Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Thank you, Taiwan!

So it's that time... ode to Taiwan time.  Unfortunately, it's going to be a sleep-deprived last post since this 12-hour time difference has been much harder to adjust to when returning to America and dealing with classes and make-up work.  But still totally worth it!
Well, where-as India was a life-changing experience, Taiwan was an enjoyable trip.  It's definitely a country I could see myself living.  There are definitely aspects of Taiwan that seem more advanced than the US.  I had a slide in my SCALE-UP presentation about how in 1974, about 47% of American high school graduates went to college but in 2007, that fraction grew to 66% immediately enrolling in higher education.  I later learned that Taiwan went from 30% of high school graduates entering college immediately after high school in the 1970s to nearly 100% these days.  Lei Bao explained that the importance of higher education for the Chinese dates back to the Civil Service Examination era, where becoming literate and getting an education could literally raise your social status.  This high higher education rate is introducing some issues from the country because there's been a slight decrease in the birth rate so that means they'll have too many colleges and too many professors.  In the past, they've resisted letting too many foreigners attend school in Taiwan but they are going to have to decide if they want to close universities or let students in mainland China get educated in their country.  Taiwan too is struggling to compete with jobs being sent overseas- much of this trip helped me to realize how similar struggles and successes are, for people of various countries and backgrounds.
Some safety precautions also impressed me- many buildings were equipped with "Fire escape slings" which I had never seen in the US, as a way to propel yourself away from a burning building.  They seemed advanced in safety in this respect, but then I learned seat-belts for every passenger in a car are just becoming mandatory in the coming weeks.
So I'm going to miss a lot of things about Taiwan- from the pedestrian walkways with the animated, moonwalking green man who lets you know its ok to cross to bubble tea shops every block to the random performers outside.  But most of all, I'm going to miss the people I meet.  Such unparalleled generosity, hospitality, friendliness, thoughtfulness... there were multiple times I felt like a long-lost family member.
So, thank you Taiwan!  I'm glad I got to tell you about this all-too-often-overlooked gem of a country.  (My suspicions were confirmed when I returned and was asked "How was Thailand?"  "How was China?").  I'm hoping to get a fellowship to do 2 months of research in Asia this summer- keep your fingers crossed for me- I should find out in Early March.  That would definitely be blog-worthy.  Until next time, may all of you be blessed with health, happiness and opportunities for your own little adventures!