We’re in the home stretch before the festival begins, and things are picking up speed!
Yulun and Ren-Hong are ramping up their efforts to make the town more visitor-friendly and to spread the word about the festival, and we’ve been doing our best to help where we can. Some of their students stopped by the other day and enlisted our help in planning a new website to help English-speaking visitors navigate Toucheng. They asked us what we’ve struggled with the most while navigating Toucheng, and what resources we wished had been available when we first arrived. Eventually, they hope to have maps, menus, and entertainment recommendations all available online in English. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the menus come first—we’ve just about exhausted our list of food we know how to order in town!
Even more exciting than all that though is this bit of major publicity the festival got this week!
Before we headed to class on Monday morning, we were invited to a press conference in the meeting space of the Goldfish House. Several other foreigners living in Toucheng were there too, as well as festival volunteers, members of the local government, a dean from a university in Taipei, and a few reporters. Ren-Hong was kind enough to arrange for a translator for the two of us, so we were able to follow along with the conference and get a little more insight about the festival.
There were two primary goals, Ren-Hong said, that he had in mind while organizing this event. First, to encourage tourism and visitors to experience what the town had to offer, and second, to get local people back in touch with the culture and history of Toucheng. All over Taiwan, more and more young people are leaving their hometowns to make lives for themselves in the big cities. What Ren-Hong hopes to do both in Toucheng and in towns across the country, is to bring young people back home after they get their degrees in the city, and teach them how to give back to the communities they grew up in.
That message has been making major waves apparently, and according to one government official who spoke at the conference, some people see the work being done at Goldfish House as a model that towns across Taiwan could use to revitalize their communities.
The enthusiasm about the event and its potential were infectious, and we were happy just to be included in the occasion, but our role wasn’t quite finished when the press conference wrapped up. After all the speakers had finished, Ryan and I were actually asked to be interviewed by reporters! You can see a shot of us at the event here, and a video of us will be on Taiwanese TV news later this week. I’ll be sure to share it as soon as it goes up online!
Since that bit of excitement, we’ve spent the past few days working hard at school and using our free time to explore. Ryan recently developed and interest in film photography, so we ended up finding some fun places in search of the perfect camera and the perfect shot. One of our favorites was this little alley we stumbled across that perfectly aligned with Taipei 101. A group of photographers were camped out across the street, waiting for the sun to go down and the building to light up, and they helped direct us to get the perfect shot. A quick Google search showed us that it’s a pretty popular viewing spot for those in the know, and the internet is flooded with shots from the same exact angle. The things you find when you aren’t looking!
One of the biggest surprises of this week though, was running into a family of Americans in Toucheng. We noticed them on our morning bus ride into Taipei, and they just so happened to be on the same bus as us on the way back to Toucheng that evening! Turns out they’re from the West Coast too, and every other year they travel from Seattle to Toucheng to visit family. We spent the rest of the ride home chatting about Taiwan and the States and learning a lot about the Magic Treehouse books from their 8-year-old daughter.
Before hopping off the bus in Toucheng, we told them about the festival next weekend, and they’re going to do their best to stop by! A few of our classmates from NTNU have said they’d make the trek out to Toucheng next weekend as well, so here’s hoping. It’s no press conference, but we’re doing our best to spread the word!
There’s been lots of hubbub around the Goldfish House this week—construction and cleanups and trainings and other miscellaneous festival prep—and the next few days are sure to be busy, but we’re getting more excited about the upcoming festival by the day, and seeing our new friends again is just another thing to look forward to.