Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lukang & Puli

Everyone I have met in this country is so unbelievably nice. My co-workers are even nicer than everyone else I have met. The Taiwanese staff at my school are amazing. Every year they welcome new foreign teachers into their school and their lives. We come in speaking no, or horrible, Chinese, not knowing anything about the school and hardly anything about the country. We come here, or at least I did, with a billion questions and a desire for them all to be answered. My co-workers have done all that and more for me. They not only made adjusting to teaching here easy, but they have enriched my non-school life as well. They are not only my co-workers but my friends. 

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go on two different day trips with co-workers. 

On Saturday, myself along with two other foreign teachers, were taken to Lukang by the head of the Kindy department at our school. She is not only the head of the department, but the mom of one of my students. She picked us up from our apartment early on Saturday and drove us a little under an hour to a town called Lukang. According to Lonely Planet, "People call Lukang a 'living museum' and I think I'd have to agree with that statement. The part of town we visited was extremely old and filled with temples, dusty shops, winding streets, tiny alley ways and delicious street food galore. 

Upon arriving, we happened to come across a massive procession and ceremony at the largest, and oldest, temple in town. Apparently the temple had just received some special relics on loan from a temple in Taipei, therefore a procession and ceremony were in order. There were hundreds of people that participated in the event. There were people dressed up in massive costumes, people with swords, people burning themselves with incense (according to our hostess, they do this because it shows that they and their faith are stronger than the pain and Buddha will help to protect them. In her words "but I think it still hurts".), people playing drums and people lighting off excessive amounts of fireworks. 

After watching the procession we went into the temple to light our own incense and do some praying to Buddha. One of my favorite moments from the day happened inside the temple. Our hostess was showing us how she prays to Buddha and what she asks him for. To show us, she had her three year old son (and my student) practice for us. He said some phrases in Chinese after his mom and bowed with the incense and I thought I was going to die from the adorableness of it all. 

We left the temple and had a delicious lunch of oyster omelets, tofu, fried sweet potatoes, clam soup, fried rice and tea. 

At that point our stomachs were very happy and we spent the rest of the day wandering around the back alleys and winding streets of the old town. We did a little shopping, played some "arcade" games, drank more tea, ate some dumplings, and just generally wandered around and soaked in all the beauty of the town. 

My second favorite part of the day happened near the end when we walked upon a little pond with a turtle in it. My student yells "TURTLE" and immediately starts singing, in English may I add, the "Tiny Tim the Turtle" song that we sing in class. I was so proud and so unbelievably happy at that moment. 

It was such a wonderful day and it was wonderful because I was able to share it with people who know a lot about and can teach me a lot about the culture and history of where we were. I loved getting the "inside scoop" on everything. 

Angela and I taking a rickshaw ride

Our view from the rickshaw

Inside the temple

Buddha's brothers. These costumes (people stand inside of them and hold them up/dance with them) were on loan from a temple in Taipei

Intricate wood carvings on the roof of the temple

There was a ridiculous amount of fireworks in such a small place

Setting the mood for the procession/ceremony

The gate to the temple

I love how intricate the temple roofs are. 

Angela, Katie and I

Teacher Tameeka and her son

I believed it. 

My student and I

Hanging out in front of a smaller temple drinking tea

One of the street games we played. We won watermelon juice!

Walking through the tiny alley way

Warrior Ninja Turtle and Spiderman

Love him!

The next morning a co-worker, Alice, took a group of six English teachers to a Taoist temple that she goes to in Puli (about one hour outside of Taichung). Alice brought along a bunch of her friends, who were so sweet and spoke English! It was so wonderful that her friends came along because they all taught us so much about the Taoist religion, the temple we were visiting and Taiwan in general. Taoism is a religion that I knew very little about before coming over here. I have learned so much about it just in these past few weeks and it's been fun to learn about it from people who practice it and know a lot about it. 

The temple we visited was beautiful. It was in the mountains and overlooked a lake. Apparently the temple sits atop a cave called the Dragon Cave and there are other caves around the lake. We were given a tour of the temple by Alice and her friends. Then we participated in a Tao ceremony that was amazing to be a part of. I can't say much more though because it's a secret! :)

After having lunch at the temple and meeting some more people we headed to the center of Taiwan. It was just a big rock with some words on it, but it was awesome because I got to stand in the exact center of Taiwan. Pretty cool stuff. It was the perfect end to an amazing day. My summary of the day really didn't do the day justice. I had a wonderful experience at the temple, learning about an important part of Taiwanese culture. And it was made even better because I got to experience it with my friend Alice and her friends (who became my new friends). 

This was definitely one of the best weekends yet, though all of my weekends have been great in their own ways. I visited Kenting this weekend , so expect a post about that crazy trip soon! 

The view from the temple looking out onto the lake and mountains

The main part of the temple

The intricate details are so beautiful 

Looking out onto the drum tower

So many layers of mountains, pictures just don't do it justice. 

The courtyard of the temple

The ceiling of the drum tower

I'm standing at the center of Taiwan!

It says "the heart of Taiwan"

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