The Taiwan I know -- By Kevin Lin

            Ever since I was twelve years old, my impression of Taiwan was one of dirty, overcrowded streets, lunatic auto bikes, stray dogs, and mosquito nets. Even when I went with my cousin in the summer of 2001, I got basically the same impression, minus the obscene overcrowding due to the newly constructed subway. Nevertheless, something about being in Taiwan makes up for all the cons ¡V something always makes me want to go back.

            This Christmas break, the Tsunah trip knocked out all of those bad impressions and replaced them with new ones I¡¦ll never forget.  The memories of the wonderful friends that I made on the trip. The faces of Taiwan that I had never seen before. The variety of ecology that differs so greatly from north to south, east to west. The sights, sounds, and smells of the night market.  The delicious food that we consumed every step of the way (even McDonald¡¦s has its surprises).  But most of all, it's the fact that I finally put a guise to that feeling of constant longing to return to Taiwan and that feeling of being truly welcome every time I step off that plane, no matter when

            Taiwan is an ecologist's dream. Being an ecology major, I really appreciate this and wish I had more time to explore. The first day, we were walking through the Wu-fang-chi waterfall park and in the trees we spotted some Taiwan Macaques. This was very exciting to me because in Louisiana, I'm lucky to see a wild animal that's not a bird or insect.

            I also got a taste of the nightlife when I went ¡§lounge crawling¡¨ with a few of the locals the last night we were in Taipei. I realized that night that I don't stay up until 3 A.M. every night at school for no reason ¡V it's the Taiwanese blood in me. Taiwanese people just love the nightlife, and I definitely fit right in. They also take naps during their lunch hours, which is quite possibly the best idea I've come across in a long time.

            If you love to eat, Taiwan is the place to do it. From breakfast to late night, Taiwan has just what you need to satisfy that craving. And to top it off, it's all really cheap and readily available. The only word to describe it is super-awesome.

            Another big thing for me was the fact that I was able to speak Taiwanese throughout most of the trip. It's really amazing to see how happy people get when you speak Taiwanese to them. The tour guide at Tanshui Fort San Domingo was shaking with excitement when we asked him to give the tour in Taiwanese, which he said was a first. This enthusiasm for the language gives me hope for the future of our culture, and I hope it begins to extend to Taiwanese Americans.

            I admit, I wasn't too sure about going on the trip when my mother told me about it, especially when I told my friends about it and they immediately laughed and said ¡§Kevin's going on Mini-Loveboat!¡¨ But now, looking back through my digital picture book, I feel like I'm looking at people I've known since childhood and places I've only dreamed about ever seeing. Though Taiwan tours may have a strange reputation, the Tsunah trip is truly worthwhile, and I feel so much better educated about Taiwan having gone on it.

In short, the Tsunah trip really is for anyone, regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, size or, shape. You'll make friends with people you would otherwise have never met, see places you would have otherwise never seen, and experienced something you would otherwise have never even conceived of.

All this, in 10 days or less. Guaranteed.