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Cleaning up Taiwan and Getting Cultured

September 25, 2009

During the week, my days are filled with various Chinese language opportunities, whether through my classes or through interactions with new Taiwanese acquaintances.  On the weekends, my routine changes as I have consistently been able to step out of the classroom and even out of Taipei, to discovery new sides of Taiwan.  This last weekend, I first made my way north to Sanjhih Beach to join the Rotary and Rotaract Club of district 3480 in a beach cleanup.  Afterwards, I promptly rushed south to the little rural township of Shenkeng, known throughout the island as a top tofu producer.

Early Saturday morning, I met the Rotary and Rotaract clubs in downtown Taipei, where we hoped onto a bus and drove northward to the beach town of Sanjhih.  After a jovial bus ride, we slipped into bright yellow jackets, grasped our sieving utensils and set out to make coastal Taiwan a little cleaner.

The stretch of beach we cleaned was also a surfing hotspot.  You could rent boards right on the sand!

The stretch of beach we cleaned was also a surfing hotspot. You could rent boards right on the sand!

Rotary and Rotaract volunteers making Taiwan's coast cleaner!

Rotary and Rotaract volunteers making Taiwan's coast cleaner!

After three hours, I made my way back into Taipei, where I joined fellow students for our language school’s fieldtrip to Shenkeng.  Shenkeng is known for its tofu gourmets; in fact it is proclaimed that the best tofu is made here, since the restaurants use a distinctive cooking method.  This place has all different kinds of tofu, such as stinky tofu, dessert tofu, tofu ice cream, tofu cheese, tofu cake and dried tofu.  On our field trip, we visited the old street, aligned with tofu vendors, as well as attended a tofu making workshop.  If you do not make your own soy milk, but start with a batch, it takes about 30 minutes to turn the batch of milk into a succulent bloc of tofu, which can be eaten raw immediately (along with oyster-soy dipping sauce, yum!)

Little Rural Shenkeng, located about one hour south of Taipei City.

Little Rural Shenkeng, located about one hour south of Taipei City.

In the process of turning soy milk into tofu.

In the process of turning soy milk into tofu.

The final product shortly before it was devoured!

The final product shortly before it was devoured!

After this exciting weekend, I also had the special treat of seeing my first traditional Chinese opera.  On Wednesday afternoon, I joined my Rotary host counselor’s wife, Christine, at the National Palace Museum, where we viewed a Kun-style Opera of the historic love story “Palace of Eternity”.  Traditional Chinese Opera is very unlike our own Western opera’s, but it is fascinating.  Live music, accompanies talented actors adorned in beautiful costumes and striking makeup.  On an interesting note, it was explained in the program that Kun Opera “is known as the ‘mother of hundred plays’ and the ‘master of all dramas’.  It was placed by UNESCO at the top of the 19 ‘Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity,’ confirming it as an art form worthy of reservation and appreciation.”  The Opera is part of a free concert series offered every Wednesday at the Palace museum and it seeks to extend the museum’s collection to performance type art.

The two main characters of the love story "Palace of Eternity".

The two main characters of the love story "Palace of Eternity".

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Aunt Mel permalink
    September 28, 2009 12:51 am

    Hi Laura-Just wanted to let you know I really enjoy reading about all of your experiences. It sounds like you are having a wonderful time. The pictures are great and the food sounds delicious!!! How did you meet your friends??? Are they also students? Or involved in Rotary? Can’t wait to hear about your next adventure. Aunt Mel

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