Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

Good-bye Taiwan (再見台灣)

Taipei 101

Dawn breaking over Taipei and Taipei 101. (台北和台北101的日出)


Taiwan’s breathtaking natural beauty. (台灣的蠻好看的自然風景)

NTU National Taiwan University

NTU at dawn. (台大的日出)

Although I left in July…
Good-bye Taiwan, and thanks for everything.


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. =)

Jiufen (九份)

Posted in Culture, Food, NTU, Outdoors, Shopping, Sightseeing, Taipei, Taiwan by J on April 19, 2008

jiufen baoxiantao

Jiufen has this lovely little “Condom World” store. (保險套世界)

Jiufen (九份) is this little town about an hour away from Taipei. We went there to check it out because, well, it’s a tourist attraction. That and apparently the town was used as a model for Spirited Away. (According to Wikipedia.)

Anyways, I found out it’s a pretty nice place to go shopping and to have some interesting food. The view is really nice too. It’s totally a tourist destination. They sell lots of leather goods at Jiufen and snacks like chips on a stick. What I really liked was this ice cream rolled into a parsley-peanutty wrap thing. It’s so Taiwan. By “it’s so Taiwan” I mean it’s so innovative. I forgot to take a picture!

Oh these were great to eat~

Aside from all the good eats, things to buy, and the view, we also went to take a look at the historic part of Jiufen. Historically, it was a mining town but now, it’s mostly a tourist destination. I hope that there aren’t any malevolent ghosts hanging around!

The ghosts did it!

Oh by the way, if you’re ever near the Zhongxiao Dunhua (忠孝敦化) area in Taipei, the food is great there! There’s a larger variety of food to eat than the food around the NTU campus. See exhibit one:

At a teahouse near Luxy: Mmm… delicious!

Term 1 is Ending! The Final Push

Posted in Academics, Culture, Exchange, Exchange Students, NTU, Taiwan, Thoughts, University by J on January 6, 2008

The year starts off slightly off-centred. A new adventure to be found every day!

A news brief to kick off the new year…

With this week left before the finals start, it’s starting to get a little… how shall I say this? It’s time to turn the gas on! Vroom, vroom!

Reporting on other areas:

This month has been the preparation and steeling of feelings, for people are departing throughout this month. Many of whom I will probably never see again. But hey! At least there’s the internet… and visitation rights.

So, in culmination, in contrast to December’s mostly party-like atmosphere (as much as we could make it), January looks to be a balance between send-offs and school.

Finally a posting related to academics.

NTU’s Guitar Club Performance + Emil Chau (台大吉他社的表演+周華健)

Posted in Clubs, Culture, Night Life, NTU, Taiwanese People, University by J on December 26, 2007

A cool performance at the main student centre (活大). The club played through some songs that I knew, for example, one of Zhang Xuan’s (張懸) songs called “My Life Will.” Although, I quite prefer her “Darling” (寶貝) or “Scream” off her first CD, My Life Will…. I like “Appearance” (模樣) and “Like” (喜歡) off her second album, Oh, dear. dear. I haven’t. (親愛的。。。我還不知道) best.

It was a fun show to watch because the guitar playing wasn’t bad and the singing was good at times. I think a little bit more showmanship from the performers would have made the show slightly more interesting. Although, I didn’t get the little skits in between…apparently it was a club in-joke. Also, just as I was thinking to leave at the intermission, I decided to stay just to see how the end of the show would turn out.

After a neat music-incorporated-play-mood piece, a quite famous NTU alumni (apparently) took the stage. He was great! His name is Emil Chau (周華健) and is from Hong Kong. I really enjoyed listening to the music he sang, both in Mandarin and in English.

Sadly, I had to leave the performance and my friends I was watching it with a bit early because I had another engagement planned. Gah! I forgot to bring my camera that night.

Xitou (溪頭) / Nantou (南投) / NTU Experimental Forest Trip


The hike picture.

What a lovely little weekend trip arranged by the IYC/Guoqing Dormitory (國青宿舍). On a very well-planned trip for the exchange and international students at NTU, we went to Xitou (溪頭) in Nantou County (南投), which is close to Taichung (台中). Xitou is part of the NTU Experimental Forest.

The first day, we set out from Taipei bright and early Saturday morning. I swear, food was the centrepiece of everything. From the first breakfast to the last dinner Sunday evening, we were extremely well provided for. The food was delicious! If you can imagine having practically a 10-course meal at a Chinese restaurant at every meal then you’ve imagined what we ate those two days. Well, just add the Taiwanese twist to it, and you’ve got it!


Would you willingly hurl yourself off a cliff?

For our first stop on our way to Xitou, we stopped at the Puli Brewery for lunch. Mmm… food.

As a surprise, we were offered the chance to go paragliding!! Unfortunately, the people allowed to go paragliding were limited. Despite that, it was a gorgeous day out to spend time lounging on a grassy field.


The prettiest thing about Sun Moon Lake in the dark: Their hotel.

