So I’ve come to realize that being a true Taiwanese citizen is about much more than getting my Alien Residence Card. I’m fairly certain the three experiences below put me well on my way to becoming a member of society here.
1. I harvested rice!! One of the elementary schools we toured had a rice patty, which they invited us to help them harvest. Seven of us took them up on the offer. So, on Saturday morning we got on the bus and headed to school! We got there to find it was not just us, but all the important school staff, members of the Taiwanese Agricultural Association, local children and a TV crew! We were each given a towel (to wipe sweat…ew…but it was SO hot!!), one glove (Michael Jackson style?), a straw hat, and a knife. We learned the glove goes on your left hand and you hold the knife in your right hand. The large stems of the rice is itchy, so the glove makes it easier to hold and blocks some of the itch. So, you hold the clump of rice stems, and cut through them with your knife. We did this for a while, putting the stems in big piles. Then, before we could move on to the next step, it was time for a photo op. Note for those who have not been to Asia: Being white is a big thing. People automatically think your cool. A lot of people stare. And everyone wants their picture with you. So my roommate Lakyn and I were at the front of a whole bunch of pictures, both professional and personal (which I’m still trying to track down!), while some of our friends got interviewed by the local news for a short segment. After the break, it was time to thresh the rice. The stalks look like really long grass, but the rice is at the very top in little pod things, so you have to hold it over a wheel of spikes to get the rice out. There is more to it before the rice is ready of course, but we got to do those steps (and the bulk of the work) ourselves, which was really cool. I had the best time and I really felt like a part of the culture. This was something I could only experience right here, and it was amazing! Then, to my surprise, I got another cultural experience that day.
Eating Asian Pears
2. After we had finished with the rice, we were told the organic farm next door just harvested their Asian pears. We arrived at the farm and learned all about how the pears are grown. It is really quite impressive. Each pear is taken perfect care of. They put paper coverings on the skin to stop bruising and sun damage, and each fruit gets special attention. As the farmer was telling us about the process we were getting handed plate after plate of cut up Asian pears…and wow, were they good!! After the talk, we each got our own pear!!!!! (: Now, this might not seem that exciting, but…each pear was worth $7 USD. And it was the most delicious (and GIANT!) fruit I have ever eaten. It was so kind of the farmers to give us all their hard work for free and the experience was once in a life time. I also got interviewed for the local news segment! I talked about how delicious and wonderful the pears were!! So, we’ll see if I make the cut, but it was cool to get interviewed anyway!!
The Trash Truck
3. My last cultural experience really makes me feel like a true resident of Yilan. This is going to sound so odd to everyone who reads this blog, I know. It’s still weird to me too and I’ve done it three times already. It’s the trash truck. In Taiwan, each night you will hear something that sounds like an ice cream truck. A happy song echoing through the streets….but sadly it is not ice cream. It’s trash (talk about a let down!) In Taiwan you have to separate all your trash, plastic, paper, glass etc. and on certain days you are allowed to throw certain things away. So, when you hear the trash truck coming, you take your trash and whatever recyclable item is allowed that day, you run outside, and you throw it into the trash truck as it drives by. Then the recycling truck follows right behind. It is the oddest thing…and it only comes on certain days and at certain times. So now that I know it’s trash and not ice cream…and Ive thrown my trash in the truck…I feel like it was a real right of passage.