Here goes…the third week of my stay here in Taiwan has already started. I’ll try to describe “briefly” what happened during those three days while I was away from the school.
Friday was packed with events for us which meant, in a way, that English was not to be taught that day and we can relax. In the morning we went to another aboriginal school where there was some kind of ceremony and some VIP guests were supposed to be present to approve the building of a dormitory for the students. The children from our school were practicing drumming all week so they could perform during that event.
After we arrived I was still not really sure what was going to happen and how long exactly the concert was going to be. At first I thought that there were going to be many students from different schools but that’s not really what happened. Around 20 minutes after us the guests arrived and I was surprised that I didn’t see a black Mercedes or BMW but rather a green Nissan van…but I guess when you come to a small aboriginal school you don’t really want to show how rich you are because that doesn’t really matter – you’re not there to impress. There was some sort of ceremony at the beginning where some of the guest drank rice wine and an old aboriginal guy sang a song. Our students were finally able to show what they have been practicing for almost a week and after them the students from the other school sang a song in their local language.
Later in the afternoon we had another event to attend – all of the 6th graders were supposed to gather in another school where they have special kind of initiation (I don’t really know how to call it otherwise since it’s something we don’t do in schools back home). When we arrived there the students from all schools in the district were gathered on the ground waiting for the event to start. It was a surprise because we found out that we’re not really a part of the whole show – we were neither teachers nor students (I guess we fit somewhere in the middle). In spite of that we still stayed and went later with the rest. The students were separated in groups and loaded into a few pickup trucks so they could easily be taken up the mountain where they were supposed to experience parts of the aboriginal culture. We went along and what I saw was some kind of tour that went through different activities starting with some sort of swing and going through different animal traps in a bamboo forest. After that 1km walk each of us took a small bamboo stick and used a knife to sharpen it so we can use them for the barbecue later.
We got on the same trucks to go back to the school and around 5 o’clock the fires were started and the barbecue began. I had the opportunity to try some of the local bamboo rice which at least for me tasted just like plain rice. I also ate some sort of bird which was explained to me as “wild pigeon”. When we finished eating a huge camp fire was set and the ceremony for summoning the ancestors began. I can’t really share any more details about it since I didn’t understand much of what they were saying but it seemed very interesting – some of the students were carrying torches and everyone was walking around the fire saying some words in the local language. After that they all sat in front of the fire and each school had to perform something for the others – songs, dances or something else. At 9PM one of the teachers took us back to Taoyuan.
The next morning we were supposed to catch the early train to Taipei but me and Justian were late so we got his scooter and parked near the train station. The rest of the AIESECers were already waiting outside. I didn’t expect so many people but we were actually around 14 people…so I really thought the place we were going was pretty exciting.
We got the same train as last time to Taipei but this time we wen in another direction. Actually I forgot the place where we left the train but later we got another train which took us to Shinfen which was a really small town but there were quite a few tourists already. I think the area is mostly famous for its flying lanterns and a waterfall which we weren’t able to see. The special thing about the lantern is that you write your wishes on it and then light a candle under so it can fly up in the sky until it reaches the gods. The weather around was nice and sunny and we were able to see many beautiful sights (and take pictures). That was our first stop for the day – later we went to other similar locations along the way that were actually even smaller but not less interesting to observe.
Near dinner time we went back to the first station and got a bus which took us to Jiufen (I think that was the name of the place). The city was really interesting because it was situated on a hill that overlooks the sea and all the houses were right on the slope of the mountain. There was one street full of souvenir shops and other small snacks you can try. Actually that is something I find really typical for most Taiwanese cities – you can easily find a place to eat almost everywhere, but unfortunately that was not the case with most the garbage bins. I was able to buy some special things from the shops around and try the stinky tofu (finally). We tried to make some night shots of the city but just as we were walking up the streets it started raining so I went back.
The next day we all left around noon. There was some time to eat something for lunch and buy some more souvenirs as well. After approximately one hour we got the bus and visited the museum of gold. Apparently there was a gold mine which was exploited by the Japanese during the invasion. It was made really nice because apart from the museum itself which wasn’t really anything special we were able to “experience” the art of finding gold and to walk around the beautiful park. Later on we visited the house where the Japanese emperor stayed during his trips to Taiwan. There were some houses left from that time which had the typical Japanese architecture.
Later in the evening we got the bus to Keelung. I lost my ticket to the museum so I had to pay the full price for the bus ticket. It was 2 dollars anyway so I don’t think it’s really a big deal, but I really don’t understand how I lost the stupid ticket since I didn’t lose anything else so far. After we arrived there it was already one hour and everyone was cold, tired and hungry. We visited the best place to get food fast – the night market (which according to the others is really famous). That night I was able to try so many different things – boiled crab, chicken BBQ, local ice cream and some sushi. We split in 2 groups so we can more easily explore the area – and the place was REALLY crowded.
After we got the ice cream we stayed for a while in front of the local temple where we could escape the rain. That day the weather was really bad, but fortunately it didn’t spoil our trip. Later in the evening we got on the train back to Taoyuan and since it was going to take around 2 hours to reach our destination everyone took a nap in the train.