“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind… or forgotten.” -Lilo & Stitch
I was using workaway.info to search for a volunteering work in Taichung in exchange for free accommodation and food.
Where I’ve landed? At one of the the loveliest families in Taiwan.
Shin-ba, Shin-ma, Shin-Chan and Chew-Wei are such a sweet family and I have been considering myself as a very lucky person to be their volunteer. The best thing is, I wasn’t alone.
My co-worker was Amanda, an American girl who left home for world traveling just like me. I admired her right at our first encounter.
It was the easiest workaway I’ve ever done, because they really did treat me like a family member. I got way too spoiled by my first workaway experience, I was so naive to believe that every workaway volunteering would be like that haha.
Jeez, I got totally fooled, my second workaway in Dulan was easy but definitely I had to work.
At the end I felt Amanda and I didn’t do anything for the family, except spending time with the children. Shin-Ba and his family are looking to get to know and become close with their workawayers and guests. They want to make friends all over the world and connect with them.
I seldom met a family, who is so genuinely friendly, funny and
easy-going. To be honest, they are even better than my aunt and uncle, I feel part of their family since we had a great time and even celebrated the Chinese New Year altogether (I know in Taiwanese culture it is a big issue). In every way they were so sweet to Amanda and me.
Everything Shin-Ba and Cindy do, they do it for their children. They want them to grow up in a multi-cultural environment and having connections to people in all different parts of the world. Amanda and I helped them with their English, but it’s not perfect, so you have to be patient sometimes.
But I guess Amanda had more patience than me, since she explained many times repetitively.
Somehow she has a resting bitch face and every time
Shin-Ba would tell her :”Don’t be sooo serious, Amanda.” and then he would start to laugh while I tried to stifle my laughter.
I had a great time there, and I am pretty sure Amanda feels the same.
Instead of working we rather had copper classes.
I totally suck at deforming my piece of copper, although I had fun. Everyone did it much better than me.
Most of the time if I wouldn’t go biking with one of the kids, I spent my leisure with biking around Taichung or hanging around with Amanda.
Literally every stupid sentence and joke she made I was helpless with my laughter.
A place I went to twice was Rainbow Village, a street art in Nantun District, which is created by a former soldier who began the painting in his habitation to save it from demolition. And somehow the result looks like this:
Or we cycled to Maple Garden, an urban green space with a nature trail and a pond with fish, turtles and birds around.
My favourite park in Taichung bears the name “Fongle Sculpture Park” with eclectic outdoor sculptures, a playground and a pond with ducks.
Sometimes I would just do a bicycle tour all day long by myself and visit the surroundings of Taichung.
The National Taichung Theater‘s architecture looks better than on the picture I took.
I highly recommend you to visit Houli District, a rural district in northwestern Taichung City with a bikeway called Houli Bikeway.
For everyone who loves nature and bicycling, this is the perfect place to cycle. But don’t come at weekends or holidays, it is too crowded.
You can visit plenty of different places in Taichung.
Like the craziest night market in Taichung, Fengjia Night Market.
I, myself prefered the traditional markets like the Second Market and the Firth Market or Xiang Shang Market.
More interested in museums? – National Museum of Natural Science and 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan are very informative.
Calligraphy Greenway and the oldest park in Taichung, “Taichung Park” – are great escapes from the hustle in the city.
I reckon, you don’t need to visit the Luce Memorial Chapel if you only have a short time in Taichung.
Do you like street art or cartoons ? The Anime Alley in Lane 100, Linshen Road is a small lane where the walls are daubed with favourite cartoons from Japan and America.
Just for a look of the interior design of the three-storey coffeehouse and restaurant “Fourth Credit Union” I would recommend you to go.
Feeling back to those old good days once you see the lights, high ceilings and textiles from the coffee shop.
If you are already in Taichung, I wouldn’t miss the urban township Lukang in Changhua. From Taichung you can take the bus number 9018 to Lukang, bring the right amount of money because this bus doesn’t accept the EasyCard.
Strolling through the old streets of Lukang feels like traveling back to the 50’s or 60’s. The cheap and delicious local dishes are tempting and except visiting the temples you will probably eat the whole day. Until you have stomach ache. Or if you are a trinket person you will drop cash everywhere in Lukang, there are little things you can purchase everywhere.
I visited Lukang during Chinese New Year. And I had to fight with the crowds. But my trip to Lukang with Chen and Irene was one of my most memorable trips in Taiwan.
We visited two temples: Lukang Longshan Temple and Lukang Mazu Temple. At the first temple all three of us attempted to throw coins into bins with characters that represented things such as: money, win the lottery, getting married, health, etc.
I scored happiness and money for the new year. If I interpret it in my own way, I am already very happy and rich in my experiences.
They both missed the bin with the character “getting married”, but still they will get married this year in September.
At the end I spent more time with my Taichung family or visited my friend Kate in Taichung. At our place we have every Saturday a “Talk”. Shin-ba and Shin-ma would invite a world traveler to their coffee shop in order to talk and share about their travel life.
Or Amanda would bake a “Walter Mitty Clementine Cake” because we all watched the movie together and she was so cool to bake it.
Or we would just laugh like hell when Chew-wei returned from school and said in front of us: “F***king homeworks”.
He is only ten but he knows already all the swear words, but definitely not from us. You can maybe imagine HOW laid-back my family was.
One time we laughed ourselves to death when we visited Shin-ba’s brother-in-law who is a baker. And then we got to see a masterpiece of his work, which I will never forget in my life again.
Two big boobs with a penis in between.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, but Amanda started to laugh so hard that I couldn’t restrain myself not to laugh. And we laughed until we died.
Doing puzzles with the kids or just talking with the guests from our hostel until early in the morning. You have to know that they own a building in Taichung and the ground-floor is their coffee shop Ohana. The first and second floor are rent out to different couples and the rooftop is their hostel.
I was incredibly sad to leave my home in Taichung.
Besides being a gifted carpenter (the facilities and wooden ceilings in the hostel are made by him), Shin-Ba also walked around Taiwan.
Yes, walking – not cycling, not flying, just walking.
In my opinion, Shin-ba, you fulfilled your dream. Your hostel is an extraordinary place full of joy, where all people no matter their race, colours, religion or gender come together, sharing stories and building a lifetime connection to each other. And the best thing is, you brought them all together to a place where everyone can find their shelter.
You won’t leave this place without having a good feeling.
Thank you for everything.
I can’t wait to come back one day again.