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November 10, 2020

On a walk around town, Louie and I saw our friends, Joe and Teresa, and enjoyed catching up with them. They told us that their son living in Taiwan is a radio host on Taiwan Talk, a new segment on ICRT (International Community Radio Taipei, Taiwan’s only English radio station), that covers life in Taiwan – arts and culture, politics, and finance, as well as in-depth interviews. I couldn’t wait to tune into one of Trevor Tortomasi’s interviews. Like his mother, a retired high school Spanish teacher (she also speaks French and Chinese), Trevor has the gift of language and is fluent in Chinese.

grasshopper on green leaf

Well, the show I tuned in on was about insects, that is, entomology, a branch of zoology. Trevor was interviewing Professor Matan Shelomi who teaches the subject at National Taiwan University.

Joe had told me that the interview was about 40 minutes. I can’t remember the last time I sat in on a talk about insects, I thought.

“Insects are the dominant animal life form on the planet,” Prof. Shelomi started off in the first 45 seconds. That got my attention. “Insects eat about one-third of the world’s crops – in the field or after the harvest -- and we’re trying to get that number down…” In other words, pest management.

I was unexpectedly captivated by the animated conversation between Trevor and Professor Shelomi. The minutes flew by. Trevor’s curiosity and Professor Shelomi’s terrific way of drawing in a layperson like me turned a potentially academic talk into something fascinating, fast-moving, and eye-opening.


Professor Shelomi mentioned how much he enjoys working in Taiwan, especially because it’s “Covid-free.” Whaaat? That also caught my attention.

In short, having learned lessons from the SARS scare of 2003, the leadership took control of the Covid-19 pandemic from the beginning. Learn from experience, right?

Even though Taiwan, a country of 24 million citizens, is geographically close to China, it had only 451 cases and seven deaths as of last July. Their strategy included strict quarantining, wide availability of masks, and contact tracing.

Individuals returning from travels must quarantine for two weeks in a hotel and meals are delivered to the room. A government representative regularly checks in and thanks the individual for playing her or his part in not spreading the virus. At the end of two weeks, so long as the individual tests negative, that person is free to go about daily life (and masks are mandated on subway trains).

There’s a saying in Taiwan: “This is your country, and it’s up to you to save it.”

Taiwan has been successful because every citizen takes the pandemic seriously -- by playing his and her part willingly. It’s no wonder Taiwan’s Covid-19 numbers are so darned low.

It’s never too late to learn, is it?

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