Lesson 10: At the Post Office

Hey guys, long time no see! I apologize for taking such a long hiatus fom blogging, but life has been chaotic of late! My wife and I have relocated to the USA and have been working very hard to get re-established here, and so I have had little time or motivation to blog. But I know you all would be lost without me, so I'm back!
The format for my blog is now going to be a little different from the way it was before. From now on, since I am no longer in Taiwan, I will not be writing as many posts on exploring the island. I already have a fair amount of content on the subject, and I am always willing to answer any of your questions, but for now I am shifting my focus to Chinese. My posts will now be mainly Chinese lessons, with anecdotes of my time in Taiwan strewn in when appropriate. Please let me know what you think of this format, and as always, thank you for reading!
So you're in the post office, waiting in line to send a care package back home. The guy in front of you is playing on his iPhone, and the guy behind you is stamping his feet, looking at his watch and visibly annoyed. He's obviously in a hurry and doesn't want to end up being held up by the foreigner taking forever to get walked through the process by the friendly, though somewhat lingually challenged clerk…or are you? Let's show that guy that he picked the wrong laowai!
Ten essential phrases:
1. Letter 一封信 yīfēngxìn
2. Stamp 郵票 yóupiào
3. Package 包裹 bāoguǒ
4. Express delivery 快遞 kuàidì
5. Registered 掛號 guàhào
6. Standard shipping 平信 píngxìn
7. mailbox 信箱 xìnxiāng
8. PO box 郵政信箱 yóuzhèng xìnxiāng
9. envelope 信封 xìnfēng
10. postage fee 郵資 yóuzī
In context:
1. I would like to send a package overseas. 
2. How much is express delivery? 
3. I want to send this letter as registered mail.
4. I would like to buy some stamps and envelopes.
5. When will my letter arrive?
That's it for today, practice and we'll see you next time!

Lesson 7: Hobbies

Before continuing with this week's lesson, check out Lesson 6: Discussing Likes and Dislikes.
Everyone has something special that they love to do, even if it is something that they are embarrassed to share with the world. It could be anything from dressing-up as Yoda and heading to a Star Wars convention, sitting on the couch with a game on, painting toy models or fishing. The possibilities are endless. Personally, I love martial arts, pretty much anything outdoors and of course, video games! What's your secret passion that eats-up all of your free time? But first, a quick question. How do you say "I like reading novels" in Chinese? What's 我不喜歡塞車 mean?
Common Hobbies:

1. hiking 爬山 pá shān
2. rafting 泛舟 fàn zhōu
3. blogging 寫部落格 xiĕ bù luò gé
4. making DIY crafts 做DIY/做手工東西 zuò DIY/zuò shŏu gōng dōng xī
5. learning martial arts 學無術 xué wú shù
6. doing yoga 做瑜伽 zuò yú jiā
7. playing music 玩音樂 wán yīny uè
8. collecting comic books 收集漫畫書 shōu jí màn huà shū
9. cooking 做飯 zuò fàn
10. drawing 畫畫 huà huà
Listen to the attached video file and practice repeating each phrase until you feel confident enough to move on to the next part.
Grammar Note: In Mandarin, verbs are often paired with nouns like seen above. In English we say "eat", in Chinese we say 吃飯 chī fàn or "eat rice" unless a specific food is being talked about (which, shows how important rice was and is to the Chinese). You don't always have to use a noun alongside a verb when speaking, as it can often be an understood, but when we are learning our vocabulary, verbs will generally be paired with nouns. As we progress, I will explain in more detail if necessary, but for now, let's keep it simple, okay?
Useful Adjectives: The following list of words are useful when talking about the hobbies listed above.
1. fun 好玩(的) hăo wán de
2. useful 有用(的) yŏu yòng de
3. interesting 有興趣(的) yŏu xìng qù de
4. relaxing 輕鬆(的) qīng sōng de
5. healthy 健康(的) jiàn kāng de
Listen to the attached video file and practice repeating each phrase until you feel confident enough to move on to the next part.
Grammar Note: The character 的 is often used after an adjective to indicate a particular characteristic of something, for example, in the sentence: 蔬菜是健康的 shū cài shì jiàn kāng de "vegetables are healthy", we are saying that a trait of vegetables is that they are healthy. This is indicated by the 的. We could also express this by saying 蔬菜很健康 shū cài hĕn jiàn kāng. More on that in the future as well as other uses of 的.
Story: Read and listen to the following story, then answer the questions below.
I have a lot of hobbies. Every morning I do yoga and I take my dog for a walk every night. I like to go hiking and rafting on the weekend. I love to see beautiful scenery and be alone in nature. But if we have rainy weather, that's okay. I can stay indoors and read my comic book collection, play video games or watch a movie with my family. Wherever I am, I dont have to worry about getting bored!
wŏ de xìng qù hĕn duō. mĕi tiān zăo shàng wŏ zuò yú jiā hé mĕi wăn shàng wŏ dài wŏ de gŏu gŏu qù săn bù. zhōu mò wŏ xĭ huān qù pá shān hé fàn zhōu. wŏ ài kàn dà zì rán de piāo liàng fēng jĭng. yào shì yŏu xià yŭ tiān, méi guān xì wŏ kĕ yĭ liú zài jiā lĭ kàn wŏ màn huà shū de shōu cáng pĭn, wán diàn dòng yóu xì huò shì gēn wŏ de jiā rén kàn diàn yĭng. bù guăn wŏ zài nă lĭ, wŏ bù huì dān xīn wŏ huì wú liáo!
Comprehension Questions: I'm not going to give you an English translation for the following questions, I want to see how much you can intuitively figure out from what we have already learned. Take a minute to email me you answers and I will let you know how you did! Consider it "homework".

