Back at home

Time has flown so fast. We have already been in Finland three weeks! I cannot believe it. When we came back to Finland the traveling took almost one day, 20 hours. The flight felt like it took an eternity, the flying time was long but maybe also the enthusiasm to see family members and friends again after a long time made it feel longer. When we arrived to Helsinki-Vantaa airport and I saw my family, it felt like that I haven’t even been abroad.

Week after coming back to Finland it felt like a dream that I had been abroad, it was an unrealistic feeling. Before coming back to Finland I was kind a scared how life has changed here in Finland because I consider (almost) four months to be quite a long time. For my surprise and for relief it felt that nothing had changed, life is the same here as it was before I left.

Of course every friend, family member and acquaintance has been very eager to hear about the exchange time, but it is so hard to talk about the experience only shortly because there happened so much. I think if I really start to talk about the exchange, few hours would not me enough… 😀 I think that I will remember forever the local’s friendliness and helpfulness. The wards employees took us to dinners and spend their free time with us and if we had some kind of problem they did everything they could to help us. For example we were planning a trip to the East-Taiwan, Hualien, for our last weekend and asked only advice how to get train tickets. The outcome was that the employees searched for the best tickets and got them for us from the shop.

The exchange was a good experience and I liked staying in Taiwan, but it took some time to adjust to the culture and living. When we were leaving from Taiwan it felt that maybe it would have been nice to stay there longer, because there were still places to go and see. Maybe someday I will go again, but now I will enjoy the Finnish winter weather -29 degrees. I really miss Taiwan’s climate. 😀

Lila

 

 

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Final thoughts

It has been over three weeks since I got home and I’m good! Returning home was great, I was happy to get to spend Christmas with my family and loved ones. Many people warned me about getting a new cultural shock when getting back home, but I have to say that I felt like I hadn’t even been gone for almost four months. People were waiting for me at home and I didn’t feel much of any kind of shock when getting home. Except the weather was of course a bit different, but now I’m already used to the -15 degrees.

Now when I think back the time spent in Taiwan, it went so fast! Sometimes I still wonder, is it really over, did I seriously spend three and half months in Taiwan already? The exchange period was overall great, I gained a lot of new experiences and knowledge which I know I will appreciate and will be useful later in life.

This is the last post from me, on my behalf I want to thank all who read this blog and hopefully this is useful for those who are planning to have an exchange period in Taiwan in the future!

-Riikka

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Time to say goodbye to Taiwan

Practical trainings and our exchange period here in Taiwan is now over and tomorrow we are heading back to home. We have quite mixed feelings about leaving, it is nice to go home but we think that we will miss Taiwan. Let’s see what kind of cultural shock we will face when we get back to Finland. Actually we haven’t even realized yet that we are leaving tomorrow, luckily fully packed suitcases remind us about it. We hope they are not too heavy…

Our last weekend we spent in the east coast in a county called Hualien. We went hiking in the famous Taroko National Park, and saw amazing mountain views, waterfalls and caves. Pictures can probably tell a lot more than these words. By accident we also got in the middle of some kind of religious ceremony that was held on the Hualien streets. Last stop of the weekend was Qixintan beach. Sitting beside the Pacific Ocean waves made us feel sad about leaving Taiwan. On the other hand we are also very happy to come home to celebrate X-MAS!

 

 

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Lila & Riikka

 

 

 

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Final week

Our journey in Taiwan is almost over, only ten days before we have to say goodbye to this city and head home. Last practical training has gone well so far, Lila is in the pediatric cancer ward and Riikka is in geriatric ward. Time has gone so fast, that it feels impossible that our three-and-half-month exchange period is soon over. We have been homesick so it feels good to come home. On the other hand, we are sure there are many things that we will miss. We will definately miss the weather, even though it has started to cool down in Taiwan.

Now when we think back the time that we have spent here in Taiwan, we have gained so many new experiences and we are so grateful for this unique experience here. We have learned to adapt to a totally different culture, allthough first it was mentally as well as physically hard. For sure we have also improved our skills in English, and even learned some Chinese! (very proud of us) During the practical trainings we have seen a lot of new things and learned about diseases, anatomy, treatment methods and how to care different kinds of patients. Unfortunately due to the hospital policy, we haven’t been able to implement much practical nursing interventions, so that is something that we have to still practice more in Finland. Otherwise the Taipei Veterans General Hospital has been such a great practice place and the people have been amazing. Not only in the work environment but also outside the work as we have told before. This experience has also taught us to appreciate Finland and the things we have at home a lot more. We love Taiwan, but we are happy to come home!

