Saying Goodbye: Part 1

(5/3) Fulbright Taiwan

Back in the beginning of May, I said the first of many goodbyes that would come to consume my last few months in Taiwan. Fulbright Taiwan was hosting a farewell dinner for all of the ETAs and scholars on the first weekend in May. It felt impossibly early to be contemplating saying goodbye because we still had almost two full months left of our grant. But nonetheless, I had begun receiving emails from next years ETAs asking questions about Hualien and the pros and cons of the county. I was slowly starting to open my mind to the fact that I only had 1/5 of my grant period left and before I knew it the time would come to say goodbye to my school, friends, and all of Taiwan. This realization started to hit me hard as the ETAs from other counties began to discuss their post-grant plans. I realized that most of these people would be heading to completely different states, countries, and jobs. We would be embarking on completely different adventures and I was very unprepared to admit to myself that I probably wouldn’t see most of these people again.


Despite these sad reflections, I had a great time. There was a live band and we all enjoyed the large buffet of food and the delicious desserts. There was wine and although we finished it off quickly it was enough release some of the inhibitions of the ETAs, leading to a large Fulbright dance party. Dr. Volke, the president of Fulbright, even made his way to the dance floor with his wife. We all stayed until the band left and then together made our way back to the hotel. Feeling slightly sad, we decided to go out together to celebrate the many wonderful times that we’d had together in Hualien. Although Sarah had returned home for sports day and Emma stayed back, the majority of us were together and we reminisced about the great times we’d had so far and would still have in the coming weeks.

(5/26) Tongmen

The next and more painful goodbye was leaving the Tongmen community where I’d done community service with another Hualien ETA for the duration of the year. Although I wrote about this in a previous post, it’s an important step of saying goodbye to Taiwan because I was leaving something that I had become a part of in Taiwan that I knew I could not recreate anywhere else in the world. My students, my friends, and the church that had welcomed me into their home had in turn become an integral part of my ETA experience and defined many of my more joyful and challenging times throughout the year. Although I was happy to see that Gina and my time at Tongmen had meant so much to the people there, it didn’t make saying goodbye any easier. However, I will hold the memory of these people and their community close to my heart and when I return to the US, I will remember to be open, generous, and welcoming to others in the same way that these people were to me. IMG-3893

(6/5 and 6/12) English Camps

Since September, every Wednesday afternoon Karina, Emma, and I went to either Fengbin Elementary School or Zhi Xue Elementary School to teach English. Instead of classes strictly structured around a textbook, we were given more freedom to create our own creative lessons teaching themes provided by the English teachers at these respective schools. After two semesters of time traveling to these places, it was time to teach our last classes and close this chapter of our Fulbright grant. We prepared a short game of jeopardy reviewing the topics we covered in the last semester and collected all the assignments, worksheets, and projects that we had completed throughout the year. Then we made a book of progress. Each of the students wrote a short letter of reflection and covered their book with stickers. When the bell rang, we gave them each a piece of candy as we often do, placed three star stickers in their camp book, and waved goodbye. Several students lingered to ask us for our signature and say a few last words, but most kids were out the door like any regular Wednesday.


a letter written by Rachel

Although I felt very sad in that moment, I realized that these students would continue on with their lives. Perhaps we’d been able to teach them a few words in English or open their eyes to a larger world outside of their classroom. Maybe one or two students would find inspiration in our lessons and continue to study English diligently. Or perhaps not. But regardless, we had put in our best efforts and I had really enjoyed the challenges and opportunities that came with teaching in a school with three other ETAs and no Chinese-speaking co-teacher. I learned a lot about myself and I pushed my limits of patience, teamwork, and Chinese to new levels that I didn’t know were possible.

A few weeks later Karina and I were at the Dragon Boat Festival Races at Li Yu Lake when we spotted Candy, one of our students from Fengbin running up to us. She was beaming from ear to ear when she saw Karina and I and she was so excited to introduce us to her mother. The excitement she exhibited made me realize that we had managed to build a connection in this short year and I hope this carries her and our other students on to have positive memories of English as they continue on with their studies and lives.


(6/19) 6th Grade Graduation

My saddest goodbye to date has been my 6th grade class at their graduation ceremony last Wednesday. Leading up to the event, all of my students had been approaching me asking, “Teacher, will you cry?!” “Definitely,” I responded. They reassured me that there was no need to cry and gave me a hug to make me feel better. But I knew I would. My sixth grade class is only seven students and over the year I’d gotten quite close to them. I teach them four classes a week and sometimes six if I help with Demi’s art class. I eat lunch with them regularly and out of all of my students, I can communicate best with them because their English is quite good.