1. 我的興趣很多嗎?
wŏ de xìng qù hĕn duō ma?
2. 我每天晚上做瑜伽嗎?
wŏ mĕi tiān wăn shàng zuò yú jiā ma?
3. 我什麼時候喜歡去爬山?
wŏ shén me shí hòu xĭ huān qù pá shān ?
4. 我下雨天喜歡做什麼?
wŏ xià yŭ tiān xĭ huān zuò shén me ?
5. 我怕無聊嗎?
wŏ pà wú liáo ma?
Essential Vocabulary: Here's a list of some of the most useful phrases that we learned in this lesson. Practice them and record yourself and compare your pronunciation to mine.
1. 興趣= interests/hobbies
2. 很多= very many
3. 每天早上= every morning
4. 晚上= night
5. 或是= or
6. 帶狗狗去散步= take the dog for a walk
7. 漂亮的風景= beautiful scenery
8. 大自然= nature
9. 留在家裡= stay at home
10. 漫畫書的收藏品= comic book collection
11. 玩電動遊戲= play video games
12. 看電影= watch movies
13. 不管= it doesn't matter
14. 擔心= worry
15. 無聊= bored

Wedding Crashers!


(Ruby and I preparing for the wedding…not ours, at least not yet!)

Not too long ago, Ruby and I were invited to her friend's wedding hūn lĭ 婚禮. This was the third wedding I'd been invited to since I've been in Taiwan, so I knew more or less what to expect. There are lots of interesting traditions that accompany wedding ceremonies in Taiwan, though in recent years do to Western influences, many of these have changed. For example, long ago, one of the things that was expected of the bride was for her to hand-sew her own wedding gown, wear a traditional head-dress fèng guàn 鳳冠. Nowadays people just don't do that, who has the time? But some traditional observances have survived.

For example, rather than giving presents to the bride and groom as we do in the west, friends and family give the couple red envelopes hóng bāo 紅包 when they sign in the guest book, and don't be offended or shocked when the family records how much you gave, it's part of the traditional culture so the bride and groom will know how to appropriately show their gratitude. Of course, close friends and family are expected to give more, and the minimum acceptable amount is typically 1200NT or about 36USD.


(This is a picture of one of the red envelopes you give/receive at a Chinese wedding. The picture was taken from here.)

Before we even get as far as the wedding, it is still commonly expected of the groom to ask the bride's family for permission to marry her, and often pay a dowry. The bride's parents use this money to buy furniture and other necessities for the newly-wed couple, so the dowry is mostly a symbol that the groom will be financially able to provide for their daughter.

Once the parents have agreed to the marriage, the family then consults the traditional lunar calendar to choose an auspicious date for the wedding. Then they have an engagement party , which is paid for by the bride's family, but when it comes time for the big day, the groom has to foot the whole bill! This is a little different from the way we do things back home!

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(A few shots of the venue, it was pretty darn fancy!)

At the wedding, which is usually held at a hotel or a restaurant rather than a church, there are lots of activities and games. One of the activities at this past wedding we attended was a guessing game. When we first entered we selected one of several colors of paper to write our name on then stuff them into their respective jar, and hopefully guess the bride's second gown color correctly(the bride typically changes twice during the ceremony). The bride and the groom pull out slips of paper and lucky winners get to go to the front of the banquet room and offer words of congratulations, pose for a picture and claim a prize! We didn't win, but I won't hold it against those who did.


(Ruby, at the entrance to the hotel. She makes those flowers look bad!)


(the table where we guessed the bride's dress color, and the guest book)

Another one of the activities was played later on. Everyone had a box of candy at their spot at their table, and those who had a sticker on the bottom we the lucky winners of a memorial pin of the couple's wedding…Ruby was a winner this time, and I'm still jealous! These are just a few examples, but there are tons of possible activities. There is also usually a slide-show showing the couple's story and their pictures over the years.


(Ruby's prize-winning bear)

If you have been to a lot of Western weddings, one thing you may notice missing is a wedding cake, but don't worry, you will have your choice of traditional dishes, and at the end of the ceremony the newlywed couple will present you with a box of gourmet cookies xĭ bĭng 囍餅! The character is made by joining two of the character  , which means happiness, which makes sense, because your wedding should be the happiest day of your life, right? It's not uncommon for newlywed couples to be given lots of gifts with on them, like napkins or coffee mugs for example.


(The happy newlywed couple)

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Taiwanese wedding, take it, it will be an interesting memory that you will cherish for the rest of your life.


(That was fun. Not long before It's our turn too!)


Chinese phrases of the day:

婚禮= wedding

鳳冠= a traditional wedding headdress

紅包=red envelope(s)


囍餅=the cookies that are given to friends and family of the bride at a wedding

囍=a combination of two of the character 喜, which means happiness (used for weddings)


Lesson 6: Discussing Likes and Dislikes


Before continuing, make sure to review and practice the previous week's lesson here.

