At our dinner tonight, Level gave us a taste of traditional Taiwanese music on a carved wooden flute. He also played a few other pieces after many cries for an encore. Here’s a sample!
Today was a fun-filled and very full day, so I will be giving you the highlights followed by a slightly more in-depth discussion of what we’ve learned about local government so far.
We began this morning with a trip to a ribbon factory in Changhua City–or perhaps Changhua County–it’s not precisely clear when the one becomes the other. We travelled with our tour guide, Alice, on a be-tasselled bus that doubled as a karaoke parlor, which definitely passed the time! The ribbon factory was set up more as a tour of the products produced than the production process (say that 5 times fast!) and that was fine with me because there was fabric and ribbons galore–much of it shiny. After a quick nod to the machines, we skipped down a long aisle full of ribbon and fabric to wind up at a well-stocked gift shop. I bought 1 of everything. We then dyed a small ribbon, tied a bow, and had some lovely milk tea ice cream. Then I bought some more stuff (so much fabric!!) At that point we were late, so we had to hurry down a rainbow-colored walkway to the bus, which was now guarded by turkeys!
Did they attack us? You bet they did!
But we made it to the bus, and then it was on to a local bakery which we were told had been in the same family for 9 generations. They gave us samples of pork-filled steamed buns and delicious soft sponge cake and we all ate more than we should have! (Especially Duke–there is a picture as proof!) We saw the bun-making process, but then had to hurry along to the nearby Lukang Longshan temple.
This temple was much older than the others we’ve seen. It has been declared an historical site, so there must be permission from a committee to alter it, thus it is a lot older looking and less colorful. I thought it was just as nice but in a more formal way–like the way an ancient cathedral is different than a modern church. The temple contained a rare standing Buddha left over from the Japanese rule. After snapping a few pictures, we had to rush off again to grab a coffee in the Lukang historic district.
Naturally where there is coffee (and tea!) there are shops, and so I bought a few more absolutely necessary items–including a pair of embroidered red shoes, a wooden puzzle, and a Russian stacking doll! We then ran to catch the bus because we were already running late to see the famous Changhua Railway Roundhouse!
We walked around a viewed the roundhouse, but unfortunately no trains came to turn around during our visit. We took some photos, poked around some very cool train engines, and then it was back to the bus for our meeting with the magistrate of Changhua county, Wei Ming-ku.
Our meeting with the magistrate involved a large group of his staff making themselves available for an hour so we could ask a few questions related to our work. Because I work for disability, Lisa for the library, Duke for dam safety, and Claire as a private farmer, there were a number of relevant topics. The overview seemed to be that the county and the city have completely separate budgets and staff. They seem to try to stay out of each other’s way–at least in the case of libraries. We drove past a Changhua county library and a Changhua city library sitting side by side and performing what were likely very similar services. Disability in Taiwan is managed partially by the county with government doctors performing examinations to determine who should be awarded money based on income and severity. There is a public transportation system designed for disabled people to allow them to get around, which is free for disabled people below a certain income. After the Q&A session, were were given gifts of tea and alcohol and rushed on our way to the rotary meeting next door!
We arrived at the meeting just in time to grab pizza from Pizza Hut–which is not exactly the same as at home, but close enough. It was delicious! We inhaled the food as the powerpoint was set up and chatted with the Rotary members. Shout out to my new friends, Tom and Ploy–recently married and recently Rotarians! We gave our speeches with only a few technical difficulties and accepted flags and awards from the Rotary Club as well as a brief lesson on how to fill out postage information to send items from Taiwan to PA.
That’s right! We have already accumulated enough swag and souvenirs to fill a box, so the club arranged for us to mail part of it home! They are so thoughtful! We definitely needed it–I’m down to only 1 suitcase and 1 carry-on now, so I’m pretty happy. Granted, I’m mostly happy to be able to fill another suitcase with presents, but still, VERY happy! Can’t wait to head out tomorrow, so I’d better get to bed. It must be noon in PA because it is midnight here!
Goodnight until I blog again,
As we mentioned previously, we attended the District Conference over the weekend; but I wanted to give you some more detail on the fun. It was a very special and emotional year for this District as this is the last year District 3460 will exist. They have grown so large the District must be split. At the beginning of the next Rotary year 3460, will become Districts 3461 and 3462.
It was great to have a week here before the conference, because it seemed like we already knew so many people. New friends we had met just a few days before seemed like old lifelong friends. Of course, they wanted to introduce us to more friends. As with everyday in Taiwan, we were welcomed with open arms.
The conference was attended by over 5000 Rotarians, a feat they are very proud of and should be. It was held at the beautiful campus of National Chung Hsing University. We were not the only foreigners in attendance. Floyd Lancia from the Rotary Foundation was in attendance representing President John Germ who had to be in Paris. They also had several sister clubs attending from Korea and Japan. In addition to the business meetings, speeches, and photographs of everyone with the District Governor we saw some world-class entertainment.
Friday evening had an orchestra along with amazing singers. We saw a disabled dance troop that was inspiring. The troop included a man in a wheel chair, a female leg amputee, blind dancers. To see them move on stage proved that the human spirit is capable of achieving anything with hard work and dedication. There were also many traditional dances and dragon shows. It was really a site to behold. District 7390, I don’t know what the conference will be like, but there are some big shoes to fill. 😉
I am amazed my travel companions have found so much time to post. We have been so busy! They are more connected than I am, as I’m having trouble with my phone, so I’ll just blame it on that (and not at all on my needing a wee bit more sleep than they do.)
So week one is done, and it has been even more wonderful than I had hoped. Each and every person we encounter is kind and generous to us. We’ve had a wide variety of experiences and oh so many new foods. We each learn a little more Chinese, or Taiwanese, every day.
My favorite parts of the trip so far… every meal is like a celebration, especially if someone brings beer because then people are constantly toasting one another. (I know the celebrations are largely for our benefit, I can’t imagine families eating like that every day.) Night markets are wonderful, like a cross between a carnival and a farmer’s market. Many people have studied in the US and are eager to find commonalities between places we’ve been. At a Zen monastery, I met a nun in the garden. She spoke almost no English, but she led two of us on a quiet walk around the grounds. That walk alone was worth the 30 hour travel time.
Happily, however, there was so much more. I’ve tickled baby goats, dressed like a traditional Chinese bride, asked the Buddha for guidance at a temple, learned an astonishing amount about minimizing waste and pollution in paper production, snapped a million photos of flowers, played with drug-detection puppies in training, listened to a heart-stopping Hakka singer, and had the best tea latte of my life.
Not surprisingly, another highlight for me has been the library visits. We visited a University and public library in Taichung, and both times our guides were full of information and patient with my many questions. What classification system do you use? (A chinese one with a long name, but very similar to DDC.) How many volumes do you have? (Over a million at the University; 200-250,000 at the public.) How do you get a job at the library? (Apply through the national government.) How do you get people to visit you? (Innovative spaces and events.) What’s the book sanitizer for? (SARS.) Is it OK that those people are sleeping here? (Yes, that’s what the bean bags are for.)
Libraries in Taiwan and the US share many things– a trend toward spaces for the user instead of the materials; maker spaces; bookmobiles and outreach; cultural events; a public perception that google is all anyone needs. What an honor to have made new library friends and learned so much.
Today’s itinerary has been changed up a bit, so beyond meeting the mayor and having lunch, it will all be a surprise to me. I can not wait to see what today, and the upcoming three weeks, have in store.