this contradictory life

Ever notice how life is full of contradictions? Like, the thing you love most about something is also the thing you like the least?

  • “I love the early morning, but I hate getting up early.”
  • “I despise cleaning, but I love my house clean!”
  • “I love his energy, but I wish he would calm down!”

“Landing” in Taiwan… “Well, *some* things are the same.” (image: cartoonstock.com)

That’s exactly how I feel about Asia.

I grew up in a small town in Northern California. Everyone drives cars here and goes to supermarkets to buy their groceries. There is no night market, and no one sticks out here, no matter where they’re from.

Not so in Asia. As a blonde in Taiwan, I often felt like a celebrity. (“Hi! Hi! Can we take your picture?”) People drove scooters there and shopped markets that spilled from tiny stores onto crowded streets. Fresh slabs of meat hung in open-air stands. And let’s not even talk about the food at the night market!

Taiwan was so different from California, in fact, that I was often surprised to see the same stars there that I could see at home. Surely I was on a different planet, wasn’t I?

It was this difference that made adapting to Taiwan so difficult at first, but which made sticking it out so satisfactory in the end. When I couldn’t handle things on my own or had questions I didn’t understand, I had to rely on Taiwanese friends. This gave me insight into Taiwanese life and forced me to reflect, sometimes with startling effects, on my own long-held beliefs. (I.e. How much of religion is cultural? What is so great about the States? How could I not love a country whose people would bend over backward to help a stranger?)

I could tell story after story of how my Taiwanese friends helped me time and time again . . .

For now, I leave you with a question: When was the last time you were out of your comfort zone? What did you do? How did you cope? Did the overall experience harm you, or help you? What might be the benefit of getting outside of your own box?

farmers’ market in taipei

much more than language exchange friends

shilin night market in taipei—this happens *every* night

this is how you get *your* hamburger, isn’t it?

mmm. squid on a stick.

12 thoughts

  1. Loved this post! Maybe you should really do a post on how your Taiwanese friends have helped you on numerous occasions, how you have learnt more about their way of life and finally felt at home . I, for one, would love to read it:)

  2. i love contradiction and apply it in my work (where is easily accepted) as well as in my non-work life (…if there is such a thing anymore…). I can tell you, no matter how surrounded we are by contradiction and how we are affected by it everyday, human relations do not really favor it. I think most people cannot see its beauty. Anyway, about my comfort zone…i pretend am out of it but really am not. There is this movie called “we bought a zoo” where Damon says:
    “sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it”
    This i would like to do more often.

    I like your blog. am following.

    • Thank you so much! I looked at some of your photos (and will check back again soon!); you’re right. Contradiction is inevitable and one of the keys to creating great art. The bride in her wedding dress at an abandoned warehouse; bright red hair against a gray sky; youth versus age, etc. We are surrounded by contrast, and it’s too bad we can’t figure out how to utilize it better in our relationships with one another.

      I’ve seen that movie. It’s a good one, and that’s a particularly good line. Life is full of chances for bravery. I think we’d all like to do that more often.

      Thanks so much for the following.

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