We all have something that we just love to do. Personally, I love nothing more than relaxing on the couch with a good book, going to the movies, or if the weather is nice, spending a day outdoors and going for a hike in the mountains. But I don't love everything. I'm not particularly fond of waiting in lines(kinda ironic, as I live in Taiwan) and I'm not the biggest fan of traffic jams, but then, who is? In today's lesson, you are going to be learning how to talk about your likes and dislikes in Mandarin Chinese.

Expressing likes: In Mandarin, we say "我喜歡…", which means "I like…", we can use this as a general phrase to talk about things we like, or we can use it to form more specific sentences. For example, I can say 我喜歡蘋果 I like apples, or I could be more specific and tell you that 我喜歡吃蘋果 I like to eat apples. So let's take a look at the following sentences, and repeat along with me to check your pronunciation.

1. I like to play basketball.
wŏ xĭ huān dă lán qiú.

2. I like to watch movies.
wŏ xĭ huān kàn diàn yĭng .

3. I like to go hiking.
wŏ xĭ huān pá shān.

4. I like reading novels.
wŏ xĭ huān kàn xiăo shuō.

5. I like listening to music.
wŏ xĭ huān tīng yīn yuè.

Watch the attached video file and practice repeating each phrase until you feel confident enough to move on to the next part.


Expressing dislikes: Okay, so now you have the basics down, let's talk about dislikes. To make a negative statement in Mandarin Chinese, we usually add a 不 in front of the firs verb in a statement. This is not always the case, the negative form of the word "to have" 有, is 沒有. Note that a 沒 has been added in front of 有, not a 不, so saying 不有 would be incorrect. Just as when we were talking about likes, we can express dislikes in a general or more specific manner. So let's take our earlier example with the apples, 我喜歡吃蘋果, we can make this into a negative statement by adding a 不 before 喜歡, to indicate that we "don't like…" and it would look like his 我不喜歡吃蘋果, I don't like to eat apples. So let's take a closer look at how this is applied.


1. I don't like waking up early.
wŏ bù xĭ huān zăo qĭ chuáng .

2. I don't like rainy weather.
wŏ bù xĭ huān xià yŭ tiān.

3. I don't like scary movies.
wŏ bù xĭ huān kŏng bù piàn.

4. I don't like traffic jams.
wŏ bù xĭ huān sāi chē .

5. I don't like to wait in lines.
wŏ bù xĭ huān pài duì.

Watch  the attached video file and practice repeating each phrase until you feel confident enough to move on to the next part.

Note, when answering a question, answers are are often cut short, as the topic of the sentence is understood. So, going back to our apple analogy, if someone asks you 你喜歡吃蘋果嗎?It's acceptable to answer 我喜歡吃 or 我不喜歡吃, or just simply say 喜歡(吃) or 不喜歡(吃), rather than a full statement 我喜歡吃蘋果 or 我不喜歡吃蘋果. Don't worry about remembering all of that now, the important point is that you realize Mandarin is a flexible language.

Dialogue: Read and listen to the following dialogue, then answer the questions below.

A: Sara! Where are going?
莎拉! 你去哪裡?
shā lā !nĭ qù nă lĭ ?

B: Oh, hi Thom! You scared me!
喔,你好湯拇 !你嚇我一跳!
ō, nĭ hăo tāng mŭ !nĭ xià wŏ yī tiào !

A: Sorry! I just saw you walking and wanted to see what you were doing.
對不起! 我剛看到你走路,想要知道你在幹嘛。
duì bù qĭ !wŏ gāng kàn dào nĭ zŏu lù, xiăng yào zhī dào nĭ zài gàn ma.

B: It's okay, I'm fine! I'm going hiking with some friends.
沒關係,我沒事! 我要跟一些朋友一起去爬山。
méi guān xì, wŏ méi shì !wŏ yào gēn yī xiē péng yŏu yī qĭ qù pá shān.

A: I can't stand hiking, it's exhausting!
wŏ shòu bù liǎo pá shān, tài lèi le!

B: I like it a lot! I think it's really fun!
我很喜歡! 我覺得很好玩!
wŏ hĕn xĭ huān !wŏ jué de hĕn hăo wán !

A: I like swimming! It feels great on a hot day like this!
我喜歡游泳! 天氣像今天怎麼熱,就很舒服!
wŏ xĭ huān yóu yŏng !tiān qì xiàng jīn tiān zĕn me rè, jiù hĕn shū fú !

B: I like swimming a lot too!
wŏ yĕ hĕn xĭ huān yóu yŏng !

A: Then let's go swimming together next weekend.
nà me, wŏ men xià gè zhōu mò yī qĭ qù yóu yŏng ba.

B: Only if you come hiking with us today!
jīn tiān gēn wŏ men yī qĭ lái, wŏ cái gēn nĭ qù a !

A: Okay okay, it's a deal!
hăo le hăo le, wŏ tóng yì le !

Notes: In Chinese, nouns have a special measure word. The most common one is 個, when in doubt just say 個 and you'll probably be right! I'll be introducing more of these to you in later lessons. Also, the character 了 is used to show a change of state or that something has taken place, such as past action. There are other ways to speak about the past in Chinese, and other ways to use 了, so more on this in the future. 吧 is usually used to indicate a suggestion.

