This past Monday was the Mid-Autumn Festival, which meant no school, eating mooncakes and pomelos, and looking at the full moon. In Taiwan, it’s popular for families to get together and have barbeques as well. It’s been raining a lot here recently, and a lot of people thought it might be too cloudy to see the moon during this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, but as night fell the sky cleared up a little and we had a good view of the moon!
Some of my relatives live here in Taipei, so I spent the morning with my grandparents, talking and eating pomelos (in Chinese called youzi 柚子) and mooncakes. It was really nice to be with them, since during this holiday a lot of Taiwanese will get together with family members! There’s a saying in Chinese that during the Mid-Autumn Festival, “月圆人团圆” (“yue yuan ren tuan yuan), which essentially means that when the moon is full, people should be back together—friends, family, etc. In the afternoon, I met up with a friend and we walked around Daan Park, a big park in the middle of Taipei, and then went to a night market to look around and eat mango shaved ice—probably my favorite thing to eat here!
I also recently had my 20th birthday here in Taiwan. I didn’t expect much to happen, being newly-arrived in a new country and not knowing a lot of people, but I was able to celebrate with my grandparents and two sets of aunts and uncles the day of. And, the Friday before, my Chinese language class went out to lunch to celebrate as well—unexpected, and pretty touching! There’s something about a group of people whom you haven’t known for too long asking you out to lunch to celebrate your birthday that’s just so nice. My classmates are from all over and are all incredibly kind and funny. It’s been really neat learning about their countries and also practicing Chinese together, and we all get along well, so our class periods are always interesting and the atmosphere is comfortable. My teacher is also amazing. She emphasizes the importance of us practicing our speaking, so in class we always have fun activities and speaking exercises to get us practicing as much as possible. And she’s so cool for taking the time to go out to lunch with her students!
I’ll admit that for me, there’s no place like home. I’ve always loved spending time with family and friends from back in Minnesota or at Whitman, so being in Taipei where everything—from the language to the culture to the people—is different took some—well, a lot of—getting used to. Celebrations are supposed to be happy occasions, but they can also bring homesickness if you’re far from the people you care about. But here in Taipei, spending time with new friends and classmates, these celebrations were extra special. Lesson learned? No matter where you are in the world, you can meet wonderful people. My classmates, relatives, teachers, and even people you meet in restaurants or stores—there’s this one place next to campus that sells rice balls, and the family who works there is always so nice—are all helpful and friendly, and that really makes being on the other side of the earth easier 😊.