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This past Saturday, I had to wake up bright and early. Normally I would be quite upset about this but, I was too excited to sleep anyway because I was getting my host family!!!! Your host family is there to take care of you and make sure you are doing okay. They also take you to do cultural things and explore more of Yilan and Taiwan. So, I was okay with waking up at 7:30am on a Saturday…just this once. We arrived at the Yilan County Government building at 8:30am where we got a tour. It was absolutely gorgeous. Way better than the Mount Vernon town office in that trailer on the side of the road…(:

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On our tour we ran into the Taiwan Photography Society taking pictures of a model…but of course a huge group of foreigners in matching shirts is way cooler than a model so we had to stop our tour to pose for the photographers. They may have tons of pictures of me, but I had to take a picture of them as well. How weird is it that that many people genuinely wanted to take my picture….very. They were in the water trying to get the best angle because clearly this was the photo of a lifetime. So odd.

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Anyway, we finished our tour and it was time for the ceremony. We listened to speeches, some of which I could not understand, but thankfully everything got roughly translated in the end for us. Officials from the government were there to welcome us…they even gave us gifts! Then, students from a local elementary school preformed Chinese yoyo and martial arts. Check out the video below…they were amazing! Not even amazing for eight year olds…just plain amazing for anyone. So cool!!

Whoever made the schedule clearly did not take into account that we are not as talented as elementary school students and made us follow their incredible act. We got up on stage and preformed The Cup Song from Pitch Perfect. We sang a few verses in English and then Jane (a fellow ETA who happens to speak fluent mandarin) wrote new verses to the song in mandarin, thanking host families for taking care of us. Due to my sad lack of Chinese ability, I did the cup part of the song and left the singing to other people. It ended up being pretty good! I’m not saying backflips and kung fu kind of good but it got the job done. Then, the moment had finally arrived!! Each ETA got called up one by one. I got called up, walked to the middle of the stage with my gift in hand, heard a Chinese name get called and realized with joy that it was my principal!!!!! My principal is the reason I wanted to teach at Su-Ao and I was hoping he would be my host parent!! I could not be more excited!!! We took some pictures and exchanged gifts and it was on to the next persons turn.

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After everyone had found out who their host families would be, it was time to eat! It was a “Gourmet DIY” so there were four stations with Yilan specialty food, but deconstructed so you could make it yourself. Principal Lu has a 10 year old daughter named Mimi. I quickly found out she is a picky eater, just like me! Thank goodness! Its bad being a picky eater in an Asian culture because its not really a big thing here…so you end up offending people. In America, its totally normal to go to a restaurant and order a dish, but without this, this and that. Or to ask, Can I have this dish but substitute this with that…not in Taiwan. I tried asking for a dish but without the meat…nope. No can do. You order off the menu or nothing at all.

So at the first station we made this sandwich but with rice instead of bread…it had potential to be good but the rice was flavored with something weird. To my relief, Mimi takes a bite and decides its gross and wont eat it. Then, Principal Lu takes a bite and realizes he doesn’t like it either. I’m off the hook! I threw mine away as well and offended no one. Success! This is my kind of family! Mimi and I were both waiting for the station where we could make our own ice cream in an egg roll wrapper. Mine was not as expertly done as the ones I buy at the night market but still thoroughly delicious. Mimi has really impressive English…like on par with my 9th grade students and she is in 5th grade. So I can actually communicate pretty well with her and Principal Lu!

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After we ate, Principal Lu and Mimi took me to the National Cultural Center for Traditional Arts. It was the coolest thing. It had a lot of traditional painted umbrellas, lanterns, pottery, jade, soaps and toys. All of the stuff was really beautiful. Mimi was teaching me Chinese as we walked around, pointing to everything she could see and giving me the English and Chinese word. Hopefully if I just stick with her, I’ll be fluent in no time!

Principal Lu loves tea and he is very excited that I do as well because apparently in Taiwan, tea is a male drink and women don’t usually like it that much. His wife and daughter both do not like tea so he was really excited to be able to share his love of tea with me. And when I say love of tea, he knows tea like no one I’ve ever met. He can tell by the leaf if it will make good tea and he knows where on the mountain the leaves should grow etc. It’s really interesting actually and I will totally be a tea connoisseur by the time I come home. So we were passing a tea shop in the Culture Center and Principal Lu decides to take me inside. We all sit at a little table with tiny tea cups and the woman in the store makes us all different kinds of tea. When we were done tasting, Principal Lu bought me a bag of tea! YAY! I’m really excited to have nice tea to drink every day!

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Principal Lu decided that one day was not enough, and he felt bad that his wife could not attend, so he made plans to meet again on Sunday. He told me to invite Lakyn and we would go to the hot spring! I’m so excited to have my host family! And if Saturday was any indication, they are going to make my year absolutely amazing!

When I got home, Mimi sent me this video she made from pictures of our day. LOVE!

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