Comprehension Questions: I'm not going to give you an English translation for the following questions, I want to see how much you can intuitively figure out from what we have already learned. Take a minute to email me you answers and I will let you know how you did! Consider it "homework".

1. 誰被嚇到了?
shéi bèi xià dào le?

2. 湯拇喜歡爬山嗎?

tāng mŭ xĭ huān pá shān ma?

3. 誰喜歡游泳?
shéi xĭ huān yóu yŏng?

4. 他們要一起去幹嘛?
tā men yào yī qĭ qù gàn ma?

5. 湯拇同意了嗎?
tāng mŭ  tóng yì le ma?

Essential Vocabulary: Here's a list of some of the most useful phrases that we learned in this lesson. Practice them and record yourself and compare your pronunciation to mine.

1. 你嚇我一跳= you scared me
2. 剛= just
3. 看到= see
4. 走路= walk
5. 知道= know
6. 在幹嘛= doing(what?)
7. 我沒事= I'm fine
8. 一些= a few
9. 朋友= friend(s)
10. 我受不了= I can't stand…
11. 太累了= tiring
12. 覺得= think
13. 游泳= swimming
14. 天氣= weather
15. 像= to be like (something)
16. 今天= today
17. 熱= hot
18. 就= in that case/then
19. 很= very
20. 舒服= comfortable
21. 我們= we/us
22. 下個周末= next weekend
23. 同意= agree


No Hitching, Just Hiking: Part 3 獅頭山

If you missed it, check out the first two posts in this three-part series here and here! And now, for the grand finale…
On Sunday I went with a group of friends to go exploring in shī tóu shān 獅頭山, Lion-Head Mountain. The mountain park is huge and borders both Xinzhu and Miaoli Counties. Just as any good adventure, we went in with only a vague idea of what we were doing and where we would end up, and as usual, Taiwan did not disappoint.
The most challenging part of the day was getting to 獅頭山, which isn't easy if you don't have a car, but it is manageable. We took a shuttle-bus from Zhongli to the Taoyuan HSR station and bought our tickets. Honestly, this was part of the fun of the trip in itself, as I had never been on the HSR (High-speed rail) in all of my time in Taiwan. We didn't get seats, and surprisingly had to stand, which I would have thought was not allowed, but I'm not going to complain as it was just a ten minute train ride to the Xinzhu HSR station(the normal train is around an hour). From the HSR station, we went and hopped on a shuttle-bus to the 獅頭山 visitors' center. The tickets ran us 100NT a person and included round-trip fare(though be careful, the last bus back is at 6pm).
Once in the park, we visited the visitors' and got maps of the local attractions, then we hit the trails!
(Check in at the visitors' center to get a map)
It was a surprisingly hot day, but luckily I had sunscreen this time. The hike up the main trail was not very difficult, though it was pretty steep. It took us well under an hour to climb. Along the way were tons of smaller side-trails and temples, but we didn't check them out this time, as we had thought we would see them on the way back, but plans have a way of changing. More to explore next time!
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(on the way up)
At one point at the top of the trail, you have an awesome view of the mountains and a giant Buddha in the distance. And then you head down a trail, into the jungle and towards the mountain's main attraction.
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(You can just make out the giant Buddha in the distance…grab a hiking stick if you need one, you're not there yet!)
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(Descend through the jungle, and you will be well rewarded!)
After hiking through the peaceful forest trail, you come out into a clearing where you find yourself dwarfed by the area's huge temple, which is carved out of the face of a cliff. This place has such an incredible view of the surrounding mountains, and it's unreal to think about the manpower and dedication that went into building it.
 \"IMG_7107\" \"IMG_7105\"\"IMG_7104\"\"IMG_7111\"
(Go ahead, soak-up the view!)
We rested at the top and enjoyed the view for a bit, then we went into the temple and burned incense and I explained some of the traditional religious practices to my friends before we left.
We headed down to the lower levels and were pleasantly surprised to see a group of musicians playing traditional music in a pagoda by the cliff-edge, as well as a store selling many traditional items, such as paper money for burnt-offerings and intricately detailed folded-paper dragons and boats for the same purpose.
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\"IMG_7157\" \"IMG_7156\"
(A good chance to take a look at the traditional side of Chinese culture)
By this time we were hungry, so we followed the signs to the temple's restaurant. The meal was delicious and inexpensive, only costing us 600NT for five people. And the food was vegetarian, naturally, as we were in a temple! There are also rooms available for travelers who want to stay the night and watch the sunset in the majestic mountains.
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(You'll be hungry when you make it up here!)
Wile we were up-top, we spotted a giant Buddha statue in the distance and decided that we wanted to get a closer look.
We hiked down to the road level and found a bus to the 獅頭山 visitors' center, then took two other buses to get to Emei Lake é méi hú 峨眉湖, the home of the giant Maitreya Buddha.
(A view of the temple from down below, the bus stop is down here)
It was difficult getting there without a car, and in hindsight I think that a cab ride would have been far more practical, but that's what made it an adventure!
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(Nice country roads the bus will take you down as you go to Emei Lake)
Unfortunately you are not allowed to go into the enclosure where the Buddha stands unless in a tour group, and there weren't any when we were there. The Buddha easily dwarfs the nearby building, which is massive in its own right, and there are lots of other impressive sculptures in the surrounding area, but they pale in comparison.
\"IMG_7205\"  \"IMG_7218\"
(That's one big Buddha!)
\"IMG_7223\" \"IMG_7235\"
(The sign above the entrance says "the world is one family"…that includes pigs too!)
The area surrounding the Buddha was originally built as a reservoir, though it is no longer used as such, and there is a nice trail which you can follow around the lake and across a suspension bridge, though it was under renovation when we were there so we couldn't take a closer look. Still, it was worth the trip to see a Buddha statue that is taller than the Statue of Liberty!
(The world is in the palm of his hand)
Check out the rest of the pictures here!
How To Get There:
Lion-Head Mountain- The easiest way to get here is by car, but you can also take a bus from the Xinzhu HSR station directly.
Emei Lake- It's tricky getting here without transportation, I suggest taking a bus from the Lion-Head Mountain visitors' center and then switching buses, or take a taxi
Chinese phrases of the day:
獅頭山= Lion-Head Mountain
峨眉湖= Emei Lake




