Where do I begin?
I live with the Yilan County’s Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival’s International performers in a dorm in Sanxing， ( the internet connection here is absolutely terrible, which has made blogging regularly quite difficult). Since I’ve been in Sanxing I have lived with: Armenia, Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Bolivia, India, Philippines, Russia, Hungary, Guam, Korea, Hong Kong, Turkey, Serbia, and I’ve only met one other American who has been living in Taiwan for the last 20 years (his Chinese was off the hook!), and presently I am the only American living in the dorms.
It’s a bit like being at home surrounded in diversity, and let me tell you…it’s been pretty amazing.
So there is an event in the dorms that happens at dinner time: we call it 家常菜 (jia chang cai) or “home cooked meal.”
And what that means is that every country group get a night in which they cook signature dishes from their country and share them with the other performing groups. There’s usually dancing, music, and a whole lot of laughs and smiles.
And though it may look like I was shoving someone out of the way in this video to get a better view, I was actually patting my friend on the shoulder to say hi!
The dishes Japan chose to make were a miso pork stew (pictured above) and a beef stew (pictured below). I loved the beef stew so much I went back for seconds AND am planning to try ad recreate it when I go back to America. It was perfectly sweet and savory and I could really taste the sweet mirin (or maybe it was sake, I don’t know) that was added into the stew.
Aside from great food, the highlight of the evening was the dance performances Japan put on.
The performing group is the Kumeda High School drum team, which I believe is based in Osaka. At least that what one of the girls who plays the Taiko (a kind of Japanese drum) told me.
I have that song stuck in my head.
My favorite part of performances is when the performers engage the audience and invite the other countries to come dance with them. Japan’s dance night attracted the likes of Turkey, India, Bolivia, Taiwan, Russia, and so forth…
I’ve filmed some of both the dances, as you will see: the exchange or “交流” everyone keeps talking about, is truly heart warming…
Sometimes I come home from interning and I feel a little sad that I wasn’t able to communicate as well as I can in English..
..but I always find that feeling melting away when I go to dinner and eat with the friends I’ve made, laughing, smiling, telling jokes, learning new Chinese, and watching this beautiful melody of people come together in the purest of ways…
Afterwards, we took a group photo with Japan. As the sensei’s counted up from 1 to 3, “ichi ni san” the students comically smiled and shouted “si!” as the photo was snapped. I assumed this was a wordplay joke because in both Chinese and Japanese language the number “4” or “si” (四）sounds like the word for “die.”
But in the end, the only thing we were dying from was laughter.