Four of my sixth graders and my co-teacher Demi!

Since the start of the second semester, we’ve been preparing for graduation. In music class we have been rehearsing their graduation song and my music and English classes were occasionally cancelled for various graduation preparations. All of the grades had been preparing graduation posters and cards for the 6th grade and Demi and I were teaching a send-off song to that all of the younger students would sing to the 6th grade. It felt so far away for so long until the week finally arrived. The day before graduation, we had a rehearsal. The sixth graders dressed in their Toroko ceremony clothing and the entire school performed the dance they’d been rehearsing in the courtyard all year. The school presented awards and diplomas and finally the time came to sing. Before I knew what was happening I was crying! The students were surprised to see me crying and after the rehearsal was over, they ran up to find and hug me. By the next period the entire school knew that I had cried and it was rather embarrassing.

The day of graduation, I had the chance to say goodbye to my sixth graders early in the morning as they got ready for their ceremony. They too reminded me not to cry but I reminded them that I wasn’t just saying goodbye to them as the other students were, I was also saying goodbye to all the other students at the school, the teachers, Hualien, and all of Taiwan. All of these sad emotions were culminating in this one event and I was so sad. I did my best not to cry but before I knew it, I was already feeling emotional as I watched my students perform their dance. When it was time to sing, I was trying my best to hold back my tears. I was sitting with the third grade class and they kept glancing back to see if I would start crying. But then before I knew what was happening, suddenly the entire class was crying, which of course made me cry. It seemed that the whole school was in tears.

Even though they’ve already graduated, the sixth graders have returned to school several times since then to hang out. They added me on social media and promised to stay in touch. I’m grateful to have gotten to know them so well and I hope that they continue to study hard. Perhaps one day they’ll make their way to the US! With the first of the goodbyes behind me, I’m finally accepting the reality that I’ve only got one week left here in Taiwan. I’m far from ready to leave but I’m also frantically in the midst of packing, closing my bank account, cleaning my apartment, and tying up all of the lose ends. The undeniable reality is that many more goodbyes are just around the corner and ready or not, it’s time to leave Taiwan.

(6/9) Dragons and the Walami Trail

The Dragon Boat Festival

Although the Dragon Boat Festival is a joyous occasion and is celebrated with Zongzi, boat races, and satchels, the history behind the holiday is actually quite sad. The holiday commemorates a man who drowned himself in the river after being accused of crimes he didn’t commit and although his body was never found, the races remind people of the search to find this man. Zongzi, or rice wrapped in leaves, is a traditional food eaten on this holiday. People started eating this because after the man died, people threw rice wrapped in leaves into the river in hopes to occupy the fish and keep them from eating his body. You can read more about it here.


Vegetarian Zongzi given to me at a restaurant in Hualien

However, the mood that I observed on this holiday (Friday 6/7) was anything but somber. In each county in Taiwan, dragon boat races are held. Two teams of 12 or more people compete in a race and the first team to capture the flag wins. In Hualien the races were held at Liyu Lake. A few of my students and friends from Tongmen were competing too so I gathered together a crew of people from Hualien and we headed there to cheer them on. It was a huge celebration! Vendors were selling food and drinks, and tents were set up for each team while they were waiting for their competition time. I wasn’t sure what time my students were competing but I was able to meet up with a friend Taku. He told me he was racing in the early afternoon so we waited for his time.


My friend Taku from Tongmen!

According to Taku, each team raced twice and if they won one of the races they continued on to round 2 on Saturday. He had already lost one race but he still had one more to go. We went down to the lakeside to watch the races. In the boat racers sat two by two facing backwards. In the front of the boat was someone who was leaning over the dragon head to snatch the flag and one person who was drumming to keep a consistent beat that the rowers could follow. We saw several boats capsize! I cheered for one of the teams that I though was one of my students, but it turned out to be my coworker instead. It was an incredibly hot day so we got some frozen drinks and continued to cheer on the teams. When it was time for Taku to race we cheered loudly, but unfortunately he was overtaken by another team. Some teams clearly had practiced may times and were very well organized and took the racing seriously. Others were much more disorganized, but nonetheless looked like they were having a great time.

