And just like that, it’s over. The second and final weekend of the festival came and went in a flash, but what an experience while it lasted!
Saturday kicked off with a talk by Musa, one of the musicians from last weekend’s concert. He’s from Argentina originally, but he’s been performing and composing music abroad for the better part of the last decade. His latest album was inspired by his move to Taiwan, and much of his music incorporates sounds and influences from around the globe. Especially after hearing him perform last week, it was fascinating to hear him talk about his philosophy of music and the shared roots between music forms all around the world.
If that wasn’t an exciting enough way to start the day, as soon as the first workshop was over, a horde of Ryan’s classmates from NTNU all arrived at Goldfish House! He passed out flyers for the festival in his class, expecting maybe eight or nine classmates to show up—but with friends, partners, and other students tagging along, those handful of friends grew into a group of about twenty! By noon, the upstairs gallery at the Goldfish House was absolutely packed with people, with nearly a dozen different countries represented between us. If that isn’t the ultimate international experience, I don’t know what is!
We were thrilled to have so many people show up, but it did leave us with a big question: how the heck do we take a crowd of twenty people out to lunch in a town where most restaurants are located in someone’s living room? The two of us were at a loss, but luckily Ren-Hong sprang into action.
He guided us to Wei Jia, a traditional Yilan-style restaurant with plenty of large tables, and helped explain to the owners what we needed. He even helped us order a few local delicacies! We weren’t able to snap any pictures of the scene, but try to imagine this: almost two dozen hungry 20-somethings packed into a restaurant, trying to order food in a language hardly any of them can read or speak fluently. I don’t know how we would have gotten through it without Ren-Hong!
After lunch, we all headed back to the Goldfish House for the day’s second workshop, hosted by local photographer Juan Sea. Luckily, Yulun and Ren-Hong were able to rearrange the space to accommodate for all the new visitors, and the photographer translated his whole speech into English, so us beginning Chinese learners wouldn’t be lost. It was as fun as it was educational, and a few of us are even hoping to attend his photography classes in Yilan City next month.
We had a few free hours before the final event of the day, so when the workshop was over, we took everyone out to Wai’ao Beach. We all piled into the train and sprawled out on the sand, enjoying the water and soaking in the ocean breezes. It was a blazing hot afternoon, but by the ocean it was cool and comfortable, and the water was as warm and inviting as ever. After an hour out here, everyone understood why we’re willing to commute so far for the chance to live in Toucheng!
Once the sun started getting low, we headed up to Drifter’s for a pizza dinner, and caught a few minutes of live music before hopping on the train back to Toucheng proper.
The last event of the day was a showing of a classic Taiwanese film called “Goodbye, Taipei.” The Mazu temple was converted into a theater for the night, and the space filled up with local families and our group of classmates. The movie was entirely in Taiwanese (which, yes, is a different language than Chinese) and the subtitles were only in Mandarin. We had to scramble a bit to keep up with the story, but it ended up being great language practice! When the lights went on and the credits rolled, we saw our friends off to the bus station, where they all said “Goodbye, Toucheng,” and headed back into the city for the night. It was a long day, but packed full of fun, friends, and memories that made the whole thing well worth it.
But don’t forget—that was only Saturday! The fourth and final day of the festival still loomed ahead, and we rolled out of bed a little late the next day, feeling tired but excited for what the end of the festival would hold.
Luckily, Sunday was probably the most peaceful, relaxing day of the whole festival, a fitting counterpoint to Saturday’s hectic energy.
First, we had a workshop led by Runzhi Kang, the latest in a long line of venerated calligraphers from Toucheng. He came to teach us a bit about the art and skill of calligraphy, as it’s been passed down through his family for four generations now. You may have seen some of these black and gold signs at the edges of our pictures of the Goldfish House—they’re decades old wood carvings created by Mr. Kang’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, a tradition that he carries on to this day. Back in the day, they were given as a sign of respect and honor to individuals well-loved by the community, and Mayor Goldfish received many of them in his day. Mr. Kang took us on a walk around town to show us some examples of his family’s work displayed prominently in the streets of Toucheng. Here are just a few of their works—the paper ones were created by the very first generation of Kang family calligraphers!
He then brought us back to the Goldfish House, and taught us some techniques for creating our own calligraphy. We’re still far from experts at reading and writing characters, so the actual calligraphy was pretty difficult, but we did our best! It was definitely a good way to make practicing characters both relaxing and fun, and we’re hoping to keep practicing in the future.
We finished the day off with another artistic meditation, this time led by our friend Pipi and another local artist, Lai Shuzhen. Using scent and memory as our guides, Pipi and Mrs. Lai helped us create mixed media artworks out of paint, fabric, and even plants! We were all blindfolded and offered ten different dishes of flowers, herbs, and spices, and asked to sketch (still blindfolded!) any memories or images that came to mind. Using our rough sketches as guides, we were each given canvases and plenty of art supplies to create colorful renditions of our pictures.
As much as we’ve been loving Taiwan, we must be missing home somewhere deep down, because both of us painted scenes from our childhoods back in California.
We thanked our teachers and our classmates, and just like that, the festival was finished. All that preparation and excitement, and now we’re on the other side. This first month in Taiwan has certainly been a busy one, but we’ve learned and experienced so much during the four short days of this festival, we feel so lucky to have been part of it! It’s hard to believe it’s over already, but Yulun and Ren-Hong will be planning for next year’s festival before we know it, and with luck, we’ll be able to return for plenty of years to come.
Note: Many thanks to our friend Xu Zhizhen (許之姸), who took the photos of the movie screening and the painting workshop that appear in this post!