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Photo by Ching Hsieh

Itinerary for the upcoming two weeks!

After a late-night check-in to the Jiantan Youth Activity Center, we’ll have a later start for our first full day. We’ll go through introductions and begin Orientation, where we’ll discuss the course itinerary, health and safety guidelines, cultural do’s and don’ts, expectations for group culture, and set the tone for the coming two weeks. After a dumpling lunch nearby, we’ll have a guided tour of the National Palace Museum and then later explore Shilin Night Market, one of the largest in Taipei.

On day two, we’ll visit the Xiahai City God temple and then explore Dihua Street—famous for all types of dried sundries and art galleries—through a scavenger hunt. After lunch at one of the many stalls lining Dihua Street, we’ll visit a historically important tea house to learn about tea and listen to a guzheng performance by Pei’s friend. Later, we’ll soak in the Beitou hot springs and enjoy a Buddhist vegetarian dinner.

On Christmas day after a bus ride to Jilong (Keelung), the largest harbor in Taiwan, accomplished ceramicist Nicole Wang will share with us the history of Taiwan’s ceramics and discuss her own work in her cozy home. We’ll feast at Jilong’s famous market and then bus to Jiufen, the famous teahouse town in the mountains that inspired Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. After a bus ride back to Taipei, we’ll explore the energetic Yongkang Street and then enjoy xiaolongbao at one of the city’s best dumpling restaurants. We’ll briefly visit Chiangkai Shek’s Memorial Hall as we head back to our hotel.

On day four we’ll explore Yingge, Taiwan’s famous pottery town, eat one of Taiwan’s famous lunchbox meals, and then travel to historic Sanxia. We will listen to a local artist’s story of how he came to open his own gallery in Sanxia and later visit the Zushi temple. After dinner at a local stall, we’ll explore the street art of Ximen district of Taipei.

On day five, we’ll say goodbye to the city and head to our guesthouse in Yilan, a town important in Taiwan for agriculture. After an introduction to local food and community, we’ll help our host Zhang Da Jie prepare lunch and visit a local temple. Dieter’s friend Joelle will hold a workshop on the importance of rice to the area’s history and culture and then we’ll get the chance to help out more in the kitchen.

After a morning of gardenwork and a homemade lunch, we’ll learn about traditional indigo dying through a hands-on workshop and later prepare pizza for dinner in a woodfired oven. On our last morning in Yilan, we’ll prepare dumplings, and then after lunch take a long bus ride to Zhen Xi Bao, an indigenous Atayal tribal village high up in the mountains. We will be treated to a welcoming ceremony and then students will head to their host family homes, where they’ll assist with various household chores.

Over the course of the next few days, we’ll spend as much time with our host families as possible to build strong bonds and learn through being immersed in local life. Beyond spending time with our host families, we’ll also engage in a service project that the community has selected, learn about traditional hunting culture, take a long hike into a sacred forest, make local crafts, and conduct a talent show for our generous hosts to enjoy.

On the morning of the last full day (January 2nd) after saying goodbye to our hosts in Zhen Xi Bao, we’ll travel to Neiwan, a Hakka village, where we’ll spend the day in transference, reflecting on what we’ve seen, experienced, and learned over the course of our two weeks in Taiwan. As we process our own transformations together as a group, we will all leave the course with clearer understandings of what lessons we want to take back home with us. After a very early morning bus ride to Taoyuan airport, our group will fly back to Philly!

We’re both looking forward to meeting you all soon and starting this journey together!