Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

Discover Taiwan (發現台灣)

Pigs and Octopuses

Discover Taiwan (發現台灣) took place on: May 5, 2008

This art activity was part of a Discover Taiwan (發現台灣) event put on at NTU for the really big kids. These modelling clay figurines were a lot of fun to make because we had the chance to indulge our inner child. Granted though, my figurines look a lot better now than what I would’ve made when I was little. (Mine are the octopus and pig in the front row on the far right.)

I wanted to write this post because I noticed something about the link between education, creativity and art. A few months before this event, I remember looking at some cards some elementary school kids drew in thanks for something, probably a Christmas event (聖誕節), and what struck me was that while they all could draw very well, all their cards looked eerily similar. What was drawn on the card was similar, what was written on the card was similar and the style that it was drawn in was also similar.

Does this mean that the education system that Taiwanese children go through de-emphasizes creativity and individuality at the expense of what is deemed to be “right” type of art for the occasion? Or does it mean that the kids really had no idea what to draw and just followed an example card that the teacher created? What are the implications for the future of Taiwanese society?

Although this example seems to pander to the general Western stereotype that East Asian cultures are all about conformity, I think that those that are creative and keep their creativity from being squashed in the system are just as creative or even more creative than those children in a system that encourages them to be creative. It’s just another type of conformity if everyone is creative. Neither system is better than the other; they’re just different.

Those at NTU are plenty creative. =)

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ORZ Boyz (囧男孩)

Posted in Culture, Miscellaneous, Taipei, Taiwan by J on October 4, 2008

I’ve been back in Canada for a while now because my exchange is over, but as this pertains to Taiwan I thought I’d write a post. In between school, work and Chinese school, I’ve been seeing some films at the local film festival. And boy are they GOOD! So, I just wanted to share with you what I really liked:

ORZ Boys (囧男孩)
www.wretch.cc/blog/orzboyz

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzv0eRdSRIo&fmt=18

“Two mischievous and highly imaginative boys spend a hot Taiwanese summer scheming to enter the seaside kingdom of Orz and escape their troubled home lives.”

Well, I loved this movie the best. I wasn’t bored one bit and I recognized Danshui!! I was actually quite sad to have the movie end, but you know what, the director was at the screening! Not only does this movie reflect on Taiwan’s impoverished children without shoving it your face, it does it in a light-hearted and fun manner.

Those boys are so adorable! Their names were awesome too. “一號” 和 “二號”。Liar #1 and Liar #2. The director said they spent months and months looking for the perfect child actors. It really paid off! They even filmed a scene outside the MRT station doing a snake charmer thing. Okay, so before I give away more of this movie, go see it!!

Taroko Gorge (太魯閣國家公園), Hsincheng (新城) & Hualien (花蓮市)

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Flowers near Hsincheng (新城).

During the time of the Qingming Festival (清明節) (April 4th), a friend and I decided to jet off (ironically by train: chug, chug, chug-a-lug) to visit Hualien’s Taroko Gorge. Thank-you for not raining!


Hsincheng (新城):

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Nearby Hsincheng (or in it?).

We stayed at a very nice place in Hsincheng. The hotel was situated where it was basically a reserve for the Taroko native people (原住民). The organic veggies provided were reminiscent of home. Mmmm… food.

One thing to watch out for when you’re in this area are the DOGS. Ohmygosh. There are many dogs all over the place and some are probably strays. I don’t know. They are very, very territorial. Growl!


Taroko Gorge (太魯閣國家公園):

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The Buddhist monastery near Tiansiang.

Ah! The most fun part.

We walked to Tiansiang (天祥) from Taroko (太魯閣). On the way, we encountered close calls with tour busses and cliffs (jump!!), dark tunnels, one way roads and loads of “falling rocks” signs. I even learned the characters for “falling rocks” because I saw it so many times. It’s 落石 luo4shi2.

I was in awe when we arrived at the cliffs. I forget what they’re called, but they’re on the No. 8 highway. They’re magnificently tall. So tall that… you just can gape in wonder. According to the tour guide that I was eavesdropping on while we stopped there, there used to be native people that lived at the top of the cliffs and got to the top by going up a trail on the face of the cliff (of which, I was unable to discern).

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Bright red bridge.

We also saw the Swallow Grotto (燕子口) and the Tunnel of Nine Turns (九曲洞) in addition to other things on the highway. Like bicyclers and cars and busses and cars and scooters and cars and scooters.

