On Friday March 6, we went to Kenting – the southmost town of Taiwan for an adventurous foray into the world beneath the waves. Students dressed in special clothing and had a safety lesson before going down the water with two experienced coaches. Under the watchful eyes of our coached, students were given the rare opportunity to be a part of the beautiful and richly-populated underwater world. A plethora of colorful fish and alien like coral reefs greeted us at every turn. Everyone was fascinated by the scenery under water and some commented that it is even prettier the world above water. After the exciting adventure beneath the water, we talked about oceanic sustainability in small groups.
Traveling down to the southernmost area in Taiwan, Kenting, students experienced the subtropical climate with warm to hot weather year round. The average daily temperature is 25.64 C (78.14 F) and the humidity is 76.7%. With such the warm temperature and high percentage of humidity, the south end of Taiwan is especially well suited for the cultivation of many tropical fruits. On the way to Kenting, we stopped by a fruit stand where students tried out several Taiwanese fruits.
Students visited the National Museum of Taiwanese history today, and learned a little bit more about the history, development, and various ups and downs of the country they’ve been exploring for the past week. Topics that were covered ranged from the creation of early Taiwan, waves of immigration from other smaller Asian countries, and also the aspirations of modern day Taiwanese people. These were all explained through life-size figurines and genuine artifacts from big events, making the whole experience very interactive and relatable.
Today, the students had the rare opportunity to witness an authentic aboriginal tribe in the hills of Ali Mountain. The tribe is called the Tsou Tribe, and is the only aboriginal tribe to reside in the 阿里山 area. Students first witnessed a traditional hunting dance, and then took a tour around the cultural village, interacting with local tribe members, as well as traditional Tsou architecture and tools.
Afterwards, we experienced an authentic tea ceremony, during which students were educated about the origins, processes, and idiosyncrasies between Oolong and black Alishan tea.
As an educational counterpart to these two cultural experiences, students were asked to reflect upon the idea of cultural sustainability. Upon deeper reflection, students delved into a deep discussion about the value of tourism and whether or not it contributes to the sustainability of aboriginal cultures.
All in all, it was a very eye-opening and introspective day for our students!
This morning we left Taiwan and head south to Sun-moon lake, known for its breath-taking natural beauty. We took our Mandarin lesson to go and spent an hour reviewing the past-tense in Chinese and how to construct a diary in Mandarin. Students were focused and actively participated in language activities.
After a three-hour drive on the twists and turns along Taiwan’s mountain roads, we finally arrived in Sun-moon lake national scenic area. Sun-moon lake is like a piece of beautiful jade surrounded by lush forests. All of us were amazed by the beautiful scenery bestowed by nature. By the sun-moon lake, we also had an exciting experience of taking the cable car, where we had a chance to appreciate the lake from above.
In the afternoon, we went to a buddhist temple near the Sun-moon lake, which is called Xuanzang Temple. Xuanzang is a well-knowleged monk who truly existed in Tang Dynasty. He traveled 25000km to India by feet and brought original Buddhist texts to China. After paying respect to the buddha status in the temple, we had a discussion on the difference between Taoist temple we visited two days ago and this Buddhist temple as well as the influence of the two religions on Chinese culture.
Day 4 started out bright and early with a Mandarin lesson. We took shelter from the rain and substituted our usual golf-course classroom with an indoor gymnasium. Mr. Chang led the class in covering the topic of past tense in Mandarin, using examples from recent activities during the last couple days as examples.
Afterwards, students took a step back from the hustle and bustle of Taipei city to the quiet and serenity of a Confucius Temple. Students learned about core Confucian values, and tried their own hand at calligraphy writing and handwriting analysis.
Lunch time brought with it the exciting, one-of-a-kind experience of eating hot pot! Each student was equipped with a plate of raw goodies and a pot of boiling broth, and we all went to town, tucking into steaming chopstick-fulls of freshly cooked delicacies.
We then headed up a mountain to get a first-hand look at Taiwan’s hot springs! Despite the foggy and cold weather today, students warmed up by witnessing a natural hot spring. The distinct and hard-to-ignore smell of sulfur permeated just about everything, but it was balanced by the beautiful scenery and the opportunity to cook some hard boiled eggs in a bubbling cauldron of earth heat.
We made a much-appreciated transition after the sulfuric hot springs to some equally beautiful, but much more pleasant smelling attractions. First was the Yangmingshan Flower Clock, and students spent some time taking in the uniqueness of flower architecture, and the beginnings of cherry blossoms dotting the mountainside. Afterwards we visited the Taipei Public Library in Beitou, giving students a chance to appreciate the unique architecture that earned this building its place as one of the 25 most beautiful libraries in the world. It is also known for its green and eco-friendly building plans, and students were asked to go on a scavenger hunt for certain Mandarin phrases amidst this famously sustainable environment.
Visiting Mengjia Longshan Temple in Taipei city, students are introduced with the divination tools, 筊杯(Jiǎobēi). Jiaobei blocks are made of wood or bamboo and are used in pairs. They are thrown to answer a yes or no question. Throwing Jiaobei blocks are common at Taoist temples.
Find out the answers that Sharon received from practicing Jiaobei: