It has now been over 3 weeks since I landed in Taiwan.
I feel like I have now upgraded from experiencing the initial thrill of discovering a new culture, new habits and new environments, to developing my own sense of home. Although I’ve only been in Tainan for a short amount of time, the experiences that led me to today have deeply grounded me to the local environment and I have grown to love it here, more than I would have ever imagined.
During our first week of class, I had the misfortune to injure both my knees, which completely upset my way of life in a city that was still very new to me. From visiting the emergency room to scheduling regular doctor appointments, I had to quickly learn about how to get my way around to take care of my health. While it felt lonely at times, NCKU staff members Professor Hong and Professor Chen, took me under their wing and guided me through the Taiwanese health care system. I will forever be grateful to their patience, help and kindness.
There were days where I felt like giving up, going back home. I thought I’d rather deal with my issues in a familiar environment where I felt more comfortable and surrounded by my loved ones. But the amazing welcome and care I have received from doctors, nurses and hospital staff members has been overwhelming.
I soon felt very comfortable going to appointments on my own, even if the language barrier has sometimes slowed me down. Most doctors here speak English well, which certainly helps a lot. Every single person whom I have met along this medical journey has been incredibly kind and generous. Professor Hong, who kindly accompanied me to certain appointments even pointed out how considerate and friendly doctors were with me. I am very grateful.
In some ways, I have greatly benefited from this local experience! I can now comfortably communicate with taxi drivers, I have learned a lot about medical terms, and I have had the chance to benefit from one-on-one moments with Professor Hong, who not only (literally) held my hand through difficult times but also spent a lot of time chatting with me which helped improve my Mandarin speaking skills a lot.
In parallel with my hospital visits, I was lucky to be introduced for the first time to Chinese traditional medicine by Professor Chen, who initially felt relucted to tell me about it because she feared I wouldn’t accept to consider an alternative to ‘western medicine’. She was happily surprised when I immediately accepted. My sense of adventure was very excited to seize the opportunity and discover something new.
I was then introduced to Doctor Li and his wife, who form an amazing team of healers using their homemade medicine. My regular appointments to visit them have become real highlights of my week. Between the fact that they don’t speak English and my limited Mandarin speaking abilities, we managed to find ways to understand each other in ways that transcend the language barrier. We have developed a real bond. Our medical appointments have become moments of sharing and learning about each other’s cultures which I greatly appreciate.
The reality of this unexpected turn in my Taiwanese adventure scared me at first, but this fear helped me develop a new sense of home in a place that I wouldn’t have suspected to love as much.
Finally, I would like to mention how grateful and thankful I am for the unconditional support I have received from all of my friends from our New Zealand group. Thank you to every single one of you, for checking in with me, always staying positive and buying me chocolate, when I most needed it!
Thank you to the 360 International team and, more particularly, Chandra and Professor Huang for your devotion and care.
A very special mention to my roommate and amazing friend, Amelia, who has been the kindest and more supportive partner throughout this journey. Thank you for pushing my wheelchair all around town and brightening my days with your endless affection.
PS: I am now back on my feet!