Homestay and Kaohshiung Trips

July 18, 2011 Tessa Bradford 16 comments

We went to the American Institute in Taiwan- Kaohsiung. It was really interesting to listen to men and women who are an active part in the State Department, doing exactly the kind of work I like to imagine myself doing in a few years. There’s also internship possibilities that they mentioned and that I definitely want to look into.

That night we went to see Harry Potter. It was epic. (Luckily it was still in English, and just subtitled in Chinese!) It felt like the official end of my childhood. So long Harry— you were pretty excellent.

Friday after classes I headed back to Kaohsiung with Nicole, Dan B., Ariadne, Luis, and my roommate, Vicki. First stop was a chocolate museum. You read me right. A chocolate museum. It was fantastical. The museum itself was mostly chocolate sculptures, which were fairly impressive. The best part came at the end, though. That’s when we ate chocolate.

There were marshmallows dipped in chocolate, popcorn dusted with cocoa powder, chocolate flowers, and the whole place smelled like Heaven. And that’s what makes a great afternoon.

Outside of the museum there was a covered area where there were electronic cows. You put in a coin, pushed the gas pedal, and could drive anywhere on a slowly moving cow. BEST THING EVER.

Nicole hopped on the back of my cow and we went for a ride, while I shouted yeehaws and generally got surprised and curious glances from the locals, who weren’t really quite sure what to make of the American girls on the children’s ride. It was so worth it.

We moved on from there, but took our time and enjoyed the rainy day. We bought oversized clear ponchos that were absolutely ridiculous, but kept us fairly dry.

After awhile we came to the Love River, and opted for a boat ride. It really was impressive, even with the mist of rain. They have bright lights all along the river, and the effect on the water is beautiful as it ripples in blues and reds, with Chinese dragons and lions guarding the bridges and shoreline. After our trip down the river on our little boat the rain had almost stopped, so we walked further along, bought a few beers at a road side stand, then further along found a patio with little lights strung along the ceiling; we ordered a very American meal of chicken fingers and french fries, and sat in the cool Taiwanese evening while we ate and talked.

Saturday morning I was picked up by my host mom for my “Homestay Weekend.” My host family was really great; they were friendly and welcoming, plus they spoke very good English so I didn’t have to deal with a language barrier.

When I first arrived we headed to a local park where there was a festival of some sort going on. We got some candied tomatoes on a stick (surprisingly delicious), and started looking at the different booths. There was an artist from Taipei there, and I stopped to watch him paint. He was very talented, and surprised me with a gift of one of his paintings— a vibrant pink and purple bouquet of flowers in a vase, with two little birds perched on top.

As soon as he gave it to me, though, a torrential downpour started, and I didn’t have any way to get my painting back to the car, so my host mom told me to wait while she ran back to get something to cover it with. I was standing there awkwardly with my still-wet painting, when the artist approached me again, gestured toward a bench, sat me down on it, and set up his easel. He drew a picture of me, and then gave that to me as well! While he was painting a bit of a crowd gathered, so I had quite the audience there. (It was a part of town where there are less foreigners, so I suppose it was a bit of a novelty to see me there.)

Because of the rain, many of my host family’s original plans didn’t quite work out, so I went to the Dream Mall with my host mom, got a cup of coffee from Starbucks (and a Starbucks mug that says Taiwan on it as a gift from the family!), worked on my Chinese a bit, then did some window shopping. I found a teapot that I sort of need to have… only problem is I’m not entirely certain how I’d get it home. For dinner we went to a fabulous vegetarian restaurant that overlooked the city. It was a beautifully rainy view of Kaohsiung, and delicious food.

Sunday we went to E-DA World; on a sunny day there’s a theme park to be explored there. Again, due to the rain, we had to stay indoors. We ate at a very fancy restaurant, then wandered around the shopping mall area. I got some romantic photos of the ferris wheel, which happens to be ON TOP of one of the buildings, and my host mom gave me the tickets that she had purchased so I can go another day.

That evening we went to an art museum, where they had an exhibit on the artist, Amedeo Modigliani. Then we went to a dumplings restaurant and devoured several platefuls of delicious dumplings. I also discovered my new favorite Taiwanese dish; it’s called niu rou juang bing, which is basically beef rolled up in this crusty pie-like thing with some sauce I’ve never had before and can’t explain. New flavors are difficult to convey via internet blogging, but you should eat some niu rou juang bing, because it’s wonderful. After dinner my host family dropped me off back at the school. It was a great weekend with them, and I really appreciate the fact that they opened their home to me for a few days.

Today after class Nicole and I were ready to head back to Kaohsiung. Yes, again. So we rounded up Dan B., Jean, Billy, and Youming, and boarded the train for another trip. We had intended to go to see a Chinese character museum, but realized once we were already en route that the musuem is closed on Mondays. It wasn’t much of a set back though; we were all content to explore the city for awhile. We got some dinner at a traditional braised pork restaurant, then wandered the lively streets. Kaoshiung at night is a city of lights, color, and glass, which cause reflections to multiply vivid designs in a way that is almost fantastical. The skies were mostly clear for us, and the recent rains kept the night air cool. It was a perfect time to just enjoy the city.

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