as i ponder the doings of the week and Bellarmine's immersion program, i can't help wondering how the lives of these 24 young men have been changed. they were certainly immersed into a culture very different from the one they left a short week ago. i wonder if they'll realize that their context for life has been changed. the term 'food' might now conjure images of soup dumplings, stinky tofu and fried frog. they might recall an image of a hundred motor scooters buzzing along a road when the word 'transportation' comes up. i bet their view has changed on the importance of learning 'mandarin' or any foreign language for that matter. i wonder what they'll recall for some of the bigger words, like 'school' or' people' or 'marginalized' or 'god'?
i wonder if they realize how important their new context for life really is…that they'll soon be the ones directing the course for all of us, the ones dispeling the myths and attitudinal predispositions about a people in another land. i dunno, but i'm betting some of them do and that all of them will at some point in their lives.
in the while, i'm sure they'll focus on the shaved ice, lantern festivals, mountain villages, night markets, a city of stairs, school visits, taipei 101, new facebook friends and the fun they all had during a week's stay in Taiwan.
'nuff said. we're home in a few…
it was good to back in jufen. it was a rainy day, but we still trekked up and into the city built on the side of a mountain. crowds of tourists jammed the narrow city streets, but even this couldn't take away any of my joy from being back. This may be my favorite place in Taiwan, however, i'm not exactly sure why. maybe it's the proximity to the ocean and the many seashore vista points afforded throughout the city. maybe it's because this was the setting for the mystical anime 'spirited away'. or maybe it's because this is where i witnessed our wide-eyed students take a step away from the critical cynicism that smart teenage boys seem so good at and truly take in the sights and sounds of beauty.
later in the day we made and released our lanterns in pingsi and headed back into taipei for a bit of shopping and dinner. i was surprised when a number of students from national taiwan university high school met us for a final goodbye (funny how they were all girls) and we ended the day with a sumptuous steak dinner!
schools, schools and more schools. it was obvious from yesterday's activities that Taiwan's identity is intimately linked with its educational system on every level. it's refreshing to be in a country that places such a high premium on education. and it's refreshing to be in a place where the teaching profession is held in high regard. the boys had two wonderful presentations given by the electrical engineering and computer science departments of national taiwan university. they even had a chance to interact with some of their graduate and undergraduate students. they also had the opportunity to spend he second half of the day with students from the national taiwan normal university affiliated high school. the boys seemed to fit right in. by the end of the day, after dinner and a romp through a night market, both groups of students had a very very difficult time separating. finally, email addresses and facebook information were shared and we were successful at prying the students apart. 24 happy students back in their dorm rooms.
the rush hour commute was like any traffic in silicon valley…we moved at a snail’s pace. red brake lights flashed on and off, just like home. the multi-laned freeway was dotted with honda civics and toyota camrys and even a mini cooper every now and then, just like home. what seemed strange was such a large quantity of american made fords, something we’d never see back home. my heart quickened as we approached our first stop of the day, Din Tai Fung! most of the boys had no idea what was in store for them!
the bus came to a stop and we disembarked almost at the doorstep of the reknowned restaurant, where the crowds were just starting to form for the late morning repast. we were escorted into the restaurant in groups of six and seven, climbed the steps of the multi-floored establishment, seated at the neatly set tables and finally the delectable joy began. platters and platters of the famous soup dumplings were delivered to us and ‘xiao long bao’ became etched into the memories of our students.
a visit to the presidential palace…lost in a crowd of chinese tourists at the national museum…a quiet gondola ride to our dinner destination…and room assignments for 24 tired students at the ntnu dormitory.
our visit to jingping was different this time. maybe it was because i came with some preconceptions on how it would be. maybe it was simply because the boys were just different students. or maybe it was because jingping had a new principal. i’m not sure. the unadulterated smiles on the faces of the jingping students were the same. the initial bewildered look displayed by our students appeared to be the same.
the ease our students eventually began to display with the jingping students was similar, but something was different. it finally dawned on me during the reflection period that evening that the last time we were at jingping, i had witnessed a transformative growth in our students right at the jinping juncture. for this group of students, a transformation may have occurred a couple of days ago, planting bean sprouts in that small mountain village in southern taiwan. maybe jingping felt different because the boys
were already old hands at opening their hearts.
a visit and a welcome by a belgian jesuit priest; a special blessing and some tears from both, mrs. jan and an italian nun who had devoted over 50 years of her life to this tribe; a discussion with the principal on the value of ipads in the classroom; and an evening reflection with our students will end the day.
student count: 24
next stop, Taipei.