In Touch with Taiwan

How does one continue to live out their study abroad experience in Taiwan two years later?

(Yes.
It has been two years.
I cannot believe it either.)

With the Taiwan Alumni Association of Greater DC!

Excuses aside, I did mean to announce this organization more than a year ago (see slight hint in post A Belated 新年快樂!!!), but better late than never, right?

To this day I continue to receive wonderful emails and comments on the blog from readers planning to study at NCCU or travel Taiwan. Please, keep them coming!

Which is also why I think you may be very interested in what us DC-based folks have in the works…

The Taiwan Alumni Association of Greater DC was created by a group of university students, of which I was one of, who had studied abroad in Taiwan. With the support of the Taipei Economic Cooperation Representative Office (TECRO, aka Taiwan’s pseudo-embassy), we:

-Connect prospective and returned study abroad students in the Washington, DC area
-Provide information about living in Taiwan
-Host networking, social, and professional development events in DC and Taipei for members
-Support students in pre-departure and re-entry transitions
-Offer blogging opportunities for students
-Talk about Taiwan all day (and other things)

Some highlights of our programming thus far include two highly successful visits to Twin Oaks Estate, the largest privately owned estate in DC , gatherings at the DC Dragon Boat Festival, as well as our winter-semester closing dim sum party at Tony Cheng’s.  We were very lucky to have had the opportunity—twice!—to tour Twin Oaks, which is only open per invitation. You can view pictures of our trip here: http://www.taadc.com/photos/taadc-twin-oaks-estate-visit

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits to participating in TAADC is the unique networking opportunities. Our members represent American University, Catholic University, George Mason University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, and University of Maryland. In addition, we will be partnering with other DC-area professional associations and Meetup groups with interest in Taiwan.

If you are interested in participating and becoming a member, please contact us and check out our website, www.taadc.com and Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/216568718396740/ for  more information. We are also looking for some well-organized and creative minds to help continue to run the show.

For me, TAADC remains my main lifeline to Taiwan. That I can actively engage with the Taiwanese community and larger study abroad community here at home is unique. Though I am thousands of miles away from Taiwan, and already for years elapsed, through TAADC I can meaningfully further my own overseas experience, continue to build connections to the island, and have an outlet to persistently share.

An NCCU Video

Came across this cute video developed by a German exchange student at NCCU and filmed by Student Ambassador, Hilary Lee:

A Belated 新年快樂!!!

火鍋 for some very hungry people

Aaaaand we’re back in business!!!!** I’m temporarily emerging from the blogosphere-graveyard that is university life to bring you some Taiwan-related cheer. Last weekend I spent a very lovely night with some of my best friends at AU since freshman year to celebrate Chinese New Year. We gorged on liberal amounts of hot pot with many cuts of meat, fried tofu, mushrooms, veggies and fish balls. Yum. Followed nontraditionally by some freshly fried yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmTURONyummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…

Only ninjas can make a proper turon

And of course some general festive libations. My great friend, Carl, whom I’ve introduced before, was in attendance as well. It was great to reconnect with friends from all over while also enjoying the food I miss so much from Taiwan.

Later that same weekend, I also had the honor of being able to attend a large banquet sponsored by TECRO that brought together many of the Taiwanese Student Associations (TSA) from DC universities and generally important Taiwanese people in the DC community. There were some pretty funny performances and interesting people to meet. Ironically, though, the banquet was held at a Cantonese restaurant…er…Next time I vote Bob’s Noodle.

Finally, there is a new association in the works now that I am not sure I am quite at liberty to start publicizing at the moment, BUT it is exciting, has to do with Taiwan and DC (two of my very favorite places), and offers the opportunity to collaborate with many students in the DC area. Hopefully I will be able to expand more on that later.

In the meantime, happy year of the rabbit!

 

**That is an indefinite promise

 

 

Feeling Nostalgic

Thanks for posting that, Jackie ;)

Them Taiwanese…They Got Style

很棒的老人

A little More Asian

During the past week I did a few very Asian things: (1) I took pictures in a Japanese photo-booth and decorated them (2) I ate weird flavored ice cream…twice (3) I went to cram school.

(1) Photo-booths

I did this once before with my friend JiWon in South Korea and the concept in Taiwan seems mostly the same. You, along with some of your best friends (preferably Asian), go into a small photo booth where you are given 5 chances to strike your best pose. Then, run around the side to the touch-screen computer and choose the best 4 pictures. You have 70 seconds to decorate each picture with fluorescent-colored backgrounds, hearts, stars, and cutsie phrases. When times-up, you then choose how many pictures you want and–voila! A sheet of your photos are spit out of a slot on the side of the photo-booth machine. Price: $200NT and lots of goofy laughs.

Ronja and Patina making us look picture-perfect

(2) Strange ice cream

In general, ice cream is not on the top of most Taiwanese people’s favorite dessert list (if there exists such a thing).

