In August 1980, we set foot on Taiwanese soil for the first time. With us we had our three children, Charlotte (8), Jacob (5), and Christina (1). We came from Denmark, which is a small country in northern Europe, a little larger than Taiwan, but sparsely populated with only 5 million citizens.
We were employed by the Danish Missionary Society, which co-operated with the Taiwan Lutheran Church. Kaohsiung became our hometown, because we were affiliated with a church there and later came to work at the Lutheran Church’s hospital in Kaohsiung, the Kaohsiung Christian Hospital, as we are both educated nurses.
Upon installment in a nice house near Zuoying, the children started at the American school in Kaohsiung, Morrison Academy, and we adults began our studies in Mandarin at the language school, TLI (Taipei Language Institute).
Studying Mandarin was a big challenge for us, but also a very instructive process. We were well received at the language school, which proved to be an exciting place with students from all over the world. But what came to mean the most to us were the very skilled Chinese teachers, who also became our friends. The teaching sessions were very intensive with one-to-one Chinese training. Thus, as a student you got to know your teacher very well and vice versa.
Our Chinese teachers helped us overcome the difficult start where it felt completely impossible that we would ever understand or speak this difficult language. Their help continued throughout the two years we studied at TLI. Each time we were about to give up, they would pick us up and encourage us to keep going.
In addition to being our Chinese teachers and our friends, they also helped ease our way into the Taiwanese community. They helped us understand Taiwanese traditions and ways of thought. Indeed, they helped us understand the exciting cultural background of the Taiwanese society. Thus, it became two very exciting and rewarding years, we spent at TLI, although we struggled to learn the difficult language, and although we never became perfect at Mandarin. However, we remember the time spent at TLI and especially our lovely Chinese teachers with great joy and fondness.
Our kids grew up with TLI in the 80's
In 1986, we left Taiwan with a lot of good memories and returned to our daily life in Denmark. In the 32 years that have passed since we returned to Denmark, we have often said that we would like to revisit Taiwan, and in fact, we are currently planning a visit in October this year together with our three children, our son- and daughter-in-law as well as our two grandchildren. We are very much looking forward to the visit and hope to meet up with some of the people who became special to us while we lived in Taiwan.
Unfortunately, much of the Mandarin, which we learned at language school, has been forgotten in the 32 years that have passed, due to lack of practice. However, we hope that being back in Taiwan will “jog” our memories and bring at least some of the language back!
Author: Else and Svend Toftdal
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