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7. NCU

After spending more than a year in Taiwan, already there is that feeling of finding a place for myself, a second home. Being oceans away from home for the first time, definitely comes with a number of things, like having to adjust to a different culture, learning system, making a lot of personal decisions, and embracing the new company of the friends I have just met from around the world. The greatest feeling I thrive on the most is the whole experience of just being distant from home.

However, sometimes I miss being with the people closest to my life, family and friends and just seeing the surroundings I have lived in my entire life. Distance and time unfortunately, cannot offer that luxury of heading home whenever the mind gets that nostalgic round. But again, as important those things are to me, I thrive on the realisation of the incomparable and priceless benefits I have already, and still to gain, which I believe is a great experience, one that I would not trade for anything.

"Home is where the heart is" - Pliny the Elder.

That quote may suits my life well during my study in Taiwan. From the day I arrived in the Taoyuan airport on August last year, I already missed my family and everything that I left in my hometown. The first six months of my stay in Taiwan could be taken as an adaptation phase for me. I never live far away from my family. The things that I used to do, the food that I used to eat, the people that I used to know, the places that I used to visit every day for pray, everything become totally different. Here, in Taiwan, I have to be independent and take care of everything by myself. I remember Moliere said: "the greater the obstacles, the more glory in overcoming it". It is true for me. Once I realized that everything was so different here rather than in my country. I told to myself to bear with it and find the way to get settle with the condition. I learned to seek for what the things that I really missed but not exist here. Then here it goes with the sort lists: family, Acehnese foods, the culture, and Acehnese environment.

There is no place like home!!!

Coming to Taiwan was a great and overwhelming experience.  The most amazing warm welcome by Taiwanese people made me feel like I’m home.  It’s been three months since I first came here and it has not been as simple as I thought life in Taiwan would be.  Studying abroad has many challenges, being in a completely different place, trying to adapt to the language, culture, environment, and food has been very hard for me more especially because it was my first time to study abroad.  I really enjoyed being in Taiwan for the first two weeks, but ever since the semester began I was already missing home, more especially my parents and my best friends.

Lots of people experience homesickness. It is not discriminatory to age, gender, sexual orientation or race. It is a common and normal feeling for humans to express. Homesickness is not a medical or clinical term so there is no medical examination or medicine that can be prescribed. Instead, it is a feeling of longing for the place that is called home. Culture shock is sometimes used synonymously with homesickness. Professionals and the common individuals all have their varying techniques on how to combat, control, relieve, whatever word one might use, to rid themselves of this phenomena.

Why is it sometimes such a difficult experience to be liberated from? Well, for starters, your home is not just a house or a country you live in. It is the air you breathe, the culture, religious and political beliefs, people you interact with, the list can go on for a while. It is these parameters that encompasses and defines the embodiment of yourself and your home. Hence, when these norms are extricated from your surroundings, you no longer feel a sense of belonging and yearn for familiarities which usually means you miss your home.

Before one can start to overcome home sickness, one must truly understand what homesickness is. According to a paper co-written by Chris Thurber and Edward Walton published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, homesickness is defined as "distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents."  So, it is a distinct adjustment disorder with identifiable symptoms such as withdrawn behaviors, difficulty focusing on topics unrelated to home, and other depressive and anxious symptoms. But some psychologists say that homesickness isn't necessarily about home. Instead, it stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security; feelings and qualities usually associated with home and when these qualities aren't present in a new environment, we begin to long for them and hence we begin to long for home. So at the end of the day, you’re not literally missing your house or your spouses’ house, your missing what is normal and routine to you. The larger sense of social space, because those are the things that help us survive.

When I processed the words overcoming homesickness in my exhausted cerebrum, nothing immediately came out. If I may be completely blunt, when I received this email about this TICA article I was under the convoluted and discouraging demon depression. My reasons extended from a confluence of inauspicious feelings relating to horrendously failing a mid-term exam and missing those who I love when I need them the most. At that point in time, the negative ions seemed ubiquitous even in the places that should always be colorful. Black was only black and there was no white. I tried to get some sleep but somehow my stressed subconscious manifested itself into headache and confusion. It is said that home is where the heart is, but how do you even begin to make your journey towards your home if your heart has been obliterated by failure? The situation then becomes an unsolved paradox. For some unknown reason, I decided to start this article there and then.

