I thought I’d have a detailed itinerary for Taipei. I have landmarks to visit, from Maokong Gondolas (gondolas which fly over the expanse of lush, green forestry to the south of Taipei) to Houtong Cat Village (the attraction is in the name!). However, thanks to Bonnie and Rachel’s influence, I’ve learnt that rough plans are necessary when travelling. Still, too many details create unnecessary mental blocks that prevent you from enjoying the moment. Going with the flow means I get to learn and make more decisions with my context in mind rather than requiring myself to do all the research beforehand. Going the flow has meant I’ve visited Fulong beach with friends dressed in yellow ponchos, took the longer, more scenic route to the cat village with friends, and had a drink with friends at a rooftop bar underneath Taipei 101.
My identity has been an unconscious shadow by my side in Taiwan. My experience in Taiwan has only made me feel more proud and welcomed as a New Zealander-Chinese. I’m not sure why, but I unconsciously believed that as soon as I mastered Mandarin, I could be taken as a native. However, as soon as I open my mouth, it’s not only clear from my language proficiency but the way I talk and act that makes it clear that I did not grow up in Taiwan. It’s funny how it took living in Taiwan to set right the illusion!
In the same vein, I had an interesting conversation with a Taiwanese-American about being an Asian Westerner and how in a sense, it’s a culture all on its own, despite both of us coming from different Western societies and being born with different ethnicities. He recalled a conversation where he asked his Taiwanese and Taiwanese-American friends whether they were dog people or cat people. He translated it directly as “狗人” (dog – person) and “貓人“ (cat – person). His Taiwanese-American friends immediately understood that he was trying to ask whether they preferred dogs or cats. However, his Taiwanese friends had no clue what he was asking! In the end, another friend translated the question as 夠類型人 and 貓類型人 – a dog-type person or cat-type person. We both laughed at the story. At that moment, I realised that even though we lived thousands of kilometres apart, Asian-Westerners have so many shared experiences, in turn forming a community. I’ve shared similar stories in the past about cultural differences that I realised were only cultural differences as I’ve matured, and I’ve learned to let go of the gut reaction to deflect when others ask if I’m Japanese or where I’m really from because the curiosity to learn about different cultures and the opportunity to share in the spirit of Aotearoa is a rare and special thing.
I type this now as I return to Auckland as it weathers more flooding. I wish everyone who reads this entry safety and warmth during the current storm. It’s been my privilege to write for you all, and I’m looking forward to passing the baton onto the next set of Prime Minister’s Scholarship Recipients for Taiwan!
Take care / Ngā mihi nui / 祝好！