For our trip to Taipei, we were essentially given two days of freedom. Round trip transportation, a hostel, and tickets to the top of Taipei 101 were provided. The rest of the weekend we could schedule as we wished. This was great because I had spent five days in Taipei when I arrived in Taiwan, now I could venture elsewhere.
I headed to Jiufen, a mountainous area by the sea. During the late 19th century Jiufen’s population and wealth exploded as they experienced a gold rush, now it was mainly known as a pretty tourist town. Everyone knows it as the town featured on the movie Spirited Away.
Fo Guang Shan is the largest monastery in Taiwan, ground-breaking took place nearly 50 years ago. The Kaohsiung campus is sprawling, featuring now only shrines but also publishing houses, translation centers, and its own university. It’s a massive compound, but it doesn’t stop in Taiwan. Also known as the International Buddhist Progress Society, it is in over 170 countries and has a huge worldwide influence.
Our trip to Fo Guang Shan Monastery was more of a two-day guided tour than an actual temple-stay. It was a peaceful way to spend a weekend away from studying, the main highlight being our traditional dinner. Following are some of my favorite photos from our two days at Fo Guang Shan and Buddha Memorial Centre.
For thousands of people, Fo Guang Shan is and will always be a holy place of worship. It also is also a tourist destination with a sense of commerciality and comfortableness. Five years ago I took part in a Korean temple-stay, which was bare-bones. At Fo Guang Shan I stayed on extremely comfortable, thick mattresses instead of a wooden floor. We woke up after sunrise instead of 4 am and we omitted the 108 bows activity. At this Buddhist temple opulence stood out to me, particularly strong presence of air conditioning with doors left open, spilling it outside.
Today marked our second time teaching English, this time at at an all-boys school. With only an hour of time on our hands, our opportunity to make an impression was short. Luckily all of our activities went off without a hitch; it ended up being one of my favorite days on the program yet.
The Jingzaijiao Salt Fields are a cultural relic built back in 1818. They are unique in that they are tile-paved; back during the Qing dynasty they came up with the brilliant idea of preventing salt from attaching to the soil by manually laying out broken pottery pieces onto the salt fields. This innovation led to clearer salt being mined.
During our day-trip to Anping, we enjoyed part of an afternoon learning about oyster-farming and the local ecosystems as we took a boat to a secluded beach island. We weren’t sure if we could debark; two days prior there had been a bad fire. Luckily, the flames had died down and we were able to see the island. Upon arrival we couldn’t help but observe the raw power of the fire.
It’s been a brutally hot summer in Taiwan; most days have a heat index of around 108 Fahrenheit. While it can be tempting to stay within the confines of air-conditioning, I definitely acknowledge our time here is limited. Luckily, Tainan Park (which dates back to 17th century Qing Dynasty), is right in the center of the city.
This Wednesday, we were given the opportunity to travel to Tainan Girls’ Senior High School to teach English to eleventh graders . With a list of games in my pocket and a small presentation about travel photography prepared, my teaching partner Jarred and I walked into the TNGS school hoping to both gain local insight and share our knowledge about America.
The broad goal of the Taiwan-USA scholarship is to create friendships between American and Taiwanese students. However, our weekly routine involves both rigorous Chinese study at National Cheng Kung University and oftentimes weekend excursions to destinations such as Taipei, a Buddhist Monastery, or host family.