You could say how I ended up in the forests of Taiwan was a random coincidence, and maybe it is, but I don’t think so. Every time I think about where I am and the pieces that make this place a whole, it feels more like something brought me here, like having floated down a flowing river, and allowed it to take you wherever it had in mind.

All of the interns on this program already knew that we were going to be living in the middle of the woods in Taiwan. This was a given, and I remember the brochure advertising something like: Get paid to live in the woods in Taiwan! My mother was born in Taipei and I had recently started putting some serious thought into checking out Taiwan, maybe move there. I distinctly remember telling one of my teachers in Beijing, “It’s as if someone made this internship for me.”

When we arrived at Aowanda, this feeling was only intensified. When I was younger I dreamed of living in a tropical forest and venturing through trees and streams. So upon arrival I couldn’t help but notice moss-covered stones, tree-hanging vines, and a smell that only drifts through the air when frequent rains wash the landscape and you can almost hear the plant-life nearby drinking it in. And with every breath I am too.

The arrangements here remind me of the various outdoorsy activities I’ve partaken in in the past: Bunkbeds from summer-camp, wildlife information signs from the Brookfield zoo, hiking trails from Colorado. And all of it is veiled with an aloof love-life vibe that reminds me of the KIRC on Maui.

There was one blast from the past I was not expecting, though.

On our first day tour of the site, the soft sound of music floats throughout the grounds. The thing I notice first is that it’s not coming from speakers. Our tour guide leads us to an activity center where kids are sprinkled and they are practicing violin, viola, cello, or bass; it’s an orchestral summer camp. We walk through the center, through kids pulling bows over strings or clapping their hands to keep beat for their partner. We walk into a large room that is something of a museum. Apparently, people can learn how to make violins here and this museum showcases the process along with some violins the kids participating in this summer camp have made.

After we head back outside, I mention to one of the teachers that I used to play violin and attend summer camps similar to this one. The teacher I’m talking to disappears into the small museum. When he comes back, he produces a violin and a bow. I tell him that I can’t really remember how to play anything anymore, so he sends one kid into a back room for sheet music and tells a few others to setup. Before I know it, I’m standing in a quartet with Pachelbel’s Canon on a music stand in front of me, violin and bow in hand.

You might say it’s just a coincidence, but I don’t think so. There is rhythm in life and a flow that guides us through our own. And with that flow, I pull the bow across the strings…

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