Taipei, Aug. 13 (CNA) A contingent of 250 youths from around the world arrived in Taiwan Friday to participate in a two-week homestay program that is part of Taiwan's centennial celebrations.
The young people were greeted on arrival by a group of dancers depicting the deity Santaizi, who is worshipped in Taiwan as a protector of youth.
The Republic of China International Youth Week Centennial Homestay, from Aug. 12-25, was organized by the ROC Centenary Foundation.
More than 1,600 youths between the ages of 18 and 40 from over 120 countries applied for the homestay program, but only 250 were selected.
The foundation said most of the youths selected were athletes, musicians, gifted students, and beauty pageant winners, from different countries.
Chika Chukwumerije, a Nigerian taekwondo athlete who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is among the visitors.
Many of the youths said they were looking forward to sampling Taiwan cuisine and visiting scenic areas.
One young man from Central America, who said he had never seen the ocean before, was placed with a family in the outlying island of Matsu so he could be close to the sea.
Taiwanese families were enthusiastic about the program, with over 1,000 applying to host the visitors and introduce them to Taiwan culture, but only 250 households were selected.
The host families live in areas such as Taipei, Hualien, Nantou, Chiayi, Kaohsiung, and the offshore islands, including Matsu.
Some of the hosts said they had already prepared an itinerary to show the visitors around the island.
One of the hosts, independent film maker Akira Chen, said with obvious excitement that he planned to introduce the international youth to life in the indigenous communities and help them gain a deeper understanding of tribal culture.
Chen has been involved in the production of TV dramas, films and documentaries. One of his films, "Once Upon a Time" about the life of the Atayal tribe, was shown at the opening of the IV Moscow international festival of visual anthropology in 2009.
Another host, Chou Peng, said he planned to introduce Hakka culture to the international guests through a series of activities. Chou is the winner of a presidential international volunteer award.
Chang Han-teng, a baker in Taipei's Shilin district, said he wanted to teach his homestay visitors how to make traditional Taiwanese cakes and deserts, and planned to take them to Shilin Night market on a food-tasting spree.
In one of the more unusual visitor-host matches, a Japanese musician residing in Taiwan was at the airport to pick up an Irish musician.
The Japanese man said he hoped to help build a bridge of friendship between people of different countries, through musical exchanges. (By Chiu Chun-chin and C.J. Lin)