Kai Sheng, 2AH
We went to Taiwan for a week for our humanities trip late November.
The Taiwan trip was insightful, indeed a good time spent overseas. One that was, I dare say, more productive and fruitful than I had expected it to be. And I use these terms not in a half-hearted attempt to get this piece completed, but because I truly appreciate the time spent there, the opportunities we had to interact with the locals, the discussions we had at night et cetera. All of these made the trip a legitimately memorable one, putting it apart from any old school trip that the school sends you on and the only memories you leave with are those secretive midnight room exchanges you had with your friends and munching on the hotel food.
One of the days we took a ferry to this beautiful place called the Sun Moon Lake. It was amazing, and I am a sucker for great sights. There lay great hills that stood majestically in the horizon, and the setting sun glazed a brilliant orange tint on the lake’s surface. Enthralling. But of course we didn’t just go there for the sights. The Sun Moon Lake is inhabited by an aboriginal tribe called the Thao tribe. The legend goes that the Thao tribesmen had encountered a magical white deer and it led them to the lake before disappearing into the waters. Due to the abundance of resources at the location, the Thao tribe decided to stay along the shores of the lake and built a community based on the white deer as a symbol of their identity. So we met the Thao tribe and watched a performance they put up for tourists. Passionate cries and elegant dancing. We interviewed them, and it was wonderful how they managed to remain so rooted to their culture amidst the whole world globalising thing. The elders especially – they seemed to have never lost their zeal for protecting the tribe’s traditions and practices – took so much pride in their prowess for dance and singing. Moving… to think that today too many forms of culture are eroding, slowly yet continually.
One other particularly memorable experience was a VIA opportunity that involved us setting off into the streets of Taipei to help a group of single mothers sell sweet potatoes to passers-by. Needless to say it was tough – you never really know how much you hate people when you have pretty much 9 of 10 people brushing you off as you fervently (and desperately) try to offer your kao di guas for a meagre 50 Taiwan dollars a bag. Most didn’t even bat an eye when we approached them, and it was demoralizing finding yourself rejected more times in a single day than ever in your life. But I was so humbled – the mother my group worked with, Ah Ling Ma, never appeared fazed by the idea of being looked-away at. I still remember that ebullient smile on her face, and there were these wrinkles here and there that hid little beads of sweat. It was hard for her, needing to bring up her child, sending her to school and then travelling to the city to sell sweet potatoes on a heavy budget pushcart around the city streets. Every single day. She earned barely enough to get by. So we asked, “Ah Ling Ma, how are you looking so happy the whole time?”
“Because there is no point harping over what has already happened. Each day is a shining new day that we have to face.”
I always believed in this – that living and understanding life for what it is is vastly different from simply getting through life more comfortably. See, it sucks to be caught up in this unrelenting clockwork mechanism that society forces you in, to get qualifications, to get jobs, to earn more and more money to convince yourself that only with more money can you truly live. Sure, the ability to earn a livelihood is essential. We look past everything that happens around us. The blind lady that sits at the corner of the shopping mall every day playing the harmonica? Couldn’t care less about her story. Those selling 3 packs of tissues for 2 dollars around popular eateries? Conmen, brush em away, save money.
It’s every man for himself, all on a one way route to making a living.
But there is so much meaning in taking a step back to study the mechanisms of society, to realise that society is just like this whirling fantasy of happenings that we truly need to sit back and appreciate. The Taiwan trip was really a pleasant time spent studying those gears that churned the city into the bustling metropolis it is now, a place of so much cultural beauty and a uniquely Taiwanese population.
Thanks for the opportunity ACJC.