After two full days of talking about democratic education, we had one day-off this Thursday. Obsessed geeks that we were though, we still continued the discussions but this time, the backdrops changed. We visited a primary school for aboriginals ran by a most visionary man, biked through tree-lined roads and re-fueled our stomachs at the night market.
We sat in a well-equipped auditorium where the principal explained how the school integrated aboriginal culture and values into the regular subjects. Children played ethnic musical instruments and during the summer break, more murals were being added on the walls and beams to express their heritage. After his talk, the principal showed a documentary about the facial tattoo tradition of the Taya tribe. The filmmaker followed Yakis whose age were close to a hundred but who got their tattoos when they were around fourteen years old as a symbol of maturity and as an identifying mark that somebody from their tribe had to possess to enter the afterlife’s rainbow. You felt the affinity the filmmaker had with his subjects and one Yaki said that when she passed away, she will be trailing and blessing him.
When the video ended, the principal revealed, much to everyone’s surprise, that he is Pilin, the young director of the film. Decades stood between and we didn’t connect the faces of then and now. Suddenly, the principal’s life took on a deeper meaning for us who were seated in the audience. He had dedicated himself to protecting and strengthening the aboriginal people’s legacy. The Yakis were obviously following and guiding him who was a humble beacon for others.
After lunch and before starting the bike ride, Matt, our guide teacher from the Holistic School asked us whether we wanted to take the short or long route and of course, everyone voted for the shorter way. But like the principal who astounded us, we also surprised ourselves. We finished the five kilometer route so early, we wanted to finish the rest of the route because it was simply too gorgeous and too fun to miss. We didn’t realize what a perfect biking park it was, including the longest tunnel in Taiwan which formed part of an abandoned railway system that was converted into something everyone can enjoy. I envied Taiwan and their government that provides high quality spaces for the people and bike rental is cheap.
The day was capped off by two hours to freely roam the night market and try food locals rave about and queue up for. Now we know why the lines are that long. The food is truly worth the wait.