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Taiwan Trip - Student Stories

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.

Dec. 29, 2012

Eduardo Melendres - Off we go to Taiwan!

It was a much anticipated morning waking up on Saturday. I didn't sleep much on purpose so the journey ahead wouldn't seem so long and strenuous. All I wanted to do was make sure I got on the plane. However, I forgot some crucial forms that needed to be turned into the school. After being reminded of the forms by my professors, I immediately woke up from my doldrums but I am still confused on what to do. My professors decided to wait until we returned from the trip to handle the issue.

The time had arrived to board the plane and my travel buddy, Anthony, was going to be sitting next to me the whole way there. We would first land in Detroit and from Detroit sit on a plane for fourteen hours to Japan! I believed that all the morning issues were behind us and no more issues were to come.


Leroy Adam - Different

Many TVs are in operation on the plane, all with something different on the screen. As we do our best to entertain ourselves while we sit in constant anxiety, with impatience to go along, of reaching our destination. Dark Knight Rises, Expendables 2, Rock of Ages are some of the movies on the screens of my classmates. Even my professor watches the modern remake of Snow White. I ask, "Are these selections in any way a reflection of the personalities of the viewers"? Are they somewhat of an extension of some event in their past lives or just random choices?

Has the guy who watches the Batman movie, Dark Knight Rises, ever viewed himself as super hero? Is he a father who sees himself as the sole protector of his helpless children from the evil in the world? I wonder if, when he was just a boy, did he ever make himself a cape and fight bad guys in his backyard. Or how about the young lady who watches the movie musical Rock of Ages, can she sing herself? Has she ever performed before, is it her dream to be a performer, being on Broadway and giving millions of people a show that they will never forget. Has my professor ever dressed up as Snow White when she was but a girl wanting to be a princess? Or does she connect more with the wicked witch who longs for control and desires immortality of youth and beauty? I'll go with the former - so many TVs displaying so many different personalities.


Chris Elmore - DELTA, the child, and a change for the better

DELTA: The first thing to write about is how horrible the DELTA Airlines are. I have never had a good experience with DELTA. I have been stuck on a tarmac for five hours, received horrible food, and suffered poor service from DELTA prior to this trip. However, this flight is the worst so far. When boarding, the flight attendants did not help anyone with their luggage. Once on flight the plane was lit up like a Christmas tree the entire time, which made it impossible to get any sleep. Once in Tokyo the flight to Taiwan was delayed for one day. To accommodate us DELTA puts us in a small hotel with rooms the size of a shoe box with hard beds. With this type of service, I felt like I was back in the Army. The reason for writing this piece is to set up a future journal entry about my observations in the airport.

The child: This journal entry will be about the airport observations in Tokyo. There is a three or four year old child screaming and crying the entire time. It was funny to me because this sort of thing would have normally made me mad, but this time, I envied the child and wished I could show my feelings like he was doing. No one seemed upset because they knew he had good reasons to be crying. On the other hand, if I would have started yelling at DELTA employees, I would have been arrested, kicked out of the airport, or even the country. To have been that child at that moment in time would have been a great feeling. I could have let the airline know how their service was from the beginning.

A change for the better: Once arriving in Taiwan this morning the trip has been getting better. The reason for this is because DELTA is not in charge of anything here. Kudos to Dr. Sample for setting us up in a nice hotel in Taiwan. The country is beautiful and the people are very friendly. We have many wonderful things planned to do, and I cannot wait to get started. I had lunch in the hotel yesterday and tried their buffet/hotpot. It was good, and I had to laugh at myself at one point in time. I asked the waitress if a tip was appropriate, and she laughed at me. It is not normal for them; however, she did keep the tip. She seemed amused that I had asked her the question and left the tip. She smiled the entire time after the incident took place.


Dec. 30, 2012

Eduardo Melendres - Bonus! One night in Japan!

Japan airport After a long 14 hour flight on the plane from Detroit to Japan, we landed. We anticipated a short stay in Japan before transferring to another plane that would take us to Taipei. However, the plane that we were supposed to take had a mechanical failure. Unfortunately, our time in Taiwan was going to be cut short by a day, but the airline paid for us to stay in a hotel for one night until the next available flight to Taiwan. The airline gave us a boxed lunch and drove us by bus forty-five minutes away from the airport to the Wishton Hotel. The most amazing thing in the hotel was the toilet! I have never sat on a warmed toilet seat before, and it caught me by surprise. The feeling of a warm toilet seat was marvelous and should be standard everywhere. My stay in Japan was interesting, even though it was only one night and it was cold and rainy. Hopefully, one day I will return to see more of Japan.


Adrianna Martinez - "Indefinite"

We got to Tokyo for what we thought would be a normal layover of three hours. Little did we know that it would turn into an overnight stay. I was happy since Japan was a place I wanted to see. We stayed at the airport for many hours, before the flight went from being "delayed" to "indefinite." Indefinite, that was the first time I have seen that to refer to a flight being cancelled. Everyone in our group was exhausted, and I was too; however, I was too excited about being in Tokyo so we decided to wander around the streets. Everything was closed, and the streets were almost empty, but I thought it was a great place. Tokyo is now on my to-do list. At the hotel, we encountered our first language barrier, the rooms were freezing and when we wanted to turn on the heater, everything on the remote control was in Japanese. We tried to figure it out, but it was helpless. We ended up having to go to the lobby to ask them if they could fix the temperature in our rooms. That was the beginning of what it was going to be like not knowing the language.


Kid thumbs up in Japan Leroy Adam - No one looks like me

I'm in Tokyo, Japan and no looks like me. We live in a big world filled with billions of people, people of different colors, races and ethnicities. The black community makes up roughly 17% of the world population and I'm in the part of the world where it feels like I am the only one here. How do I greet them when my presence is so foreign to them and theirs to me? Will they fear me? Humans always fear what's different and what they do not understand.

