This is the transcript for the discussion "A Wonderful Country for Positive Thinkers", a talk from the Sudan Youth TEDx conference. Wafa Elamin talks about how the people in Sudan have to work on and invest in their own country, and not leave and wait for someone else to fix it.
Neuro = brain
Plastic = easily stretchable or transformable (so the material plastic was named after its property)
Okay, so let's do her questionnaire. [this is for the group of 7]
So, we're more postiive than negative, that's not what I was expecting.
So, what's you're reaction to this?
Uh, why is Taiwan easy?
Why is it hard?
I mean, what do you mean when you say it's easy?
You need to go to college, it's easy, easy to eat, easy to go anywhere.
Easy to live, actually.
Based on my experience, it's easier than the US, it's even easier than NYC.
You mean convenient.
Part of it, yeah, but people are softer here, more human here.
So the US is difficult.
They are more tough. But I think you, because by your pick, you picked two positive, only one negative.
I picked three positives.
Then why were you expecting a negative result?
Because in my experience most people are negative about Taiwan.
You mean people in Taiwan are negative?
Now I'm looking at Stacy. You must be a big contributor to that impression.
Why? Whe always thinks good things about Taiwan, actually she influences MY views about Taiwan. She told me a lot of good things about Taiwan that I don't know at all and don't even pay attention to.
So you used to think worse about Taiwan.
Yeah, I didn't like Taiwan before.
What did you think of Taiwan before?
...um, no rules...
So, if given the chance, would you:
-Leave and never come back?
-Remain here permanently?
-Leave, but return after some period of time?
But doesn't the last one also mean stay here permanently?
No, it means go away and raise your kids in some other place and maybe come back when you retire.
Why would people want to raise their children outside?
But lots of people do that
Lots of people send their kids outside to live in boarding schools, I dont know why.
Okay, so you have 3-4 million dollars, what do you choose?
Actually I should say euros!
No, it's too many uncertainties then.
So what you mean is, if we have 3 or 4 million...
I'm just saying, whatever, if you have enough money, would you...
Leave and never come back 1
Remain here permanently (but leave for vacations and travel)
Leave, but return after some period of time? (and if so how long?
1 (10 years)
1 (2 years to travel and work elsewhere)
2 (1-2 years, then come back, then go out and come back)
So if its only two years, it doesn't fall into this category.
In my experience, two years is the cutoff point, before that you haven't really been gone long enough to change significantly, but after two years you're different.
So you're going to travel 5-8 years.
Yes, then come back to Taiwan to take a rest, to meet friends and family, and then say goodbye to them again, because I will miss them very much when I go around the world.
But you miss them only after 5 to 8 years that's a long time.
I don't really miss my family, that's the truth. But don't tell them that, it would break their hearts. I think they suspect it already though.
Okay, why will you make that choice?
Why will you leave and never come back?
I was deciding whether to leave and never come back or leave and return.
But you said I could change my mind later, so... I don't know right now, but maybe after 10-20 years i'll change my mind.
Okay, for you, why do you choose leave and come back?
Actually, I want to have the ability to work abroad. Having some overseas experience.
What will that give you?
Give me a world-wide mobility.
So you can leave again.
And, why do you want to travel the world?
Yeah, I like to travel, and if I have the opportunity to work abroad, that's good, but 2 years is good enough, and then I want to come back and eat the delicious food here.
And for you, why?
You know, doing the same job is boring.
So all of Taiwan has only school administrator jobs? There's no other possible jobs to do in this country?
And if there is a chance for me to change jobs every now and then, it will enrich my life.
I think it's similar, if I have the option, I don't have to worry about money, why don't I see the world
The point is, I don't need to worry about the money, you said, what we would do if we didn't have to worry about money. Right now I can only stick to the job right now.
Also, visas are an issue.
You mean, for a foreigner.
