“I love you.” Sakinu, a Taiwanese indigenous hunter of the Paiwan tribe, greeted us with a twinkling smile. We were a ragtag bunch of Taiwanese Americans whom Sakinu had welcomed into his three-story house that he had lovingly crafted for his family. Most of us were born and raised in the United States and knew very little about our parents’ homeland. How could a renowned author treat strangers to a delicious dinner of wild boar, heartfelt singing, and joyous dancing in a circle? The answer is simple: love. In spite of our drastically different backgrounds, Sakinu’s village in Taimali Township and we Taiwanese Americans shared one thing in common: a love for Taiwan.
During the Tsunah Foundation’s International Youth Taiwan Culture Tour, I discovered that Taiwan exudes love in many places, from Kaoshiung’s Love River to the “LOVE” displayed in four large red letters as part of a dazzling Christmas tree display near Taipei City Hall. The tour participants and I took many photographs in which we used our hands to form the shape of hearts. At nearly every stop of the tour, a Tsunah Foundation volunteer led us through the unfamiliar streets, provided guided tours, or gave us Taiwanese delicacies and treats. Love greets you warmly in Taiwan.
Love also greets you with a tinge of sadness and hope. Mr. Lin I-Hsiung and Mrs. Su-Min Lin founded the Chilin Foundation in 1991 due to the tragic loss of their loved ones: their twin daughters and mother. They established the foundation in Taiwan because of their love for the people and their hope to advance peace and understanding. Love envelops you with tragedy when you walk into the Gikong Church, where the Lin murders took place, and the Deng Liberty Foundation, which houses the office in which Taiwanese martyr Deng Nylon burned himself to death when the police attempted to arrest him for his pro-independence publications. At Mr. Deng’s funeral, Mrs. Deng sobbingly said that her husband loved Taiwan more than his wife and daughter. His act of heroic sacrifice was so great in magnitude that it seemed to make the breathtaking Taroko Gorge diminish in scale.
The International Youth Culture Tour of Taiwan was not just a tour of the country’s beautiful people, culture, and history. It was a wake-up call that made me realize that I have been taking democracy and freedom of speech for granted. These are ideals for which the Taiwanese people have shed blood, sweat, and tears. Although these ideals have been threatened, and history has been suppressed and twisted, the core truth remains: the Taiwanese people have maintained their hope and continue to express their love for humanity. Thank you to the Tsunah and Chilin Foundations for awakening me from my American stupor and welcoming me into Taiwan with love. Although the country is thousands of miles away from where I live, the struggles and beauty of Taiwan are now firmly imprinted into my heart and mind.