Double Down! 雙十節


Last Thursday  was guó qìng jié 國慶節 Taiwan's Independence Day, also known as shuāng shí jié 雙十節 Double Ten Day because it is celebrated on October tenth, 10/10. Besides the holiday though, there is another reason that this was a special day for Ruby and I. It was our four-year anniversary nián jì niàn 年紀念! She's the love of my life; she's beautiful and she can put-up with my terrible jokes and childish antics. What more could a guy ask for?


(She's my pride and joy!)

So, to celebrate we did something we haven't done in a while and we decided to take a day trip to one of the island's many scenic mountain areas…Nanzhuang.

To get there we took a train to Zhunan and then took a shuttle bus over to the Nanzhuang old street in the mountains of Miaoli county. The bus station is directly across the street from the train station and opposite from the 7-11. The tickets ran us 100NT per person and gave us day passes to take the bus to three destinations: nán zhuāng lăo jiē 南庄老街 Nanzhuang old street, xiàng tiān hú 向天湖 Xiangtian lake, and xiān shān 仙山 Xian Mountain. What a bargain!
(Here I am, at the Zhunan train station)
The bus ride to Nanzhuang took about 40 minutes, and when we got there we checked out the visitors' center which had a lot of information on the surrounding tourist spots, as well as a little about the local aboriginal tribes yuán zhù míng de bù luò 原著名的部落 and their history. We chatted with the staff to find our next bus, which was just out front, and we headed out to the aboriginal village and culture center at Xiantian lake.
(This is where the bus drops you off, it's also where you can catch a bus to the local attractions, or back to Zhunan station)
(Here's a map of the bus route and the local sights, but also make sure to grab a copy from the information center)
The bus ride to the village was worth the trip alone to catch a glimpse of the scenery as we slowly snaked our way up the mountain road. It was like we were in another country, or world.
(It is just amazing up there in the mountains!)
When you enter the village there are several stands where you can get some aboriginal snacks, such as wild-boar sausage and mă gào dàn 馬告蛋, eggs marinated in mă gào 馬告, a really fragrant type of seeds that the local sài xià zú 賽夏族 Saisiyat tribe uses for seasoning many of their dishes.
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(This stuff tastes so good, I had to learn the secret recipe!)
(And here it is! 馬告!)
I have a feeling that they don't get many foreign visitors, as one young aboriginal girl kept marveling over my hair, asking me why it wasn't black and if I had dyed it. I am used to this kind of stuff, especially as I live in a county area, though not to this extreme.  This just multiplied the feeling that, even though people were speaking Mandarin and there were plenty of Taiwanese tourists around us, we were no longer in Taiwan!
Another thing that the aboriginal people in this area are famous for is honey, and you could see lots of beehives with swarms of bees, placated by the strongly scented smoke that was burning by their homes.
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(There were lots of bee-keepers and people selling honey in the village)
As we went through the village and looked through the different stalls, we eventually came to the lake which this place was named after. It was a beautiful lake, and there was a tree-shrouded path that led around it. It was a relaxing hike, and any direction that you looked you had beautiful scenery popping out at you, be it the lake itself, the flowers and trees, or the gorgeous mountain backdrop that overshadowed it all. It was fantastic!
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(The walk around the lake is a great escape)
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(Just taking in the natural beauty)
When we had made our way around the lake, we came to an aboriginal culture center which displayed a lot of beautiful handmade artifacts that the Saisiyat people had used to do anything from carrying children to farming. Practically everything was woven from grass or made from bamboo, and the craftsmanship was impressive. There was even a traditional bamboo house with many artifacts on display for viewing, though, unfortunately, taking photographs was not allowed in the museum.
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(The aboriginal culture center is definitely worth a visit)
One interesting display described the tribes origins, and the myth surrounding how their people came to be in that area.
After finishing up I'm the village, we waited for the bus and headed to the nearby Donghe suspension bridge dōng hé diào qiáo 東河吊橋. The bridge is massive and it is quite thrilling(and a little scary) when it wobbles and springs up and down as you cross. The view of the river below was just awesome from the middle, and on the other side was the head of a promising hiking trail.
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(You're not supposed to run on these things, but I was too excited to see the view!)
After hiking a ways up, however, we realized it just led to some lucky people's homes. Though I bet there is a trail if you continue on back there,  we chose to turn back and catch the bus back into Nanzhuang.
While we waited for the bus, we walked around the area and took a look at a few interesting pieces of aboriginal art, and perused a gift shop where the local people sold their handmade bamboo crafts. The homes in the area were beautiful and the people were very friendly, and I really envy them their beautiful mountain home, but it was time for us to head back into the hubbub of modern civilization.
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(We didn't get to take photos in the museum, but there was plenty to photo here!)
By the time we got back to the old street, we were starving and immediately got in line at the first stand we saw.
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(They sell the best huā shēng bīng qí lín juăn bĭng 花生冰淇淋捲餅 I have ever had!)
The entrance to the old street is really narrow, but it opens up a bit as you get further inside. Besides the usual snacks, there was one particularly famous stand selling the local specialty, guì huā fĕn yuán bīng 桂花粉圓冰.
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(The local specialty. Make sure to bring home a jar of 桂花 jam to spread on your toast!)
After refueling we found ourselves at the back of the old street, where there was a gigantic temple and a 100 year old post office from the Japanese occupation period. There was also an old school (the sign said 100 years old, though it looks like its been rebuilt) and a 100 year old stone pathway leading down to the street below. This place is old!
(Taking a break on the temple's steps)
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(Here we are at the 100 year old post office!)
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(Here's the old school…)
(And an even older tree!)
(This path is over a hundred years old too!)
Unfortunately it was getting dark, so we didn't have time to go out to Xian Mountain, but I don't mind. It just gives us a reason to go back! Before heading back, we checked out one last suspension bridge in the surrounding area, and then used our day passes to head back to the train station. It was a great day, and I slept like a baby on the way home. Who knew having fun took so much energy?
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(Taking one last photo in front of the visitors' center before leaving)
Check out the rest of the photos here!
How To Get There:
Nanzhuang old street: To get there take a train to Zhunan and then take a shuttle bus over to the Nanzhuang old street. From there you can use your day pass to take busses to the various local attractions. Also, If you stay in a hostel in Nanzhuang, your day pass can be validated for a second day.
Chinese phrases of the day:
國慶節= National Day
雙十節= Double Ten Day
年紀念= anniversary
南庄老街= Nanzhuang old street
向天湖= Xiangtian lake
仙山= Xian Mountain
原著名的部落= Aboriginal tribe(s)
馬告= a seed that the Saisiyat people use for seasoning their food
賽夏族= the Saisiyat tribe
東河吊橋= Donghe suspension bridge
桂花粉圓冰= an iced desert consisting of chevy balls of cooked flour and covered with osmanthus jelly
花生冰淇淋捲餅= a ice cream wrap with peanut powder

