Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Am Atayal Program in Nan'ao

**Nan'ao village
*our students
Teaching Atayal (泰雅) aboriginal youth in Nan'ao (南澳) Taiwan is a life-changing experience. I am working with a group of first and second graders who are incredibly open, warm, enthusiastic, and interested in learning. I can just tell that they understand what a privilege it is to have an education and to have adults in your life who care about you. They are generous, considerate, and creative. It is a gift to be able to watch them grow and develop and become more confident and empowered. It is a gift to be able to see myself grow and develop and learn from their undying spirit. 
**mural behind the school
**students interpret Atayal folktale using collage and oil pastels
*Atayal word
Mikael Owunna, Jennifer Huang and I have been working with this group of students since November in a program we call "I am Atayal." This after school program is part of my Fulbright Research Project as a Senior Research Scholar and it takes place at Nan'ao Elementary School in Nan'ao village. The village (7 villages comprising 5000 people) are about 98% Atayal, which is the second largest aboriginal group in Taiwan. Most of the students live in poverty and many do not graduate from high school. Because students are required to learn Mandarin and English in school, many of them do not know the Atayal language that their grandparents speak.
The purpose of the program is to use artistic and creative techniques to meaningfully engage Atayal children in an educational program that builds cultural pride, explores Atayal identities, families, and communities, and teaches children English and Atayal language. This program is also an opportunity for the students to share their language and teach others about their lives.
*clay design
In this program, Atayal youth explore what it means to be Atayal in the context of their self identity, family relationships and friendships. Atayal youth used disposable cameras to take photos of themselves, family, friends, and things that make them feel proud to be Atayal. They also selected Atayal words to describe themselves in these contexts. Students are also learning specific Atayal symbols that can help represent who they are as an Atayal. For example, many Atayal murals and weavings have specific designs that emerge from folktales in that culture. These designs may be incorporated into a painting or drawing that we do as part of this program. 
**Nan'ao home
One of the most rewarding aspects of the program has been spending time in Nan'ao village after school. We have been exploring old temples and murals with students, visiting the Atayal cultural museum and learning about their artistic traditions. We have visited weaving rooms and received a lesson in weaving from an elder in the community. These critical parts of community life give me insight into the lives of these incredible students. 
Exciting news! We have been invited by National Taiwan Museum to do an exhibition of the "I am Atayal" program featuring the Atayal students' art projects and Mikael's photos documenting the entire program and various lesson plans. The show is scheduled to open Summer of 2014 in Taipei and will tour to various cities in Taiwan. The students will also be invited to the opening so they can see the powerful impact of their work. 
*photo by Mikael Owunna
  **photo by Christine Yeh
Other links:
Atayal school
Atayal words and language
Atayal Art
Atayal Murals
Atayal tattoos
Atayal patterns and design
Atayal weaving  
Atayal children 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fulbright Midyear and Research Conferences and other Events

Centerpiece at Double Ten Event
During your Fulbright year, you have numerous opportunities to engage and collaborate with colleagues from all over Taiwan, China, Macau, and Hong Kong. Colleagues include Senior Scholars (Professors, Researchers, Artists, Lecturers), Fellows (Ph.D. candidates or recent graduates doing research), English Teaching Assistants (ETAs), the Fulbright staff, Director, and Board members. Although I am in Education and Psychology, the other senior scholars include a composer, jazz pianist, potter, philosophy professor, computer scientist, Alzheimer's researcher, history professor, as well as two education professors. I truly believe that having conversations with people in different fields has helped me think about my own work in more complex and in depth ways because it forces me outside of the comfort zone of my own academic world and body of research. It is a special gift.

Fulbright hosts several events that are socially and culturally meaningful and enhance these interdisciplinary connections. Below are a list of some of these actvities.

1). Fulbright Thought Leader Lecture Series
Shung Ye Aboriginal Museum
Every Fulbright Fellow and Senior Scholar delivers a Fulbright Thought Leader Lecture which is a final speech about the highlights of your Fulbright project. These include a question and answer period, reception, and a taped interview about your experience. The lecture is taped for Fulbright records. Sponsors, colleagues, research assistants, Board Members, family, and friends are invited to attend. I have blogged about one of these Lectures by Professor Charles Hartman.