In Taipei, Taiwan this feeling does not change. No one looks like me and you know what, now I love it. I can't read any of the street signs, I cannot communicate with the natives, and the food is so foreign to me. A world of unfamiliarity but filled with many possibilities. As I walk the illuminating streets of Taipei, I catch the eyes of the Asians who seem in shock of my presence. I feel elevated to a celebrity status when I'm here.


Paula Doan - A Delicate Subject: Taking a Seat Should Be a Treat

Tokyo hotel toilet Asia has the U.S. beat on plumbing. Last night, I hauled my exhausted body into a spotless but poorly heated Tokyo hotel room. The first destination after dropping my bags was the restroom. I expected a porcelain seat of average description, but I found that this humble piece of necessary furnishing truly rises to the title throne when in the East.

The smooth, cream-colored, plastic chair was in a bathroom that covered a maximum of twelve square feet. A low and unobtrusive seat, it was unlike the white porcelain behemoths with bulky tanks stodgily piled atop that are found back home. No tank was in sight; the furnishing looked as if it came from the future. The lid was closed and hugged the rim on which it sat. Along an armrest on the right-hand side, a row of lighted buttons winked becomingly. The day was long, and the evening cold. I wanted to get ready for bed. I lifted the lid and recognized the basin's form.

The first surprise came as I seated myself on the plastic ring - it was warm! The chilly room was forgotten, as I settled in on the comfortingly toasty frame. As I sat, I examined the row of lighted buttons on the small panel to my right. All of the labels were in Japanese. I was dependent on the pictures to figure out the function of each button. From front to back I saw a dark blue button with an Asian-language character I do not understand, a green button with a cartoonish bottom hovering over an equally cartoonish fountain, and a pink button featuring a cartoon lady's face. Behind these three buttons, two more controls labeled in foreign characters taunted me. They seemed to be up-and-down controls, for each had a row of five lights next to it.

Gathering my courage to press a button, I figured that "when in Rome ...". I knew what it would do. I expected the water. But it kept spraying. And spraying. How do I make it stop? I was afraid to stand up; it might flood the bathroom. I tried pushing the same button again. Still spraying. I tried the slider buttons. Still spraying. But the sliders changed the temperature and water pressure. Nice to know. The only button left was the blue one. I pressed it. The water stopped. Then it hit me: Blue equals water.

The only things the bidets do not have are blow dryers, unless I just haven't yet found the control for that. Certainly, these will be added to the repertoire within the next few years, if it hasn't already happened. If the time comes that I build a house, I'm getting one of these - for the comfort of the heated seat and the hygienic appeal of the rest.


Dec. 31, 2012

Janny Phung - Works Like Magic

Welcome to Taiwan The welcoming message from the airport in Taiwan when you shortly walk away from the airplane really sets the tone for the trip so far. The friendly message did set the stage for an introduction to a country that juggles its ancient and modern advances. By my observation, people's quality of life can be measured by how happy we are. How can we measure happiness? Is there something you can wear that lights up whenever you are happy? Oh wait, something similar has already been done. Do you remember mood rings?

I would dare say that our attitudes are very telling and can be shown by our actions. Of course there are exceptions, but what do you say when you experience something not once, not twice but on many many occasions? Arguably, the most frequently heard phrase when you enter most establishments is 歡迎光臨 or huangying guanlin. (Forumosa) Every time we went out to eat or entered a shop we heard it. The phrase means "Welcome [and thanks for] gracing the occasion with your presence" But what does that have to do with being happy? Isn't that just a gimmick by retailers to retain customers? I have to admit, it is catchy especially when said with enthusiasm and more importantly, like you mean it. The sincerity is felt in the tone and manner in the delivery. Does it make me think of rainbows and sunshine? Maybe. But it does make me smile. What is intriguing to me is that people are willing to do this. If you are one of the lucky ones who have not experienced bad service, that's great. But for the rest of us, it can linger on like the scent of smoke. But it can work both ways. It's amazing how that magical little phrase can lift your spirits in a matter of seconds. The result: a pleasant experience.

Watch video of New Year fireworks.


Anthony Mindiola - Indefinite turns into definitely

Gilbert Anthony, Lou, Leroy Adam and Eduardo Melendres
Pictured left to right is Gilbert Anthony, Lou, Leroy Adams and Eduardo Melendres.

Indefinte departure Well departure day arrived and as you'll already know, the last leg of our flight from Tokyo, Japan to Taipei, Taiwan was canceled and labeled indefinite on the flight board. temple in Taiwan As my anxiety was rising so was my impatience and so was my expectations of being in what I've learn has been coined "The Taste of Asia." Already I see the differences in the American culture and Asian culture from driving on the left side of the street, not to mention the driver is operating the vehicle from the right side of the bus. We make the connecting flight the next morning and arrive at our hotel. The language is different but the meaning of the smiles and the politeness is the same. During my first morning walking the street with my roommates with intentions of getting something to eat, we encountered a Taiwanese student who was glad to converse with us and show us his city. We walk pass his house, which to American belief is a yard with a white picket fence but was instead a building with an entrance to a Buddhist temple that decorated the entry way. The pride that he showed for his home was the making of his father and his family and was part of the community for years. Lou, a young 19 year old, who was on break for the New Year, spoke good English with an Asian accent and was majoring in English Literature. We met at the corner of Linsen N Rd @ Minzu E. Rd near food stands as we were ordering noodles from a local vender. This was definitely an encounter that only a few with an Asian bucket list dream could fulfill. Meeting someone that shared his identity and authenticity with us has definitely turned a 12 hour indefinite delay into an hour of indefinite taste of Asia. This is only the first day of a definite experience that I'm looking forward to.