Lesson 3: Saying goodbye


Adios, arrivederci, bon voyage, good bye, so long, goodnight. ..what do these phrases have in common? They are all ways to say goodbye, in one way or another. In fact you could assemble another list entirely out of negative ways to express the same idea, such as: beat it, shove off, get lost, hit the road and of course @&$? Off! In this lesson you are going to learn some of the most common parting phrases in Mandarin Chinese. This list is not exhaustive, and many things may depend on the situation, but this should get you started exploring the idea.

Remember to review last week's lesson if you haven't already.

Now get to it!

Saying Goodbye:

1. 再見 zài jiàn= goodbye
2. 等一下見 dĕng yī xià jiàn= see you soon
3. 明天見 míng tiān jiàn= see you tomorrow
4. 下一次見 xià yī cì jiàn= see you next time
5. 有空再來 yŏu kōng zài lái= come again when you have time

Listen to the attached audio file and practice repeating each phrase until you feel confident enough to move on to the next part.

Dialogue: Read and listen to the following dialogue, then answer the questions below.

A: Edward, hurry up and get downstairs. Now!
ài dé huá găn kuài xià lái. mă shàng!

B: I'm coming Mom!
hăo mā mā, wŏ yào lái le!

A: Well, come quicker! You're almost late!
nà kuài yī diăn lái! nĭ kuài yào chí dào le!

B: Can I at least eat some breakfast first?
wŏ zhì shăo kĕ yĭ xiān chī diăn zăo cān ma?

A: There's some toast and a glass of milk on the table.
zhuō zi shàng yŏu tŭ sī hé yī bēi niú năi.

B: Thanks Mom!
xiè la mā mā!

A: Now out the door you go!
hăo le. nĭ găn kuài chū mén la!

B: Okay Mom! Geeez!
哎呀! 好了媽媽!
āi yā! hăo le mā mā!

A: I'll see you tonight. Be good at school.
wăn shàng jiàn. nĭ guāi guāi shàng kè

B: I will Mom. Bye!
wŏ huì mā mā. zài jiàn!

Comprehension Questions: I'm not going to give you an English translation for the following questions, I want to see how much you can intuitively figure out from what we have already learned. Take a minute to email me you answers and I will let you know how you did! Consider it "homework".