We ran into one of my students from Fengbin English camp and it was the first time I had ever seen my students outside of school. It was exciting to see her again because we had already had our last Fengbin day and we hadn’t expected to run into her again. We got the opportunity to share with her mother all the hard work that she had done too!

Around noon, we headed home because an ETA from Changhua was coming to hike the Walami Trail with me. It was a really cool experience to see the races and I am grateful to have had to chance to witness this important Taiwanese holiday!

The Walami Trail

Back in December, an ETA told me that one of the most beautiful trails in Taiwan is the Walami Trail in southern Hualien. Unlike the hikes I did in Toroko, this hike was not up in the mountains. It was a trail along a gorge that passed over several suspension bridges and by many impressive waterfalls. So when another ETA from Changhua messaged me and asked if I wanted to go hiking or biking with her in Hualien, I immediately began planning a trip to the Walami Trail.

Like several other famous trails in Hualien, it is quite difficult to acquire a permit if you plan to spend the night on the Walami Trail. We had to make a reservation about a month in advance, especially because we were also planning to use the long weekend of dragon boat festival to hike. Luckily, I was able to secure two of the last camping permits so we were good to go. My friend Rachel would bring her own tent because mine was quite small. I would do my best to find and borrow a camping stove in Hualien so we could have plenty of food to eat.

When the time came for our trip, I admitted to Rachel that I had been unable to find a stove. In turn she told me that the only tent she could find was for 6 people so we both had failed at our missions. Nevertheless, we were still determined to hike and found some food that didn’t need to be cooked. We decided to share my tent and I borrowed a pack from my roommate. Because Rachel didn’t have a backpacking bag, we shared mine and decided to switch off throughout the hike between the larger and smaller bag.


Pre-hiking shopping adventures… finding Bates in Taiwan!

We made our way to Yuli early Saturday morning, and from there took a taxi to the trailhead. Our driver was extremely amused by the size comparison between our bags and even when I insisted that both of our things were in the bigger pack, he still couldn’t stop laughing. It was a beautiful but hot day and before we had even started hiking we were already beginning to sweat. Within the first mile, we crossed a suspension bridge that overlooked a large gorge between the mountains. It was stunning! Clouds speckled the sky but for the most part it was clear and bright blue. We stopped several times to appreciate the views and take pictures. Before too long, we passed a large group on their way up to the midway point of the trail. We began talking to them and when they found out Rachel was from Changhua like them, they suddenly became out new best friends. They gave us 饅頭 (mantou) bread and insisted on taking a group picture. Then, they cheered us on as we continued up the trail.

Before too long we reached the first large stop, a cabin about halfway between the trailhead and the final cabin. There we stopped to refill water and eat a quick lunch. There were many people there and I discovered that this was the turn-around point for people that were just hiking for half a day. While we were there, we saw a weasel running through the woods! When we began hiking again we were in the restricted area of the trail that you could only hike with a permit. From here it was less crowded and we didn’t encounter any other groups until we were close to the cabin. In the last mile or so, we passed a large group of hikers following a guide with an absolutely massive backpack. He started taking photos of us as we passed by but we quickly walked on.

62247794_853323145023566_4443343701518843904_nWhen we arrived to the top, we chose our tent platform and set up the tent. It was sooooo much smaller than I remembered. It was practically a coffin! We both brainstormed ways to fit in the tent and finally determined that the best option was to sleep head to feet and spoon because it was quite tiny. While we were setting up other groups arrived. There was only one other tent group that set up on the platform beside us and everyone else was sleeping in the cabin. We soon discovered that this was not so much camping as it was glamping. There were FLUSHING toilets and a SHOWER (even if it was a hose secured to the edge of the bathroom). We showered and washed off our clothes that were soaked through with sweat, and headed back out to the picnic tables for a relaxing evening.

While we were hanging out at the cabins, the group leader of the large group began preparing their food. Giant bowls and food were emerging from his pack, it was no wonder that the pack was absolutely enormous. Suddenly, the entire group came over to the table. They began asking us a million questions and I struggled to keep up, but my main takeaway was that they were demanding that we eat dinner with them. We assured them that we had our own dinner (some very smushed PB&J sandwiches) but they insisted and so finally we accepted their invitation (because fresh veggies, tofu, fruit, pork, and chicken sure beats the PB&J sandwiches we had planned on eating). The food was delicious and the group graciously encouraged us to eat more. We definitely had not expected to eat this well and we were quite grateful.


