An Undying Christmas Spirit.

Seven years in Taiwan certainly change one’s perspective and feeling towards this beautiful holiday. I have always love and enjoy Christmas, from my point of it is the merriest season of all. It is all about hope, family and a spark of magic. I simply love it. Yet being away from home for so long, and living in a not-very-Christmassy country makes me stagger sometimes. Until now I have manage to dismiss the Grinchy-ideas surrounding me, but how long until I give in and allow the Christmas spirit to perish?

To try to understand why Christmas perishes and why and how I dismiss those feeling by trying to keep the spirit alive, it is important to first define the meaning of this holiday.

Definition and History

For Catholics, Christians and any other type of Christ-believers it is the remembrance of   the birth of Jesus-Christ. Quite enough reason to be joyous and grateful. It was passed on to the world as a reminder of sharing noble feelings, such as compassion, love, caring, forgiveness, etc. In the hope of some reflecting and introspective development. But let us take a further look into Christmas. As my good friend and blogger Grexxen mentioned, Jesus was not quite born on December 25th.  Yet, since the beginning, it was set to be celebrated on the already pagan holiday. Throughout the years is has further been changed, influenced by many different cultures and reinvented to modern times.

nativity_tree2011-1

Yes! it is profoundly commercial, it increments sales, influences the market and has strong impact in the economy. At micro and macro scale.  Complaints are that Christmas was turned into a ferocious season of shopping and honouring a gift-bringer whether is baby-Jesus, the three-wise-men or most popularly known, Santa-Claus. Are these adjustments and incursions the blameable factors of the perishing Christmas?

Let us take a look into the blameworthy suspects:

Presents

Besides Christmas, when do you consider giving somebody else a present? Birthday perhaps, sometimes not even there. Would you even consider wasting your time, money and energy trying to get something nice for someone you don’t really like? I think not, unless is your boss, but not even there. Gifts are a little way of saying “I care for you”, ” you are important to me”, “I hope to see you smile with this”, “I think of you”, “I rather invest my effort in you than in anybody else”, etc. And so much more. So even in the commercial side of Christmas, it provides an excellent opportunity to say something meaningful to someone important. So, no! Christmas does not perishes because of presents. At least not because presents are given, but perhaps it has something to do with how presents might be received.

Christmas presents piled underneath a christmas tree.

I realised a little too late, that part of the culture here in Taiwan is to refuse gifts a few times before it is accepted and sometimes they even criticize it. It is a way of being polite and to allow you to get to know them better. It is strange, but hey! I am not in my country. And so I had so learn how to give gifts here. As the years passed, I got better at giving gifts to Taiwanese and I never gave up, there is always a way into their heart. Luckily, I have always had friends to share Christmas gifts without having to change my traditions. I simply go frolic about presents. It is not receiving them that makes happy, it is the reaction I see in my friends when I give them something they’ll enjoy. Seeing my friends and dear ones happy, because of what I did for them is far more valuable than any gift I could get. But I also won’t get angry if you get me something nice. haha

dsc02504
Actual picture of 2009 Christmas – first year in Taiwan

Decorations

Do we really need them? Probably not, but they are a way of materializing our thoughts and feelings towards this holiday.  Nativities honour our religion, reminding us of the gift of hope. I personally rejoice when I see mine. It is tiny, for it is impossible for me to keep a big one, but I get a sense of peace when I see the angel and when I finally place baby Jesus on Christmas eve.

img_0767
My tiny Nativity

 

If a Nativity does not means this for you, then take a look at a Christmas tree, if you had one as a child then it is a reminder of the kid in our heart, with big eyes, full of wish, expectation, dreams and a little bit of magic. And who doesn’t like magic?

Christmas does not perishes because of ornamentation. But it does if all the decorations lack of meaning and sense behind it. For there is not use of a gorgeous Christmas tree, if it was done reluctantly and then left there to dust through out the year.

The year that I came to Taiwan, things were very different. Now there are a lot of ornaments and very easy to find. Seven years ago there were not enough.  I searched restlessly for Christmas stockings, and they were no where to be found. So, I made them! Went to the store to get some cloths, thread, needles some bells, and spend most of my free time of my first December sawing them.  I still have them and place them every year. Shortage of decorations will not get my spirit down.

