Cultural Immersion

It has been officially a week since our departure to Taiwan. We (Sophia, Belen, Carlos and I) have finally reached our destination and our home for the next nine weeks at Kaohsiung Medical University. All of last week we’ve explored Taiwan, from the Southwest to the tip of Taiwan and making stops around the countryside. Our mentor, Mr. Combs gave us a brief cultural tour as we began traveling from the City of Kaohsiung (southwest of Taiwan) to Taipei (northeast of Taiwan) via the high-speed rail station.

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During our stay in Taipei we visited the National Palace Museum which encompasses ancient Chinese artifacts, jewelries, weaponry, artworks, and monuments. I enjoyed the exhibit of the Qin Dynasty where I had the opportunity to see sculptures of the Terracotta Army. We were not allowed to take photos however I did manage to take a picture of a replica outside the exhibit. That same day we took a bus to the Old Town of Jiufen for dinner. The timing was perfect, as we arrived in just in time to see the sunset. The Old Town was built on a slope, its tight and crowded spaces made it a touristic attraction. There were lots of stairs to walk to and from, and their shops were a great place for souvenirs.

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The following days after, we stayed in a small town known as Nan’ao and rode our bikes through the town. The scenery was amazing, a combination of mountain forest, beaches and rivers. As I pedal behind everyone, I took my time to appreciate the beautiful sight.

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Later that day, our group took a train to Xincheng Taroko Station. We arrived at a small cabin in Xiulin Township, Hualein, Taiwan. The landlords were welcoming and their warm hospitality made me feel at home; not to mention, their breakfast was delicious. The following day we walked a few kilometers towards Taroko National Park (eastern part of Taiwan); it was there where we hiked a few trails, visited a few monasteries, temples, and bridges.

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(I could not believe how much we had walked, our group joked about a good remedy to lose weight was to join our trip, as we ate healthy foods, walked and walked some more). The cabin was a five minute walk away from the beach. Our last night at the cabin, the landlords cooked dinner and would share their aborigines’ history with us.

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The experience for me has given me tranquility from the city life. The food was been amazing, pacing myself to not overindulge. The first week was a real test of cultural immersion as we traveled with a backpack and allowed ourselves to take in the experiences of the Taiwanese food, beautiful sites and an understanding of the complex history of Taiwan; from its people of Aboriginal descent to the beautiful sight from the Taipei 101 where it oversaw the country from any direction. As someone who has yet to learn mandarin, I have to thank Mr.Combs for being our personal translator, we were spoiled to have him around, especially during the times of ordering our meals. I cannot wait to experience ordering food at the night markets.

– Omar


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