While we were eating, the topic of our tent came up in conversation. I overheard snippets of conversation including “It is way too small for two people” and “No way they will be able to sleep!” and finally “They will have to hug all night!” The group was not satisfied with this situation and when they came upon an agreement the group leader turned to us and insisted, “You will sleep in the cabin.” I told him that I knew the cabin was full and it was no problem, we would make it work. My answer seemed to dissatisfy him greatly and he frowned and said, “no, I will sleep outside.” I fervently tried to explain our sleeping plans to him but he was not having it and instead informed me that regardless, he would sleep outside and if one of us didn’t sleep in the cabin there would be an empty spot. When I realized there was no budging this guy, I told Rachel what he had said. She moved her things to the cabin and we thanked our new friend profusely.

We stayed up until 9 watching the stars before heading to sleep. The evening was cool and I slept extremely well in the tent all cuddled in my sleeping bag. I awoke at 3 am to the sound of voices. Confused for a second, I realized it was the guide starting to make breakfast. At 3 am!!! Shocked, I rolled over an fell asleep, only to be woken up a few hours later by the entire cabin noisily eating their breakfast. I overheard our friend talking to Rachel. “Where’s your foreign friend?” he asked. “She’s still sleeping.” “Well go wake her up!” Then, a slight tapping on my tent. I sleepily poked my head out and Rachel told me that it was time for breakfast. I groggily rolled out of bed and made my way to the table. Breakfast was congee and some sweet pickles and it was too early to contemplate eating. It was only 5:30 but already most of the groups were ready to go. We waited another half hour until the last group left the camp. Then, we headed back to bed. A few seconds after I had settled back in the tent, I heard a knock. Rachel told me that the cabin had already been shut down for the morning! She asked if she could sneak into my tent so we got to cuddle for a few hours (for the record, it really wasn’t so bad and we didn’t even have to spoon! Everyone was just overreacting).

We got up around 8:30 and made some cereal with powdered milk for breakfast. Then we were on our way. The hike down went by much more quickly than the hike up. We hadn’t realized how much we had been going up on the way! We reached the halfway point just before noon and waited for some Hualien ETAs where were planning to meet us there. The timing was near perfect and they showed up just a few minutes later with an incredible spread of cheese, bread, cookies, and fruit. After lunch, we headed back down across the bridges and back to the trailhead. It was once again a beautiful day and we spent the rest of the hike sharing stories of our separate hiking adventures and snapping photos. When we got back I called us a cab and we headed to the train station. Since it was dragon boat festival weekend the tickets were sold out and we only had standing room, which is usually fine, But this time the train was absolutely packed and we barely squished into the cabin with many other seatless travelers. Although the ride was only about an hour it felt much longer and it didn’t help that we were next to the bathrooms that reeked.img_4059

Despite the uncomfortable ride, we made it back in one piece. I had to say goodby to Rachel knowing  probably wouldn’t see her again in Taiwan, but made plans to meet up in Japan because we would both be in Tokyo at the same time. Dragon Boat Festival Weekend did not disappoint and once again I enjoyed an adventurous weekend in Taiwan with great friends, beautiful views, and friendly strangers, several of the things I will miss most about Taiwan when I leave in the next few weeks.

(6/2) River Tracing and Biking to Yilan

River Tracing (Saturday)

Hualien is quite famous for its incredible scenery that includes mountains, beaches, rocks, and rivers but one thing that Hualien is also famous for is the sport “river tracing”. This is an activity that many people travel to Hualien to partake in because it is so stunningly beautiful and a great way to cool off on a hot day. I had tried very hard to partake in this sport several times but weather or last minute cancelling of plans had barred me from trying river tracing. As time began ticking down, I knew I had to make one final attempt to go river tracing. Thankfully, my friend Jenna was on top of it and helped us to arrange a time and place. When our guide requested a change to our original date because it was his son’s graduation, we panicked but luckily the day he rescheduled our trip to ended up working for us all. And… coincidentally was also the same day and trip that a group of ETAs from Taitung had chosen!

Our guides met us in Hualien city and drove us first to breakfast, and then to the start of our hike. When we arrived I was surprised to see that we were at none other than instagram falls (the place that I had visited in my previous blog post)! But we didn’t stop at the falls and instead headed further upstream. There, we jumped into the water in our life jackets, helmets, and shoes. Our guides told us that this was going to be the practice section so we slowly began to walk up and tried to get used to our shoes. It was pretty difficult to walk on slippery rocks in rushing water and we struggled a bit at first. But the shoes that the company had given us were amazing! They material on the bottom was felt-like and gripped the rocks well.


