We are honored guests here in Taiwan! Guests here get fed. And fed a lot!

Most of our meals have been in restaurants, served Chinese style. That means you sit a round table, usually 10 people. There is a large lazy Susan in the center. All dishes are served family style. A meal tends to have 10 dishes! Each seat tends to have a small plate, a small cup, a small glass, chopsticks, and a spoon.

Drinks are family style as well. Usually tea (no rhyme or reason to hot or iced. Sometimes both on the table!) Often a juice or water. Beer is in large bottles – liter size. I’m told Taiwan Beer (yep, brand name!) is similar to Heineken. It’s an incredibly low alcohol content. At the nicer dinners there is also whiskey. Even I know it’s *really* nice whiskey. It usually arrives with one of the Rotarians and is poured into small pitchers on each table. Taiwanese tradition dictates that you can’t drink alone. So if you want to drink, you toast someone! One hand holding the glass, one underneath. And you must toast the other tables! Especially your host!

Most meals have started with a Japanese appetizer – sashimi and the like.

There’s often a whole fish – steamed or breaded and fried, with a pan sauce. Pro serving tip: only take the top half. Then someone will remove the spine and the bottom half is eaten.

We’ve also had a lot of pork belly, brased, with greens. It was particularly great with bamboo!

A meal usually has two different soups. There’s a pork and greens that feels like it’s directly from Central PA. A fish ball soup like gefilte fish. Yummy chicken soup – sometimes it’s the whole chicken!

Rice dishes vary. Sometimes we just fill up our bowl. There’s also a rice cooked with sweet potato – amazing!! And then there’s a very sticky ‘rice cake’ that usually has pork mixed in and tiny shrimp on top.

The other dishes vary by restaurant and cuisine. So many good things!

I’ve also been in Japanese restaurants (I had the most AMAZING flounder sushi – lightly seared and a mouth feel like butter). These have still been served Chinese style!

There are multiple influences on cusine here. There is the people native to Taiwan – tribal, similar to Polynesian as far as I can tell. Then there is Hakka, decended from mainland Chinese over 300 years ago. During the early 20th century, Taiwan was controlled by the Japanese. And post WWII, Taiwan is back under Chinese rule. So many years of culinary history means every meal is amazing. I’m eating way too much!

We just had a wonderful visit to the Lin Family Historic Residence! We learned many things about Chinese History in Taiwan. The Lin family made it’s money by farming, having a standing army, and by selling camphor to make smokeless gun powder. It’s a great perspective on a period of history I know little about.

That was followed by a quick visit to the Lin Family Garden. The garden was on the grounds of Ming Taing High School. We had a snack of cake & lattes (or tea) prepared and served by the high school students. We were joined on our walk by a Rotary Youth Exchange Student from France and some of the English Language students. They were so excited to talk to us!

We are off to the Earthquake Museum. On September 21, 1999 Taiwan was rocked by a major earthquake. We saw the damage at the dam, and have seen temples and buildings post reconstruction. It will be intriguing to learn more!

Flower Report!

I have seen so many flower arrangements! So far, almost all the real flowers I have seen are in the temples or shrines as offerings. Most flowers I’ve seen in homes have been fake.


flower I grow/can grow:
Chrysanthemums (spider, spoon, spray)
Gerbera Daisy
Lisianthus (purple at the temples! White at district anniversary)
Tuberose (blossoms pulled off, on a plate as an offering)

Flowers I can’t grow:
Bird of Paradise

One I don’t know:
Similar to a bleeding heart. It’s yellow and shaped like a butterfly.


I hope to see more interesting arrangements!

First Day!

Woke up feeling refreshed, and not jet lagged on Sunday morning. Took a walk in the YongShin Park Resort’s beautiful garden. Then I met up with Duke & Hilary and took a walk through the attached park. Which was down a mountain! Be careful how far down you travel, you need to make it back up. We met with Taiwan GSE leader for breakfast. Then we had our first welcome meeting, where we met the District Governor, numerous AGs, and gave our first presentationin

Lunch was at the Resort, were we sat with our GSE counterparts who will be visiting PA. It’s a real treat to get to met them! Most years the teams are exchanged at the same time.

A short car ride through Taichung. Many blocks that we passed have both apartments and fields of rice or trees or other crops. Some lots have hoophouses or high tunnels! I did not expect quite so many urban farms! We made a quick stop at a 7-11 – truly universal! And then we were at Flying Cow Ranch – a beautiful, active dairy that has many educational and agro-tourism activities. We took a tour, helped in translation by Rotarian Sky – an IT Professional. Then we had dinner, banquet sky. There was a lot of Karaoke and dancing!


Food report – Sunday March 19th

Breakfast: American style sandwiches. Veggie sandwich on white bread, roast beef on a sesame bun, and tuna on a sesame bun. All had American Cheese (!!!) I learned not to ask for coffee American style – it’s far too watery.

Lunch: buffet style! Items included mushrooms, fried Chicken in a couple styles, beef noodles, greens, two soups, a rice casserole almost like Mac & cheese and more. Dessert was fruit (fresh fruit everywhere!) and a custard. We decided it was most like a flan, not turned out. There was a beverage that I thought was ice tea – it turned out to translate as “vinegar”. Sweeter than most vinegars I know, I think it was most like kombucha, a fermented drink. I am going to try to find out more.

Dinner: banquet style at Flying Cow Ranch. We were joined by many members of our host clubs for the next few days. We were warned to take it easy on the dishes when eating at a banquet. I still ate far too much early on. Notable dishes included an appetizer tray with spicy squid, fish (raw? Not sure, but it was good), beans. There were two different soups – one where we cooked items in the soup, another that was cabbage and pork. Pork loin on the bone, a pork and rice dish, shrimp in a red sauce. One of my favorites was a steamed green leaf (bamboo?) with anchovies. It sounds very simple, but it was oh so good. Desert was fresh fruit and ice cream from Flying Cow Ranch. I had to admire the gentleman at another table who ate his ice cream with chopsticks! #goals

We’ve arrived!

After a very long travel day, we have arrived in Taichung, Taiwan!

We were met at the airport in Taipei by members of District 3640 Rotary and members of the GSE Team that will be visiting District 7390 in a few weeks.

We then took a bus ride, from Taipei to Taichung, joined by our GSE counterparts. They helped us set up our Taiwan SIM cards and gave us a crash course in the Line App (Taiwan’s preferred cell messaging app). The bus was beautifully decorated on the inside with curtains, fringe, and fantastic patterns.

We stayed the first night in the YongShin Park resort. We all were able to shower & clean up from our travels From what I could see, when we arrived close to midnight, the grounds are beautifully appointed here – I am about to take a stroll in the sun.

Food report: For the most part, we ate airline food. I will not bore you with photos of those. Our greeting party gave us a box of “American” sandwiches when we arrived. Egg salad on white bread, and mini “burritos”.




Heading Out

We left Harrisburg International Airport before dark today! District Governor Kevin Cogan said goodbye to us.

Now we are in Atlanta, waiting for our flight to Tokyo. Then it’s just a short hop to Taiwan!


triple check everything

Our preparations are well under way! In less than 10 days we depart for Taiwan and Rotary District 3460. We are finding ourselves occupied with plans and lessons. Our lessons include everything from basic phrases to culture to history. Our Team Leader, Kent Wiedemann, who has spent time in Taiwan, has been extremely helpful in these matters.

We were lucky enough to be able to meet with the Rotary District 7390 Governor  Kevin Cogan. He gave us information about the history of the GVSE and about our district. We are about to embark on a tradition of international exchange!

We also had the opportunity to ask questions of LTC Yang Shui-wei of the Taiwan Army. Many of these questions related to the culture, the food, and the environment of Taiwan. We appreciate his time!

Our Team Members are (L to R)

Claire O’Brien
Lisa Howald
Hillary Henson
Randal  “Duke” Adams
Kent Wiedemann