Curls, and Plum Trees, and Semesters, OH MY!

I can’t believe it, but today is the last day of my semester! I am officially halfway done with the teaching portion of Fulbright. In less than a week I will be going to gallavant in Thailand, getting into all sorts of shenanigans.

I can tell you it will be a colorful time! But before moving on I have to recount a few events of the past week, and reflect.

Curls
Growing up my mother religiously curled my hair every Sunday for church.  So much so that my Sunday school teachers thought I had naturally curly hair. I protested when I turned 10 and declared autonomy over my hair and I’ve mostly been a straight haired princess since then, save a few proms and special occasions.

In case you didn’t know, I am living in Taiwan and Chinese New Year (CNY) is coming up swiftly. CNY traditions include: getting a new set of clothes to start the year in, cleaning your entire house, eating special fish, and getting your hair done.

Julianna and I had been toying with the idea of getting something done to our hair for a few months because, ehh, well, we are in Taiwan, why not?

Julianna’s coworkers recommended getting a special perm done that isn’t supposed to really damage your hair. It is really popular to do at this time of year because of CNY.

We were like, sure, let’s try it. The day we got it done it was almost exactly the halfway mark in the program, and I sure appreciated some pampering! It looked like it was going to cost $3,600 NTD or roughly $109 USD which is WAY more than I’ve ever spent on my hair, but YOLO AMIRITE?!?!?!?!?

So we showed up to this crazy fancy salon on a Wednesday and they started the process.

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This was hair perm round 1. The process took 5 hours. It was a whole bunch of moving around. They cut my hair two separate times, shampooed my hair three times, put chemicals in it twice, and I felt very pampered.

This was all very exciting until I walked up to the counter to pay. The sweet hair stylist and his assistant barely spoke english so they just pointed to the number “5,600.” I nearly fell down! Pretty sure my mouth touched the floor. That was nearly $200 USD! I have never ever paid that much for anything beauty related but considering how long they had worked on us, I supposed it was fine. *Mentally though, I was like, I paid this much for 2 weeks of hostels and hotels in Thailand.* But I decided to rationalize it because I haven’t had any spa treatment since being in Taiwan. #treatyoself

The only issue was, the perm was very subtle. Julianna’s coworker also came with us to get her hair done and when she went to school the next day no one even noticed her hair was different. Whoops. Julianna’s coworker was pissed, to say the least. She called the hair stylist back and negotiated being able to get it redone, for only $10 USD. So a week later…

BACK TO THE SALON! Round two only took 2.5 hours. They left the curlers in for much longer, didn't cut my hair again, and aggressively sprayed it with chemicals.

BACK TO THE SALON! Round two only took 2.5 hours. They left the curlers in for much longer, didn’t cut my hair again, and aggressively sprayed it with chemicals.

The transformation 1) before anything 2) after first "perm" 3) after second perm!

The transformation!!!
1) before anything
2) after first “perm”
3) after second perm!

Overall it was a hilarious experience. I’m glad I did it! The difference between having your hair permed and curling your hair is that you don’t have 10 lbs of hairspray in your hair. It’s nice to have some life in my hair without the heaviness of hair spray. 🙂

Plum Trees
One of my biggest goals in the second half of this program is to get closer to my co-teacher Kelly. She told me about this plum tree flower forest close to her house so Thursday after school I went with her for an adventure! On the way to the plum tree forest we past through her hometown, Xin She. She explained that it was known for mushrooms and so we stopped at a mushroom stand for a local specialty.

I particularly liked these. It was mushroom tops fried with a special seasoning. Delicious!

I particularly liked these. It was mushroom tops fried with a special seasoning. Delicious!

We drove at least 40 minutes through Taiwan’s mountains to this tiny little area in Xinshe with a huge plum forest. It was well worth the wait.

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Kelly!

Kelly!

Kelly has the most incredible camera. She insisted we take a million photos to document my new hair. This was when she told me to "make sexy face."

Kelly has the most incredible camera. She insisted we take a million photos to document my new hair. This was when she told me to “make sexy face.”

Most importantly, Kelly taught me the significance of a selfie stick. She took a few then put it on my phone and was like, "now you try." This prompted an interesting conversations about how selfie's are viewed in the west vs. east and some general hilarity at my incompetence with such a simple piece of machinery.

Most importantly, Kelly taught me the significance of a selfie stick. She took a few then put it on my phone and was like, “now you try.” This prompted an interesting conversation about how selfie’s are viewed in the west vs. east and some general hilarity at my incompetence with such a simple piece of machinery.

Lastly we drove for about 15 more minutes to get to a Plum Flower Tree Tunnel. Another gorgeous spot where we could make good use of Kelly's camera.

Lastly we drove for about 15 more minutes to get to a Plum Flower Tree Tunnel. Another gorgeous spot where we could make good use of Kelly’s camera.

Then the sun started to set and we started heading back to the city!

Then the sun started to set and we started heading back to the city!

Kelly had planned for us to meet with some friends of hers for dinner. I came to find out that she had worked with them at her previously school. This couple was incredible. We ate at a tiny Japanese restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Fengyuan. It sounded like it was going to be primarily fish so I buckled up knowing it would be a wild ride.

It really was! I got a salad and some pieces of beef as a safety net but also tried flounder (immediately thought of the Little Mermaid AAAH!) and also tried….

Sea Urchin! This was WILD! I was a bit terrified but it tasted surprisingly sweet. Did not love the texture but glad I tried it!

Sea Urchin! This was WILD! I was a bit terrified but it tasted surprisingly sweet. Did not love the texture but glad I tried it!

Almost as exciting as the sea urchin was the fact that this couple basically spoke no English, so it was a great time to practice Chinese! What was even more exciting was that I understood almost the entire conversation. #wooooo #chineseeee

Semesters

In the next 15 minutes I will have completed the first half of this program. I was driving to get bubble tea today and it struck me as so odd because I’m actually living here. I’m actually doing it. I don’t know if I thought I would spontaneously combust or something after being abroad for so long, but the good news is that I haven’t. And I’ve realized a few things along the way:

-I’m really glad I learned to cook senior year
-Finding a way to relieve stress in a new environment is of utmost important
-Admitting I need help is something I need to get better at
-I’m tougher than I look
-I don’t know nearly as much Chinese as I thought I did
-I am so grateful for my parents. I am so grateful for my parents. I am so grateful for my parents.
-Indirect communication styles make me coo coo for cocoa puffs
-I still have to work on that
-I am really adventurous! Probably more like my older brother than I ever imagined;)
-Living abroad really has made me a more self- aware person.
-But there are days when I don’t want to try something new. After those days I have to take a breath and push myself  out of my comfort zone again.
-I like….to blog??
-There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss my sister. I am coming to realize this will be a permanent issue.
-I HIGHLY respect people who study abroad in the U.S. We are generally not nice to people who don’t speak English. If people hadn’t shown me kindness here there would be moments when I would have been in a world of trouble.
-Having at least 2 mosquito bites at all times isn’t as bad as you would expect it to be
-A care package from home is a game- changer. There are no words to describe the happiness that ensues. NO WORDS.
-11 months isn’t as long as  you would think it is

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