My first time to ever hear about Taiwan or even interact with Taiwanese was in 2009, when I had travelled to India to volunteer on a Rural Project. While at the project, I was met with ladies who had the brightest and warmest smiles who were also part of the project. I was the only African on location and the first African and Black at that, that the citizens and the international volunteers had ever seen or interacted with. The Taiwanese ladies went out of their way to make me blend in, feel at home and feel welcome. As the project ended and we all returned back to our countries, we hugged and assured each other we would one day visit each other in our respective homes.
First forward to 2011, and one of them told me about the Taiwan Youth Trekkers competition that was run by the Taiwan Youth Ministry. One was required to develop an itinerary highlighting the places they would want to visit and why, associated costs and how they would share the trip with the world. I gave it my all, I learnt for the first time to write a detailed itinerary, to pre-budget and to have an objective for my travel, I was not successful. Come 2012, I cleaned up my application, filled in any and all gaps that I thought were the reasons for my previous failure and thank God, I was successful. This officially made me the first Kenyan and the first African to ever win the competition, a title I hold to date. I traveled aided by crutches as I was recovering from an automobile accident and could not let such an opportunity, a fully paid trip to Taiwan, pass me by.That is how I found myself arriving in Taipei and staying for a month to Explore Taiwan. First up-Taipei.
1) I became a Celebrity
I knew we were to do presentations to the Minister of Youth and her colleagues, Officials of National Youth Commission , members of Youth Trekkers, the media among others, but I didn’t expect what I found. As I entered the room for our presentation, there were pictures of our experiences as well as full size banners of ourselves lining the walls, talk about celebrity status. I also got to meet fellow winners which was great as we shared tips and our stories.
I was privileged to act as an ambassador for both Africa and Kenya, as I shared about them with the audience. It came to my attention how little the people knew of Africa and more so Kenya and thus I tried my best to “Expose” them. We also got to share about our Taiwan experience thus far, to the amusement of the audience, as we had visited areas some of the locals didn’t even know about.
2)Visit Taipei 101
This was the tallest building in the world up until 2010. This building is so tall that it actually looks like its peak is piercing into the heavens, with most of its top floors covered by fog during the cold season.
3) Family and Friends
I was privileged to meet up with some of the friends I had met in India. I had met my end of the bargain, the onus is now on them. Even more amazing, was that I was hosted by one of my friends family even though she was away, how cool is that? She and I have both met our end of the bargain, she visited me in Kenya and I visited her in absentia.
3) Sampled delicacies:
Whenever I travel, I always sample most of the main delicacies-so go on, try some, your taste buds will thank you.
Being an Island, most of the meals they eat are from the sea. I got to sample and enjoy some of their delicacies, everything from Huatzi (squid), sea weeds, steamed bread, chicken lolipop among others. Yum Yum.
My body however kept away from Stinking tofu even as the smell beckoned me from afar. You will know you are in stinking tofu territory without anyone having to tell you. It is however a delicacy for most Taiwanese.
5)Spread the love
I felt loved in Taiwan and I believe this huge statue truly represents the love in Taiwan. Everywhere I went, I stood out, people looked at me and then broke out into a smile. Those who spoke English would engage me in conversation about where I was from to how my trip going. All would end with, Welcome to Taiwan, have a great time.
The Chen Family, went over and above their call of duty to incorporate me, making me a member of their family. They treated me like one of their own, their daughter and they showed me around, they shared Taiwan with me and I will forever be grateful.
Taiwan made me feel special, loved and yearn to travel more. The people are warm, the various places amazing, the food top notch and my experience life changing. Thank you Government of Taiwan through the National Youth Commission for selecting me to experience beautiful Taiwan, the Chen family for hosting me and exposing Taiwan to me and all the amazing people I met. I hardly noticed that people spoke Chinese as I spoke English yet we communicated through body language, sign language and smiles. I highly recommend visiting Taiwan to everyone. For more on my Taiwan exploits, check:
Taiwan 101: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/taiwan-101/