Holidays in Taiwan

The past month or so has not only been about studying and preparing for finals, but also about enjoying different holidays. Here’s some information about what winter holidays are like in Taiwan.

Christmas isn’t as widely celebrated in Taiwan, you only hear special music occasionally or see someone put up a tree, but it is still more commonly celebrated in Christian communities as well as around the university where there are more international students. I attended Christmas special event as part of the NTU Navigators. It was an enjoyable experience and a nice way for everyone in the community to come together and enjoy some songs and games. The group even performed a play about two sons who wanted to become artists. Only one of them could afford to do so, and the other had to give up his dreams and work long shifts just to cover the other’s tuition.

New Year’s is celebrated just as widely here as in the United States. All of the people who are in a festive mood travel to watch the fireworks display at Taipei 101. It is one of the tallest buildings in the world and offers an amazing show for everyone to enjoy. The metro usually closes at around midnight, but it stays open for the very first few hours of the year since the city is still filled with activity and celebration. As the crowd disperses from watching the fireworks, some of them travel home while others continue the special night. We had classes off that Monday since New Year’s happened to be over a weekend.

Chinese New Year’s is different since it is based on the traditional Chinese calendar. Unfortunately, I will be back in the US before this special holiday since it happens to be later in the Gregorian calendar. Chinese New Year’s in Taipei in my experience has been a time when many people go home for a few days to join their larger families. The traditional home in the Chinese culture consists of a large household, and this holiday serves a good reminder of old customs. Families get together to celebrate and hope for a good year as well as experience life together as a large group.

ICL Trip (Dec. 16-17, 2016)

The culmination of the International Companions for Learning (ICL) program is a 2-day trip to the city of Chiayi in southern Taiwan. All of the international and local students met up at the university entrance and we left around 6:30 am (really early!). The trip down takes around three and a half hours, and most of us slept for the first half. We stopped at a resting station to grab breakfast and stretch our legs, and for last half I got the chance to meet a few of the other international students.

The first school we visited in the morning was Wen Ya Elementary school. I have been teaching one of the sixth grade classes at this school during the semester, and we only have two more Skype sessions left! I was really excited to finally meet the kids in person, and the kids were just as excited to see me. We played tee ball and dodgeball together, and my class even taught me how to ride the unicycle. We then ate some lunch that the school provided, and before we knew it everyone was saying goodbye.

In the afternoon we visited Sin Shan Elementary School. We watched the kids perform a dance as well as show us their skill with the Chinese Yo-yo. After touring through the different classrooms, we and the students played some basketball. There were also five rounds of intense tug-of-war, and everyone else watching was cheering on the participants. The kids showed us a little game where you perform a sequence of moves with a cup and then pass it to the person on your right. Once you get a hang of it, it gets really intense since everyone wants to see how fast they can pass the cups around.

After a long and fun day of touring schools and playing with kids, we headed to the Look Royal Resort where we dropped off our things and headed to the local Chia Le Fu night market. We decided to try some Mongolian beef, and it turned out to be really tasty! After walking around for a while, it was time for some well deserved rest. Some of the other students played pool, but I was too tired and decided to hang out with my friends in one of the rooms. We hit the hay around midnight so that we would have enough energy for the next day.

The school we visited the morning of the second day was Yu Ren Elementary School. Out of the schools we saw on the trip, this one is considered to be in a more rural area of the city. The event started with the kids teaching us a fun little dance on stage in their student center. We then split up into groups to complete some activites which included things like puzzle-solving and archery. I met a really cool fifth-grader named Allan, and we played some basketball together. He is on the school’s basketball and soccer teams and is full of energy! He even served as my expert during our calligraphy session.

Our final school to visit was Pei Shin Junior High School. The group gave us the loudest welcome (maybe because they are older?) and performed a dance in traditional and aboriginal attire. We played a game in groups where we had to carry small objects with our shoulders together across the gym and drop them into a bucket at the end. It was our luck, because Chiayi also had a large local festival that day. We saw many schools across Taiwan perform in a marching band parade. I even got to see the real Totoro cat bus!

We headed back to the school where we got the chance to learn how to make dumplings and fish balls by hand. During dinner the students had various small performances. My favorite was the cover of Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out”. Everyone got on the stage at the end to do the Macarena dance for the finale. After our bellies were full and we were exhausted from dancing, it was once again time to say goodbye to the kids.

I had so much fun during this trip. In fact, I would even venture to say that this might have been the highlight of the semester. I’m really thankful that I got the chance to interact with so many students in southern Taiwan. It’s good that we all got this time to relax and play hard, especially since finals are only three weeks away. Before we know it the semester will be over and there will be even more goodbye’s to say. This will be an experience that I will never forget!