Well, when you go overseas, you become a foreigner, right? Visas for travelling and for working are really different, I can tell you. Getting working visas is often really hard.
I heard a friend say, she knows someone who works as a lawyer in Taiwan, and she works for 4 years, and then travels for one year, and then works for 4, etc
Did we ask you yet? Why did you choose 'leave and then come back?'
Because I want to force myself to change and grow up. In a foreign counrty, theres no convenience stores, there's no people can help that I'm familiar with, so I force myself to become stronger.
Okay, let's look at this, "list three positive qualities and three negative qualities about a stereotypical Taiwanese..."
Obsessed with money
But who isn't?
It means that say if someone orders something and wants it tomo, they can just whip that product order out and get it sent. Like a fast response time.
Have a view to search out opportunities they know where they can earn a lot of money
They see the opportunities
And negative, they know how to find loopholes in the law
Actually that means they are smart also, that's positive, you know?
But it's not good smart.
Okay, "students", negative
Ha, maybe that is negative.
Cares only about scores, nothing else. And rank.
My professor friends complain about that all the time.
Because our curiousity was killed when we were young
Killed by memorizing
Even if not killed our curiosity doesn't even have any chance to build, or be nurtured, in our early age.
Can really memorize. But that's a skill you've had to build up
Compared to other countries
It's okay to be chauvinistic today, we're talking stereotypes.
There's another negative characteristic, students seldom challenge teachers.
No critical thinking, actually
Seldom challenge themselves.
They've got no energy too, too much burden.
Well actually they challenge teachers standards of giving scores
But that's from the parents, not the students
Hmmm, yeah, but the student still feels that she is not treated fair.
But that's true.
I wanna know why
Yeah, why do you think that's true?
She can only make that judgement according to her scores... So she must frequently rank at first place
So you're saying her self-esteem is tied to her scores
Becaues the parents place so much emphasis on scores, so the child thinks only scores can prove herself valuable to her parents.
I think there's a lot of weird dynamics going on in that family.
Fighting on TV
Act like children on TV
Not doing anything for the country
Not fighting for the best interest of the country
Positive thinking please!
What, is there any positive thing?
Okay, they have a lot of energy, to fight?
They try hard to satisfy their constituents, because their constituents are good.
Before they're elected or after?
But sometimes after, actualy, i've heard stories.
They are very enthusiastic to run the election
Is that positive?
I don't know, I'm trying to be.
Do you perosnally fit any of the stereotypes?
My father, businessman,
Those millionaire businessmen, like Guo Taiming, Terry Kuo.
What about them, how do they fit?
For instance, from my father's friends, he worked for Guo Taiming before, and he said that those businessmen of big companies, they will delay to pay.
Suppliers or money to small companies.
That's the bargaining power, you know
Yes, but I don't like that
But the stakeholder will like that
So the interest is different
How do you feel about this image that's created, by all these stereotypes?
It's created by media
Also by stories people tell each other, but it's fuelled by media, exactly
I feel sad.
When we say stereotypes, actually they cover both negative and positive, right, so it's balanced.
What I mean is, how do you feel about Taiwan when you hear these st ories?
If it's positive, then we enjoy that, if it's negative then we will feel sad or pessimistic.
But negative, it makes me feel Taiwan is very isolated from the whole world.
Every time when I feel positive stereotype stories from media or friends, or video on the internet, I will be moved, and feel glad to be Taiwanese.
And then i'll share with others.
Is it considered desirable to study outside of Taiwan? Yes=5
Is it considered desirable to emigrate away from Taiwan? Yes=5 No=1
Is it desirable to have dual citizenship? Yes=4 No=2
Is it desirable for you personally? Yes=3 No=3
I have a question, the politicans in Taiwan really care about dual citizenship of Taiwan politicians?
They cannot have dual citizenship, right.
I think only can have dual citizenship in Taiwan.
The US can have, right?
They have dual-citizen relationship with a few select countries only.
But you can have, right?
