March 22, 2015

Adventures in Changhua & Yuanlin

Kyle reporting here for the GSE Team.

Wow! What a great first two days in Taiwan! But like all great adventures, there’s always more to come, and the rest of our first week continued to blow us away.

DAY 3 - FRI MAR 20
On Friday morning, we parted from our first host families and were driven to the campus of Da-Yeh University, a private university with more than 10,000 students studying everything from engineering, language, to arts and culture. It was a true privilege to visit and explore such a beautiful campus. Rotarian Cheryl Bain Bain, a professor at the university, introduced us to the President of Da-Yeh with whom we took several photos. We then enjoyed learning about the school, which has been in existence since 1976 and boasts an impressive line-up of fields of study and faculty and staff with world-class credentials.

After our walk through campus with Cheryl and three students — where we especially enjoyed walking through a forest-like atmosphere admiring various plant life — we had lunch in a campus cafe. We were joined by two totally blind students who are studying at the University. Ruby, is a talented artist who lost her sight when she was 12 years old. We later were honored to view much of her work which is on display in the University study lounge. She also provided each of us with small keychains she made through stringing beads on fishing-line and then shaping to form the keychain. She later spent over an hour attempting to teach us how to make these beautiful pieces. Unfortunately, none of us were successful.

We also met Ivy, a freshman who’s decided to study English and who’s been blind since birth. A talented singer, she entertained us all at dinner with a beautiful rendition of “How Great Thou Art.”

Both of these young women are testaments to how to live a life without limits. I think they will become great leaders in the Taiwanese blind and visually impaired community.

After a day on the college campus—no studying or lugging heavy backpacks filled with textbooks for us though—we met our new host families at a golf club restaurant which has hosted LPGA Tour events in the past. We had a delicious spread of rice, chicken, vegetables, soup, noodles, and lots of smiles and laughter.

DAY 4 - SAT MAR 21
The following morning, Barry, Hailey, myself and our host families—Morn Sun hosting Barry and me, and A-Lin hosting Hailey—went on a long walk through a village famous for its pineapple farms.

We explored the area stopping to talk and sample the delicious treats the vendors were selling. We tried cakes, jellies, pastries—one vendor even had us sit down at a table and brought us out a crepe-like delicacy made with egg. From the same vendor we enjoyed a natural drink made from water and a concoction of fruits to make a gelatin. Drunk/eaten/slurped on a warm day was extremely refreshing.

We spent several minutes playing/attempting to be acrobats at an open air jungle-gym. More accurately, A-Lin showed off his skills and we all failed to replicate him. I hope I’m half as strong and in shape as he is when I’m 65. (Hailey's inner child made a special appearance, too...)

After stunning mountain views, and the enjoyment of such friendly people, we returned to the cars and drove into the town square. Here is where pineapple cake and pineapple juice is given out to everyone—for free—every day of the week. Morn Sun told us that more than 10,000 pineapple cakes and cups of pineapple juice are given out every day. It seems as though many Taiwanese business owners are very generous and believe in the “Give to receive,” principle. We experienced this even more when we walked through yet another market in town and were constantly being given small samples of the goods to try. From goat milk candy, to organic fruits and vegetables, to various kinds of tea, the vendors enjoyed sharing their goods and speaking to us.

I know we’ve said it before, but the people here are so welcoming and laid back. After enjoying our pineapple cake and juice, we posed for a picture with what appeared to be a local motorcycle group. We can hardly turn a corner, or go a minute without making a new friend.

After a morning filled with grazing on snacks none of us were particularly hungry for lunch, however, we had a small meal at a restaurant which has been featured on Taiwanese TV several times. There we enjoyed bowls of soup, rice, meat and vegetables. Afterwords we returned to our host families homes for an afternoon of rest before a party in the evening.

At the dinner party, there was an exchanging of numerous Rotary Club flags, many group pictures, and the entire GSE team were presented with small gifts. The food, beer and laughter flowed faster than water, and it’s not looking like it’s going to stop anytime soon.

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