Self-made Elf Boot

Friends

Now this is a less materialistic part. We are getting to a deeper meaning of Christmas. Friendship, how wonderful is this girt. Not a gift, more like a treasure. We are humans, we are social by nature and friendships are meant to be nurture and kept. It is a blessing to spend a Christmas surrounded my people who mutually enjoy each other’s company.

So how can friends be a liable for the perish of Christmas?

During all these year, I have met many people, I have become friends with some of them and with some we have created unbreakable bounds that will last forever. The hard part, is that I have also seen many of them leave. The first few years I spend Christmas with about the same faces, but then they started taking other paths. Gladly, new friends came around, and then I found myself with a new group of people. And then they also left. And it has been like that for a while.

xmas-2012
Christmas 2012

I am blessed that every year I have had good friends to hug merry-Christmas. And every year it is a brand new experience. For the good friends that have left Taiwan and that are in another part of the world, well, there is always internet. Letter and postcards are also a magical detail. I feel joy and excitement when I write them and send them, hoping that my friends feel the same when they get it and read it.

For all my friends, those who are here and for those that aren’t:

Thank you for having crossed roads with me. You are a blessing. And I hope the next year is full of joy and success. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

With love, 
Adriana

 

Family

Probably the deepest meaning of Christmas. It has been 8 years! 8 Christmases away! It is one of the seasons that make me regret a little of my decision of being here.

I was one of the lucky few that was always able to convince the professor to not have test or academic activities on the 24th or 25 of December, but I know of many who had to spend their Christmas eve studying. I am also lucky to be working at a good company that is sensible enough not to make work on Christmas. So I am lucky. But nothing nothing can match the infinite euphoria of being with my family on Christmas. I hope destiny does not takes to long until it allows me to be there.

img_0446
One of the most recent picture with my family. Just dad is missing in this picture.

So? how do I dismiss the boundless yearning? Remembering good times, knowing we are bless to have each other, even in the distance, hoping to see them soon, praying and Video Cam!

Nothing could be the same as physically being there, but the camera helps. To see my mom dressed beautifully and being accompanied by my handsome dad. See my nephew’s eyes sparkle with the twinkling lights.   My little niece get excited to see everybody together. Share a good warming talk with my beloved cousin. Hear my aunts and grandma’s voice. A simple web cam chat makes my Christmas complete.

Dear Family, 

I miss you, I miss you more with every passing second and for Christmas, I miss you hopelessly. But I love you and I know we are together, and we will always be. Thank you for the unconditional support. You are the biggest blessing and the only gift I want/need. 

With deep love,

 

Mom, 

I am sorry for leaving and making you spend all these Christmases without me. Ever since I left there has been a Christmas tree in the house. You don’t know how much your sacrifice mean to me. I promise I won’t be too long now. I love you. I miss you.

Merry Christmas! 

So with all of this I refuse to be sad on Christmas. I dismiss the idea of letting my Christmas spirit perish.

jupiter-xmas
Even Jupiter enjoys Christmas!

 

It is hard being away for Christmas. but if you are in the same situation as me, don’t lose hope! don’t you even dare to feel down on Christmas! Don’t give up! Christmas is so much more, and you can find it in the little things around. And you can find it in your heart.

Merry Christmas to all! And a very joyous and prosperous new year!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oct.-09-2016

I should have started this blog years ago. I should had written all my experiences here. I should had made better record of what I have seen, experienced and thought through all these year. But I didn’t, so now I will.

This blog is not intended to be a record of my life in this foreign place. This blog is so much more, but it is inevitable to talk about being here.

Perhaps, the reason I am writing about Taiwan is because tomorrow is their “birthday”, as they like to say. Or at least that’s how they always explain to me what they celebrate on the double ten-day.

Oh Taiwan! What not to say about you? I have been here with you for seven years. I have done and learned one million things, and yet as times passes by I realised there are still a billion new things to discover from you.

