Erenlai - Hallie Haller
Hallie Haller

Hallie Haller

Hallie is a filmmaker/writer/multimedia-maker who hails from South Africa. She comes from a background in commercials production, blogging and viral video, and works freelance in Taipei.

海莉是一位來自南非的電影工作者/作家/多媒體製作人. 她的專業背景為廣告製作 經營部落格和上傳個人影片 目前身為在台北的自由工作者.

週五, 16 九月 2011 15:43

Fasting in the Far East

An interview with Hanane Khlifi from Morocco

"I had some doubts in the beginning, about the ALL FEES COVERED...", admits Moroccan participant, Hanane Khlifi, chuckling in retrospect. "But I knew there would be participants from all over the world... I just loved the idea of meeting new people. I kinda needed that change in my life". With that in mind, her last-minute application was sent, to the Republic of China (Taiwan) International Youth Week: Centennial Homestay committee.

Following two tough selection processes, Hanane and 237 other international participants, from 131 various countries, were shaping up to celebrate, with the respective 200 Taiwanese host families waiting to welcome them.

After two transits and a total twenty-four hours in the air, Hanane arrived safely in Taoyuan International Airport, for the centennial celebration of the founding of the Republic of China (Taiwan)... and coincidentally, her 23rd birthday.

In contrast to many of her starry-eyed fellow participants, who were quick to add "a couple of kilograms" to their list of Taiwanese travel gains; Hanane spent the daylight hours of her stay fasting - in recognition of the Islamic holy month, Ramadan.

"I had explained to people that I was fasting and it was Ramadan in that period, and people were so understanding and caring to that situation. My hosts were trying to get me the food I was allowed, by religion, to eat. They tried so hard to keep me away from anything I couldn’t have."

As a part of their cultural beliefs, Muslims are unable to drink alcohol, eat pork, or any other animals that were not slaughtered in the halaal Muslim way. "Muslims usually slaughter the animals we’re allowed to eat in a special way - we actually have to say the name of Allah (God) before doing it. So I could eat vegetables, fruits, rice, fish and seafood - which I actually loved in Taiwan," explains Hanane.

Hanane began her days of Ramadan, with a pre-dawn food dash to none other than Taiwan’s beloved 7-ELEVEN.

hanane_portrait"At night I went to any beloved 7-ELEVEN store I could find…and they were many! One of my positive culture shocks in Taiwan, was how safe we felt, even if we were out alone in the night.”

“I woke up to do all the activities with everyone else. They actually made it easier for me... they kept asking if I’m feeling okay…everyone was so supportive. I had to break my fast at sunset again, and my new friends were all keeping an eye on their watches to remind me that I had to eat something.”

“I actually didn’t find any mosques in Taiwan. I know there’s one in Taipei, but didn’t know where... I mainly visited temples - there are a lot of temples. Maybe not for religious reasons, but for the beauty of the architecture and the stories they had. I was curious to know the story of each temple."

Like most participants, Hanane had Google-ogled Taiwan, but later assessed that not even the mighty Google could adequately have prepared her for the wealth of Taiwanese hospitality she experienced: "There’re some stereotypes about Asian people that I had in mind... workaholic, too serious…But what I saw and experienced while discovering different counties of Taiwan was way better. I had never met people so nice... They’re so welcoming and ready to help anyone at any time...sometimes without even being asked.”

“I believe the hospitality of people is similar in the two countries. People in Morocco tend to help each other as much as they can - especially foreigners... Although food is definitely one hundred percent different", she adds laughing.

Hanane makes it clear that the constraints of Ramadan in no way restrained the pleasure of her experience of Taiwan – if anything, this enhanced her experience of Taiwanese hospitality, during her stay in the further East.

 


Read Hanane's blog on Homestay website

 

週五, 16 九月 2011 12:12

SayTaiwan superstars

An interview with Rando Pikner (Estonia) and Jusso Lautiainen (Finland)


Rando with his "Host Father"

“Honestly I feel like superstar in Taiwan, because everywhere I go people are so friendly…They don’t want to seem friendly… they are actually friendly. That’s why I like the Taiwanese,” Rando begins.