Eduardo Melendres - 7-11, Lou

Walking around in Taipei It was New Year's Eve when we finally arrived in Taipei. Our friendly tour guide picked us up at the airport and took us to the Hotel Santos. We quickly got settled in our hotel and decided to explore the city. Exiting the hotel to the right I saw the first 7-11. I had done my presentation on 7-11s in Taiwan so I was excited to finally experience the store for myself. The 7-11 was exactly like I imagined. It had the chime I remember from the video when patrons walk into the store. The food and drink selection was super. I will be definitely buy some gifts at 7-11 to take with home with me.

Once we left leaving the 7-11, Anthony, Leroy, and I walked down the street and looked at the shops. We found a shoe store that had really cheap Nikes. I was hoping to buy shoes in Taipei because I heard they would be cheaper and possibly have different styles of shoes.

We were hungry so we decided to look for some local food stands. We found a stand that sold delicious-looking sausages. Anthony bought three and we each had one. One interesting thing was that the gentleman who was serving the sausages had a bloody mouth when he smiled which was quite disgusting, but I learned later that the color was from betel nut. Being that the sausage was not enough food to fill our bellies so we found a local street vendor who sold some amazing soup. I'm not sure what kind of soup it was, but we ate it and it was so hot and delicious that I didn't leave a single drop.

Prior to ordering our soup, a gentleman who saw us struggling to order came over to help us. He spoke good English and helped us order our soup. After helping us order, he introduced himself as Lou. He was an English major and 19 years old. Lou stood by us the whole time while we ate and spoke to us about his school and asked us questions about where we were from. Lou was very friendly and genuine. After we finished our soup, he walked us to his house where his family had built a temple. The temple was unique and beautiful. Lou went on to tell us about the temple and how people would leave food to be blessed and come back in a couple of days to pick it back up. We even picked up a souvenir after we gave a small donation. After we decided to go back to the hotel and get some rest, Lou gladly accompanied us to our hotel at which point we went our separate ways.


Leroy Adam - Storming the Streets

Leroy Adam and classmates going to Taipei 101 They stormed the night streets of Taipei in route to Taipei 101 to celebrate the New Years; we tried to keep up in the pursuit filled with anxiety to see the famous building. So many people filled the street more people than I could have imagined and our destination seemed to trample the number of people on the streets. There must have been at least half a million people there, some with iPads, laptops, cameras and camera phone! Some shouted "Happy New Years!" along the way and a group of boys who wore red and blue mask while waving their native flag chanted "Westside Taiwan", what that meant I still am not sure.

Once the fireworks began all eyes and devices pointed in one general direction to catch the amazing illuminating show. Fireworks coming from the building, it was amazing never seen anything like it before. We hugged, we danced, exuberance filled the air, and we took pictures, many pictures. Students dressed as what seem to be Indians danced to the popular song (annoying to me) Gangman Style. Natives wanted to take pictures with the American students, memories for them, and for us as well. This would turn out to be a New Years that I would never forget and one that I could tell my children about in the future.


Jan. 1, 2013

Paula Doan - Poem: 49, Sec. 3, Cheng-De Road: 6:30 a.m.

Morning in the city
waking a new day, a new year.
Sun peeping between the buildings;
a buffet of life.

Waking a new day, a new year;
the clean canvas beckons a brush.
A buffet of life
on the grimy city street.

The clean canvas beckons a brush
to color the gray lives
on the grimy city street.
The woman pushes her cart of rainbow fruit.

To color the gray lives
imperceptibly existing,
the woman pushes her cart of rainbow fruit
Because somewhere he is hungry for breakfast.

Imperceptibly existing,
the broken man hobbles down the sidewalk never looking up
because now he is hungry for breakfast.
The rainbow fruit can nourish his soul.

The broken man hobbles down the sidewalk never looking up,
passing the scooters parked on the sidewalk.
The rainbow fruit would nourish his soul,
but he ignores the 7-11.

Passing the scooters parked on the sidewalk,
sun peeping between the buildings,
and he ignores the 7-11.
Morning in the city.


Lauren Parkerson - Greetings from Taipei!

Our journey so far has taken us from Detroit to Tokyo to downtown Taipei, and what a journey it has been. I am not going to deny that the trip over was brutal; however our reward has been great. The sights, the people, and the treasures that this city has are unbelievable. I have never been so immersed in a culture so quickly. There haven't been too many other Americans that I have seen thus far, and to be honest, I like it. Everything is so new and different to me. Our western culture has not totally penetrated the Taiwanese culture, and it is refreshing. Last night is a great example of what I am talking about. It was New Year's Eve here, and we went to the most amazing fireworks show off of Taipei 101. With over 800,000 people at the event it was a sight to see. The main thing that I noticed was that the people here know how to celebrate. Walking through the streets there were families and groups of friends that we polite and civil. There were no drunken stragglers, or petty fights in the streets. Everyone was there to have a good time with respect to the people next to them. I can say that having been to New Orleans, Las Vegas, and New York for New Year's Eve, this party is different in a good way. I am off for acupuncture, a traditional Taiwanese way to detox the body and enjoy relaxation.


Christian Smallwood - We were so lost!

I am having so much fun in Taiwan! My friend, Kim Williams, and I set out to visit a few night markets in Taipei and got lost! While looking at the "Metro" maps (what we would call the subway) we were trying to navigate our way to visit markets that open from around 4 p.m. to midnight and sell various items such as fresh fruit, candy, clothes, souvenirs, etc. and we must have looked confused, because a Taiwanese native named Andy approached us. He was so helpful! He offered to show us around Taipei. We went to a few night markets in the area, visited a street called "Herb Street" where we were able to taste several herbs native to the country and Andy explained to us what each one was for. Also, we visited Longshan Temple. Also, Andy explained to us how the Taiwanese pray, communicate with their Gods, and what each God represents. All the homeless people in Taipei gather outside of this temple and after the natives give offerings to their Gods and pray, they often give the homeless these offerings. Andy also showed us where some locals were filming a movie! Hopefully I would be an extra in the background, Hollywood here I come! Taiwan is such an amazing experience, I hope I can come back and possibly study here for a semester. Truly, everyone should experience the wonders and beauty of Taiwan!


