Week Five: A Tectonic Tremor, Thursday Trip, and Typhoon Tease

Week Five at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (8/4 – 8/11)

Thursday was interesting. Here’s what my day looked like.

5:30 AM

I wake up. I’m confused. Why am I awake? I’d rather be sleeping. Something’s weird. Are they doing construction outside again? Oh wait, I’m shaking. So is the bed. So is the room. Ah, ok – this must be an earthquake. That’s annoying. I’d rather be asleep. Hmm, do earthquakes usually last this long? I’m surprised the room is still shaking. Wait, this is kind of cool! I’ve never been in an earthquake before, well at least not one this big. Hmm, I wonder if I should be worried. Should I get out of bed? Nah, I’m too tired. Oh and look it’s just stopped. I can hear my flatmates talking. Should I check if anything is damaged? Nah, I’m too tired. 

Later that day, I discover the earthquake claimed only one elderly woman as a casualty. In conversation, someone remarks that he’d rather be an old lady taken by a falling bookshelf than a young person shot at Walmart. It’s a sobering comment that sticks with me.

12:00 PM

I arrive at the American Institute in Taipei. AIT is a “nonprofit, private corporation” that carries out any activities of the US government in Taiwan. Basically, in 1979, the US recognized the PRC (China) and cut diplomatic ties with the ROC (Taiwan). No official ties meant no embassy and no ambassador, but the US still wanted to continue “cultural, commercial, and other relations”, so Congress established AIT. In practice, AIT is a defacto US embassy.

The American Institute in Taiwan's new building.

The American Institute in Taiwan’s new building.

I’m here to meet an acquaintance who works here for lunch. The AIT building is beautiful. It’s new – the roughly 500 employees just moved to this building in the spring. China was somewhat irked when US$255 million was spent on the new compound. My friend takes me through security, and I’m highly aware of how lucky I am to be here. If I didn’t have an escort and American passport, it would be hard for me to visit just to look around like this. 

My friend brings me to the cafeteria and introduces me to two of AIT’s summer interns. We spend lunch talking about the State Department, since we all might want to work there. My friend tells us about the department structure, hiring practices, and the Foreign Service lifestyle. I was stoked to learn it all and it just makes me more curious. Maybe I’ll have to see if I can do an internship at State like my lunchmates.

1:35 PM

I’m on my way back to TFD, reading the news about the typhoon coming tomorrow. Looks like it will be big, and there might even be a 台风假 (Typhoon Day, when all companies must close). It’s already drizzling. Hmm, if there’s a 台风假 tomorrow, that would mean I can’t visit the museum like I planned. I quickly send an email to my supervisor, asking to shift my visit to today. Received the go ahead! 

2:40 PM

I arrive at the National 228 Memorial Museum. Remember the 228 Peace Memorial Park I went to during week two? No? Anyway, there’s another museum dedicated to the 228 Incident. I’m here to write a short brief about the museum for TFD because they might include this as a site visit for a conference. 

The National 228 Memorial Museum

The National 228 Memorial Museum

The 228 Incident of 1947 involved the uprising against the Nationalist (国民堂, KMT) government by the people already living in Taiwan, and the subsequent massacres by KMT troops. There’s a bunch of details I’m learning here at the museum that I didn’t know before. For example, students were highly involved with establishing peace after the protests became chaotic (and before KMT troops arrived). I am surprised to learn that there were several fair-sized battles, one involving a student army, and another involving aboriginal people. I appreciate the history lesson and the clever, modern curation. The volunteer docents are quite helpful, trying hard to accommodate my limited vocabulary. One gentleman starts chatting with me about his relatives who live in Virginia. I don’t know them, but I’m sure we’re no more than 2 degrees of separation apart. 

One part of the main exhibit, which is set up like a pathway that leads you chronologically through the 228 Incident

One part of the main exhibit, which is set up like a pathway that leads you chronologically through the 228 Incident

5:00 PM  Thank goodness I went today, we do have a Typhoon Day tomorrow!


Friday: The typhoon sprinkles Taiwan, but pivots and dumps on Eastern China.

Pan-fried crispy dumplings.

Pan-fried crispy dumplings.

Saturday: to celebrate a typhoon-less day off, my housemates and I go out to eat together. It’s cool because we normally live pretty separate lives, going off to work and school at odd hours of the day. They’re from Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, and UMBC. I’m glad I get along with them because you can’t predict that when you rent a room in a shared house.

Chewy noodles, soft boiled egg, spicy tofu, duck blood (it's made into a tofu-like block)

Chewy noodles, soft boiled egg, spicy tofu, duck blood (it’s made into a tofu-like block)

Sunday: I climb 茶壶山 (Teapot Mountain), which is up north by the coast, with my cousin and uncle.

Teapot Mountain

Me on Teapot Mountain during sunset.


You can see the mountains slide right into 阴阳海 (the Yin Yang Sea), so called because its distinct coloration brings to mind yin and yang duality.