National Taiwan Museum joins 'bring a book back' initiative

Taipei, April 2 (CNA) The National Taiwan Museum on Thursday added its name to a long list of over 100 locations nationwide where people can drop off books that they have brought back from Southeast Asia for the migrant workers and foreign spouses in Taiwan. The museum is the first public museum to join the "Bring a Book Back to Taiwan that You Cannot Read" movement, initiated in January by Chang Cheng (??), secretary-general of Chinese Association for Foreign Spouses and Labor's Voice and co-founder of Taiwan's first Southeast Asia-themed bookstore, Southeast Asian Migrant Inspired (????). The movement encourages Taiwanese travelers to bring back books from Southeast Asia in the local languages and drop them off at the over 100 book-dropping locations around Taiwan, so that Southeast Asian migrant workers and spouses in the country can borrow and read these books for free. "I hope Taiwanese people who visit Southeast Asia can bring back a book they cannot read. It could be a book purchased at a local bookstore or just picked up on the streets," said Chang, the former editor in chief of 4-Way Voice, a monthly newspaper published in several Southeast Asian languages. "Maybe you would think it is just an ordinary book, but it is not ordinary because it carries your goodwill," he said. "It has traveled on an airplane and made it across the ocean." He said the idea of the initiative first formed in his mind last year, when he heard an Indonesian caregiver, who won a migrant literature award, share her feelings about books. "She said she does not have a lot of days off, but reading makes her feel free," Chang said, a remark that deeply touched him. Later, another Indonesian caregiver asked him to help her find a book in her native language that would "make her think," Chang said. After presenting her with such a book, Chang said the woman wrote to thank him and said the books helped "foster her soul." "This is what we are trying to do. Some people may just be here to make money, but some want to 'foster their souls' even as they toil away at their work," he said. "Books give them a chance to 'foster their souls.'" Currently, over 100 bookstores, professors' offices, associations and other groups have joined the movement, Chang said, noting that a police station and a beef noodle shop are among the book dropping locations. Many of the books so far collected are in Thai, probably because there are many Taiwanese travelers to Thailand, but there are currently more demands for Indonesian and Vietnamese books as Indonesian and Vietnamese workers make up the two largest groups of migrant workers in Taiwan, Chang said. Mach Thi Ngoc Hue (???), an ethnic Vietnamese in Taiwan, said she is grateful for the initiative to bring back books from Southeast Asia. "It warms my heart to see books in my own language in another country," said Mach, who loves to read novels. Nanik Riyati, an Indonesia caregiver who has worked in Taiwan for seven years, loves to spend her free time writing down her thoughts and reading business and religious books. "I'm so happy. My friends and I can go to these places to regain our strengths or just pass our time," said Nanik, who won a Taiwan literature award for migrants last year. There are currently over 550,000 migrant workers and 200,000 foreign spouses in Taiwan from Southeast Asia. The list of book-dropping locations is available in Chinese at: https://www.facebook.com/events/731877436919076/ (By Christie Chen)