I still wonder about my relationship with Taiwan. Mexico was easy to understand, vivid and chaotic, but I loved it. Or maybe that’s just how I want to remember it. Here, I don’t know. I want to love it, but I don’t. Not like it deserves. Not enough to make me happy.
This country is amazing, a place where everything can be found, and where life can be simple and relaxed. I was in the mountains both days last weekend, Huang Di Dian and Sandiaoling trails. It was a beautiful day, a relatively easy set of trails, and great company.
Sandiaoling was first, a muddy trail with clear water, incredible waterfalls, and few stairs. There was some pain, a few people fell on the slippery downhill at the end, but it’s one of those days where it’s hard to balance. I laughed a lot, I wandered along the trail alone, I saw beauty, but there is something missing. Maybe I’m still young enough to want danger. Maybe I’m afraid to settle to someplace so soon, regardless of how amazing it is, or how wonderful the people I meet here are.
The trail passed the waterfalls and wound through the forest, mostly muddy, mostly flat, to the point where complaining for my own amusement wasn’t really fun. I was enjoying the day too much. That was what I want my life to be, and who I was on that trail is who I want to be. But the reality is that I’m not that person. Maybe not yet, maybe not ever.
I’m used to fighting my demons, I’ve been learning new tactics to use against them for years. Every workout and every meal is a fight against them, but out there it’s not. I don’t know why, if they don’t like the woods or if the pain of the hike hides the pain of lethargy, but life is easier for me out there. Nature has that effect on me. Peace is there, in the woods and in the oceans, but peace is a strange friend to have.
Huang Di Dian was different, with new friends and harder challenges. Harder, but more fun. The view is amazing, even with the blue haze of fireworks and burning spirit money hanging over the city. There was laughter, and peace, but it was different. It’s always the people that make life better, by their input and their reflection. Sometimes I don’t really connect words and ideas until they become more than something in my head. It’s harder for me to learn when all I hear is the echo of my mind.
At the top of Huang Di Dian East, the echo was quick, but strong. We yelled into the world and the world yelled back. It’s easy to see what this country was like before the buildings and roads. There are houses and villages out there beyond the edge, fighting nature, but nature will win in the end. In this place, the paths are safe and well-travelled, and nature is patient.
There was a night hike too, right behind my house on the mountain I look up at. I remember when I first got here and went up to the Buddhist temple. I remember it being so high and hard to get to. This time, it surprised me how close it was. It also surprised me when a highly dangerous pit viper was hiding next to the path. I didn’t see it until I walked past it and Ten Minutes pointed it out. Even then, I never felt like it was dangerous.
I spent a couple days resting after that. Almost everything here is closed for Chinese New Year anyway, so it was easy to make an excuse and rest. Today, I spent a couple hours walking home across the city. There is something very different about hiking through a city compared to a forest. City smells are always familiar, and even the strange food smells aren’t strange anymore.
Walking in the city isn’t peaceful, but in a lot of ways it’s more interesting than the forest. Some of it is the places you find, the food, the statues, the buildings, but most of it is internal for me. In the woods I think of more simple things, of where I am and how to get to the next peak or valley. In the city, thoughts turn inward easier, and the city becomes background noise, with everything blurring together.
I started to really think about where I am, and where I’m going. I still don’t really have a plan, but I don’t really know why anymore. I’m looking for something, but I always have been. The city passed by as I hiked the route I normally take on the MRT. I have looked down on that route nearly every other day for the last year, but it’s different knowing I’m leaving.
I want to love Taiwan, deeply and truly. I want to make a home here, and find the right person to spend my life with. It would be a good life, and an easy one, but I don’t think it would have the meaning that I am looking for. Or I’m afraid it wouldn’t. If Mexico is the crazy ex I still love, Taiwan is the rebound.
I do love this place, and I found things here I will carry with me, but I was holding myself back from being completely here. There were reasons, but there always are. For better or worse, I am still looking to learn things that require more suffering than I found here, and I already know that is a flaw in myself, not in this place.
Huang Di Dian