I was delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the Retina International World Congress (RIWC) in Taipei this July. After an almost 24 hour long journey from Sweden we were happy to arrive in Taipei to a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius!
From our arrival it was clear that everything is so very well organized in Taipei, the streets are clean, the staff at the hotel were incredible and really helpful and both the elevators and the rooms were marked with braille! This was a great help to our group. Getting around was a challenge initially and we were suprised at how very broad the roads were, this made the crossings long but the traffic lights indicated how long to wait for a green light. The big difference from my home in Sweden was the lack of audible signals for the vision impaired to indicate changes in the traffic lights but in some crossings there was a policeman managing the traffic which was useful. The differences from country to country are always interesting.
I participated in the three day Youth Program. The participants were from Norway, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand and Sweden. A number of young people from Taipei volunteered as sighted guides for the duration of the event.
Professor Elise Heon from the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, Canada is an Ophthalmologist specialising in childhood IRDs and is also a research scientist, she gave a special lecture at our youth meeting. Elise gave us an overview of the research being undertaken currently and was also keen to hear from our group about the realities of living with degenerating vision as young people and how it affected our daily living. It was a really great opportunity not only for us to learn but to inform and was most enjoyable.
After the lecture we all went to the official opening of the Retina International World Congress at the conference centre where we met the delgates from all over the world who were there to participate in the General Assembly and Continuous Education Programme as well as the two day ScientificPprogramme.
We did have to make some changes to the program due to a typhoon which was expected to head towards Taipei. However, we still got to experience the magnificent view from Maonang Gondola, which is a gondola with windows in all directions even in the floor. On the way up the guides gave us an interesting story about the culture of Taiwan. They explained that all Taiwanese have two sets of names, one Taiwanese and one English, the coldest in wintertime is 15 degrees, and the strange smell I had noticed was incense and a lot really interesting facts on the history of the country. We were then served a traditional Taiwanese lunch of about 10 different local dishes on the top deck of the Gondola.
After that we visited a tea museum and tasted different types of teas. Before heading back to the hotel we visited the Taipei Zoo to see the pandas. On the evening we waited for the typhoon but we were very lucky that most of the intensity of the storm passed over us but it did a lot of damage in other parts of Taiwan, we just had some heavy rain and wind.
On the third evening we got the opportunity to visit Taipei 101. A fantastic view and a fabulous experience.
I participated in the two scientific days on Saturday and Sunday and there were a lot of different and interesting themes to follow on various tracks. Between the scientific lectures I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people who shared their view of how they live with RP in their countries and how their organisations are working. That was very worthwhile.
The next RIWC will take place in Auckland, New Zealand in February 2016 - I recommend all those under 35 who are interested in joining Retina Youth to consider coming to the meeting.