Saturday started bright and early…I had to be at the Luodong Train Station at 7:50am to meet Charlene (my LET from Dong-Guang Junior High). When I came up the stairs she was already waiting for me with two round trip tickets to the Su-Ao Station. As we waited for the train she was trying to teach me to recognize the Chinese characters for Luodong so I could see them on the train and know what train to take from school each day (SUPER important!) She also told me that the name Luodong comes from the aboriginal people, meaning monkey land. So there used to be monkeys everywhere…but of course since the city was built, there are no more monkeys ): But, still a cool fact! We took the 20 minute train ride to Su-Ao (the same ride I will take each day for the rest of the year!!!) and arrived at Su-Ao station to see Sophie (My LET from Su-Ao Elementary)!
From left: Sophie, me and Charlene!
Sophie showed us the way to Su-Ao Elementary from the train station. It’s about a 15 minute walk, and absolutely gorgeous. She took us on the back road instead of the main road, and I am so excited to walk this each day! It goes through really nice neighborhoods with big gardens and minimal traffic (which is awesome because drivers here are scary! Pedestrians definitely do not have right of way…) So I can successfully walk to my school from the train station on my own! Thankfully there are only two turns, because if you know me well, my sense of direction is…well…lacking. So being able to get somewhere after one time through is impressive for me. We walked around Su-Ao Elementary for a few minutes and then made our way back to the station, with some notable stops along the way! First, we stopped at a well that is apparently really old. It’s right near the cold spring, so it pumps cold water out of the ground.
The entrance to Su-Ao Elementary!
Sophie and I in front of Su-Ao!
A panorama of the best and most beautiful school ever!!!
Fish pond at Su-Ao!
Me at Su-Ao (:
Playing with the cold water pump next to the cold spring park
On our way, we passed through a traditional market. We stopped to look at all of the vendors tables. Some were cool, some looked delicious, and some looked….gross. We first stopped to look at a fish stand. Su-Ao is right on the ocean so it is known for seafood. Sophie told me to look at the fish eyes to see how fresh they were…if they are glassy they are fresh and if they are dull, dont eat it! All the fish had perfectly glassy eyes…the shrimp were even still moving! There were tons of different kinds of fish, octopus, shrimp, eels, crabs, seaweed, squid, and snails. There was even a bucket of fish intestines….Sophie and Charlene told me they wouldnt eat that, but their parents would. They also told me their parents know how to clean a fish, but they do not. It is a skill of the older generation…as is shopping at the traditional market. The younger people will go to the grocery store, where the fish is already prepared. Then we passed by some stands with pig noses, and chickens with the heads still on…Sophie covered my eyes to shield me! She knows I am a vegetarian and figured I would think it was gross…which I totally appreciate! Then we went into a fruit stand. Some fruits are the same…but most I have never seen or heard of. Tropical fruits galore!! They bought me “dragon eyes”. I don’t know what they are actually called but they taste like less sweet grapes. They are in a shell that you have to squeeze. Once the shell breaks, you get the fruit out. It is a little bigger than a grape and clear…looks like a giant grape with no skin. It’s pretty good! Not as sweet as fruit I am used to but I am glad I got to try it! They also bought me two melons…almost like cantaloupe but apparently it’s white inside. And unlike fruit in America, you cannot eat it right away. Even though it already got picked, I have to let it ripen at home for the next month before I can cut it open and eat it. So, in one month, I will let you know how it is! This store made me realize there are so many fruits I want to try!!
Then we went to the cold spring park! Cold springs only exist in two places in the entire world…Italy and Taiwan, so I am really lucky to have been able to experience this!! We were about to go in when Sophie noticed a stand on the side of the road and took us over. There is this snack that is a Yilan delicacy. Charlene and Sophie told me if I ever see this anywhere else, it is an imposter!! Here’s what it is: An eggroll wrapper, with peanut brittle and ice cream inside. The stand has a huge block of peanut brittle on it and the man shaves some off the top, so the brittle you get inside is shaved and smooth and so delicious. Sophie had them give me extra peanut brittle! You have to eat it fast so the ice cream doesnt melt, but man it is delicious!! They told me I could find it at the Luodong Night Market so I am officially on lookout! Nomz!!
After we ate, we went into the Cold Spring Park. It was busy, but Sophie said it was good we came early or else there would be no room for us at all! Apparently it is hugely popular. You sit on the side on a little stool and put your feet in and it was freezing!! There were kids and adults with their full body in the ice water…but the three of us decided ankles was enough. Even with just that we cooled down immediately from the midday heat. It was incredibly relaxing to just sit and enjoy the day for a while.
Charlene, Sophie and I at the entrance to the Cold Spring Park!
Then we went to a restaurant and ate quesadillas and chocolate waffles….right up my alley! After we ate, Sophie said goodbye (she lives near Su-Ao) and Charlene and I made our way back to Luodong. Then, Charlene takes me on the walk from Luodong Station to Dong Guang Junior High, that I will be doing twice a month. To our good luck, there was a group preforming at Dong Guang’s giant outdoor stage, so we watched them for a while…it was super cool!! Then we went to the top of the outdoor stage where we could see the whole campus! See the pictures below for the stunning view from above. Charlene showed me lots of really helpful things along the way to the Junior High, a hospital, a big grocery store, an electronic store, and most importantly a good donut place! The donuts are only $12NTD (36 cents)….so I may be eating one every other Wednesday….yum! We also walked through another traditional market that I would love to explore.
Dong Guang’s impressive outdoor stage from above!
I cannot express how thankful and lucky I am to be in this country with these wonderful and caring people who would do anything for me. Charlene and Sophie are the best LETs I could ask for. Their teaching styles match mine. Their classroom management styles match mine. Their goals match mine. And they are the most amazingly kind women I have met. I cannot wait for school to begin!!!!!