No, if I want to be a Taiwan citizen I have to give up my US citizenship first, that's mofa's rule. The only reason Taiwan people can have a US citizenship is that the US doesn't recognize a Taiwan, so your passport doesn't legally exist on their terms, so if it doesn't exist, it doesn't conflict with the US passport.
I think the issue we're really talking about here is though, in terms of lawmakers not being allowed to be dual citizens, is that, if you have the ability to leave and move your family to another country, you will not have the highest commitment to making things work in this country, so you should not be a lawmaker, if you yourself could circumvent the law by leaving the country. It's a question of commitment to the principles your putting into law.
When they come back from another country, most people will say more good things than bad things.
Good things about what?
About the foreign country. For example, my sister just came back to Taiwan from Japan, she only lived there for one year, but she alway says Japan is better.
Better than Taiwan?
Yes, and she will complain about a lot of things about Taiwan.
And how do you feel when she talks about that?
A little bit angry. I also like Japan, and in some aspects it's better than Taiwan, but no matter how good a foreign country is, I think Taiwan is my home country.
If you've left and come back, has how you feel about Taiwan changed?
For how many years?
Why does that matter?
In my experience, 2 years is the cut off time, before 2 years doesn't really change you.
You know, it happens over 10 years ago, I really cannot remember. I think I changed, not Taiwan changed.
Well yeah, probably Fanny's sister changed.
Yeah, but it's easy for you to see the negative part of Taiwan when you just come back, because Taiwan is so crowded, but in a foreign country, you feel at ease, because the land is big, and the highest building lis like 2 stories. But here you only see buildings all around us, so we will feel a foreign country is a better place to live. And it's tidy, like america, or canada, the streets and buildings are tidy, and here in Taiwan it's a mess, and it's quite ugly, and so for a person come back its easy to only see the negative part of Taiwan.
Okay, let's take this question as the starting point for our 2 minute speeches. Let's be quiet for a little while and think about this, then I'll pick a random person to start, and we'll go around the room.
The questions to meditate on are: "What is holding Taiwan back as a nation?" "What moves Taiwan forward as a nation?"
What is holding us back? China, the superpower, and I think the Taiwanese people themselves. They, I feel that the Taiwanese, they don't like change. And they think that being safe is better. And I think, they are negative about a lot of things, and think that the situation is like that but I can't do anything about it. And their preconception is that there's a lot of bad things in the world that we can't change anything about.
About the second question, I think Taiwan is a really small island, but it has a lot of really good technology, different technologies in such a small place, so it's really easy to combine these technologies into something new, like, I saw this program about green energy, and they created this boat from materials that were thrown away, and they also used their creativity to try to find new, how to make this waste into better material, to make the boat sturdier. And also, Taipei 101 is the highest building in the world with green energy, certified green energy.
Wow, I didn't know that.
They got an award.
Well, the book 'The Secret', tells us that if we want to be a certain person, you need to act like the one you want to be. So if Taiwan wants to be a nation, Taiwan needs to have an act, and the fact that Taiwan is a nation and we always belong to here. And I think we need to build up the competence of Taiwanese people, we need to tell more good stories about Taiwan, we can share good stories with foreigners on the internet. So when people inside the country think we all are belong to Taiwan, Taiwan can become very strong. And at the same time, when other countries people think Taiwan is a nation, then even, then I think, maybe someday China will want to be our friend. We need to build our strength, our advantages, and maybe China will want to co-work and make friends with Taiwan.
I think the mindset, that people have, is hard to change, and it's this that's holding back Taiwan. Since I'm in the education system now. We want to change the education system, but it's so hard to change it. The problem lies in people's mindsets. They still care, the only thing they care about is which school their kids can go to. But I still feel hopeful about Taiwan. Because I see a lot of people who work really hard to do good things for us. And most of us have really good hearts, and this is an asset that we Taiwanese people have, I think.