All the girls getting ready for our adventure

After a trial run, we made our way back to the path to avoid a large group of people who were also doing their training run. After passing them we came out at a large pool with a rock jump. We were the first people there but our guide informed us that shortly it would be mobbed with groups. In the meantime, we should enjoy the peaceful break. We had a blast jumping off the rock and splashing into the large pool below. However, our guides weren’t wrong about the crowds and before we knew what was happening, people began spilling out of the river and into the pool. We took this as our cue to keep moving and headed up the path a bit more before we climbed out into the river.

From here we were the only group. We took several pictures in a cavernous area of the river and then began our ascent. It was tough going but we were a strong and determined group of women and we made good time. Several times I banged by knees on the rocks in the river because it was difficult to see them under the frothing water. One time, I banged my knee so hard that in shock I let go of the rocks I was holding onto and fell backwards, off of a small waterfall cliff. I completely submerged in the water and although I was slightly overwhelmed by the fall I was luckily fine!

We hiked upstream for a while until we reached a waterfall. Here our guides told us we would stop for lunch. There was a smaller waterfall we could climb and jump off so we did that too. While we were swimming, our guides layed out bread, cheese, pineapple, mango, hard boiled eggs, and some dessert bread for lunch. It was delicious!

After lunch, we hiked back down the trail. Our guides told us that this area was previously settled by the Toroko peoples and showed us the remains of some of their houses. He explained that many of the surrounding trees were also unique to the area because they were planted for by the Toroko peoples for harvest. I know that this is still the homeland of the Toroko people that live in the Tongmen community.

My overall take on river tracing is that it is a really fun sport that can be a great way to cool off in the summer and see some pretty incredible places off of the beaten path. Although I know I won’t have time to go again while I’m in Taiwan, I hope to come back one day and explore a different river!

Biking to Taitung (Sunday)

A popular activity in Taiwan is biking around the island. Although I wanted to do this, I knew it was not feasible during my time at school and in the summer it would be too hot and uncomfortable for me to ride. However, an ETA from Changhua came up with an incredible plan to create an ETA around-the-island relay. An ETA (or several) would travel from one county to another and transport a small postcard. Since there are ETAs in most counties, we figured it would be possible to carry out this adventure! Taipei was supposed to be the first leg but they took so long to figure out a time that we eventually decided to start elsewhere. I volunteered to complete the first leg from Hualien to Taitung.

The route from Hualien to Taitung is one of the most beautiful sections of the route. There are two options, to go along the coast or to travel in the valley between the mountains. I decided to travel the inside route because it was easier (less elevation and more stores to stop at) and I had planned to complete the trip in one day. I considered taking my bike on the adventure but I decided that it would be best to rent one. Giant bikes has a special arrangement that allows people to rent a bike from either Hualien or from Taitung and return the bike in the opposite city. The bikes are nice road bikes with large side bags to store things in.


When I went to pick up a bike, they practically laughed off my idea. They told me that I needed to reserve my bike at least two weeks in advance and that I wouldn’t be able to do the ride in one day. I was frustrated by this, but thankfully after checking inventory they found a bike that would work for me. The setup was a bit short but the seat was high and it worked out well. They were still quite skeptical that I could make it in one day but I assured them otherwise. Besides, I would only need to bike about 75 miles. I figured this wouldn’t be too difficult given that I was already in pretty decent shape.

I tried to convince my friends to join me on the adventure but they laughed me off and told me I was somewhat crazy. Nevertheless, I was determined. I took off early Sunday morning and I was on my way. The first section of the ride I was quite familiar with because I had rode this route several times before to Zhi Xue. After about an hour I strayed from the route I had traveled before and I was off on my own adventure.

After about 15 miles, I stopped at a 711 for a quick bathroom break and snack. There were several 711s on the route and this was just the first of many stops!  I vowed that my next stop wouldn’t be until the tropic of cancer landmark which was about 45 miles into my journey. The day would just get hotter and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t waste these last few cool morning hours. The route to the landmark was rather unremarkable. There was road construction for most of the way. Just as I was starting to get quite hot and thirsty (I as I had already finished one water bottle) I arrived at a steep ascent. I knew I was only about 3 km from the landmark, but it was a tough climb. When I arrived I hopped off my bike and headed to the store to grab a bottle of water. Then I settled for a quick snack, admiring the landmark. Thankfully there was also a public restroom and I took some time to wash my face and attempted to cool down a bit.

