Erenlai - Focus: SayTaiwan
Focus: SayTaiwan

Focus: SayTaiwan

週三, 05 十月 2011

SayTaiwan : behind the scenes

Mei-fang was one the project managers in charge of the participants and the host families. She tells us more about the selection process:

This program was aimed at inviting “international young people” to Taiwan, in this way, we hoped to spread the word about Taiwan’s hospitality and culture. We promoted this program through the use of various social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Plurk, Twitter and so on. Many university professors were also very enthusiastic in helping to promote this program to other universities around the world. Many other organizations including JCI (Junior Chamber International), AISEC, and Rotary International helped us to promote this program through their worldwide networks of members, and their members in Taiwan also took part by hosting our guests. AIESEC’s young college members also joined our volunteer groups.

During the process, the organizers noticed that using the internet to promote the program caused some problems for countries with a lack of convenient Internet access. As a result, we delayed the closing date for applications, allowing more countries to become aware of this activity and to be able to participate. We tried our best not to make the Internet become a tool which excluded people in the course of the project.

We had a large number of applicants this time, yet the organizers already had set in place a selection panel consisting of nine adjudicators, our criteria were as follows: familiarity with the internet, experience with other cultures, we also took into consideration their motivation for taking part and their plan for promoting the project in their own community.
When we were contacting the selected international youths, an invitee from Bolivia, Central American, mailed us and said that he was really excited. He told us that he had a preference for a coastal city because he could not see the ocean in his own country. Taiwan is, obviously, an island country, but in order to attain a placement close to the coast for our Bolivian invitee, we arranged a host family for him on Matsu. He was very pleased when he was notified, and he loved the two weeks of his homestay, appreciating the culture and enjoying the natural beauty of Matsu.

週四, 29 九月 2011

238 x TW ÷ 105 = 100

In order to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of its foundation, the government of the R.O.C planned a broad array of activities and festivals. One program in particular caught our attention due to its extravagance and ambition: last February, the Council for Cultural Affairs decided to invite more than 200 young individuals from all over the world for a cultural exchange in Taiwan. After going through an elaborated selection process involving, for example, the posting of a video of motivation, 238 delighted candidates coming from 105 different countries, earned a plane ticket and the experience to be hosted by a family in Taiwan over twelve days. In exchange, they had to report about their stay on the island on blogs and other social media. Renlai had the chance to meet with seven of the ‘home-stayers’ coming from Latin America, Africa and Northern Europe. One can question the depth of such an exchange because of its short time span and its ‘touristic’ aspect, but one can also measure the benefit that the two parties drew from this experience. On the one hand, most of the visitors compensated the brevity of their stay with an intensity in the diversity and originality of their encounters and discoveries; and on the other hand, they brought a fresh and original look at Taiwan’s communal spaces and sites. So let us succumb to the impromptu and see Taiwan through the eyes of the newcomer...

Photo courtesy of Alice Lin

週五, 23 九月 2011

Africa can learn from Asia

Interview with Niyomwungeri Maxime Jim from Rwanda

This tall, strong and positive young man with such a broad smile on his face is Niyomwungeri Maxime Jim. We met each other at a party at which were assembled lots of guests from the "Say Taiwan Homestay project".

He came to Taiwan from Rwanda, an inland country with the highest density population in Central Africa. As his name is not that easy to pronounce for Taiwanese people, his host family gave him a Mandarin nickname, "Lu An" (路安). His host family lives in Dong Shih, Taichung city, in a quiet and pleasant suburban neighbourhood. "They treat me so well! They make me feel like a prince!", he says. His host father, Peter Chen is a devout christian who is in charge of a daycare center for the elderly."I thought the host family would just be a place to sleep and that I would have to take care of myself. But they treat me like their own son, which I never expected. They give me so much that I do not want to leave Taiwan." He says happily.

