Humberto Romero Espinola was in attendance at a ceremony Tuesday at Paraguay's Presidential Office, where Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes conferred a medal on Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen. His ability to speak Mandarin Chinese fluently surprised the Taiwanese media, who were covering the event.
Speaking to reporters, the helicopter pilot said he had studied in Taiwan for eight years. He studied at the Air Force Academy in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, for six years where he received flight training, before going to Taiwan again to pursue a master's degree, he added.
He had a hard time adjusting when he first arrived in Taiwan to begin his studies at the academy and commence pilot training, he recalled. At that time, he could not even speak a word in Chinese.
He did not start to learn the language until he arrived in Taiwan, but he managed to survive, he said.
He added that he is planning to go to Taiwan again to study sometime next year.
The captain said he will be promoted to the rank of major at the end of the year.
It will take him at least nine years to be promoted from major to colonel, and only colonels are eligible to serve as a military attache in Taiwan, he said.
In the past, few Paraguayan people knew about Taiwan, but this is no longer the case, he said.
As many students from Paraguay have gone to study in Taiwan, along with the growth of exchanges between the two countries, he said most people in his country now know about Taiwan.
In terms of bilateral educational exchanges, President Tsai also announced during her speech in Paraguay's Congress later in the day that the annual quota of Taiwan scholarships for Paraguayan students to study in Taiwan will be increased from 14 to 28.
Tsai hoped that with more students from Paraguay studying in Taiwan, they and their Taiwanese counterparts will become goodwill ambassadors who can help promote bilateral relations in the future.
Tsai is in Paraguay, Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in South America, on the second and final leg of her first overseas trip since taking office on May 20. She will depart Paraguay on Thursday for Los Angeles, where she will stay overnight before heading home to Taiwan on July 1.
During the nine-day trip to two of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, Tsai also made a transit stop in Miami on her way to Panama.