran for the first time. Later in the evening we went out to visit

  • Jhongli, which is the city where the NCU is located. I met Eva, and Tim, two Taiwanese

  • teacher assistant during the summer school majoring in French -- and Lynn, a counselor

  • just like David who was going to take care of us during the trip.

  • The temperature always rose from several degrees when we went to Jhongli downtown, because

  • of the heavy traffic and pollution. I was surprised to see that even at night, all the

  • shops were still open, and a lot of people were in the streets.

  • Day 4 It was kind of hard getting used to wake up

  • every day at 8h, but I started getting the hang of it. The morning language courses with

  • our teacher, I-Li turned out to be a blast. Even if it was a little difficult to memories

  • all the new words she taught us, we always had deliciously entertaining breaks.

  • I also got closer to Yuho, another Korean student who turned out to be very good in

  • English, and my roommate, Mathieu who was a really awesome person.

  • Later we had a quick stop at Family Mart, about time I introduced you to the other French

  • students. This is Tiphaine, Patrick and Celine. All majoring in engineering in my school:

  • the UTBM. Even if we studied on the same campus back in France, we didn't get to know each

  • other before the trip. Mathieu was also a former UTBM student, and now works as an IT

  • engineer. When the Taekwondo class started, I was a

  • little scared. I hoped the teacher wasn't going to be too rough on us. But eventually,

  • everything went fine. After some warm up, the teacher taught us some useful moves we

  • could practice if we were in danger. Tammy and Bryan helped to demonstrate and the lessons

  • ended up being very interesting thanks to David's effort to translate everything the

  • teacher said. After a quick break, the counselors accompanied

  • us at the Jhongli night market, a place swarming with people where we could buy a lot of clothes,

  • oily treats, or even play some games. The fruits there were fresh and delicious,

  • and had a unique flavor different from those in France. I was beginning to realize that

  • Taiwan was a pretty special country, with kind and obliging people that would always

  • do their best to help you. I was also getting closer and closer to the French students I

  • met there, especially Mathieu. But the Koreans were also so nice and welcoming that I wanted

  • to know more about their culture. I went to bed exhausted but with many plans ahead.

  • Day 5 Half of the week had already passed, but so

  • many things were still to come. It was already Thursday, and we were getting ready to discover

  • aboriginal facts, dances and songs from the former tribes in Taiwan. Two Taiwanese girls:

  • lia, majoring in French and her sister -- both amongst the remaining 500 000 people

  • of aboriginal origins in Taiwan -- were going to deliver the course.

  • And I loved it. Célia sung so well I could just close my eyes a feel part of a tribe,

  • chanting to the gods. After the songs came the dances. And boy I

  • sucked. The men were supposed to show their strength and bravery as the girls were expected

  • to be soft and gentle. The whole choreography could be amazing to watch providing the whole

  • thing was done right. In the evening, I wanted to try out some of

  • the drinks in the neighboring shops around the NCU and luckily Tim guided Adrien and

  • I to try some of them. We all decided to go on a lemon and honey smoothie, and we didn't

  • regret it. After, we went back to the guesthouse, were our dorms were located and had a nice

  • chat before going to sleep... Day 6

  • On Friday we made our first culture trip to Yingge, a District located south of Taipei

  • City. It was a really awesome day. I was starting to know some of my classmates pretty well,

  • and friendships were being built. I also discovered what a Taiwanese bus actually looked like.

  • People could ask to sing a karaoke song during the trip. And we were on for a nice and groovy

  • ride. We then made pottery using clay in Yingge

  • Old Street, and it clearly wasn't as easy as it looked...

  • We all had our own machines, where clay was already set on. The first step was to shape

  • your creation from the exterior using your whole hand. After, by placing my thumbs above

  • my pottery, I was able to "dig" inside the clay to make it hollow.

  • When our job was done, we decorated our pots and left them to be heated and dried for 2

  • weeks. And we went back to the NCU the same way we had come, with some cool karaoke songs.

  • Day 7 The week-end had finally arrived, and even

  • if we all were very tired from our week, we thought it would be a good idea to go and

  • visit Wulai, another District around Taipei that wasn't on our school schedule.

  • The trip wasn't too much of a chore thanks to Eva's help. But it was still long though...

  • Hopefully, luxuriant and wild scenery was awaiting us. I was amazed at the peaceful

  • view and surrounding quietness of the area compared to the city. But the trip wasn't

  • over. In order to get to the top we still had to take the cable car, after a walk in

  • small village. Even if we barely knew each other, Eva was

  • always there when we needed help. She practically bought everything for us and prepared the

  • trip the day before for nothing to go wrong. I had the feeling we would get along well

  • with each other. We went to the aboriginal village park and

  • watched some dances. I could recognize some of the moveslia taught us, and the choreography

  • made some of us want to join the dancers. So Mathieu, along with Eva, Tiphaine, Céline

  • and Patrick went to perform on stage -- and it didn't always seem that easy to follow

  • the tempo. Then, we visited the park and had a lot of

  • fun there. By the time we took the cable car back -- I was getting really tired and was

  • glad to find my bed back at the NCU, with many memories of the awesome day we just had.

  • Day 8 Taipei City...finally. After visiting the

  • National Taiwan University's huge campus, I headed to Taipei 101. 509 meters high, it

  • is known for being the 4th tallest building in the world and I was wondering what the

  • city looked like from that high. This is Annabelle, and she is studying Chinese

  • and literature back in France. Just like Reda and Matthias, she's staying for one year at

  • in Taiwan. Oh! I think the elevator ready for us, let's hop in!

  • The elevator we were in is the fastest one on the planet, and won a Guinness record.

  • With a speed of 60 km/h, we went up the 100 floors in about 30s and I could feel my ears

  • pop just as if I was on a plane. The view we had from the city was breathtaking.

  • The other buildings looked so small compared to 101, and the tiny little cars we could

  • see looked like toys with ants going in and out of them.

  • The stability of the tower is maintained thanks to a gigantic sphere weighing over 600 tons

  • and located at the top end of the tower. The sphere allows the tower to be less affected

  • by natural disasters while still remaining flexible.

  • After going to the outdoor highest peak of the tower, we slowly went back down to meet

  • our friends and find some place to eat. In the evening, we went to the Long Shan temple,

  • a really special place for the Buddhists right in the middle of Taipei. The unique atmosphere

  • there was reinforced by the incense sticks burning in the night and regrouped in the

  • same spot. I also noticed that people were throwing two

  • pieces of wood shaped like a crescent moon while praying. Someone later explained to

  • me that those pieces had a round and a flat side. The first step is to clearly think of

  • a question you'd like to ask to a god. Once you've asked it, you can throw both crescent

  • blocks. If one falls on the round side and the other on the flat side, it is a "Yes"

  • answer. But if both blocks fall on the same side, it means "No".

  • When I found two spare blocks abandoned on the side, I decided to give it a try. I wanted

  • to know if I would have a more than friendly relationship with a Taiwanese girl. The first

  • time I threw them, the two blocks fell on the same side. Disappointed by the answer

  • I decided to give it another try. But they fell on the same side again. Meh, maybe it's

  • not always good to try figuring out your future... Day 9

  • The first day of our new week marked a new beginning. We had 6 hours of Chinese language

  • courses so it was going to be long, but at least, it was a nice opportunity to take a

  • break from all the trips we had made. Mathieu, Annabelle and I also had a presentation on

  • the differences between Taiwanese and French deserts to prepare.

  • So during the midday break, we went to a small snack store selling huge ice creams on campus

  • to interview one of the employees there. She showed us a selection of deserts people were

  • usually buying, and was really kind to have us in the middle of her working day - And

  • we even go one Oreo ice cream for freeYeah, we also wanted to bake a chocolate cake.

  • But making a cake on campus was almost impossible for a student. So we just gave up doing it.

