BY LORETTA BRIGIDIA MANELE
A challenging, fun and exciting year of teaching Mandarin at Solomon Islands National University (SINU) has just ended and it was time for a break.
Ms Kuei Mi Li prior to taking time off in June this year had earlier spoke of how she plans to visit some of her students when she gets to Taiwan to see how they’re doing with their Mandarin and how life in Taiwan is treating them.
She spent her break in her hometown, Kaohsiung, not only the third populous city in Taiwan but also home to the largest port in the country, also a sister port of Honiara since 2017.
Upon meeting with some of her former Solomon Islands students, now studying in Taipei and Kaohsiung, Ms Li was able to spend some time with three of them.
She caught up with Joseph Lefotoo, Robinson Minevaleke and Simon Tewa Tomasusu who are currently doing their Post Baccalaureate in Medicine at I-Shou University in Kaohsiung.
Ms Li took them to one her favourite neighbourhoods in Kaohsiung, the Pier 2 Art Center, which she describes as “a vibrant recreational zone transformed from clusters of abandoned warehouses”.
As they strolled around the Art Center, she got to hear of what they think of Taiwan, their impression of Kaohsiung, what they liked most during their stay and whether studying Mandarin at SINU prior to travelling to study in Taiwan helped them when they first arrived in Taiwan.
“So far the three are all satisfied with their study in Kaohsiung. They enjoy their life in Taiwan”, she said.
Ms Li went on to say that Joseph sees Taiwan as a country with people who always want to strive for the best.
“They are very innovative and want to lead in areas of science, medicine, and other technologies. It is a country that always does research in science, medicine and even sociology too”, he said.
That’s not all what Joseph thinks of Taiwan, emphasizing that it is also a safe country to live in with the most reliable police force in the world.
“It has some of the best universities in the world. It even has some of the best hospitals in the world. Hospitals which are fully equipped”, he adds.
Joseph also thinks Taiwanese people are the most loving people who are kind and uphold moral values.
“They are always very studious, considerate and very smart. They are always proud of what they are doing specially to present their country to the rest of the world. They want to contribute to the welfare of humanity around the globe”
For Robinson Minevaleke, Taiwan has a rich and diverse culture, a relative low cost of living, amazingly cheap transportation system, advanced technologies and quality and affordable education in the Asian region.
Like Lefotoo, he sees people from Taiwan as one of the friendliest people you can come across in life.
Minevaleke stressed that although it might be a bit difficult to understand them at first due to the cultural and language barriers once you get to know them you’ll figure out that they are warm and hospitable and view interpersonal relationships above money and interest.
“They will always try their best to show you that they are different from other Asians based on their Chinese’s heritage. Taiwan and its people are the true gems of Asia”, he said.
The next segment of their conversation was over some bubble milk tea by the port with them telling Ms Li their impression of Kaohsiung.
She wanted to know if they liked her city as much as she did and there, they told her.
They statement of how friendly people are cannot be better expressed as the compliment was again mentioned.
Besides that, Lefotoo take on Kaohsiung rests on the picture of a busy city, less populated compared to Taipei with very efficient public transportation, an organized city council and very clean.
Minevaleke’s impression of Kaohsiung is rather more relaxed. He refers to it as his “home away from home”.
In this sense, to him it is a place where there is always something to see and enjoy which he tops off with “it is not so fast and crowded like other big cities which I like”.
“Here, you tend to mingle with local farmers and the place has a lot of traditional attractions and tasty local foods. I also prefer the Kaohsiung tropic climate”, said Minevaleke.
As for Tomasusu, Kaohsiung is a beautiful town with the spot light in recreational arts areas.
He said while transportation is easy and convenient by bus, train or taxi, getting from one place to another by bus or train is cheaper.
Tomasusu added that the city has beautiful night markets and a variety of delicious foods and drinks.
Ms Li went on to ask about what they liked most during their stay in Taiwan which at this time was nearly the end of their first year of studies.
She explained that Lefotoo learned a lot from what he saw around Kaohsiung, ranging from how people behaved, how organized the city is, public transport, how the police force functions and the scope of infrastructure that shapes up the country that has Wi-Fi available almost everywhere from shopping malls, transporting avenues to food courts.
Minevaleke had the most to say about this.
“I do like and admire a hell lot of things here”, he said.
The list started off with how amazed he is by the society social cohesion based on Taiwan’s cultural heritage.
“The people are friendly and respectful and the societal inclusion of elderly, disabled and minority groups is worth mentioning here as it is what is missing in many societies these days”, said Minevaleke.
Taiwan’s efficient and cheap transportation system for him is what makes moving around the island “easy”.
Tomasusu liked visiting new places and obviously favours Taiwan food and drinks, stating that this what he liked the most. He put out Chen zhu nai cha, otherwise known as pearl milk tea in Taiwan as an example.
Time passed and they were now asked if they found their SINU Mandarin class helpful when they arrived in Taiwan.
All three of them replied positively, Lefotoo pointed out that it was very helpful but wished he had studied Mandarin for a year before coming to Taiwan.
Minevaleke also voiced that it helped him a lot and is grateful that he attended the class.
Tomasusu said the class helped him a lot during his first few weeks in Taiwan.
By now, enjoying Pier 2 Art Center, having tasted Taiwan treats and walking around site seeing were soon to be memories as the day’s activity slowly came to an end.
Ms Li mentioned that they also had to return to the university to prepare for their exams.
But before departing, she said Tomasusu shared a story she refers to as a typical scenario for most foreigners in Taiwan that not only shows how friendly the people in Taiwan are but the importance of learning Mandarin if you want to live and study in Taiwan.
“I got lost in town, a stranger spotted me on the street and helped me. The conversation was totally not understandable but only by sign language. Xie Xie (thank you) for the stranger friend, finally he dropped me in a totally wrong place. But yeah, I manage to reach home hours later safely”, said Tomasusu.