Study Abroad Taiwan Day 2: Calligraphy
Master’s student and Student Services Coordinator, Kate Broderick is studying in Taiwan for a three-week intensive study of Chinese language and culture, based at Tunghai University in Taichung. The program was made possible by a scholarship from the School of Arts and Communication at Florida Tech. Read about Day 1 of her adventure here.
Jet lag is still doing odd things to my schedule. Even though I was exceptionally tired, I woke up at 3:00am and slowly watched the city wake up from the view from my 9th story room.
We stopped for breakfast quickly before class at the 7-Eleven on campus. Taiwan has more 7-Elevens on one block than Melbourne, Indialantic, and Satellite Beach have combined. There are a lot of dogs that live on campus—not exactly strays as they are part of the campus, but they have no real owner—that have learned to use 7-Eleven to their advantage! It is around 85 degrees in the morning, so it’s rather hot. While I was buying my breakfast of tofu and syrup, a dog came up to the electric door with a determined gait, waited for it to open, and then came inside to lie underneath the air-conditioning!
We met our professor this morning, Chen Lao Shi (“Teacher Chen”), and I immediately liked her. Today was our first introductory course to the Chinese language, so we focused predominately on pronunciation. I felt slightly silly repeating “Ah Ah Ah Ah” over and over, but the difference in the tones (whether your voice rises or falls) is crucially important to the meaning. With the improper tone, you can wind up saying. “I love Chinese chest hair!” instead of “I love Chinese pandas!” Haunted by that idea, I could spend hours repeating the four tones until they are drilled into my head properly.
We were treated to a welcome lunch at Pear Coffee after class by the Director and coordinators of the program at the Chinese language center of Tunghai University. We met another exchange group from Puget Sound in Washington state. The food was delicious (“hen hao chi”). I am starting to get the idea that as excited as I am to be here, the average Taiwanese person is almost as excited that we are here, too. While waiting in line to use the restroom, several Taiwanese people took the initiative to say “Hello!”, even though for some I could tell it was the only English they knew. I am continually amazed at the Taiwanese spirit of community—even in the simple act of standing in line, the Taiwanese people go out of their way to make me feel welcomed.
After lunch, we had our first Calligraphy class. I consider myself an artistic person, so I naively and brazenly assumed I would find Calligraphy easy-peasy. Oh. My. God. I have never been so wrong in my life. After watching our teacher, the Calligraphy expert Bai Lao Shi, I thought it looked easy. I realize now that he made it easy the way Mozart must have made playing the piano look. Our first character we learned to draw was our symbol for the number one “ –“ (“yi”). It is a simple, horizontal line. How hard could that possibly be? Well, let me tell you, SIX different strokes are needed to draw the character, and you need to have continual pressure while maintaining the correct balance and angles. While we eventually progressed to writing out our Chinese names, I still think I failed to write a single correct – . I found writing out our names “hen nan” (very difficult). Bai Lao Shi commented on our final attempts and his response to mine was: “You can see your personality in your writing.” After our scribbly attempts, Bai Lao Shi presented each of us with a rendition of our Chinese names that he personally wrote for us. It has taken only one day, but I have fallen in love with my name, Bai Kai Ling. I plan on hanging it on a prominent spot at home. It’s truly beautiful.
After Calligraphy, we decided to watch a movie in town by a Taiwanese producer. The trip to the movies was as world-altering as Alice falling through the looking glass. I don’t have space to do it justice here—you’ll have to check back for my next post about the 12 story shopping mall with the recreated floor of historic Taiwan and Venetian canals!