Flamboyant Estonian, Rando Pikner, and charismatic Melbourne-based Finn, Jusso Lautiainen, compare notes, as guests at SayTaiwan’s International Youth Week: Centennial Homestay.

Jusso, who has had a love affair with Asia and Mandarin before, is struck by Taiwan’s synthesis of tradition and modernity. “I’ve been to China before… it’s more different than I thought, and at the same it’s quite similar… People in Taiwan come from many parts of South East Asia, but also many parts of China. That’s why there’s really traditional characters and traditional culture, but at the same time it’s sort of multicultural. I find it really fascinating.”

Rando, who is “starting-up a start-up,” is smitten with the island techno-topia. “Today I visited a city called Hsinchu and a company there. I’m trying to start up a company… and they are producing power meters. (So) I may have some further business relations with Taiwan in the future,” he says, fingers crossed.

Enjoying the fruits of the land (a Taiwan Beer), in an attempt to dissuade the belligerent humidity, Rando tells of how he and Jusso are beginning to acclimatize. “We come from Northern Europe … and you know the climate is pretty cold sometimes. That’s why people are a little bit stressed sometimes and walking too fast. But HERE…” , he pauses for gravity, “…if it’s thirty-five degrees and it’s so humid outside, you cannot move very fast. You have to relax and move very slowly...” At this Rando imitates, what looks like, RoboCop slow-motion marching through mud. “…it keeps you relaxed. And the mind is also relaxed when the body is relaxed… that’s why I think it’s very healthy to live on this island.”

“Last time I swam in Finland,” Jusso retorts, “…I had to saw a hole through the ice - which was about this thick,” Jusso, not a necessarily small man, gesticulates to show the length of his torso. “And the water temperature’s maybe zero degrees… so here, you can go with shorts… it’s pretty cool.”

In response to the question, “can you swim very deep?” Jusso and Rando exchange glances, and begin to crack-up. Jusso explains, “Here, yes. In Finland, no… If you dive too deep and you come up and you have the ice covered,”(Jusso is now demonstrating an ice roof over his head in mime-like fashion)…

“You’re done”, Rando interjects, with finality.

Suddenly, Rando recalls another surprising discovery of the region, with enthusiastic awe…

Juuso_homestay“And the fruits! The local fruits! Okay we have the fruits also in Northern Europe, but if they pick the fruits, they are not ready. So the taste of the fruits in Taiwan and the tastes of the fruit in Estonia – totally different.” He continues,” I love the food here… you have so many tastes on the table, and can choose… you can combine, and just enjoy.”

“Last Saturday morning I was eating, chicken leg… chicken feet! And it didn’t taste very bad… it was actually pretty edible. But…” he begins laughing again, “… it looked like chicken feet… chicken foot...” says Rando, staring at his hand, as he splays his fingers into some sort of chicken-foot formation, to punctuate his point.

“But everywhere I go in the world, the people are most important” Rando concludes. “Because I don’t get the feeling of local life and culture, unless I feel, I sense, the local people.”

And at this Jusso concurs, “Taiwan is a pretty special place in Asia…Apart from the obvious differences like language… I really think people are really different. In Western societies like Finland and Australia, it’s a lot more individualistic… people at least pretend to be more independent. Whereas in Taiwan, the family connection and connection between people - I think it’s a lot stronger. And value of human relationships is a lot higher. We can learn something from that.”

週五, 16 九月 2011 11:56

Taiwan: form for function

An interview with Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar from El Salvador

“My expectations were pretty much about structures and temples, and modern buildings. I was just pretty excited to know the lifestyle of the people over here…how they live and how they relate the way of their living with their buildings,” Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar says in his lilting Salvadoran accent.

The main objective of the International Youth Week: Centennial Homestay event, was to create exposure for a country flourishing 100 years after independence. However, the international participants, like Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar, have been selected according to excellence in their given fields - not only creating ambassadors for Taiwan, but also establishing a network of influential youths, who may later come to shape the country's role in the international community.

Thanks to the Say Taiwan project, this Salvadoran civil engineering student, Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar, is in Asia for the first time, marveling at the vertical virtuosity of Taiwan's structures. Mesmerized by both the high skyline and the skillful use of space, he responds to Taiwan in terms of form and function.