Leroy Adam at the Shilin Night Market Leroy Adam - I love the Night Market

This was a night at the Shilin Night Market imagine a Flea Market and Carnival games combined and you'll have an idea. These two gentlemen were kind enough to sell me a watch and take this photo with me. In the photo you can see a plethora of watches of many different brands, colors and sizes. I love the Night Market!


Adrianna Martinez - Like a fair

Adrianna Martinez at the Shilin Night Market The Shilin Night Market it is like a fair. There is a section with all kinds of food. It is impressive to see the incredible number of people who cram into the food section. There were stands of people selling all kinds of products and snacks and there were carnival-like games as well. The food was a new world to me. We tried oyster omelet, the Taiwanese version of lemonade, fried crab, fried oysters, and noodles. We found Greek food, a kind of a seafood empanada, shaved ice cream, Chinese apples and pork empanadas. Even though all of these things sound so familiar, they are not like the ones we eat at home - they have their own taste, their unique flavor.


Anthony Mindiola - "I Didn't Travel All This Way to Rest"

By now I'm tired and the jet lag is catching up with me. Breakfast is good and the French fries that on the buffet table are not that bad. We have plans as a group to meet at the Shilin Night Market. This is a very popular night spot for locals and tourist. At this point I don't feel like a tourist because I've done my research on the night markets and I know what to expect. Everything can be bought at a night market and all kinds of food can be tasted. I decide to take a power nap to reserve my energy. Well, when I wake up I'm late and come to find out I miss the bus. I wasn't the only one to miss the bus because I overslept, so did my roommates.

Anthony Mindiola at the Shilin Night Market

If there's one thing I credit myself with that's being on time. We just heard a lecture from professor about being on time. The three of us are up and out the lobby as if we were late for class. We grab a cab and are at the market no less than 30 minutes late. We run into some students and they say we didn't miss much of the evening. We also ran into the Dr. Sample who understood that we might have been out doing our own thing. The night market turned out to be a good time and I was able to buy two cute Asian dolls for my daughters, the kind that you don't see in the States. I get back to the hotel and I think I'm going to rest and call it a night the weather outside is wet and cold. At about 9 pm the phone starts ringing and the invites to step out and see the town start coming in. One of the catch phrases echoed by my classmates is, "You didn't come all this way to rest, let's step out and see Taiwan!" Needless to say, I join them for an interesting evening.

Restaurant sign Most shop and vendors are off on the first day of the New Year spending time with their families. But we do manage to find a place that caters to our group of about 10 with an array of food and drink. I don't know the name of the place, but this is what it was called. The waiter was real nice and understood that all we wanted to do was sample as many different food that they had to offer. We were the only guest and we were given the VIP treatment. There was an assortment of seafood, meats, and noodles, all bite size. I think we all had our share to tasting everything and considered it a meal. The price was very reasonable costing about 7 US dollars per person. I think the wait staff enjoyed our company on a slow night they even offered to take our picture while we ate and they served.


Lu Reyes and Chris Elmore - Photos, Thoughts

coffee cup The interesting coffee cups with a lid, but no handle at Hotel Santos, Taipei.

lays chips I don't usually eat chips, but I bought both immediately. Lay's potato chips in seaweed and chicken flavor. Purchased from 7-11. These Pringles are smaller than usual.

strawberris A stroll around the supermarket revealed this: packs of 4 imported strawberries that cost roughly $10 USD.

mango flavored beer Drinking mango flavored Taiwan beer at their brewery. You can purchase their various products and snacks. You can enjoy them immediately, because they had tables outdoors for drinking and smoking. It is a similar concept to UHD's neighbor, Saint Arnold Brewing Company.

flower market Neihu Wholesale Flower Market on January 1, New Year’s Day 2013. The flower market was fully open before 9 a.m. unlike other businesses which were closed all day. The selection was incredible: flowers (cut or potted), cactus, and fortune plants. The selection of orchids was overwhelming, but I finally chose some for less than $10 USD.

fabric Fabric purchased from the Tongle Wholesale Market.


Jan. 2, 2013

Janny Phung - UHD at the Confucius Temple in Taipei

Watch video of UHD students at Confucius Temple


Sandra Tapia - Imagine Yourself in Taiwan

The early warm shiny sun
Sandra Tapia at temple the view of the airplanes from the upper blue skies
the adorable melancholy of the birds
the fragrance of the flowers and green plants
the fresh air blowing my hair from one way to the other
the clean gray cement with few reflections of trees
the dragon figures were too far to touch and see
the color red to indicate good luck
the wide doors to express welcome and love from their gods
the red lanterns decorating the entire place
the tourists people observing with WOW looks on their face
the tourist guide speaking of the history unstoppable
the professors listening with such interest
the Taiwanese people laying down praying for their petitions to be heard
the smoke occasionally made tourists cough
the flashes of the cameras will make me dizzy
the sculptures were amazing
the pictures unbelievable
the restrooms were hard to find
the group gathering complicated to accomplish
the day really shiny
the afternoon never ended
the night very lit
Temples, temples will remain in my memories every time I hear TAIWAN!


Eduardo Melendres - A Scene from a Martial Arts Movie

Confucius Temple After a crazy night of fun with my classmates, I was in no mood to do anything. Luckily, Anthony with his strong will woke Leroy and me up in time for us to get on the bus to go to the Confucius Temple and the Lin An Tai House. When we arrived at the Confucius Temple my brain seemed to kick start. The temple entrance was astounding! I felt like the picture I saw on the internet did not properly capture the temple's essence. Walking inside the temple grounds, I felt like I was in a Chinese martial arts movie. I could feel the history that inhabited the building as I walked around.

