An overseas Hakka spoke at a press conference on Wednesday to mark the launch of a new book, the fifth in a series released by the Hakka Affairs Council over the past five years.
In the last book of the five-volume series, which chronicles the experiences of Hakka people living overseas, individuals share their stories from the time they spent living in northeast Asia and Oceania.
Nadia Chen (陳春月), a Hakka who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, spoke at the press conference.
“When I look back on my life, I’ve been through many troubles, but I’ve survived,” she said.
“I could have survived any kind of difficulty, maybe because I am a Hakka, and Hakka people are known for their hard work and ability to survive in any environment,” Chen said.
Before moving to New Zealand a few years ago, Chen worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia and experienced the horror of the Gulf War in 1991.
Chen was born in 1958 in Taitung County’s Guanshan Township (關山), a largely agricultural town in the narrow valley between the Central Mountain Range and the Coastal Mountain Range.
“My mother died as a result of kidney stones when I was little. It was not a very serious problem, but it took my mother’s life because the medical facilities in the remote rural village I lived in were not good enough,” Chen said.
“Therefore, I wanted to become a nurse to look after patients following my mother’s death,” she added.
When she was 23, Chen agreed to join a medical service team in Saudi Arabia, “because I’ve always wanted to go to other countries and see the world, and I would have grabbed whatever opportunity presented itself.”
She used to believe that everyone apart from Taiwanese and Chinese spoke English. However, when she began working in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, she realized that English was not the best way to communicate with her patients and quickly learned to speak Arabic.
In 1991, when the Gulf War broke out, she did not think it would affect her, since Jeddah was far from the battlefront. However, she then met a Taiwanese woman who had struggled to escape the war zone. She told Chen how her city had been bombed and how terrifying the armed militias were that she had encountered along her journey.
Chen began to worry and decided to send her children, who were four and two, home.
After the war, Chen and her husband returned to Taiwan to be with their children, and they later moved to New Zealand in the hope that their children could grow up in a better environment.
“At the time, I thought I would have no problem finding a job, as I was an experienced nurse. However, when I arrived in New Zealand, I learned that Taiwanese certifications are not recognized there,” Chen said. “I eventually decided to attend classes and took the exam to get a local insurance agent’s license.”
“I’ve been through many troubles, but I’ve survived. I guess it’s because I am a Hakka,” she added.
Hakka Affairs Council Minister Huang Yu-chen (黃玉振) said that when he first proposed the idea of recording the lives of Hakka people living overseas five years ago, “I wasn’t sure if I could actually achieve it, or if the books could all be published during my term.”
“I’m really happy that after interviewing 106 people in 33 countries in five years, we’ve got it done,” he said.