This week’s classes were quite intense. As it turns out, here the grading system is based on the work done during the semester as opposed to based on a mark obtained on the final exam. Most of my courses will not be finished with an exam at all. This means that students are required to prepare presentations (usually group work) and write course reports. It is a good thing that I do not mind giving presentations. At the end I am sure I will learn more. We shall see.
Interesting thing – here almost every professor has two students assigned to organize logistics, such as setting up computer and mic before a class, bringing coffee, managing attendance list and conducting email communication with course participants. I did not find out what are the perks of such job, besides the obvious – hanging out with the prof after hours…
An attraction of the weak was a school club fair. Different clubs were advertising and recruiting new members. There is ‘million’ various associations at the NCCU, the full list (although a bit obsolete) may be found at the following link – I strongly recommend reading through it, some of the clubs are quite unusual… I signed up for the mountain climbing club!
On Wednesday I was invited by Ying Shen and Poru to a cinema. The film we wanted to see was Hayao Miyazaki‘s new animation The Wind Rises. The show was absolutely stunning: the story was brilliantly written and the music by Joe Hisaishi was incredible. The only tiny challenge was the fact that the language of the film was mostly Japanese (with parts in German and Italian) and the subtitles were provided in Chinese. Before I went to the cinema however, I read about the plot and story line so with my limited to “arigato” (thank you in Japanese) knowledge of Japanese and slightly less limited knowledge of Chinese characters I was able to survive the show and enjoy it very much. The experience reminded me of the Aachen times, when I was studying Chinese with German speaking teacher…
When we were walking back home we got into a conversation about farming. Poru informed me that in Taiwan people usually use cows to help them work the fields (not horses like for example in Poland or women like in 16th century Europe). For that reason cows are considered by the farmers as their friends, so in farming villages people do not eat beef. Any reason is good!
Speaking of Hayao Miyazaki’s animations, on Friday Ying Shen took me for a trip to Jiufen 九份 (Jiǔfèn) – a city which was an inspiration for Spirited Away animation. The film was released in 2001, and became the most successful motion picture in Japanese history, grossing over $274 million worldwide and receiving many prestigious awards.Mostly for that reason the town is being flooded with Japanese tourists on a regular basis.
First place we went to see was the Gold Museum, which is located in a hill town of Jinguashi in Ruifang District, New Taipei City. The complex was set up by Japanese during the time when Taiwan was a Japanese colony. Till this day may buildings were preserved, such as houses for miners and engineers from Europe, the mining tunnel and a Chalet that was used by Jinguashi Crown Prince of Japan – later Emperor Hirohito (it is considered to be one of the finest surviving wooden Japanese buildings in Taiwan).
After diving deep into Taiwanese history, we wanted to relax and exercise our bodies, so we decided to climb the Teapot Mountain 茶壺山. The hike (like many in Taiwan) starts with climbing lots of stairs (scene literally like from Kung Fu Panda animation). Along the path there are lots of pavilions where
hikers can hide from sun or rain and rest a little. Thanks to Ying Shen we had an amazing picnic in one of those, which consisted of fruits and Taiwanese sweets. After our short break the weather got so bad that we were forced to stop our hike and go back to the valley. That means that I have to try to conquer the Teapot Mountain one more time in the near future.
For lunch YS took me to an amazing little place located on a pass, where we had the best smoked fish ever (it was first dried, then baked) accompanied by a bowl of rice and smoked fish stripes. Delicious!
With full stomachs and slightly soaked (the rain kept on pouring, but due to medium-high temperature we were not freezing) we arrived to Jiufen. The town was absolutely charming! We started with exploring the streets where various shops were offering local specialties such as: stinky tofu, pineapple cakes, tea and many other (which names I still have not learnt).
After sampling diverse kinds of tea, sweets, pineapple cake, nuts, a pancake with crushed nuts and pineapple ice-cream scoop inside and lavender-flavored ice-cream we walked to the Shengping Theater. This place was built during the Japanese Colonial Era and today serves as a cinema and a museum. During the height of the gold mining industry, Jiufen had 40,000 residents, and Shengping Theater (first theater in Taiwan!) became the center of Jiufen’s entertainment area showing puppet shows, Chinese opera and movies.
In the late evening, after hours of exploring the town we took a train back home.