I’ve tried to write this blog post five times.
The first time was the first week after 2020 New Years Day. At that time, I was packing up my things in the girl’s dorm of Beijing 80, excited for a month of interrupted time with my host family, followed by a week traveling with my mom and Carolyn in Chengdu, petting pandas and eating too-spicy hotpot, followed by a final week of vacation spent with the cohort in Xi’an.
The second time was the second night upon returning back to the United States. I had just spent the week racing back and forth between Beijing and Shanghai with my mom. I couldn’t process the fact that I was going home.
The third time was a couple of days into my return home. It didn’t feel right to try to write about the changs in my life. Anything I wrote felt like doing a disservice to my emotions and to the enormity of the situation.
The fourth time was on February 19th, when I got an email that our program was being continued for four weeks in Taipei, Taiwan with everyone from the Beijing program as well as all of the NSLI-Y students on program in Chengdu, Sichuan.
The fifth time was the second night in Taipei. I had just gone through a second pre-departure orientation (PDO) in San Fransisco followed by a 13-hour flight to Taiwan.
And now we’re here. It’s almost been two weeks in Taiwan. I have a daily routine, established favorite foods, and am almost halfway done with my life here. As predicted, I love Taiwan. (Thanks Uncle Sam.) It’s not just the daily ($1!) bubble tea, nor the beautiful weather and verdant greenery, nor the kindness of locals and polite, clean, comfortable feeling after interacting with Taiwanese service workers at said bubble tea shops. Taiwan feels right. It was almost jarring the first week, how similarly the wires crisscrossing over the narrow streets look like the alleyways of Kyoto, or how Chinese sounds without a Northern Chinese accent and something softer, more musical, less upset.
Things are moving too quickly right now. Everything about life is different. I’m trying to embrace change and discomfort. My expectations about where I am right now and where I’ll be weeks, months, and years from now have been obliterated. What do we do when surrounded by uncertainty? How do we stay grounded when the world has shifted and things go wrong?
“Murphy’s Law, inevitable entropy is a constant through life and yet it seems to be accelerating incredibly fast lately. I only hope that it might slow back soon. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the inevitable death of the universe in some small way in the balmy weather of Taiwan. And if such a draconian event can lead to this glorious place, then maybe there will always be silver linings.”
Joel helped me write that. Hope you’re doing well during this tumultuous time.
Disclaimer: I wrote this about a week ago before the Department of State recalled all funded study abroad programs back to the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am now safely back home in the States self-quarantining and practicing social distancing with my family.