It is more than one year since I arrived in Taiwan on August 27th, 2006. Among lots of other things, my first year was spent studying Chinese at the National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) Mandarin Training Centre (MTC). Here is an idea of what I have been up to during that first year.
Outside the Mandarin Training Centre one day after we arrived in Taipei. Back row; from left: Seab Jackson, Gordon Shallow, Jamali Jack. Front row: Cherene Thomas, me, Laverne Phillips, Silkie Prescott. Seab and Gordon had been in Taiwan for one year when we arrived.
Vincentians in Taiwan got together to celebrate their nations independence (Oct 27th) with a cultural package and sampling of Vincentian cuisine. The guests included former Taiwan ambassador to St Vincent and the Grenadines, Elizabeth Chu. Here, my friends Amber and Jay had a go at Vincy food.
The Mandarin Training Centre offers many opportunities for its students to see Taiwan and to experience elements of her culture. I took advantage of a three-day trip to Alishan and Sun Moon Lake in Central Taiwan. The trip included, among other things, a visit to the Aboriginal Culture Village where we witnessed a performance (pictured) and a factory that makes paper, using traditional methods.
Maybe because I from the Caribbean where the temperature, at least in SVG, moves between 18 and 32 degree, the winter in Taiwan, notwithstanding the fact that it does not snow, was really terrible for me. I was depressed and homesick and lost 16 pounds. After hibernation, I came out of my nest in February and joined a school trip to witness the Lantern Festival just outside Taipei.
Spring and autumn are my favourite months in Taiwan. Winter and summer are either too cold or too hot. And, in March, on the invitation of my friend Libby (below centre), and some of her friend, I took a one-day trip to Yilan. It was great to see the ocean. However, a beach has to be really good to impress someone from SVG. This one failed miserably.
I have developed a close friendship with the members of Pan Africana Cultural Troupe, a group of African and Caribbean nationals, including Vincentian Vashti Carr, Dominican Kim Douglas and Grenadian Kellon Bubb. On several occasions, I accompanied them to the central Taiwan city of Taichung. On this occasion they had a show and were providing music for an African team playing in a soccer competition. If the footballers played half as well as Kobe (L) and Gee, they might have at least won one game.
I am photographed here as our team saluted the officials after one of our wins on day one. Have problems identifying me? I am the only black man there.
When I came to Taiwan for a three-week trip in 2005, dragon boat racing was one of the things that really caught my eyes. And, when I got the opportunity to represent the Mandarin Training Centre in 2006 I grabbed it with both hands. It was eight weeks of getting to training at 6:30 a.m. and really tough training.
However, our team caused uproar on the second day of competition when we jumped into the water to protest what was then an unexplained demotion to the losers’ bracket although we had won our two races. As it turned out, our team was demoted because our coach did not wear his life vest properly. We lost our chance of having our school win two years in a row. I was among those who jumped into the water. Read the story here.
Performing with Pan-Africana in Penghu
Summer is the time for travelling. And, after one year of Chinese I took advantage of opportunities to visit two of Taiwan’s islands: Matsu where I went as part of a school trip and Peng-Hu to perform with Pan Africana. Matsu is really close to China and is somewhat of a military base, though inhabited by civilian Taiwanese. It was used as a strategic location during the war with China.
Summer is also a time for welcoming and this year it was also a time to say adieu. We bade farewell to Cherene Thomas-Morris (with crutches), who because of extraneous circumstances decided to return home. At the same time, we welcomed four Vincentians to Taiwan. Those of us who were here during the summer got together with some friends for dinner in Taipei. (Photo: Courtesy Jamali Jack). Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and a delegation was also in Taipei earlier during the summer and we met with them for dinner on a seperate occasion.
In Taiwan, it is best to get physical. That is, of course if you do no want to gain 40 pounds!! And, I did get physical. I participated in a 10K in the Yang Ming Mountains, my first ever. I was pleased with my 114th1:01:36 finish among over 1000 participants in my category. Soon thereafter, some Japanese friends and I participated in the race up the 48-story Shin Kong Mitsokoushi. We are photographed here outside the building before the race, which I completed in 0:08:44.
A new phase began in September when I began reading for a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication at Ming Chuan University in Taipei. I live on campus and share a room with three other guys: form left, Junior from Brazil, Jabu from Swaziland, Peter from Kiribati and of course, me from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And, if this photo is anything to judge by, I think I am in for a fun year.