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UHD students in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences traveled to Taipei and Tainan, Taiwan from Dec. 29, 2012 through Jan. 9, 2013. Read about their adventures as they explore night markets, temples, monuments, museums and karaoke bars, writing about it all as they go. Experience their joy as they gather among hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese to welcome in the New Year with fireworks under a full moon in the amazing city of Taipei. Follow them day by day as they travel the country, meeting students from the National University of Tainan, sharing with them and with others the pleasure of cultural exchange.
Lu Reyes -
Guanziling Mud Spa at King’s Garden Villa
I had originally planned to take a taxi from the Tainan hotel to the train station and take the train to the nearest stop to Guanziling. From the train station, take another taxi into the mountains. However, the Tainan hotel staff recommended hiring a Tainan taxi for several hours and simply having the driver take us on a round trip. Cheryl, Dr. Sample’s wife, arranged this for Chris and me.
It was worth the expense which really was a saving of time and money. The original route would have cost more in total and would have required more time in communicating what was needed. With the driver in Tainan, Cheryl was able to explain and discuss the itinerary. I cannot remember how much it cost, but the driver was kind. He spoke little English. Yet, I will always remember that when I slipped on some stairs in Guanziling and landed into some mud, he hurriedly gave me a towel to wipe myself with. The fall was my own fault for not holding the railing.
He first took us to the Fire and Water Spring at Guanziling. It was about an hour drive from Tainan. From the parking lot, you climb up a flight of stairs. A few food stalls are located on the way to the spring. It was still early, but they were already open. I purchased some rice with meat in a bamboo tube that served as a bowl. The spring itself, while remarkable, is small. It is still worth a visit since the tourist spot was built up with various art decorations and rock tables. The view of the mountains is also invigorating. The view and fresh air reminded me of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina on a foggy morning. I was acutely aware that we were not in the city anymore. The next stop was a botanical garden. The path was gently sloping with some stairs. There were no vendor stalls here. It was more about a pleasant stroll on the stone pathway than commercializing nature.
The last stop and main destination was a mud spring spa. The area has many spas, but I chose the King’s Garden Villa based on online reviews. The driver, as directed earlier by Cheryl, helped us get a private room. The rental time can be an hour to two hours. We rented it for an hour and a half. The dark muddy mineral water came from a faucet and into a tub that fit both Chris and I. Next to it was a smaller cold water pool and a sauna. It had a sink, toilet, toiletries, and a private patio. The private patio had a high fence for modesty and a bench with table for quiet reflection.
The mineral water had no smell and was steaming hot. After walking for so many days, it was wonderful to sink into the hot tub. My eczema, skin rashes, had been bothering me from stress, but I left with my skin feeling noticeable smoother.
The day was a mini-vacation away from the group and city life. Although we knew we had to return in time for the group dinner in the evening, this excursion was unrushed and felt satisfying. I left the tub feeling lighter and more relaxed than any two hour massage.
(Other activities that day – Dancing with NUTN students at Club Fusion (entrance 8 USD with unlimited bar drinks till 2 a.m. from menu).
Eduardo Melendres – Playing ball with students from the National University of Tainan
The next morning we met the students again so we could go shopping. Annie, Fish, and Vivian took us around the city and helped us buy gifts for our families. I had to depart early because Leroy and I were going to go play basketball at the school. Vivian was nice enough to offer to take me on her scooter to the Tainan University. I had wanted to ride a scooter since I saw one in Taipei. So, I gladly accepted Vivian's offer and off we went to the basketball court. Once we arrived at the basketball court we met up with Leroy and Trevor. I was a bit nervous since I hadn’t played basketball since high school, but I was eager to play any way. Trevor borrowed a ball from a friend and we immediately started to warm up. We played a version of twenty one for a while and then a couple of classmates showed up to play as well. It was a nice to see a mix of UHD and Tainan students playing basketball.
UHD students playing ball with students from the National University of Tainan
Jennifer Bloomingkemper - Anping Historical District
Today Heidy, Laura, and I went out to explore the Anping historical district. This place is pretty cool. It’s very interesting to learn about the battles fought here. Its Dutch influence with the quaintest shops behind the old fort. We ran into Paula and Jane, and it was quite exciting to see Paula in her comfort zone and enjoying something so much. She admired a wall in meditation and found it interesting enough to write a poem about it. Go Paula. We had a nice lunch of shrimp rolls and oyster pancake and I got a chance to chat with Laura. She is pretty amazing. I want to work with her and her work she does with these refugees of the sex slave industry. We saw the Matsu temple. It screams out for you to come and see what’s inside. These temples are starting to look the same. But this one was pretty spectacular. I bought a t-shirt there for a donation and the lady walked me hand in hand to the front. She showed me how to bless the shirt and myself before I left the building. It was serene. I started to ponder as I walked down the street how lazy I can be. As Americans, how lazy we can be. Something as ordinary as buying a t-shirt has a ceremony to it here in Taiwan. Ancient oriental culture has such depth it’s like the soup they serve. Thick and many layers and even though it is bustling around you at a fast pace, life still internally takes a slow trudge through not so serious waters that are thick, soft, cradle you throughout the day almost. ……. Food was great at dinner. But I was still hungry afterwards. It’s ok. 7-11 hot dogs are awesome. Worldwide no matter, you put a meat product in a casing on a piece of bread with some sort of mustard and nirvana is slightly achieved. Oh yeah.
