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42. The most touching experience of Taiwanese hospitality

As a foreigner, being in a new country can sometimes be unbearable especially if you are accustomed to be around your family and close friends on a daily basis. At the age of 20, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life; that is, to study in Taiwan. I have been living in Taiwan for the past nine months and I have been blessed with many amazing experiences of Taiwanese hospitality. One person in particular, who has gone above and beyond for me, is my dear friend Lena; better known as Xie Jia Rong, 謝佳容

I can clearly remember the day I met Lena. It was a Wednesday morning at about 9:30 am, and I was sound asleep on the bottom bunk because I didn’t like the idea of climbing up and down the ladder of the bunk bed in our room. Bang!!! Frightened, I popped up as quickly as lightning, to see what that loud noise was about. It was the door, Lena walked into the room and the door slammed shut behind her. Half awake, I saw a girl no more than 140cm standing in the room. She had pale soft skin, rosy lips, straight black hair and to top it off, the cutest little pair of white shoes I had ever seen. Realizing that I was sleeping in what was supposed to be her bed, I said, “I am sorry for being in your bed.” “It’s okay, it’s okay you can sleep back, I will just be moving my stuff in today. My name is Lena, what is yours?” Before I was able to answer, she ran over and gave me a big hug while saying “Welcome to Taiwan, I will see you later.”

During my two years program in Taiwan, what impressed me most is the generosity and friendliness of people of Taiwan. The people in Taiwan in general have good attributes of life such as politeness, law-abidance and a love of helping and sharing with others. I have many stories to share but I will limit myself to my encountered with one of my professor Dr Yaw-Tang Shih, M.D, Dr.PH.

Dr Yaw-Tang Shih’s hospitality is absolutely unique to me because he was more than a lecturer to us. He always makes us to feel at home and ensure whatever he is teaching we understand to the best. He makes the learning environment very conducive for us at all time. There are series of interactions between him and us which he uses to see those who are weak among us and how best can him help them to adjust.

This has shown dividends because we were deeply involved during his sessions. We always want his class to be on daily basis and continuous as well. He is a man with noble character and benevolent attitude and honestly he is my mentor in life as well. We nearly cry during our last session with him especially when he was giving us a piece advice pertaining to our academy career.

My name is Nancy Rodriguez and I am from Honduras. I am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in Human Resource Development at National Taiwan Normal University. Before coming to Taiwan I heard and read a lot about this beautiful country, and one of the things that always came out it was about Taiwanese people, about how nice and friendly they are. I been here for about ten months already, and all I can say is that it met my expectations. I consider Taiwanese people to very polite and willing to help you when you need it. There are many wonderful experiences that I have had since I came here.  I still remember my first day I came to Taiwan,  there was our ICDF program manager waiting for us at the airport since then she and the professors of our department  are always willing to help us, and always hoping for our well-being. After we arrived to the dorm there were some of our Taiwanese classmates who took us shopping for things we needed for our room. Our countries are so far away, and there are so many differences in culture and language and all this help is really well appreciated.   

Now I will share with you one of the most touching experience I had had in Taiwan. It was during the Chinese New Year celebration. One of my friends invited me to spend this holiday at her parents’ house, which is located in the south of Taiwan, in Pingtung County; I was very excited to spend the New Year with them since this is one of the most important celebrations here in Taiwan. 

On August 18 2008, I left Sao Tome & Príncipe bound for Taiwan to embark on the longest trip I have ever made. At that time, I came to Fu Jen Catholic University with a purpose of only studying mandarin and go back to my country. The main reason why I came to Taiwan for the first time, is that, at that time, my friends from high school that were studying here, strongly recommended and suggest me to come, experience and write a new page of the book of my life by telling me beautiful things, stories, pictures about this land.

From that on, I have decided to try this new experience, although I was really afraid once the culture, languages, food and etc., was totally different from what I had live until my 18 years old. During the first week of my studies in Fu Jen Catholic University, there was a day that, my country mates among with their Taiwanese friends took me and others newbies from the same country to a dinner out at Shilin night market.

Coming to Taiwan has definitely been more than I expected. I have gained so much knowledge, experience and benefited from the cultural exchange with the Taiwanese people. Taiwan is a unique country and I can wholeheartedly say that Taiwan is the heart of Asia. Taiwanese have a heart of gold; I have never seen so much good and respect in a society. It is hard for me to describe a single event or experience to resume Taiwanese hospitality because I find kindness in my daily interactions with Taiwanese people. Despite this, I will try to describe some of the events that have deeply touched me.

The first days I arrived Taiwan everything was new and different for me. Going to a new environment and not knowing what to expect can be nerve-wracking. Fortunately, I had the support of my loving project manager Tracy.  She has been and continues to be an angel in my life. She helped us first year ICDF students with the paperwork, introduced us to the culture, and helped us with the adaptation process. She has gone above and beyond the job of a manager; she has become a friend and family here in Taiwan. It is not easy to develop that deep connection and trust with someone; but she has been so open, kind and caring that I know she’ll be there whenever I need anything.

