Apropos international showers I have taken and beginning to feel at home in Taiwan, it’s time to go traveling! Over the last week I have officially caught the travel bug. And when I look back on experiences moving to new places, returning “home” to that place after a trip really made me feel like I belonged there. It’s the difference between vacationing and living somewhere, and nothing draws that contrast better than returning.
When I was living in Paris for 4 months as a college exchange student, my first return was a lovely evening when my friend and I got off the train (from Amsterdam) at Gare du Nord. I took the Métro back to Ternes, and watched the sunset from over the elevated section of the blue #2 line at Barbes Rouchechart, with a feeling of deep peace in my heart and mind. Paris was my city, and I was coming back to it with a sense of ownership and tired relief.
So in the coming months, I have some exciting trips in the planning stages! But where to go, what to see, eat, do? To all Asia residents and/or former travelers, I could use some advice and recommendations, so please chime in with your helpful comments and traveling stories!
First trip: Chiayi, Taiwan and probably Siluo Township
During my week interim between the end of my classes and the the beginning of Chinese tutoring while I am in the midst of full-time Fulbright research, I need to get back into writing rigorously!! This means more than once a week, more than a few blog posts, getting back into a serious discipline of it. These days, writing and studying Chinese seem to be competing for control over my free time, so I am taking a solo writing retreat to a smallish city near a lovely-sounding National park, the Alishan National Scenic Area. I also chose Chiayi because it is within striking distance of my grandfather Liao Wen-Yi’s hometown, Siluo.
While I have had some lovely offers from Taiwanese friends to show me around on a trip to Siluo and Tainan, I realized this week that I want to see the place that I will be writing about in my book first, alone–just so that I can have time to spend with my reflections and imagination. I hope to return to Siluo and southern Taiwan later in the year for more hands-on historical research, including Oral History Interviews with citizens and former residents of Siluo, if they are willing to talk about the past. But right now I just want to go and look, and see. Everything has been moving so fast, that I need to feel like I am the one having this research and self-discovery adventure, and not that it’s having me.
Second trip: Singapore and Vietnam
This is my Christmas break– and I am BEYOND thrilled to be heading to such cool destinations for a brief getaway. Why those two places? you may ask. Well, Singapore will be the site of a dear friend’s family engagement/wedding celebration party, and I have the opportunity to stay with and see a few REALLY fantastic friends from college. And Vietnam was on my way back! Actually, my friend Eva and I are going to visit a mutual friend who is working abroad in Vietnam, and who has generously offered to let us stay with her in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly, Saigon). So although the trips are short, I’d love recommendations of places to go, food stuffs to try eating, and generally exciting tidbits about Southeast Asia. Also, if you are in either locale and want to catch up, let me know!
And until the time to play and adventure, I will be putting my head down and gritting my way through the last few weeks of class. The good news: although the Chinese grammar is getting trickier and the characters are growing more complex, I think I am over one *small* wall of language comprehension and general “getting it” when I see easy written Chinese and hear slowish dialogue. The immersion side of living here is I think finally trickling through that thick skull of mine– I’ve even had a few dreams that included Chinese in them!
I head towards the next week with a head full of optimism and a heart longing for new mental and physical destinations. Happy travels to all, regardless of whether your trips span mountains or millimeters, are monumental or minute. Mere motion is all that matters.