臺大國際華語研習所電子報第42期：春節接待家庭活動 ~ Chinese New Year Host Family Activity (featured in 42nd ICLP Bulletin)
I was also the cameraman for the Dihua Street video and photo!
Chinese New Year Host Family Activity (Translation)
Although Shuiyuan Dormitory suits my monastic ICLP lifestyle, it also limits my opportunities to learn about Taiwanese family life. So I was thrilled to participate in the National Taiwan University Office of International Affairs’s Chinese New Year Host Family Activity. On January 16, international and domestic students made baozi together at Orientation, and from the 30th, I enjoyed an ideal Spring Festival with NTU staff member and Chinese teacher Lizzie Chang. We spent two days in Kenting, then celebrated New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and the next day with her family in Pingtung. On the third day of the new year, I came home happy.
As soon as I left Taipei, the temperature was much warmer, and I no longer needed the thick coat, hat, and gloves I’d been wearing for a whole month. I don’t have the guts to tell my family in Indiana that while they were in the midst of a 2-3 day ice storm, I was walking barefoot on the beach. The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium and the Kenting Night Market were also well worth visiting. We stayed with a family of fishermen who are friends of the Changs. Because they could only speak the Taiwanese dialect, and I could only speak Mandarin, we communicated with body language. This was also my first time to see betel nut and ride a motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle into strong winds buffed my manliness, and I could see the stars very clearly in the countryside.
The Changs are more international than Marco Polo. Not only have they had many foreign students in their home for Lunar New Year; they’ve also once hosted six junior high school students from indigenous tribes for three years each. Ms. Chang’s father and I traded stories in Japanese. He’s a retired P.E. teacher who has traveled through every part of Japan by bicycle. Because he is also a Boy Scout Leader, when he couldn’t find a hotel, he simply set up camp.
Ms. Chang’s mother is an award-winning junior high school dance teacher. Although her family is not Hakka, but rather hails from another province of China (her husband is Southern Min himself), she is the Artistic Director of the Pingtung Hakka Cultural Music and Dance Troupe and tours the world with them because she teaches dance so well. Ms. Chang’s younger brother went to graduate school in Washington, D.C., and his girlfriend also speaks English very well. Ms. Chang’s eleven-year old son lived in England with her for several years, so his English is not bad, either. Even the family dogs know English: her relatives’ guide dog is from Australia. They all mainly spoke Chinese with me, however.
I stuffed myself three times a day. Usually, I eat to live, but during those days I lived to eat. I wish I had a bottomless stomach, but all I could do was eat and chat slowly. The biggest surprise was that I didn’t see a single scoop of white rice because there was so much other food. When I saw a rare dish, I ate it first and asked what it was later; otherwise I would be afraid to try it. I took pictures of all the food I’d never eaten before, and I ended up with more than a hundred photos. I’m afraid even the people who see my album will end up with stomachaches. Fortunately, I also cut my hair over break, so my teachers and classmates all think I actually lost weight.
Because I am Catholic, on New Year’s Day in Pingtung, the family took me to Wanjin Basilica, which is now the oldest Catholic Church in Taiwan. It was a beautiful and meaningful place. The next day, we went to the Liukuei Spring Hakka Festival to see the troupe perform and sample some traditional snacks.
Like Chinese people all over the world, each day I prayed to ancestors and visited family members; I set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve and gambled on New Year’s Day. I spent a whole night as the banker for Cee-lo; my winnings came out to $150 NT (about $6 US). On the first and second day of the new year, Ms. Chang’s mother’s extended family invited us over for dinner. Since her mother is one of eight children, the house was lively. A high school student shared my dream of becoming a writer, so we had a great conversation about our favorite stories and future goals. An uncle went by “Bruce Lee” because he once practiced kung fu. When I asked him about his current hobbies, he said he sings, repairs classic automobiles, and collects antiques. He wasn’t kidding: his closet was like a national museum.
So much happened that I can’t write about it all in one or two days. I’ll just say I hope all my classmates can have a similar experience in the future.
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