I never intend to, but I always fall into a love/hate relationship with the countries I move to. When I first arrived in Taiwan, I disliked it. The colors seemed off, the pollution gave me bronchitis within the first week, most of the people I met were in Taiwan to study Chinese and pick up Taiwanese girls, and the jobs I was applying for were nothing like the homey, public schools I’d previously worked at in Spain and South Korea. I threatened, to my friends back home, that I was out of this strange island and heading to Thailand or Vietnam.
But of course, it slowly wooed me. I met people who became my family and closest friends. We threw silly, janky holiday parties, ran through the jungle drinking beers, took scooters out to waterfalls and swam, made ridiculous bets, and traveled around the island, that was still strange to me, but in the best possible way.
The honeymoon period can only last so long and soon enough, I was growing agitated with Taiwan. My job was stressful and not what I wanted. Friends kept leaving and I found myself wanting to do the same. The windy weather of Hsinchu may as well have been that “clever north wind” from the movie Chocolat.
“But still the clever north wind was not satisfied. It spoke to Vianne of towns yet to be visited, friends in need yet to be discovered, battles yet to be fought…”
(If you’ve never seen Chocolat, you should. It’s all about lust and love for travel, food, and life, which definitely speaks to me!)
So, it was decided that I would quit my job and leave Taiwan after two great years. Once I made the decision to leave, I began to fall back in love with all of it. The green mountains, the bright blue ocean water, rainbows of teas and shaved ice, and the golden sunsets that I watched melt past the horizon. It’s a beautiful place. On my vacation through Vietnam and Thailand, I found myself shilling for Taiwan, telling other travelers, “oh, it’s a gem!”
Taiwan, for me, is slurping up noodles and fragrant broths, feeling the wind in my hair as I ride on the back of a scooter, hearing Chinese swirl around me, Taiwanese students yelling my name, eating red bean buns and delighting in the softness, fireworks exploding all around my head, temples with clouds of incense, crowds of people pushing to try night market food, running to catch a train or bus in the middle of nowhere, drinking cheap beer outside a convenience store and swatting away mosquitos, and lots of Family Mart iced lattes.
When I left Korea, I couldn’t wait to get the hell out. Once I left, I missed it like hell. I’m so happy that I’m leaving Taiwan and feeling a great appreciation for it. It makes me cherish each of my last days. I’m ready to leave, though, and I think it is for the best. Future possibilities await!
But, you never forget the places you love and I know if I ever decide to come back, Taiwan will be waiting for me with open arms and lots of fried dumplings.