kungwan2000 wrote:Hi fub17
Like you, being raised in an English environment, my Mandarin was not very poor. It improved gradually during my years in TW as a student and I was able to read and write basic Chinese.
In 1997, I served the 28 day 成功嶺 boot camp for undergraduates in TW (before it was abolished). My grasp of Mandarin was equal to a grade 2 elementary school student. The language barrier was not that relevant to me then because I found my fellow conscripts quite willing to help me, providing that I pulled my weight for the squad.
I served and was discharged from the armed forces in 馬祖 (Mazu) 2 years ago. At boot camp, again, the experience was not too bad since my fellow conscripts were quite helpful. Once sent over to my unit after boot camp, life was pretty hard since my company had a reputation for hazing. I spent 2 weeks in hell and was then transferred when it was discovered that I wrote only in English in my 莒光作文簿 (a diary that is weekly written). The battalion decided it was best that I did not handle weapons for safety concerns and re-assigned me to messenger and mail-room clerk duties at battalion command centre.
In both stints, I found that a language barrier was the least of my problems. To my surprise, I met some people born and bred in TW that were functionally illiterate. As long as you are easy-going and friendly, you will find people willing to help you out. What is most important is that you pull your own weight and not take any offence to you as personal.
By the time I was discharged, my Mandarin improved considerably and the number of friends I made from other walks of life grew. I became more culturally assimilated into Taiwanese culture and began to understand better how bureaucracy in TW works. Fulfilling my national duty also removed the hassles of jumping through loopholes to keep my Taiwan/ROC identity. I was given a passport that was valid for 10 years and as a full citizen I have no trouble with immigration clerks when I travel in and out of TW. It was also reassuring to my wife's parents that I served my time which also elevated their esteem of me.
On the whole, the experience for me was more beneficial than negative. Mandatory military service was just a hurdle I had to jump to get on with my life.
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