10 June 2009

bye, bye Taiwan; welcome new, enlightened life;

After I came to Taiwan, I had many strong impressions and wrote a lot about them in my blog. After about half the time, I started to see more details of Taiwanese life, and it became harder to draw simple conclusions. Also my language class changed the teacher, I was much impressed with the new one, and struggling between doing Chinese homework or working on my thesis -- with the result of not getting much done of either.

My blogging stalled for a while because I couldn't make any easy theories about Taiwan and the Chinese culture any more. I found out that many of the simplistic things that I had written before are actually not so true, but the actual more situation just eludes my ability to describe in written form. I think that's why most books and especially blogs will always only carry a one-sided view of another country and another culture -- the true truth is too hard to express. It is best not to make generalizations. But then we are left with an overwhelming pile of details.

I did not want my lack of understanding to prevent the written preservation of my adventures, so I started to write a diary instead of posting to this blog. I started a paper diary and an text file on my computer. Both of which I am still continuing to write today.

Already in the last days of my stay, I have made notes for a concluding post to this blog and now I resolved to write it.

The true religion for Chinese people is their own five thousand year long history. I think you could convince any Chinese of anything if you managed to make a good argument using a historical example and quotation.

My first day back in our grad student lab, one other student asked me the very smart question: "So what is your conclusion after having gone to Taiwan?" Although I had thought about the same question since the last weeks of my stay in Taiwan, I was surprised by her directness and how she got directly down to the matter. Puzzled, the reply I said was: "There are people who are very poor and who have to work very hard and still they are happy. So I should be happy, too."

In retrospective, this was a good reply and one of the main things I think really matter. The other main things are:
  • My current purpose in life is to do research (and a little teaching) and to advance myself I have to face the challenge of turning my ideas (which look so great in a presentation) into something tangible and something publishable.
  • According to the motto "Be the change that you want to see in the world." I shall try to incorporate into my life, the things which I like best about Taiwan. Two of those things are friendships and Taiwan's famous food. I have thus resolved to cook more for myself, especially try out new, different vegetables (which I think make up an important part of Taiwanese food's greatness).
  • Replicating the Taiwanese attitude to social relationships is harder, if only because it's so intertwined with life, situations and personalities of people that I can't even describe it. But one thing that stands out is how often I have traveled in stayed over night in friend's apartments even those places were very small and the friends were sometimes not very close. I find that it is much preferable to sleep on a carpet or to share a large bed than to stay in an hotel. Cultural immersion. I want to offer the same opportunity for other people, too!
  • Chinese people often react very enthusiastic when they notice that I speak a little Chinese. They feel good to see that a foreigner actually makes a real effort to learn their language. After coming back to Toronto, I have had a similar feeling whenever one of my fellow grad students spoke German to me. It is also a conclusion of my stay, that I will continue language exchanges with people to teach my language and to learn theirs. Language exchanges are not just a way to broaden your own horizon without spending money, helping somebody else to do the same, it is also a grass-roots way to promote the understand between different cultures thus to help accomplish one the goals of my religion: "to end all wars, forever". (After all, wars are always plotted by those in power who are tricking the common people to see others as their enemy. In a society where all are too smart to be tricked, there is no more place for war to spin his evil plots.)

Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many pass one way, a road is made. -- Lu Xun 鲁迅

As well, as providing me with a bunch of surprising insights, my Taiwanese adventure has also left me with more new questions than it has answered:
  • Do I have talent for languages? Will I ever go back to Taiwan or China (except for visiting friends)? What use if any will my Chinese language have for me (and the world)? Will I ever elaborate and publish my invention of a new Chinese writing system?
  • Both Taiwan and China are changing fast. What is the constant focal point amidst all that change? In some respects where they were far behind Western Civilization they have already caught up and even passed other developed countries. For one thing, Beijing's fight for clean air has passed the more developed Taipei by a huge margin! Can anybody predict where the voyage of those countries is going to go? Will China be peaceful and democratic one day? (Given how flawful Western democracies are, it is not hard to imagine that a newcomer to democracy will even surpass them.) One thing, I am sure of is that I will always keep in touch with my Chinese friend in Beijing and I also think that the situation in China will never be as bad as to force her to leave. So I'll have at least a foot in the door for eternity.
  • Do I love the Chinese so much because there is a little bit of Chinese in myself? Is there a little bit of Chinese in everybody? Or is it just because Chinese are so different, yet so alike, and living there helps me to break free from my own cultural corset?
  • Who am I? Where do I belong? Will I be able to contribute to society by –in Chunming's words– "living a happy life and being a good person"?
There's no place where I can be, since I found serenity.

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