This was a volunteer project organised by AIESEC NCTU.
The project got me involved in teaching English at the community centre, as well as helping out at the art and craft classes in a middle school nearby for about 2 months.
Just looking at these photographs alone, one would never suspect that this is a science and industrial park. Yet, this is one of Taiwan’s science parks with the highest annual revenue.
End-of-year Celebratory Lunch
Within my first few hours in Hsinchu, I knew I’d miss the place badly when the time I had to leave came. And indeed, towards the end of the project, I started to feel that my time at Hsinchu Science Park was too short; I wanted to spend more time there, and get to know the people and the place better. But all good things come to an end.
I was touched by the sense of community and the volunteers’ genuine desire to contribute to the community. The residents were all grateful for the volunteers’ hard work over the year and chipped in for an end-of-year celebratory lunch. Naturally, I was invited as well.
After a long morning of preparation, the lunch was finally about to start. People started streaming in and gathered at the tables. Food were brought to the tables. Prizes to be won were placed on the long table at the front of the room. This wasn’t something new to me. People and their practices aren’t that different across the world. What felt different, however, was the sincere appreciation towards the volunteers. Volunteering can often feel like a thankless job, because people seem to take things for granted, but this was not the case in Keyuan.
Following the long afternoon of good food and merry-making was the time to leave. I strolled along the walkway that led home.
Was this going to be my last time on this walkway?
Mural Painting Day
On one sunny day, I went to work with my friends. I was secretly amused, when I saw little white things lined up neatly along the parapet. I thought, while trying to contain my laughter, “They’re drying their food on a parapet that clearly hasn’t been washed in a while? Is that not bird shit? And who do they belong to? Are they not afraid that someone mischievous would do something to the nicely chopped radishes?”
And then, I realised I was being the cynical city girl that I’ve been brought up to be.
Sketching was part of the project, as the team had intentions to publish a book.
Feeling bittersweet that my journey would come to an end in another two days, I decided to visit Hsinchu Science Park for the last time. The weather had been gloomy and grey most winter, but today, the sun seemed agreeable. It was the perfect day to be out and about. I picked up my camera and left the house.
The house I lived in was run-down and the houses next door looked like they had long been abandoned. Everywhere looked dull and neglected, except maybe for the church right behind the house, and the houses a few hundred metres ahead. The water heater ran on batteries and more often than not, it dies just when you are all ready for a warm shower in the cold night. Outside the house, some ten metres ahead, the loud engines define the crazy traffic along the main road; a stark contrast to the narrow and quiet alleyway. The sudden contrast no longer came as a rude shock, it was a welcoming sound that suggested civilisation. The constant swishes and swooshes could only mean that everyone was driving really quickly and rushing to their destinations. I walked a few more metres ahead, turned my head first left then right, then dashed right across the curve road after confirming that it is safe to do so.
It was a long walk to the community centre—a ten-minute quick walk to the entrance of the park, followed by another ten minutes of brisk walking through the park to get to the community centre. A betel nut store, a 7-11 convenience store, a school, a police station and an electric power station. What used to be a strange sight has now become a familiarity to my senses. At the end of the stretch of road, there is an overhead bridge that leads to the entrance of the park.
Usually, I would go up the bridge, enjoy the panoramic view of the electric power station and beyond, before heading to the park. But today, I was on a mission. I walked straight ahead, crossed the road and walked as far as I could; I walked past the Yoshinoya I went to once, the middle high school I went to on Wednesdays, the eatery I had lunch at with my friend, and then the many places that I had never had the chance to see in the previous weeks. I walked farther and farther, until it was almost getting dark and decided I had to find my way to the community centre, using my extraordinary sense of direction.
While walking through the little streets and turning many corners, I took mental notes of my surroundings and took photographs to document them.
So this is how the community is really like, I thought to myself.
I was too busy working at the community centre for the past weeks and had had little time to wander about.
Nearing the community centre, I heard something out of the norm—I heard cheerful laughters and happy young voices. There was a mishmash of sounds: screams of excitement, low-pitched rhythmic thuds, shouts of enthusiasm and boisterous hand clapping.
A boy scored a goal somewhere in the park. These were sounds you would never have heard, if it was not for the spring break. Hsinchu Science Park was frequented by the elderly on a normal working day and you would hardly see any young working adults and/or children of school age, which speaks a lot about the lifestyles of the residents and insinuates that work takes precedence. I stood around for awhile and observed the smiling faces—both the young and the old—which one rarely see these days.
I smiled and made my way out of the park.
Then I smiled a bigger smile, because it was spring and flowers were blooming.