You, Me, And The Universe

travel, nature, reflection

Month: July, 2015

A Drop of Dye in a Glass of Water

I’m speaking in front of crowds of people. I’m acting, teaching, making a fool of myself for everyone to see. I’m being pushed to all my uncomfortable limits… and I’m loving every bit of it.

I only experience true joy when I am challenging myself, surprising myself, and becoming proud of myself.  I only experience true joy when I see my joy spread to other people, when I know they have received some benefit from my efforts.

Why is this?   I think it’s because I love life more when I give to other peiple, even if it’s hard at times. I think I receive more when I give more. Not in a victimized way, not anymore. I’m giving because deep down I actually want to- not because the act is expected from me. I’m exhausted and I’m happy. It’s all worth it.

Maybe some days my effort feels wasted or ignored or ineffective. But those days when I put everything I have out on the table, the days when I hold no part of me back, reaching as far as I can reach, I lean back and admire what I have done, and what others have done because I extended all of myself.

I think my mind is supposed to be shared. My ideas, my love- what use are they if I keep them hidden from veiw?  They have the potential to be a drop of red dye in a glass of water- dye that instantly spreads and is absorbed by the surrounding matter. That matter is the mind of each one of my students. And that dye is every thought I’ve ever had, capable of innundating the minds of others, and capable of so much more than I can predict.

Sources of Happiness are Relative

I’m in a car with a Taiwanese mother and daughter who do not speak English. We’re driving on roads I’ve never driven on, passing by mountains I’ve never seen. I’m eating food that, two weeks ago, I never knew existed. But these roads, these mountains, this food, is all most Taiwanese people know. It’s all they’ve ever seen, and it’s all some them will ever see.

Ninety-nine percent of the people I’ve asked tell me they’ve never been to the United States. Of those 99%, about half of them have never even left Taiwan. And they are happy. They are content with their familiar life-styles. Who am I to tell them they are “missing out” if they don’t visit the U.S.? What exactly are they lacking, if they are happy? Awareness? Maybe, but most of them do not even have the means to be aware. And by that I mean money. They are poor by U.S. standards.

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A beach In Tainan, Taiwan. A new friend took this picture without my knowledge. I stared at this photo for too long. I was taken back by how different our perspectives can be, even if we are at the same place at the same time.

I gaze out the window and I smile to myself, knowing that there are so many sources of happiness in this world, and that pure amazement is one of them. I stare out the window and I feel warm and appreciative of simple things-like the fact that I’m in a car with this mother and her daughter, who is a student in my classroom. And the fact that they are simply there, offering me awareness of another life’s course.

Frequently my surroundings stimulate a powerful realization, one that is becoming more and more apparent to me the longer I’m here: there are very few customs that can be universally defined as “good.” You can argue which customs make you happy- but they won’t please everyone. You can argue that a certain way of living is ethically good. But there will always be someone who disagrees with you. What I think I know is good and just- I will be re-evaluating, exploring, doubting for the rest of my life ( hopefully). I want to doubt. I want to reconsider. I want to welcome criticism and I want to know better so that I might be able to do better.

Taiwan Week 2.5: Overcoming a Language Barrier

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I’m learning- absorbing everything new and different, slightly disturbing, awesome, scary…Every day I am reminded that we can have beautiful moments with people without speaking, without knowing each others language. We can look in someone’s eyes and see them smiling, without needing to hear the words that describe their happiness. Every day I am once again blown away by the similarities among people all over the world. I may not know how to speak to you, but we both know what a smile means.

We both know what tears mean. We both know what embarrassment feels like. We both feel sadness at times. Both feel excited when good fortune arises, when we receive something we’ve wanted for a long time. We both feel.  We may react to stimuli differently, but we both react. Feelings, emotions run through every body whether that body is in the United States or in China or in Italy or wherever. And within those emotions we find common ground, we find connection. Not always within language.

Words can only do so much. But what if I don’t want you to talk to me, what if all I really want is a hug. What if all I want is a smile, a hand to hold, a person to dance with? What if I want the comfort  of your presence, or reassurance through facial expressions? Can you give that to me through words? Every day I am motivated by the answer to that question. I will build a connection with my students, because I know that connection is built upon so much more than language.

11739571_511115402376544_194161524_nI’m tempted to say that Taiwanese students are shy. But shy is an understatement. I feel like there is no word in the English language to describe their overall behavior, behavior that seems to be instilled in them from the moment they open their eyes as a baby. They demonstrate a shyness that is not just indicative of an awkward teenage phase. This trait is bred not just in students but in the entire culture. Adults, kids, teenagers…everyone, with the exception of a few people who we would describe as confident but docile in the U.S.

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In the classroom I do whatever I can to help the students feel comfortable talking, but a lot of times I’m left feeling frustrated an confused. The feeling of “talking to a brick wall” comes to mind. But I know they are just scared. I keep having to remind myself that they aren’t used to talking back to the teacher; education in Taiwan seems to promote teachers lecturing the students, while the students sit there and listen, mute. They have been taught to respect- and fear- the teacher. And not to talk back. So how do I make them un-learn these tendencies?? It’s not going to happen.

All I can do is try to get them to see me as a friend- a friend who knows English and plays games with them.

 

Day 7: Taipei 101

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Taipei, from the top of Elephant Mountain. Today I am reminded why I love traveling: I gain a new perspective, not just of places, but of people.

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