Taiwan Day 6: I Made It on the News!

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Tossing the Chinese yoyo

The only time that I’ll ever be famous was the day local Miaoli reporters flocked to the elementary school with their load of technical equipment, ready to interview the principal along with its fellow volunteers, such as me. We had known the day before that the reporters would come, so we prepared a simple medley of talents for the camera. I felt composed knowing that the reporters were coming, but the moment I saw the white van roll up in the parking lot with three people hauling out massive tripods, video recorders, and a box of microphones and audio devices, my composure escaped my insides and was replaced with queasiness.

The schoolchildren upstairs had been sweeping floors and tidying up the classrooms since the first bell, when suddenly from below I heard thumping footsteps and echoes of children repeatedly hollering, ” 他們到了! 他們到了!” (They are here!) To keep all procedures organized, the principal, calm yet assertive, spoke on the intercom for all students to gather in the foyer and instantly all the schoolchildren frantically raced each other, competing who could sit down criss-crossed applesauce first. When the children had arranged themselves in columns by grade, the principal spoke with authority, “Today is the day, and we are so thankful for our volunteer teachers here. The local reporters have come and are ready to report all that has gone on in the past week at our school. We have been preparing for this for a couple of days so try your best and just have fun! All the yo-yo kids, head downstairs first and let’s attempt the “dragon”!” While the yo-yo kids set up on the grass, me and my fellow volunteer mates were approached by the reporters, who set up audio microphones on our backs and told us to write our Chinese names on a sheet of paper. Having the cameraman clip the audio box onto the back of my jeans and guide the wire to the back of my neck was tremendously awesome. I was about to be on Taiwanese News! Who would’ve imagined my first time on television would be in a foreign country?

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Elementary schoolkids

After I was set up, I waited to be interviewed. My stomach felt empty because I didn’t know what type of questions the reporter would ask and I had to respond in Chinese, which I am quite good at, but having to spontaneously respond on the first try on camera was frightening. In my head, I predicted some simple questions she could possibly ask, so I repeatedly rehearsed my responses in my head until I was called on. The double emotions of excitement and nervousness was overwhelming, but I confidently greeted the reporter and stood in an area of good lighting. She instructed me to speak loudly and about 2 inches away from the microphone and within seconds, my two minutes of fame began.

Initially, the reporter asked me elementary questions which thankfully I had rehearsed in my head, but I was at the highest extent of nervousness that I even had to ensure I wouldn’t butcher my Chinese name. Eighteen years I have lived with this name and even such pressure could’ve caused me to forget. More advanced questions were thrown at me and the camera was fast and rolling, but surprisingly, I briskly soared past them one by one, and by the end of two minutes, I had only stuttered once. I felt proud at the moment. Public speaking was never my forte and I personally know of my low self-esteem, but the girl that would appear on the Miaoli News later tonight would be someone of full confidence.

But my fame did not end there. I eagerly moved on to the patch of grass where the children were warming up their master yo-yo skills, and boy was I an amateur among the kids, but I had picked up Chinese yo-yo quickly in the past few days so I agreed to join the yo-yo squad on camera. The first trick performed was the “dragon”, which is great for cameras because it shows teamwork, unity, the Miaoli elementary school as one. It took only the second try for the yo-yo to smoothly move down the line of ten people, from one persons string to the next, and the toss back reached great heights and was successfully caught. We all happily cheered and we, as a school, truly were one in unity. Following the “dragon”, we performed toss ups, around the leg, spider web, and throw and catch. I performed around the leg, which can be perpetual for the ultimate yo-yo guru, but as a non-guru I was currently at 21 loops, when everyone, including the reporter and cameramen, gathered around and loudly chanted the counts in unison. I had reached 40 loops when I saw my yo-yo wobble in which I tried to straighten, but once I hit 43, my yo-yo tumbled off and rolled away on the grass. Everybody joyously hollered, clapped, and laughed and I put on a broad smile because 43 was a great number for a dilettante like me.

