Taiwan: Week five

Monday 9 January–Sunday 15 January

Boys’ picnic at Chimei Museum Park

This week was a busy time in class, with many tests to complete. But the three guys on the trip, Charlie, Fin and I, managed to find time to get together with our language partners, Jerry, Craig and Sky, respectively, for a boys’ picnic. The NCKU guys took us to the park surrounding Chimei Museum, an institution famous for hosting the world’s largest violin collection, among many other treasures. Jerry, Craig and Sky organized delicious Taiwanese treats for us, including crackers shaped like aeroplanes and mochi cakes. We all had a great time. Jerry played the guitar while Sky and I played Mario Kart together on his Switch. The park was beautiful, and we saw at least three couples posing for their wedding photos! All too soon, we had to say goodbye. It was poignant knowing it was the last time I would see Jerry and Craig on this trip.

Preparing classes for the indigenous school trip

Later in the week, we gave an overview of the classes we’d prepared for the children at the school we would visit the following week. It was interesting to see what the other five groups had prepared, though daunting to present our own. Amelia and the NCKU students carried the team, but I’m proud to report that I performed “Fruit Salad” by the Wiggles with such enthusiasm that Emilia was inspired to replace Greg’s image with my own in a line-up of the fab four.

Trip to an indigenous cultural park and tobacco factory museum in Pingtung County

To cap an intense week of study and assessment, NCKU took us on a fun trip to Pingtung, a southern County whose indigenous people include the Paiwan and the Rukai. The indigenous school we would visit the following week happens to be in the same county. Our first stop was an indigenous cultural park. The park staff welcomed us with a thunderous cannon shot. They then took us to an archery range, where a guide explained to use the practical and ritual importance of hunting to the indigenous people. We then got an opportunity to shoot pictures of boars, which I managed to hit right in the chest!

Later, we headed to a dance performance where no photography was allowed. Six women and six men were performing, and I was incredibly impressed by their artistry and physical stamina. It reminded me of how beautifully Selle dances and how I aspire to one day dance with even a fraction of her rhythm and skill. Notwithstanding my almost complete lack of ability, I still love dancing with Selle, and I am very excited to frolic with her when we are finally reunited.

Next, we visited a museum documenting the history of tobacco in Pingtung, housed in a former tobacco factory. I had never known Taiwan’s former importance to the tobacco industry, and all the machinery was imposing. I noted the plaques stating how vital the tobacco industry had been to the local people’s livelihood. But I would have been interested to know the impact of the factory’s closure and the resultant failure of the surrounding tobacco farms in the late 20th century on local communities. And some discussion of the millions of lives tobacco use cuts short every year was perhaps warranted, yet completely absent from the museum. We then took the bus back to our dorm and enjoyed dinner. I was delighted to finally get back to bed and sleep after a massive week.

Thanks for checking out my fifth blog post! Expect the sixth shortly!

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