By: Amy Maslonka
I’m not much of a traveller. I have certainly dipped my toes in other cultures — taste-testing various foods of one culture and browsing traditional goods of another. However, I have never been immersed in a culture other than my own.
But, let me tell ya, Taiwan is the perfect place to start.
Have you ever strolled through a peaceful, vegetative park located in the center of a bustling city? Imagine Central Park in New York: your feet are stepping on concrete but your eyes are seeing green open spaces and wooded benches with only subtle hints of the city around you: metal trash bins, street signs, faint honking in the distance. It’s like a masterful concoction of nature’s innate peace amidst the fast pace of a city.
This is how I would describe walking through Taipei city, the island’s capital. With narrow eyes, you’ll see a typical city — tall structures, street lights, bike lanes, and mopeds zooming alongside traffic. Widen your eyes and you’ll see Taiwan’s unique essence: emerald-colored vines dangling from the balconies of each apartment stretching into the sky; bright, intentional smiles greeting the oncoming (obviously American) travelers; the bright pastels of fruit markets littering almost every curb; and large trees offering shelter every 50 yards. A concrete jungle… strong emphasis on the jungle.
Although, the true beauty is the city’s inhabitants. From young to old, the smiles are plenty and the stern are few. Even on a rainy, smoggy day, the warmth and friendliness circulates throughout the streets. Despite its remarkably progressive lifestyle and impressive collection of tall (I mean top floor of building disappearing into the clouds tall) buildings, Taipei is generously peaceful.
Prior to traveling here, I was hesitant about the idea of venturing within the city. Though the majority of people here speak traditional Chinese, I, a Minnesota-accent, english-speaking, green-eyed blonde, am able to navigate comfortably and safely. Seriously, how wild is that? I am more than 7,000 miles away from home in a city I am a stranger to and I feel at peace. Us Americans can learn so much from the harmonious nature of Taiwanese culture. I can only hope that by the time January 25th rolls around that I have learned the Taiwanese art of warmth.