A series of airport selfies to say goodbye to Taiwan. This is what happens when you have a 12 hour layover in Taoyuan. Thank god I have some great travel buddies- still a great end to an epic journey. #我愛台灣，Countdown #0
Getting our last hair wash in Taiwan. Miss you already Abbey! #pasta, countdown #1
My departure has been a long time coming now. I supposed because I added anticipation with my photo-blog count down. Now, however, this is the last week and it seems more and more real that I am leaving Taiwan and all the wonderful people here sooner than I mentally expected.
Liz and I have discussed recently how transitions and goodbyes bring out and intensify every emotion and every interaction. We watched during the early weeks in June, as the 6th graders prepared to graduate, they became increasingly irritable and restless, picking fights with each other for no reason, crying openly in class. They became easily agitated and unable to concentrate. Who could really blame them? They worked hard for their graduation ceremony, the awards, and in so many ways were ready to move on. Watching the end was like a spectator sport; we were constantly on the edge of our seats, uncertain what would happen next. We saw how unspoken crushes that had been building up the entire year played out, friendships came together or fell apart. We observed some students rising to meet their approaching transition gracefully while others willfully denied its existence. In many ways, it seems that the 6th grade behavior is more hormone-intensified, dramatized version of our own transition.
During the final weeks, there has been a torrent of emotions in completely opposite directions. While I’m excited to return to the United States, I’ve created a life for myself here and it’s difficult to leave that. One day I feel as if I couldn’t go home soon enough, and the next, I’m not ready to leave. I’m sure that if I had blog posted every other day, my writing would most definitely sound bipolar. Even now, now that almost all the goodbyes have been said, my bank account is closed, my scooter sold, I keep vacillating between emotional states. I don’t think endings are meant to be drawn out quite this much.
A year is just enough time to settle in. We were given the advice at the beginning of the experience not to treat living here as a vacation, to invest in the place, the people and our lives here – and we have. This is what makes leaving so hard. We’ve set down roots here in Kaohsiung that make leaving a tenuous process of slowly uprooting, closing accounts and saying goodbye. We say goodbye not to just to the places and people here, but to each other, and to so many facets of our selves and relationships that we have created here.
I know that the self isn’t divisible or at least it cannot be cleanly compartmentalized – especially across time and place. The self is continuous as much as it may seem otherwise. But, if I try to imagine my U.S. self, I can only see that person I left behind 11 and half months ago back at the bus station in Kennedy Plaza. My Taiwan self is incompatible with the hole created when I left – and it seems to me that that hole is quickly closing, almost too small to even be noticeable anymore. My Taiwan self isn’t prepared for reverse culture shock and isn’t prepared to summarize a year’s worth of memories into a three minute elevator speech to share with friends and loved ones. My Taiwan self is overwhelmed by the mere prospect of suddenly being able to understand perfectly all of the conversations being held within a 10-foot radius, and having to acknowledge and understand pop-culture references in every day speech. My Taiwan self will not make it in America.
This is my anxiety talking.
When I dig down deeper, look a little closer, I can peel off the layers that I have accumulated in Taiwan. Underneath I know that I am the same self. I am a better self. If Taiwan has taught me anything, it is that I am adaptable. Going back to the U.S. may seem like I am entering a foreign country with a foreign language, culture and customs. But, hey, it isn’t so bad…I think I’ve done this before.
Last mango shaved ice in Taiwan! Yummm!
Love. Countdown #3
We made it to the double heart on the island of Seven Beauties. Countdown #4 @dj_jazzy
11 months later, I sold my scooter back today. Going to miss my life-threatening daily morning commute. #scootergang, countdown #5
My last day as Teacher Alex, I treated my 5th graders to some PB&J and then we watched Frozen together. Countdown #6
Gonna miss this beautiful city. #britishconsulate, #sizhiwan, Countdown #7
Breakfast of champions with the cultural center crew. Countdown #8
A lovely thank you card from a student. Countdown #9
So much love and tears today. An overflowing pile of cards and thoughtful gifts from students. Saying good bye to one fourth grade class after another has left me heartbroken. I’ll miss them so much! The final countdown #10
Last day with these cuties. So moved by the love from my students and school today. Countdown #11
Directing some traffic and saving student lives in the office. Just another day in the life of teacher Alice. #studentpickuptime, #ironmanvisors, countdown #12