During the past two months of living in Taiwan, I’ve noticed and experienced the following.

The number of adorable stray dogs with collars

I photographed this doggo for over an hour my first week in Taoyuan. I thought to myself, “surely, this is someone’s beloved house pet.” Nope. This cutie is one of a dozen roaming the streets of Luzhu.

This sweet pup let me pet him, much to the surprise of locals.

I play tennis on a regular basis

Before I left for Taiwan, I played with Peter a few times (since this is his beloved sport). I went from hitting stray balls, to hitting a balls with limited accuracy. Now, I play at least three times a week – depending upon the rain – and I have greatly improved my strokes, volleys, and serves. (Side note: this is a very strange court; it’s sandy yet slippery like a clay court.)

A group of students from DaZhu Junior High asked to take a picture with Peter and I playing tennis.

Fried chicken Sandwiches for breakfast is the move

This isn’t ~entirely~ shocking since I hail from the land of fried chicken (Chick-fil-A, Zaxby’s, Cane’s, KFC, Popeyes) and I was low-key addicted to Chick-fil-A in college. But, fried chicken was typically reserved for lunch or dinner. Now, all I crave is a $45NT ($1.53USD) fried chicken sandwich in the morning. The bun varies – waffle, hamburger bun, crust-less sandwich bread – but the sweet fried chicken and egg combo remains the same. It’s heavenly.

A simple breakfast sandwich filled with fried chicken, lettuce, a thin layer of scrambled egg and sauce.

Because one image can’t do it justice.

Living without a car is bittersweet

It’s exciting and convenient to live in a community where work, grocery store, and 711 are all within a 900 meter radius. (Talk about carbon footprint reduction!) However, the only places close to me are work, grocery store, and 711. If I want to go to a coffee shop, movie theater, mall, or rock wall in the closest city, I have three options:

  1. 1 hour walk
  2. 1-1.5 hour bus ride
  3. 30-40 minute bike ride (on heavily congested streets with unrecognizable travel patterns)

Even though it’s satisfying to not drive a car on a daily basis, it’s quite the challenge to go anywhere beyond 4km.

A smooth cruising bike a teacher/friend loaned me for my stay.

A typical bus stop in Taoyuan: no overhang, no timetable, simply a list of routes in Chinese.

A max-capacity bus ride from Linkou to Taipei.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is heavily practiced

On a similar note, I’ve noticed that waste reduction is practiced by everyone on a consistent basis. Everywhere I go, people are separating recyclables, using reusable mugs for coffee, and using reusable tins for take-out. Additionally, the government has banned plastic bags, and some stores will give you a discount for using reusable containers. Rumor has it Taiwan plans to ban plastic straws and cups by 2030!

At my school, we separate recyclables from paper, different types of plastic, and cardboard.

Who knew double-stacked flat tires could look so chic protecting plants from falling over in strong winds?

There are so many layers of “reuse” in this image it makes my heart happy!

Even McDonald’s participates in waste management: four separate compartments for recycling, waste, liquid waste and cup recycling.

A common sight, old bath tubs (or maybe sinks) and Styrofoam containers are given new life as planters for community gardens.

Students Clean the school

A few years ago, I saw a video on Facebook about Japanese students cleaning their school to learn responsibility and reduce janitorial costs. I thought it was limited to that Japanese school. I’ve learned otherwise. Every morning, students arrive to school by 7:30AM to deep clean – classrooms, bathrooms, outdoor areas, offices, everything! Around lunch time, a flurry of students burst into my office to sweep, mop, organize paper work, and tidy the room. Honestly, it is shocking to witness because I cannot imagine my 15 year-old brother cleaning anything.

A large group of students sweeping up leaves from the track and outdoor seating.

Students use thick brooms to sweep up leaves surrounding the school buildings and track.

Two students sweeping the area in front of my office. Right behind them are two more students mopping the area they just swept.