I’d first like to apologize for the extremely delayed post(s)! I’m starting at the end of June and making my way through the summer, so stay tuned! Many apologies, I’ve already shed tears of tardiness
By the time I left Taiwan on July 7, I felt like I was ready to go. Don’t get me wrong–I cried when I watched my kids walk across the street for the last time, giddy over their water gun fight and the looming anticipation of summer vacation, I walked into my neighborhood 7/11 and breathed in slowly, trying to remember the ever-present tea eggs smell, I drank my last bubble milk tea slowly, with relish. The hardest part was saying good-bye to my friends at our last dinner at our favorite tomato noodle soup restaurant. We exchanged presents and talked about how sad we were to leave each other, but how excited we were to go back home to our friends and family. After eleven months in Taidong, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t ready to go. I think we’d all been ready for a while.
Ironically, my last week in Taiwan was full of good-byes and hellos. I welcomed my parents and my sister, meeting them in Hualien the morning after the last day of class. We spent our first day in Hualien touring around Taroko Gorge with a loud taxi driver who was crassly racist against the aboriginal groups in Taiwan. Despite the poor company, I enjoyed showing my family around Taroko–the huge gorge that swallowed us up, the mini waterfalls dotting the highway, the long suspension bridges. We brought them to their first night market that night, and we stuffed our faces with seafood and a delicious mango shaved ice.
I had booked us a river rafting trip the next day that turned out to be quite adventurous, AKA, it was probably my closest encounter with death to date. About an hour and a half in, our raft flipped over and I got stuck under it for a while before finally emerging. My dad lost his glasses, so he spent the rest of the afternoon squinting before picking up his new, miraculously well-timed glasses in Hualien he’d ordered the night before. To this day, my dad still grumbles about this rafting trip.
I brought them to Taidong for a blitzkrieg tour of the city, and we walked around the Sanxiantai Bridge before eating delicious seafood and tofu pudding in Chenggong. They also met some of the other teachers and staff at one of my schools, and we spent the majority of our afternoon enjoying the hot springs at Zhiben.
We took the train up to Taipei the next day. My mom loves train rides, so she especially enjoyed the beautiful green, dreamy scenery as we were whisked north back through Hualien, Yilan, and finally Taipei. Our time in the city was a whirlwind of food, sites, shopping, and more food. One of the highlights was going to an AYCE (all you can eat) hot pot restaurant in the Ximen district, where they had sixteen flavors of Haagen Dazs ice cream. It was probably my highest-calorie meal of the year, but it was definitely worth it. Other amazing meals included a late lunch at the original Din Tai Fung, amazing gua bao, and probably the best mango shaved ice I’ve had. I really stuffed myself in grim preparation for an Asian food desert during my upcoming two months in Europe.
One of my closest friends in Taidong, Turner, and her family were also in Taipei, so we all had a chance to hang out a few times, including hiking up Elephant Mountain one evening. It was a bit of a challenge, but we made it! I brought my college friend Isabelle too, who was in town for a few days. Turner, Isabelle, my sister Wenmei, and I enjoyed the twinkling lights of the city as our moms chatted happily about MoviePass behind us.
My sister and mom left a day before me–they were headed up to China to visit family and friends. I was China visa-less, so I unfortunately couldn’t join. I spent my last night in Taiwan at Star Hostel, one of my favorite hostels to date, if only for the amazing staff I befriended there. Ronee, Atalanta, and I had some awesome Japanese food (the best miso soup of my LIFE) and chatted for what we knew would be the last time in a while. They sent me off the next day with great gusto–I’ll miss these gals!
I left Taiwan on the afternoon of July 7, Copenhagen-bound, about to start my two month tour around Europe. I tried to mentally prepared myself for not eating beef noodle soup, or pork over rice, or even rice at all during the next several weeks. I also reflected on how no matter where I went, no where could come close to Taiwanese kindness and hospitality. My year in Taidong was challenging and tumultuous at times, but I always had a great support system in caring teachers and steadfast friends who got me through the worst of it. But we also had some incredible memories together, ones that I won’t soon forget, and ones I’ll always be grateful for.