I’ve been here exactly 48 days; about a month and a half. Learning to live here is a step-by-step process. It doesn’t come in moments of revelations. I do not suddenly think, “Oh, I know how to do this now.” It comes in bits and pieces, like trash blown in a parking lot. I find after a while that I can look back and my experience has grown. I am confident in the small things, like going through the gates at train stations with my tickets and tokens.
It’s amazing, looking back, how strange things were. I will use the metro here as an example. Like the tickets I now know how to purchase and use, my knowledge has slipped into grooves of the world here.
My first week in Taipei, back when we first arrived, is a haze of half-remembered moments. Between the jet-lag and the mind-numbing hours of prepatory lecturing, I don’t recall most of what we did then. I do remember the numerous bus and train rides, however. We went to a lot of places, and most of it was by bus and train.
Coming from the suburbs, I wasn’t used to a public transportation mindset. In many areas of the US, people use the buses and trains or subways all the time, and it would probably be easier for them to make the cross-over. Not so for me. Not only have I never used a bus or train system before, but everything is in Chinese here (well duh, me). It’s not a matter of just watching people and following directions. So that first week, to save our guides having to tell us in minute detail all the ins and outs, we just followed them like puppies, gazing disinterestedly around at the confusion and watching people stare at us, not really understanding anything.
After we came to our school, we started using the bus system here. The BRT takes us into the town every weekend. Luckily, our leader had been here before, so we were able to follow her. After this long, I feel confident enough to be able to use it alone; paying the fare and such. That’s here.
This past week we went to Taipei once more for training. It was our first time since Orientation. And guess what? It was amazing how much more amalgamated I’d become in that short time. After a few trips back and forth on the MRT, I could lead my group around with little hesitation. I bought the tokens for trips. I watched the stops flash by and knew when to get off. True, there were things I couldn’t have figured out; like when to switch trains to Tamsui, or which exit to go out of at each station. But I was confident, and I am not fearful of doing it alone.
I am learning to live here, little by little. I am learning.