Yesterday we spent the second last Saturday in Yehliu Geological Park and saw amazing views! Today- HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY FINLAND!

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Lila & Riikka

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Amazing Hong Kong

Before we even arrived in Taiwan, we decided that we also want to visit some other city or country during our three-month visit in Asia. Our first plan was to go to Shanghai, but getting a visa for mainland China seemed to be so difficult and inconvenient so we changed our destination to Hong Kong. Finnish citizens are allowed to stay in Hong Kong for 90 days without a visa. Unfortunatey we didn’t have that much time to stay there, only 3 days. Flights between Taipei and Hong Kong took only two hours so we didn’t have to spend much time on travelling and could focus on seeing as much as possible during the 72 hours.

 

We made a clear plan what we must see in Hong Kong and were able to make it happen:

Victoria Harbor 

Victoria Peak ✓

Tian Tan Buddha  ✓

Hong Kong Disneyland  ✓

Clock Tower  ✓

 

Hong Kong was very different from that Asian culture that we are used to see in Taiwan. Overall it was more western and had a lot of influences from being a former British colony (double-decker buses and trams, old-fashoined taxis). We were also happy see more Christmas decorations and spirit in Hong Kong than in Taipei!

Definitely have to visit Hong Kong again!

 

 

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Tian Tan Buddha

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Hong Kong Clock Tower

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Victoria Harbour Symphony of lights

 

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Riikka’s birthday dinner

 

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Double-decker tram

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Disneyland

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Lila & Riikka

 

 

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Home care practice

Our four week home care practice is now over. Our practice place was Chiang-Chin Foundation of Nursing Perspectives. The company has an assisted living home in Taipei and a nursing home in Kaohsiung (southern Taiwan), but mainly it provides home care services such as skill nurse visits and cleaning and cooking aid.

During the first week we visited clients’ homes with the skill nurse, who checked the clients’ medications, changed nasogastric tube or catheter and checked the overall condition of the client. Usually there is a caregiver (family member or a foreign worker) who takes care of the basic needs of the client, and the skill nurse visits only once a month if everything is okay. Taiwan national health insurance usually covers the monthly visit, but if there is a need for more visits, the client has to pay the service and the equipment by themselves. Visiting clients’ homes was interesting for us, we got to see the actual life of local people. At the same time we noticed how different living standards local people have. It was a bit shocking to first visit a small, crowded, dirty house where everything seemed to be broken, and then go to huge, new skyscraper buildling where there were fountains in the back yard and security guards at the front door.

The next two weeks we spent in the assisted living home. There were three wards for long-term care and one floor for elderly day-care. The day-care was open from 7am to 7pm and elderly people were brought there so that the family members could work during the day. We mostly spent time in the day-care center, because there were all kinds of fun activities during the day. They did kungfu exercise every day, had barber students cutting their hair for free, music performances, spiritual activities and lots of other. There was only one nurse in the long-term wards, and she did mainly just paperwork and didin’t speak english so we couldn’t follow her. These two weeks did not quite meet the home care practice goals but we had a great time with the local elderly people and got many new experiences!

During the last week we got to know the other home care services than the skill nursing. We visited a few homes and met the home helpers who clean and cook for the clients daily or few times a week. The foundation has strict standards of how the work is done. Supervisors have to call once a month and visit the client once in three months to ask if the home helper has done a good job.

 

Our presentaion about Finland. Luckily we got a translator to translate our English into Mandarin.

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Lila & Riikka

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Life outside the hospital part 2

Freetime activities. In the beginning our freetime activities were mostly just wandering around, getting used to the places and visiting all kinds of tourist sights. Nowadays when every tourist sight has been seen and the ”normal life” has began, we spend our freetime tasting different kinds of foods, going to the movies, shopping, hanging out with friends, doing sports and so on. Mainly we do things and go to places just the two of us, but also the people from school and workplaces have kept us quite busy.

In Taipei, the public transport system is very easy and convenient. Especially the metro system (MRT) is great. There are stations all around the city and the trains run every two minutes. However all the trains are always full of people and you can only dream of getting a seat. Many of the shopping centers and sights are located near the stations, so we rarely have to walk any long distances. Buses are also convenient to use, but they are slower than the MRT due to the massive traffic in the city.

Because picture tells more than thousand words, here are some pictures about our freetime activities.

