The Taiwan I Know -- By Eric Lin

I was very skeptical when my mom brought up the idea of participating in a10-day informational tour of Taiwan along with 30 other American-born-Taiwanese kids. After all, why would I want to waste my Christmas vacation and New Year's to spend time in Taiwan? Taiwan was just an overpopulated little country filled with snake alleys, stinky tofu, beetle nut booths, and an over abundance of scooters.  I could instead be spending time with family or friends participating in the New Year's countdown in Las Vegas or New York.   After many days of personal contemplation coupled with a very persistent mother, I set aside my preconceptions of Taiwan and decided that this tour would be as interesting as I wanted it to be.

As I arrived in Taiwan, my random thoughts of methods for entertainment and personal gratification were immediately overshadowed by the sudden recognition of the purpose of the tour.  Prior to participating in the tour, my mother briefly told me the story of why the tour was founded etc.  At the time, the story seemed like more of an old folktale or ancient myth to me.  The first couple of days in Ilan the group was introduced to Lin I-Hsiung and presented a brief history of Taiwan of which I knew very little about.  I was humbled by the achievements and motives of Lin-I-hsiung but more so by his character and mere presence.  It was one thing to read or hear about hero's and role model's but to actually meet one was simply amazing.  I became very intrigued to find out more about the politics and lifestyles of the current situation in Taiwan.  The respect and admiration for Lin-I-hsiung and his family was obvious but more importantly I began to understand the purpose as to why I was here.  For some, the tour provided an opportunity to meet new friends and for others, the chance to learn more about their home country.  All things considered, the Tsunah 2002 tour gathered, together a diverse group of young Taiwanese Americans from all over the states each with very different career aspirations.  Initial similarities were drawn upon familial and cultural backgrounds but by the end of the tour, the most common basis of established neutrality resided in the purpose to unite as one and form a voice as Americans to strive for an independent Formosa.  Once this purpose was established in my mind, it was easy to forget about the wild New Year's parties that I would otherwise be having in the states.  I found myself becoming indulged in the overwhelmingly massive mountains of Taroko Gorge, the breathtaking scenery of Kenting, the nightlife of Taipei and the love and music shared between the Aboriginal Tribes of Taitung.  By experiencing Taiwan as a true Taiwanese rather than an outsider, I realized the true sacrifice that my parents made not only in raising their children in America but the sacrifice they made in leaving behind such a beautiful country.  Toward the end of the tour, I think that I speak for the group as a whole in that many of us didníŽt want to go home.  Suddenly stinky tofu didníŽt smell so bad and stepping in a puddle of red,  Beetle nut juice in the streets was simply part of Taiwan culture.  As for myself, I gained a tremendous amount of respect and developed a sense of compassion for the people and country of Taiwan.  By understanding the history of Taiwan and experiencing the lifestyle and culture I was able to make the important distinction between what was outwardly displayed by the people and what their true inner motives were.  In closing, I would like to present a compiled list of the funny yet true questions that I had of; why? 

Why are the Taiwanese so concerned with covering their mouth with their other hand while picking their teeth with a toothpick yet display such little shame in picking their nose in public or violently ripping nose hairs from their nostrils?

Why do some of the beetle nut girls look young enough to be your niece and others old enough to be your grandma?

Why does stinky tofu smell so god-awfully disgusting but actually taste O.K.?

Why do the presidential security members carry only what seem like cheap, black pleather travel/toiletry bags with a walkie-talkie inside?

Why can't we all just speak Taiwanese?
Why are there so many old men sitting on little colorful chairs all day at Temples?
Why do you absolutely need to wear swim caps in order to take a dip?
Why are Taiwanese so concerned with what other people think yet they don't seem to give a damn about what their teeth look like?
Why is street food so good yet so bad?

Why can't Taiwan become the 51st state of the United States of America?
Why does the garbage truck blast repetitive circus music at high volumes throughout the entire night?
Why does the fried pig's blood sticks' strike such eerie resemblance to Dairy Queen's Dilly Bar?
Thanks for your time and endless dedication.  Sincerely, Eric Lin