It’s sunny in Adelaide again but at twenty eight degrees celcius, it’s the cool change most people have been waiting for. I’m at a cafe, sipping coffee and watching people catch up with colleagues over a quick cuppa before work. According to the weather app on my phone, by the time I arrive into Taipei this week, I can expect a cloudy and chilly night with possible chance of rain. I scrunch up my nose…I’ve always been more of a summer girl, and I was expecting a warmer welcome from Taiwan in the Spring.
Ahh but Taiwan. Even the name warms my heart. And a rainy day in Taiwan is better than not being there at all. It will be my third consecutive visit this year, but this time I’m intending to stay much longer than the usual two weeks. Three years ago I knew very little about it – apart from the fact that it’s an island, mostly populated with Chinese but not to be confused with the mainland China most people know. Politics and disputes of sovereignty aside, I had only come across the term ‘Taiwan’ through a spatter of Asian studies textbooks and popular media (thanks to TVB and the likes of Jay Chou) but had little idea of Taiwanese culture and the livelihood of its people. Then, on a spontaneous holiday in 2012 involving cheap airfares, I embarked on my first journey around the island, and have since fallen in love with this country. I am now obsessed with everything that makes it one of the most endearing of places I hold close to my heart.
Taiwan is a tiny island with a larger than life attitude. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that draws me to her. Maybe it’s the perks of having things so unlike my current home: strange food, hillside teahouses, natural hotsprings, and reliable public transport just to name a few. Perhaps it’s the people, their friendly demeanor and hospitality that gave rise to their reputable minsu experience (homestays). Or maybe because Taiwan has been for sometime somewhat of a hidden gem, little heard of and explored, and often overlooked by Aussie visitors for its more popular neighbours such as Hong Kong and Japan. Whatever the enticement, I want to absorb every aspect of Taiwan, and not miss any second of it. Which is why I decided to move to Taiwan. I could carry-on with my comfortable life in Australia, continue to earn alot of money and take yearly holidays, but this would never allow me to dwelve below the surface and really get to know her like I want to. I want to be completely immersed, discover more than meets the eye and hopefully at the end of it all, converse fluently in Chinese. So I left my well-paid public service job, bought a one-way ticket to Taipei, and I’ll be saying goodbye to all my loved ones and to the only home I’ve known…
…In exchange for full-time study, tight budgets, and no family – but rather an inordinate amount of time for getting lost and reorientated using a foreign tongue. And why would I exchange so much for this? Perhaps it is because I am nearing thirty that I feel more compelled than ever to go places, but taking myself out of my comfort zone could only add to my bank of fortitude. So it seems as though Taiwan is a very natural answer to my eternal question of self-development and what to do next. Taiwan has much to offer, and whilst I go about seeking new things to discover and learn about Taiwan, I’m sure I’ll be met with challenges about myself along the way. But I am not worried. I, the carefree, adventure-loving holiday maker have no worries. Afterall, I have prepared myself for such an experience. Apart from the restless sleep these past few nights, I am by all means not worried.
For now, I can’t help but smile at the thought that this time next week, I would most likely be enjoying another cup of coffee (hopefully a flat white ) at a cafe somewhere in Taipei, watching the locals and forming other musings.