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17. TNUA

Inherently whenever someone moves to a new place, things might seem unfamiliar at first. Everyday things we might take for granted like streets, buildings and sights are new and unknown. But one thing will always be instantly familiar: food. At first taste you can be reminded of all the habitual places you are used to or bring lots of good memories to mind.

Taiwan is a good place for people of all nationalities to get a taste from home, or for people looking to get their favorite cuisines from all around the world. Food is indeed culture, and it can evoke your own culture or it can indeed be one of the most direct ways to experience new culture.

After a long while of thinking what places I will miss most in Taiwan, it dawned on me: they are all food related. Food is a reflection of culture, history, customs and traditions and indeed in Taiwan it’s no exception. The two places I will miss most in Taiwan are Taipei and Kaohsiung.

Education

After being in Taiwan for more than 5 years, I’ve had the chance to see how things are done and solved in different ways. This has given me the opportunity to appreciate and compare Honduras and Taiwan in many aspects.

As one of the countries with the slowest development in Latin America, Honduras has a lot to learn from Taiwan in terms of safety, politics, economy, ecology protection, urbanism and waste recycling, just to mention few.

To help improve the situation in Honduras, I would definitely like to implement in my country some of the systems used in Taiwan. But if I have to decide on one system that we desperately need to imitate from Taiwan, is without doubt, education. Why? First of all, I believe that education represents one of the most important factors in the development of a country and ensures the success of a nation.

First of all let me start by introducing myself. I come from Haiti a Caribbean country in the American continent. I am a first year master student currently at the Arts Program in Cultural and Creative Industries at Taipei National University of the Arts. I have my major in Art History and Archaeology. In this article I will share with you why I chose to study in Taiwan?

Taiwan is a beautiful island; it is a democratic country with a modern technology where arts and culture played an important role in the society. The culture of Taiwan is very rich; it is a blend of many other cultures. Although Taiwan is far compared the countries of the American continent but its influence is very considerable in some of them. Taiwan is known in my country as being a friendly society and cultural diversity. Taiwan is very active in Haiti and therefore many Haitian students have a large idea about Taiwanese people despite of the distance that separates the two countries.

Why did I choose to study in Taiwan? Let’s see: a gorgeous and evergreen island with astounding landscapes, breath-taking mountains and full of the most beautiful flowers. A land where the people is nice, friendly, very hardworking and modest. A nation where aboriginal, Chinese, Japanese and many other cultures have combined over centuries to create a rich heritage and an interesting society, where tradition and modern way of life coexist. A prosperous country that went from agriculture to factories to industry to high technology in a fraction of the time other countries needed to take. So, if you ask me why did I choose to study in Taiwan, I would reply: Why not?

However, I didn’t choose to study in Taiwan only because living in the island is a great experience. I also came here because, Taiwan being a prosperous country, can now have enough resources to invest in good education. Unlike other developed countries that have been facing economic difficulties lately and thus cutting funds for education and scholarships, Taiwan can benefit from a healthier economy. Another related reason is because my home country has diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, and that facilitates education exchanges in a State-to-State basis. Moreover, the Taiwanese government has been consistently generous in assisting my country in many ways, being education one of them: TaiwanICDF (Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund), among many other projects, has a generous scholarship program that allows students to have proper education. Few other countries are currently offering the excellent conditions TaiwanICDF provides for pursuing bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. One of the programs TaiwanICDF has is in the most renowned arts university of the country, and studying there with a scholarship is an offer I could hardly refuse.

Why I chose to study in Taiwan? This is a question that I get all the time, and for me there are tons of reason why to study here. Taiwan is situated at the central point of the Asian Pacific rim and the gateway to East Asia making it highly accessible to Asia Pacific countries, it is a safe and innovative country that takes care of their people, embraces new technology and the arts. Even it is an small island, it is big in soul and heart, and has the most friendly and hospitable people I have had the pleasure of sharing this world. I have had the opportunity to live and work in different cities around the world, including Guatemala City, Oslo, New York City and Mombasa and each one of them have a piece of my heart and a piece in the journey of my life. But despite my Chinese roots, I have never had the opportunity to live or study in Asia and I feel that day by day my Chinese traditions and culture are being left behind. Of course my Guatemalan influence is stronger and I feel proud of my Latin culture, but maybe being exposed to two different cultures since I was born made me more open minded to be able to absorb different cultures and ways of living. Or perhaps is just my necessity to know more about things that I do not know or I have not experienced yet.

Before I start talking about why I chose Taiwan, let me give you an outlook of my life before.

I come from the beautiful Republic of Panama, a small country in Central America with a population of over 3 million of which over 150,000 are Chinese or have Chinese roots. They came from mainland China, in 19th century and more recently, the beautiful island of Taiwan. Having the largest Chinese community in Central America, it's very common to find many restaurants, shops and even a Chinese~ Panamanian school (from where many of my friends graduated) in Panama.

Since my childhood I have been restless and curious, curious especially, about world history, culture and art. Can you imagine me, a little Panamanian girl walking around the China Town in Panama looking at all those signs hanging on the Chinese stores, letting my imagination run wild as I imagined all kind of animals and figures coming out from the Chinese characters?

