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DAY 1          TUNIS

Tunisian Proverb:  He ate one fig and he thought autumn had come.

On this day I had breakfast while looking down on The Nile!! My party of three arrived in Tunis just after sunrise. Everything went smoothly and efficiently at immigrations, baggage claim and customs. We were met by Austen Hand and our guide for the week.

We normally do all our travel arrangements and actual travelling ourselves using public transport but the amount of ground we wanted to cover in a short week in Tunisia made that impractical. So we employed Engaging Cultures Travel  and Austen Hand to help us out. They did a sterling job. We did not regret our decision for a moment. 

Confucius Said: Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.

My first typhoon in Taiwan

I tried to make a booking for accommodation on Green Island (using a student who is fluent in English) but the lady on Green Island says there is a typhoon approaching and I may want to postpone my trip. That’s the first warning I get of a typhoon. I start doing the internet searches and find more evidence of this typhoon. It will be my first typhoon ever and I have no idea what to expect. I’m nervous but also a little excited, and there is a lot of adrenaline pumping in my body.

Longlin Mountain Trail

Confucius said: Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

This is one of several hiking trails on Monkey Mountain, the mountain that towers 660 m over the village Nanhua.  This one is a circular route of about 12km and easy to walk except for one section that is tricky. The tricky part is also where the most beautiful views are to be had over the valleys below. Like all the trails I have hiked so far this one also has a paved surface and steps, handrails and barriers where there could be any chance of an ignorant person slipping or falling. It is well sign-posted and regularly on the route there are huge boards showing the route and your position on the route. 

Never trust a nun with with a date

Confucius said: Think of tomorrow, the past can’t be mended.

You will often hear me talk about the caring and friendly attitude of the Taiwanese. That is how my friendship with a nun started. She heard me battling to order a latte in a coffeeshop and stepped in to help as she speaks English fluently. 

I mentioned to her that I was planning on going to Tainan to watch the Dragon Boat Races and she kindly offered to take me there. We set a date and time and in my mind, its settled, I do no further research as I’m now in the hands of a local who will (should) know everything. 

Confucius said: No matter how busy you may think you are you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.

One of my favourite places in Tainan is the Literature Museum. The building is built in the European style of the early 1900’s when Japan colonised Taiwan. It served different purposes during its lifetime and since 2003 it is the only museum dedicated to literature in Taiwan. 

Here one can find collections of works in Taiwanese, Mandarin, Classic Chinese and Japanese. You will also find recordings of the many indigenous languages spoken in Taiwan.  There is also a hall honouring (or should I say honoring) American authors. 

Confucius said:  The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.

5 April is Tomb Sweeping Day in Taiwan and it has been for 2500 years. Its a public holiday too, to remember the death of Chiang Kai-Shek in 1975.

In Taiwan filial piety is an important virtue. Respect for your parents, elders and ancestors is a beautiful characteristic of the Taiwanese culture. My personal experience of this was when a boy in the Grade 6 class was called out by my fellow teacher, sent out of the class to go and brush his teeth and mouth, and on his return was made to apologise to me. I accepted his apology and later asked the teacher to explain all of that. She said he had said my name in a disrespectful way while talking about me in the class. 

Confucius said: One joy dispels a hundred cares.

The Lantern Festival in Taiwan is held at the end of the Chinese New Year, on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar. Its an event organised by the Tourism Authority in Taiwan. The venue for the main event changes every year.

In 2018 it was held in Chiayi. As this is the Year of the Dog there were many displays around this theme, as can be expected. The main display was a boy and his dog and at more than 10 m in height it could be seen from a distance. After the Lantern Festival it found a new home at Tsou Ma Lai, near Yuging.