Unfamiliarity is Magical!

As my first experience overseas, Taiwan is the furthest I’ve yet to travel. It feels tremendously liberating to sculpt memories in an environment free from nostalgia. While familiar landscapes are comforting, they can also be rooted in expired identities. After moving across the country for college, I’ve sometimes struggled to reconcile my new and old selves when I return to my childhood hometown. It’s like occupying a limbo where I feel like a foreigner in the world that raised me. In Taipei, a brand new city that lacks familiarity, there are no expectations placed upon me to embody an old self, because the environment to which that self is connected does not exist. Here, I am free from the pressure to fit into old frameworks for the sake of social and familial harmony. I am recognizing the agency I embody to shed outdated views that no longer serve my growth, and welcome the inspiration of new colors, sounds, ideas, and experiences. I am empirically learning that unfamiliar worlds offer a vast capacity for healing, self-reflection, and, I hope, transformation.

In yoga, there is the notion of breathing through tension in order to build strength, balance, and flexibility. My first few days in Taipei were rather uncomfortable, as far as adjusting to the humidity, time zone difference, busy schedule, and language barrier. However, as I acclimate, I find myself flowing through discomfort, fear, confusion, and uncertainty. Taking care of myself has been quite empowering. I believe that adaptation is a powerful tool for learning, as it involves diving into the malleability of perspective, which is a critical component for understanding the cultural variation of human experience. Adjusting to Taipei has been abundantly assisted by incredible program facilitators, Scott and Kate, as well as a wonderfully friendly cohort of student participants. The community aspect of the trip has been very supportive! The beauty in Taipei feels like a dream; streets filled with delicious aromas of ginger and lemongrass, and the pathways to class decorated in tropical foliage, where the forest buzzes in song.

I have fallen in love with ice cold watermelon juice purchased from a colorful alleyway, vegetable dumplings, longan popsicles, vegetarian taro drumsticks, tofu pudding with pineapple and fruit jelly, bananas and papayas for breakfast, Chinese eggplant stir fry, candied sweet potato, stinky tofu, mung bean cake, and oolong tapioca bubble tea! The past week I walked to a vegan restaurant and befriended the waiter, another student at NCCU. Afterwards, he gave me a ride back on his scooter! I felt like I was living a movie scene as we zipped through the streets, wind surging through my hair, a lovely relief from the heat. Between temples, art museums, tea shops, hot springs, a gondola lift, mountain scenery, city explorations, delicious food, and interesting classes, each day has been richly packed with adventure. Although it’s only been a week, I feel as if I’ve lived many lifetimes! I look forward to all of the beautiful moments that are yet to come!

By: Kellan Navarre

Program: Tradition and Modernity in Taiwan

Term: Summer 2018

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