Follow the fish!

1 Dec

A Hakka (Taiwanese aborigines) village

A couple of weeks ago (yes, I’m that lazy busy) I had the great pleasure of going on my first trip with the other exchange students in my district. We went to Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan, a beautiful place by the ocean. We started early Saturday and visited many places including mud hills, a Hakka village and a turnip festival before we reached the destination, Fo Guang Shan, one of Taiwan’s biggest and most famous temples, and actually not just a temple but also the seat of an international charity organization.

Some of the other exchange students, here Lars from Germany, Oscar from Mexico and Preston from the US, at the turnip festival playing a turnip game. Fun times.

The temple where we spent the night, Fo Guang Shan, a very interesting place!

The main shrine.

Saturday night we ate vegetarian food (very good), learned how to meditate, and then had some time to ourselves to explore the temple grounds and talk to each other. It was great to talk to the other exchange students and find out that they have the same observations and thoughts about Taiwan as I do. E.g. when we ate lunch and the first person lifted her chopsticks to eat, everyone said “haochi ma?” (“does it taste very delicious?” – because nothing’s ever just ‘good’) before she had even tasted the food, something the Taiwanese always do. We also urged each other to eat more, more more, and finish all the food.

Sunday we got up at 5 o’clock to attend the morning chanting in the main shrine, a beautiful and memorable experience. We entered the temple when it was pitch black outside, and the inside of the shrine was lit up by 14.000 small lights. Hundreds of monks and nuns clad in ceremonial robes and with shaved heads chanted (sang), and we all did different actions such as kneeling and lifting our hands to our foreheads. When we exited the shrine after the 30 minute ceremony the sun was up, making for an almost magical effect.


Monks and nuns eating (in silence).

At Fo Guang Shan they're currently working on a new project, the Buddha Memorial Center, a huge site that will eventually become very very beautiful. Behind the pyramid thing there'll be a 80m tall Buddha, and under it there'll be 50 chambers. The plan is to put art, historical artifacts, literature, electronic devices and other things significant to our time and culture within the chambers, then seal them off and open one chamber every century for the next 5000 years to teach future generations about our time. While I highly doubt there will be humans on this planet in 5000 years, it's still a very interesting project.

I swear my eyes have become smaller - Chinese squinty eyes are contagious! Claire has also started to say that she loves eating rice, Dasha asks 'why?' all the time and Devin has started to behave like a Taiwanese boy... we're all becoming Taiwanese!


Follow the fish, guys! This man was our guide, and though he didn't really speak, he still had a very important job: carrying the fish we had to follow at all times to avoid getting lost.

A great trip, and I look forward to spending more time with the other exchange students, even though the next event for all of us is a Christmas ‘party’ with a Mandarin speech contest.

Hope you’re all enjoying Christmas! My parents sent me a Christmas calendar with 24 presents, so it will be Christmas here too, after all.



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