Besides his host family, another impressive experience for "Lu An" was in the Taiwanese night market. "The night market is fun, I eat everything, and today I ate so much I almost died... So I learned today, that you need to just have a little taste then move on to the next stall…." He also emphasized the liveliness of the city,"Wow! You drive very fast and everyone seems to follow the rules. Every one stops at traffic lights."

We began to discuss more about the differences between Taiwan and Rwanda : "I think you are united and your people share the same vision for the country. The police treat people in a friendly way and you really feel they are working for tthe public. They want to see their country grow better, it is very nice."

I was interested that he said he found it hard to hear from local Taiwanese people."Taiwanese people work hard, I want to learn from you for my country's future development." "...You really show your respect to each other. People truly care about and respect others from the bottom of their hearts. They don’t judge you. I don’t feel like I’m foreigner here. He adds: "I don't understand what happened in your past, but I think that what brings you together is bigger than what separates you." I was suprised that we are united more than divided in his eyes.

He think there are a lot of things to learn from Asia. He feels like all Asians come from the same place, hence there is an ability to cooperate and to work in unity. Finally, we asked him what Taiwan can learn from Africa, to which he responded: "Come to Africa and you will find out! We’ve been through so much pain, but we are still joyful, that’s what you can learn."


Interview filmed by Hallie Haller and Cerise Phiv, edited by Zijie Yang and Cerise Phiv

週五, 23 九月 2011

Djembe drumming across boundaries

An interview with Karamoko Camara

“They are very surprised, when people hear Taiwan, they only hear the name, and they cannot think how I came to be here.” Karamoko, or Moko as he is familiarly known, told us how people in his own country, Guinea, responded when they heard Moko was going to Taiwan.

“But you know, music has no boundaries. Music can make two countries friends. Music can pull so many people together.” He said in a firm but passionate tone.

Karamoko Camara is a master of African drumming and dance from Guinea, in West Africa. When people hear African drums, it often brings to mind the image of a crowd of people playing drums with their bare hands in a circle. “Djembe” is the most well-known kind of West African hand drum, which is played outdoors. He lived for almost eleven years in Japan, teaching and playing African music. This made him a cultural ambassador for West Africa.

“African music is powerful; you cannot play slowly, when you are happy, you play your happiness with the sound of your drums. Some people think it is too loud but it is the tradition. Our ways are our life. When you play in a happy way you can see the audience is happy also. In the local village, we play to celebrate a birth or as part of a ceremony, such as rainmaking.” He added.

He could not be happier that his host family plays Djembe as well, since he cannot live one week without touching drums. His host father, Sun Dafu (Daouda) is not only an enthusiast of African drums but also established the “African Culture and Art Association” in Taiwan. He teaches and organizes different workshops of African music and dance around Taiwan.

Moko noticed the differences in how people in Japan and Taiwan accept African music. He thinks Taiwanese are more receptive to it. In the countryside, even if the event was held in a little restaurant, people would make the effort to come and see him perform. People in Taiwan are more open than in Japan. “If you are lucky, you can find audiences who like African music, sometimes you discover that it is not to everybody’s taste.”


Watch Moko's performance at the Homestay closing banquet

週五, 23 九月 2011

Djembe drumming across boundaries

An interview with Karamoko Camara

“They are very surprised, when people hear Taiwan, they only hear the name, and they cannot think how I came to be here.” Karamoko, or Moko as he is familiarly known, told us how people in his own country, Guinea, responded when they heard Moko was going to Taiwan.

“But you know, music has no boundaries. Music can make two countries friends. Music can pull so many people together.” He said in a firm but passionate tone.

Karamoko Camara is a master of African drumming and dance from Guinea, in West Africa. When people hear African drums, it often brings to mind the image of a crowd of people playing drums with their bare hands in a circle. “Djembe” is the most well-known kind of West African hand drum, which is played outdoors. He lived for almost eleven years in Japan, teaching and playing African music. This made him a cultural ambassador for West Africa.

“African music is powerful; you cannot play slowly, when you are happy, you play your happiness with the sound of your drums. Some people think it is too loud but it is the tradition. Our ways are our life. When you play in a happy way you can see the audience is happy also. In the local village, we play to celebrate a birth or as part of a ceremony, such as rainmaking.” He added.

He could not be happier that his host family plays Djembe as well, since he cannot live one week without touching drums. His host father, Sun Dafu (Daouda) is not only an enthusiast of African drums but also established the “African Culture and Art Association” in Taiwan. He teaches and organizes different workshops of African music and dance around Taiwan.

Moko noticed the differences in how people in Japan and Taiwan accept African music. He thinks Taiwanese are more receptive to it. In the countryside, even if the event was held in a little restaurant, people would make the effort to come and see him perform. People in Taiwan are more open than in Japan. “If you are lucky, you can find audiences who like African music, sometimes you discover that it is not to everybody’s taste.”


Watch Moko's performance at the Homestay closing banquet

週五, 16 九月 2011

Fasting in the Far East

An interview with Hanane Khlifi from Morocco

"I had some doubts in the beginning, about the ALL FEES COVERED...", admits Moroccan participant, Hanane Khlifi, chuckling in retrospect. "But I knew there would be participants from all over the world... I just loved the idea of meeting new people. I kinda needed that change in my life". With that in mind, her last-minute application was sent, to the Republic of China (Taiwan) International Youth Week: Centennial Homestay committee.

Following two tough selection processes, Hanane and 237 other international participants, from 131 various countries, were shaping up to celebrate, with the respective 200 Taiwanese host families waiting to welcome them.

After two transits and a total twenty-four hours in the air, Hanane arrived safely in Taoyuan International Airport, for the centennial celebration of the founding of the Republic of China (Taiwan)... and coincidentally, her 23rd birthday.

In contrast to many of her starry-eyed fellow participants, who were quick to add "a couple of kilograms" to their list of Taiwanese travel gains; Hanane spent the daylight hours of her stay fasting - in recognition of the Islamic holy month, Ramadan.

"I had explained to people that I was fasting and it was Ramadan in that period, and people were so understanding and caring to that situation. My hosts were trying to get me the food I was allowed, by religion, to eat. They tried so hard to keep me away from anything I couldn’t have."

As a part of their cultural beliefs, Muslims are unable to drink alcohol, eat pork, or any other animals that were not slaughtered in the halaal Muslim way. "Muslims usually slaughter the animals we’re allowed to eat in a special way - we actually have to say the name of Allah (God) before doing it. So I could eat vegetables, fruits, rice, fish and seafood - which I actually loved in Taiwan," explains Hanane.

Hanane began her days of Ramadan, with a pre-dawn food dash to none other than Taiwan’s beloved 7-ELEVEN.

hanane_portrait"At night I went to any beloved 7-ELEVEN store I could find…and they were many! One of my positive culture shocks in Taiwan, was how safe we felt, even if we were out alone in the night.”

“I woke up to do all the activities with everyone else. They actually made it easier for me... they kept asking if I’m feeling okay…everyone was so supportive. I had to break my fast at sunset again, and my new friends were all keeping an eye on their watches to remind me that I had to eat something.”

“I actually didn’t find any mosques in Taiwan. I know there’s one in Taipei, but didn’t know where... I mainly visited temples - there are a lot of temples. Maybe not for religious reasons, but for the beauty of the architecture and the stories they had. I was curious to know the story of each temple."

Like most participants, Hanane had Google-ogled Taiwan, but later assessed that not even the mighty Google could adequately have prepared her for the wealth of Taiwanese hospitality she experienced: "There’re some stereotypes about Asian people that I had in mind... workaholic, too serious…But what I saw and experienced while discovering different counties of Taiwan was way better. I had never met people so nice... They’re so welcoming and ready to help anyone at any time...sometimes without even being asked.”

“I believe the hospitality of people is similar in the two countries. People in Morocco tend to help each other as much as they can - especially foreigners... Although food is definitely one hundred percent different", she adds laughing.

Hanane makes it clear that the constraints of Ramadan in no way restrained the pleasure of her experience of Taiwan – if anything, this enhanced her experience of Taiwanese hospitality, during her stay in the further East.

