A few weeks ago I mentioned an interview given by an Israeli – Shani Weinstein – for Reshet Bet. Seem like Shani’s pretty active in sharing her Taiwan experience with Israelis as I keep getting email references to things she writes about her life in Taiwan. The latest is an article in the online version of Israel’s most popular daily newspaper – Ynet.
Here’s a very quick translation from Hebrew :
Shani sends a postcard from Taiwan
Shani arrived at Taiwan 5 months ago to continue her Chinese studies. She feels Israeli when she lectures to her class-mates about Israel and hands out Bamba and Bisli (Fili – famous Israeli snack junk-food). She would like to bring the wonderful MRT back home and she has a few tips for hanging out.
Who am I? Shani, 26, BA in East Asian Studies and Political Science from Tel Aviv University.
Where do I live? Taipei, Taiwan
What am I doing abroad? Having excellent scores in my BA, I received a scholarship from Taiwan to continue studying Chinese in a Taiwanese university.
How and When? I arrived during November, 2007.
What makes me feel Israeli? unlike other Israelis who sent postcards here, I prefer not to listen to Galgalatz (Fili – a very popular Israeli music radio channel) and make an effort to listen to radio from China and Taiwan to sharpen my Chinese listening abilities. But, I just have to watch all the “Eretz Nehederet” on the Internet (Fili – “It’s a wonderful country” popular satire Israeli TV comedy, like SNL). I feel Israeli when I stand in front of the class and lecture about beautiful Israel, where to go and what to see, and when I let people from all over the world taste Bamba, Bisli (Fili – popular Israeli junk-food), Hummus and Falafel (Fili – popular Israeli street food), lecture about Israeli holidays and celebrate those with my Israeli and foreign friends.
Some thing funny as an Israeli abroad? My mom came here to help me with finding an apartment, registering for the university and finding my way here. When we wrapped that up there were a few more days till she had to head back so we went traveling. We went to a place called Danshui, about 40 minutes MRT ride from Taipei and arrived there when it was full with Taiwanese tourists, mainly school kids. My mother couldn’t believe her eyes – the kids surrounded us, stared and endlessly whispered to each other, trying to greet us in English. After a while we had groups wanting to have their photo with us – for them the white westerner is a real celebrity.
What do I miss the most? My boyfriend Avi, my family and friends. They’re all very supportive, know how to help me out of feeling lonely and remind me why I’m here. I miss my dad’s hug, my mom and grandma’s wonderful cooking, the Israeli breakfast down at the Herzelia beach (Fili – a “middle-upper class” city north from Tel-Aviv) and the funny conversations with my friends. I never thought I’d miss Hummus and cottage cheese so much, but turns out I really do.
What would you bring back to Israel? I’d bring back the excellent, modern, clean, efficient, fast Taipei MRT, which – according to them – has been chosen best underground in the world for 3 years straight. I’d also bring back how clean everything is and the strict rules against littering. But, I wouldn’t want this next thing – Taiwan has no street garbage cans and the garbage is collected 5 days a week by a truck that arrives at a fixed hour and plays ice-cream truck music. When the music plays all Taiwanese head down with government approved standard bags (others are not allowed) and throw away the garbage. If you missed it – you have to run after it.
Five recommendations for my city
Tower : Taipei 101 has 101 floors, located at the business district of Taipei, and was the world’s tallest building till it lost its position to the Dubai tower. Worth coming to visit to admire the height and the international mall.
Hanging out : Taiwanese love to go to night markets all days of the week, and mainly on weekends. I recommend Taipei’s biggest night market – Shilin. This market, like others, is full of all kinds of food, clothing, shoes, jewelry etc. You’re probably going to come across some strange smells, especially the notorious Stinky Tofu. I’ve never had the guts to taste it but the Taiwanese claim that its delicious and compare western disgust with the smell to how they react to the smell of French cheese.
Food : If you can’t adjust to Taiwanese food, or you’re celebrating a special event, the best hotels in Taipei serve excellent buffets for about 30US$ a person. This is a good place to come in hungry, it’s gigantic and has food from all over the world – Taiwanese, Indian, Italian, Japanese etc. I recommend Far-Eastern.
Out of town : if you have a few days in Taiwan I recommend going to Hualien, a wonderful nature reservoir on the east coast of Taiwan. It takes 2.5 hours on the train and then another hour on the bus. I recommend Grand Formusa Hotel which is in the reservoir and has gorgeous views : cliffs, waterfalls, rivers and a lot of green.
The good life : Taiwan offers a lot of natural hotsprings, a souvenir from the Japanese. Beitou is half an hour on the MRT from central Taipei and is full of hotsprings – from cheap public ones with other Taiwanese (if you don’t mind the staring) to ones in a private room with food and accommodation.
I enjoy reading Shani’s thoughts about her life here, even if they might be a bit different than mine. Interesting to read what other Israelis are writing about their experiences here.
But, honestly, even more interesting are some of the replies (I’ll spare you the personal and flame ones) :
Comment #3 – Dani – What a unique country! I hope you enjoy. Good hearted people, amazing nature and modern progress that competes with western countries. With that said, the weather sometimes is absolutely horrible.
Comment #4 – David – I spent a long time in Taiwan. A boring disgusting place. You’ll grow tired of it after a week.
Comment #16 – Yovi – An explanation to the Taiwanese excitement. They came up to you not because you’re white, but because you have red hair which they believe is usually for people that are a bit crazy. They saw a lot of tourists, and they don’t care as much, but redheads…
Comment #19 – “Ex Taipei” – Tip, if you’re looking for Pitas. Next to Shida there’s a restaurant that sells frozen Pitas. BTW – I recommend being a bit humble with the Chinese. From my experience, the “excellent” studies at come to Taipei after 3 years of studying Chinese begin Chinese in Taipei from lesson 1 just like others, as their Chinese speaking abilities are minimal. Good luck, enjoy.
Comment #21 – Noga – They also harassed me when I was in Taiwan. Good luck, it must be an amazing experience. Go to “Sun Moon Lake”, it’s nice over there.
Comment #29 – anonymous – The buildings behind the fishermen reef in Danshui look. Like the run down Kiryat Sharet in Holon. Really not impressive (Fili – a somewhat low-social-class neighborhood in a city south from TelAviv).
Comment #41 – Eyal – If you want to see manners go to visit Taiwan. It’s a pleasure to visit such a place!! I came back after two weeks there and really got depressed from the rude people in the Israeli streets.
Comment #44 – someone who was there – Taiwan needs PR. It’s a small remote island and people confuse it with Singapore, Thailand, China etc. But it has its own charm. Take a look at this article – http://www.masa.co.il/article.php?cid=1960 . It’s really nice visiting there.