Today marks exactly two months since I landed in Taiwan on a rainy night, nervous and tired and excited. The flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to Taipei, Taiwan is long; I was exhausted. I was fortunate enough to have someone from my school meet me and take me by bus then taxi to my hotel, dragging two heavy suitcases behind. One suitcase lost a wheel somewhere along the way and limped along behind me, over curbs and up stairs. I checked in to the hotel with great relief.
Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m here, and other times it feels like I’ve been here forever. I miss home and the familiar and my family and friends, but I also enjoy exploring this new world and meeting new people and trying new things.
I was able to go up on the Maokong Gondola yesterday near the Taipei Zoo. It was a much longer and higher ride than I expected, and I didn’t even go all the way up. I got off at the Zhinan Temple Station and, being me and directionally challenged, wound up going back down afterward rather than up the way I had intended. Ah, well, I was getting tired and hungry anyway.
The view going up and over the mountains was breathtaking. For the first trip, I shared the gondola with six strangers. We all sat in silence – five Taiwanese, one other foreigner – soothed by the movement of the gondola on the cable and the sound of the wind through the open window at the top. It was peaceful flying above the world of green below.
Everyone else got off at the Taipei Zoo stop, and a group of teenage girls got on in their place. They were talkative and happy, and the ride was very different with them. They asked if I would get in a picture with them and, using a selfie stick, we all crowded together in the swaying gondola and grinned. One of them did all the talking while the others listened, and she asked if I spoke Chinese. I don’t, and her English was limited so our conversation was very short. But I enjoyed listening to their excited chatter even if I didn’t understand a word.
I got off at the Zhinan Temple Station while they continued to the top. The temple was beautiful as all of the temples I’ve visited have been and huge. Gold prayers dangled from bushes and trees on the walkways, and a homeless man slept on a bench beside one of the paths. The day was windy so I got a bit battered standing on the side of the mountain looking out over the city, Taipei 101 obscured a bit by fog.
I finally wandered back to the front area and the giant dragon spewing water in front of waterfalls before heading back down on the gondola. I got a tea egg and water at the Maokong Gondola convenience store and watched the crowd of strangers who’d had the same idea as me on this sunny Saturday before heading back to the MRT station and home. Dinner was take-out at one of the restaurants close to my apartment, and I went home to go through the 300 photos I’d taken.
Today was spent close to home where I caught a ceremony performed at the Confucius Temple, cleaned my tiny apartment, read and recharged for the busy week ahead. The saying, “No matter where you go, you take yourself with you” is certainly true. I find myself more and more every day, but I’ll always need down time to read and relax. That part of me will always stay the same.
It’s so easy to compare myself to others and find fault, but I’m learning that life is more interesting if I do what feels right for me. Always be true to yourself. Your life is just that – yours – and should be as unique as you.