A very, very good day. I’m so 熟 (shou) with the road now! There’s just something good about walking. However, it also felt so good to arrive in Tiansiang. We did it! (And early, too. We made it in time for the bus back.)


Hualien (花蓮市):

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The cows in Hualien city.

Hualien, the city, was okay. Although, I’d call it more of a town than a city. Where was everyone?

Lastly, the Mochi / Magi / Mashu (麻糬) etc. So good! Get it from the Zengji Mashu (曾記麻糬). Don’t forget to bring stuff home for your loved ones! (Traditions…)

(Note: It’s so weird to look at photos that you have taken the day of that you write on because it already seems so far removed.)

Hong Kong & Macau (香港和澳門)

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The Hong Kong night skyline.

I went to Hong Kong and Macau:

The food… the FOOD! It was great. Just like at home.

Hong Kong:

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The Kowloon Walled City Park.

I saw many beautiful things. The Hong Kong skyline is magnificent. The Kowloon Walled City Park is relaxing. (Who knew Hong Kong had so many parks!)

I saw A LOT of the Hong Kong MTR. I felt like a mole because I spent so much time riding the subway. Efficient, though.

I rode on a tram! I rode on the Mid-Levels Escalators! I rode on an elephant! (Ok, just kidding about the last one.)

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The junk.

I got to see a junk! Too bad it was on a motor engine instead of wind power. (Its tourism business’d sure go down if it ran on the wind.)

Macau:

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Largo de Senado Square (Macau Main Plaza).

Eating my Po-tart. (Portugese egg tart.) Mmmmmm… delicious.

Seeing Largo de Senado in real life.

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At the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade (尖沙嘴). The display for the Beijing 2008 Olympic games.

Guess what I didn’t mention? You get a cookie if you’re correct.

ISWAK 2 Autograph Session (惡作劇2吻的簽名會)

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L-R: Jiro Wang (汪東城), Joe Cheng (鄭元暢), Danson Tang (唐禹哲)

帥哥!帥哥!Hot boys are out and about in Taipei! For example, Jiro Wang (汪東城) on the left looks really handsome in person. Actually, more than anything, he was more pretty than handsome. But still, very good looking. And, he carries off his clothing very well.

Deciding to join some friends in checking out what an autograph session (簽名會) was like, I found myself at the Shilin Night Market (士林夜市). We were all waiting for the It Started With a Kiss 2 [ISWAK2] (惡作劇2吻) cast to come out.

After a bit of a wait (we waited for 4 hours, but we got there early), the cast came out. Unfortunately, Ariel Lin (林依晨), the actress who plays the main character, Xiangqin (湘琴), wasn’t in attendance.

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Smiley, smiley!

I thought it quite funny that when the cast was posing for the fans to photograph them, they would all turn as one mass towards one side when the emcee shouted out, “turn left…right…centre!” But I have to admit that it is quite an intelligent approach to satisfying fans.

Also, to have the opportunity to handshake (if you wanted) the real people behind the fantasy world of television was neat in itself. After all, stars are no less human than we are.

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Smiley, smiley!

A note on the fans:

I was so surprised that fans came from many different places to see these stars. Yes, they are quite famous, but wow! In addition to the majority of high school students that were there, there were even people from Japan and Korea in the audience! I have reason to think that some of them possibly flew in (an airplane) to have their ISWAK2 gear signed. Or they could have been foreigners who just happened to be in Taiwan at the time. Maybe Taiwan’s entertainment industry can do for Taiwan what Korea’s entertainment industry did for Korea.

Anyways, some of the fans’ ISWAK2 signs were so impressive. They were mostly all handmade, and this one sign had a huge picture drawn in the likeness of one of the stars. The dedication! However, this dedication is also kind of frightening at the same time.

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Pretty, pretty!

For example, I saw one fan that was situated further back tell one that was further up front that standing wasn’t allowed because it was the sitting section. Actually, it was more of a fierce finger wagging, “no,” and a subsequent hand motion motioning downwards. Surprisingly, the one further up front obeyed.

Later, as we were all packed in very close together in a small space, I started thinking about what would happen if these fans started to riot…

The ISWAK2 autograph session was certainly an interesting experience!

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The multitude begins early on in the afternoon…

Taipei Zoo (台北市立動物園)

Posted in Miscellaneous, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Transportation by J on December 4, 2007

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What are _you_ looking at?

The zoo, the Zoo, the ZOO!