Heidy Orellana’s - Inside the Belly of a Dragon
The sun shines brightly on the slithering dragon. The weather is perfect. Nature wants us to see all the colors that make up the dragon. The two toned green scales look like the lily pads that surround Lotus pond. Fire runs down the back of the dragon. Orange similar to the sun, they look like they’re so hot that they would burn my fingers if I touched them. The black arm of the dragon sticks out as if it is preparing to launch off its platform at Lotus pond. The dragon’s white claws look razor sharp. He looks as if he is ready for battle. Waiting for the perfect moment to make his entrance and save everyone.
I walk up to the front of the dragon and face him. Its mouth wide open, it looks to be stuck in a permanent yawn. Is this supposed to be a ferocious killing machine? I do not think so because I do not fear the dragon. Its nose is wide and red, it’s flared open as if he is taking is a deep breath. His mane is blue and wispy like the wind. Even though the dragon is stationed its mane looks as if he is in the air flying. Turning and twirling like the breeze. His teeth look almost human. I see gums and then white teeth. They are different from other animal’s teeth. Maybe they are more closely related to humans. It has eyes that seem to follow you wherever you go. The dragon’s eyes seem to say “I must watch your every step.” A good protector can see you every move.
It seems to welcome me inside of its belly. I stare long at its face before I ask if I can enter. I feel the dragon accepts me and allows me in. His tongue is made of steps. Ten steps are between me and the end of the dragon’s mouth. Ten steps and I will be inside the belly of a dragon. I take them all. I am finally inside the belly of a dragon. The belly of a dragon is full of light and art. The belly of a dragon has a story. I walk up and down every step reading the story. I cannot understand the written text, but I feel as if I can understand the story. When you look up at the dragon’s spine you can see the light of the sun shining through the red fire on its back. It gives a pink hue throughout the dragon’s belly.
The dragon has swallowed, what seems to be century’s worth of stories. Good meets evil, death, life, love, defeat, salvation, man, woman, children all of these things are what has been swallowed by the dragon. All of these things are placed next to each other to tell beautiful stories. The dragon eats is Technicolor, so vivid and alive. What the dragon eats gets imbedded on the walls of its belly forever. The stories, along with the people in the pictures have been eaten by the dragon never to leave again.
Countless murals of what seems to be the same angelic figure are very precisely placed over every story. She has a plain face but she is also very beautiful. In a world of constant change she seems to be timeless. Her mere presence gives off a vibe of safety. She is in ever picture as a protector or teacher. Her eyes looks wise, she had something to say. The angel seems to try and help the people in the belly of the dragon and they have either heeded her advice or ignored it. You can see which people she has helped and which people have refused her guidance.
A mural jumps out, as if screaming at me to look at it longer, it is hypnotic. There are four sailors on the boat praying to the angel to save them. Praying that they be given another chance to live, the sailors pray that the angel allows them to see another day of light, but the angel is turned away from them. She cannot bear to look at them any longer. Her hands are not visible, it seems as if she has no control over what happens in the sea. Perhaps she is not the angel that can control the water. Death is waiting at the bottom of the sea for the sailors. Next to the sign of death is an old sailor, he looks to be centuries older then the sailors on the boat. The old man is dead and he looks pained because he knows what destiny awaits the sailors. Death is waiting for the sailors at the bottom of the sea. The angel just sits there as if she is not being able to do anything of their impending doom. Guardian Angels can only do so much. Guardian Angels work with a person’s conscious to help a person make the best decisions, but if one is not present then the person suffers. Even in the belly of a dragon people have free will, much like is taught in the Christian religion. I can relate, my God also sends angels to protect me but in the end he put me on this earth to decide my destiny. I, like the sailors, have some control over what happens in my life. The sailors look as if they went out to sea without the approval of their guardian angel and she serves as a protector in only some cases. She can only do so much. The Gods look to have chosen to end the story for the sailors. There seems to be other factors in who the angel can help and when she can help them. The water seems to be a stopping point. There are many lessons to be learned in the in the belly of a dragon.
Paula Doan - The An Ping Wall
Outlasting its purpose:
The Dutch, afraid
on the Beautiful Island,
build the walls of red brick
with musket holes
to seek security.
The well inside the walls for security;
water under siege a purpose.
Rumored tunnels in the holes
help them not to be afraid,
for the red stacked brick
obscures the Beautiful Island.
The Dutch cannot possess the island.
Portuguese seek security
behind the Dutch red brick.
Pursuing the familiar purpose, they, too, are afraid
and peer cautiously through musket holes.
Portuguese defenses, full of holes.
They lose the Beautiful Island.
Formosans must remain afraid,
vigilant to maintain security.
Chinese and Japanese come with one purpose:
take the island and the red Dutch brick.
Time lives in the crumbling red brick.
Children poke hands in the musket holes
trying to touch history with innocent purpose.
Five hundred years the wall watched the Beautiful Island,
but gave only false security,
for even now, Formosa stands afraid.
The lovers at the aging wall are not afraid.
They see only each other, not the red Dutch brick. In each other's arms they find security:
His one arm around her waist, his other hand grips at musket holes.
Time passes on the Beautiful Island,
And the old Dutch wall finds new purpose.
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Last updated or reviewed on 1/6/14