Friday, March 27, 2015

Fun in Taiwan: Fort San Domingo

fort san domingo taiwan tamsuifort san domingo taiwan tamsuifort san domingo taiwan tamsuifort san domingo taiwan tamsuifort san domingo taiwan tamsuifort san domingo taiwan tamsuifort san domingo taiwan tamsuifort san domingo taiwan tamsui
Emily, moi & Nicola. I miss these girls... ):

Fort San Domingo is located in Tamsui, a sea side district in New Taipei City. The fort represents the foreign involvement in Taiwan. Built in 1629 by the Spanish, in wood, it's main objective was to aid the imposition of Spanish rule over the local Chinese and other populations from that area. However, the fort was taken by the Dutch in 1642, who then replaced the original wooden monument with a fort made of stone. 

The weather was very pleasant when my friends and I went there. It was yet another trip from the study program I went to in Taipei. Inside the buildings, there were some pictures/items exhibitions related to the Dutch occupation. Not that interesting, if you're a western kid who's spent an entire lifetime studying Western History and watches a lot of western made films. 

I loved this place because its gardens and the architecture are extremely beautiful. It'd be an amazing place for a photoshoot - I regret not annoying more random people and asking them to take pictures for me. (Notice that I only appear in very few pictures, so sad soooo sad.)  It's also a nice place to go to because it's near a very fun (and crowded!) street market with lots of traditional snacks for you to get (like all touristy places in Taiwan, heh), it is right beside a Starbucks and you can get there by using the Taipei MRT. (The MRT can probably get you anywhere, I think.)

Have you ever been there? Would you ever go there? Lemme know! :)


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Quitting & Figuring Life Out (without feeling guilty)

It's 4am and I've been mentally trying to replay what went down these past few days.

Since I had arrived home after spending 3 months abroad, I'd been having a feeling of unease, a weird little feeling that I hadn't quite gotten myself to 2015 yet. I hadn't stopped to catch a breath ever since August/14, when I started freelancing; then I joined a Law firm in September; got a permanent translator job in November (add all that to being a Law student) and found myself in Taiwan for a mandarin study program on my summer break. After the program ended, I came back home, hoping for a few weeks off, but...

I was home and going back to work right away, and I was very uncomfortable with the fact that I had zero plans for 2015. "Travel a lot" and "give proper attention to my health" were on  my mind, but those are not specific plans - they're things that are always in the back of my mind, whether it's a new year or not. I knew I wanted to find a more permanent "go abroad" situation - as in living, not travelling, but I hadn't figured that out yet.

A couple of days later, summer break was over. I would have to face all that work/school/freelancing/extracurricular activities juggling all over again and I had had practically zero rest. Oh, and I also had to figure out that permanently living abroad situation. So, I started planning my weeks. Writing down everything I'd be doing on every second of every day, so time would not be wasted.

planner organising

Wake up super early, read a bunch of stuff for school, exercise, translate, study French, study Mandarin, study German, try to fit in some leisure reading, go to work, go to the classes, go back home, go to bed super late because, well, school stuff. I was on the verge of a breakdown. Then, I started cutting stuff from the list. First thing gone was the leisure reading. Then the French, then the German - which you're never supposed to do if you're learning a language nobody speaks around you, because you'll just forget a lot of things and time will have been completely wasted. Exercising? Ha. Proper sleep? What was that?

Before I could go any further with all that craziness building up in my tiny self, I decided that I'd have to quit my day job (which was the Law firm one). I couldn't cut study out of the list, neither the rest of my sleep, for that matter. I could organise my schedule all over again and fit in all the study I needed to get done. But, ugh, I didn't want to go and tell my boss I had to quit because I told her I would go back to work!! That drove me insane for a whole weekend, but, on Monday, I told her everything and it was like a billion pounds were taken off my shoulder. I was angry at myself due to the fact that I was not living up to my word because of a routine I couldn't handle. So egocentric of me, I know.