Year 1. Studying Chinese

I was like a baby, become aware of everything. With big eyes to try to observe as much as possible. Paying attention to the details and trying to remember as much as I can, because I wanted to do it again later.

I wanted to show everything to my mom and dad. I knew they would come one day, so everything new I did, I pictured myself explaining it to them.

dsc06639
Mom in Taiwan

I perfectly remember this day at the chinese breakfast near the place where I used to live. I ordered a Chinese omelet with bacon and cheese, not because bacon and cheese were my favourites, but because it was the only thing I could say. But it didn’t matter, I was happy with my meal. I imagined my mom sitting in front of me and enjoying the same breakfast just because it was a new experience.

At that at time, my roommate and best friend  was Edgar, one of the best friend I had in my life. But this post is not about him.  We didn’t know anybody, and for the first 4-5 weeks it was like that. The two of us against the world. The Marco Polos of our time. We had some help from the office-girls in the language center. It was not their job to introduce us to Tainan, but they were our angels. Dora, Ashley and JiaJia. I am still thankful to them for being so kind to us.

After about a month we got to know some other foreigners, who slowly pointed us to the right direction, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes eager, nevertheless it was only on us to succeed or fail in this quest. We began going to classes and soon the adventure became normal life.

dsc02504
First X-mas tree

First Christmas, first new year, first chinese new year, first spring, first birthday, then summer and just in a blink we were already in Taiwan for 1 year. For me it helped that mom came to visit and help me settle a few things.

After 1 year we had succeeded. We were both accepted into THE UNIVERSITY and were ready to begin. Our acceptance was a little problematic, as we were both not accepted in the department we wanted, but we would start nevertheless and then change to achieve our dreams. Nothing would stop us.

Year 2. First Year at University

We were like a 5-year-old children. Eyes still wide open and still eager to discover.

We went to our first class with high hopes and enthusiasm. We had survived one year of Chinese language and this was now our most important tool to survive. Now I was able to order a little more than just bacon and cheese omelets. Now I could actually make friends. And I was determined to become the best student in the class, make my family, my country and most important myself proud. I could see myself standing tall on graduation day. I was going to be the best.

How long does it take to break a person? Well, the positivism lasted for about 3 months. I was trying really hard but it was impossible to approach the professors, the assistants were never to be found and my classmates cared as much for me as one cares when a fallen twig breaks. You see it on the ground, step on it to hear that breaking sound and then continue your way. Those were my “lovely” classmates and I was the twig. Edgar and I were in different departments, so we started to distant from each other. Sometimes there were days in which we  didn’t see one another at all. One year passed and I was feeling lonely and broken.  But the show had to go on, it would go on. And I? I  would NOT fail. I had cross the world for this I was going to get it.  So I transferred university.

Year 3. Nantai University

I felt like a teenager now. I had learned plenty of things and I was pretty much able to take care of myself. Specially with my new life at Nantai University.

It was great! It all started when Darby, from the international affairs office, received me in his office with a big smile and with out many obsticles accepted my application. Once again, I had encountered an angel. And things could only get better.

My classmates were the best. Maybe you are thinking, this is not important, but it is.
When you are the foreigner, the stranger, the different in an unknown culture with a difficult language as is chinese, you need friends. My new classmates made life bearable again and then actually enjoyable.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We became great friends, we supported and cared for each other.

My professors were approachable and the assistants were always there to help. So I was learning, I was acquiring the knowledge and tools I came here for.  And soon I was back on the road for excellence. Ok! Maybe not the number 1, but very close. Begin the only foreigner in the class and in the department, it was not easy, but I had the proper environment to succeed.

Edgar did not transfer with me and  a little while after, he decided to leave and I didn’t see him anymore.

It was a period of many changes but I was adapting. My chinese improved and now I was finally able to actually understand my classes. I could maintain complete conversations and give longer explanatory answers.  I was able to understand their culture a little bit better. I was not feeling like a zoo animal anymore, I became part of the city, part of Tainan.

Year 4 and 5. Continuing 

I was like a young adult. I was sure I had everything under control.

