Sometimes I think about my first stay in Taiwan. I was still very young but had already traveled through Europe, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. Professor Chang Hao (Zhang Hao /張昊) had looked for a scholarship and found one for me, because I was not allowed to study further in Germany as otherwise I would not have been able to study medicine. I had been very happy to get this scholarship by the Taiwan based Chinese-German Economic and Culture Association (中德文化經濟協會). And shortly after the decision I headed for Taiwan (Republic of China) as the semester was to start soon.
The trip to Taiwan already had been an adventure. During the 1970ies there had been no direct flights. My flight lasted for several days. The plane missed a connecting flight in Bangkok. Afterwards, I had to wait two days in Hong Kong (香港) because of a typhoon.
I still remember this typhoon very well. I stayed in a small hotel. The storm whipped rain through the streets. Then it howled again. Glass panes splintered.I watched the news on TV on the evening. Please remember how the airport in Hongkong (香港启德机场) was back then. A Philippine Airlines plane was caught by the storm at the landing approach, but was able to start just over the water next to the runway.
Finally, I arrived at the old airport in the north of Taipei(台北). I went through passport and customs control.
I thought someone would pick me up, but that was’t so because of the delay of several days. I spoke hardly a word Mandarin. I had, however, met a Chinese woman, who lived in Germany, so that I could stay with her family for a night. The next day, some phone calls were made and then I took a hotel room in downtown Taipei. It was the Y.M.C.A. (OT: right at the time, when the Village People had their great hit Y.M.C.A.).
What happened next? Mr. Peter 颜had been assigned to work things out together with me. Today one would call it at a win-win situation, although I had probably benefitted more.
I needed a place to stay. This was found at the TIYAC (台北国际青年活动中心) or Taipei International Youth Activity Center. So I got a room in the student hostel. The rent was a third of my scholarship, but it was worth it. And by the way, Taiwan then was very cheap for a student, but that changed quickly after I’ve left.
Then I had to be enrolled. First we went to Taida台大 (国台湾 大 学校 学校). Of course, I still had no seal. The seal (印章) for my Chinese name (I used 祁爾施) had yet to be established. But that was important to get the scholarship paid out in cash. And then I could be enrolled.
And then we went on to shida 师大 (国立台湾师范大学小) as I should have my Chinese lessons at the Mandarin Training Center (国语中心). The Mandarin Training Center was in an own building, but later moved into a high-rise building on Hoping East Road (和平东路).
In front of the center there was a choudoufu stand (臭豆腐). But you have to learn to appreciate this kind of doufu (豆腐). I have learnt to appreciate this doufu, like the Chinese language. Slowly, slowly (慢慢来). At first, however, the doufu smelled wretchedly. Now, I'd walk miles for it.
Later, I needed passport photos to get a foreign resident’s passport, a student passport, and last but not least, tickets for students.
The sourroundings in Taipei, where I lived, from an old tattered map
This Text is based on the original text, which I had written in Chinese