TAIPEI, Taiwan: – A Vincentian who graduated from a university here this month thinks more needs to be done to promote St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in Taiwan.
“I have been happy to have the opportunity to tell people about SVG because a lot of Taiwanese people are completely ignorant about that part of the world,” Jeana Jack said in an interview.
Despite the fact that SVG and Taiwan have had unbroken diplomatic ties for more than 25 years, many people in Taiwan are not aware of SVG’s existence, Jack intimated.
“When I say ignorant, I don’t mean it in an insulting way. They just don’t know; because you say St. Vincent in Chinese and they would say, ‘is that in Africa or is that in America?’ And then you explain to them and they will say, ‘it is so beautiful there.’ I’ve had opportunities to tell people about SVG, I feel good about that,” said Jack, who has been living in Taiwan for the past five years.
Jack suggested that stronger cultural links could help to improve the situation.
“You’d expect that the average person might know the name St. Vincent, but they don’t. So I think it might be good if there could be more cultural exchanges between St. Vincent and Taiwan,” Jack said.
She said while various cultural troupes from Taiwan have performed in SVG, she was not aware of any Vincentian groups visiting Taiwan in a similar capacity.
“And, most of the people I have talked to, they are really interested in getting to know our culture, in getting to know how we make our [carnival costumes], different things about St. Vincent.”
A programme that facilitates that type of exchange “would be really good,” she said.
“In terms of tourism it would be good to increase awareness about SVG because a lot of the people I have met, they love to travel and they would ask how to get to St. Vincent and when I explain to them all the stops and all the different transfers you have to make they will say it is too terrible.
“So, it is really good that we are developing the international airport. I know there are different views on whether or not we should have that, but I think it is indispensible if we want to promote our tourism product. And, definitely, Asia — Taiwan and the other Asian countries — is a good place to promote tourism,” Jack said.
Meanwhile, another Vincentian, Vashti Carr, who read for a Master of Arts in Applied English at Ming Chuan University, plays the tenor pan with Pan Africana, a cultural troupe that showcases Afro-Caribbean music here.
Carr, who has also been living in Taiwan for five years, said there is constant interest in her music and her instrument.
“I enjoy playing for people who like the sound of the steel drum and I think every time I have played at least one person has said, ‘I have never heard anything like that.’ People always want to come up and look inside and look underneath and touch and try to play,” Carr said during a separate interview.
While Jack has identified the potential in tourism, fellow Vincentian Noretta John, who graduated with a Master of Science in Eenvironmental Sustainable Development, sees a need for Vincentians to improve the quality of the service they offer.
John said she admired the Taiwanese work ethic.
“From my observation, they fight to be the last home, we fight to leave early. They take pride — I guess it is because of the culture of [losing face]. Whatever they endeavour to do, they tend to put their best into it and make sure that it is done well,” John said in a separate interview.
“I don’t think we have that culture at home, in terms of our productivity.
“One thing that impacted on me as well, [at the convenience stores], everyone who comes in or goes out they greet them with hello and goodbye.
“And, as we are aspiring to be a service-oriented economy, promoting tourism, these are some of the fundamental things that we need: how to serve people, recognising that we are all servants to each other and whatever we do we must put our best foot forward just for the betterment of our country,” John said.
In 2006, a group of mainly Vincentian students showcased Caribbean culture during a cultural festival in southern Taiwan.
Festival organisers described the performance as the highlight of the event.
“We are very proud of you. This is something people here have never seen before,” said Charles Li, then Assistant Direct General of the Latin American and Caribbean Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.