 

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Japanese food with work mates

 

 

 

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Mountain climbing

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Oyster omelet – traditional night market food

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Night market

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Taipei Zoo and giant panda

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South Taiwan – Kaohsiung

 

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Quiz night in local pub

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Taipei 101

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Chiang-Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

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Bubble tea

 

Lila & Riikka

 

 

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Life outside the hospital

The culture in Taiwan is obviously very different compared to Finnish culture. People here are friendly, helpful and hospitable, especially towards foreign people. Even though they couldn’t speak english, they still try to help as best as they can. This was nice in the beginning when everything was new to us and we needed help with a lot of things. One example of ultimate friendliness is when we asked one school mate to write down the address of the dormitory. We expected just the address, but she created postcard looking pictures with angrybird stamps and explained the whole process of sending mail to Taiwan/Finland 😀

Local people are very socially active and praise each other often. It feels weird for us when some stranger suddenly starts the conversation with compliments like ”Oh, you are so beautiful!” Every now and then we miss the Finnish silence and peace. There are so many people in this small island so it’s difficult or even impossible to find quiet and peaceful environment. In addition local people speak with very loud voice, which is weird for us quiet finns.

The environment in Taiwan is mostly very clean, streets and parks are litter free. We think this is because of the strict rules of the society. For example all eating, drinking and even chewing a gum is prohibited in the metro stations and in metros. You can get a fine if breaking the rule. One reason can be also that in Taiwan there are a lot of people working for common cleanness and a lot of volunteers also. You can see persons cleaning up the lamp-posts or picking up few leaves from the street. There are also other jobs which feel insignificant for us, such as traffic guide in a crossroad with traffic lights and a person whose only job is to press elevator buttons in an emergency situation.

An interesting cultural difference related to food is that Taiwanese people share all their foods. Even though it is a restaurant dish for one person, they will order many different dishes and divide them so that everyone gets everything. It is kind of genious but sometimes it feels like we just want to have our own food and eat it however we want 😀

Lila & Riikka

 

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Surgical practice, done!

Surgical nursing practice is now behind. The last two weeks we spent in neurological wards. Mostly we were on the general wards but we also visited intensive care unit, operation room and rehabilitation center. On the general wards patients were mainly pre-operative/post-operative brain tumor patients. However there were also patients with difficult epilepsy or spinal cord injuries. Wound care and measuring of motor and sensory function in addition to giving medications were important in the nursing care of neurosurgical patients. We got to observe gamma knife radiosurgical therapy (treatment for small brain tumors) and electromyography (electrical activity of muscles). Very interesting for us were also the lectures about brain surgeries given by the doctors.

 

In the rehabilitation center patients were all spinal cord injury patients. The levels of injuries varied a lot, some of the patients were completely paralyzed and some just partly. A major part of the care in rehabilitation center was physiotherapy and occupational therapy. They had huge training spaces for patients where they can practice muscle power and fine motor skills.

During the two weeks we saw and learned a lot but unfortunately didn’t get to do much. The most interesting part of the practice was our last day when we got an opportunity to observe a real brain surgery in the operation room. That was cool!

Next week we continue our journey to home care practice, let’s hear from it a bit later!

 

 

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Lila & Riikka

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Sunny and stormy Taiwan

So far, Taiwan weather has been lovely (most of the time). At least when talking about the temperature. T-shirts and shorts have become our favourite clothes, since it is 25-30 celcius everyday. In Finland we usually prepare ourselves with clothes when we go outside but in here it is the opposite. From now on, when we go to the movie theater, t-shirts and shorts are definately not the best choice (It was easy to relate to the Everest-movie in the freezing cold theater). Local people seem to think it is getting cold or they are just used to the warmness because they hang around outside in long sleeves, jeans and sweaters. Also, they are hiding from the sun under umbrellas and give us weird looks when we are trying to get tanned.

This week we experienced a super typhoon. School and offices were closed for two days and people had to stay inside. People prepared for the typhoon by taping windows, piling sandbags in front of doors and stocking groceries. The only advice we got was not to go outside. Even though the typhoon was strong, luckily it didn’t cause much damage. Earthquakes are also quite common in Taiwan, and actually there was one on our second week here but we were happily sleeping when it happened. Hopefully there will be no more these kind of experiences while we are in Taiwan.

PS. Last week we got a new roommate, a lizard! First we were planning to kill it but it seemed to be as much afraid of us as we were afraid of it so we named it Leevi 🙂

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After typhoon

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Lila & Riikka

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