Andrea Clark

Fourth month of the year and second to last month of my exchange. Wah! So fast! Let’s just hop onto April’s contents, shall we? Beginning with…


GOLD! I found gold! I’m rich! Well, half of that is correct. Gold was found but richness not attained. My school took its five exchange students on a trip to a place called Jiufen. There a museum resides that exhibits the area’s history of gold mining. An activity you can partake in is attaining your very own gold. Just like during the gold rush, you have a saucer, water source and a pile of dirt. But that same dirt, after several steps of washing away debris, will dwindle down into a small bit with tiny gold flakes sprinkling the remains. Placing it in a petite bottle, we fantastically got to keep the gold! So I’m one flask of gold flakes richer!


At the same location, the school trip extended to walk through a mine and a narrow bustling street that winds up the mountains. It was filled with numerous shops that primarily sold food or souvenirs. Time to get my shopping on! Well, the shopping was just a few trinkets of Taiwan, nothing very extreme. Upon spotting an unknown food that resembled tofu topped with a thick sauce, I opted to make it my lunch.  The gamble resulted in quite an interesting turnout. I found myself going “OO! AH! HOT! HOTHOTHOT!!!” Twas spiiiiiiiicy! Nonetheless, brief moments like that are what create grin-provoking memories that last. That and the lesson of pick your tofu a bit more wisely next time!


The American exchange student boy that previously lived with my current host family had his American father and grandfather come visit Taiwan for several days. For one of those days, my current host family and I took the trio around several good tourist sites. Locations branched from several temples, a high viewpoint and a tourist night market. The visiting family was exposed to so much in a brief several hours that it seemed to almost reach a bombardment degree. That’s what happens when you pack a whole culture in only a few days I guess. They all took it in very well even though their faces humorously puckered with things like stinky tofu. What I loved about this time is that I acted as a translator, to the best of my abilities, when the touring family had questions my host family didn’t understand. The feeling of both helping and realizing my Chinese isn’t as bad as I think it is, is quite satisfying. Plus it’s just fun being a tour guide, period!


Double hot springs all the way! On two separate trips my host family relaxed in two different hot springs, one natural and one man-made. The first was at a prominent hot spring city Jiaoxi where we soaked in man-made ones. What was remarkable about this location was all the fun, playful features it included. Hot springs varied from normal hot water to ones with massaging jets to multi-colored concoctions of diverse minerals. Wow, I’ve never heard of such hot springs before! Experimenting each of the different colored pool was a total blast! Though I couldn’t read the Chinese signs, save for a couple, the springs held waters infused with things like rose, sulfur and even milk! In the corner was a small pool with little fishies swimming around but they were the type of fishies where you stick your feet in the water and they come nibble off your dead skin. This was a first time for me and I couldn’t help but bite my lip to subdue the violent giggles trying to escape. It felt like I was getting a hundred tiny kisses, tickles and pokes! Even further, the facilities had four different scent saunas: mint, lemon, rose and Chinese medicine! Mint took the gold hands down because of its strong and invigorating aroma that burned in your nose and lungs until it seemed to clean out your respiratory track. So lovely! By the end of it, not only was I extremely refreshed but also my skin was quite soft and my feet cleaned of dead skin. What a wonderful place!


Also in Taipei there’s a famous hot spring place located at Xinbeitou. Here I experienced my very first natural hot spring. Though a small facility, there were four options of pools: cold, warm, hot, and fiery! Wanting to try all and be smart about it, I carefully relaxed in each temperature starting from warm to hot to fiery and finishing with cold. The hottest spring definitely made you feel as though you were being cooked, sizzling your skin as if in a frying pan. You can safely stay in each spring for fifteen minutes but this one I could only roast for five minutes until I fled the scene. Pausing for a rehydration of water, I wrapped up my time with slowly lowering myself into what seemed like the heart of Alaska. Brrr, it was cold! Advice from a Taiwanese man said to be low enough to have the chilly water up to your neck to prevent getting a cold. As soon as I followed his words…the world started to reel up and down. I was on the dangerous verge of fainting. Through a haze of thoughts and visions, I managed to announce in Chinese that I wasn't feeling well. Some nearby people kindly help me out of the pool and onto a bench to regain normality. Yay I managed to stay continually conscious but no it wasn’t a fun time. Humorous memory though!


Visited two separate times, Yingge is an area that is renowned for its numerous works of pottery. The first time I went was with my host family where we viewed an interesting pottery art museum and browsed through a street speckled with pottery shops. My second visit was with the Rotary district that took its exchange students for a hands-on activity. Well when you’re in a pottery town, the only hands-on activity really to do is pottery itself! Two projects total, we painted a white cup and sculpted a mold of clay into whatever we wanted to. I chose to try to be artistic by going for a half plate-half bowl creation. After the initial shaping, I carved in the equivalent of the Taiwanese flag pattern with “Taiwan” written in both English and Chinese characters. Both crafts were such a blast! I never knew pottery was such a delight!


Something that was a personal desire of mine and special to search for in Taiwan was a traditional Chinese dress! It makes only sense to look for such a gorgeous part of the culture my exchange is based in, right? Surprisingly, such dresses were quite the challenge to find because of the few available stores that sold them. An ongoing expedition lasting several weeks finally landed me with not one but four dresses! The first one was found and bought myself but the other three were a very thoughtful gift from my past temporary host father/Rotary club president. All of them are so striking and four is definitely more than I ever could’ve hoped for! I would say the Chinese dress mission was a success!


One month left. Days are ticking down. Thanks for reading! Until my next report, I’ll see y’all then! Take care!