 


Read Hanane's blog on Homestay website

 

週五, 16 九月 2011

SayTaiwan superstars

An interview with Rando Pikner (Estonia) and Jusso Lautiainen (Finland)


Rando with his "Host Father"

“Honestly I feel like superstar in Taiwan, because everywhere I go people are so friendly…They don’t want to seem friendly… they are actually friendly. That’s why I like the Taiwanese,” Rando begins.

Flamboyant Estonian, Rando Pikner, and charismatic Melbourne-based Finn, Jusso Lautiainen, compare notes, as guests at SayTaiwan’s International Youth Week: Centennial Homestay.

Jusso, who has had a love affair with Asia and Mandarin before, is struck by Taiwan’s synthesis of tradition and modernity. “I’ve been to China before… it’s more different than I thought, and at the same it’s quite similar… People in Taiwan come from many parts of South East Asia, but also many parts of China. That’s why there’s really traditional characters and traditional culture, but at the same time it’s sort of multicultural. I find it really fascinating.”

Rando, who is “starting-up a start-up,” is smitten with the island techno-topia. “Today I visited a city called Hsinchu and a company there. I’m trying to start up a company… and they are producing power meters. (So) I may have some further business relations with Taiwan in the future,” he says, fingers crossed.

Enjoying the fruits of the land (a Taiwan Beer), in an attempt to dissuade the belligerent humidity, Rando tells of how he and Jusso are beginning to acclimatize. “We come from Northern Europe … and you know the climate is pretty cold sometimes. That’s why people are a little bit stressed sometimes and walking too fast. But HERE…” , he pauses for gravity, “…if it’s thirty-five degrees and it’s so humid outside, you cannot move very fast. You have to relax and move very slowly...” At this Rando imitates, what looks like, RoboCop slow-motion marching through mud. “…it keeps you relaxed. And the mind is also relaxed when the body is relaxed… that’s why I think it’s very healthy to live on this island.”

“Last time I swam in Finland,” Jusso retorts, “…I had to saw a hole through the ice - which was about this thick,” Jusso, not a necessarily small man, gesticulates to show the length of his torso. “And the water temperature’s maybe zero degrees… so here, you can go with shorts… it’s pretty cool.”

In response to the question, “can you swim very deep?” Jusso and Rando exchange glances, and begin to crack-up. Jusso explains, “Here, yes. In Finland, no… If you dive too deep and you come up and you have the ice covered,”(Jusso is now demonstrating an ice roof over his head in mime-like fashion)…

“You’re done”, Rando interjects, with finality.

Suddenly, Rando recalls another surprising discovery of the region, with enthusiastic awe…

Juuso_homestay“And the fruits! The local fruits! Okay we have the fruits also in Northern Europe, but if they pick the fruits, they are not ready. So the taste of the fruits in Taiwan and the tastes of the fruit in Estonia – totally different.” He continues,” I love the food here… you have so many tastes on the table, and can choose… you can combine, and just enjoy.”

“Last Saturday morning I was eating, chicken leg… chicken feet! And it didn’t taste very bad… it was actually pretty edible. But…” he begins laughing again, “… it looked like chicken feet… chicken foot...” says Rando, staring at his hand, as he splays his fingers into some sort of chicken-foot formation, to punctuate his point.

“But everywhere I go in the world, the people are most important” Rando concludes. “Because I don’t get the feeling of local life and culture, unless I feel, I sense, the local people.”

And at this Jusso concurs, “Taiwan is a pretty special place in Asia…Apart from the obvious differences like language… I really think people are really different. In Western societies like Finland and Australia, it’s a lot more individualistic… people at least pretend to be more independent. Whereas in Taiwan, the family connection and connection between people - I think it’s a lot stronger. And value of human relationships is a lot higher. We can learn something from that.”

