Many new immigrants in Taiwan share their skills with the community. Today we meet an accomplished cook and patchwork maker from Indonesia, who’s as much a part of her local community as any neighbor. Cynthia Meliana Lagunara, who lives in Yunlin, is a master chef and a patchwork teacher. She only started patchwork in her later life, but quickly became an expert. FTV was lucky enough to get to watch her at work in the kitchen, as well as in her sewing class.

Cynthia Meliana Lagunara is busy preparing the Indonesian delicacy nasi kuning, or turmeric rice. She adds spices and coconut milk to the rice until every grain is bursting with flavor. The expert in Indonesian home cooking often holds stalls at culinary fairs. More often than not, her dishes are the bestseller.

Cynthia Meliana Lagunara
Indonesian cook and crafter
I love cooking, even sweets. I make it for the neighbors, so everyone can try it.

This eye-catching turmeric rice shimmers like gold, symbolizing wealth and good fortune. It’s the perfect dish for a festival. Apart from being a cooking expert, Lagunara is also a patchwork teacher. Her incredible artistic skills are the second string to her bow.

Cynthia Meliana Lagunara
Indonesian cook and crafter
My eyes are getting worse every year. I’m losing my eyesight. I use this tool to thread a needle now.

She only started making patchworks after the age of 50, but she believes in lifelong learning. That attitude led the cooking genie to take up a new career as a touring patchwork teacher – a joyful new start in later life.

Cynthia Meliana Lagunara
Indonesian cook and crafter
If you work patiently, it comes out beautiful. You look at it, and think “I made this!” and you feel good. Students tell me, “I went home, and my grandson said, ‘Grandma, I can’t believe you made this! It’s beautiful! Can I have it?’”

Lagunara is now creating her own courses in patchwork, and teaching her skills in communities. Sewing is meticulous work, but it won’t be too much for a dedicated student. A kindly teacher, she makes traditional Indonesian drinks and snacks to give her students in their breaks. After 32 years in Taiwan, she’s even more fluent in Taiwanese than in Mandarin. Lagunara’s cooking and sewing skills have found her many friends, students and fans.

This story was provided by the program "We Are Family"
Funded by New Immigrant Development Fund

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