2). Fulbright Tours
Fulbright hosts several tours of relevant cultural sites in Taiwan. The sites vary each year and there are too many to list but some highlights include the 228 Memorial Museum, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, National Palace Museum, Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines, Huashan Creative Park, Danshui Old Street, Tam Kang University, and countless restaurants featuring different types of cuisine (Hakka, Taiwanese, etc). Family members are invited on these tours and transportation, admission fees, and meals are provided.

3). Fulbright Celebrations
Fulbright organizes many dinners and celebrations during the year. These include:
  • Welcome dinner at the Red House with live music and large buffet dinner. Guests include the Director of AIT, Board members, family, and Fulbright alumni. 
Director of AIT carves turkey
  • Double Ten (10, 10, Ten Ten) Event. This was a beautiful evening of dinner and live music performances with President Ma (President of Taiwan) and dignitaries and leaders from around the world. There were hundreds of types of food (including many aboriginal dishes) and there were performances by many aboriginal communities. 
  • We all celebrated Thanksgiving Dinner together with a special meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and all the fixings!
4). Fulbright Midyear Conference
Workshop conference
Fulbright hosts a four day conference in a location in Taiwan. This year we went to the Great Roots Resort and Spa which featured suspension bridges, giant trees, hiking, and many local sites. During the conference, Senior Scholars and Fellows gave individual presentations of their work. ETAs gave group presentations and Fulbright staff, the Director, and Board Members were in attendance. As part of the conference were also visited several interesting cultural sites such as Yingge Pottery Village, Yingge Ceramics Museum, Sanxia Indigo Dye Association, and Sanxia Old Street.

5). Fulbright Research Workshop Conference
This conference includes all of the Fulbright Fellows and Senior Scholars from Taiwan, China, Macau, and Hong Kong and it takes place in March. It is quite a special event with incredible speakers on different topics related to Taiwan, China, and cross-strait relations: Taiwanese Consciousness, Global Engagement: International Affairs, Economic Trends and Forecasts, Creativity, Popular Culture and Media, Political Process, and several keynote addresses. The conference is at a different location each day including Zhongshan Hall, Chengchi University, and National Taiwan University. Highlights include:
President Ma greets Fulbrighters
  • Lunch and Keynote with President Ma
  • Speech by the Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Christopher Marut
  • Speech by Andrew Ryan (Host Radio Taiwan International) on the history of Mando-pop
  • Meeting with colleagues in working groups to discuss our successes and challenges
During one of our breaks, a group of us went to Xue Wang, an ice cream shop in Ximen featuring 73 different flavors of ice cream including pork sung, Taiwan beer, jasmine tea, chili pepper, and melon.  Also, different combinations of us went out for meals, coffee, walks, and a group of us visited a local Buddhist recycling center.

6). Fulbright Special Events
Simon Levin's pottery exhibition
We are also invited to numerous special events. These may include performances, exhibitions, talks, etc. For example, Ryan Roberts (Director of Cultural Affairs) invited us to an exhibition on Asian American Immigration in the US, talk by Asian American Historian Erika Lee, and other events.  This month, my colleague, Simon Levin, will have a pottery exhibition, "Amalgam", in Yingge Pottery Village at Fugui Gallery (March 28-April 28th) and Professor Hsui-Zu Ho will have a talk at the Institute of Ethnology at Academia Sinica on March 18th.

7). Fulbright Review Panels
Fulbright scholars are also invited to serve on review panels through out the year. These panels include the Fulbright Director, Board Members, current Scholars, and Fulbright Alumni. It is an honor to be able to serve on these important committees that help make recommendations on applications of various Fulbright programs. It is also interesting to understand the process that goes into determining future Fulbright scholars. 
All of these events have contributed to an incredibly rich, diverse, and eye-opening experience filled with intellectual growth, meaningful connections, lasting friendships, and memorable events. I look forward to more of these occasions during the year. Thank you Fulbright Staff and my Director, William Vocke, for all the work you have done organizing these wonderful opportunities!

Buddhist Recyling Center in Taiwan

Volunteer at the Center
The average person in Taiwan throws away 3 plastic bags a day, that is 66 million plastic bags that potentially enter our landfills. An unbelievable 86% of all water bottled are thrown into the trash. Yet, I recently visited a recycling center that is trying to help our environment and find a second life for many of the items that get thrown away. Tzu Chi Buddhist organization (慈濟基金會, literally "compassionate relief") is involved in many environmental, social, educational, and humanitarian efforts around the world. In Taiwan alone, they have 5,000 recycling centers with 80,000 volunteers.  The center deals with many items that most people would assume should be thrown away. For example, they have a station for taking apart audio cassettes into 10 different parts to recycle. They separate paper and plastic bags into different categories. They have a repair room where they fix and sell electronics. The largest thrift shop in Taiwan is at this recycling center and sells items that have been fixed, thrown away or donated.
The volunteers include elder adults, school children, college students, prisoners, and Buddhists who help sort, clean, and separate recyclable materials. People who volunteer here seem to appreciate being outdoors (the center is very serene and beautiful), having a sense of community and purpose, and being treated to a free Buddhist vegetarian meal. Our tour guide mentioned that for many prisoners this is a good alternative to sitting in their prison cells all day. Numerous school groups also come in for recycling workshops where they learn basic sorting techniques and then spend a few hours organizing items. So kids learn at a young age how to help the environment.
Adults clean and sort thousands of plastic bags
One of my favorite parts of the tour included a section where they showed us shards of different types of plastic that they made into blankets and clothes for victims of natural disasters. The blankets were surprisingly soft and it was amazing to see how they could find a use for plastic bottles that would normally be in a landfill for a billion years! This tour was organized by Steven Zhang who is a Fulbright Fellow at Zhejiang University in China studying Practices of Resource Reuse and Recycling of Zhejiang Province Manufacturers. 
Fulbright Senior Scholar Jeff Chen makes power from bike riding

Lesson in recycling for school children

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Taiwan Temple Art from Broken Ceramics

Sanyu Temple, Taipei, Taiwan

Sanyu Temple
Tzushi Temple, Sanxia, Taiwan
Cheng Family Temple, Tainan, Taiwan
Who knew that the most ornate parts of a temple were made from gluing together broken pieces of ceramics? In fact, some of the most spectacular aspects of a temple in Taiwan are the  intricate and decorative statues adorning the roofs and walls. These colorful artistic figures--Chien Nien (or jiannian)--are created from gluing together broken and deformed pieces of ceramics and glass. The name literally means "cut and glue" to describe the this ingenious form of artistic recycling. The resulting figures are visually stunning, with brilliant colors and shapes reflecting unique aspects of Taiwan's religion, history, myths, literature, and culture. Chien Nien have been around since the Ching Dynasty (1644-1911) and are sometimes confused with hiao chih tao, or clay figures, because both types of figures are used in architectural decoration. Chien nien is fired at over 1,000 degrees centigrade, while hiao chih tao are fired at less than 700 degrees. Because chien nien are stronger and more resistant to the elements they are often used as roof decorations. In contrast, because the clay figures are more breakable and delicate, they are typically found on inside beams and walls where they can be protected from the weather.  With more than 15,000 official temples in Taiwan, there is no shortage of work for artists who specialize in chien nien.

Details of chien nien
"Craftsmen mixed lime, asbestos, syrup, and even honey at times into a soft and plastic mass that was then modeled into the rough contours of human figures, animals, or plants. The skeleton of the objects were made of iron wire. Before a figure dried, the craftsmen would dress it by attaching ceramic fragments, giving it specific form and color. Except for the face, which was specially baked and painted, the rest of the figure's surface area was made from bowl fragments. Color, size, and the curvature of the bowl fragments all had to be carefully judged by the craftsmen as they deftly built each figure. Hats, clothes, petals, leaves, ocean waves and fish scales—all required skilled selection of materials and careful shaping" (Leu, 1990).

Sources: http://taiwanreview.nat.gov.tw/ct.asp?xitem=105211&ctnode=1337&mp=1


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What happened to the chou in choudofu?

photo from the village voice

Chou doufu at Sanxia laojie
What happened to the chou in choudofu (chodofu, chou doufu, 臭豆腐) and the stink in stinky tofu? Stinky tofu is a quintessential Taiwan night market snack--deep fried, fermented tofu served with pickled cabbage and spicy sauce. You don't need to look for the chou doufu vendors because the strong smell will guide you to the food. However, there has been a noticeable difference in the amount of stink in stinky tofu. Why?? I have been asking around and reading about this decline in tofu odor. Many street vendors report that complaints from neighbors have led them to change the amount of stench they are allowed to emit from their food stalls. There are also air pollution laws and fines that restaurants and chou dofu cooks need to deal with. Finally, many residents I spoke with believe that the reduction in chou is from a change in the fermentation process. Typically, stinky tofu is made by fermenting tofu in a brine made from fermented milk, vegetables, meat and sometimes dried shrimp, mustard greens, and bamboo shoots (click here for more information ). Because traditional fermentation methods can take several months, many people who prepare stinky tofu need a faster turnaround rate and shorten the process to several hours in order to produce more tofu for their customers. Hence, less stink in stinky tofu! The smell from stinky tofu is so strong that people who buy it are often banned from using public transportation and taxis. You can find stinky tofu at most night markets in Taiwan. There are also restaurants that specialize in different stinky tofu dishes such as Dai's House of Stinky Tofu. Surprisingly, the taste of stinky tofu is very different from the smell and the creamy inside and crunchy fried outside blends well with the cabbage and spicy sauce.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sanxia Indigo Dye

My husband's indigo dye attempt
close up of my daughter's scarf
The art of Indigo dye has a long history in Sanxia (三峽區). The plant used for making this special dye, goldfussia formosanus, cannot have direct sunlight, and thrives in the wetlands by rivers and under bushes. The actual dye is created using a traditional sedimentation method of soaking, adding lime, distillation, and fermentation-reduction (for details click here). When we visited Sanxia, we were able to design our own scarves by tying thread, bands, and wooden sticks to plain cotton cloth before dyeing. We soaked them in the dye to set the color.
Sanxia Old Street
The visit to the Sanxia dyeing association was just one of the meaningful activities we had as part of the Fulbright Midyear conference. This conference is a 3-day event featuring social, cultural, and academic activities for all of the Fellows, Senior Scholars, ETAs, staff, and Board Members. This year, the event was at the Great Roots Forestry Spa and Resort (-->新北市三峽區插角里80), with incredible hot springs, hiking trails, rare bird species, suspension bridges, and trees with giant roots! Fulbright also organized a guided tour of the Yingge Ceramics Museum (鶯歌) and a multi-course meal at Muton Hakkah Restaurant (牧童遙指客家村餐廳). During the conference, each of the scholars and fellows present the progress of their individual projects (from artistic activities to collecting data in research labs). It was fascinating hearing the range of the professional and personal activities people were engaged in. My favorite parts were spending time with colleagues during walks and meals and getting to know them better.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Musical trash collection

Trash collection is a social event
Several times a week, we hear popular classical songs such as Beethoven's “Für Elise” and Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska’s “A Maiden’s Prayer” blaring in the streets in Taipei. These songs signal that it's time to bring out your garbage! Trash collection is quite a neighborhood social event in Taipei. No one leaves their trash on the sidewalk because there is not enough space and there are a lot of of creatures running around looking for food. Instead, people wait and hang out together until they hear the garbage trucks singing and bring out their trash: one bag each for trash and recycling. I read that these classical songs were selected in the 1980's because Hsu Tse-chiu, (former head of the Department of Health), heard his daughter playing them on the piano. It's typical to see people gathered around the garbage truck, talking, and joking as they pile in their trash. Furthermore, in Taiwan, you pay for garbage by paying for special bags (rather than pay a quarterly bill). Very convenient!

Our trash truck comes by around 9:30 PM at night so most people are home from work by then. The people who don't want to wait around for the trash truck, hire workers to do it for them (domestic workers, doormen, etc.,). Many of these workers are recent immigrants from Indonesia or the Philippines so on a given night, you will hear many different languages spoken around garbage collection.

Video Fur Elise trash truck

Video Musical garbage truck

Note: photo from http://crackingtheegg.wordpress.com/tag/living-in-taipei/