I don’t like the word lonely. Because now I like being alone. When I was in high school, no one really talked to me, and I didn’t really try to talk to anyone — when I did I often failed to make the connection, and feeling disappointed and depressed, I would withdraw into my books — a little bit like Sophie in her gray dress wandering the streets, hiding her face, and hoping not to be seen.
(Sophie of Howl’s Moving Castle, that is. One of my favorite books)
But as I got older I became a more confident person (just like Sophie 😉 ). Being alone was a bit of a reprieve. A much needed time for me to recollect myself from a day well lived in, for tired bones to realign themselves, and racing thoughts to calmly slow down. Alone time was not, as it once had been, a time to hide from the world and experiencing a life well lived.
So – not daring to hide at all – I wandered the streets of Luodong — while people stared. They still continue to stare. Some ask where I am from. Some just keep on staring.
Feeling like the object of much attention is something I thought I had gotten used to since I last came to Taiwan.
The honest truth is the staring makes me uncomfortable. I understand it. But feeling like my every movement from tripping on the side walk. to perusing a restaurants menu before I decide to go in, is being observed so seriously is honestly a little unsettling.
Like, I wish the guy I like would stare at me as much!
I am already a bit self conscious enough speaking in Mandarin as it is. The staring — it just, disturbs my inner peace…
…just a little.
Up until yesterday I was convinced I was the only Foreigner in Luodong. Yesterday I saw two more, and stared, just like my Taiwanese counter parts.
So maybe we aren’t so different after all?
But I have not been alone in Taiwan. Not really: I have met friends and kindhearted souls throughout my travels here. I think perhaps a younger less confident me emerged as I was thrown out of my element. Luodong is quite a ways from Taipei where most of my friends are. I am alone in my hotel. When I wandered the street searching for something to eat, for blocks all I saw was hot pot restaurants or huo guo [火鍋]. Seeing all the huo guo reminded me that you need friends and a family to eat hotpot together with. I am unfortunately not one of those people who can eat a whole hotpot by myself…
It has also been hard communicating here. The inability to express myself exactly as I like — as I have not been using any English to communicate — has returned. I am not in school learning Chinese while simultaneously living life. I am in the wild, it seems.
Aww, I had forgotten that isolating feeling.
But some magical things happened recently:
First I met this lovely young woman at this lovely little snack stall [老家餡餅] on one of Luodong‘s Streets. She smiled friendly and waited patiently as I typed some characters I didn’t know into my phone. She spoke slowly after I asked her for one [豬肉餡餅] and — even though the vocabulary she chose to translate into English for me were the simplest of words, I appreciated her kindness in clarifying to me in a language she thought I would understand better. She still spoke with me in Chinese, though, which I also appreciated. Some people give up on me too early.
She asked if I wanted to add [辣] or spicy, which of course I did. The 餡餅 was yummy, warm, and tasted a bit similar to fried 小籠包, in that the insides of the 餡餅 were juicy and a bit of savory soup slivered down my chin as I bit into it. Secondly: I found these books at a book store in town…
A Chinese translation of Fangirl (one of my favorite YA novels which I wanted to take with me to Taiwan but couldn’t find before I left) and the first volume of the Log Horizon light novel (which has yet to have an English translation released in America)!?
Of course these are not easy to read, but I am determined. Especially regarding Log Horizon, an anime me and my brother our obsessed with.
The lovely 小姐 at the food stall and the books reminded me of two things: There are kind people in the world who are patience with second language learners; and that one day I’ll be able to open those two books and read much faster than a page an hour.
After all, I have only been here a few days. I’m sure once I start interning in Yilan full time, my Chinese speaking will improve.