TTT: Training, travel, and Thanksgiving

Oh wow, did these last few weeks fly by. And to think it’s December? Insane. In that time, I’ve been bopping around Taiwan, been absolutely stressed out about 6th grade English class, and even got around to baking some Thanksgiving pies. Did my pies steal the show? You’re gonna have to wait until the end to find out.

Tainan: the fun traveling

A few weeks ago now, myself and the other Taichung ETAs took our first full group trip to Tainan, a two-hour train ride south of Taichung. Exhausted by a week of school and train travel, our first night consisted primarily of checking into our hostel and me avoiding the hostel’s cats.

After a night’s rest, we woke up (albeit at drastically different times) and headed out to fuel up with some breakfast before making our way to the Taiwan Literary Museum, which we heard had a lot of cool, local history about Tainan–the oldest city in Taiwan. However, en route to the museum, a local vendor let us know the museum was just meh and recommended we go to the oldest department store in Taiwan just down the street. The store, built during the Japanese colonial era and bombed during WWII, was architecturally interesting, but ended up being a bit of a tourist spot that I could’ve lived without seeing.

At one of the many Confucius temples that dot Taiwan

With relatively empty shopping bags, we walked on over to a Confucius Temple before taking a bus to Tainan’s historic Anping district, featuring a slew of old Dutch and Japanese forts. Aside from forts, the Anping district also has a building known as the “tree house” due to an abandoned warehouse getting overtaken by trees. Walking around the tree house during dusk gave it a bit of extra spook. Satisfied with our sightseeing, we headed to a famous local beef noodle restaurant which did not disappoint. After a long day of walking, a warm, hearty bowl of stir-fried beef noodles was a welcome sight. Our evening activities included us continuously trying to get into bars where we were told we needed reservations (unsure why, but oh well), and ended up finding a local “Mexican” restaurant. After some less than stellar nachos and a few cocktails we headed back to the hostel for the night.

The house of trees (ft. Julia and Jake)!

On our last day in Tainan, we split up, with a few of us heading to the art museum in Tainan and others taking a chance on the literary museum that had been given mixed reviews the previous day. The art museum was split into two buildings, one clearly built during the Japanese era, and the other, a more modern building reminiscent of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei. We started with the older of the two buildings, which featured an exhibit on printmaking and the artist’s rediscovery of their hometown of Tainan. After getting our fill of arts and culture for the day, we grabbed a bite to eat, this time the local delicacy, coffin bread, which is roughly the Tainan version of a bread bowl. From here, we ended our time in Tainan and our first group trip, sleepily boarding the train and knowing that all of us had lesson planning waiting for us when we arrived back in Taichung.

Taipei: the not-so fun traveling

Oof. Despite being a (relatively) all expenses paid training weekend in Taipei, including a day off from work, man oh man was this a long weekend. Starting on Friday morning, my roommate, Sabrina, and I of course went to the wrong Taichung Station in order to catch the high speed rail to Taipei. Thankfully, the tickets carried over and we were able to make a slightly later train after a quick taxi ride to the correct train station.

Following our arrival in Taipei, we were quickly launched into a three hour welcome session and DEI training, before having to make our own way to the location for the night’s Thanksgiving dinner. And in this case dinner will be used loosely. Having not received any official schedule for the evening, we came to discover that the first hour of dinner was to be a “social hour” which was nice in the fact that I was able to catch up with my friends from my flight, but did not help the fact I was extremely hungry after a lack of vegetarian options earlier in the day. Making sure they didn’t feed us too early, we were then greeted with a half hour of welcome addresses and photos for each cohort. Only then did dinner begin.

The reunion tour of my friends from my flight to Taiwan! (L-R) Me, Jacob, Helen, Richard, and Juli)

To say I ate dinner is to give this meal too much credit. Having been seated at one of the vegetarian tables, we received a dish of food roughly once every 10 to 15 minutes over the course of the next hour. Never enough to make us feel full, but also too much time in between that we were no longer hungry by the end, even if we hadn’t eaten much.

