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Christmas Eve at Kuma Academy

While the rest of world is busy with Christmas Eve festivities, there's a packed classroom in Taipei learning how to better prepare for war.

There are 4 modules for the full-day workshop (NT$1,000 per person) : Introduction to Modern Military, Information and Cognitive Warfare, Hygiene and Basic First-Aid, and a workshop to prepare you for evacuation/sheltering. This is Civilian War Preparedness 101, so there's no combat training. Don't be fool by the very battle-ready bear.

I looked around the classroom and saw mostly young people in their 20's and 30's. There's one kid there with his Mom who were both very enthusiastically participating. And over the course of the day, what started as a deep sadness, "I wish this class didn't have to exist. Why am I watching a video of someone using a tourniquet to save her own life in Ukraine when I could be Christmas shopping with my friends?" Slowly morphed into something like... Confidence.

Being Taiwanese in the world today can be exhausting. It seems like it's the only international headline Taiwan is allowed to make is about war. It's a weird looming threat to live with when you're just going about your day, scrolling on Instagram with an oat milk latte. And this threat isn't new. I grew up practicing for air raids in school and actively avoiding war movies.

The day's training gave me information that made me feel slightly better prepared as a civilian. For one thing, I learned why Taiwan is such an important line defense for the rest of the Pacific. It reinforced a sense of duty that sometimes felt heavy. For another, I now know how to safely carry someone away from danger, pack a bug out bag, and have new motivation to improve my cardio, squats, and deadlifts.

One thing the instructors kept repeating is that it is the unfortunate duty of every Taiwanese person to have to have basic military fluency, something I've actively resented. But being in a sold-out class on Christmas Eve reminded me that I'm not in this alone. It claws back a bit of power from an overwhelming situation entirely out of my control.


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