週五, 16 九月 2011

Taiwan: form for function

An interview with Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar from El Salvador

“My expectations were pretty much about structures and temples, and modern buildings. I was just pretty excited to know the lifestyle of the people over here…how they live and how they relate the way of their living with their buildings,” Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar says in his lilting Salvadoran accent.

The main objective of the International Youth Week: Centennial Homestay event, was to create exposure for a country flourishing 100 years after independence. However, the international participants, like Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar, have been selected according to excellence in their given fields - not only creating ambassadors for Taiwan, but also establishing a network of influential youths, who may later come to shape the country's role in the international community.

Thanks to the Say Taiwan project, this Salvadoran civil engineering student, Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar, is in Asia for the first time, marveling at the vertical virtuosity of Taiwan's structures. Mesmerized by both the high skyline and the skillful use of space, he responds to Taiwan in terms of form and function.

“I find the architecture over here very attractive, and also efficient. Taiwanese people use very efficiently the space that they have, because there is a very high population here in this country, although it’s a very small island. So, they know how to handle that. They know how to use the space that they have so that they can fit everything… it’s very organized, it’s not that chaotic over here…compared to the big cities I have been to, for example, New York, Los Angeles, London… even those in my country.”

Alejandro, however, stays in the countryside - with his host family in Meinong village. He describes the meticulously precise rows of planted crops as something he has only ever seen before in Farmville - a popular Facebook-based, virtual farming game.

"The thing that most surprised me about the city,where I'm staying, is the protected areas that they have. Also, the yellow butterfly village and the Buddhist temple that they have over there - that was the most amazing thing that I have ever seen. The bulding, it’s so old but it’s well constructed, well-organized in matters of space… It kinda resembles decoration that we have over in my country. Colonial churches that we have, their decoration is pretty similar - the usage of gold and colors… it’s very attractive also,” he elaborates.

“What I've noticed is that they pretty much have their own buildings just for living - just what you really need, nothing luxurious. For example the house that I'm staying (in), it’s divided by two. So, on one side is my host family, and (on) the other side is the sister of my host family. They have a specific space of land that they can use. They use the space that they have for the things that they do, because they are all farmers. I think they are pretty organized... in the backyard, they have a few crops. Then, on the other side they have a few animals that they raise, and then they have the space where they live."

“The houses - they’re more like a drawer construction. It’s kinda smart to build the way up, instead of the way here", Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar concludes, gesticulating with his arms wide open.

"It’s pretty basic but beautiful as the same time.”

Video filmed by C. Phiv and H. Haller, edited by C. Phiv
Photo courtesy of R. A. Aguilar


 

Want to know more about Rodrigo's saty in Taiwan? Read his blog on Homestay website

週五, 16 九月 2011

Both sides of the fence

An interview with Matheus Da Silva from Brazil and his "host brother" Ben Huang

Like many others SayTaiwan partipants, Brazilian guest, Matheus Da Silva, and his Taiwanese host, Ben Huang, are sharing Matheus' first day in Taiwan, and their first day together. As they get better acquainted, Matheus and Ben share the little lightbulb moments that their SayTaiwan experience has brought so far.

Matheus, who has lived in Shanghai before, explains the intrigue that put his pen to application paper. "...Perspective of the Taiwanese people. After living in China for a year, and after living in Hong Kong and Macau...that's what I really wanted to get...what is the main difference between the Taiwanese and the rest?"

As student in the Department of Political Science (at National Taiwan University) Matheus' host, Ben's curiosity comes from the otherside of the fence. "I wanted an opportunity to practice my English, and this has also encouraged me in my plans to study abroad in the future."

"Actually, I was surprised that he (Matheus) can speak a little Chinese...", Ben says.

"...yi dian dian!" (a little!), Matheus clarifies - This not least of the things that has taken Huang by surprise thus far.

Ben continues, "Before the event, I went to a seminar to listen to a diplomat discussing international etiquette. He said that, for people in Central or South America, it is not unusual to be half an hour late for an event. In fact, being one hour to half an hour late is customary!" At this, the student from Taiwan (a country renowened for efficiency) widens his eyes, perplexed. "And it's true! In the last three or four cases, we have been delayed by half an hour. So now we have to prepare in advance of the actual time. It's because they (South Americans) are used to taking a bath before they leave, even if they have already washed that day."

Ben adds, with a mischievous smile, "And because he is Brazilian, I expected him to be a good dancer and a football player - but in fact he can't do either!"

Matheus, however, is pleased to have his optimistic expectations met. "I was expecting them to be kind, which they are, one hundred percent, because all of the Taiwanese people I've met, they were all really easy to get along with. That's what it was coming here." Despite having survived thirty-four hours of flight time alone, Matheus' impression so far is definitely glass-half full. "Friendly people, beautiful island, beautiful place... Well, the Portuguese called it Illa Formosa, which in my mother language, means beautiful island."


Know more about Matheus' experience in Taiwan: read his blog on Homestay website

週四, 24 二月 2011

Let's 'SayTaiwan'

The build-up to ROC Taiwan's "International Youth Week - Centennial Homestay" has begun, with SayTaiwan calling for 250 participants from over one hundred countries, for this one off opportunity to experience the various colours and moods of this beautiful island. For the event that will be held over 12th-25th August, applicants are encouraged to send an optional video, 3-5 minutes in length, introducing themselves, along with the relevant documents before April 15th 2011.

In the Taiwanese dialect Seh-daiwan (遊台灣) means 'wander Taiwan'. SayTaiwan aims to promote Taiwan abroad, by giving these lucky individuals the chance to see for themselves what a beautiful, friendly and safe place Taiwan is. The winning participants will live with local families in different areas of Taiwan...one lucky visitor will even get the opportunity to run in the park with Vice Premier Chen and his beloved dog. Asides from home staying with local families, the participants will be expected to report about their experiences in Taiwan through blogs, social networking and other internet mediums. Finally all the participants will travel to the very fringe of Taiwan, as they visit Kinmen Island, home of Taiwan's favourite sorghum wine - Kinmen Kaoliang - and just two kilometres from mainland China. There they will attend the "ROC Centennial Peace Day in Kinmen" and a farewell banquet.

During the opening press conference, journalists, government officials and some foreign guests were treated to a unique and lively Taiwanese dance performance. Afterwards Jasmine Brown, a Belizean student at National Taiwan Normal University, the home of the biggest Mandarin language centre in Taiwan, was asked to give her thoughts on Taiwan. "Taiwan is a beautiful country" she replied, before throwing praise on how "extremely safe" and "convenient" Taiwan was for her regular 3am journeys to convenience stores and fast food joints. She also expressed gratitude for how "friendly and helpful" the people on Taiwan were, giving a personal example:

"My little brother came to visit me in Taipei, and on his way back to Taipei from Tainan, he forgot his wallet in the Taxi. So he went back to Tainan and then he realised he didn't have his wallet. The taxi driver took his wallet to the police station and the police officer found his ID card from the Taekwondo teacher that my brother has. The Taekwondo teacher called and told my little brother that the card was safely back in Taipei. In any other country your wallet would be gone, but not in Taipei."

saytaiwan2But Taiwan is more than midnight snacking, Yoyo cards and metropolitan safe havens. Indeed there is much that the world can learn from Taiwan. It is one of the most advanced technology hubs in the world, uniquely positioned to share its culture and society through Asia and the Pacific; its demographic landscape is a sea of diversity, with over ten languages still spoken in Taiwan, even more native ethnic groups, and  very healthy Austronesian, Hakka and Chinese arts scenes all coexisting harmoniously together; finally, it is the home of bubble or pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶), a fact not lost on those who received their own bubble tea as a leaving present. Taiwan also has much to learn from the rest of the world and will greatly look forward to the stories and experiences of their visiting friends.

For those interested in the project you can apply from the beginning of March 2011, until April 15th, 2011. More information here or email: Email住址會使用灌水程式保護機制。你需要啟動Javascript才能觀看它">saytaiwan@100homestay.com

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