Bao An Taoist Temple The Bao An Taoist Temple had its own surreal feeling once inside. It was interesting to see people really bowing and praying in front of a figure. Seeing with my own eyes people leaving food or gifts to be blessed was more than real. I almost felt weird being there just to take pictures and observe people praying. Our tour guide was kind enough to explain the whole process of how people must pray and find out whether one's prayer would come true, including how to enter and exit the temple.

Bao An Taoist Temple Bao An Taoist Temple


Jan. 3, 2013

Anthony Mindiola - Day Four

Joe Sample Joe Sample, assistant professor of English and coordinator of the UHD New Year's in Taiwan Program, received a gift from Dr. Hsiu-Shang (Karen) Huang, president of the National University of Tainan. Also present was professor Chehung Liu, who worked with professor Sample to bring the UHD and NUTN students together. Professors Liu and Sample met for breakfast on the morning of Jan. 5 to begin planning for next year's program.

students UHD students enjoying a traditional lunch with the students of the National University of Tainan Department of English. The NUTN students met with UHD students throughout the Fall semester on Facebook. On Jan. 3, the students met for the first time face-to-face. It was a raucous atmosphere. Many students got together later in the evening to explore Tainan's night life together.


Jennifer Bloomingkemper - BEST TRIP EVER

Today we took the high speed train to Tainan. I think. I'm looking back in retrospect and I'm not sure if I have my dates and things correlating. Oh well. University was beautiful. They had an interesting art sculpture on the wall there. I took a picture of it so I can write about it.

The students were great. We instantly recognized people from the pen pal page. It was fun to chat with people you get to meet face to face. They being much younger and traditional students, it seemed that they were so interested in the fact that we had lives. They seemed to know study and some worked a part time job, but to see our classes so older, hearing of marriage, children, rent, mortgage, full time jobs, and our age. Wow! We produce some of the coolest options for expanding your education at any time and in any direction. God Bless that.

But these Taiwanese students are exceptionally nice, very giving and full of heart. Eager to learn, listen, just to stare at your green eyes and want to touch your hair because it's foreign. That's the best part of this trip for me. I usually always run into other Americans or cultures but to really get on the level of the locals you have to really have a chance to hang with the locals. These students provided that for us. They thought us to be foreigners, to be so foreign in their eyes. To play the role of the minority is always fun to me. You learn the most out of life if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and naïve to a point. I felt like I was back in my early twenties. It was fun to revert and allow my spirit to just be. Happy and excited and free of the bondage and responsibility I carry at home. A stranger in a strange land. That makes me happy and fulfilled.

What a great day. After our trip to the hotel by foot, we settled in and through misunderstanding and the graciousness of the Sample's, Pafforia and I got the big awesome room, which allowed enough space for people to come hang out in our room. This was fun because it allowed us to really kick back and get to know each other on a more intimate level. We weren't distracted or at a bar feeling free, we sat and talked life and had pizza in our jammies and I love everyone on this trip. There are so many different stories and lives I have learned about and I understand the behaviors and attitudes of people better. I can maneuver myself around them and create bad situations into good.

I am happy that we all maintained, well myself mostly, an open minded quality that allowed me to go on day trips, eat dinner with, explore with, and be friends with almost each individual on the trip separately, and collectively and that was the best part of the trip. Not only meeting new people abroad, but forming a respectable bond with human beings that I would honestly say I would go anywhere in the world with as travel companions. It's like everything happened for a reason on this trip. The right mix of people and the right mix of leadership and the stars aligned and we all got granted miracles and wishes which expanded our minds and our lives have forever been changed. For me, so far looking back, I do believe I can honestly say, so far, BEST TRIP EVER!


Eduardo Melendres - The most anticipated day

January third was the most anticipated day for me because I would finally meet my two pen pals. I had spent day's back home trying think of what to bring them as a gift. I finally decided to bring them both t-shirts. Vivian, who is a big Rockets fan, was getting a Rockets t-shirt with the vintage Rockets logo. Anna Su was getting a University of Texas t-shirt because I'm a big fan.

Eduardo Melendres and pen pals Vivian and Anna Su My Journey started by arriving at the high speed train station early in the morning. I had ridden on a high speed train before in Germany but was very disappointed. I was hoping Taiwan's high speed train would be a better experience. Once on the train, I sat by the window so I could view the scenery of Taiwan. Taiwan's country side was not at all what I expected to see. The houses and development of the land looked like any other place and wasn't very distinct. Anyway, the high speed train was spotless and lived up to its name; we arrived in no time in Tainan. Once I walked out of the train station I jumped on a bus that took me directly to Tainan University. The campus was not how I imagined it to be but it was very pleasant. Leroy and I took some pictures in front of the school sign as we waited to be greeted by the school's representatives.

Finally, we were met by the representatives after a short wait and escorted to the room where I would meet my pen pals. Immediately on arriving inside the room we were told to take a seat and open a boxed lunch that the school had arranged for us. Unfortunately, the food was not enjoyable to me, yet I did eat the soup from the boxed lunch. After allowing us time to eat our boxed lunch the students walked in and sat down around us. I was nervous because I didn't know how one of my pen pals looked liked. In her profile picture she was wearing dark glasses which made a difficult to see her full appearance. However, I knew how Vivian looked, so I could at least identify one of my pen pals.

At last, I saw Vivian and it was surreal to be finally meeting face to face with my pin pal. I tried to pronounce her Chinese name, but I did a poor job of pronouncing Jun-yi. I thought it was funny that she also could not pronounce my name too. Either way, we quickly started talking about finally meeting and the Rockets of course. Not much time passed and everyone in the room began introducing themselves and then we played white elephant. After the game was over and all the Tainan students claimed a prize they walked us back to our hotel. Upon arrival to the hotel I made plans with the students to meet up at night.

