Last Saturday night was the Taiwanese Student Associtation’s (TSA) Formosa 2021: Tour of Taiwan, an online event that promised to give a virtual tour of the island nation. Having been away from campus for the past year and a half, I was excited to finally go to a cultural club event, though I wondered how a Zoom event was going to work. Thankfully, the overall experience was quite enjoyable, with almost 70 people attending. I hope there are more events like this down the line.
The biggest takeaway from the tour is certainly the incredible selection of food Taiwan has to offer. We saw a TSA member, filming on location, showcase the famous railway bento boxes sold in Taipei Main Station, while others recorded themselves making dishes like the “coffin board”—Taiwanese bread bowl with chowder filling—and three-cup tofu while engaging in cheerful banter. One segment on the minced pork rice even featured TSA members recording themselves eating it and giving their thoughts on how good it was. I really enjoyed this style of video: there’s an immediate sense of intimacy to them. They even invited a food blogger to share her vlog on her trip to Taiwan and do a Q&A session. I got so hungry from all the food on display that I ordered some halfway through (and fortunately I just so happen to be Taiwanese) so I imagine that the tour must have worked in that it made people interested in visiting Taiwan want to try the food.
But too much of the tour was spent on showing the food and not on the island itself. I would have liked to see the Chiang Kei-shek Memorial Hall, where student sit-ins sparked the democratization of the country, or the sea of clouds underneath Ali Mountain, perhaps with someone filming on location like they did for the railway bento. In addition, I think having a food blogger distracted from the main goal of introducing Taiwan, as the Q&A session was mostly about her.
The event featured a dancing performance by a group called the “Sad Boys Club” (SBC) and a diabolo—Chinese style yoyos—performance by “Nova Diabolo.” Both were excellent showings. Here we see the unique advantage of being on Zoom: you get to film your performance beforehand instead of performing live so you can introduce setting, cinematography, editing and better sound quality. The SBC practically made a music video that seamlessly combined different routines and formations with some brilliant editing. “Nova Diabolo” made use of cinematography to focus on individual performers and zoomed out to show more elaborate tricks. My only complaint here is that I wish there were more performances scheduled for the event, though I understand that they may be hard to come by when people are staying at home.
Praise must also be given to TSA for how lively the presentation was. Given the limited interactivity on Zoom, the event could have easily been dry and awkward with only a couple people talking. Instead, transitions from one segment to another felt rather smooth. There were giveaways to maintain the atmosphere and an interesting Zoom edition of rock paper scissors where everyone plays with a random person they choose until there’s only one person left. (Is this… rock paper scissors battle royale?) I’d like to see more such minigames that take advantage of Zoom in the future. Finally, I think each member of the TSA had a spotlight in giving the tour. Some members who live in the Northern part of Taiwan would be responsible for that part of the tour, and so on. And it looked like all of them were excited and having a lot of fun hosting the session. I suppose that’s the secret to a successful Zoom event.