August 23, 2014
Yesterday, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting two Taiwanese families. I wish I had taken pictures of all of them because they made me feel the most welcome and at-ease in Taiwan since I arrived in July. I am going to back track a bit to share how this wonderful experience occured.
Back in April, when I bought my plane ticket, and that officially decided I was going to Taiwan, my Global Studies advisor, Dr. Blinnikov, connected me with a professor who was from Taiwan. In May, I connected with this professor and he shared some specifics about Taiwan, much of it I was already aware, and then also what I may be approached with as far as dealing with children’s parents go in Taiwanese culture. Before I left Saint Cloud he made sure to connect me with his best friend in Taiwan. His best friend is named Thomas, and through emailing back-and-forth with Thomas I was invited to his home and also to a tour of the Taipei area. Fast-forward to July when I found out I am placed in the Taichung area Thomas and I plan to get together eventually after I was settled in my new city.
Well two weeks ago Thomas emailed me to inform me that he and his family were going to be in the Taichung area for the weekend on a mini-vacation and would love to meet me. We planned to meet at the Taichung Train Station on Saturday at 11:00am.
Saturday rolls around and I am so nervous that I skip breakfast and almost wonder if I should call the whole thing off. After an awkward meeting with a Language Exchange individual I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend awkward hours with an entire family. I dressed, walked to the Fengyuan Train Station, and bought myself a ticket. Twenty minutes later I was in Taichung waiting outside a Family Mart for Thomas to pick me up. A car pulled up and a woman started excitedly waving out of the window and calling my name. What a big smile! I instantly jumped into the car and was introduced immediately to Thomas, his wife Sherrie, and his 9-year-old daughter, Chao. We talked the entire way to the restaurant that they took me to. There I met Thomas’ family friends. I cannot remember the husbands’ name, but it was Ariel and her two sons: Ray and Max. Not once did I feel out of place or awkward with both of these families. Thomas and Ariel had several questions for me throughout the day. A lot had to do with why I came here, what I am teaching, and what does my daily schedule look like. They answered any questions I had. They asked me what I all wanted to see in Taiwan and Ariel invited me to her home, which is not very far from Fengyuan. Throughout the meal I also played with Ray who was told to speak English to me the entire time, and he did. I shared some of the mishaps I had made in Taiwan thus far and they all had a good laugh at me. They also asked me to share what I thought was the difference between Taiwan and the United States. I was also very pleased to see how impressed Thomas was with everywhere I had been so far. He once again invited me to his home in Taiwan and also talked about how I must go and see the National Taiwan Palace Museum (which I really wanted to go see anyways), and how I must visit one of the oldest cities in Taiwan, Lukang (I just so happen to have a friend from training who lives there), and try a pineapple cake in Taichung that his family just loves.
After lunch we walked to an ice cream shop that is famous for their honey ice cream. Although it was very, very sweet it was delicious. We then walked along a park in Taichung that is know to have events along the way. It currently has the art festival event, which I had seen a couple weekends ago when Pasqualle and I had made the venture into Taichung. Thomas and I had an interesting conversation about foreigners in Taiwan and how many Chinese vacationers come to Taiwan each year. I was surprised to be told that a lot of Taiwanese people do not like how so many people from China vacation in Taiwan, and my assumption was correct that a lot of it had to do with China-Taiwan political conflicts. At some point in the day Thomas also asked me about the new word he heard: selfie. Haha! That was an interesting one to explain. The technological world has seriously connected cultures and slang words across nations and countries.
After awhile Thomas announced that he and his family needed to drive back home to Taipei and offered to drop me off at the train station. I immediately accepted since I did not feel like braving the buses that day. I did not want to say goodbye to either family! Their hospitality was needed after all the ups and downs of the week. Even though everyone else was looking at us strangely, probably trying to figure out how the white chick got added to the equation of two Taiwanese families, I did not feel out of place at any point throughout the day. It was a goodbye for now and see you soon to both families.
Pictures of the short day together: