Two Months to Shape a Lifetime

你好!我叫李小龙!It was my honor to have been accepted into the Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program earlier this year; and being almost halfway through the program already, I hope I am making my mentors proud. I will continue to push my language abilities, writing as many notecards for new vocabulary and phrases until my pen runs out of ink.

I would like to start this writing from the airport that took me to Taiwan. While stuck in San Francisco due to flight complications, the director of the program, Mr. Scott Osdras, put me in contact with another TISLP participant stuck in San Francisco, I met up with her in the midst of connecting flight trouble and missing luggage, but we formed a strong friendship that has lasted and become stronger now that we are in the program. When we made it to Tainan, we took a cab from the train station to National Cheng Kung University; however, the both of us, as well as the cab driver, were unsure where to be dropped off. My first real interaction with a native Taiwanese was with this cab driver. As soon as we arrived on the large and impressive campus, he turned the meter off, disregarding we had let to leave his cab. We continued in his car, looking for our building, with the cab driver stopping periodically to ask for direction. About ten minutes after making it to campus, the driver finally find our building. Though the description I gave may read insignificant, it showed an idiosyncrasy, a temperamental peculiarity, that I have found in every Taiwanese individual I have interacted with over the past three week: patience. With their patience comes a sense of genuine care towards other individuals. They have all taken pride in helping me since arriving, whether it be helping me stumble through new grammar patterns, or handing me back money when I have misheard the charged amount and over-payed. Though individual examples of this genuine care are easily found in the United States, it is not widespread across seemingly the entire population. It has made me feel safe, and most importantly, welcomed.

The staff of NCKU also must be praised. They smile when we bump into each other off-campus, they laugh at our [unfunny] jokes, and give you little hints into how to become more fluent. Most off all the stressed how learning is not a straight incline. There will be troughs plateaus, but they have not seemed nearly as daunting when you are greeted with an ever-growing optimism. Just the other day, one of our instructors bumped into a small group of us skateboarding off campus, she smiled and waved, took a couple pictures, and applauding our [off-balanced] tricks.

One aspect I have found to be most interesting is the difference in medical practices. Specifically, the notion of a co-signature being necessary for medical treatments. It means that the family’s approval, specifically the father’s lineage, is necessary for moving forward with treatments, along with the patient’s. This is a big difference from American medicine, and I find it most fascinating. Having shadowed in an Emergency Department, and witnessed a DNR patient pass on to the next, with his family present, I respect this cultural practice to every extent. The impact of medical practices on family is an emotional roller coaster, and in Taiwan, taking all those who will be affected into consideration is something I believe to be very respectful, and very significant.

On a lighter note, I was suffering from headaches earlier this week. I went to the clinic and was prescribed some medicine to take; but, what I found to help the most was a gentleman I met when skateboarding in the park. He asked me my name and why I looked to be in discomfort, and I told him of my ailments. He asked me to sit, and proceeded to tell me how he is a 6th generation acupuncturist, and asked if he could lightly inspect me. I told him to go ahead. He described my muscles as being tense, and gave me bits of life advice. He told me to calm down. We have meet three more times since, and I cannot wait until the next time.

The last thing I want to describe is my experience with a shop owner who sat with me to practice my spoken Chinese. He asked me my name and I told him “李小龙” and he greeted me with a mile-wide-smile. He asked me to come back the next day, but due to a language partner meet up, I was about 45 minutes late. When I finally walked in, everyone in the restaurant looked at me and yelled “BRUCE LEE!” I have never felt so welcomed, anywhere, before in my life. It was a moment that will make me smile for the rest of time.

By: Raymond Salata

Program: Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program

Term: Summer 2018

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