Jacob Silva˙習傑可˙Student – CBPE
Three Weeks In
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what happens in Taiwan where all the words are pictures? Day after day I speed by hordes of these pictures, these modern hieroglyphics that my eyes beg my mind to understand until they give up and release streams of salty liquid-disappointment. I try to talk to people and to figure out what they are saying to me with such little hope of actually doing so. On hands and knees, I ever-so-slowly inch my way closer to my goal of comprehending these pictures, these people, this place, only to look up and realize truly how little I know. But then someone (April, the ambassadors, other CIEE students who are so much better than me at Chinese that it hurts, etc.) stands me up and gives me a push in the right direction. Then I take a few steps and then fall right back down to my knees. I guess being here has sort of been like learning how to walk again. I’ve gotta take it one jelly-legged step at a time.
The culture here is so different from what I’m used to, and it’s always these weird little things that help my learning progress. Take, for instance, realizing there are no garbage cans anywhere. I get here and I wonder what the heck I’m supposed to do with my garbage. And then a situation unfolds: first it’s the excited, “Hey it’s the ice cream man out there playing his luring tune through the unmistakable low quality truck speaker! I can catch him if I hurry!” followed by the disheartening, “Wait, that ice cream looks like garbage…” and then the heartbreaking, “yep, that’s definitely garbage. Why does the garbage truck here play such luring ice-creamesque tunes?” Then I put two and two together and BOOP, I learn something new –he doesn’t sell you ice cream, you give him your garbage, free of charge. That’s basically how my learning happens every time out here.
Trying to figure out Taiwan has certainly been difficult, yet fascinating. I’ve only been here about three weeks but it feels like so much longer, and so far, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The difficulty turns every little thing into an adventure. “Oh, it’s time for breakfast, what do I want? Eggs sound good. Wait, where do they have that? How do I get there?? Where is there??? Where is here???? What’s the address? No. what, Sec. what, what Rd.? Which building??? I’ve been walking for HOURS!!! WHY CANT I FIND IT?? WHERE IN THE WORLD AM I AND WHY THE F– hey that lady right there is selling waffles! I’ll just eat there instead.”
Something I’ve found to be most fascinating about Taiwan is the indecisive weather. I step outside in the morning and warm sunlight beats down on my skin, then the clouds jump out from behind the mountain and it goes from zero to jacket weather in about four and a half seconds. I absolutely love that. There is one thing, however, that remains consistent throughout these changes and it’s the humidity. The air in Taiwan is always Proper moist. It is perhaps a teeny bit unpleasant at first, being so moist all the time, but I really do enjoy the moist experience. I come from a place where there are only two types of weather: hot and dry, and hotter and drier. Being so moist all the time is quite a lovely escape from the parching heat of west Texas.
Things here are different. Stuff is cheaper, people are so friendly, the weather is Proper moist, good food is around just about every corner; and sure, at the moment I may not be able to order something off a menu on my own that isn’t 餃子, or hold a half-decent conversation in Chinese with someone over the age of five, but I’ve still got plenty of time. I’ll learn. I’ll figure this place out.