August 27, 2001
World opens for two young women
Through the Bellevue Sister Cities Association Cultural Exchange program, Laura Carroll, 17, the daughter of Sue and Dave Carroll of Woodinville, visited Taiwan this summer staying with the family of Shen Yuhsiang in the town of Hualien.
In return, Helena (Shen Yuhsiang's American name) has spent the last six weeks with the Carrolls in Woodinville.
Recently the two girls wrote about their experiences this summer.
My English name is Helena. I am 20 years old and from Taiwan. This is a good opportunity to widen my vision by coming to America. I have been here for a month. I will come back to Taiwan on Aug. 28.
My American life is filled with surprise and happiness. There are so many funny things to me: culture, food, people and weather.
I consider that Americans are more enthusiastic than Taiwanese.
Americans like to hug their friends but we usually don't do that in Tiawan. The supermarket sellers say "How are you?" to customers. It surprises me. The Taiwanese sellers say nothing to their customers.
The environment is greener. There are more trees and flowers around people.
People are closer to the nature. It improves your good mood. I like American food, except the blue cheese. The blue cheese shocks me when I taste it.
Time goes fast. This trip will be ended soon. But I learn lots of things. It will be my perfect experience.
The plane departed for Taiwan at 3 in the morning. I dressed warmly, as those who are residents of the Seattle area often do when those two weeks of summer we get every year have yet to arrive. It was the end of June, so a pair of khakis and a T-shirt was my outfit of choice for the 13 hour flight to another country.
I soon found this to be a huge mistake. What greeted me on the other end of my journey, besides my host family, was a wave of heat and humidity.
The weather is one thing that sticks out the most in my mind. It was very hot.
When I look back I see that going to Taiwan was the scariest thing I have ever done.
I am only 16 years old and traveling alone is not something I have had much experience with, especially to a place like Taiwan.
Rich culture surrounded me as I settled in, and my fellow exchange student Helena made me feel at home.
My three weeks were spent sight-seeing and enjoying the food. The family's house is only a short walk from the downtown area, so much time was spent walking around and taking pictures.
During the day the weather can be unbearable, so most times we stayed up late into the night when it cooled down and slept the days away.
One thing I had not expected at all was the insects. I have found that spiders around my house do not frighten me as much any more, not when I have encountered some as big as dinner plates. I am very glad I don't have cockroaches scurrying around either.
This trip made me appreciate my home even more, but I also had a fabulous time. The music, food, and lifestyle were all things that I got to enjoy for a short time, and I may never get to experience that again.
I am very grateful to the Bellevue Sister Cities Association for having been given the opportunity to go, and I now have a desire to see more of the world.
My favorite food, or drink I should say, was the milk tea, which is milk mixed with red tea. The most beautiful thing I saw was the Toroka Gorge. It is made of marble and many years ago work was done to carve out roads to make it a national park. It was gorgeous.
My most interesting day was when I saw the temples around the city. They were small and large and had the most intricate designs in them.
I was most surprised by the cockroaches. I walked into my room one day and found one on the floor, which made sleeping in there difficult that night. That was probably the thing I liked least, all the insects.
The thing I enjoyed the most was just the trip in general and what it has done to my life. I now have the desire to travel and I know the entire world is open to me. It is an amazing and wonderful feeling.