SAFETY, NICE PEOPLE AND ART EVERYWHERE!

After backpacking through South Each Asia and Mainland China for six months, at the end of 2011, I decided Asia was the next place I wanted to live in. Art is what has followed me around everywhere, I paint an draw no matter where I am and I noticed something clicked while I was in Asia. The colors, the textures, the architecture, the rice plantations, the people, the food, it all had something that just made me want to paint more. This love for tradition that most Asian countries have made me want to know more about their art, their techniques and traditional ways of doing things. In my search for finding what I loved about Asia, I stumbled upon artists who made sounds for movies the old way, I found a group of artisans who made art out of eggshells and a community who made natural products out of everything they had at hand, even the packaging was made out of something natural and all made by them. Finding people who still made art the traditional way giving it a modern twist made me realize that there’s an added value that these techniques give to their art or products and I wanted to add some of this to my paintings. As soon as I returned to Guatemala, I started working on a collection of paintings inspired by the Mayans but influenced by my travels in Asia and Africa. I hadn’t had as much fun painting as I did with this collection and this made me realize I wanted to learn more about these cultures.

Whenever we want to travel to some place new, being it for work, tourism or study, we usually research every little possible detail about this new location. Taiwan was no exception. If I were to embark into a two-year long study abroad experience, the place would need to be interesting and stimulating to the last bit.

Upon my lengthy research comparing different universities in different countries, I stumbled upon the fact that Taiwan is a multifaceted country. Their traditions and culture are a mix of both ancestral and contemporary, cherishing the past while embracing the new. Arts, technology, food and educational excellence all meld delightfully in Taiwan.

As I decided to pursue an arts related degree in Taiwan, it was especially important that environment I was to surround myself in was nurturing for creative minds, and so far into my experience of living in Taiwan it has proven right.

Arts, culture, food and music all are well represented in this island nation. One weekend you can be visiting a Salvador Dalí exhibition at a museum, the next you’re watching a kite festival at a beach and the next you’re tasting award winning traditional foods at a food fair. The list goes on and on, and you can never run out of things to see or do in Taiwan.

All this culture would be impossible to experience if it wasn’t for Taiwan’s technology and public transportation infrastructure already in place. It might already be ubiquitous for the locals, but for most foreigners it’s something refreshingly different that adds vast amounts of convenience to daily life. Taiwan’s use of technology applied to daily life has actually increased the ease of its inhabitants to go and enjoy local arts and culture affairs.

Allah has chosen Taiwan as my place of study………

Choice for me is a complex issue; a combination of prayers, hard work and faith in the power and wisdom of God the almighty.

As a young lad, I had always dreamt of pursuing education to the highest level that I can reach. And that means like many others living in the third world; I have the will but limited financially to fulfill the higher education dream. And my educational dream was not limited to the shores of my country the Gambia where I had my first degree. I had always dreamt of going abroad for higher education. Which country? I wasn’t sure even though Europe and America stood out clearly in my visualization. This is because Europe and America are well-known destinations where a lot of my countrymen go for educational pursuit. So yes, I had often times speak to my family about going to Europe or America one day for education pursuit. My saintly mother though does not fancy Europe or America or worldly riches and has never been keen on the topic of my dream. I remember always arguing my case before her to try to see reason in the liberating effect of education and that Europe and America provides opportunities which my native Gambia lacks in the fulfillment of that dream for me.

Even after she came to terms with the fact that my overseas educational dream was a worthwhile venture, my mom always has one statement to make; “if your good luck lies there, may Allah make it work for you” Simply put, rather than blindly approving the idea of my educational pursuit in Europe or America, my mom believes the most important thing is God’s approval. In other words, if my luck does not lie in America or Europe or if I would not find peace in these destinations, then it is her wish I rather stay at home or go somewhere else where I will find peace and good luck.

Among all the thousand doubts and concerns you might have about what you will find and what you will not find in Taiwan there is this little but important one that has to do pretty much with your health.

“What will happen if I get ill?” “Will I be able to find a doctor?” “Where will I find the right medicine?” and among that how can I tell anyone? I don’t speak Chinese!

Four month passed smoothly the first year I arrived to Taiwan and none a single sign of any kind of ill or discomfort, I started to think “this is good I am an Iron woman!”, but no! I haven’t said the last letter when I got ill, luck me!

Fortunately for me Taiwanese medical services are well organized, systematized and technologized, hospitals are easy to find everywhere you can make your appointment with a doctor by internet and even read the profile of the doctor on Internet to see if he or she fulfills your expectations.

Also you have a medical care insurance that covers the price of the medicine, medical check-in and if you have a serious injury maybe more, I’m not that eager to use it such type of circumstances. Still I have used it and I have received the benefits of being a resident in Taiwan.

To protect the persons involved in the incident (in this case, me) let just say that there was a problem for a long period of time with my digestive system, due to the change of diet, who would have known… but in my defense I might say that Taiwanese food is really good.

I’ve decide to write this article as an advice to the new students or to those who had never used the medical service in Taiwan, please take in count this is my personal perception of the system and as all the illness that we can acquire it has my subjective point of view, and I really don’t like to be sick.