Hello everyone ! So one more time I was asked to write a few lines for the TICA newsletter. This opportunity, I will share a little about the most touching experie nce of Taiwanese hospitality. I've been living  in Taiwan now for more than a year, and I got to say : everyday I learn more things about Taiwanese  culture and the locals.

Taiwanese, in general are very kind people. And they are extremely nice with the foreigners. A few months ago I had the chance to spend some quality time with my roommate and her family. She lives in Changhua, and that was my first time meeting the family of a Taiwanese friend.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect, or what was the appropriate way to behave among her relatives, but my roommate didn’t care much about what was I going to behave like, or anything about me, actually she put a lot of attention on her family; how they were going to treat me, and what places will they show me. In fact, she wanted  to make my stay with her and her family, one of the best experiences of my life in Taiwan.

Life is somehow meaningless if what one does goes without positive effects on lives of others. Being in Taiwan is one of my most memorable experiences and I cannot achieve it without the peace loving people of Taiwan. The daily kindness has positive effects on my life and I’m grateful. Again, the Taiwanese people hospitality has many lasting impression not only on me, I bet, on many foreigners, I cannot thank them enough. I have had so many touching experience from incredible people, and to choose one from these beautiful experiences is not an easy task, as I have many ‘‘WAAW’’ moments to share. When my acquaintances asked me to designate my Taiwan experience, what first ring a bell is Taiwanese outstanding dedication to service, kindness, patience, and friendliness.

Going through memory lane, I encountered several situations which left me in “awe.” I have had many experiences to share; each one involves some kind of adventure. Here are some of the many undertakings worth sharing: one story about the most touching experience of Taiwanese hospitality, began in my second week in Taiwan when I met an elderly man, inside the bus.

It all started when I came to this beautiful and far away country of Taiwan, its approximately 20 hours flight distance from my country El Salvador, and having a high doses of anxiety, not knowing what will be in these faraway lands, I found myself happy and rejoiced with how people here have treated me and made my life far from my family much more comfortable. I remember in the first months I had been living in the beautiful university Yuan Ze, supporting the climax of summer weather (which involved a lot of sweating at that time) I decided to go for a run around the soccer field.

Immediately after I finished 10 laps (or so I want to think I did that much) I just sat on the field trying to catch my breath, by that time I didn’t had the opportunity to make new friends, as always the language barrier was still present in its maximum expression (my only grammar was 你好); so there I was, just sitting when a group of Taiwanese student got near me and said hello, asked me my name and where did I come from (I’m guessing my Latin physical features snitched me out that I was not Asian), I explained that I came from Central America, in which they responded: “ohhh really Americaaa… so good … so good….are you from Texas or Kansas?”,  in which I answered: “well I’m not from the middle part of the country known as America, I’m from the middle part of the continent with the same name”, so I showed them in my cellphone the map of where is located El Salvador, starting from that point they were really interested about my country and they started to ask me about our manners, the weather, the society traditions, and with joy they started to compare them with Taiwanese culture. 

My English name is Lidia Reyes and my Chinese name is Li di ya (李迪亞). Basically my Chinese name is a translation of my first name “Lidia”, and it was a good surprise that my “Chinese Family Name”, Li (李) is kind of famous, common and a good one, according with what some classmates told me. Since September 2014 I am at Yuan Ze University (YZU) in pursuit of an International Graduate Program in Industrial Engineering and Management (IEM) and I hope to finish next year in July.

From the moment I landed in Taiwan I heard good things from some people I met about how good people the Taiwanese are. I was kind of skeptical at first and the intimidating language barrier prevented me from making an effort with the locals. I was confused and realized how difficult it would be to try to interact with the locals.

Enjoying the way Taiwanese Celebrate “New Year”

The Chinese New Year is the most important of the holidays for the Taiwanese, defined as the first day of the first month in the Lunar calendar. Unlike the Christian New Year, which is based on a solar calendar, the Chinese New Year is based on the traditional Chinese luni-solar calendar which dates indicate both the moon phase and the time of the solar year. A lunar month is around 2 days shorter than a solar month. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar, an extra month is inserted every few years. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.

It was a weekday morning when I decided to embark to explore Taipei surroundings with some new international friends. As always, when I travel alone or in group, I like to be prepare to the unknown so the night before the trip I searched through the internet to find some famous places to visit, as I find some nice places I start to mark them in a map of Taipei that I got from the airport’s Visitors Information Center. After a couple of hours of searching through the web I got my map heavily marked with so many possible destinations for the next day.

Around 7:00 am we headed to Taipei Main Train Station by the local train from Taoyuan, we had being told that by using the MRT system we can easily move around Taipei and visit some of the main attractions the city has to offer. After 45 minutes we arrive to the Main Station, surrounded by so many people coming and going, everybody minding their own business and speaking a language unknown to us. As we try to move through the mass of people we notice some English written signs showing us the way to the MRT. Fairly easily we arrived to the MRT red line.