Pingxi Paper Lanterns

Like something out of Tangled; The Fifth Mountain, or 五分山 in Chinese, towered overhead as our train snaked along. An arm pressed into my side, the train was packed full of people all wanting to see the paper lanterns in the sky. Pushing my way past the people, I caught a glimpse of Shifen Waterfall.

Abigail and I stepped off the train in the small town of Pingxi(Ping she). Groups of people were lined up along the tracks, with big paper lanterns hanging. They were painting their wishes on the side of the lanterns. It is believed if you write a wish on a lantern here, it will come true.

We chose a red one, which stood for good health. Other colors had different meanings: green for wealth and pink for relationships as an example. We hung up our lantern and wrote down our wishes. I wished to meet more people from different cultures; Abigail wished to be a better person every day.

The nice man at the lantern shop took this video for us.

We picked up some food and walked around the road. Many of the buildings in this area are run down; but they have a lot of character. This area of Taiwan is more similar to a jungle, with large ferns and big green canopies.


Abigail was telling me how she didn’t like the new buildings made in Taiwan. They lacked character she told me. As we neared the waterfall we came across an old red building. At least 100 years old, this was the type of building people in Taiwan used to live in.


We pressed on; walking down a narrowing trail with many stairs. As we rounded the corner I finally saw Shifen.


We spent some time at the initial entrance before walking around to the side of the falls. I told Abigail about my experiences at Niagara Falls, and how disappointed I was because it was built into a giant tourist trap. Shifen really should be a natural wonder of the world, not Niagara. It is absolutely breathtaking. I ended up sitting here listening to the falls for a long time.

Unexpected Connections Through Tinder

Riverside park with Yvonne, behind you can see the skyline of Taipei, Taiwan with Taipei 101 towering over everything.

My best friend Abigail here in Taiwan was busy for a few days so I needed to find something to do to fill the time. Since I have arrived she has filled my afternoons with amazing places to see, but I wanted to find another person here in town to show me around.

Tinder is a superficial dating/meetup/hookup app that you pick people based off of a swipe right if you think they are attractive, or a swipe left if you think they are unattractive. In the US I found that this app is ineffective because women are harassed so much by men that it is very difficult to have a real conversation or find a connection. Unfortunately, there isn’t a version of this focused on making friends(At least none that I know of, maybe I should write one!)

In Taiwan, things are a bit different. It is very unusual for you to approach a stranger and speak with them, so the amount of street harassment towards women is very low(it seems to me, I am a man).

What this means is that using Tinder here in Taiwan is a completely different experience. Within 30 minutes of using the app, I had 20 matches who all wanted to talk to me. I had 4-5 women(I wish there was a simple way for me to find men to talk to as well) who all wanted to meet me at a coffee shop, practice their English, and learn about my culture. It was great because out of this I was able to get a few new friends to fill my time and continue to learn about Taiwan.

One person, Yvonne who is a student here in Taipei, stood out and was very interested in showing me around. She actually planned out a bunch of places for us to explore and took me up and down the main river here in Taipei to see some of the natural sights here.

I have been hesitant to continue my travels without Abigail or a different friend. I want to go to Seoul, South Korea and stay in Japan for a while. Since it is unusual to just walk up to strangers in Asia, I wasn’t going to walk up to people and ask if they wanted to hang out with me. The idea of being in Seoul alone didn’t appeal to me either, especially since I don’t speak any Korean. Tinder at least will allow me to find someone who is interested in spending time with me in every country and city I go to!

For now I will continue to use Tinder in my travels to meet people nearby. It is handy, and location based so the people you are matched with are normally less than 10 minutes away from you. If you know of another app that is similar to find someone for conversation, please let me know in the comments.

Duck boats on the river 🙂

Familiar Perspectives

7 Tile Mahjong. I gave him that win. -At Kent’s house in Taipei. Games are a great way to connect with people

It has been two weeks since I have landed in Taiwan. Since arriving my expectations and opinions on life have been rapidly changing. It seems to me the Taiwanese live a rapid life filled with hard work and discipline. Work days often last 10 hours, and students fill their days with school work and study.

As an American, I have a hard time understanding and relating to the people here in Taiwan. My life has always been a dual focus between my work, and my hobbies. During the day, I may spend 6-8 hours doing school work, then the rest of my time might be learning to fix my car. As a result, the way I think about things is very different than many of the people here and what I place my priorities in is different.

Taiwan is the first country I have traveled to and has revealed a different problem. I am now having difficulty relating to the people back home in the US as well.

