It has been a week since we’ve arrived and I have learned so much. Through opportunities in the TMT program, and my own personal excursions, I have travelled to seven places within these seven days. Three of these places have taught me new lessons about both Taiwan and myself.
National Chengchi University has taught me not only about the previously unknown to me history of Taiwan thus far, but also has taught me to believe in myself. As a rising junior double majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Africa and Asian Studies and minoring in French, I have had my fair share in East Asian History. However, I have only learned of Taiwanese history in relation to Koxinga and then World War II and what happened to their soldiers after the war. You might have noticed I am a French minor, not a Chinese minor. Chinese is not offered at my college, so I actually cram self studied a month worth of vocab into two weeks before arriving in Taiwan. Since I didn’t have formal language classes, I went into level 101 Chinese by myself and managed to surprise both Chen Laoshi (my teacher) and myself. With the vocab I acquired before I came, we were able to skip to lesson 3. I had low expectations for my Chinese coming in and didn’t realize I knew more than I thought. This experience taught me that I need to believe in my hard work and dedication that I put into my language learning.
Maokong was an optional excursion that was worth the visit and more. The village is nestled comfortably in the mountains near Taipei Zoo and is famous for its tea. The scenic gondola ride is worth the money in both the day and nighttime. Yet, the ride through the trees along the mountains in nothing compared to the view from the village. There are some amazing tea houses/restaurants with unbelievable views off their back patios. The view changes you. It fills your soul with warmth and fulfillment. It embodies the true power of nature over the human soul. Maokong has reminded me of the beauty that still exists in the world. My appreciation for Taiwan really grew in that visit–I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay frozen in that view forever.
Wulai taught me about the different ways to shoot an arrow. As an archery instructor in the states for Girl Scout Camps, I am relatively versed in shooting a bow and arrow. However, while observing aboriginal bow and arrow shooting techniques, I learned that they used arrows without feathers and held the arrow between their thumb and pointer finger. This was insanely difficult for me because I have never used those muscles in that way before. They had us do it their way a few times before letting us switch to what we were comfortable with. It was fascinating and educational to learn about their ways of life. This experience will stay with me for life.
Dadaocheng District taught me to always be open to new things. The founder of the district was the second strongest gangster in the area that lost a turf war to the first strongest gangster. The first strongest gangster declined working with western merchants due to unfamiliarity; however, the second strongest agreed to trade with them despite his wariness of foreigners and as a result, Dadaocheng District became a prosperous area.
NCCU, Maokong, and Dadaocheng District have all taught me valuable lessons in life. In the week I’ve been here, Taiwan has been beyond unbelievable. It has truly been a dream come true. I cannot wait to see what this journey has in store for me.
By: Namara Swillum
Program: Tradition and Modernity in Taiwan
Term: Summer 2019