The beauty about pain is that it enables the soul to filter out hypocrisy while generating absolute truth and one must use that time wisely to find peace in pain. I believe that the best way to maximize the utility of that time is to put pen to paper and write. I am not sure if this article makes any sense to anybody considering that I’m talking about how I felt while writing this article which appears retarded, but beauty comes from strange places.

“Do You Want to Use Plastic Bag? Pay For It”

 “您要用袋子嗎(Nín yǎo yòng  dàizi ma ?” A surprising question asked by the cashier when I was buying groceries for the first time in Taiwan. Well, it turns out this question will always be asked by the cashiers at groceries shops every time I buy groceries. For at that time I have zero understanding of Chinese, I just tried to guess it. I thought that maybe he was offering a plastic bag and then I answered by nodding my head. A few months later after studying Chinese, finally I know the exact meaning of that question which is “Do you want to use plastic bag?” asking whether I bring my own bag to put the groceries or I want to buy and then use their shop’s plastic bag. Yes, you have to buy the plastic bag in Taiwan even for their own-shop labeled plastic bag.

Bring Your Own Bag

(source : Google Image)

Taiwan has implemented plastic bag policy as part of its integrated solid waste management system since year 2002. However before implement it, Taiwan government has conducted thoroughly efforts to ensure this policy will be well accepted and endorsed. Started at three years before the implementation, besides preparing for the legislation aspect, Taiwan government has hosted seminars for the entire stakeholder in plastic bag industries and environmentalist to get whole understanding about this policy. The other efforts e.g. four public forums and sponsored eight public hearings in order to exchange views with opponents of the new plastics ban has also been carried out. Not to mention brochures and publications distributed as the public education about the policy, and other 1,375 promotional activities have been held. Finally at 2002 the Taiwanese government has legitimate the policy that banned free distribution of disposable plastic bags throughout Taiwan. Per July 2002 the first stage of the policy is directed to plastic distribution by government facilities and government-run stores and then by January 2003 this policy applied for the entire plastic bag “distributor” including all commercial facilities. Thus this policy prevents the owners of those commercial and public institutions from providing free plastic bags to their customers. Costumer who don’t bring their own bag will be charged for a plastic bag costs NT$1 to NT$3. Later on in 2006, however, the administration decided to begin allowing free plastic bags to be offered by food service operators. The administration made the decision because of concerns that plastic bags used for food or soup could pose a health risk if they were reused (www.taipeitimes.com).

After graduating as Bachelor of Ecology and Development at the Central America University in Nicaragua, I decided to continue study my master as soon as possible, however, at that time I had the joy to get a job immediately and I began to work with international cooperation projects in Nicaragua of the Global Environment Facility GEF, Dutch, Spanish and Taiwanese cooperation. These relationships allowed me to travel and learn many culture around the world including Taiwanese culture. The first time that I came to Taiwan was in the year 2006, invited by the Taiwanese government to participate in an international workshop about Geographic Information System (GIS) applied to urban Planning. It was an amazing experience enriching, I can confess at that moment was one of my best journey. When I came back to Nicaragua continued working and I did not realize how the time flies especially when you work in what you love. Finally decided to stop working and applied to study my master in two countries, Spain and Taiwan. Thank God I was selected by the two applications at the same time, and I had the privilege to choose and obviously decide for one of them and after evaluating the pros and cons, i chose Taiwan.

“My Adventure in Taiwan: Paragliding in WanLi (萬里)
Clear blue skies, what felt like around 27 degrees temperature, and cool frisking winds meant perfect ingredients for my Paragliding adventure in WanLi, Taiwan. My friends and I set off from Hsinchu and Jhongli, respectively, and met at the agreed Taipei West Bus Station where we’d board the north bound Jingshan Bus to head up to WanLi on the northern coast of Taiwan for this great adventure. The journey was filled with outflows of much excitement, enthusiasm and speculation about what to expect. Finally, we arrived at WanLi Elementary School, the designated pick-up place for the Jingmei Flying Club, where our guide Marsden picked us up and whisked us away in his mini-van to the “departure” platform.
Being accustom to a Caribbean lifestyle, the anxiety and thrill of venturing to an Asian country to complete my master’s degree can still be felt even though it occurred one year ago. With a smile, I can remember the speechless and amazing moment when I was awarded the ICDF scholarship to National Central University in Taiwan. It is one of those memories that would always be remembered and treasured even for the simple fact of never anticipating such a change….studying on the other side of the world. Being a foreigner in Taiwan has its benefits such as cultural enrichment, personal growth and new perspective on the world/life, while at the same time it has de-benefits such as life style adjustment and language barrier.