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Photo by Ching Hsieh

Yingge & Sanxia

Today gave us a substantial taste of the deep-rooted ceramic culture of Taiwan. After a quick breakfast we began our journey by jumping between a series of brief train rides until we reached the town we had set out to explore. One thing I believe we have all noticed on this trip is how efficient and clean the train system is here (known as the MRT). It has been the staple of all of our travels throughout Taipei aside from occasional bus rides and long walks. We had a delicious lunch at a local restaurant which consisted of a choice between multiple chicken and pork rice dishes. We then gathered outside a shop which was declared our meeting spot and eagerly ventured off in groups of three to four students to wander the town. There were many shops lining the beautiful cobblestone streets, all carrying ceramics and other forms of artwork unique to their own. I personally found the wood shops very interesting as well as one particular ceramic store which we discovered was a fourth-generation family business. Many positive interactions with the local shop owners including one woman teaching me how to play a traditional Ocarina (a round, clay whistle) made the afternoon in the village extremely exciting and satisfying. After finishing up much of our post-Christmas gift shopping, we gathered and departed for the next village where we were to see one of Pei’s friends who is an incredible painter. We were greeted by him in his museum where he showed us his beautiful watercolors and oil paints as well as a tasteful second floor complete with a bathtub on the porch. We soon discovered that his oil paints were made in a style which consisted of scratching away layers of paint with various sticks and rocks to reveal the spectacular images of our world on the large canvases. On the second floor we learned more about his work and the history behind the building. We were surprised to hear that the walls of the museum were created with a mix of black sugar, rice stalks and shells and sticky rice. This combination created a type of cement that seemed to hold up very well over the years as we were able to admire a purposely exposed section of wall. After taking a photo and thanking the artist we set out to explore the town nearby. It had a similar feel to the ceramic village but was slightly more cramped with many more food options. This outing was brief as we walked to dinner shortly after. There, many of us enjoyed the restaurant’s famous pork rib rice and other delicious options as we reflected on the day. We then unconventionally closed with our PEN-X survey with an interesting X factor question of spirit animal alignment. We shared some laughs and began our journey home on the MRT and multiple bus rides. Today was one of my favorites. The Taiwanese people’s friendliness and hospitality continues to amaze me, despite it being common treatment at this point. I was also inspired by the story of Woo Kuan Te, the name of the artist we visited. He had seen a need to maintain the traditional Taiwanese architecture of the building that his art museum currently resides in, and used all of his money to buy and restore it despite being a struggling artist at the time. The universe gave back to him, as Pei says, when a company decided to buy a large painting of his shortly after, restoring his bank account to its initial state. Pei explained that you sometimes need to be a little crazy if it means doing what is right and you will and the universe will provide you with what you deserve. I always viewed this as a cliché idea but something about the atmosphere, art and story really made me believe in what Pei had to say. We are now back at the hostel, packing up so we will be able to leave quickly in the morning for the countryside. As much as we loved Taipei I think we are all excited to get some fresh country air.