Semester-Off Final Report

This Semester-Off Final Report is being written not in Taiwan but in the U.S. and it is coming a month earlier than expected. In September, I was driven from the U.S. to Taiwan in desperate need of help. Under the temporary protection of steroid pills, we jetted to Taiwan leaving school, family, and friends behind. Now, three months later, I was driven back to the U.S. away from Taiwan and again had to travel under the protection of steroid pills. There’s a mess of bad luck that I just can’t shake lately, so the story continues. I haven’t the time, energy, nor memory to give details of each major bad luck incident, but I’ll do my best.

After the food poisoning incident last mentioned, there was a breather period with the help of the steroids. Even after the pills, I made some improvements and spirits and health were actually pretty good when we moved into the new apartment we bought. Then the bad luck started up again.

The new furniture that we bought had several layers of paint and chemicals to guard against rotting, corrosion, and termites. The environmental and health control in Taiwan, however, well sucks and no one really cares as long as they get the job done. So our furniture were overly painted with these chemicals and it just made the whole room stink with fumes. Just walking by the furniture and breathing would make my dizzy and make my tongue numb. We tried to keep the windows open to let out the fumes, but they were damn strong and they were doing a number on my skin. There wasn’t much I could do except wait for the fumes to clear and try to stay away from the furniture as much as possible. There was no place for my mom and I to go. We bought the apartment to escape from the outside environment to begin with.

Then a few days after we moved in the whole building had a disinfectant cleaning that only happened once a year, lucky us huh? And, just our luck, the cleaning crew seemed to have spilled tons of the disinfectant on our floor, so our whole apartment stunk like crazy. It’s the tingly smell you get at hospitals, but because of the spill, it was 100 times stronger and could probably kill little dogs- not just the germs they were going for. Immediately my mom and I felt numb and wanted to throw up. Sadly, we had to escape from our own apartment and hide out at my grandparent’s house until night.

Later that week, our good friend that lived five stories above us on the twelfth floor came down to chat and hang out. She brought with her this traditional snack of tofu in sugar water and I had some. I’ve had this snack all my life and it was a very simple snack whose ingredients have been the same for generations. Naturally I thought it should be ok and had some. Another baaaaad mistake. This store, for one reason or another, had changed the snack completely, adding who knows what and made the tofu hard like jello instead of soft tofu that melts in your mouth. Immediately I got a rash and my esophagus and air passage swelled up. Another allergic reaction and food poisoning to add to the list. It wasn’t just that I was too sensitive because our friend and my mom tried to finish the rest of the snack for me and got major stomach aches before finishing the snack.

After this incident, it was the end of fall so farmers were harvesting all around and even within the city we were living in. The farmers would burn parts of their crops that were useless, chugging undescribable amounts of black smoke up into the air. During the last month or so of our stay in Taiwan, the sky was constantly gray and you could hardly see a hundred yards into the distance. The sun never broke through the smoke and the smoke irritated the eyes so much they burned. For someone who has skin allergies and, more importantly, asthma, this kind of air is unbearable. Isn’t Taiwan a pretty developed country? Yes- in Asia probably only Japan is more advanced. Doesn’t Taiwan have laws against pollution and crop burning? Yes- but the thing is no one dares to report it to the authorities because everyone lives so close together, if you report your neighbor they’ll make your life very miserable or maybe even kill you.

Finally, what pushed us to the decision of coming home was that we got food poisoning again- from something as simple as a tomato. We were already too scared to eat out and cooked everything ourselves, but only after washing all the vegetables until their skin came off. This led to needing more steroids and even some antibiotics and disinfectants. Apparently because Taiwan’s population grew too much and there’s not enough food, they use tons and tons of pesticides and inject chemicals into the crops to make them grow. Then, they harvest the crops the day after the pesticides are used to keep the crops fresh. Such practices also leave VERY unsafe amounts of pesticide poison in the crops- which we ate and got sick from.

My bad luck streak was nice enough to give me another farewell incident before leaving Taiwan. There was only four days between deciding to come home and coming home. But just after deciding to come home, the internal circulation of our car broke down so all the black smoke in the air from the crop burning kept coming into our car when we went out. This also let in all the car and motorcycle exhausts from the traffic- exhausts that aren’t as clean as those from American cars. Exhausts that only burn fuel halfway, burn unclean fuel, or burn diesel fuel- to put it simply, exhausts that were black and very choking.

My bad luck streak was also nice enough to give me a welcome home present. We landed in L.A. Monday night. Little did I know there I had gotten some kind of stomach virus on the plane- from the food or just from all the sick (literally) bastards on the plane. Wednesday afternoon, around 3pm, I threw up more than two buckets of food. I didn’t know my stomach could hold that much stuff, but it did- nothing I ate that morning or the night before digested at all. Everything came up in chunks. I had diahrea several times until my intestines could spit out nothing except intestinal juices. Still, my stomach and intestines were convulsing. My ab muscles had pulled me into a shrimp-like ball and still it was convulsing but I couldn’t move anymore. I gave up trying to wait out potential stomach flu symptoms and went to the E.R. By then I was overly dehydrated, my stomach was still in a ball and convulsing. I was given two IV injections for dehydration, three shots for the convulsions, and a few more for the pain.

I think that’s a good place to stop. I’ve recovered from the stomach rampage, but still very tired from the past 3 months of constant pain, lack of air, lack of sun, lack of people. My mind and body need rest.

Taking 1st Semester Senior Year Off

  1. Taking a Semester off from College
  2. Semester-Off Midtrip Report
  3. Semester-off Final Report



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