1. 媽媽快要遲到了嗎?
mā mā kuài yào chí dào le ma?

2. 桌子上有土司嗎?
zhuō zi shàng yŏu tŭ sī ma?

3. 桌子上還有什麼?
zhuō zi shàng hái yŏu shén me?

4. 誰說晚上見?
shéi shuō wăn shàng jiàn?

5. 愛徳華會乖乖上課嗎?
ài dé huá huì guāi guāi shàng kè ma?

Essential Vocabulary: Here's a list of some of the most useful phrases that we learned in this lesson. Practice them and record yourself and compare your pronunciation to mine.

1.趕快= quickly
2.下來= come down(stairs)
3.馬上= at once/immediately
4.我要來了= I'm coming
5.快一點來= hurry up
6.你快要遲到了= you're almost late
7.至少= at least
8.可以= can/able
9….上有…= there's…on the…
10.乖乖上課= behave in school

Lesson 2: Greetings

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How many times do you say hello to someone on any given day? Unless you're a hermit, or just plain rude, chances are a few times at the very least, and most likely more often than that. No matter where you are in the world, or what language is being spoken, people are saying hello to each other. They just might have different ways to do it. In the first part of this lesson, I will teach you several common Chinese greetings. Later on in part two you will be reading and listening to a dialogue in Mandarin and learning how to put these greetings into practical use. But first, let me see how much you remember from our last lesson. What is the correct English translation of 你好? A. Goodbye, B. See you later, C. Hello, D. Good luck. Everyone answered A. Goodbye, right?!? I certainly hope not. If you answered anything besides C. Hello, then you should practice lesson one for a few more days before proceeding. Have no fear! Rome wasn't built in a day (or at least that's what I hear, anyway) and Taipei 101 wasn't either!

Now let's get started!

Five Essential Greetings:

1. 早安 zăo ān = good morning
Note: 早安 is more often than not shorted to just 早, Taiwanese people especially like to cut out a lot of characters that are considered as understood in a sentence, though it's not a bad idea to practice the full phrases in the beginning.
2. 午安 wŭ ān= good afternoon
3. 吃飽了嗎? chī băo le ma?= Have you eaten?
Note: You can either answer 有, which means "have", but in this case means "yes", followed by 吃飽了(to show that you "have" eaten) or 還沒, "not yet".
4. 好久不見 hăo jiŭ bù jiàn= long time no see
5. 您好 nín hăo(formal version of 你好)= hello (formal)

Listen to the attached audio file and practice repeating each phrase until you feel confident enough to move on to the next part.

Dialogue: Read and listen to the following dialogue, then answer the questions below.

A: Young Chen, hello!
xiăo chén nĭ hăo!

B: Hello Mrs. Wang. Have you eaten yet?
王太太, 你好。你吃飽了嗎?
wáng tài tài, nĭ hăo. nĭ chī băo le ma?

A:Not yet! I am going to buy dinner now.
hái méi a! wŏ xiàn zài qù măi wăn cān

B: Do you mind if I join you?
nà me wŏ gēn nĭ yī qĭ qù chī, hăo ma?

A: Of course!
dāng rán hăo a!

B: Awesome! In that case, what do you want to eat?
tài bàng le! nà me nĭ xiăng yào chī shén me ne?

A: I want to eat beef noodle soup.
wŏ yào chī niú ròu miàn.

B: Me too! Ahh!
wŏ yĕ shì! āi yō!

A: What's wrong?
zĕn me le?

B: I didn't bring money!
wŏ méi dài qián!

A: No problem, I'll treat you.
méi guān xi, wŏ lái qĭng kè.

B: Thank you! Next time it's my turn to treat!
謝謝你的! 下一次換我來請!
xiè xiè nĭ de! xià yī cì huàn wŏ lái qĭng!

Culture Note: in Chinese, nick names for younger people are often formed by adding 小 in front of a surname, i.e. 小陳 for small(or young) Chen.

Comprehension Questions: I'm not going to give you an English translation for the following questions, I want to see how much you can intuitively figure out from what we have already learned. Take a minute to email me you answers and I will let you know how you did! Consider it "homework".

1. 誰要去買晚餐?
shéi yào qù măi wăn cān?

2. 王太太吃飽了嗎?
wáng tài tài chī băo le ma?

3. 他們很喜歡吃牛肉麵嗎?
tā men hĕn xĭ huān chī niú ròu miàn ma?

4. 誰沒帶錢?
shéi méi dài qián?

5. 小陳要請客嗎?
xiăo chén yào qĭng kè ma?

Essential Vocabulary: Here's a list of some of the most useful phrases that we learned in this lesson. Practice them and record yourself and compare your pronunciation to mine.

1. 還沒= not yet
2. 現在= now
3. 那麼= then/in that case
4. 跟你一起…= Do…with you
5. 好嗎?= Okay?
6. 當然= of course
7. 太棒了= Awesome!
8. 想要= want
9. 什麼?= what?
10. 我也是= me too
11. 怎麼了?= What's wrong?
12. 沒關係= no problem
13. 謝謝= thank you/thanks

Ximen Ding and the Lin Family Mansion and Gardens

Last Wednesday, Ruby and I went to the Red House in Ximen Ding(at the next stop from Taipei on the blue line), home of the first and largest art market in Taipei, open every Saturday and Sunday as well as holidays. A website wanted to interview her about her handmade clothing brand, M+T Design (check out her Facebook page here) and we took the opportunity to have a snack and walk around the Ximen xī mén 西門(literally "West gate") area.

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(With my parents the last time they came to visit me in Taiwan)

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(This restaurant is really famous for their dà cháng miàn xiàn大腸麵線)

I really like this part of Taipei, and with all the bright lights and trendy fashion outlets, the street performers(I've seen tons of musicians, break dancers and even fire eaters here) and tons of nice restaurants, department stores and movie theaters, I always describe it to my friends and family as the Times Square of Taipei. Located in the Wenhua District, the area is filled with historic sites and lots of beautiful temples, notably Long Shan Temple lóng shān sì 龍山寺. It's well worth a visit, and I'll be blogging about lots of these places in the future.

After we finished up in Ximen, we headed back to the MRT and rode the next train to Fuzhong Station in Banqiao city. We took exit 3 and followed the signs to the Lin Family Mansion and Gardens lín jiā huā yuán 林家花園, which was only about a ten minute walk from the MRT station.

This place is huge and really beautiful. There is a plaque out front with some historical information about the Lin family and the building of their home, which cost more than the construction of early Taipei City! Make sure you have a few hours of free time on your hands when you go, as there is a lot to see and explore here.

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(Just follow the signs)

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(The gate to the family residence, the doors are painted red, as red is a lucky color that is associated with prosperity and wealth in Chinese culture, and the handles are made to depict the bā guà 八卦, an ancient Chinese divination tool)

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(The path to the garden and a shot of the Lin family's sān hé yuàn 三合院, traditional three-house courtyard)

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(Just a few of the pictures I took around the estates…this place is massive and I took hundreds of photos, so it was really hard to choose!)


(This is a really old tree. If you look closely, you can see that it grew-up around another tree) 

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(This is a jìng zì tíng 敬字亭, a kind of monument to words, and they often have special meanings written on them along with poetry)

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(They also have a pretty cool gift shop, it's free admittance so they have to bring in some money somehow, right? So what are you waiting for? See you there!)

On the way back, you can check out a local traditional market, and there is also a rather larger temple dedicated to mā zŭ 媽祖, the goddess of the ocean, right across from the MRT station which is worth a visit.


(The local traditional market)


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(At the temple dedicated to 媽祖)

To end the day, we did something decidedly un-Chinese…we had McDonald's! But it was good!




How To Get There:

Ximen Ding-Take the MRT to the next stop from Taipei on the blue line, called Ximen 西門.
Lin Family Mansion and Gardens- Take the MRT from Ximen to Fuzhong 府中, take exit three and follow the signs. The temple and traditional market are across from the MRT, nearby the McDonald's.


Chinese phrases of the day:

西門= literally "west-gate" a trendy shopping area in Taipei

大腸麵線= pig-intestine noodles

龍山寺= Longshan Temple, the name literally translates as "Dragon Mountain Temple"

林家花園= Lin Family Garden

八卦= an ancient Chinese divination tool

三合院= traditional three-house courtyard

敬字亭= a monument to the respect of words

媽祖= Goddess of the ocean



Now I'm not a big coffe drinker, but another great thing about 7-11 is the City Café. Don't get me wrong, I like Starbuck's and the fancy cafés you can find all over the place (especially if they have a view, like the ones by the ocean in Sanzhi near Dansui where I recently volunteered at the animal shelter), but for a guy who isn't a gourmet coffee enthusiast, the prices at these places are just a little too high(though if you save your promotional stickers you get when you spend your cash at 7-11, Starbuck's often has a buy-one-get-one-free deal măi yī sòng yī 買一送一 which is awesome if you love their frappuccinos like me!).


They have a good menu, you can order a late ná tiĕ 拿鐵,American coffee mĕi shì kā fēi 美式咖啡,Japanese style green tea latte mŏ chá ná tiĕ 抹茶拿鐵,hot-chocolate rè qiăo kè lì 熱巧克力 and more, but I almost always get the English milk tea yīng shì năi chá 英式奶茶. It's awesome!


Drinks come in two sizes. They don't have a small , but it is still useful vocabulary to know so I have included it, and some of their drinks only come in one size. Here are the sizes: small xiăo bēi 小杯, medium zhōng bēi 中杯, large dà bēi 大杯.


You can order your beverage either hot rè de 熱的 or iced bīng de 冰的 drink, and if you don't like your coffee very sweet, you can tell the staff that you want half a serving of sugar bàn táng 半糖 a little sugar shăo táng 少糖,very little sugar wéi táng 微糖 or no sugar wú táng 無糖.


That's it for now, go enjoy your fresh cup' o Jo…not the person, I mean a coffee, yuck!


Chinese phrases of the day:

買一送一= buy one get one free
拿鐵= latte
美式咖啡= American coffee
抹茶拿鐵= Japanese style green tea latte
熱巧克力= hot-chocolate
英式奶茶= English milk tea
小杯= small(cup/drink size)
中杯= medium(cup/drink size)
大杯= large(cup/drink size)
熱的= hot
冰的= iced
半糖= half sugar
少糖= little sugar
微糖= very little sugar
無糖= no sugar