Before too long I was back in the saddle, heading to the next stop which I decided would be the Yufu bike path. When an old railroad track went out of service, the town of Yuli converted the route into a 10 km biking path. I pushed on and arrived there around 11:30. The path was stunningly beautiful. I stopped for a bit to enjoy some views and passed many bikers leisurely making their way down the route. When I got off my bike to take photos, I realized just how exhausted and hungry I was. I decided it would be best to take a lunch break at the next 711 and mapped it out. Even though it was only about 10 km away from the bike path, it felt like a long journey. The route was gradually ascending the entire way there and the midday sun was beating down on me.

IMG-3442When I finally rolled up, I was soaked in sweat and exhausted. The people working at the 711 looked at me with concern, but didn’t say anything. I grabbed some snacks and settled down in the air-conditioned seating area. While I was there, I started to map out the rest of my route. To my dismay, I realized that when I first calculated the distance, I had made a mistake and had only mapped to a Giant Bike shop in Guanshan near the border of Taitung and Hualien. I needed to return the bike to Taitung City which was at least another 30 miles! I calculated out the time and realized if I kept a good pace I could arrive by 4 pm so time wasn’t a problem. However, the longest distance I had ever biked before this adventure was 50 miles. I was more than doubling this distance and I hoped that  I would be able to make it.

After cooling down, I bought a few snacks and drank another bottle of water. Then I left 711 and headed on for the next leg of my journey. Leaving the air-conditioned 711 was painful and I was instantly blasted with the heat of the day. It was at least 90 degrees and very high humidity. But I was refueled and ready to roll. The route to Guanshan was a nice, gradual decent and I peeled off the miles quickly. In Guanshan, I took a slight detour for Brown Boulevard, a famous bike path and “the most scenic road in Taiwan” according to google maps. It was pretty amazing. The green fields led straight up to the mountains and the light clouds and blue skies created one of the most picturesque scenes I’ve ever seen.

I hopped on my bike with a plan to take no more breaks before arriving in Taitung. It was already 1:30 and I still had several miles to go before I arrived in the city and I wanted to get there by 4 pm. My butt was feeling pretty tender at this point and I was pretty sure I was starting to develop a sunburn despite reapplying sunscreen many times (unfortunately it all kept sweating off!) I started off at a comfortable pace, pleased with how quickly I was traveling. I felt that I was descending and wondered if I would just coast all the way back to the city. However, upon further inspection, I discovered that I was completely surrounded by mountains. I began to fear that a steep ascent was coming up soon.

I was not wrong… I soon found myself at a steep uphill climb. The was the steepest part so far and I quickly switched to granny gear. As I crawled up I contemplated hitchhiking. Perhaps a kind soul would take pity on me when they saw my beet red face and the sweat dripping from every pore of my body. But I was determined to carry on. As I rounded the corner I saw to my dismay that the road just continued to climb. The next corner revealed more uphill until I was convinced that I would be going up forever. Luckily, the road finally finished climbing. Since Taitung City is at sea level, I was relieved to find myself on a looooong, gradual decent. I practically flew into the city, grateful for the rush of breeze in my face. I stopped at a 711 near the city to wipe of the grime, sweat, and the thousands of bugs glued to my skin and grab one last bottle of water. I had arranged to meet Peter and Michael, two Taitung ETAs, in the city at a smoothie shop. When I arrived they cheered for me and I happily cruised up to the shop. They too had spent the weekend biking from Hualien to Taitung, but they took the coastal route and spent 2 days traveling. We swapped stories and stopped for some delicious spring rolls. They showed me a beautiful outlook of the city and walked me back to the train station. I was so grateful for their company and I passed along the Hualien postcards to them. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to meet up with them again!

After saying goodbye, I jumped on a train back home. I instantly fell asleep and had to be woken up by someone who had bought a ticket for the seat I had been squatting in. I was exhausted but proud of myself and happy for the adventure. In total, I biked 112 miles in 8.5 hours. I passed many cities, saw some incredible views, and swallowed too many bugs to think about. It was a rather spontaneous and fun adventure and I’m happy to have had the opportunity and encouragement from other ETAs!