I stopped looking for new things to discover. All the new experiences came to me by chance, and I never said no to them. Karaoke? Let´s go! BBQ in the middle of the road? Let’s do it. Gear bike? Let’s learn! Guest at a Chinese wedding? Eh, yeah why not! Stinky tofu? Bring it on!

It was also in these years that I started teaching English. Many people who come to Taiwan do it, but not everybody. For me, it is one of the best experiences. As a student, you see a lot of people who are about the same age than you, but how about spending time with children, with adults? I became charged with their energy and their knowledge.

My only regret was that I did not start earlier. I am still teaching now, and I love my students and my classes. Thank you all for sharing a little piece of your life with me.

Regarding university, it was time to start bachelor graduation project. I had to choose my advisor, because the coming years would depend on that. I took a little longer than usual but then I finally started at Prof. Lin lab. He is a high important figure in the university and in Taiwan, and yet his heart is humble. I was oblivious of who he really was, until I graduated, but I was lucky to be his advisee. Now I consider him to be not only my professor and advisor, but my friend.   With his help I was becoming the scientist I always wanted to. Experiments, research, methodology, discussions, that was my life. And I loved it. I was in the lab from 8 to 5, and I would have stayed longer, if I didn’t have to teach. I loved my lab. Sometimes I would go back home with some weird smell on my clothes and some other times I had strange stains on my finger that would not wash off for weeks. But I loved it.

dad-in-taiwan
Dad in Taiwan

Dad came to visit, and since I was a more experienced in the art of living I Taiwan, we enjoyed our time together. That was a nice boost to continue. A little after dad left, both my advisor and the chairman suggested I should stay in the lab and continue with master’s. I took some time to think about it, but if I did, I could finish in only 1 year. So, it was the perfect plan. The topic? Well it was inspired on my pets. If you are curious to know my pets, go to my other blog, Jupiter, the Jubilant.

dscn4163-1
Bachelor Graduation Day

I started my relationship with Thomas, the love of my life, who not only makes me happy, but completes me. We already together for my bachelor graduation day. I finished as the fourth in my class. I had succeeded. I survived and persevered all these years, and it was only the start. That summer I was invited to Japan for nanotechnology courses. After discovering the nano world, I did not want to leave it.

Year 6. Master’s

I was a mature adult at this point. I knew exactly where I was going and how to get there. I did not only think I was in control, I actually was. Almost nothing was new and just a handful of things would amaze me.  

poster
The research

My thesis, as any normal one, had its up and downs, but it was overall going well. At this point I need to thank my friend Miguel, who was indirectly part of this journey and has been one of my mentors in life.

Then it hit me, all the things that I experienced in Taiwan, happened a long time ago. Most of them when I first came. So… Let’s do them again! and I did, I went to those places one more time. With a new perspective it was like I was doing them for the first time. And I understood one things I kept telling me all these years:

Circumstances, depend on the people, a time and a place. The more one tries to understand them, the more one will realise there are too many variables.

It is true! The more one learns, the more one realises we don’t  know anything.  I would never fully comprehend Taiwan, I couldn’t experience the same thing two times.

img_2234
Watching the Ping-Xi Lantern Festival for the first time and being amazed by it. 

I knew this all along, but it was until then that I truly grasped it.

img_8560
Master’s Graduation

Mom came to visit me again to be with me when I got my master’s diploma. And what do you do with a diploma? You work!

That is what I do now.

Year 7. Another side of Taiwan

I am starting to feel like a baby again. With the rest of my life ahead.

Most of my friends have come and gone. Thomas moved away, and we are struggling the distance but we will be together soon.  Nanotechnology PhD is still waiting, but for the moment I am enjoying work. I have a good boss and nice co-workers. I believe I was lucky to find such a good place. I am now experiencing this other chapter of life in Taiwan. Which is absolutely different from just being a student. I will succeed one again, I know I will.

As a person who doesn’t know anything about being here, my only advice is: “Embrace every moment and never stop discovering.”

IMG_4727.jpg
Waking up and welcoming the future to come

 

 

Continue reading “Being Here”

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: