Oh, the places I’ve been!
Insights and reflections on sights in North America and East Asia.
In the spring of my freshman year, I went on a civil rights bus tour of Selma and Montgomery, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. We visited a Southern Law Poverty Center outside of which was the following quote:
We learned about lots regarding those who were involved with the civil rights movement back in the 1860’s until emancipation, how those who were civilly disobedient withstood police forces, tear gas, and firemen’s hoses to stand for their beliefs in equality, human rights, and justice under law.
In the summer of that same year, I went to Taiwan. That trip was particularly memorable because it was the beginning of the time when my mother lived in Taiwan, away from the rest of our family.
I also befriended a stranger on the train to meet my mother: his name was Case, and he attended an agricultural high school in the middle of Taiwan. At the time, I was only a year or so older than him, but we chatted and made plans to meet up at a famous night market in Tainan. Taiwan is well-known for its vibrant nightlife, with vendors of fried deliciousness and street food that often only tourists with stomachs of steel can withstand (including my own).
We visited Kenting, which is particularly known as a popular site for filming Taiwanese dramas.
We also visited an anime convention, which was a lot less hype than I originally expected. (I personally prefer Animazement in Raleigh to the convention we attended in Taiwan.)
The next big destination in my life was Chicago, in spring of 2015. It was during a tumultuous time in my life, but it was an enjoyable during the duration of my stay there. I stayed with my friend Sam, who was both hospitable and accommodating the entire time. We toured the city, stopping by places like the Institute of Art and Chinatown.
Two paintings I recognized included the following:
I also met up with one of my best friends, who attends the University of Chicago. One of my most memorable moments there was trying deep-dish pizza for the first time. If heaven had to be condensed to a type of food, deep-dish pizza was an almost religious experience. I also tried Garrett’s popcorn, which was the perfect mix of sweet, salty, and savory. We also cooked our own food (salmon and pasta) on one of our last days there.
We also rode the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
All in all, it was a very fun time. Big cities sure are exciting, although it made me realize how much of a small town girl I am. I’m not used to seeing skyscrapers everywhere, with the outlines of monolithic concrete giants piercing clear skies. Of course, I experienced a similar sense of awe in Taiwan’s big cities, but Chicago seemed different somehow. My only impressions of the city were its artsiness, offbeat hipsterness, and jazz playing in streets, bars, and elsewhere.
It’s definitely a city I’d consider working in one day, though perhaps not during the wintertime, as the wind was biting cold sometimes.
In summer 2015, I went to China for the first time. I stayed in the Guangdong province, which is one of the largest provinces in China.
I stayed in Qingyuan, a district in Guangdong, with a homestay family of three. Both of my homestay parents were teachers, though one also held a higher office almost as a superintendent or something.
I have vague recollections of China: singing “You’ll be in my heart” with children, playing Frisbee during naptime, eating dimsum virtually every day, listening to Jay sing beautifully and Roman play piano and violin like a pro, playing a bit of basketball, accompanying and conducting, scrambling to figure out last-minute lesson plans, exploring Shanghai and Beijing with friends, having my first kiss at a nightclub.. all this and so much more! Exploring by myself and meeting strangers, having a barber tell me his life-story, going out to find a photoshoot place to take professional photos, and more.
So much more.
I will never forget those long walks I took with my host mom, her contagious laugh and her teasing remarks. I will never forget the people I met, the students I taught, the things I learned, including all the stereotypes I’d broken after listening to Taiwanese and American propaganda for far too long.
Not long after returning from China, we went to Atlanta, where we visited Georgia Tech and saw the stairs that were featured in The Internship, and a rooftop garden with trees.
I also visited DC briefly and spent a lovely afternoon in Georgetown.
During the winter of 2015, I went to Universal Studios with my father and sister.
During the spring and summer of 2016, I traveled by myself to study in Taiwan and explore Tokyo and LA. Tokyo’s many districts had plenty of sights to see. I visited the Tokyo National Museum, where I was fascinated by the swords, samurai suits, and kimonos. I lived at a hostel in Asakusa, where the famous Asakusa Shrine was located. I also had the good fortune to meet up with a friend from high school and visit Yokohama and Shibuya (where I saw Hachiko!).
In Yokohama, we went to the ramen museum and the Pokemon center, where I was enthralled by the derpy Dittos.
We also went by the outside of the Japanese Imperial Palace.
We also had okonomiyaki, which is a delicious Japanese pancake-thing.
We witnessed a wedding at Meiji Jingu Shrine, where both of us had our fortunes told. They also had a lovely bonsai exhibit at the time.
I explored various gardens around Japan afterwards, making a final stop in Tokyo’s “Electric District” and anime-lovers’ paradise (supposedly): Akihabara. I unfortunately did not go to its famed maid cafes or try their various themed cafes, but it was fun windowshopping and finding anime-related memorabilia by myself.
After that trip, I visited my childhood friend in California. She took me to the Boiling Crab, which I still believe (to this very day) had some of the best shrimp I’ve ever had in my entire life. (It was that fresh.)
And I suppose I’ve been to Canada before, too, but that trip wasn’t that memorable for me (oops). It was kinda like the US but with more “eh’s”, a little colder, with a little more French (at least in Quebec).
I’ve also been out west to Las Vegas, but I was pretty unimpressed by how flashy it was. (Cue Katy Perry’s “Waking up in Vegas.”)
But kinda as a final statement, I’ve realized that no matter where you go, no matter what you do, the most important and memorable parts about the places you go are the people you meet: the people on the planes, in the cars, on the street.
And isn’t that sweet? ;D