It’s now been nearly 10 months of living in Taiwan, and I have reached the point where I am counting the days until I return, rather than those I’ve been here for. I have lived in my final host families house for a month and a bit, and I can’t say a bad thing about it. I have an excellent relationship with my host mother, the house is in a much more convenient area than my previous, and they generally have a really great family atmosphere. My Chinese is constantly improving due to my host mum being a Chinese teacher, and we talk for hours almost every night, whether it be about our family backgrounds and world travels or just simply about the day. When we eat together we always eat out, because of her so called “lack of cooking skill”, which I think is just an excuse to get out of the house. I’ve had her cooking and it’s nothing like the great atrocity she makes it out to be. Eating out provides us an opportunity to try every restaurant in the area. We’ve had curry, sushi, noodles, dumplings and even a little pigs foot here and there, and for the most part every night has been a pleasure. It’s always a surprise what culinary adventure we will embark on, and almost every time it’s a win for the taste buds. I think staying with them is an absolutely amazing way to conclude my family life in Taiwan.
Recently school has been pretty great. In the last couple weeks I’ve made a good amount of new Taiwanese friends, and class time has been really productive. During the next month I have just about all my final Chinese exams, including my TOCFL test for my official Chinese grade, as well as a handful of rotary events where I will be speaking. I have been studying like crazy for these exams which has given me a lot to do during my school hours. In my opinion it’s a good way to move towards the now foreign ways of school life back in Australia. I’ve started to play basketball again with my classmates after a brief break, and sometimes even go to team training after school. My classmates have also become more talkative with me. I guess that’s due to the fact I’ve been at school with them for almost a whole year now. Its even lead to hanging out sometimes out of school, a rare event amongst exchange students. I only have about a month of school left, which is a crazy thought after all this time. Although I’m only at school for a little longer, I’m glad I made these steps with my classmates, something I know takes a lot of work and luck for an exchange student to have.
About a month ago my family visited me here in Taiwan. This was one of the most unbelievable parts of my entire exchange. The whole thing didn’t even seem real. Seeing them all so suddenly after not relying on them at all for almost a year was emotional. It seemed almost like an illusion that they were actually in Taiwan. We took a trip around the whole island, to places I’d been so many times before, yet with them it was like rediscovering it all again. They met my families over a lunch at the grand hotel in Taipei, overlooking the jungle and city. This was like a crossover episode. I think part of my brain didn’t think it was possible that these two worlds could even collide, but they did. Seeing these two realities together was one of the happiest parts of my exchange, as I really felt like my family could finally understand where I am, who I’m with, how I’m living and what I’m going through. It also provided a perfect opportunity to show off my Chinese, which I know made them just as happy as it made me. It’s so special to have shown them the culture and environment I have been experiencing for the last 9 months, but I think the best part for all of us was the constant feeling of reunion. The reunion of our family after a peek into a reality where we aren’t together at all times. It was hard for me to see them go, and hopefully, just as hard for them. It’s only a short time until I see them again, but in that time I’ve got to hang on to every single moment.
Remember when I posted my first blog? When I was only a month into this journey and couldn’t even imagine the end no matter how far into the distance I looked? I have about a month and a half left now of this crazy adventure, and with every day my return edges nearer and nearer. Home is now another reality to me, and my parents brief visit showed me just how much I do and don’t miss it. It also showed me how difficult it will be to leave this reality that is Taiwan, the life I built up in what seems like a couple months, forever. I can’t let a minute slip by without savouring it, and while this experience is finite, there’s still a whole lot more of this crazy adventure to enjoy.