The Intern Diaries: Welcome to 童玩節

IMG_4912(photo credit: Alton Huang — basically any photo that looks professionally shot is photo credited to him, thank you for the memories!)

So what exactly am I doing in Yilan?

The most anticipated post, I imagine: if this blog was popular that is. (LOLZ)

When I first arrived as an intern with the 童玩日報 (tong wang ri bao) or the Children’s Folkgame Newspaper; I think most people were wondering what the ham this lone foreigner was doing in a group of middle and high school aged students looking like a bright round orange.


It’s hard not to stand out when you’re dressed like a highlighter…(among other things.)


Let’s go back a few weeks before my first day at work…

I first met my boss when I arrived at the Institute of Yilan County History– a branch of the Yilan Country Government. I remember him discussing at a pretty rapid pace with Mr. Tseng of 5Qchannel his ideas about what I could do as an intern for the Yialn County Government.

At the time, I had only been in Taiwan for less than a week; and honestly only understood the bear minimum of that conversation. I heard the words for newspaper, help with writing, and parts of sentence patterns with the details left out.  I kept sipping tea and hoping they wouldn’t ask me anything.

When they finally turned the conversation to me to ask where my last name originated from, I stumbled over my words out of sheer nervousness and said that it was German when I meant to say it was Dutch. I had fixed my mistake by the end of my sentence, but it still felt like an excellent first impression of my ability to “Chinese” considering they had been conducting a perfectly fluent symphony just moments earlier, and it was like I had dropped the cymbals and sent them noisy clanking to the ground (boom shi clack clack) just at the climax of the final concerto.

Fake it till ya make it

An adviser had told me before I left to Taiwan as I voiced doubts about my ability to actually do this, so heeding her words, I kept my mouth shut about what I didn’t know, and just decided I’d figure it out as we went along.

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The next week; after they gave me a four day holiday (THANKS~), I came back to the Institute of Yilan County History, settled my racing heart, and got up the nerve to politely barge into my boss’s office, -“buhaoyisi-ing”  as I tried to “eloquently” ask if he could explain to me what I was doing again. Which he did, calmly, enthusiastically, and incredibly patiently considering all the funny faces I was making….

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What he told me was that the 童玩日報 is a newspaper written by students between the ages of 10 and 18 (by my estimates), who cover what happens at the Yilan County International Children’s Folkgame and Folklore Festival. The goal of the newspaper is to show the festival through their eyes.  The Kids go out with the help of a college student assistant and interview performing groups, festival attendees, staff, crafts artists, and so forth, and then take the information they’ve gathered and spend the day writing and revising articles about their findings. These students are known as the 小記者 or Youth Reporters.

My job as the first ever –foreign at that–Intern (making history ladies and gents) would be the following:

  1. Translating Youth Reporters newspaper articles from Chinese into English.
  2. Accompanying the reporters on interviews and writing my own articles/columns in English OR Chinese (though I chose to write everything in Chinese).
  3. And helping the Youth Reporters revise English articles.


Fast forward, and it’s my first day:

We pulled up to the entrance gates in one of the giant tours buses that has — of late — become as familiar to me as the SFSU shuttle bus in the Bay Area. Not knowing what to expect in terms of language difficulty, I hopped off the bus and followed the Youth reporters to our base of operations.


After settling in, the youth reporters were divided into groups, each with their own student assistant. We were then given a tour of the park:


The 童玩節 festival is located at a waterpark next to a river called 冬山河 (Dong Shan He).

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It is gorgeous…

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…and has a house that looks like the house from Up! (gwahahah!!!)


A river that calms my heart…


And is, not to mention: humongous! The above photo is only half if it.

After the tour the students got to work writing.

While I got to work worrying.

The kind of first day on the job worries that incite massive inner panic and the constant need to feel useful while actually not having any particular work to do yet. The type of worry that cripples second language ability and sends the mind spinning itself into a tangled web of insecurity.

I should have been calm. I mean… what can I translate when no one has written any articles yet? (haha).

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But I wasn’t.

So I hunted down my boss, who was incredibly busy that day. I felt a bit like I’d traveled to Limbo Land as conversation after conversation I tried to start with him was interrupted by more pressing matters.

But, at the end of the day, he was there. Again with the calm, and the ideas, and the humor.

And so I didn’t feel so scared.

For the first time since coming to Taiwan. I felt like…yeah:

I got this.


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