By Peter Soh
I had never thought that I will come back to Taiwan so soon after my first visit. My family and I went to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan for a holiday in January 2014 in celebration of the completion of my Masters studies. It was winter and it was way too cold for us. The tour was even made more depressing with the absence of spicy flavours in the local food. My parents and I swore that we will never visit Taiwan again, except for my sister who was impressed with the handsome, courteous men and the chance to wear stylish winter jackets and scarves.
I am back again this time for my exchange programme. Initially, I had hoped to visit Romania, where I could get out of Asia. However, due to time constraints, I decided to be involved in a volunteering project in Taiwan. I convinced myself that the purpose of going to Taiwan this time is different and as such, I did not actually think much of this trip although I did ask my mum to prepare a jar of shrimp chili to bring over.
With much anticipation and feeling a little worried about my daily meals, I arrived at Taiwan a week before the start of the project. I spent time walking around the city, embracing the sights and sounds of this familiar place. It was only on the third consecutive day of my outing that I realised that I had left my camera in the hostel. Instead of documenting my trip on the camera, I ended up remembering everything I had seen and experienced in my heart and in my mind. And Taiwan, is best experienced that way.
I enjoy living in Taiwan this time – feeling the chilling wind on the street, the softness of the black sand on the beach, to be mesmerised by the beauty of the shores, to be inspired by some creative art exhibition, to taste the local food with enthusiasm, to cling on to my buddy David tightly while sightseeing on the bike, to laugh uncontrollably because of the funny granny in my hostel and also, to feel connected to people although I am away from my family and friends.
Taiwan undeniably has much to offer due to its rich landscape and heritage, but I would not have enjoyed it if I had continued holding on to my past experience of Taiwan. I tried a variety of local foods such as stinky tofu and spring onion pie this time by going to the night market. I also learned to take the train by myself when my buddies were busy. I even tried my best to speak a little bit of Taiwanese Hokkien.
“It is a different form of beauty even if the weather is bad,” David said.
Before I start serving the aborigine community for the Embrace Taiwan: Explore the Original Beauty of Aborigine project, I hope to learn more about this place and contribute in whatever way I can. As part of my aim to raise educational opportunities for the community under AIESEC Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages (WZU), Taiwan this time to me is different and has a lot more to offer.
Peter Soh is currently in Taiwan, volunteering for the Embrace Taiwan: Explore the Original Beauty of Aborigine project, and writes this article from there.