I thought my boss would be mad. I thought she'd hate me forever. Well, now that I think of it - maybe she does. Not sure, there is no way to know. The point is: I was feeling bad for having to quit even though quitting was something I really needed. I knew that I'd done the right thing, but I couldn't shake that bad feeling off.
I hate feeling like this. I'm working on not feeling as guilty or responsible for other people, and focusing more on my own little self, but it's just so hard to shut every single voice up. Why can't I just go for what I want, without giving a damn about everything and everyone? 
I've already sat down and organised all the things I want to get done this year. I know we're at the end of March already, but I'm going to catch up.

Is anyone in here remotely like me when it comes to these situations? Thoughts?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Music: Paper Aeroplanes (& the wonders of Noise Trade)

I, like so many people, am completely, utterly, obsessed with music. However, given the weird mood swings I've been having, it's been hard to sit down and listen to music without skipping a song every 15 seconds. Lately, I think I've been kind of obsessing about lighter tunes and maybe that's why I've been skipping almost every song that my iTunes starts playing. I love rock music and whatnots, but it's just not something I've been feeling like listening to, because a lot of noise is making me a lot more tired than I used to feel back when I was 14. After working during the whole day and spending 4 hours at the university at night, when I come home I just want to crash on the couch and listen to relaxing music for a little while. 

In the spirit of getting to know more artists, I started using Noise Trade. I think it's great, because they feature a lot of independent musicians and offer free downloads. So, every week and weekend I get an email about their "new & notable" musicians, with a little "sounds like" part. On every Saturday, then, I go clicking on their recommended artists' profiles and sampling their music. Every now and then I download something. Yays for free and legal music downloads! :) So, acoustic, alternative folk, indie, irish, welsh and other similar genres have constantly been on my playlist (now that I have these genres on it, haha).

Anyways, this week I got to know Paper Aeroplanes. They're an alternative-folk (and pop-ish) band from West Wales, formed by Sarah Howells and Richard Llwellyn. It was love at first play, and it was a song called Red Rover (here).

paper aeroplanes music relaxing
Picture: Paper Aeroplanes Official Website (link). 
Sarah has a beautiful, haunting, delicate voice & the melodies are very sweet, light, and beautifully written. Perfect for a "I just want to relax" night. So far, they've released three full-length albums, The Day We Ran Into the SeaWe Are Ghosts and Little Letters. I haven't downloaded all of them yet, because ~money~, but you can get them here.  

From the songs I've listened to, Red Rover is definitely my favourite. But I'm also very much in love with these other two:

I can't believe I have just gotten to know this band. Yays for Noise Trade and their weekly newsletters! Did you like them? Do you know similar musicians? Do any of you use Noise Trade?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fun in Taiwan: Sky Lanterns at Pingxi District

With all these reports on the success that this year's Sky Lantern Festival was, attracting record visitors numbers (link) and whatnots, I can't help but a) Miss Taiwan terribly much and b) Go through the pictures I took when I went there. 

That being said, I've decided to share with you a rather fun experience I had in Taiwan: during my study program, we learned how to make sky lanterns (yays for taiwanese culture classes!) and we even went to Pingxi District, that is where the Sky Lantern Festival happens. Now, I did not go there during the Festival. I went there with my classmates from my study program. It was still daylight when we lit our lanterns, and there were only 5 lanterns - so it's not nearly as pretty as the footages and images you can find online from the Festival. Anyways - Pingxi District is a very lovely place. When I first got off the bus, having arrived there, I felt like I was at The Shire or something. Green, streams, lovely houses, train tracks...

Thanks, Ems, for taking these! I think these are the only pictures I have of myself during my stay in Taiwan...
Bamboo "wish sticks". People write their dreams and wishes on these & hang them up at that specific alley. 
Our sky lanterns :)

Have you ever lit a sky lantern? Do you want to? Tell me what you think!