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On the Miaoli news

After the yo-yo portion was recorded, I was approached for a second interview on how I was so talented on the Chinese yo-yo, which, umm… I honestly wasn’t, but because I am an American who had just picked up the sport, it was pretty impressive. They then moved on to the Chinese top acts, which I had no place in because I actually had zero talent in Chinese top.  An hour had passed as I watched these little town children, flawlessly execute impressive top tricks, only wishing I was as skilled as they were. Performance can be exhausting, thus when the medley concluded with one last top trick, a lunch of fried oyster mushrooms, fresh bamboo shoots with Kewpie mayonnaise, bitter melon with salted egg, and leafy vegetables was served for all the hungry performers. All plates were later emptied of their food, and classes resumed as usual.

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Dinner

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 3: A Long Hike Up

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Overlook of Miaoli

Up a narrow, winding, steep road, a farmer’s pick up truck propelled vigorously with me and a few other people in the back. The back of the truck, open to the outside world, with no buckle and nothing to hold on to. It was as scary as it sounds. There were multiple times when I felt my body about to fling out the back and onto the road, but I gripped on for dear life to the tiny ledge of the truck. Exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, the ride was one thing I would never forget and I was bummed out when it came to an end once we reached the top of a mountain in Miaoli. During the ride, the lady driving hollered to us in the back, informing us that riding in the back of the truck was illegal, so immediately we tensed up a bit. However in a nonchalant tone, she calmed us down and told us not to worry because all the farmers ride in the back, and that this area of Miaoli is so rural that police officers do not care at all. No rules. No regulations. I was really enjoying life here!

As our muscles burned from trekking up steep roads and sweat beads rolled down our skin, the beauty of Miaoli took my breath away. The view was so satisfying because there was more green than concrete, not yet dominated by human greed. No engines could be heard, no car horns, and the slight flutter of butterfly wings next to my ear was soothing. Feeling lethargic, we finally reached the top, where a beautiful Buddhist temple was located. A couple monks wandered around, minding their own business as we went into the temple, scanned the complex art and architecture, and said a few words of prayer.

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Overlook of Miaoli

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Sink on the roadside

The temple overlooked a big area of farms and houses all in between colossal mountains. Great gusts of wind swept through the trees around us, making a hollow, howling sound and hummingbirds zoomed past, visiting one flower to another. After a calm hour of appreciating nature’s gifts, we made the less-tedious hike down the steep roads, running speedily and holding our arms out parallel to mimic an airplane. We acted like innocent children, competing who could run down faster, and it was insanely dangerous but we were too caught up in the moment to even care about our safety. There were a few close calls when a car drove up as we charged head on to it, but in the end no one got hurt.

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Suspension bridge

Once we returned to the farmers truck, we plopped into the back and prepared to become jello, swaying along with the truck’s motion. On our way back, we stopped at a small food stand and 7-11 to purchase lunch items, which included a typical Chinese lunch box for around $2 and a waffle ice cream sandwich to cool ourselves down. The Chinese lunch boxes were nothing exceptional, but the simplicity of its contents was so satisfying and delicious. All it was was tasty and convenient authentic food for a low cost. Our box contained Taiwanese cabbage, preserved black beans, chicken, pickled celery, dried tofu, sausage, and a hard-boiled egg. We consumed the contents quickly and returned to the elementary school, relaxing for the rest of the day.

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Caramel ice cream waffle

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Lunchbox

-Jamie

Broke College Student #6: 4 Ingredient Vegan Overnight Oats

Broke College Student, food, healthy

My intention for going to Target was to purchase party supplies for my friend’s birthday, but damn does Target know how to do business. I immediately walked and saw to my left their extremely aesthetic dollar section filled with pastel colors, gold calligraphy words, and vintage looking items, all for $5 or less. I always ignore the snacks or little toys, but there was a section of mason jars and glass spice containers that caught my attention, and they were only $3. How do I even pass on such a deal? Deciding that mason jars are too large for my food portions, I selected the pack of 4 small spice jars for $3 with the idea of testing overnight oats. Several years ago I made overnight oats and thought it was the grossest thing ever, until after self-reflection I realized I made “48 hour oats” rather than “overnight oats”. I despised the mushiness of the oats as I wondered why overnight oats were even a thing, like do people like eating mush? But that was my mistake. Do NOT soak your oats for over 7-9 hours, it’ll be disgusting.

Eagerly ripping over the package of 4 glass jars, I improv’d with a simple dorm-friendly, 4 ingredient overnight oats recipe. I am not certain what the measurement are since I eyeball’ed so all measurements are estimates.

4 Ingredient overnight oats (yields 1 jar):

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. microwaveable instant oats
  • 1 tbsp. nut butter, I used peanut butter in 2 jars and almond butter in the other 2
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • 4 tbsp. almond/soy milk

Instructions:

  1. add all ingredients into a jar and mix
  2. place in the fridge for 7-9 hours and enjoy

Tip: since I bought 4 jars, I prepped each jar with the recipe above except the addition of the milk. I recommend to add the dry ingredients and add milk only if you will be eating the oats 7-9 hours after to prevent oversoaking and mushiness.

Note: Do not eat if it hasn’t soaked for 6 hours. I tasted my first jar after only 3 hours and I got a major stomachache.

-Jamie

Healthy Lunch Idea #12: Shrimp Mango Spring Rolls

food, Healthy Lunch Idea

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A fresh recipe is very enjoyable on a hot summer day in the South. A recipe that fit within the lines of easy and healthy are Vietnamese spring rolls that are traditionally wrapped with Thai basil and vermicelli noodles. I took out the vermicelli noodles and just added more vegetable because the vegetables fill me up anyways. I made spring rolls with shrimp and a vegetarian version using sliced fried eggs for my grandparents. Both with great flavor and a lot of protein.

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Ingredients:

  • 6 spring roll wrappers
  • 1 c shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 c thinly sliced cucumbers
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced mangoes
  • 12 shrimp, cut each in half from head to tail ( 2 per roll)
  • 1 avocado(thinly sliced)
  1. soak spring roll wrapper in water for about 3 seconds
  2. layer all ingredients on the wrapper with lettuce first and shrimp on top
  3. Folding a spring roll is like folding a burrito. Fold both sides in and roll until the end of the roll sticks to the rest of the wrapper.

For the dipping sauce:

  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp water (add more if a lighter consistency is desired)
  • splash of lemon juice

combine all ingredients

Because the spring rolls are low in fat and carbs, you can surely eat more than 1. Go for 3 if you are really wanting those vegetables!

-Jamie

Healthy Lunch Idea #11: Taiwanese Style Vegetarian Egg Sandwich

food, Healthy Lunch Idea

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Recently, I have been eating a lot less meat, and although I savor turkey and beef and other flavorful meats in my sandwich, it is simple to create a vegetarian sandwich while still getting a ton of flavor and saltiness in each bite. This healthy Taiwanese style sandwich uses avocado as a replacement for cheese or mayo and the egg as a protein. I also used a cranberry, nut bread to create a contrast between the sweet and salty.

On a side note: Taiwan is one of the best places to eat cheap, delicious food. I have not gone back in 6 years but luckily, this Summer I will visit Taiwan, and I know I will put on at least 5 pounds. Sandwiches like this one can be found everywhere in Taiwan and are popular in gas stations such as 7/11. A gas station in Taiwan differs from a gas station in the US in that it’s more like a food stop and there are fresh foods made daily.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices bread ( I used a fancier bread: cranberry, nut)
  • 12 cucumber slices
  • 1/4 mashed avocado (I seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper, and lemon juice)
  • 1 fried egg
  1. Assemble the sandwich and enjoy!

Something Fancy out of Something So Simple

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Something Fancy out of Something So Simple

I really like to buy crescent roll dough and put a filling in to make a really delicious appetizer. However, the dough can often be pretty expensive, about $2.50 a can so I will wait for there to be a coupon or either on sale. Today, I went to H-E-B and I was so excited when I saw the dough on sale for $1.50! I should’ve bought 5 cans but I only bought 1(now I regret). When making these appetizers, the possibilities are endless! Today, I decided to stuff the croissants with ham, provolone cheese, and some marinara sauce. I had some leftover lasagna and there was wayy too much sauce, so with the leftover sauce I just decided to put them in the croissants. I put the ingredients, rolled them up, and baked them in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. When the timer went off, I ran to the oven and the aroma in the kitchen smelled like HEAVEN!! I served them up with some ranch and a piece of lettuce to garnish. (P.S. I didn’t need the ranch, but the ranch makes the presentation better so….) This recipe is so simple, so delicious and cheap and I used some leftovers!