We met the students outside the hotel at 7pm to go to the night market. At the night market we walked around with the students and tried many different foods. I had cricket, chicken butt, and stinky tofu. It was a great night for all us because we really got to know each other on a different level.


Paula Doan with Gerald Cheng - Meeting Tainan

The train took our group to Tainan,
So many people in the conference room is intimidating.
Met a line of about 30 people.
At the beginning in the conference room, I was kind of scared.

What are we supposed to say to total strangers?
I had no idea what to talk to you all.

Gerald Cheng, Kelly Moynihan, Paula Doan, Steven Kuo
Gerald Cheng, Kelly Moynihan, Paula Doan, Steven Kuo
Silly white elephant games can be useful.
Everyone was nonstop chatting and having fun in the game.
The crowded room was laughing;
they finally got the point of "stealing" gifts.
After the event very warm atmosphere,
and we all seemed to be having fun.

Next the traditional campus tour looms...
We thought to bring them around campus
but walked out of the school gate!

And the group kept going down the sidewalk
Without a second thought to a stuffy campus tour.
We stopped by Temple
is also very reasonable but not see

The local escort stayed with us all the way
walk into their hotel @@Gosh!!!

The long walk gave us time to talk and start making new friends.
We walked from the school to the vicinity of Fort Provintia hotel!!!!
I wonder if they came to school on their day off for this?
We have to go back to school WTF!!!

These two guys are kinda cute,
Rare opportunities with foreign friends everywhere.
and I think they are flirting a little.
I don't mind.
I just plucked up the courage to offer
two ladies to drink beef soup.

They asked to show us the town
and go riding on scooters.
Anping old street
How dangerous can they be?
also garden night market.
We met them at the school.

There is no better way to see a city
than from the back of a scooter
It was a wonderful night and experience for me;
with two handsome men as personal tour guides.
is also a major breakthrough to them.
The night didn't need to be over so soon.
I wish I could have more time.
The waning quarter moon reflected off the river
as we drove by.

All good things must come to an end.
I may never again have a night like this.
Hope before long in the future we can come face to face again!!!
Hope before long in the future we can come face to face again!!!


Paula Doan - Tainan

What a change from Taipei to Tainan! At first it seemed like more of the same: rush around, feel lost, wonder what the point is. We were ushered into one big room expecting to hear hours of administrators gushing empty niceties. Instead, we found friends. A few small gifts, a silly game and a long walk later I found myself on the back of a motorcycle getting an evening tour of Tainan.

We passed by the city canal that opens out onto the harbor and the ocean. We drove down to the Old City street where, during the daytime, shop after shop of trinkets and food keep eyes wandering and mouths watering. We went into a few shops that were open late to taste candied fruits and play with children's toys. We stopped outside the An Ping fort to feed the koi fish and talked about the history of the fort. Then, it was off to the night market to try foods I would never dream of tasting back home. More new friends joined us at the night market, and I found myself in a long conversation about the merits of various film adaptations of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and I got the opportunity to recommend the BBC television mini-series Lost in Austen for a fun twist on the classic. A grand welcome to a lush city.


Christian Smallwood - Photo Journal - Visiting the Students at Tainan University

Chrisitan Smallwood and penpal Mandy
Finally meeting with my penpal, Mandy, at the Tainan University. (Christian has decided to return to Taiwan to study Chinese.)

Tainan University Tainan University
Tainan University Tainan University


Jan. 4, 2013

Christian Smallwood - Photo Journal - Ferry to Kaohsiung

Taking the ferry to the city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. What a beautiful view of the beach!

Kaohsiung beach
Kaohsiung ferry Kaohsiung ferry Kaohsiung ferry
Kaohsiung ferry Kaohsiung ferry Kaohsiung ferry


From Lu Reyes' travel journal, "Compliance of Immigration: A Retrospective Look on My Time Abroad"

Lu Reyes at Guanziling Guanziling Mud Spa at King's Garden Villa on Free Day (in the style of Personal Memoirs)

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.

Guanziling 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.

Botanical garden in Guanziling 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.

Botanical garden in Guanziling 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

Eduardo Melendres playing basketball with Taiwanese students

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.


Jan. 5, 2013

Letters from Taiwanese Students

Dear all from UHD,

Still can't believe you are leaving so soon. It is so unfortunate that I have not known you all and had fun together. I had been looking forward for your coming since this project started, but I did not know that it puts into practice so fast!!!

At the beginning in the conference room, I was kind of scared because I had no idea what to talk to you all. But within the whole process I saw your enthusiasm and your vitality, everyone was nonstop chatting and having fun in the game. Those gifts are awesome, I have to say. =)

This is the first time for me to be a guide to show foreign friends to a few famous spots, no matter for eating or tourism. Moynihan Kelly and Paula Doan, thanks for your being so kind to give Steven Kuo and me the chance and honor to take you both to An Ping and the night market. It was a wonderful night and experience for me. I wish I could have more time so I can get together with all of you and show you other places, but all good things must come to an end. Hope before long in the future we can come face to face again!!!

Yours, Gerry


To all the dear, dear friends from UHD,

It had been an amazing and wonderful experience to meet you all. In our culture, people are brought together by the hands of "緣份" Which means our combination was destined from our preexistence.

To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to this program when I first heard of it. ... But after these few days, I am more than glad to say it is a great success. We have come to know each other and see the difference between us. Though some of you still couldn't stand "stinky tofu" (Don't worry Nick, I won't tell.) it was so happy to see your eagerness towards our culture. (However, I do have to confess that eating crickets is not part of it. Sorry~ Laura Arreguín) I just couldn't believe that you are leaving so soon.

There are so many places worth visiting in Taiwan. (Taipei is actually not that boring.... If you had us with you. LOL~) These three days is the best days we could have ever asked for. Hopefully, it was the same for you all. We'll see you next summer in Houston if "緣份" (or by the help of our school) wants us to meet again. Finally, godspeed and good luck.

