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Girl meets boy, promotes permaculture

A South African twentysomething fell in love with a man from Taiwan's tiny Tsou tribe (鄒族) and moved into his village. Now, she's promoting sustainable agriculture projects that can make the village more self-sufficient.

Hanna Tiakianan, 29, spoke yesterday to the Chinese-language Central News Agency.

Five years ago, Tiakianan lost her way on a walk in the Chiayi County's Alishan mountain range. She wandered into a secluded area inhabited by the Tsou, a small indigenous tribe.

“A middle-aged woman suddenly came toward me and asked if I was lost, then offered me some water,” said Tiakianan.

The two women chatted in English and found that they enjoyed one another's company. Upon invitation, Tiakianan returned to the village later and received a tour. The pair soon became good friends.

One week later, Tiakianan met the woman's nephew, who Tiakianan married last year.

“When we met, he could not speak any English, and there was no way for us to talk,” said Tiakianan.

Tiakianan returned to the village every week to teach English to the village children. She taught him English, too, and brought him books to study. By the fourth month of lessons, the two were able to have simple conversations.

These were rudimentary dialogues, but “the power of love was very strong,” she said. “We didn't need words.”

Later they had a child, and Tiakianan moved into the village to be with her family.

Since settling in, she has worked with villagers to create new permaculture projects, such as local tea cultivation and organic gardening. The Tsou people did once live sustainably, but most permaculture practices have faded with the younger generation.

Tiakianan's goal is for the village to depend on itself again for essential items like food, rather than rely on supply chains.

That way if a typhoon strikes and ruins the roads, the village can still have supplies, she said.

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Hanna Tiakianan, center, poses with two women from the Tsou tribe (鄒族) in Chiayi County, yesterday. Tiakianan, who hails from South Africa, fell in love with a Tsou man and now lives in his village.(CNA)

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