Culture Shock on a Stick: Adventure at Taiwan Yes Festival

Culture Shock on a Stick: Adventure at Taiwan Yes Festival
One of two elaborate costumes at the Taiwan Yes Festival in Sharpstown. Image Credit: Kirsten Passmore

If you were at a food stand advertising sugar-coated fruit on a stick, displaying pictures of red fruit, what kind of fruit would you expect?

When I bought mine, I thought I was about to bite into strawberries or cherries...not cherry tomatoes.

As my teeth broke the sugary outer shell, I remembered that tomatoes technically qualify as a fruit. It was culture shock on a stick.

I was exploring the Taiwan Yes Festival on September 23, 2023. It was held in a parking lot at Houston Christian University, a short walk from my dorm room. I decided to adjust to the whiffs of unfamiliar food and clusters of tents.

A group of people at a table

Description automatically generated

Approaching the ticket booth, I attempted to collect my tickets, which I had bought online. I did not realize I needed to purchase a whole batch (ten tickets), so I had only bought eight. I added two more tickets for $2. Each activity and booth charged tickets instead of cash.

A food truck with people standing in front of it

Description automatically generated
A sign on the sidewalk

Description automatically generated

Sweating from the September heat, I got myself a snow cone. The snow cone truck offered candy toppings, but I didn't get any.

A large truck parked in a parking lot

Description automatically generated

Families enjoyed free rides from the high-water trucks brought by Harris County Precinct 4.

A group of people walking in a street

Description automatically generated

Rows of tents served items like boba tea, soft tofu pudding, and roasted corn.

A person sitting at a table with a sign

Description automatically generated

The Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning had a booth that sold medicine in silk bags, fans, and tote bags to support their non-profit.

A sign with text on it

Description automatically generated
The Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning's bilingual price list

I was interested in one of Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning’s fans because of the heat, so I tried asking for the price. Because there was a bit of a language barrier, I was unsure which fan cost ten tickets and which fan cost five. I only had ten tickets at the time. I pointed to one, and they told me they would sell it to me for five. I did not buy it but ended up at another booth where I haggled because of the number of tickets I had left.

Not all booths have their prices listed. The booth where I purchased the sugar-coated tomatoes is an example. I was excited about my fruit stick, waiting ten minutes for a new batch to be done (unaware the fruit was tomatoes). I did not know the sticks cost five tickets instead of three. However, they took my remaining tickets at the booth and gave me my goodie because I had waited patiently.

A group of people standing in front of a red and white tent

Description automatically generated

Many booths attracted people using a prize wheel. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office booth offered different prizes.

A plastic bag with a toy in it

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Above is the prize I won.

A person in a red shirt holding a bowl of food

Description automatically generated

I found a crowd gathering around this woman. I wanted to know who she was and why they were taking pictures of her with large press cameras. I also snapped a photo of her, thinking she must be someone important.

Well, she is. I later learned that this is Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

A group of people standing under a tent with an umbrella

Description automatically generated

The Light and Salt Association’s booth offered free medical tests, spreading cancer awareness.

A group of people standing under a tent with t-shirts

Description automatically generated

The Taiwan Black Bear booth was raising awareness about the Formosan Black Bear, which is in danger of extinction in Taiwan. They sold all sorts of black bear goodies, including T-shirts, wallets, and plushies.

A group of people standing in front of a tent

Description automatically generated

The Taiwanese Heritage Society of Houston booth was bustling. The Heritage Society has a community center—open to anyone interested in learning about Taiwan—which offers a Taiwanese cultural library, culture exhibit windows, and more.

A person in a garment

Description automatically generated

Above is the friendly mascot of Taiwan Yes!

A group of people standing under a tent

Description automatically generated

And above is a way to literally beat the heat with water balloons and hammers. 

Sweating, I wiped my forehead. I was worried I would catch heat stroke if I stayed outside any longer (despite cooling off with a snow cone). Other people were more prepared, wearing hats and carrying umbrellas.

I made my exit after an hour and a half at Taiwan Yes. According to the festival organizers, approximately 10,000 people attended.

Author and Photographer

Kirsten Passmore (bio below)

Kirsten Passmore, reporter
Kirsten Passmore is a senior studying political science at Houston Christian University. She enjoys volunteering, spending time with friends, and playing adaptive sports in her spare time. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy (as a result of a brain injury at birth), she uses an electric wheelchair. In 201…