Embassy of SVG in Taipei celebrates first anniversary
by Chanolde Munroe
“The sky is the limit and the potential is vast.”
So said Andrea Bowman, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ambassador to the Republic of China, Taiwan in an interview last Thursday on the eve of the first anniversary of the opening of the Embassy in Taipei.
Speaking from the Embassy’s headquarters, Bowman stated that since establishing a physical presence in Taiwan, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has had more visual recognition.
“…It is not unusual when we go out for us to be identified…We are recognized, you know there is that recognition, so we are getting there. People are getting a sense of what St Vincent and the Grenadines stands for with regard to Taiwan.”
Bowman, a career educator and a former headmistress of the Girls’ High School is the country’s first Ambassador to the ROC, Taiwan.
She said that her first year as Ambassador has gone by very quickly, and, the biggest adjustment has been to the culture and the bureaucratic differences.
‘That has been quite a difference and I have had to make this adjustment very quickly. We are actually still in the process of doing this…so just adjusting to the requirements, adjusting to the protocols, adjusting to the expectations…this is what has been consuming us.”
The Ambassador noted that the establishment of an Embassy of SVG provided students with a home away from home and an official ‘go to’ for their problems.
“I saw the Embassy as first serving that purpose. Taking care of the needs of students in the sense of ascertaining that their status…in Taiwan is well understood, secure and comfortable, because I mean it’s a different culture, different language and different expectations. So we needed to be able to do that. We need to be able to assure them that their everyday needs, their livelihood is being overseen by a body that is able to effect what is necessary for them to live comfortably in this environment…,” she said.
Additionally Bowman stated that there needed to be a physical presence in Taiwan “in order to maximize the potential of this bilateral relationship.”
Speaking on the bilateral relationship, Bowman said that many Vincentians are aware of the important role that Taiwan has played in education across the primary, secondary and tertiary level and as such the Taiwanese public needed to be equally aware of SVG.
The Ambassador also said that the Embassy will soon have non residency status in Japan and South Korea, but implementation has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister Counsellor, Elroy Wilson noted that the first year has been a learning experience.
“It’s not a bad year so far, the only new thing is basically Covid, because I am accustomed to living away from home for the past 10 years; I’ve been going to different schools…So it’s not anything strange, the culture is a bit different than what I am accustomed to.”
Wilson noted however that the Vincentians in Taiwan have made his stay in Taiwan more comfortable.
The Minister Counsellor stated that he sees the Embassy as a home away from home for Vincentian students and Vincentians living in Taiwan.
“I see the Embassy playing that role for many years to come. From interaction with students and other Vincentians here, they are very happy that there is an embassy here, that there is a place that they could come to if they have a problem. We’ve dealt with passports and many different things,” he noted.
Wilson said that he is extremely pleased that there is physical presence in Taiwan for Vincentians especially during this pandemic.
“It would have been pretty difficult, trying to imagine it as a student. It would’ve been pretty difficult if I were a student here and there is not this support system or somebody I could come and complain to. So I think that the Embassy has played like a parent role… when it comes to taking care of students and being here. Even with the activities that we had, and trying to bring Vincentian students together and Vincentians who live in Taiwan together.”
On August 8, 2019, after 30 years of diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the government of SVG officially opened its first Embassy in Taipei.