Travel Diaries: Taipei, Taiwan

Nǐ hǎo friends,

This blog post recaps our trip to Taipei, Taiwan a few weeks ago.

The performers after the show! They were high school students that go to a special performing arts school where two Taiwanese ETAs are currently placed.

Twenty of us traveled to Taipei, Taiwan to attend a regional conference. When we arrived in Taiwan we made the genius decision to save money and not buy SIM cards. We took the train to Taipei and walked around asking people how to get to our hotel in broken Mandarin. For some reason there were several “Green World Hotels” and it was raining so we would find a hotel, feel incredibly relieved, learn it was the wrong hotel, and then continue on until we found the correct one for about an hour or two.

We were told to wear our baju kurungs to the conference but no other countries brought their traditional dress…
Lauren is from Texas and teaches in Melaka! We roomed together in Taipei.
Sabs!!!!! We both boarded at George School and took several classes together so it was fun to reminisce about our Quaker days.

When we finally arrived at our hotel, Lauren and I checked into our room and quickly got ready for the Chinese Opera and traditional Chinese Buffet! The food was incredible and the opera was shrill but unlike anything I had ever seen before. At the Opera I was finally reunited with a fellow George School Grad, Sabrina who is teaching in Java, Indonesia.

Friends! Hunter (far left) is wearing a hand-made traditional baju melayu made specially by his school for him.

On Sunday we woke up early and ate miso soup and fruit for breakfast before heading to a packed day of conference. Each day the conference provided us with five meals: breakfast, break, lunch, break, and dinner. The food was honestly irresistible, so I ate five times each day (but it was worth it). Fulbright Taiwan had outside speakers come in and present on the history of the East Asia Pacific Region and the cultural differences. There is so much I have to learn about the world…and so much of the region left to explore!

We then broke into classroom workshops and I went to one on classroom management. It quickly became clear to me that my school’s lack of resources is rather intense. I met ETAs from Taiwan, Korea, Mongolia, Thailand, and Vietnam who had smart boards, printers, and computers, and were teaching college students, or the most gifted secondary students in their province. Many of the other ETAs were on month 8 or 10 of their grant and their biggest piece of advice was “don’t be too nice” and “say no to things”. It was awesome to make new friends living in other countries in the region who we can meet up with and compare notes with.

We went to the original Din Tai Fung and it was wonderful. Din Tai Fung is a Michelin star Taiwanese restaurant that specializes in dumplings. The vegetarian food here is out of this world!
Grateful to be surrounded by their energy in TW! #BringHujiBack

We then had an amazing powerhouse female speaker Anchal Khanna talk to us about mental health and sexual harassment and then lead us in a meditation with Ferroro Rochers. When all of our conference activities were over we went to Taipei 101 and then took the metro to the original Din Tai Fung and completely balled out. There was the most scrumptious amazing tofu I have ever had that was somewhat of a flavorful sponge. We also had dumplings, wontons, Taiwanese wine, and papa shaved ice. After, we shopped for non-toxic Taiwanese beauty products, and traditional Taiwanese ceramics. Happy Clare 🙂

On Monday we dove into some heavy but important topics such as diversity, discrimination, inclusion, unconscious bias, and sexual harassment. We ate authentic bento boxes and discussed the importance of seeing difference as difference rather than difference as deviance. The Fulbright Scholars/Researchers presented their research and we learned about rain water harvesting in the Philippines, ancient Japanese Ceramics, HIV/Syphilis and micro-nutrition in KL, bird migration in Indonesia etc. After, we went to get hotpot and my friends and I took the stairs instead of the escalator out of the metro and got completely lost but found a nice man who took us to several Hot Pot restaurants until we found the right one. We then went to a bar with some friends from Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea.

Tuesday, the last day of the conference we learned about possible career paths in the region, and back at home, and heard more in depth presentations on Orangutans and HIV/Syphilis in KL. We then met a VERY distinguished guest and had lunch with her (wink wink wink)!!!!! Our flight back was not until the next day so we explored Taipei and climbed up Elephant Hill, went to a very cute tea place, ate some baller sushi, and then had a very frustrating night of trying to meet up with our group and wandering the streets of Taipei aimlessly until about 3am.

It was so nice traveling with this group because I got to know some people I didn’t talk to during orientation!

Our last day we went shopping and managed to find halal pineapple cakes for our students and I found some cute Taiwanese baby clothes for my mentor and some Spirited Away merch for myself. Taipei was incredible. The products, the ceramics, the FOOD, the BUBBLE TEA, the kind people. I would move there in a heartbeat. I need to learn Mandarin!!!!!

Malaysian sunsets are breathtaking. Come see for yourself (:

We flew to KL and Alicia and I spent the night there. The view from the airplane of the clouds over Malaysia was unreal. The next day I caught the 8am bus in attempt to make it to school late. I made a deal with a teacher at my school that if she picked me up from the bus station I would buy her a Taiwan fish magnet…? Anyway, she told me to call her when I got in and I did but her phone was off. I waited at the bus station and meditated, listen to music, talked to my mom to distract me from a group of old men kept staring at me and trying to talk to me. I sat as far away as I could from them. They kept moving closer and circling me. My phone was dying so I decided to open the letters from my parents that I had been saving to open. I had asked my parents to write me, and specifically asked my dad to make the letter be more than five words…love you dad! My dad, a not always emotional or talkative type wrote me the most thoughtful letter about how proud of me he was. I sat with all of my many bags from the trip at the bus stop reading it and sobbed. The men stared at me, but I stared daggers at them and they gave me some space. I simultaneously felt like a ferocious warrior and a very small, very lost and helpless child. Two and a half hours later, a different teacher from school came to get me (the original teacher’s phone was off), and when I got in her car and asked if we could go straight to school she said…”Ah, Cleh…I take you home, not to school! But first, we go KFC.”

That week and next week was exam week at school…

ClareAbouts is not an official U.S. Department of State publication, and the views and information presented in this blog are entirely my own, and do not represent the Fulbright U.S. Student Program or the U.S. Department of State or the Fulbright Commission or Malaysia.

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