“I find the architecture over here very attractive, and also efficient. Taiwanese people use very efficiently the space that they have, because there is a very high population here in this country, although it’s a very small island. So, they know how to handle that. They know how to use the space that they have so that they can fit everything… it’s very organized, it’s not that chaotic over here…compared to the big cities I have been to, for example, New York, Los Angeles, London… even those in my country.”

Alejandro, however, stays in the countryside - with his host family in Meinong village. He describes the meticulously precise rows of planted crops as something he has only ever seen before in Farmville - a popular Facebook-based, virtual farming game.

"The thing that most surprised me about the city,where I'm staying, is the protected areas that they have. Also, the yellow butterfly village and the Buddhist temple that they have over there - that was the most amazing thing that I have ever seen. The bulding, it’s so old but it’s well constructed, well-organized in matters of space… It kinda resembles decoration that we have over in my country. Colonial churches that we have, their decoration is pretty similar - the usage of gold and colors… it’s very attractive also,” he elaborates.

“What I've noticed is that they pretty much have their own buildings just for living - just what you really need, nothing luxurious. For example the house that I'm staying (in), it’s divided by two. So, on one side is my host family, and (on) the other side is the sister of my host family. They have a specific space of land that they can use. They use the space that they have for the things that they do, because they are all farmers. I think they are pretty organized... in the backyard, they have a few crops. Then, on the other side they have a few animals that they raise, and then they have the space where they live."

“The houses - they’re more like a drawer construction. It’s kinda smart to build the way up, instead of the way here", Rodrigo Alejandro Aguilar concludes, gesticulating with his arms wide open.

"It’s pretty basic but beautiful as the same time.”

Video filmed by C. Phiv and H. Haller, edited by C. Phiv
Photo courtesy of R. A. Aguilar


 

Want to know more about Rodrigo's saty in Taiwan? Read his blog on Homestay website

週五, 16 九月 2011 11:49

Both sides of the fence

An interview with Matheus Da Silva from Brazil and his "host brother" Ben Huang

Like many others SayTaiwan partipants, Brazilian guest, Matheus Da Silva, and his Taiwanese host, Ben Huang, are sharing Matheus' first day in Taiwan, and their first day together. As they get better acquainted, Matheus and Ben share the little lightbulb moments that their SayTaiwan experience has brought so far.

Matheus, who has lived in Shanghai before, explains the intrigue that put his pen to application paper. "...Perspective of the Taiwanese people. After living in China for a year, and after living in Hong Kong and Macau...that's what I really wanted to get...what is the main difference between the Taiwanese and the rest?"

As student in the Department of Political Science (at National Taiwan University) Matheus' host, Ben's curiosity comes from the otherside of the fence. "I wanted an opportunity to practice my English, and this has also encouraged me in my plans to study abroad in the future."

"Actually, I was surprised that he (Matheus) can speak a little Chinese...", Ben says.

"...yi dian dian!" (a little!), Matheus clarifies - This not least of the things that has taken Huang by surprise thus far.

Ben continues, "Before the event, I went to a seminar to listen to a diplomat discussing international etiquette. He said that, for people in Central or South America, it is not unusual to be half an hour late for an event. In fact, being one hour to half an hour late is customary!" At this, the student from Taiwan (a country renowened for efficiency) widens his eyes, perplexed. "And it's true! In the last three or four cases, we have been delayed by half an hour. So now we have to prepare in advance of the actual time. It's because they (South Americans) are used to taking a bath before they leave, even if they have already washed that day."

Ben adds, with a mischievous smile, "And because he is Brazilian, I expected him to be a good dancer and a football player - but in fact he can't do either!"

Matheus, however, is pleased to have his optimistic expectations met. "I was expecting them to be kind, which they are, one hundred percent, because all of the Taiwanese people I've met, they were all really easy to get along with. That's what it was coming here." Despite having survived thirty-four hours of flight time alone, Matheus' impression so far is definitely glass-half full. "Friendly people, beautiful island, beautiful place... Well, the Portuguese called it Illa Formosa, which in my mother language, means beautiful island."


Know more about Matheus' experience in Taiwan: read his blog on Homestay website

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