  • Day10 Today we were going to customize and learn

  • how to play with spinning tops. But not just the simple ones you can just spin with the

  • tip of your fingers, but bigger ones, wrapped in thick cord and a bit more technical to

  • use. But first, we had class. This is Euiryung, a kind and smart Korean student working with

  • us. Yuho and some others had tried a nightclub in Jhongli the day before, and I could tell

  • from his eyes that he was pretty tired. Adrien and Euiryung on their side were ready to start.

  • Finally my long awaited moment arrived. The spinning tops lesson. Once our top was ready,

  • we had to wrap our cord tightly around it. To throw the top, one of the techniques was

  • to swing your arm in parallel with the ground, then swiftly move your wrist back towards

  • you to pull the cord. Yuho was about to try his luck on the big

  • one. Due to its weight, he would have to pull the cord quickly to give the top enough initial

  • spinning speed -- but thanks to its inertia, it would spin longer. Still pretty good for

  • a first try. And then the tournament started. The goal

  • was to make your top spin for the longest amount of time.

  • The day had been a blast. Even if I had had a lot of trouble getting my top to spin properly,

  • the teacher sure taught us a lot of things, and I got a great deal of help from my Korean

  • friends. Xie xie lau che!

  • Day 11 Wednesday, July 24th. It was hard to imagine

  • I was already halfway through my trip. I was having a lot of fun and preferred not to think

  • too much about the trip back. After I-li taught us how to make Chinese tea, Patrick, Céline

  • and Tiphaine made an interesting presentation on the differences between Taiwanese and French

  • universities. In the afternoon, we had a tai chi lesson,

  • and our teacher taught us some basic moves and stances. I nearly slept all day. Mathieu

  • I had the bad habit of speaking until late at night when we got back to our dorm, and

  • I was starting to feel the consequences of going too late to bed.

  • Day 12 The next day we had Calligraphy class. But

  • ehhh... I don't have any videos this time around. So I'll just sum things up with pictures.

  • This is Lotus, the person who set up this amazing trip that I'll never thank enough

  • for everything she did. Calligraphy is an art that is quite easy to

  • learn, but extremely difficult to master. To perfectly draw Chinese ideograms, you must

  • use your brush delicately. The key to writing properly is to make balanced symbols, and

  • accompany your strokes till the end. I got to catch up with the people I haven't

  • introduced yet... Here's Eunyoung, a very sweet Korean student I met. Kissung and her

  • make a lovely couple. This is Aram, here's Ka Young... And there's Grace, three lovely

  • girls I enjoyed chatting with -- even if their Korean names were a sometimes complicated

  • to pronounce. And this is Yannick, a great friend who comes

  • from Burkina Faso and who had already stayed 6 months at the NCU.

  • We really made a great group of Koreans, French, Taiwanese and even Japanese people. This was

  • the moment of our lives -- a memory that we'd never forget.

  • Day 13 My second week had passed by so fast... We

  • started our trip to the south of Taiwan on Friday July 26th and had a lot of bus. But

  • it was also a great opportunity to visit some places on the way. And we made quite a few

  • stops, like on HouBi Lake, where we had a little boat ride. And I got pretty scared.

  • The boat was moving so much because of the waves I thought it was going to sink. But

  • hopefully, we were able to go down to its' lower level. From there we should have had

  • an amazing underwater view of the sea...but the water was a bit too cloudy this time around.

  • Late in the afternoon, we arrived to the so called "Dapingding Tableland" where a beautiful

  • and wild landscape was waiting for us. It was the perfect place to take pictures and

  • stretch our legs a bit before arriving to our hotel.

  • But our day wasn't quite over yet. We still had to check out Kenting's night market, which

  • ended up being a pretty lively place to visit. Day 14

  • Melancholy was getting me. I had started to have some feelings for Tammy but I felt stupid

  • for behaving that way -- knowing that I'll probably never see her again in one week.

  • Some things better be forgotten before they hurt too much. That day was going to be epic.