I don’t have much to say here, except that it’s pretty fun to go to. Those Emperor Penguins that I thought were fake…no… they’re real. They just don’t move very much at all. Haha, we were trying to spot the fake ones in the midst of the real penguins and it turns out that they were all real!

For the top picture, I have no idea what those animals are, but they were all just sort of staring… You should have seen them later on. They were all lined up nose to tail one after another. Perfect line for…predators. The gorilla was also fun too.

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Wait until I come to eat your guts out. =)

Funnily, while writing this, I’m reminded of this book that I’m reading that has something remotely to do with zoos and wild animals. It’s called Life of Pi.

To get to the zoo, hop on the brown line and ride it to the end. The end that says Taipei Zoo. If you ride it to the other end, well, you went the wrong way. Admission is only 30 NTD for student fare. A nice way to pass the afternoon but be prepared to walk!

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I’m cute, aren’t I?

Mail from Home

Posted in Exchange, Home, Miscellaneous, Thoughts by J on November 8, 2007

home mail

This picture embodies what it feels like to receive mail and packages from home. Email, too.

Thank-you.

(Borrowed image.)

A Taiwanese Halloween

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The Taiwanese do not celebrate Halloween.

As I also found out, nor do many Europeans. It is almost a wholly North American activity. Strange, I thought it was celebrated almost the world over; it must be that North American ethnocentrism creeping in.

Despite being just another North American activity, we celebrated here at NTU with a Halloween Music Party (萬聖節音樂會)

and reversed trick-or-treating.

Halloween kicked off with many of the exchange students and some Taiwanese students taking pictures in their costumes in the main lobby of the dormitory. There were many colourful costumes. For example, I rented my costume from a costume shop in Ximending (西門町), as did most everyone else. However, the most inventive costume, a hedgehog, was hand-made. That costume won the top prize in the Halloween costume contest.

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As a large group, we proceeded to make our way to the Student Activity Center, Huoda (活大)

from the dormitory while handing out candy to anyone we encountered along the way. This reverse trick-or-treating (normally, we go to doors and then get candy from the dwellers) was odd at first, but then quickly warmed up to. By the ones who were giving out the candy (us).

Actually, I think we scared a lot of the students that were still around at 6 pm on campus Wednesday night because they were avoiding and staring at our group as we were saying, “Happy Halloween!” (in Chinese). Hmm… Perhaps our (rather) large group was scary and a curiosity because we were all dressed for the Halloween occasion.

Afterwards, after some fun at the Male Dormitories where they had games and trick-or-treating at doors prepared for us, the music concert came next. All in all, quite a fun night!

Ironically, despite the fact that most of our costumes weren’t scary (as they are supposed to be, as Halloween is a night of ghouls), I’m sure that we gave some people quite a scare because it was something so out of the ordinary. Hah! It also marked all of us as totally foreign. I hope that next year’s Halloween at NTU is as fun for more people as it was for us.

A Trip to Tofu Alley

Posted in Food, Home, Miscellaneous, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Transportation by J on October 13, 2007

Lots of people.

Lots of people.

This weekend, I made a trip to Tofu Alley. Or that’s what my friends called it.

Anyways, after riding the brown line of the MRT to its end at the Taipei Zoo stop, we caught a bus to take us to this alley. I’m looking at my map and it tells me that this “Tofu Alley” could possibly be in the Shankeng Township… Anyways, it’s a bit east of the Taipei Zoo MRT station.

Mmm... tofu.

Mmm… tofu.

The alley is a lot bigger than I expected it to be. Filled with people, too. Hehe, the most ironic thing is that not everything is made of tofu. For sure, many things are, but there’s other things like chicken and rice that are obviously not made out of tofu. Hehe.

So, we were so hungry that we ducked into a restaurant and tucked-in into this huge set-meal rather than buy a bit of 小吃(snacky food) here and there. The meal was possibly a 10 course meal. I forgot to count. Very delicious and none too expensive either. When we split the bill, it came to about 250 NTD each.

10 course meal?

10 course meal?

After feeling very full and walking around for a bit just checking out the alley, I had enough room to buy some ice cream. Tofu ice cream, that is. Mmmm, it was good! It wasn’t so tofu-tasting as I had expected, so that was a welcome change. Green on one side and white on the other!

All in all, I’d like to go back again for some of that tofu ice cream and that set-meal. The set-meal reminded me of the big dinners at home with my family during special occasions. That and the meal was good. Mmmm…foooooood.