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Red Tortoise Cake Means Spring Festival Fun for International Students

Following a year of many unusual patterns, the NPUST Office of International Affairs once again broke the mold and tried something new with the international students during the winter break. In lieu of the regular Spring Festival Banquet held in past years, this year a DIY workshop was organized to bring students together and let them experience some different aspects of traditional Taiwanese culture. The activity was held on Feb. 4th and 5th at the Classroom for Chinese Cuisine in the Department of Hotel and Restaurant Management, with teachers coming in to instruct the students on how to make "red tortoise cake" and "paper cakes” – signifying “joy, health and longevity”.

Commenting on the event, NPUST’s President Chang-Hsien Tai said that "Although everyone will not be able to go back to their hometowns to celebrate the New Year with family this year, I hope that the activities organized by NPUST will help the students feel the warmth of the New Year and will fend off some of the homesickness they might otherwise experience”. Hsi-Hung Chen, the Chief of the Education Division at the OIA, also commented, saying "I am very happy to be able to invite the students to make traditional Taiwanese treats and let them learn more about Taiwan’s local culture and traditional cuisine. I also wish the students a fun time together and happy New Year."

Dipesh Ghimire, a fourth-year student from the Department of Tropical Agriculture and International Cooperation, said: "This year, due to the epidemic, it was impossible to go home and reunite with my family. But through the activities organized by the OIA, we learned how to make red tortoise cake— a special delicacy that symbolizes the New Year, and which can be given as a gift of blessing. We felt the joyful atmosphere of the New Year and I hope I can participate in the event again next year."

Held in duplicate on February 4th and February 5th, the event attracted students from Asia (Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Mongolia, Brunei, Pakistan), Africa (Eswatini, Malawi, Zimbabwe), Central America (Belis, Honduras), and Oceania (Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands). Responding very enthusiastically, nearly 100 overseas students joined one of the two offerings of the lively event.

At the workshop, the international students followed the teacher’s instructions step by step: mixing, adding color, kneading, filling, and pressing the dough into the tortoise templates before cooking them in the steamer. Learning about some of the different local customs, the students experienced the charm of Taiwan’s traditional food culture. In the second part of the class, the students learned how to create decorative cakes using paper-mache. For this, they were called to use some of their own creativity and ingenuity to shape the mixture into aesthetically pleasing and colorful designs.

Although the students were unable to return home to spend the holiday with family, through the activities they were able to enjoy good company with one another, while also experiencing new aspects of Taiwanese culture— and they made some beautiful memories in the processes. And although many of the regular patterns had changed this year, there was one that remained the same. Keeping to tradition, NPUST’s President came on scene to the event and personally presented each of the international student with a New Year’s “Red Envelope” and wished them blessings in the year to come.

 

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