I think it's hard to have a consensus of everybody in Taiwan, but I think that some things that make us so similar, more similar to each other, is like, our taste is similar, compared to a foreigner, we like to eat rice, but they like to eat bread, and actually we are really different. A little different from China people, because when I go to China to have a conference, what they eat is more salty, it's salty, and we are not get used to those food, but it's okay. I just had a conference in Chicago too, and the food is so big, and big! And it's all meat, and it's difficult for me becase I like to eat eastern food. So maybe we are getting used to our culture, so even you come from Taipei or Kaoshiung, and we have similar taste and similar habit, we like to watch the soap series, everywhere, we like to watch the San Li, or Ming Shi, everywhere, even if you go to Taidong, it's the same. So yeah, I think, so many things make us, just like a group. But it's hard to have a consensus, because I think we diverge when the election is coming. But actually, we are together, yes, we are family!
Well, I have something to add. I want to elaborate on that we have good hearts. We can see the priority seats in the train. It remains unseated all the time, even though it's crowded. And I heard a story, because recently it's been raining, and the rain was so heavy, and one day, a girl from Singapore, she was walking in the neihu area, there is no qilo [arcade]. So she was alking on the street without a qilo, and the rain was so heavy, and then there's a bus driver, driving on the street too. And there was no bus stop, but he stopped the bus, and asked the girl to come up, and he gave her an umbrella. This is the beautiful story I recently heard, and this happened in Taiwan.
The answer to these two questions whould be the same. It's all about how people in Taiwan identify theirself. As long as they have confidence about their country, they don't even have to earn the recognition from others. But we do send out a benign gesture toward the Japanese.
"We gave a gesture of goodwill to the Japanese"
So there's a program in Japan, it's like a talkshow program, so they are many participants, but there's one person from China there, and when they said on the show the number one donator is from Taiwan, that China person said, it's China, because Taiwan is part of China, and the Japanese host said, No, they are not.
What happened next?
Well, that was just the clip, and the focus was how Japanese people were protecting Taiwan.
But please go on...
And Japanese people even made an advertisement to say thanks for the Taiwanese aid. Maybe that's a good way to earn a reputation as a nation.
But there are still some people don't treat Taiwan as their home country.
You mean Taiwanese.
Yes. So that's the reason what hold back Taiwan as a country.
What do you mean, don't treat Taiwan as a home country?
For eample, there are many actors, singers or drama writers who live in China, instead of Taiwan.
But do you think it's because they don't like Taiwan, or it's because the market is there? Because there is a difference.
But there are even more people living in the States or Canada, and never coming back.
In my personal opinion, I think the key is that some people in Taiwan they still think we are a part of China. Even they live in Taiwan but they want Taiwan to be a part of China.
You mean, the younger generation or the older generation?
I think the older generation, is more want to be part of China. But maybe some younger generation also want to be part of China.
I think we talk about lots of very sweet nice things about the the good hearts of Taiwanese people and I agree with that but on the other hand I think Taiwan, it's too soft sometimes, and even people in China they think we are too soft, and that's how sometimes we will be taken advantage of, when we are dealing with China people or, in the other expression is, we shouldn't be so humble all the time, I think Taiwanese are very humble.
Susan, one of my friends, she studied in the UK two years ago, and she told me that there are a lot of Chinese people in her class, and when other foreigners said taiwan is a part of China, no Taiwanese studeents stand out and deny the statment, and on the other hand Chinese students will say it loud, that yeah, Taiwan is a part of China.
I blame it on our education. We don't stand up to defend ourself. We never stand up for ourselvs. So that's not their fault. The fault is our education.
But if at our age, we are out of school for so many years, so if the case is now, we would stand up and defend?
If you stand up with me together?
So you wouldn't stand up alone.
If this happened, yes I would, but for 20 something kids, they're just out of school, they're just trained from the school system. They don't even dare to stand up, so that's not their fault.