Title: My Wild Week: Lanterns, Language, and Adventures in Mountain Climbing
I had quite a busy week! From lantern exhibits to language partners, to climbing East Asia’s tallest mountain and confronting a group of wild monkeys, this is a week I will never forget!
As my program here in Taiwan comes to a close, I have been trying to make the most out of the time I have left. While it is true I will be returning next year on a scholarship to study Chinese, I will not have the time like I do now to experience all the things Taiwan has to offer. This week I saw a lantern exhibition in Taipei, met with my new and old language partners, and climbed the tallest mountain in East Asia, Jade Mountain. On my way down the mountain, I had a very exciting adventure with a group of wild monkeys. Needless to say, this was one eventful week.
Local Time: 1:00 p.m.
Time Zone: DST
Location (Latitude, Longitude): Luodong, Taiwan
How far did I travel this week? 450 miles
How far have I traveled on your journey so far? Thousands and thousands!
How did I get around this week? By van, bus, taxi, and MRT.
What was the most interesting place I visited this week? The top of Jade Mountain, the tallest peak in East Asia!
Other travel news:
This week I went to a paper lantern exhibit in Taipei. It was held in a large outdoor square. The large square was decorated with lots of brilliant twinkling lights, hundreds of red paper lanterns, statues and paper images of snakes (because this year is the year of the snake in China), and lots of paper lantern sculptures. It was amazing to see the beautiful, frail lanterns lit up against the dark sky.
There was a large stage area decorated like a temple, where dances and contests were being held. There were a lot of prizes and giveaways, but I just enjoyed watching people participate. There were tons and tons of people there; there was barely enough room to breathe! I’ve come to expect such things from events in Taipei, but it was still a little overwhelming!
There were different sections at the exhibition center devoted to scenes depicted entirely with paper lanterns, which was really amazing. One of my favorites was a nature scene with paper lantern pandas, cranes, and lotus blossoms. Another favorite section of mine were the 10 or so multi-colored dragon lanterns that were twice as high as I am. Brilliant colors such as cerulean blue, teal, and emerald green were used to color the dragons, and really were a gorgeous sight against the dark night sky! A lot of people were taking photos with the lanterns, and I was able to quickly squeeze in and grab a few photos myself.
In addition to the lanterns, there was a small food court selling the traditional tang yuan (soup with chewy candies inside) and other snacks for the new year. It was really neat to be able to participate in the lantern exhibit. I was glad to spend the time with friends and get to experience a major part of Taiwanese culture!
Weather Tally (enter the # of days for each weather type):
Partly cloudy: 2
What is the air temperature right now? About 85 degrees.
How was the weather this week? The weather this week warmed up a lot! I can tell that summer is coming in Taiwan, which means rain, heat, and lots of moisture in the air.
What animals did I see this week? Taiwanese monkeys!
What was the coolest thing I saw in nature this week? The group of monkeys I came upon while climbing Jade Mountain.
Other Nature News:
The biggest accomplishment for me this week occurred on the weekend, when I summated the highest mountain in East Asia. Jade Mountain, located in the middle of Taiwan, took about 13.5 hours of straight hiking to climb. The views were amazing, and I was very exhausted by the time I reached the top. However, the sense of accomplishment I felt was worth it. Climbing Jade Mountain was one of my main goals coming here to Taiwan, and it felt amazing to achieve something I’ve been dreaming about for so long!
However, coming down the mountain, I was ahead of the rest of the group, and somehow ended up getting lost somewhere outside the trail head. I was wandering around, and then happened upon a massive group of monkeys. I’m talking giant monkeys. Dozens of them. I walked into their group without realizing it. The monkeys froze. I froze. They stared at me, and one of the larger monkeys stood up a little taller than the rest of them. I thought of the food in my backpack, and remembered hearing from my Taiwanese teacher about how bold the monkeys were in Taiwan. I was afraid they would attack me to get to my food.
So, I used a survivalist strategy I learned when confronted with predatory animals (though monkeys aren’t predators, they can be dangerous). Holding on to my tracking poles, I spread my arms and legs wide and made myself look very big. I hit the ground with my pole and made loud, obnoxious sounds, all while flapping my arms and stomping. The monkeys immediately started screeching and fled into the trees.
They stared at me from the branches, obviously gibbering to each other about this weird crazy animal thing that had invaded their home territory. I passed through them, their eyes on me the whole time and my eyes on them, and tried to find my way back.
After my encounter with the monkeys, I was a little concerned about getting back to the group. I didn’t want to be left out in the wilderness alone, and daylight was starting to fade. By some miracle, I managed to find some cell phone reception (the Taiwanese government sets up spots of cell phone reception in many national parks for situations like these!). I got in touch with our climb leader and they were able to come find me and whisk me back to the car. I can’t describe how happy I was to see his face!
On the way out of the park, we were all in the car looking out the windows. All of a sudden, someone pointed at the window and yelled with delight: “Monkeys!” There were about three of them on the side of the road. Everyone crowded around the windows to look. I kept my eyes on my sandwich, saved from the clutches of a monkey horde. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a monkey the same way again.
What languages are spoken here? Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka, and aboriginal languages like Atayal. I am currently learning some Taiwanese. In my opinion, it’s a lot harder than Mandarin because it has eight tones!
What type of money is used here? New Taiwan Dollar. Some places take American money, but only very expensive hotels and restaurants in Taipei.
How much does a bottle of water cost? About 50 cents.
What was the best meal this week? This week the best meal was some sashimi I had at a Japanese restaurant in Luodong. Taiwan has a lot of influence from Japanese culture, and since it is an island, has plenty of access to fresh fish. This makes for some very good sashimi!
What music did I listen to this week? I listened to classical music and some Taiwanese pop.
What activity was the most fun this week? Seeing the lanterns in Taipei and climbing Jade Mountain. Meeting my language partner for shaved ice was pretty fun, too!
What did I read this week? This week I am reading “Lean In,” by Sheryl Sandberg. It’s a book about developing leadership skills in women, and is a book about encouraging women to seize opportunities to become leaders in the workplace.
What games or sports did I play this week? This week I did a lot of running along the river path in rural Luodong. I enjoy listening to my music as I watch the birds and other wildlife around me.
Other news from this week:
This week I met up with my new language partner. I’m pretty excited to hang out with her and supplement my formal lessons with some more casual Chinese. My language partner is a girl named Alice. She is a student at Yilan University in the department of foreign language and literature. She’s studying English and she hopes to work for the Taiwanese government one day. Alice has introduced me to some of the more famous Yilan foods, and I have to say I am quite grateful. So far I’ve had some amazing pork rib soup, and the biggest chua bing (Taiwanese shaved ice) I’ve ever seen in my life (red bean and taro flavor).
In addition, I’m also starting up classes with my Taiwanese teacher again after a brief break. She’ll be teaching me mostly about idioms in Chinese, subjects concerning Taiwanese culture, and some Chinese lore and legends. Also, she’ll be teaching me a little Taiwanese. I hear it has eight tones, which is why I’m sticking to the very basics. If I am going to be here for another year, I want a more personal understanding of the culture than what I’ve experienced in books, and a more academic understanding of the culture than what I receive in interacting with my local friends and language partners. I feel like she is a great balance of these two. Plus, she gives me cake literally every time I go to her house! Not a bad deal, in my opinion!