It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
I first set foot on your beautiful plains on the night of December 21st, 2013. And now, here I am, a minute past midnight on February 5th, 2015, exactly a week before packing up the life I’ve made in these 4 months I’ve been back in Sydney to humbly set my feet back on your land.
It feels surreal that this time has crept up on me, true to the cliche. It was around a year ago when I started entertaining the thought of moving to Taiwan. I was only there 3 days, one morning and a night, but it was enough. That’s how much I fell, somewhat madly, for you.
I can’t tell you the countless number of people- friends, family, strangers- who have asked me, “…but why Taiwan?” (their confusion conveyed oftentimes by people accidentally confusing you with Thailand). Fair enough, I once didn’t know anything more than your name, and that you were near China (thanks high school geography!) . It seems that, sadly, most people share this ignorance. Somehow, you have eluded the good lot of us. No one really considers you in their travel plans, but once people do give you a chance, you stick in their heart (or that could just be symptomatic of a carb overload).
So why did I fall so hard?
I guess, for the first time, I felt truly connected to a place when I visited you. It’s hard to explain- believe me, I do know it does seem quite flippant to say something so grand in nature after such a short stay. But, that feeling of- this is the place I need to be- was so intense I was compelled to explore it further. Now what exactly brought that feeling on I can’t pinpoint. I guess I felt calm, I felt like I belonged- despite the fact that I was very much a stranger in the land. Having never felt that sense of belonging in Sydney, I guess I have always yearned to feel it.
Moreover, you were so magnificently beautiful. Your ornate temples with so many stories bound between your walls, hills of endless green, teahouses giving home to tradition and a world no longer. You captivated me with your contradictions- you are so exceedingly modern, but you carry an air of a bygone time in all your crevices.
The people- so kind, open, honest and welcoming. All things I admire in a person. The food, oh god (!), the food. The tens of hundreds of thousands of things to see, do, absorb. That yearning I have to discover- you encourage it- in fact, you make it a necessity. I just had the most unforgettable experience- so many new lessons learned, so many amazing memories to add to my trove. And, I can’t deny it- I had a lot of silly, carefree fun! As the old cliche goes, I felt alive. It was an experience I now want to expand on- not to relive, but to further expand on.
So why Mandarin study?
In Japan, for the first time, I discovered a part of myself that was untapped. As if looking from the outside in, I saw myself be genuinely inspired to learn. Now, I do realise the irony of a formally trained educator saying that I’ve never been inspired to learn. Sadly, that really is the case. I have always tried to give my all in my studies to achieve marks- to reach an objective, a career ideal, to prove something to myself. But, never just for the joy of it.
And in Japanese, that is what I found. Yes, at first, I started just to prove to everyone I could do it. To silence those people who made me feel bad for not knowing Japanese despite my heritage. I didn’t do it for me, but soon it became about me. It was the most empowering feeling to be doing something purely for myself.
So that is what inspired this new goal to learn Mandarin. I want to hold onto that feeling of doing something just because. And this one is even more so in that vain, because I don’t have anything to prove to anyone, and I really don’t have a concrete objective with it. I think it’ll be an amazing skill to have, and it certainly has potential to benefit career-wise. However, I am doing it because I can. Because I want to. And, I think (although this does waver in my waves of doubt), that that is a good enough reason.
That all being said, I do realise these feelings of being so in love with this city and the idea of living in it aren’t that well formulated, and things may change when I actually live in Taipei.
I am scared. Damn scared. I am going into this blind. I don’t really know anyone. I don’t know any Mandarin at all (apart from “hello” and “thank you”, which I’m probably saying the equivalent of “custard” and “lamp” instead). I don’t know how to set up anything, where anything is, how to function. I feel overwhelmed at all these things I just don’t know. Oh, the humanity!
I’ve had people very kindly call me brave, adventurous, gutsy- all adjectives I don’t quite feel deserving of. I truly think any one with the drive and opportunity could do what I’m doing. I don’t identify myself as any those things- rather, I feel like I am trying to find something that being in Sydney right now simply can’t provide me. So I’m putting somewhat blind faith in the chance that Taiwan will help me find at least a part of what I yearn for. Likely, it will just leave me with more questions (much like my stay in Japan did), but I guess if that is to happen, it was going to happen somewhere along the line. And that’s a good thing, I think.
I know I’m going to be lost at first. Figuratively, and unfortunately, literally as well. I won’t know your roads, the ways to fit in, or even how to communicate. These are all fundamental things that allow you to feel like a place is your home. But, then again, I have a clear understanding of that here, and yet, I don’t feel compelled to call this home in it’s purest form. This is home because this is where the good proportion of my loved ones reside.
So apart from that, this is not home to me- at least not for now. I guess that’s how, relatively easily, I can just pack it all up and leave.
I now believe home is wherever you feel most comfortable at each period of your life.
And, I’m hoping that will be you.
Because right now, I’m typing to you from afar, talking to you as a distant entity.
But, next time, I’ll be typing to you, talking to you as something that’s starting to form as my new, exciting, scary, and wonderful home.
I’ll see you soon.