It’s officially been more than one week since I left Los Angeles for Taipei. 6,864 miles from home. 168 hours (and counting) where I have been apart from all who I love & cherish back home, including my bed & pluto — yes, inanimate objects count too.
So, the big question. How is Taiwan and how am I doing, you ask?
Well, so far my boba addiction has gotten worse as I feel no remorse over getting a drink three times a day. I have also achieved a personal world record of going back-to-back-to back on video chats with different people within the same hour (and perfected giving a tour of my “place”). And lastly, I never sweated as much as I had in a lifetime or actually felt compelled to shower (I swear, I wonder how my sweat glands will be like when I go back to the States). Oh, and who can forget the jetlag I have in which I automatically wake up at 3AM (12pm in california) and get sleepy at 4PM (1am in california). Yup sounds about right.
But it’s funny — I remember people warning me that when studying abroad, there will be a big culture shock in which the first couple weeks will be difficult. I shrugged it off, convincing myself that the country I am studying abroad is Taiwan where I’ve been there, done that, and more importantly, speak the language. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, besides being lost in the MRT station without wi-fi/data, rolling my oversized suitcase, crying, and almost giving up all on the first day I arrived, I realized that I undersestimated the challenges I would face by simply being in a different country, living on my own, with very little sense of familairity.
CHALLENGE #1: THE LANGUAGE.
Ironically, yes. For some unknown (and now idiotic) reason, I was really proud of how “extensive” my knowledge of Mandarin is — even though I can only speak it, and not write or read it. Yeah, stupid. I know. I thought I could get by from simply knowing how to speak Mandarin, but I quickly realized that my Mandarin not only sucks (it’s extremely limited) but also terrible (there’s a thick accent in which locals can tell almost immediately that I am not a native to Taiwan).
I am not sure why yet, but this hurts. I think this is because one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Taiwan was to “embrace my roots”. But now I am left unsure. I am re-thinking, maybe, these roots aren’t mine to begin with. As much as I don’t want to be associated with this, I am — whether I like it or not, seen as an “American” by so many of the folks here.
Maybe things will change as I spend more time immersing myself in Taiwan — its language and its people. Or maybe it won’t.
Let’s wait and find out.