Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of Milkshakes and Tea Meals (a side of Government)

Tuesday morning we went back to NCCU for lectures etc. In the morning we had a lecture on environment and community development. I had been hoping for a look at Taiwan's environmental policy, but instead it turned out to be a case study on some village where the fish were threatened and what they did about it. It was interesting, but not necessarily what I was hoping to learn about.

Tuesday afternoon we were able to attend a session of the Legislative Yuan where we witnessed some of a debate on legalizing U.S. beef imports. Following this audit, we met with a representative from the KMT and the DPP, Taiwan’s two major political parties. First we met with Yun-Kuang Kuo, Director of the KMT Department of Overseas Affairs. Mr. Kuo gave an overview of the KMT party and answered questions students posed on politics in Taiwan. These questions included both KMT-specific questions (such as the party’s official stance on various issues) and general Taiwan questions (such as with whom Taiwan maintains formal diplomatic relations). Students also inquired, and received answers to, Mr. Kuo’s personal opinions on what is needed in government reform, the presence of lobbies in the legislative debate, the current economic situation, and the path towards normalizing relations with Mainland China.

Next we met with Representative Wong of the DPP. Representative Wong is a second term legislator and a former women’s rights activist. Our session with Representative Wong was also run in a question and answer format, and because of her background, much of the initial discussion centered around women’s issues in Taiwan. Representative Wong also discussed political and inter-party corruption, major accomplishments of the DPP during their years of majority rule, the DPP stance on Taiwan-China relations and the future goals of the party.

Tuesday night I went with some NCCU students, Anna, Isabelle, Shaun and Jose out for a life-changing meal and some more night-marketing. We went to Kiwi Burger, a New Zealand burger place that makes amazing veggie burgers. It was arguably my first real Western meal since August, and it was amazing. There was goat cheese. And fries. And cranberries. And I got a MASSIVE milkshake. So fat and heavenly.

On Wednesday morning we had the opportunity to visit the National Palace Museum. At the museum we saw various works of Chinese history, dating from prehistoric times to the Qing dynasty. These included works (mostly statue, vessel and tool) made of bronze, jade, porcelain and ivory.

The museum was so, so so crowded though. No one was really able to enjoy anything because you were constantly being shuffled about by bajillions of people. It was hard to hear our tour guide and difficult to stay at any one exhibit longer than about five seconds. I wish we had a longer amount of time, and less crowding to contend with.

For lunch Crystal took us to a restaurant where everything was made out of tea. Cool concept. I had bubble tea (of course), green tea dumplings, and Stephen, Isabelle and I split waffles made from tea for dessert.

After lunch, Amanda, Stephen, Ann, Shaun and I went to the hot springs at Beitou. It was an awkward experience. I was, of course, the only person in a two piece. We were collectively the only white people and the only people under 60. There were 6 pools. One freezing, one kind of freezing, one lukewarm, one warm, one hot, and one scalding. You were supposed to start cold and work your way up. Success, although I couldn't stay at either extreme for longer than 15 seconds. I'm pretty sure I may have experienced actual burns in the top pool, and my lungs were cold 5 hours later from the cold one. My lungs.

Then we went to Danshui, a port town just north of Taipei. We checked out the night market, and sampled a bunch of snacks. Some delicious (kale filled dough thingies), some foul (wind dried, unknown bird eggs). The meat eaters had the danshui specialty: tofu wrapped around noodles and clams. We took a water taxi up to the Lover's Bridge, and I later met up with Anna and Isabelle for some more shopping and Sassy delights.

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