The past few days, although not filled with parties and clubs, have still lived up to the very essence of being on vacation. Tuesday I finally managed to visit the 國立故宮博物院Gúolì Gùgōng Bówùyùan (National Palace Museum) and it was just as wonderful as everyone says. I realized while walking through countless rooms filled with Jade, Curio cases, scrolls and other timeless art pieces that Chinese history is wonderfully preserved. You can see the subtle changes in religious icons, and jade carving styles as you walk through the past toward the present. It was an amazing place, and half a day there was only enough time to 走馬看花 zou3ma3kan4hua1 (get a brief view of the sights). Sorry, you are not allowed to take pictures in the National Palace museum so a few pics from the outside will have to do.
On Wednesday I had the prefect "semi-date" with Ayaka, a Japanese girl who just arrive in Taipei who is also studying Chinese. I picked her up from orientation and we grabbed a bite to eat near school. Afterwards it was off to 中正紀念堂 zhong1zheng4ji4nian4tang2 (Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall) a very peaceful and beautiful memorial in the heart of the city. We enjoyed the lovely grounds and then headed up 85 stairs to visit the memorial of Chiang Kai-Shek. After reading about the history of China, I am not really sure where I stand when it comes to this man, but he did do some wonderful things for Taiwan, and this memorial is well deserved. From C.K.S. it was off to see the new Indiana Jones movie down at Taipei 101's Vieshow theater. Have to say, I was a little disappointed. Had I not been sitting next to a cute girl I might have asked for my money back. To make up for the lackluster movie we headed off to Shilin night market (biggest in Taipei) and had some Bubble Milk tea and a few drinks to end the night.
I got home around midnight and spent some time preparing for the start of my final quarter. I woke up on Thursday feeling good, and ready to get back into the student swing. I prepared the first half of the lesson in advance so the first day we opened the book running. I have already had two quizzes and am getting ready for my first test on Monday. Forty five new characters and 7 grammar patterns down in two days! Yikes, the speed is fast, but I actually like it, it forces me work even harder than before, and thats never a bad thing.
I started Friday by heading over to 大佳公園 da4jia1gong1yuan2 (Da Jia Park) to watch the start of the 2008 International Dragon boat races. Here is the history of the event straight from Wiki:
The use of dragon boats for racing and dragons are believed by modern scholars, sinologists and anthropologists to have originated in southern central China more than 2,500 years ago, along the banks of such iconic rivers as the Chang Jiang, also known as Yangtze (that is, during the same era when the games of ancient Greece were being established at Olympia). Dragon boat racing as the basis for annual water rituals and festival celebrations, and for the traditional veneration of the Asian dragon water deity, has been practiced continuously since this period. The celebration is an important part of ancient agricultural Chinese society, celebrating the summer harvest. They first used a "dragon boat" to save a local scholar from drowning in the river and went to save his life. They now honour this feat on (or around) the 5/5 every year (Lunar Calendar).
Shida had two teams competing in the event, a mens team and a mixed team. I am proud to say that I was one of the only Shida students there screaming 加油 jia1you2 (Add Oil or Go Team!) at the top of my lungs. Our teams took first place in the first and second rounds of the event, but ended up taking 3rd on Saturday. That just wasn't enough to keep us in the races, but everyone did a great job. After watching our team win the first round I headed off to school for 4 hours of Library time before class. I came into class ready and prepared and eager to end my adventures here with a strong finish. I am not sure what is in store for me in these final months, but I intend to make the most out of everyday.