After paragliding, we were shuttled over in the tour bus to Sun Moon Lake (日月潭). Apparently, it’s a very famous spot to visit in Taiwan. Ironically, by the time we made it to the lake, it was already dark. We didn’t get to see much of anything, but the boat ride was almost romantic. Aren’t all boat rides with 40 other people supposed to be romantic? Hah!

Oh, and be sure to eat some of the best tea eggs (茶葉蛋) in all of Taiwan while you’re at the lake. They’re better than the 7-11 ones.


The view from the accommodation place.

At the end of the day, we settled into our lodgings up on a mountain nearby. Supposedly it was cooler. Maybe being a Canadian makes me think everywhere is warm on Taiwan, winter or not. You know, because after all, Canadians live in igloos.

Canadian jokes aside, after a crispy and fun night, the next morning there were some tours to be had where we were staying. We had the option of hiking up to a pagoda or listening to a presentation about the making of tea. I went on the hike: The food needed to be worked off.


The bamboo bridge.

As a last activity before we went back to Taipei, we all piled into the bus and went over to explore the main part of the NTU Experimental Forest. I ended up in the group that went to take a look at the University Pond. Although we didn’t get to see the famed Sky Walk, the bamboo bridge was pretty cool. It’s rebuilt every year and it swings and sways and bounces as you walk across it. To make it even more fun, people completely disregard the sign that says that only a maximum of 10 people are to be on the bridge at a time. I really wanted to jump up and down on the bridge as I went across it…

And before I knew it, we were back in Taipei!


Temples, Temples, Temples

Posted in Academics, Chinese, Culture, NTU, Observations, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Thoughts, University by J on December 6, 2007


Taipei Confucius Temple

Thanks to a field trip arrange by my Chinese philosophy professor, with my class, we had the opportunity to take an actual look inside a Confucian temple. With a tour guide! In English! (See National Palace Museum post for why one should have a tour guide. You’ll be bored otherwise.)

When we were watching the film of one of the biggest Confucian ceremonies, Teachers’ Day, I remembered that in September of this year I didn’t go! NOooooOOoo, it looked so cool. So… ritualized and filled with meaning. As well as having special music played for it.

The Confucian temple itself was under construction (due to termites?), but that didn’t detract from the vibrant colours of the decorative adornments or from the Southern style swallow-tail architecture. At least that’s what I think the guide said.


Ritualized clothing for the Teachers’ Day ceremony.

After, we just crossed the street and, voila! We were in a Daoist/Buddhist temple. The Bao’an (大龍峒保安宮) temple was more 熱鬧 (lively) than the Confucian one. I was surprised that the Daoist and the Buddhist philosophies were combined into one temple. Actually, I was just very surprised overall that, if you wanted to, you could do an extremely quick tour of hitting up the Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist philosophy within 15 minutes.

From a very secular viewpoint, both temples were beautiful. Something new to learn everyday.


Bao’an Temple

Taiwanese Aboriginal People’s Concert (原住民音樂會)

Posted in Bicycle, Night Life, NTU, Observations, Outdoors, Taipei, Taiwan, Taiwanese People, Thoughts, Weather by J on November 10, 2007


A slightly awkward title, but it seems to do the job of describing what I saw at Da’an Park (大安森林公園). The aboriginal people that performed ranged from the Hakka to aboriginal groups that have long been a part of Taiwan.

After a quick bike ride to the park from NTU and settling into some seats, the slightly chilly evening kicked off with different musical acts from different aboriginal groups. However, the climax with all of the groups together was quite cool. It showed some sort of harmony altogether thing. I wonder if any of these groups of people warred against each other in the past.

Interestingly, this show defied my expectations of what a aboriginal show would. There was not only more traditional music to showcase the culture of the different aboriginal peoples that were there, there were even music acts that included rapping and modern musical instruments like the guitar.


I’m glad that I was asked out to go check out this event because now I have a slightly fuller picture of what “Taiwan” is all about. Thought: Are shows like this supposed to show the success of the Taiwanese aboriginal peoples in integrating into modern day Taiwan but at the same time still keeping their own unique identity? Most likely. I wonder exactly how “successful” they have been and what “success” is defined as. I think a similar situation exists in Canada concerning the First Nations people.

Also, hanging out with people is fun too. I just need to dress a bit warmer next time. Yay for free outdoor music concerts!

My Congee Adventure

Posted in Food, Home, NTU, Rant, Taipei, Taiwan by J on November 4, 2007


Image borrowed from a website that I googled.

On a tip from a friend, deprived from congee as I was, I tried out the non-descript congee stand nearby NTU. Run by a Guangdong person (廣東人)the flavour was quite similar to the congee at home because Guangdong is where a lot of the early Chinese immigrants emigrated from. Thus, many overseas Chinese communities have a Guangdong flavour.

History lesson aside, by ordering my standard that I judge all congee places by, “thousand year old egg and lean pork congee” (皮蛋瘦肉粥)I expected something half-decent. I had been getting used to this… icky thing that I’ve come across in the Taiwanese places I’ve tried. A little too spicy, a little too watered down, etc.

And it was in the gold!

And thus, my congee adventure came to a close. (What adventure?)