An instrumental component of the smarter city challenge experience is community service. Today we visited the Taiwu Elementary school, which is devoted to the education of Painwanese children, one of Taiwan’s many indigenous communities. The Paiwanese represent 18% of Taiwan’s indigenous population. Like many aboriginal populations the Paiwanese are proud of their heritage. According to the legend, their origins can be traced to the poisonous hundred-pace snake laying an egg in a clay pot. The pot was basked in the sunshine, and broke into two, and a boy came into being. The boy was brought up by a family in the tribe, and later he became a chief. For this reason, the Paiwan people view the sun, hundred-pace snake and clay pot is the symbol of a chief. These symbols adorn their buildings and inspire the jewelry and beads made by the tribes women today. The fables, legends and songs are being preserved and celebrated at the Tai-wu school through the passionate efforts of the teachers and parents.
We had a great time at Tai-wu. We were warmly welcomed by the school Principal, who spearheaded the relocation of the school to the foot of the mountain when the Typhoon hit their ancestral mountainside after Typhoon Morakot damaged the Paiwanese school and homes situated on the mountain. The Principal’s welcome was followed by a traditional ceremony where Paiwanese cries pierced the air to ward off evil spirits upon on our arrival. Afterwards we crossed over the fire threshold which represented our communion with the benevolent gods.
The children has prepared a beautiful song sung in their local dialect, in traditional costume, full of poetry and very romantic.
Afterward they performed “Muni’s adventure”, a story of a Paiwanese girl whose mother wants to visit ancestors in the mountains. However, Muni laments the loss of MacDonalds and Facebook access (sound familiar?) only to be won over by forest animals (pigs, butterfly, snakes) in the end. The story was written up in a woodblock print book and nominated for a local grammy award!
For alternative perspectives check out the live interview by the local news channel 原住民電視台 (Taiwan Indigeneous TV)
and a local blog perspective from one of our mentees from IBM Taiwan, Michael Kuo. Michael works for Global Business Services, IBM Taiwan (second row, second from right).
(Each of us had a “shadowee” for the week of meetings with key stakeholders working in the county on renewable energy initiatives. For most of them it was their first time in rural Taiwan, the first opportunity to interact with their fellow countrymen in the townships or with aboriginal clans.)
By Michael Kuo: A wonderful experience at Taiwu Elementary School
The Paiwan tribe is one of the nine major native tribes in Taiwan, and live in high mountain area. They love wood carving, singing and dancing. The original Taiwu Elementary School locating at one of Paiwan villages was destroyed by typhoon, so they rebuilt village and school at current location with NGO’s support. Before moving to new school, they had 2 years hard time to study at a temporary school. When we arrived this beautiful school, Principal & teachers and students wore traditional costumes to welcome us with a traditional Paiwanese ceremony. They were so hospitable and we really enjoyed it.
Kids performed traditional dances and sang songs with Paiwan language to welcome us. Wood carvings made by children are everywhere and all traditional cultures were blended into daily life at school. The subject of this visit was to perform a community service for English teaching. The curriculum is international so we teach current topics such as the Rocky Mountains, Bollywood music, Coffee, and teach them a song.
Then we faced a challenge from kids. Kids will attend English reading competition and would like have preview with us. We were shocked by their wonderful performance … so vivid in our mind. Then it was our turn to perform for the kids (see below) …we were so nervous to rehearse it.
The school has a main theme on it — tribe’s legend about Sun and hundred-pace Snake. This legend encourages them to respect environment and be stronger to protect it. With principal’s tour guide, we saw how the legend integrated into school layout, just like a snake. And where is Sun? It’s on the roof – as Tai-wu has been selected for rooftop photovoltaic panels to generate solar energy to protect environment.
The Principal and teachers’ passion, children’s optimistic learning are so impressive. We had a wonderful memories at this school.
As you can see, the SCC team was drawn into the school atmosphere. According to Confucian philosophy,
“The way of great learning consists in illuminating innate virtues.”
If that is the case, our contributions have been returned tenfold as everyone who touches Tai-wu comes away a little more more illumined.