Brionna Simons: Taiwan, Take 1
When CP Travels asked me to talk about my first two weeks in Taiwan, I instantly began writing the story of where I was before Taiwan and how I relocated here for a job. To be brief, I was a college graduate turned corporate event manager who resigned so I could road trip the west coast USA and seek the next best thing. But, I’m bored of telling that story. It doesn’t describe Taiwan and it no longer describes me.
My name is Brionna (bree-on-uh) I am a 25 year old American female who moved to northern Taiwan to be an ESL teacher. Truthfully, I didn’t know one word of Mandarin Chinese prior to arriving and I doubt I could’ve pointed out Taiwan on a map before I googled its location. Living in Taiwan is a test of adaptation. Everything is unfamiliar. The new job, the rainy weather, the shy but honest people, the NT currency, the cheap food, the chaotic traffic, the hyper-sustainable trash collection system, and much more. My new home is a 200sf campus dorm which teaches me daily the joys of minimalism. The most foreign element of living here is the official language of Mandarin Chinese. At first, I understood nothing when it was spoken, but I am increasingly recognizing words which is a fascinating learning experience. But, adapting to people and language will happen in any foreign place. What distinguishes Taiwan from every other place I’ve visited is its culture and history.
The campus where I live and work is a beautifully characteristic place. I love the spots of trees plus the buildings with their bright colors and assorted textures of Taiwanese and western influences. On one walkway, you will pass an aboriginal style slab house, a foreigner cemetery, a chapel with a giant pine tree (decorated year-round with Christmas lights), and the picturesque senior high building that resembles coastal universities in Southern California. The school’s history is bizarre to me because it was founded by a Scottish Canadian spreading the Christian gospel, then was owned by the Japanese military, but now is famous for being the site of a popular Taiwanese movie, plus being the birthplace of Taiwan’s rugby phenomenon. The country’s history is a mishmash of cultures and this is evident everywhere, especially on this campus.
Taiwan’s circumstance is strange because it’s regarded sometimes as a country and sometimes as a rebel region of China. My circumstance is strange, too. I’m a multi-racial, Japan-born American citizen with a business marketing degree who is now a first time teacher in a foreign country. As of yet, there hasn’t been an outstanding event or an exceptionally insightful moment to help secure some validation for moving halfway across the world to teach English. However, I’m confident that the more I learn about Taiwan, the more I will learn about myself. To me, Taiwan is a beautiful island and a young nation that is adaptable to change and eager to embrace other cultures equally as its own. It is both differentiated and undefined. I am like Taiwan.