Still can't believe you are leaving so soon. It is so unfortunate that I have not known you all and had fun together. I had been looking forward for your coming since this project started, but I did not know that it puts into practice so fast!!!



From Jennifer Bloomingkemper's "Cycle of Travel Writing"

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.


From Heidy Orellana's "Cycle of Travel Writing"

"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.

Eduardo Melendres playing basketball with Taiwanese students 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

An Ping Wall 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.
An Ping Wall
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.


Janny Phung – Kaohsiung and Cijin

View pictures and videos from Kaohsiung and Cijin


UHD students - Photo journal - A Day in Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung photo collage

Kaohsiung   Kaohsiung


Jan. 6, 2013

Jennifer Bloomingkemper and Heidy Orellana - Renga for Street Food by the Anping Boat Park

I smell your offer
From down the beaten sidewalk
I yearn for the taste

Unusual forms of food
Take me on your bright journey

I see you floating
In the clear and hot bubble
Of the noodle bath

Are you tofu or fish like?
Will you be hard or chewy?

The hot oil bubbles
As the shrimp take their plunge in
Create my delight

Vinegar or soy sauce base
Which one makes my heart race

The crunchy veggies
Music to my hunger pang
I sauce you with love

Oyster pancake sizzle soon
For the table is set now

Stinky tofu I
Cannot do you, I have tried
Nose and mouth disagree

Spice is abundant and yet
No where to be found

Eat just once more the
Samples of the sea and land
That fill the streets smoke


Jan. 7, 2013

Christian Smallwood - Photo journal - The beautiful village of Wulai

The beautiful village of Wulai. My traveling companion, Leroy, and I were able to view the beautiful waterfalls and lush greenery. It is definitely an amazing, awe-inspiring experience!


Wulai Wulai Wulai
Wulai Wulai Wulai


Jennifer Bloomingkemper - Pantoum for Wulai

I am so heavy in your arms
Put me on your back with wooden chair
Call out to the grey sky with bohemian rage
For this is the spirit of the Atayal.

Put me on your back with wooden chair
Adore my mountain face, long and broad
For this is the spirit of the Atayal.
Reinvented vigor dance to mountain Wulai

Adore my mountain face, long and broad
Sing of Batal's mercy and ornament the sacred tree
Reinvented vigor dance to mountain Wulai
Spinning black cape and tattood cheekbone

Sing of Batal's mercy and ornament the sacred tree
Merge with your ancestors through beheading of foe
Spinning black cape and tattood cheekbone
Warrior drinking blood, vital water of this life

Merge with your ancestors through beheading of foe
From colored feather and cherry blossom; hear the monkey call
Warrior drinking blood, vital water of this life
Beat the basket, weave the grain, call black bear for rain

From colored feather and cherry blossom; hear the monkey call
Open your velvet curtain to reveal the waterfall's tears
Beat the basket, weave the grain, call black bear for rain
Sacred harvest; Millet wine quench my throats desire

Open your velvet curtain to reveal the waterfall's tears.
Weave the cloth with my love bearing stitch
Sacred harvest; Millet wine quench my throats desire
Marry me in the circle of kick dance, Gaga memory

Marry me in the circle of kick dance, Gaga memory
Call out to the grey sky with Bohemian rage
Weave the cloth with my love bearing stitch
I am so heavy in your arms.


Pafforia Battle - Wulai Sestina

We were amazed by the scenery and how the mountains were sheltered by the fog.
Carefully, we climbed up the slippery hills.

Anticipating the arrival of the hot springs.
We toured and took so many pictures there was nothing left to do.
Sweat rolled down my temples and down the small of my back from the humidity.
I would have felt a lot better if I could just stand under the waterfall.

Oh, what great emotions penetrated my soul by the sounds of the waterfall.
Pafforia Battle photo collage I enjoyed losing myself in the moment as I was captivated by the fog.
It was late afternoon, but the atmosphere was wet like morning dew.
The mist falling from the sky help interrupt the humidity.
Finally we made our way downhill.
We were so anxious, to get to the hot springs.

Now that we are down the hill.
We are wondering what to do?
Where is the hot springs?
Still sweating from the high degrees of humidity.
We were assisted by the tour guide who pointed toward the waterfalls.
But her point of directions were faded because of the fog.

Finally, we have arrived to the hot springs.
Finding a spot to get in is the first thing we do.
We are now ready to relax our muscles from walking up and down the hills.
We are ready to immerse ourselves in the residue of the waterfalls.
Unfortunately we couldn't get away from the humidity.
So we relaxed and enjoyed our view of the birds dancing with the fog.

Meanwhile there was silence in the hot springs.
Eased of climbing hills.
Enjoying the light water sounds flood our ears from the waterfall.
Telepathic communications on the next thing to do.
Because we only had one hour to enjoy the view of the skies and fog.
We enjoyed wetting our faces and feeling the cool breeze despite the humidity.

Our one hour is up and we still haven't decided the next thing to do.
If only we can avoid climbing more hills.
And escape the humidity.
Enlightened by the culture of the hot springs.
We discussed our new experiences skipping through the fog.
On to the bus we go, saying goodbye to the waterfall.


Leroy Adam - Sad day but with an Epiphany!

As the day nears close my anguish grows. I am convinced that I can no longer just accept a mundane residence in America. I must continue to venture out, I must continue to explore if I allow my wings to enclose I fear that there they will remain, wrapped in the residual stress and depression of what you feel you have to do. Instead I am determined to live my life the way I want, to explore the world beyond the boundaries of the four American walls, I am determined to do what I want to do. To enjoy life is one's own attempt at doing what one finds enjoyable. What you find enjoyable and not what the world tells you should or can enjoy. I've found what I enjoy and it returns no pain or sorrow instead liberation and clarity. I don't believe that you can truly understand who you are in life until you've lived outside of the bubble that you're so accustomed to, be it a career, school or self-restriction. Writing this right now I'm fighting back my tears because I look back on my trip and I think about the moments that gave me the presence to write this and all I want is to relive those moments over and over.


