Why is it so Hard to Leave Taiwan Behind?

Tiffany Huang

When I came home from the Tsunah tour in Taiwan, it took me a long time to re-adjust to my original lifestyle here in America. I could not, for the life of me, figure out why I was having such a hard time in the states. Before the trip actually happened, I expected that it would be a 10-day vacation with random college kids, and then we'd all part ways and I would arrive to UCSD with masses of Taiwanese paraphernalia to show off, resume my normal college life, and then that would be it. Fortunately, this was not the case.

Experiencing and being a part of Taiwan's wide range of culture has taught me a lot about life, perspectives, and different worldviews. Witnessing so many different areas of the Taiwan - from the agrarian roads of Ilan to the metropolitan city of Taipei, proved to me that Taiwan was more complex than meets the eye. First, I enjoyed the different meals that we had from each of the different places we visited. Next, bike riding along the streets of I-Lan allowed me to understand the humility and rugged lifestyle of the villagers. Along the same line, walking past food vendors and people selling items left and right, it seemed that much of the peoples' focus was to provide basic necessities for their families and themselves. There was just a wholesome lifestyle that I found myself wishing existed more in America - being satisfied with the bareness they had. Also, I was able to see many virtues of the people while we shopped. At first I was bothered by the pushiness of the salespeople, but after awhile I began to see their drive to survive and their dedication to their work. Many might call it shameless; I personally feel that it was a good sign of work ethic and lack of arrogance.

Another facet of the tour allowed me to witness beauty through nature like no other. I was delighted by the enchantment of the forests and creeks. I was encouraged by the policies to preserve their natural environments, in which these also allowed people to enjoy the fullness of it. Not only was there a deep appreciation for nature, but there was also an emphasis to keep traditions within each subculture.

One thing that I was truly touched by was the awareness and concern of the politics. I always knew about the history of Taiwan, but getting a chance to understand it in more depth allowed me to appreciate many of the political organizations' activeness and ability to truly change lives within the country. It seems that even though there are still many issues and divisions in Taiwan, the main heart of the people is that they care deeply for improvement and they are bonded by many of the hardships and events that soiled Taiwan in the past century. I saw a spirit of excitement and hope that I longed to bring back with me to the states.

Most importantly, I finally began to truly understand my parents and what they went through before migrating to America and nurturing my family. Speaking to Taiwanese college students from the trip made me realize how lucky my generation was in America because we are offered so many opportunities. We had this chance to hang out with college students who were our tour guides for a day. I was really moved by their excitement to meet us. They were so eager that they had volunteered to be our guides during their own vacation time, bought and prepared us presents, and treated many of us to boba drinks. It was almost like we were celebrities just because we were raised in America. It was then that I knew that I would be a completely different person if I was born and raised in Taiwan, and it was then that I was finally appreciative of both my blessings and the chance to have a bicultural worldview.

It doesn't stop there. I knew that I had a special calling to contribute to my motherland and to take this experience and become active in my identity. Taiwan may be small, but the improvement it has made in the past century is immense. When I think about that, I am encouraged to dedicate my life in continuing to develop a greater perspective and also to use my own fortunes to pursue an active life in helping others. As much as I loved the time I was there in Taiwan, I also knew that I was not there for my own gain and benefit - I was there because of a greater purpose for learning humility and serving towards humanity.