Taiwan: Am I On A Different Planet?
In 2005, I was awarded a two-year scholarship for graduate studies in International Public Health at the National Yang Ming University in Taipei, Taiwan.
I felt like I was on a different planet. Suddenly, I understood how my Chinese, Korean and Japanese classmates felt during their first days in Europe or the US. Everything was different: food, fauna and flora, architecture, stores, fashion, language. I was overwhelmed.
As I spent more time with the Taiwanese people, I fell in love with them, their kindness, their culture, and their food. Instead of shying away from the unknown, I soaked it in. I explored areas typical tourists never see, and visited many Taiwanese families in their homes. I expanded my education by working with a professor who had been a pioneer in combining western medicine with Traditional Chinese Medicine.
During my second year, I lived with two Filipina ladies, English teachers, who made me part of their Filipino community. They took me to visit their homes in Manila and Cebu and taught me not only about their own personal and professional lives but about the challenges which the communities of migrant workers face daily.
My Taiwanese experience bolstered my understanding of how to get to know any community well. We must immerse ourselves in their lives and learn to function as they do. Health professionals need to remember this always.