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Migrant workers bring a multicultural city

Taipei city initiates submission of migrant worker literature First place goes to “Some Vanillas and Other Things” and “Money Left by a Parent Pass Away”


  The number of migrant workers in Taiwan has reached 700,000. In communities all over the country, they can be seen helping the elderly stay healthy and happy. The Taipei City Foreign and Disabled Labor Office (TCFNDLO) in 2020 initiated a composition contest for the migrant worker’s story. From a Taiwanese’s point of view, they help visualize what the migrant workers experience. The awards ceremony for the competition was held on Nov. 1, 2020, and the list of winners was announced that day. Jhongyi Siyu’s poem entitled “Some Vanillas and Other Things” and Nianyu Zeng’s prose “Money Left by a Parent Pass Away” both won first place.

  We received over 200 entries. Among them, some were authors who have won various literature awards. The TCFNDLO invited writer and professor Yunyuan Chen of Taiwan University and Taiwan Normal University, and Shusia Yian of Tunghai University to serve as the judges. Director of the Independent Review, Yunjhang Liao, was also invited to be the judge. He also served as the judge of migrant worker’s literature award.

  From the over 200 compositions, 15 were selected individually from the poems and proses. They encompass a wide range of ideas and experiences. It shows that Taiwanese have a good understanding of the migrant workers’ situation. These works have been highly praised by the judges. Mr. Liao, one of the judges, expressed that through this activity more and more people would be interested in expressing their opinions on the workers’ situations and feelings as they build a life away from their mother country. All pieces highlight the contributions made by these people to Taiwan. They are tokens of thoughtfulness.

  The government initiated the migrant worker program in 1991. At that time, human rights education and concepts were quite absent. However, Taiwanese who were born after 80’s had more experience with this new set of workers and had a better understanding of their plight. In addition, increased international communication, travel abroad, volunteers abroad and a large increase in foreign students here has brought the young writers a wider view to the issue of migrant workers. It supports them richer writing materials.

  Many authors used food or plants as a theme to describe the feeling these people might experience in a foreign land. In “Some Vanillas and Other Things”, which won first place, the author compared the nurturing of a vanilla garden to express deep emotion. In the poem “Ankang Vietnam Street”, the author depicted the homesickness using the street as the backdrop. In another poem, “Dear Adi”, emotions were described using the tear-jerking spiciness of Indonesian fried noodles. It truly represents how migrant workers feel when they think of their family. The poem “Practice Alone” described “loneliness is reunion” with using the backdrop of eating chicken soup alone, representing the true loneliness, the experience in the foreign land. Interestingly, Vietnam’s hot and sour soup, Southeast Asia’s spices, and curry all appeared in the works.

  The move of foreign caregivers around Taipei was one of the main themes in the competition. The poem “Wheeling”, “South Sea Buddha” and “Parks and Vast Ocean of Your Pupil” all described the scenery that migrant workers are often seen when they wheel around their employer and sit in the park. Through words, the authors showed their warmth and pathos describing how these hired hands try to adapt to life in Taiwan. In “Forgetting Conversations”, for example, the author wrote “in the new home, not any book can have a dialogue with you”. The author of “Days” wrote “With dreams, moving all over this island, but no one stop is home”. And, the article “Something that you don’t know but she knows” fully depicts the bond between the elderly and the migrant workers. It is very impressive.

  The prose works were much longer, which described the normal relationship between the Taiwanese family and migrant worker. The authors developed their works using different viewpoints. For example, “Money Left by a Parent Passed Away” looked through the eyes of a child to depict the workers emotions following the death of the person they were given responsibility to care for. One submission was about a young family who wanted to know more about the worker they employed to take care of their elders. They were unsure how to start the dialogue. As a routine, starting at 3:30 pm the migrant worker helps the elderly have a regular tour in the community. The authors used a different identity to record the interaction between the migrant workers in Taiwan and the Taiwanese. Every work is worth reading over and over.

  Chen Hsin-Yu, director of the Department of Labor (DOL), of the Taipei City Government has expressed that through writing, Taiwanese were better able to know migrant workers situation better. These articles work as agents of change regarding perceptions of our guests and focus attention on making positive changes. The Taipei City Government has called on papers to be written on the subject for more than 10 years. The works submitted have accumulated. Due to different languages, Taiwanese rarely catch these works.

  The immigration literature can provide information on the track of social development and boost multicultural communication. This was the first time there was a request to get compositions from Taiwanese people. We have received an enthusiastic response. It shows that Taiwan society has grown to be one filled with sensations and observation perception. They are worthy of being presented.

  In the future, Taipei City Government will invite migrant workers to go on writing and encourage interaction with Taiwanese to create even more unique works of literature.
The winning and nominated works are going to be published on the website https://www.2020storyparty.com/ under “Southeast Asia’s Story Party”. You are encouraged to read them. In the future, there will be a forum, where Taipei residents can make a dialogue with these authors. Please look forward to further information.