yesterday marked one month since our arrival in Taiwan. it feels like we have been here both longer and less than that. this week is also the start of school - teachers went back monday and students show up on thursday. we haven't quite settled into a routine yet, but we're getting close.
today was the first day that I've gone out on my own. well, other than running up the street to the drug store or to 7-11. today I went out in search of a craft supply store. I didn't actually know where one was, just a general direction I heard there might be one, and so I walked over that way.
walking alone on the streets of Hsinchu isn't dangerous [other than the usual hazards or traffic] but it is a little unnerving. everyone stares at me. not always open-mouthed gaping or obvious, but they all look. it doesn't matter if I'm wearing cut-off jean shorts and a tank top or a maxi skirt down to my ankles. they stare.
the staring is just something to get used to, like the stares and cat-calls I used to get walking the streets of New York. though it's not quite the same. in New York, it was vaguely sexual when someone would stare or leer at you as you walked by. but not really personal. I think the men there just do it to everyone. [one day I got called at while I was wearing a long winter coat buttoned all the way up, with scarf and hat and sunglasses. I either have a really attractive nose... or they holler at everyone.] you learned to not take it personally, and ignore it as best as you could.
but here it's a little different. no one yells at me [Asian men would never be so rude] but they all stare, both men and women. and especially children. they stare. because... I'm white.
those of you who know me [or have seen pictures] know that even though I am technically "white" or Caucasian, I am usually some shade of golden brown tan. I think what gives me away is my hair. I'm not as blond as I've been, but no one of the Asian persuasion would have my hair color naturally. so they see the hair first, then notice the skin. and they stare because, honestly, there just aren't that many white girls here.
there are girls who try to be white. it seems that in Taiwan [if not all Asian cultures] that the whiter your skin is, the more beautiful you are. [my new friend Jackie gets ooh-ed and ahh-ed over wherever she goes because she lived in Seattle and never saw much sun] the drug stores here sell whitening lotions and treatments - some of which include bleach and other really scary chemicals. so I guess there are white girls here. but they are white in the way that some American girls are freaky orange spray-tan. different strokes for different folks, I guess.
anyway. I set out this afternoon in search of a craft store that I wasn't even sure existed. the first store I stopped in looked promising, but was more of a stationary store that happened to carry a few crafting items. so I checked out the next road over, and the next one... I wandered pretty far off the roads I know, and maybe got myself just a little bit lost.
did I have a brief moment of panic? the oh-crap-I'm-lost-and-I-don't-speak-Chinese-what-the-heck-was-I-thinking moment? of course. but then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I had set out prepared. not with a map, but with the school address and enough money for a cab home. [not to mention our pre-pay cell phone, hand sanitizer, my epi-pen, and chapstick] I stopped for a minute to think where I had gone in relation to where I wanted to go and decided to take a change and go with my gut and turn down the road that might take me home.
and it did. 40 minutes later, I made it back home. sweaty, sore-foot, and slightly damp from the rain that decided to start [thankfully] right as I turned onto a familiar road. my heart gave a leap when I saw it, because I knew it was the road that leads to home.
yeah, home. because somehow over the past month... this has started to feel like home. it's happened in a hundred small ways I could try to explain, but this is the story I have to write today. how I got lost, and how I got found.
[unrelated iPhone photos edited with instagram and shakeit photo apps]