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.