The never-ending menu

Most prefer shaved ice (挫冰) to actual ice cream, which is why, I think, most home-grown Taiwanese ice cream is very watery and leaves a sort of bacterial-soap aftertaste. Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of shaved ice, but sometimes the summer just calls for a large scoop of mint chocolate cookie dough ice cream and hot fudge sauce on top straight of the Halo Pub tub…whoo…gotta hold my horses. Princeton is only a week away ;)

Anywho, I was very excited to read about Taipei Snow Ice King, a little ruddy-duddy hole-in-the-wall homemade ice cream shop located just outside of Ximending famous for dishing up some very strange flavors. I was so excited, I went twice. First time my friends and I more or less played it safe and tried: sweet corn, almond, guava, and litchi flavors. Next day, my other friends and I were slightly more adventurous and tried: bitter melon, oolong tea, sweet rice wine pudding with longan, and red bean. My favorites were a tie between the sweet rice pudding and the red bean; each was very fresh and tasted so much like the real thing–but better! That was probably my problem with the bitter melon flavor (except it wasn’t better); it tastes fine at first, but the bitter aftertaste hits you full-force. Blech! They have an English menu if you ask and offer 70+ different flavors. Other strange types that we failed to try include: soybean curd, pig’s feet, Taiwan beer, tomato, and mustard.

Carl and Jon and our ice cream

(3) Cram School/Buxiban (補習班).

Cram school is a Taiwanese phenomenon (though China, Korea and Japan can all give them a good run for their money

南陽街

as well). Basically, all students attend extra classes at cram school every day (and sometimes on the weekends and during summer vacations) after the regular school day to “get ahead,” or rather at this point, merely to keep up with fellow students. Just about any and all subjects are taught in the cram schools and an average class size can range from 100-400 students.

My friend Carl took me to Cram School Street, aka Nanyang Jie 南陽街 near Taipei Main Station to check it out. He pointed out the ones he used to attend and even took me and my friend Jon up to see one. His old teacher wasn’t there at the time, so we didn’t stay very long, but it was interesting to see the other side. The place was very utilitarian overall in appearance albeit for a giant list of student names descending down the entire hallway, denoting class ranks and which university they got into. Talk about (unhealthy?) competition. To what extent is it really helping them?

For me it is difficult to imagine such a life spent studying all of the time. Already I am tired of so much schooling. 台灣的學生太用功.

In other news, official count-down is one week. Here is what is left on my list of things to do:

Eat/Drink:
At least 3 more new teashops in Maokong
Stinky tofu

Dragon fruit is back is season! Yumm! 火龍果!!

Durian
Hand shaved noodles
Burmese food on Burma street
Beijing duck to-go from that place I heard about near Shida

Go:
Tainan – eat a lot of food and visit a couple of temples
Jade Mountain – hike (if not possible, go to Alishan)

Do:
Surf
Hike Maokong from NCCU
Hot springs in the rain and/or fry an egg on the sidewalk by the springs
Learn how to play mahjongg
Check out the tombs on the mountain by my apartment
Buy a bamboo hat
See a show at the National Theater

Unfortunately, on a limited budget and limited time, I don’t think I will be able to accomplish too much. But that’s okay with me. Just means I will be back sometime in the future :)

Garbage

One of the most unique things about Taiwan is its garbage.

Or rather, its garbage collection (although I’m sure you’d find some pretty funky stuff in its garbage too).

First, there is the Maiden Call (9:30pm on the button in my neighborhood):

(I take no credit for the production of that video, but it was masterfully executed :) )

…Then, the garbage minions duly arrive.

Garbage collection time is social time. People wait around with their bags of trash until the big yellow truck comes, chuck their blue bags in the back of the truck, and then go on their merry ways.

You must separate plastic bottles from other plastic, cardboard, paper, and your old rotting foodstuffs. This is all highly confusing to the wee foreigner even after a year’s time, but the friendly recyclables collection men are always there to help.

The compost bins.

I have to say, as annoying as it is in many ways (ie: the awful tinny music that is everywhere to be heard around the entire island of Taiwan; the mysterious dearth of public trash bins around the city; the fact that I’m roused out of my room on the 6th floor with no elevator at 9:30 at night; the fact that I *ewww* have to touch my trash), the system works and it really makes you conscious of the waste you produce every day. Back home in the US, it is very easy to be blind to all of the crap I throw out–and usually not separated in to the proper bin either; just throw it in the trash bag, put it on the side of the road and–like magic!–it’s gone! The recycling system Taiwan has managed to implement is really remarkable. When there is a trash bin to be found, there is usually a recycling bin right next to it. All of the waste bins on my university’s campus are separated into four different types, with only one actual “trash” bin. Taiwan also charges a small fee for every plastic bag used in grocery stores, convenient stores, etc. In addition, there are also special blue garbage bags I have to purchase in order to be able to throw out my trash (no charge on recyclable products).

I’m not sure if a similar system could work in the US, but small things–like a tax on plastic bags (which some places have already implemented) or a tax on garbage bags (but not recyclables) could perhaps go a long way.

***UPDATE: Taiwan’s garbage made it to the NYTimes!************

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