After an exhausting afternoon, we headed back to our lodging for the night. Due to my lack of sustenance, I opted to stay in for the evening while other ETAs descended upon Taipei’s club scene. I know you might be thinking I am lame, but consider this: I did get to listen to the Adele album, so who’s loss was it?

The following morning, myself and many hungover Americans boarded a caravan of buses bringing us to our next location: a forest resort outside of New Taipei City complete with natural hot springs. After a relatively uneventful bus ride (save for a little puke incident from one of Taichung’s own) we arrived in the woods that we would not be able to enjoy, trapped in an arctic conference room for the entirety of the afternoon.

Another underwhelming vegetarian meal followed, along with a game of Jeopardy simply no one wanted to be playing after a 12 hour day, before ending our day (finally) with a dip into the resort’s hot springs. Although the relaxation was absolutely needed, was this all worth it? To bring us all the way to the wilderness for a mere 30 minutes in a fancy hot tub? Jury’s out on that one.

After a weekend of conference rooms, they finally let us out into the real world, with a cultural visit to the Yingge Ceramics Museum in New Taipei City that I was actually very excited to visit. Exploring the earliest beginnings of ceramics in Taiwan and the influences from China and Southeast Asia, along with modern forms of ceramics, the museum was interesting but not as exciting as I thought it would be.

My favorite piece in the Yingge Ceramics Museum was in an exhibit on our relationship with nature in a post-consumerist world.

And with that, the weekend in Taipei came to an end. Leaving us burnt out, tired, and relatively underfed. Until we meet again Fulbright conference!

A turkducken is served

Another holiday come to pass while in Taiwan, bringing with it a sense of missing family and the feeling of fall in Minnesota, but also a reminder of the new community I am finding while here. Although Halloween was the first American holiday we had while in Taiwan, Thanksgiving is the first of those centered around family and community, leaving me to notice those emotions of feeling distant from those I love in the U.S.

Despite this, the Taichung cohort and I got together to celebrate, delegating the various dishes in true Gen Z fashion over a Google Doc. I, of course, was tasked with baking the pies, primarily due to the fact I had access to real ovens in a special classroom at my school. Sourcing several ingredients from the import grocery store, I set about making a classic pumpkin pie and my mom’s famed apple pie, this time made in a cast-iron skillet (more out of not having other pans than being fancy) with homemade pie crust. After initial concerns over the pumpkin pie’s custard setting properly, both pies were absolute smashes, making me now 2-for-2 in baking apple pies for Friendsgiving events.

Aside from my own culinary creations, our Thanksgiving spread included a turducken, although not in its true form of a bird inside of a bird inside of a bird. Instead, limited turkey availability resulted in us also enjoying some chicken and roasted duck purchased from the market down the street from me. My personal highlight of the night was the homemade stuffing (technically dressing, but you get it) made with love by the Fengyuan crew (AK, Julia, Allyssa, and Jake). Something about the stuffing really reminded me of a Minnesota Thanksgiving and its comfort as it welcomes the coming winter. The chill is in the air, and you’re preparing to hunker in for the next few months. To me, that’s stuffing.

A Thanksgiving feast featuring (L-R back row) Jake, Lily, Kelsey, and AK (L-R front row) Allyssa, Julia, Louise, me, and Sabrina.

Well after waxing poetic about the true meaning of stuffing this holiday season, that’s all for now. Wild to think I’ve been in Taiwan for almost three months now, I can’t believe how the time is flying and yet seems like I’ve barely been here. “Winter” is slowly but surely coming to Taichung and I’m enjoying the increasingly cooler temperatures, giving me a taste of September weather in Minnesota, arguably the best weather of the year. Clearly I’m missing home a bit more this time, but isn’t that what the holidays do to you?

Sending love and health to everyone as winter comes. Talk soon.


2 thoughts on “TTT: Training, travel, and Thanksgiving

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: