A typical workday during the week consists of tedious translations of legal documents from Chinese to English, roaming on LinkedIn for talents that we need at ITRI, and reading all the resumes people send in. But that’s not that this post is going to be about, for that would be a boring read.
This post is about my work on the weekends. The bigger purpose of my job is to ingrain a lasting impression of Taiwan in the lives of every foreign intern. I find out what they’re interested in seeing or where they want to go, make plans, and take them there.
Most of the foreign interns are students who have worked hard their entire lives to get to where they are now. We have interns that have scored in the top 1% of India on the national exams, interns that have gained national recognition on their projects, interns from great schools like UCLA, Oxford, and Harvard. Their hard work pays off in successes, but growing up they didn’t have as much fun as I did. Being from an extremely competitive country like India meant that some of them had never been to a beach nor had the opportunity to travel.
A couple weekends ago, we went to Shifen waterfall. Believe it or not, some of the interns had never seen a real waterfall! The astonishment in their eyes was worth the 4 hour commute.
Shaved ice is a huge summer culture in Taiwan. Back in the days, it consisted of ice pieces in a bowl, topped with sweet condensed milk, green bean, or red bean. About 10 years ago, however, someone invented the mango ice. Mangoes in Taiwan are riper, sweeter, and juicier than any mango I’ve had in the U.S. They worked great as shaved ice toppings, but it still wasn’t good enough. When the ice melted, a bowl of refreshing dessert turned into a puddle of fruit pieces in cold water.
Recently, someone discovered a way to avoid that problem. Instead of using frozen water, they changed the base of shaved ice to frozen milk. When a block of frozen milk is shaved down into a bowl, it takes on a fluffy texture, adding one more sensation to the experience. Also, milk is easier to flavor naturally than water. The pictures above show bowls of mango, strawberry, and coffee flavored shaved ice. The foreign interns had never had ice this good.
There is a group of interns that are particularly interested in the culture and old streets of Taiwan. Pictured on the left is a bowl filled with grains. Grain tea is well-liked among the older generations of people in Taiwan. Sesame seeds, lotus seeds, red beans, black beans, rice beans, oats, wheat, barley… 20 different kinds of materials all need to get crushed up by a wooden mortar to make a revitalizing tea.
Religion and beliefs are also big in Taiwan. Scattered throughout each mountain are temples of different religions and beliefs. Pictured on the right above is a group photo we took in front of one of the largest temples on Lion Mountain.
One of the best romance movies in Taiwan (“Apple of my Eye”) was filmed here, a railroad track running through some old streets. Trains actually still run on these tracks, but the main attraction is the sky lanterns. Each color has a different meaning. We chose purple, symbolizing academic success. There, we can write our hopes and wishes and send it flying off into the air. This is a popular destination for couples to come and visit together.
This is the best part of my job. Every weekend, I get to take the interns somewhere different to explore. I feel like I’m truly making a difference in their lives every time they look out into the distance of an beautiful scenic site. I make their internship experience more memorable.