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Wed, Aug 08, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Foreign brides get a helping hand

FEELING AT HOME A program sponsored by Taipei City to help foreign brides adjust to Taiwan has received positive reviews from the women and their husbands

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Thai bride, left, stands with her husband, Chiu Yen-lung, while Indonesian bride Tri Astuti, right, holds her daughter, Lee Pei-hsuan at Taipei City Hall yesterday. The two women were on a field trip to the city hall along with 63 other foreign brides, all of whom are participating in a program for foreign wives sponsored by the Taipei City Government's civil affairs bureau.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

When 19-year-old Thi Thao Vo of Vietnam married a Taiwanese man a year ago, she faced tremendous uncertainty. At the time, Vo did not speak Mandarin and did not know how to cook Chinese food.

Now Vo, who is four-months pregnant, can converse in both Mandarin and Taiwanese and cooks three meals a day for her husband and some 20 of his relatives living in the same building in Wanhua District.

This was made possible by a training program sponsored by the Taipei City Government's civil affairs bureau (民政局).

"I'm not as homesick as when I first came here and I find myself more comfortable living here," she said.

Yesterday morning Vo visited Taipei City Hall along with 63 other foreign brides, taking part in a training program dubbed the "survival training camp for Taipei City's foreign brides."

It is one of the last field trips they will take before the program concludes on Aug. 15.

The three-month pilot program kicked off on May 11 and drew 64 foreign brides from five southeast Asian countries. Vo was the youngest bride in the group.

The program was available free of charge to foreign brides whose household registration was submitted in either Wanhua or Sungshan districts.

A new class, which began on Monday is for those foreign brides living in the Ta-An and Chungshan districts and has attracted around 80 people.

Taipei currently has about 7,000 foreign brides, 5,000 of whom are from China.

Participants study Mandarin and Taiwanese, learn about local culture and customs, and how to make handicrafts and cook Taiwanese food.

Fan Hui-hua (范蕙華), a division chief at the Wanhua District's household affairs office, said that the purpose of the program is to help the city's foreign brides blend into society and their communities more easily.

"We know it's hard to marry and immediately move to a foreign country. Although our budget is limited, we're doing what we can to help make their lives here a little bit easier," Fan said.

The office and the bureau contribute about NT$50,000 each to the program.

Chou Shih-kai (周士凱) -- Vo's 11-year-old nephew -- accompanied Vo to city hall yesterday. Chou said that he does not see Vo as being any different from him.

"She looks like me, talks like me and cooks good Taiwanese food," he said.

Vo was introduced to her 44-year-old husband by her aunt, who married a Taiwanese man one year before she did.

"My parents couldn't afford a dowry because we're poor. But I'm happy because my husband gave them US$2,500 as a wedding gift," she said.

Unlike Vo, Lily Lo (羅雲勵), a 28-year-old Indonesian-Chinese, did not have the language barrier to overcome when she married her 36-year-old Taiwanese husband a year ago.

"I spoke Hakka at home in Indonesia and learned to speak Mandarin by watching TV," she said.

"Besides, before I met my husband I had frequently visited my brother and sister in Taiwan, who emigrated here about 10 years ago."

Chu Ruei-ling (朱瑞玲), a 24-year-old Indonesian-Chinese who married Lo's husband's older brother two years ago, is also participating in the program.

"What upsets me most here is that I don't have many friends," she said.

"That's one of the reasons why I'm in the program. I want to meet more people and make more new friends."

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