It’s hard to believe that this too short trip is almost already over! It feels like just yesterday I had arrived, nervous and scared, and now we are already leaving, with me, desperately wishing I could postpone my flight home. But alas, school and real life await me at home.
I’ve had a wild time of a journey here in Taiwan, from exploring the mountainous villages of the Atayal in Yilan to “殺價”-ing with street vendors in Ximen. We’ve been to countless bustling night markets and scenic temples, each with their own charms and beauty. I’ll miss the elaborate palace-like buildings with the smell of incense and the sound of sizzling food on the sidewalk, the green mountains and the close knit streets.
Currently, I am writing from Hualien City, a little coastal town about a 3 hour trip from Taipei. It was a bit of a struggle to get here, but we made it intact and I’m so glad I’m here by the water. We’ve explored beaches and waterfalls, walked through caves with bats and hiked up mountains. It’s been quite a journey here too; but, here by the water, it’s calm and peaceful, I’m totally broke, and I’m pretty lucky to have had this experience in my life.
This summer has turned my entire life upside down and inside out. From the early morning stillness of Muzha to the lush green mountains of Hualien, I’ve seen a lot of sights and met a lot of people who I am ultimately that much better for. I’ve probably spoken more Chinese this month than I’ve ever previously spoken in my life, maybe improving, but more importantly I’ve gained confidence I didn’t know I had, and learned so much about Taiwan and its identity.
Today, Taiwan is known as an island that has overcome adversity countless times; its struggle for recognition and its colonial past making its evolution into one of the world’s brightest democracies that much more surprising. Visiting the 2.28 memorial was humbling and quiet, a history I never knew about before coming here. I wish that this deep part of the Taiwanese collective identity was more well known, and I’m glad I got the chance to understand here and visit places like the Democratic Progressive Party to see the impact that this integral moment played, and continues to play in the making of this island’s history.
They are one of the best environmentally-friendly recycling nations in the world — I even got to visit the Tzu Chi Recycling Factory in order to see the good this Buddhist-origin humanitarian organization does for Taiwan and the world. Walking through the plant, I was struck by the dedication of the workers towards making sure every little part of recyclable material was sorted and put away properly, in order to create the best and most pure material that could then be reused and given another life. It was honestly something I could never imagine happening in the US, where I doubt many would sacrifice so much of their time and energy towards such an endeavor.
This really is an amazing place. I’m really lucky to have made it here with such good friends and great memories. As I essentially prepare to start over my life returning to university, thank you to everyone who has stepped up to lend a ear, hand, or a heart here. I treasure all the time I’ve spent here and I cheer on for this island! One day, I hope to return here to these memories, and return my heart here, to Taipei.
By: Shirley Wu
Program: Tradition and Modernity in Taiwan
Term: Summer 2018