Starting over again - New People and a Visit from home
In my last entry I mostly spoke about my experiences at Yanshui Fireworks Festival, but something more important changed in comparison to the last term. Around 90% of the people and friends only stayed for one term in Taiwan and left in January. The first days being back in Taipei were therefore quite strange without having your old friends to have lunch and dinner together and having the need to socialize again.
Of course finding new people to hang out is not a big problem, but it is still different, because you went with your old friends through all the excitement of moving to a new country, being completely jet lagged, lost and without any idea. A situation, which usually results in quite strong bonds. I could literally watch the new arrived people going through the same situation and learning to walk in Taiwan.
Way to fast after my return and the arrival of the new students, the ordinary university life started again. Because I finished all the courses for my degree already in the last term, I decided to focus more on my Chinese and get more involved in the life around university, but of course also I was taking regular courses. This meant that I started to have regular language exchange and started to volunteer at a rural elementary school via the International Companions for Learning Program (maybe more about that later).
The first weeks I spend quite unspectacular with a mixture of hanging out with friends, learning Chinese and the usual university ordinary life. And getting wet — a lot. At one point in January it started to rain and literally didn’t stop till the end of March. It was raining, when you woke up in the morning and it was still raining when you went to sleep in the night — every day.
After around a couple billion liters of rain from the sky, my parents arrived in the middle of March to visit me and to travel through Taiwan. With Taiwan being a rather small island, a roundtrip around the island is the most common way to explore it. From the Taipei, the plan was to go down along the west coast to Sun Moon Lake and via the mountains in Alishan to the old capital of Tainan. From there with a quick stop in Kaoshiung to the tropical area in Kenting. And then from the southern tip to Taidong and Green Island via Hualien (Taroko Gorge) back to Taipei. The first two days of our trip were somehow washed away by the rain and the weather. Sun Moon Lake was completely covered in clouds and sadly not really stunning under these conditions. The same unfortunately applied to Alishan, we drove up the road, which was deeply covered by clouds and not offering the usual amazing views.
On the third day the weather turned in our favor. At this point we were in Tainan to explore the old capital of Taiwan (the capital was moved by the Japanese in the beginning of the 20th century to Taipei) and it was a beautiful sunny spring day. While Tainan is not the capital anymore, it is still some sort of tradtional spiritual and cultural center of Taiwan. Its home to some of the most amazing and important temples and historical buildings in Taiwan. They all can be mostly found in the city center.
After visiting the Confucian Temple, we could witness a spiritual tradition — Gods visiting each other. A statue of a god is carried in a procession from its own temple to the temple of another god under the noise of a lot of fire crackers and traditional music. I have witnessed something similar before but this time involved the self-chastisement of some men. A really scary experience.
After we walked our feet off from temple to temple in Tainan, we drove the next morning to Fo Guang Shan Memorial Center. The whole area is quite impressive and a good place to learn about Buddhism. In the late afternoon we made our way to the harbor city of Kaohshiung and went to the area around the old British embassy (the entrance fee is quite steep and there’s not too much to see there actually) to catch some sea breeze. Being a little bit tired because of the amount of driving in the last days, we spent our evening mostly eating and skipped a visit to the love river before heading to the tropical paradise of Kenting.