I may have been a bit behind some of the posts, but I assure you that was a bit occupied with life here. Most people in my lab went to Japan for a conference for a week, so I was given the chance to have a week-long vacation from the lab. I tend to try to make the best of small breaks so I made sure I finished everything for the week on a Thursday and caught a flight Friday morning. I went to Japan for four nights. I went to the main tourists destinations like the Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace and the Asakusa district. Most of my time was spent just walking through Tokyo and going to different museums (I love museums, that is why I travel alone, so I can go to as many as I please). I came back to Taiwan on a Tuesday evening. Back in the lab I had been struggling with acquiring enough data given the many hurdles I have encountered in these series of experiments (that is just lab life). Thankfully though, I was able to finally genotype a hundred samples, so I decided to take some time and learn more about my other passions – world history. I came back on a Tuesday and what did I do next? I took another flight the very next morning. I have been very intrigued, to say the least, about the history of this specific area of the world. It seems to me that history is as a cycle. As I learned about Taiwan and its relationship with mainland China I became curious about how that situation related to Hong Kong. I spent five nights in Hong Kong. What is the first thing I did when I got to Hong Kong? I dropped my backpack and headed straight to the Hong Kong National History Museum. I learned about from the indigenous people of Hong Kong, through the British colonization and eventual “handover” of the territory back to China in 1997. Yes, 1997.
As I think about the bigger picture it seems to me how ridiculous we can sometimes be to live in our own little bubble, away from the world community, ignoring how foreign policy can have worldwide consequences. We like to think that imperialist attitudes of the west are long gone, but to put things into perspective, just in this area of the world, Hong Kong was still under British rule up until 1997. I could go into the many other territories held by other imperialist powers, but I do realize this is not a historical paper I am writing. This does relate to my experiences though, as when we travel we must look beyond the superficial appearances of a culture. We must learn about the history of a region before we can attempt to understand the way of thinking of people there. Learning about the history of Hong Kong for example, helped me find some parallels in the way of thinking of Taiwanese people. As I spoke to people in Hong Kong as well as Taiwan, I can see that nationalist attitudes seem to be stronger in the younger generations. I can see that these people want to preserve their right to self-determination.
I can also see how this are of the world is relevant to the U.S. for example. From what I understand, the main reason why mainland China did not invade and take over Taiwan after the defeat of the Nationalists was because of U.S. military interventions (U.S. set the Seventh Fleet to the Taiwan Strait to prevent further communist advances). How is this relevant to today? Currently, as the U.S. sets to increase its military presence in the South China Sea, the scenario of high tensions between China an the U.S. seem to begin to parallel the time when Americans were so terrified of the “Communist threat” that a witch-hunt took place (McCarthyism).
This really does look like a history paper doesn’t it?
Well this blog is about my personal experiences in Taiwan, and this is one of the things that I have been up to – learning about the historical and political significance of this part of the world. The more I travel and try to learn about history from an unbiased point of view, it becomes clearer that things are not “black and white”. The more I learn about different people and their points of view the more I begin to think that the main reason for many of the problems our societies face, like poverty and violence, are the result of ignorance, which lead to arrogance. From my point of view, Ignorant, arrogant attitudes (let alone imperialist history) towards the rest of the world are some of the main reasons why westerners are often not well liked. As I learned about local customs,what is considered proper and respectful, I tried my best to adhere to said norms in order to not be disrespectful. But, as I observed, many westerners have completely different attitudes. I met a couple of students here that exemplify this point I am trying to make. I met a couple students who, although aware of the customs, were completely (and consciously) disrespectful of local customs-and what is worse, they were proud of it. Although I will not go into details, it is obvious that these people were no concerned with giving their respective homecountries a bad reputation.
I have a week left before returning to the U.S. There is so much I have to say about my time here, but so little words are able to form. So many experiences and mixed feelings, people I met that I became close friends with and which I will most-likely not see again.
It is very well possible that this blog has no clear flow. But, at this point, when I have a week left in Taiwan before returning to the U.S., this perfectly exemplifies what thoughts are in my mind. Also, here are some pictures of the two other countries I visited while here.
I was interviewed on national television when in Hong Kong by the way.