By Jordan Hu, TAP-NY Content & Marketing Chair

Not by popular opinion, I truly believe that summer is the prime season to visit Taiwan. I have always noticed an undeniable feverish buzz that permeates through the city, especially during the summers. As Taiwan is very community-focused, there is always a wide variety of emerging pop-up shops, community fairs and local events to participate in – everyday truly feels like a new adventure!

Embarking on a week-long journey with my #taclfam

Earlier this summer, I joined a total of 38 representatives and leaders from various TAP chapters, TACL National Board (our parent organization), Political Internship Program (PIP) and Leading Youth Forward (LYF) camp to embark on a week-long adventure to Taiwan. This trip was sponsored by OCAC (Overseas Community Affairs Council), a cabinet-level council whose main purpose is to create international programs to further bridge the gap between Taiwan and America by engaging Taiwanese youth. In the past, I’ve primarily only visited Taiwan to spend time with family so I was excited to embark on this journey with an entirely new group of people.

I created a video mash of highlights from this trip using the app, 1SecondEveryday

As the purpose of this overseas trip is to engage millennial professionals, we participated in a lot of government-related activities such as lectures, workshops and tours. We visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also toured the Presidential Office Building, which is currently in its 100th anniversary of being built! One of the biggest highlights of this trip was participating in a formal cabinet-level discussion with the Vice President, Chen Chien-Jen (陳建仁), where we were encouraged to speak our minds and ask any questions we had in regards to Taiwan. It was definitely super informative to hear more about his perspective on certain topics as well as his ideas on how we can be more active in further bridging that gap.

We also attended workshops where we learned about industries in Taiwan, indigenous tribes and even got to interact with working professionals! In my visits back, I seldom encounter TA professionals who have successfully uprooted their life in the States to make “the big move” to work in Taiwan. One standout professional’s workshop that I had the pleasure of attending was named Sunny Yang. A Teach-for-America alumni, Sunny works as the Director of Licensing for a non-profit organization called “City Wanderer.” City Wanderer is an educational program that utilizes gamification as an innovative way to aspire youth to step outside of their comfort zones and discover the limitless prospects for their future.

How the game works: In teams of three, participants are assigned a total of 30 “missions” to complete within a three-week period. The missions vary in that they challenge the youth to engage with minorities, interact with other cultural groups and more.

In a way, I see a lot of similarities with City Wanderer and one of the events that I spearhead called ‘The Amazing TAP Race,’ except that it is more targeted and purposeful. After attending the workshop, I was brimming with ideas on how to reiterate and potentially expand the gameplay to enter different avenues and territories for social impact!

Getting in touch with our cultural roots

Of course, this trip wasn’t entirely focused on professional because, I mean, what fun would that be? It just wouldn’t be Taiwan without the obligatory cultural excursions that help educate us about Taiwanese history.

During our visit to the largest interactive museum in Taiwan, PingLin Tea Museum (坪林茶業博物館), we learned firsthand about the tea-making process and how tea differs from culture to culture. Did you know that in the country of Turkey that if you have a crush on somebody, you add sugar to the other person’s cup of tea? On the other hand, if you ever taste a hint of salt in your tea, you might want to avoid that person in the future…

We also visited the Formosa Plastic Group, the Industrial Technology Research Institute and lastly, the TSMC Museum (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Group). During my brief visit at TSMC, I discovered two encouraging quotes that I found really inspirational.

The first (pictured above) was, at first glance, just an installation made out of tangled wires. However, underneath a different lighting, the shadows of the wires revealed the translation, “Beyond formidable obstacles a brighter future shines.” The second quote I came across stated that, “If you aren’t innovating, then you aren’t progressing.” These quotes are a constant reminder that we shouldn’t be scared to be innovative even at the risk of failure, because success is a result of failure.

Eating our way through local Taiwanese cuisine

If there’s at least one thing you should know about Taiwan, it should be that the food here is cheap, affordable and absolutely delicious. I always try to read up on the food + travel blog Hungry Girl in Taipei before my visits so that I know where the hottest new spots for food are.

Without a doubt, the most authentic way to experience the local food culture in Taiwan (or really any country that has them) are through the night markets. It can be overwhelming your first time due to congestion but you will find yourself being drawn to the many delicious “small eats.” During our late night run to the NingXia Night Market (寧夏夜市), we were reunited with the classic favorites such as lu rou fan, peanut ice cream cilantro rolls, and, of course, the infamous stinky tofu.

I have also found that another wonderful way to experience food culture are through hands-on cooking or baking workshops!

We found ourselves in quite the sticky situation at the Vigor Kobo Pineapple Cake Factory (維格餅家鳳梨酥夢工場) where we hand-made our own, fresh pineapple cakes! Pineapple cakes are considered a staple in Taiwan, and it’s a common gift to bring back for friends and family. It was way too much fun making balls of the filling, rolling out the dough, molding them and watching the cakes get baked. The entire factory smelled like butter and pineapples — it was absolutely divine!

Learning about film and performing arts in Taiwan

During the trip, we made a detour to visit the Arrow Cinematic Group. They are universally recognized for their work in film production and have produced countless MV’s featuring famous celebrities. We had the opportunity to explore the production set and learn about the equipment they used. They also took some professional photos of us! It was… quite amusing to watch the creativity that went into some of the poses.

We also made a trip to U-Theatre, which is known for performance art and theatre. We learned about the philosophy,”The Tao and Art as One” where “The Tao” means the training of one’s life while “Art” refers to the practice of aesthetics. During the visit, our group was tasked with the difficult challenge of learning both a drumming and dancing routine. Stakes were already set at an all-time high from witnessing a remarkable performance from the high school troupe, but we gave it our all!

…and that concludes the OCAC Taiwan trip recap!

Truly, what an amazing experience this was! Even today, I oftentimes find myself daydreaming about all the fond memories I’ve made on this trip. From visiting a MRT-themed bar to rushing like a madman to cram a Chun Shui Tang (春水堂) boba run in to receiving the best massage ever at Ximending (西門町), I couldn’t have been more grateful to be given this opportunity!

A HUGE shoutout to OCAC for sponsoring this trip, the TACL National Board for making everything run so smoothly and lastly the representatives that participated in this trip for making it as fun as it was. I can’t wait for the next adventure!

To learn more about OCAC’s mission and opportunities, please visit www.ocac.gov.tw