Anping Tree House, Tainan, 2010

anpingMother Nature always has the winning hand. We went to see the famous Anping Tree House 安平樹屋 [Anping shu wu] in the Anping District of Tainan. Vestigial bricks of an abandoned warehouse once owned the top five trading companies in Anping during the period of Japanese colonization. Tait & Co.’s legacy has been swallowed up by a few robust Banyan trees, reclaiming land rightfully theirs.

It’s a fascinating piece of architecture–there’s no telling where one tree’s aerial roots end and another begins. Dilapidated roofs have been replaced with sturdy branches of the trees. Walls, too. There are viewing platforms in place for visitors to climb to the top of the houses and see the expansions that the Banyan trees have made.

anping2The Tree House was believed to be haunted for many years, until the National Anping Harbor Historic Park undertook a project in 2004 to make the places more visitor-friendly.

anping3If you walk to the back of the warehouse, there’s another viewing platform overlooking the Yanshui River 鹽水溪 [yan shui xi]. And I can’t remember if these buildings were also in the Anping Tree House area, but the golden houses left by the Dutch complimented the azure skies really well. 🙂

anping4anping5We then made our way to the Anping Fort 安平古堡 [an ping gu bao], the oldest castle in Taiwan. It’s been rebuilt several times since its original completion in 1634. The fort was totally destroyed during Japanese occupation, because the space to be used for dormitories. You can find a more detailed account of its history here. There’s more to do in Tainan than visiting the Anping Tree House and Anping Fort! You can read more in my first post about Tainan.

Nürnberg: Staedtler Fabrik

Day 9, 07.02.2009: A tour of Staedtler

Remember how we all used wooden pencils and big, pink rubber erasers in school? The nicest ones I’ve used always had “Staedtler” stamped on them. Everyone in art class used to be ecstatic when we got Staedtler stationery because they were the ~fancy~ stuff that only serious middle school art students would use, along with Prismacolor color pencils.

staedtler

German efficiency is how I’d describe the Staedtler Fabrik (factory). The warehouse had 20-foot tall machines zipping up and down the aisles, retrieving the exact box needed by scanning the bar code, and setting it down on the conveyor belt. No humans required in this assembly. This is probably commonplace now, but 6 years ago, that degree of automation was so extraordinary to me. When a box reached a cross section and the conveyor belt senses another box coming from a different direction, the second box stops and the first box is able to cross or turn first. Like two cars at an intersection with stop signs.

Also, when writing utensils move down their respective conveyor belts, there’s an arm that flips them around when it senses that they’re facing the wrong way. Because one half of the marker is higher than the rest of it, it pushes this stick upwards, so that the machine knows it’s not facing the way it’s supposed to. When all this is done, ink is added to the cartridge, the casing is put on, and caps are added.

There were also hyper-sensitive sensors: if so much as a few cells of your finger touches the light sensor, all the machines running in the area stop. In a nano-second. Technology is amazing. As structured as this all was, the factory still had a rather unpleasant smell: a concoction of wood shavings, graphite, rubber, and chemicals. We spent about 3 hours there and all of us got free markers and pens at the end of it. I still haven’t, in 2015, had the heart to use them. They’re so nice.

thaliaAfter returning to Melanchthon Gymnasium, my Gastmutter (host mother) took me into the city to wait for Clara, who had a dentist’s appointment. I bought some hazelnut and fresh apple ice cream while waiting. My host mother thought it was a strange combination, but it was so damn delicious. Nutty sweetness of the hazelnuts complimented the tangy crispness of the green apple really well. There were also real hazelnuts in my ice cream! Because my host mother is a bookseller, she took me to Thalia, the biggest bookstore in Nürnberg. Four stories of reading material, with a cafe and restaurant to boot.

picnicOnce we returned home, I was delighted to find out that we were going to have a picnic in the garden! One of my most memorable meals in Germany. Homemade couscous, freshly-baked baguette, crunchy romaine salad sprinkled with tiny lavender flowers, tomato and cilantro salad, and freshly-pressed OJ and lemonade.

picnic2There was also a small charcuterie board with local cheese, and thinly-sliced sausage and meats. I’ve tried recreating my host mum’s couscous recipe so many times, to no avail. A shot of acid and tang from lemon juice and tomatoes, chewy grains, some sharpness from the onions and scallions, and mellowed out by a secret mixture of herbs and juicy cucumber. Anyone have good couscous salad recipes to share?

picnic3The bread crust crackled like fireworks on Chinese New Year’s, and the insides were warm, pillows of dough. A slice of heaven. The only disadvantage of eating outside on an otherwise sunny, cool and beautiful day was the bugs. I may as well have been a walking honeycomb, judging from the swarm that would not allow me to eat my meal in peace.

Later that night I discovered a most practical and wonderful device: the “Snappy”. Looks like an ice cream scoop, but with a cap that slides out as you push a button. It’s used specifically for catching insects. I used it to catch a Daddy Long Legs the size of my hand. Where can I find these in America?

Nürnberg: eine deutsche Ausbildung

Day 8, 07.01.2009: a German education

nusstasche

meine Nuß Nougat Tasche

My iPod alarm never went off. Instead, I woke up to the sound of polite but urgent pounding on my door; my Gastvater (host father) said it was 6:21am, merely 9 minutes before we had to catch a train to school. Thankfully, some toast was ready on the table by the time I finished getting dressed. I grabbed a piece, and off we went!

We made it in time for die Geschichte Klasse (history class), where I was supposed to learn about the French Revolution. The only word I understood was “Napoleon”. Then it was Greek (Griechish), which I really enjoyed, and the 3rd class was Math and Physics (Mathematik und Physik). They were learning about parabolas and quadratic functions–nothing keeps a student more awake in the morning than that.

My 4th class was religion class with my group. It’s interesting that you’re “born” into a religion in Germany and are required to take religion classes until you reach a certain grade or age. Even then you need your parents’ consent to withdraw from them. The last two classes was German with my group. We had to analyze and summarize war films. They moved slow as molasses and I fell asleep at one point. Herr Besmens asked me a question about the film afterwards and I stuttered my way into an answer. We got our first homework (die Aufgabe) assignment of the trip! All of us were separated into groups of 4-5 and had to direct our own war scene. Due Friday.

milkreisSince Clara wouldn’t finish school for another few hours, I had to ride the train home by myself. But I managed to get on the right one this time! Felt like a true Nürnberger. No delays either. My host mum made Milkreis, which literally translates into “milk rice”. It’s rice cooked with milk (maybe some half&half too to make it creamier), topped off with brown sugar. Such good comfort food. I’d say it’s a bit like German rice pudding? My host mother hinted we might have to opportunity to go to Neuschwanstein. It’s more commonly known as the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Exciting!

fleischMy host father then took me grocery shopping at Lidl, a supermarket chain in Germany. The one “near” our home was so adorably tiny; nothing like the Costcos, Sam’s Clubs, and Walmarts of America. It was like a magician’s hat though–you could find everything in there! He also took me to the butcher shop, which is fascinating but gruesome as a vegetarian. I’ve never seen so many types and shapes of salami and sausages. Our last stop was my favorite: a local bakery! The smells made my mouth water. I bought a Nuß-Nougat-Tasche, or “nut-nougat-pocket”. Not enough filling, but very flaky. Should’ve gone for some of the Schokolade (chocolate) in the Milka and Lindt section. 😛