by Zaidie Long
I’ve been in Taipei, Taiwan, for two months, today, and honestly what I have the most trouble believing is how natural it feels to wake up every day in this beautiful city. I roll out of bed at 6:30 in the morning, get ready, eat a quick breakfast of sweet bread, or noodles, or dumplings, or maybe pizza and an egg, then head out the door around 7:00. I walk down the street, catch the public bus, thank the driver and scan my student card at my stop, and move within the throngs of students dressed in pastel pink and blue towards school.
On days when I have Chinese class in the mornings, I stop instead at the MRT station, jump on a train, study my Chinese on the way. I know my stop, when I need to transfer, how long it will take to walk to class from the station. After Chinese class, a group of my friends and I head out into the world in search of some new restaurant or food stand, where we’ll buy dumplings or maybe noodle soup, often accompanied by a plastic cup of bubble tea. We’ll eat and talk, for about an hour, before we have to head back to school for the afternoon.
At school, I’ll study or read during class, and talk to my classmates during the breaks. Sometimes we have PE class, where I’ll play basketball with the girls, or take a seat on the bleachers with a group of boys, talking about everyday things like how hard their classes are, what I’m learning in Chinese class. After school, I’ll find a youbike, throw my backpack in the basket, scan my student card, adjust the seat, and pedal my way through the crowds of students towards home. Maybe I’ll stop at a 7 Eleven, and add money to my card, or grab a snack or a drink after school.
Some nights I’ll go to my host mom’s Buddhist class, or we’ll go out to a restaurant or a night market for dinner. Or I’ll stay home, study, head downstairs and have a conversation with the security guard while he lets me into the exercise room and helps me set up the treadmill. Other days I’ll make plans after school, and instead of biking home, I’ll catch the MRT into the city, or to the station of one of my friend’s schools, and we’ll head to Ximen, or to some new part of the city we want to explore. Or I’ll go with my friends from school, if they somehow manage to get out of cram-school for a day, and we’ll grab dinner at a night market. Whenever I finally get home and climb under my covers into bed, I’ll turn towards the window and stare out for a moment, before I pull down the shade.
While I may be facing the wrong direction to have a spectacular view of the cityscape, looking out at the lights of the buildings, the cars below, the neon signs flashing and changing on every corner, I feel like I know exactly where I am, like the honking and screeching of the cars belong there in the night sky, like I can fall asleep knowing all is right in my tiny pocket of the incredible city that is Taipei.
I certainly can’t say everything about these amazing two months in just 500 words, so I’ve been writing a blog about my time here. If you’re interested in learning more about everything I’ve been up to in Taiwan, please follow this link to my blog: