So about two weeks ago, I didnt have to go to school because the Yilan ETAs got to participate in the Dragon Boat Festival. The Dragon Boat is a pretty big deal here in Taiwan. I guess the story is something like: Back in the day this poet named Qu Yuan was well liked by everyone in China. He spoke out against corruption and so people in the government stopped listening to him, so he threw himself into a river. The people who liked him went out in a boat to find him but could not, so they threw dumplings in the water so the fish would eat the dumplings instead of the poet. (There’s totally more to it…but that’s what I heard, and that’s pretty much the gist). So now, every year people go out in the Dragon Boats and throw dumplings into the water and do a bunch of other ceremonies for the poet and the festival.
The day we got to skip school wasn’t the official dragon boat race, but it was the first day for the Dragon Boats, so there were a lot of ceremonial things. We listened to a whole lot of speeches that of course I didnt get one word of, but we also got to see dancing dragons (!!) and a man painted the eyes onto the dragon boats (to wish us a safe journey). There was also a lot of other ceremonial stuff with people bowing and giving offerings but I was lost as to the meaning so…
We finally got into our boat and I saw that my host dad (and principal!) came to the festival! So we can thank him for the pictures! Luckily, they have a Taiwanese expert in the back (the one who does all the steering) so it wasnt all on us. The teams here have been practicing for months and they were really good, so at least we wouldnt go in circles with his help. Another ETA , named Albert, was responsible for our drum. Every dragon boat has a drum in the front and the drummer sets the rhythm and pace of the boat. We are supposed to paddle on each drum beat. Supposed to are the key words there….we ended up not so much on beat…but not awful either. Just slow. Since this was just ceremonial, the boats behind us waited for us instead of passing us, so that made us feel better. I think I’ll stick to education and stay away from rowing from now on. A kayak is about all I can handle on that front.
In preparation for the actual races, Lakyn’s host family invited us over to make zongzi (the dumpling things that they throw in the water in honor of the poet). I guess dumpling is a loose term…it is really glutenous rice with mushrooms and cashews and stuff wrapped in bamboo leaves and shaped like a triangle. So, we headed over to Ray’s house…and it was the nicest house Ive ever seen in Taiwan…and most of America too. It was huge! We first ate zongzi that Lakyn’s host mom had already made (normally they are not vegetarian, but her host mom also doesnt eat meat! So, she made veggie ones, which was awesome). After we ate, she brought us into the kitchen to make some of our own! I thought it would be easy but man, was I wrong! I made three and she had to help me every single time because it looked so bad! ): Once again, I’ll skip chef and stick with education. It was still so much fun though, and delicious!!
Then, after we had made our dumplings, her host mom told us, we would sew some of our own! She is extremely crafty (Lakyn says she does this all the time regardless of guests…she will teach her daughter how to cook and craft almost every day!) So, she cut fabric for us and we sewed a little triangle and filled it with mint and other herbs so it smells delicious! They are so cute and they totally look just like the actual dumpling!!!
The next day, we had school off again, but this time for the actual festival. So, Lakyn and I headed to Taipei to see the races. There were almost more foreigners there than Taiwanese people…it was crazy! It also made me realize I think I am going to be horribly overwhelmed coming back to America. I am really used to being the only white person for miles and having no one speak English. So to not only see tons of white people but to also be able to understand all these different conversations at once is REALLY weird. America will definitely take some getting used to! Anyway, there were teams from all over the world, including Israel!!! Of course, I cheered for them! It was really cool to see teams who were actually amazing at dragon boat. Some of the better teams from Yilan could have come maybe, but a lot of the boats here were crazy fast and perfectly on rhythm. Some though were pretty awful…like Fulbright status bad….but for the most part they were really good.
There were lots of stands and stuff around too so Lakyn and I did some last minute shopping (because we have any room left in our suitcases to bring this stuff?! Ugh…I just cant help myself! It was a shirt with bunnies in an ice cream cone! I had to!!!) Then, we went out to eat at our favorite restaurant in Taipei and of course made a stop at Krispy Kreme! We had plans to climb Elephant Mountain in Taipei too, but it started to rain around 5pm, right when we wanted to go. So we postponed until this weekend, so be on the lookout for that coming up!!!