With this post, I am officially an hour away from cabbing it to Taoyuan International Airport to 回國, which literally means return to my country.
My time in Taipei cannot easily be summarized. I think that I have grown in ways that I haven’t even realized yet. Probably putting my feet down on NYC concrete will shed light on some of those… I don’t want to get too sappy with this one. But I might anyway.
Some of you might remember that I originally planned to be in Taiwan for 10 months. I had to cut that short to 9 months for Visa reasons. So, my Taiwan tattoo’s azaleas have 9 visible petals for my 9 months spent in Taipei. 9 is also a lucky number in Chinese tradition, meaning longevity.
I’ve been enchanted by the number 9 recently, so, here you go: 9 of my favorite pics + the top 9 things that my Taiwan chapter has taught me.
- It’s OK not to be the master of everything. I am my own biggest critic. When I first arrived in Taipei, I spent my first few friendless weeks wandering alone. Walking into restaurants would almost cripple me with fear because I did not know (often still don’t know) how to read menus + I was ashamed to ask for English translations. I had to get over this in order to eat + realized that I could stand to cut myself some slack.
- In trying to speak a foreign language without fluency, you are forced to reveal or hide certain aspects of yourself based on what you are able to communicate with the newly learned language. The easiest way to explain this is that I still only know how to be polite using Chinese. If I was put in a situation where I had to stand up for myself, the closest I could get to doing so would be to call the other person “impolite.” (I will definitely try to keep this in mind to curb my English-speaking-Sailor’s-mouth…)
- I am a writer. It has taken me years + years of squirming to admit it. But there it goes. I love to write. I will continue to write. I am a writer. + being a writer, too, doesn’t make me not an actress + performer.
- It is possible to find a fulfilling artistic community anywhere. I never expected to find such a talented group of writers + performers in Taiwan. I am so grateful that we were able to find + support each other during my time here.
- Having a support net is invaluable. Before I met the people who would become my closest friends in Taiwan, I wondered if I had made a huge mistake by picking up everything and moving here for my project. I got through those weeks by listening to the encouraging words from my family + friends back in the States. They believed in me + were so excited for my adventure, so I could be, too.
- Importance of diversity. I can’t stress this enough. I grew up in New York City: truly a melting pot of colors + cultures. Taiwan is quite homogenous. As a result there is a stigma surrounding “foreigners” of all kinds. I won’t go too far into this here, because I could talk about it for days. But due to Taiwan’s lack of widespread diversity, many Taiwanese are ignorant about how different cultures actually operate as opposed to the stereotypes associated with them. This has been incredibly frustrating for me since it is hard to have teaching moments in the face of such a strong language + culture barrier. This is NOT something that is only a problem in Taiwan. You can find it everywhere in the word–this stigma about “the other.” I have just never experienced it on quite the same scale.
- I know so little. The more I travel the more I learn that there is so much (SO MUCH!) that I do not know + so much to learn. Isn’t that what life is about?
- What it feels like to be an outsider. Before coming to Taiwan I never felt like an outsider. Ever. But in Taiwan my white skin automatically makes me a 外國人, a foreigner (literally outside country person). This status would not change no matter how long I lived here. This is a totally foreign concept for me (though I admittedly have bones to pick with people who have lived in New York for 2 years + say they are New Yorkers…), because it is something based completely on what one’s skin looks like. It is not based on one’s experience in a place.
- Trust myself. Every day it becomes more and more clear that I was supposed to be in Taiwan this year! This was a project + move + experience that I was supposed to create + do + have.
I realize that not all of these “things I learned” are super positive. I think once you live in a place for longer than a few weeks, no matter how wonderful it seems (or actually is!), no matter how nice the people are, etc., the not-so-good stuff becomes apparent. Taiwan is a wonderful place. It is safer than anywhere I have ever lived. The people are extremely generous + polite. The food is amazing! I have loved my time here, but it wouldn’t have been 9 months abroad without some good, some bad + some ugly.
Thank you to everyone in Taiwan + the U.S. who have made my life in Taipei such a delightful learning experience!! I cannot wait to finish up my interviews Stateside + write a kick ass play about what this place means to me + the group of people that I was able to interview.
I have basically heard this song everywhere I’ve gone for the last 9 months. I think it matches my feelings perfectly, though the meaning is slightly flipped.
I love you, Taiwan! 下次見！