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Photo by Ching Hsieh

Tie Dye in Yilan

We had an early start to the day. Before the crack of dawn, the chickens, a rooster, and a turkey had already eaten breakfast and were singing their morning chorus. Coincidently, as we went over how we felt physically and mentally during morning meeting it seemed to fit the puzzle as to why everyone seemed to be a little less rested. After filling our bottles with warm water, we gathered around a family style table and indulged in Mrs. Zhong home cooking. She had cooked our buns from last night; each one was created from the imagination us kids: forming all different shapes and sizes. Paired with the buns was peanut butter, hibiscus jam, sesame oil, eggs formed into the shape of a round patty, and a delicious potato latke esque dish. After breakfast we moved on to our first activity of the day, working in Mr. Zhong’s garden.

We suited up for the dirty labor ahead as we got on pants and raincoats. Mr. Zhong led us into the back where we were greeted by the birds who gave us an early morning wake up. We ventured further into the cage and emerged on the other side to his garden where we planted corn and cabbage. He then harvested sugar cane and took us to watch how its prepared into a sweet, delicious drink. After the yard work and sugar cane example we went inside and waited as Mrs. Zhong prepared lunch. A half hour later we were called down where we were greeted by a dish of chicken and greens and a Taiwanese style of sushi. Mr. Zhong showed us how to make and roll the sushi that we then ate greedily. Further into the meal we departed from the sushi and started eating the rice with egg and soy sauce, since the rice seemed to be a fan favorite, by itself, among the group. After lunch, Pei took us on a journey through the Yilan providence, taking in the local scenery, to see his friend, a local Indigo dyer.

On the  walk we passed a Daoist temple where we met and said hi to some of the locals. The temple was vibrant in color and intricate in style, standing out from the grey and black homes around it. When we reached our destination, we were welcomed from a group of smiling faces as they took us into their workshop. We stood in on a presentation of organic dying and soon participated in the dying our own pieces of cloth as well. Pei’s friend gave us many templates and examples to work with, letting our creativity run free with which designs to create on our pieces of cloth. After the dying process, we unfolded our pieces of work and shared them among the group. After our trip to the studio, we headed back to the house where we sat and relaxed, playing cards and uno together as a group.

During cards, Mr. Zhong walked us outside to grind rice for our dessert. Mr. Zhong used a very old fashion machine that required manual labor of grinding the rice into a paste. Then Mrs. Zhong led us over to the other side of the house where she presented us with a pizza making station. However, the pizza was not like your usual American pizza. The dough was plush, the sauce was sweet as candy, and the meat had a hint of Asian seasoning. However, with such drastic difference the pizza “shlapped”. After an hour or so some local Taiwanese people came and participated in the pizza making process with us. The aura of the situation was very cheerful and homey, giving a great ending to a full day of art, labor, and food.