Jan. 8, 2013

Jennifer Bloomingkemper - For Hualien

Like water from a vine leaf
you roll down gracefully and with great intent
you roll a mighty force with you
like a wave crashing over me
remembering the beach
of which a rebirth awakened the soul
and the girl smiles once again


Jennifer Bloomingkemper - Haikus for Taroko Gorge

Taste the land and mist
I see your hidden beauty
Nine turns of the bridge
Swallow's Grotto can baptize
The soul of any man
The heart of Asia
My spiritual playground
You answered my call


Jan. 9, 2013

Heidy Orellana - Travelers

Partners in Crime.
We travel together from Taipei to Tainan,
Because I feel safer with her.
A lasting friendship forming.
A friendship that will spill over into the States.
I take your picture at Lotus pond,
You take my picture at Taipei 101.

Lone Ranger.
She likes to travel alone,
Because she says that she can do more when no one is around her.
She is Brave.
She travels to Kaohsiung City unaccompanied.
She is very friendly,
So she mixes well with the natives.
She loves to shop,
So she stays out late in Shilin Night Market.

Soul Searcher.
His first time out of the country.
He takes it all in.
Everyday for him in Taiwan if better than the last.
He loves the outdoors,
So he plays basketball and loves to hike in the mountains of Wulai.
He is very different from the locals so he gets a lot of attention.
The people of Taiwan want to get to know him.
Traveling for him is like a tattoo,
Now that he has seen one country he is ready to see another.
He gets along with everyone and,
His energy allows him to stay out late drinking Sake and,
Wake up early to see Taroko Gorge.

Traveling with your love.
She is so happy to be in Taiwan,
Because she gets to reunite with her family.
He is ecstatic about being in Taiwan because
He is the reason everyone is here.
They know their way around Taiwan,
So they know what restaurants to eat and,
how to bargain prices with the local vendors.
They speak the language.
They can read what others cannot.
That allows them to move quicker than the rest.


From Sandra Rojas' "Cycle of Travel Writing"

Reflections: There are no words to explain how incredible I am feeling to have accomplished such travel. The cost paid for the trip now doesn't matter neither my hard work in my two jobs. I visit the most incredible place in the world. I haven't travel to much, but Asia was my dream to visit and I love it. My colleagues and professors were great and the people I met wonderful. The Taiwanese people treated me like a queen and I will always remember that. You are so beautiful! I would here these everyday from them and I would respond with a thank you so much. It was crazy how in occasions people in the streets would stop me to ask me questions or to take a picture with me. I was famous in Taiwan! I love how these people treated me they were super awesome. I have to admit that Taiwan gave me a warm welcome to their country and made me want to return back this year. I really hope I get the opportunity to return back because I did really good friends in Taiwan. One of my favorite places to visit was Kaushoung the streets of temples. It was amazing! I went by myself without any fears or to get lost in the streets by myself. I remember how nice people treated me there as well. They would show me in my map other popular places to visit. They even offer to take me in their mopeds. I could still feel the fresh air and sunny day when I was there. I miss Taiwan!


From Adrianna Martinez's "On the Other Side of the World Where a Little Piece of My Heart Stayed, Taiwan"

Reflections: None of us can be the same after this experience. I came back a different person. I embraced a completely different culture, a different world. I cannot say how much of a wonderful experience it has been. I do not regret one bit taking this opportunity and visiting a part of the world. Asia it is not what we think; it is much better. I was amazed by the temples, the culture; the people are so proper, so kind. People would go out of the way to help you, and direct you. Language was a bit of a challenge, but considering only knowing two words like "Thank you" and "Hello", I got myself around the country pretty good. I still cannot believe that I was over there, if it would not been for the pictures and memories I have, I would still doubt it. It is a dream come true. There is so much to see, to learn, to experience, to encounter in life that words cannot describe what I feel. It is a different side of the world, but yet so similar to us. They have so much respect for people, the have a really kind and warm heart. The adventures we had over there would stay with me forever like jumping around making cho-choo sounds to explain to a cab driver to take us to the train station, walking for many blocks and pointing at pictures to get something to eat, writing on calculators to tell the owner of a store how much for a souvenir, using Google translate on my cell phone and showing it to people for them to understand where I needed to go, squatting to use the restroom when there was a regular toilet in the restrooms but since so use to use the ones on the floor did not care for a toilet, and bargaining with signs to get a better price at the night markets. Celebrating New Year's a day before all my family in the U.S, experiencing that when on one side of the world it is morning, literally on the other side they are still sleeping. It is crazy how it works. There are so many stories to tell, so many friendships that would last a lifetime, and so many stories that would stay with me forever. I am so blessed without a doubt. Taiwan has changed my life, my perspective, my world.


From Anthony Mindiola's travel journal, "A Taste of Asia for a Very Brief Time in My Life"

Reflections: It is blessing for me to be able to travel and explore the unknown, to challenge my five senses in a way they have never been before and to know that just because things are different does not mean they are wrong. To step out of my comfort zone and be at easy. As a young boy growing up in the south, I learned stereotypes and placed different races and cultures in separate boxes. But observing the resourcefulness of people of Taiwan and mingling with them has helped me to see those boxes more clearly. This will be one of the most lasting impressions of my trip. I can say that I have walked in the temples and smelled incents that were intended to reach the nostrils of the Taiwanese Gods. I have eaten food from street vendors that has fed a people for centuries. I brought back a small piece of stone from the pacific coast to remind me of the enormous creation on the other side of the world. What I will mostly remember is the hospitality of the people. Pictures cannot replace the sites I have seen. Who knows what the future holds about my returning for another taste of Taiwan, but I will forever remember the experience of being part of another culture and calling it home for a very brief time in my life.


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