Stranger Places & Beautiful Faces

Ello there, beatufiul people. Yilan has been treating us wonderfully these days. Well, kinda. They weren’t lying about the rain. If the sky in Chicago cries, then the sky in Yilan is having a mental breakdown. Wonderful, I tell you. It’s quite beautiful though. Perhaps I’ll take a video sometime of the downpours, scheduled so that they always happen to interrupt our Luodong scooter practices. Anyways, the ETAs finally found out our school selections, so without further ado…my schools are…

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Cheng Gong Elementary School and San Xing Junior High! Joyce is the lovely and hilarious lady right above. Though she’ll be working in Thailand the next few months, she’s given me an awesome assignment setting up the school’s first blog! I’ll also be creating special country cuisine lessons for the upper grade students. Awesome! I’m pretty pumped, especially since Cheng Gong has one of the nation’s top calligraphy artists as an artist-in-residence during the academic school year. There also happens to be a lap pool there. What? San Xing is a bit more of a mystery, but junior high should at least be mildly entertaining, right? That, or I’ll just be exhausted by all the youngsters surrounding me each and every moment. 

My iPhone has been my main source of photography these days, basically rendering me into an instagram aficionado. So, instead of gabbing at you endlessly, I’ll let the photos do (most of) the talking.

We finished up the last of the school visits with a series of frantic bus and train transfers.

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One of the beautiful Nan’ao schools sponsors a traditional Atayal cultural summer camp for children. We listened to a craftsmen play his freshly cut bamboo pipe and admired their recent ventures into fabric making. All the colors and sounds left us a little dazed but happy about our crazy school visits.

 Also…I should mention…

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Say hello to the new boyfriend. Barry. Yes, our names rhyme, I know. Sherbear x Barrington Bear, you know, all the cuteness.

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Am I right? 😉

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IMG_1362 There’s this noodle place by our flat that doubles as an early morning noodle shop. It’s dumplings are meh, but in the case of the storm munchies, we go for volume rather than flavor. We chowed down on nearly 100 dumplings, plus Kenya’s soup, the first time at the little storefront. The second time, we all tried the Ma La La Mian (Numbing Spicy Ramen) which left us full and flushed with food baby bliss. All the carbs, I say.IMG_1357 IMG_1355

For some reason, you can get a ton of waffles in this country. Oh, but they are ALWAYS out of strawberries. Apparently they’re only in season in the winter? Who knew? We get spoiled in the US by all the berries year round…

The coffee at Bubble Pop is also quite impressive, especially their crazy detailed cappuccino art. I have never seen a human hand craft anything so intricate out of milk foam in my life. Until now.

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strangersimage via Barrington Hwang

We met this amazing grandma (ahma) by the free blue line shuttle last week. Taiwan Bank provides a free shuttle that takes us from our apartment all the way to the Luodong Train station and back again. One day, as we weaved our way back home, a little elderly lady helped me find the blue line stop. Before we knew it, she had welcomed us into her home just a few stops from ours. She fed us endless mounds of pink guava, purple dragon fruit (isn’t it gorgeous?), noodles and steamed meat buns, just because she likes to hang out with young people. Apparently, this is pretty typical for Taiwan, as the people just happen to be incredibly hospitable and sweet as honey. 

Her grandson shares the same nickname as my brother, Maomao. He also enjoys soccer and has a mouth full of braces, just like my little bro at home. Makes a sister homesick. 

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Xian Ming Elementary invited a few of us to pick rice with them. A sweaty but fun activity, we endured the heat as the kids snuck glances at us all. We ended up on the local news and actually got to visit the most famous organic Asian pear farm in the county. Because of the amount of care and labor required to produce each luxury pear, each one costs nearly $7 USD. However, because of our little publicity entourage, the managing farmer decided to reward us each with one as a delicious souvenir. So surreal, it was such a fun day. 

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We’ve been downing insane amounts of iced things. This is shaved passionfruit ice, a special treat after a long day. We’ve also had other varieties involving mango, strawberries and kiwi, all mouthwatering and a cooldown during our escapades. Douhua is another specialty here, often covered in custardy or saucy goodness of questionable origin. Imma ice monster, remember? There’s no beating my bottomless stomach.

 

10507067_10202346821101504_5497544246009855141_oimage via Barrington Hwang

One of our flatmates’ parents invited us out for Taiwanese Father’s Day. We had really fresh seafood in Su’ao, including these rather unfortunate (but still amazing) crabs. It really made me miss my parents, but also reminded me about how close all the delicious seafood was.

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We stumbled upon a dumpling shop just a block from our place that sells every variety of dumpling imaginable with the best dressings–seaweed strips, green onions, a bit of cabbage, bean sprouts, and doused with hot pepper oil. Holy canoli, they are the best.

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Latest adventure at the water park. Acupressure stone paths aside, the slides and attractions left us laughing, wet and exhausted from all the shenanigans. Sun drunk and tired, we spent the last few moments listening to a Peruvian band blow us away with their skills.

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I am really enjoying my introduction to Luodong via boba, smiling faces and ridiculous adventures with my newfound family here. Even though the ETAs have only been here a few weeks, I feel really close to them. Here’s to taking new paths and finding new, beautiful faces in strange places.

 

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