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【New Story in Taiwan】New immigrant Siao Tao: “I am Taiwanese and Vietnamese. Wherever there is family, there is a home.”

Hit : 104
Date : 2019/5/29
Updated : 2019/6/3 下午 04:19:00

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Siao Tao: “Running a B&B is very close to my ideal life. I am also studying for tour-guide and tour-manager certificate tests. Once I receive my certificate, I will be able to take people from Taiwan to Vietnam or vice versa, helping people of the two countries to learn about each other’s culture. Then I can also go back to my home in Vietnam often.”

Siao Tao is a new immigrant who came from Quảng Ninh in Northern Vietnam to marry her husband in Taiwan. She started working in the fields when she was only six years old to help earn money and improve her family’s life. She moved to Hanoi when she was 16 to learn Korean. Her goal was to work in Korea, but instead, she met a young Taiwanese man that stayed in her aunt’s B&B. This young man eventually became her husband. He recalled his first impression of Siao Tao: “Seeing her nails filled with dirt told me that she must be a hard-working girl.” He had to leave just two hours after they met, so he asked for a picture of her. After returning to Taiwan, he quickly hired a translator to help him communicate with her. Their courtship lasted a year. When Siao Tao turned 19, she married her husband and came to Taiwan.

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※ Learning How to Take Responsibility
Before getting married, Siao Tao was already expecting to learn about running a B&B. The first day she was in Taiwan, she woke up at two o’clock in the morning and learned how to make breakfast for 30 people with her mother-in-law, all while trying to overcome the language barrier. After customers checked out, she made the beds and cleaned the rooms. After two weeks, she had already learned the in and outs of the business, and after a year, the couple took over operation of the B&B.

Siao Tao’s mother-in-law wanted to help her adapt to life in Taiwan quicker, so on the third day the newlywed was in Taiwan, she helped her sign up for supplementary elementary school. Siao Tao is a fast learner, and after three months of school she could hold a conversation with a Taiwanese person. Then her mother-in-law took her to a New Immigrant Family Service Center and helped her begin serving as a social worker for new-immigrant women and as a translator. Siao Tao is now a lecturer at the center and the interpreter for the Hualien District Court and the Public Health Center system.

※ Dream of Becoming a Social Worker and a Tour Guide
“When I first came to Taiwan, I often missed home. I would call my parents to talk to them. My parents-in-law and husband would also go on bike rides to the shore with me. However, getting used to a new environment is not that easy, and sometimes I would cry. It is a slow process.

In the first few years, Siao Tao could feel the prejudice Taiwanese people have against foreign spouses. They often think foreign spouses marry Taiwanese people for money. She even experienced customers using discriminatory language when calling to reserve a room. When she was a volunteer at the New Immigrant Family Service Center, she often handled cases in which foreign spouses were mistaken as house cleaners and caretakers, as well as those who have experienced domestic violence. Because of what she had experienced, she was afraid to interact with Taiwanese people.

One day at one or two o’clock in the morning, she got a phone call from a former New Immigrant Family Service Center director, Ms. Yang Hua-mei, asking for help. Ms. Yang asked her to go to a police station and help interpret for an abused foreign spouse. Siao Tao’s father-in-law took her and her three-month-old son to the police station. She did not realize the abused foreign spouse was Indonesian until she arrived. This incident touched her deeply, showing her that Taiwanese people actually do care for foreign spouses. She made up her mind to work harder so she could help new-immigrant sisters in more areas. Later she applied to National Hualien Commercial High School, hoping to eventually study social work in college.

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※ Where There Is Family, There Is a Home
Siao Tao’s new house was completed in September 2017. It is also a B&B with the first floor serving as a café. Following her plan, she began to learn how to make traditional Vietnamese coffee, bread, and pho, with the goal of opening a restaurant in the future. Every day she puts on her favorite traditional Vietnamese dress to receive her guests so they might learn more about Vietnam.

In the eight years she has lived in Taiwan, she only went back to Vietnam four times, two of which were when she was craving authentic Vietnamese food during her pregnancy. Though in Taiwan a simple twist of the faucet and will make water come out, and a flip of a switch will make lights turn on, she often reminisces about her childhood in Vietnam, how she used to drink rain to quench thirst and relied on starlight to see at night. That was when she was content with the moment and not worried about the future.

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During her time helping new-immigrant women, she often feels sad, angry, and helpless. Her mother-in-law encouraged her to use travel as a way to improve the understanding between Taiwan and Vietnam. That’s why she started to actively prepare for the tour-guide certificate test. She kept her Vietnam citizenship and is ready to go back and take care of her aging parents. She also made an agreement with her husband that after they retire, they can live in both Vietnam and Taiwan.

Siao Tao started to teach children about Vietnamese culture at a young age. She was especially proud when her daughter said to the kindergarten teacher, “I am Vietnamese,” with pride and confidence.

Siao Tao believes that where there is family, there is a home. She hopes when her children grow up, they can confidently say they are both Taiwanese and Vietnamese.

Article from Smile Taiwan (article by Chiang Pei-chin/image by Lin Ching-yi)

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