That was clear today. I spent 8 hours today with Kent, my friend’s English teacher. He has lived here in Taiwan for 20 years, but was born in Maine and grew up in the US.

At first, I thought the reason I enjoyed the conversation with him so much was the ease in which we could communicate since we both speak English; but it was more than that. He understood me.

I find myself often trying to understand what I am seeing while I am experiencing Taiwanese culture. When I try to relate it to my own culture and discuss with my Taiwanese friends, I have to explain a certain aspect of my culture to them to contrast; like the differences in the school system for instance.

Kent understood what the American school system is like, so we could both discuss and contrast the differences between Taiwanese and American school systems. He had even deeper insight, since he is both a father and a long term resident of the island. This meant we could have a long conversation about the pros/cons of each method of teaching.

I can’t do that with my family and friends back home. That’s because none of them have ever been to Taiwan, and when I am trying to describe my experience here it is difficult to understand. Similar to when I describe American schools to my Taiwanese friends, my American friends/family do not understand what life is like here.

Until today I didn’t realize the importance of really being able to relate with someone. I now understand Sebastian Marshall’s blog post about how lonely he feels sometimes. This path I am taking, the farther along I go and the more distant I get from “normal” life, the more difficulty I will find in having people to relate to.

The Million Dollar Question – By Sebastian Marshall

Adopting Two New Habits

Shifen waterfall near Pingxi, Taiwan. If you make it to Taipei I highly recommend going here, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Motivation is fleeting. Action, then details. It is important to act with celerity once you decide on the proper course of action or else you may lose momentum.

At this moment, that is adopting two new habits, time tracking and writing. Both of which I am going to make it a priority to do every day.

I have spent this past year working on myself. After a lot of study, I decided these two new habits will give me personally the best overall gain in my life. Better yet they are both no risk, very high reward activities.

Unlike some activities which you may fail at, or waste your time, both of these habits will improve my mindfulness.

Start Small, Consistency is Key

With my writing I am going to begin by writing something every day. Doesn’t matter how long it is, or the quality of the work, as long as I am consistently writing and publishing.

We are judged by our best work, but to become an excellent painter you have to paint a lot of crap. Leonardo da Vinci is known for many things, like his Mona Lisa, but I can promise you Leonardo made a lot of terrible paintings first.

Steve Jobs said, “Real Artists Ship”. There is a lot to be said about those words. What it means to me is that if I am going to get anywhere I have to publish my work. I once worked on an app with a very close friend of mine, but we never ended up shipping because I was so worried about the details. I was close to 80% finished, but decided to do a rewrite to make the app “perfect” and never ended up finishing.

Again, Action. Then details.

More important to my writing, is the addition of time tracking.

“What gets measured, gets managed” –Sebastian Marshall

We humans have a tendency to just follow our routines and habits. It is also said we can only keep track of 7 or so things at a given time.

This is why it is so difficult for people to change. If you are trying to adopt a new habit, like flossing for example, it actually takes quite a bit of willpower even if the task is simple.

Everyone knows that flossing is very important, some studies even say it’s more important than brushing. If this is true why don’t more people floss? It only takes 30 seconds.

Simple. Habit.

If you have brushed your own teeth every morning since you were 3 years old, then it takes no effort to remember to brush your teeth. I don’t consciously decide to brush my teeth every morning. I do it automatically without thinking about it. If I don’t, I feel weird.

When I go to the dentist, the cleaning person tells me to floss. For the next 3-4 days, I do. But like the person who makes the New Year’s Resolution to go to the gym, I will inevitably forget one day. Then another. I lose momentum because I was not consistent.

I didn’t consciously go, “Gee, I am not going to floss”. I stopped because it wasn’t a habit, and I may not have been aware that I stopped.

This is why it is important to track time.

The only way for me to remember to floss on the difficult days when I am stressed and have many things to do, is to track it each day. Without tracking, it’s nearly impossible to be able to build a new habit. Trust me, I have tried the past 6 months to get by without tracking.

My time tracking habit is going to begin very small. Sebastian Marshall actually uses a very complex method to track his time, but he built it up over several years.

Remember, the most important thing is to keep things simple so you can be consistent.

Time Tracking Example 4/25/2015:

Writing: Yes

Time Track: Yes

Floss: Yes

Stretch: No

Exercise: No

Crap. I forgot to stretch and exercise again. I can’t go to bed until those are yes, no matter how tired I am.

I keep track of this in a little memo pad I keep in my pocket. Eventually I may develop a little app for myself, but this will work for now: