I realise after I've gotten to Taiwan I've become a lot braver. I used to be scared of doing lots of things, and just cooped myself up in my own little world a lot of the time, with life revolving mostly around work, school and family. But after I've gotten here I find that I've become more spontaneous, and more brave in trying new things. Going white water rafting today was a great experience for me. I was initially doubtful about trying it as I don't like adrenaline activities, and on top of this, the paranoia of myself and my mother really made me think twice. But I really enjoyed myself, and because I agreed to go, made some really good friends along the way!
As my time in Taiwan is slowly winding to a close, I began to realise something. At first when I came here, I was tired. I was sick of being the one doing everything at home, holding all the responsibilities, feeling unappreciated for what I do for most family and friends. I felt like I really didn't have anything holding me to Australia, and was more than happy to immerse myself in Taiwanese culture because thats where I felt that I really belonged, and where I really fit in.
As I enter the last leg of my stay here in Taiwan, I've begun to think about how much I'm going to miss all the friends that I've made here. They'll all be returning to their respective homelands, and it's very likely that I won't be seeing them again for years, or even for the rest of my life. It's what really keeps me up at night sometimes, but now I've finally realised what it means when people tell me despite the pain of separation they're glad that it happened. Especially with relationships, I've always asked what's the point of them if you know you're going to break up and suffer in the end. But being here and making friends who have become like my second family, I can honestly say that I regret nothing, and could not imagine my stay in Taiwan without them. They've changed my entire perspective on life, and also my perspective on myself. I was pretty confused before I came to Taiwan, and had resigned to being the quiet, anti-social person that most people back home knew me to be. Since my high school days, that had always been my impression of myself, and I often wondered what happened to the outgoing little girl that I had been in my earlier childhood. When thinking about this question, I merely assumed that she was long gone with no further thought on the matter. But now being here, I've come to realise that she was always there all along, just waiting for the right moment for her to be able to appear again!
When you stick to the sidelines and play it safe, you always get what you expect to get. And usually, that's good enough for me. Until I look at everyone else and start comparing and asking, what if I had done that? or that? Then what I expected suddenly doesn't seem to be enough anymore. From now on, I want to eliminate all regrets, and live life the way it was supposed to be; spontaneously, vivaciously and giving it everything I've got.
But back to the topic of goodbyes: How can I give these people who have given me the best 5 months of my life a proper goodbye? When I think of this, a particular song comes to mind; David Tao and Sharon Kwan's duet <好好说再见>, and hopefully this song speaks more than my words could ever express.
Being in Taiwan in this pivotal period of the nation's history was something that I, nor the people of Taiwan could have ever expected to happen. I'm not sure how much people know about the Sunflower movement, a protest that started on the 18th of March and is currently ongoing at the Legislative yuan (and previously, Executive yuan) in Taipei, Taiwan, but what I do know is that it is something everyone should be aware of. I was really shocked to see that pretty much no-one back home knew anything about this event. Perhaps being at the scene of the event and actually physically being involved in it has changed my perspective of things, but this movement has been compared to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in beijing, with leaders of the latter movement coming to Taiwan to show their support for the protesters, made up mainly from university students.
So here's pretty much what you need to know about the Sunflower movement:
WHEN: Protesters began to occupy the Legislative Yuan on the 18th of March, throwing quilts over the razor walls and climbing in. They barricaded doors and refused to leave, with supporters sending in supplies daily.
After 21 days of occupying the legislative yuan in an unprecedented move throughout the history of Taiwan's protests, the remaining protesters have announced that they will move out of the Yuan by 6pm tomorrow.
WHAT: The protest was held over a cross-strait trade agreement between China and Taiwan, headed by President Ma ying-Zhou, which brought about criticism over the possible disappearance of democracy from Taiwanese society. Due to the political tensions between China and Taiwan with Taiwan struggling in recent years to find its independence while China has been persisting in Taiwan returning to the 'motherland', one wrong move could make or break Taiwan's struggle for independence.
The free trade agreement meant that many small and medium-sized taiwanese businesses could not grow as more and more mainland chinese businesses would start to take over each and every sector of the economy with its bigger and more successful companies. Especially for the younger generations, this could mean a even larger decrease in income due to lesser job opportunities for the taiwanese youth.
THE PROBLEM: The main problem that many groups including the DDP, the students (unaffiliated with the DDP) and other societies found with the trade agreement was not the agreement itself entirely, but the way in which the agreement was signed. The Taiwanese public were not made aware of the decision to sign a trade agreement with China in June last year, and this protest calls for transparency of policies and an upholding of democratic ideals which have clearly been put aside in this scenario. Protesters made several demands, including that they wanted the trade agreement to be reviewed clause by clause, and after weeks of support from those including the likes of artists such as Deserts xuan, Yoga Lin, William Wei and liao Wen Qiang, some progress has been shown on the demands made by the students.
There has also been an uproar over the use of violence to remove the students from the executive yuan, with the police and the KMT government stating that they did not use violence to remove them, merely tapping them on the shoulder and telling them to leave. However, this much is clear; over 100 people were injured by this event, and medics, students at the scene have evidence to show that police were indeed violently attacking the students despite the students not treating them as enemies, and not trying to resist their removal in any way. This too reflects on the lack of transparency of the movements of the KMT government.
AND SO... Although the students have decided to leave the legislative yuan, the movement is far from over. I for one am especially impressed by the sheer unity that I've felt being part of this movement, observing and participating in it. Despite what media reports may say, it was an extremely well-organised and peaceful movement in which each and every student was striving for the same aim in a unified and completely non-violent manner. Although the fruits of their labour are yet to be decided, I am and always will be profoundly touched by the willpower and bravery that the youth of Taiwan have shown for their country and their own freedom. In a strange way, I'm glad to have been a part of this event, and wherever I go, seeing people that are so concerned be they professors or students , lawyers or doctors, in a way its kind of heartwarming to see that kinder side of human nature for once.
Although exchange is a great experience, you have to be prepared for when things start to go wrong, or if you hit a few obstacles on the way. One of the ones most commonly met in my experience is communication breakdowns with friends and family back home. Despite the weekly skype calls and messages, sometimes you start to feel guilty when the calls become less and less frequent, as you become more and more involved with the new life that you've created for yourself over here. Sometimes when things start going wrong at home and you're feeling guilty that you weren't there to help shoulder the burden, these kinds of tensions may also lead to a breakdown in communication or just generally unpleasant feelings. But I read something which really helped to put my mind at ease.
The bestselling book <The Alchemist> by Paulo Coelho has an introductory section, where Coelho discusses how following your dream is full of obstacles. Sometimes you may feel that friends and family are not supportive of you, but if you are really going for what you want, be it a goal or a new experience, know that the people who really matter to you will be supportive of you no matter what, 100% all the way. In the end, its only going to be you standing in the way of yourself achieving your own dreams and goals ; and you'll have no one to blame but yourself. Someone once said to me 'All obstacles are your opportunities, defeat these obstacles and you will achieve your dreams'. I thought about this for a long time, and it made me feel instead more confident that behind everything, there will be something waiting for me at the end of the tunnel. No matter what, each obstacle will help me grow as a person, and with every passing day, help me to get closer and closer to achieving my dream. So I hope that you all are able to achieve your dreams too!
A song that I'd like to dedicate to you is Anthony Neely's <Wake Up>, a totally upbeat song that encourages you to get up and out of your comfort zone and to achieve your dreams.
Being on exchange and meeting so many different people, I find that one of the main things that I've gotten from the exchange so far was being able to understand myself. As all of you probably already know, being a teenager/young adult is no joke. It's all about finding who you are through what you like, your personality traits; your faults and your positive points. Meeting many different people and getting out of my comfort zone, I'm able to see how different people view me as a person, getting different viewpoints that I've never myself considered before. Its also given me more self-confidence and a deeper understanding of myself and what I want to achieve in life.
Being on this kind of journey allows me the opportunity not only to meet new people and learn more about other cultures; but also being able to find myself in the process. So my best advice is to be yourself, and always do the things you love. Put your best foot forward, and let others see you not for the person you want to be, but for the person you are. Soon enough you'll find that the best version of you was always inside you in the first place!
So in celebration of this revelation, here's an oldie but a goodie: S.H.E's <Just Be Yourself好心情> from their 2007 Play album. Enjoy!
I can safely say I'm a pretty lazy person. But when you get out of your comfort zone, and try new experiences, it is truly a fantastic feeling. Try thigs you've always wanted to try, or do things that you never thought you would ever do. Who knows, you might find yourself a new hobby or just a wonderful experience! So no matter where you are in the world, steel yourself and be open to any opportunities! They may come in forms that you least expected; a blessing in disguise!
In the spirit of new experiences, I've been keeping a ear out for some new and promising acts, one of them being a Indie Taiwanese band called Gigantic Roar! Definitely not the kind of music that I generally hear, but I still feel that they've got a great rhythm and interesting melodies. Although I'm not 100% in agreement with some of the clips they use in this music video, here's their single <突然决定去泡温泉>(Suddenly decided to go bathe in the hot springs).
Wow, the days are going by so quickly its getting hard to count! I'm already dreading having to head back to Australia after my time in Taipei, its been so much fun! Today we didn't do much, but I was able to go for karaoke for the first time since I arrived in Taipei with friends! It was a totally different atmosphere than singing in Australia; for one everyone was really happy to sing along to any song that they even had an inkling of, and everyone(for the most part) were picking songs that everyone else could sing too! Being someone who loves singing and Chinese music, I really had a lot of fun singing with people who had a broader understanding of the chinese music scene, and allowed me to have a greater feeling of participation. Usually in Australia, none of my friends really listen to chinese music so I felt like when I sang my chinese songs while at Karaoke, people weren't really listening or having fun, but were instead 'giving in' to me. Needless to say, I generally felt bad about it and picked only a few songs (unless I went with a closer group of friends).
But the feeling of singing here with people who had a better idea of chinese music was completely different, and it made me really really happy to be able to participate in that atmosphere. So I guess happiness comes from the simple things really. Being in Taipei, I'm so thankful for every wonderful meal I have, every trip I go on with my friends, and every moment that I'm in this amazing city. So be thankful for what you have; keep your eyes and ears wide open and your life will surely be full of little moments of happiness!
As Sodagreen's song <你在烦恼什么>(What's the trouble on your mind) says : “是片刻组成永恒啊" (It's the moments that merge together into a period of forever. So make every moment count!
Here's Sodagreen's song that I previously mentioned; no matter whether you're feeling happy or sad, this song will give you time to sit back, reflect, and appreciate what you have.
And also here's a song I personally love that we sang at Karaoke yesterday; Wang Leehom's <依然爱你>(Always love you). Just like the lyrics say; treasure every moment of happiness be it with a loved one or with friends, or even by yourself!
Definitely there will be a lot of first times in life; but being overseas really made me realise how a new landscape could lead to changes that I would never have foreseen before. Meeting new people and making new friends, it creates dynamics that I was surprised to find are completely different from those which I shared with previous friends; a bond that could not otherwise be forged without me being in this exact time, at this exact place, in this exact moment. Sometimes, first times don't have to be forced; instead they just come naturally!
For the first time I found that telling people things about myself was not me showing off ; neither did I have to think about how much to say and whether I was annoying them. I've never had anyone truly, genuinely interested in what I had to say and what I do, especially in relation to chinese music. But in these few days I've come to recognise many friends who may not share this interest in the same way that I do, but are really interested to learn about my ideas and views on it!
So for the first time, I gained confidence in myself; For the first time I found people who are interested in what I love. And for the first time I was truly happy in sharing my personal views on what I love to do most in the whole wide world with others. I really feel that this isn't something that can happen everyday, so live in the moment and fill each day with happiness and optimism.
Here's a song for all of you to encourage you to live in the moment! I really hope by doing so, you'll be able to remember fondly each and every one of your first times, without letting them pass you by.
What I’ve heard from friends on past exchanges was definitely right. I bid goodbye to my family today, but what I got from the three days that they spent here with me was a sense of the extent that they would go to to help me to achieve my dreams of being able to live in Taiwan and experience all aspects of life here. They were accepting, patient and ultimately, happy and supportive of my decision throughout the process. So if you’re planning to go on exchange, don’t forget about your family that’s always waiting for you back at home! Don’t make them anxious waiting for a reply from you about how your day went; be proactive and give them updates daily about what you’ve been up to, and the experiences that you’ve had! Your family will always be your number one support, no matter where they are or where you are, so don’t make them worried. Although making new friends and establishing connections are important in the physical world you’re living in, family should always be your first and foremost priority. Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype-there’s absolutely no reason for you not to drop them a message even if you’re just out for the day with friends, or at the library cramming for a test. That goes for anyone really, not just exchange students, although it is more obvious you need to keep a connection going, especially if you won’t be seeing family for a while!
A song that perfectly explains this feeling is Sharon kwan's <半个地球的挂念>(longings from halfway across the world). The singer who wrote this, the amazingly talented Peggy Hsu was studying abroad in Vancouver, and recalls the feelings of warmth that her family brought from halfway across the globe within this song.
A link to the lyric translation: http://asianpopweekly.weebly.com/3/category/sharon%20kwan/1.html
It's been my dream since I started getting to know more about Chinese music to be able to live in Taipei, and now I'm finally going to be able to! Starting from the 11th of February, I will be staying in Taipei for 139 days and hope to share parts of my experiences that may be helpful with readers everywhere! (Feb 2014)