Regardless of how much planning you put into it, when the plane tires screech on the tarmac of your destinations arrival city, you're nervous! You may not know what really to expect; Will there be a bank kiosk to exchange notes? Am I standing in the right immigration line? Should I have filled out that paper that everyone else has in their hands? Is my visa really valid? And if not, do they really issue visa's on the spot here? What about my luggage, will it still be there after I get through this mess of a line? And how will I get to my final destination?
All of this may cross your mind, but as soon as you sit down in that first taxi, or find your seat number on that first bus, or step inside as the doors close behind you on your first train, that feeling of initial accomplishment rushes over you, and you realize that everything's gonna be alright.
First impressions oftentimes stick the most in your minds. The feeling of having touched down on foreign soil, with no real idea of what might happen next can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking! Some of the most memorable trips were built on first impressions.
When I witnessed the fight while standing in the immigration line, I realized this would be a whole new life.
Okay, so it wasn't really a fight, but it was definitely different. What I mean is, it's not everyday that you see a grown man in some kind of official Taiwanese uniform shoving middle aged Japanese women, along with the rest of us disrespectful little 'non-citizens', shouting at us at the top of his lungs in an effort to get us to all stand in line properly.
And he wasn't just shoving us, but he was literally herding us with his baton, pushing us as if we were one large mass of madness. Of course, it worked, we lined up like sheep. And if that wasn't enough, the offended Japanese women took their stand against the officer tyrant man, shoving back at him and shouting in their mother tongue.
And the gentleman's response? “Sumimasen...sumimasen...,” he said, bowing apologetically while continuing to shove them back roughly, "Sumimasen.” Well, I thought to myself, at least he has the courtesy to apologize to them in their own language.
Rewind a half hour: As our plane touched down onto the tarmac of Taoyuan International Airport, one hour west of the capitol city of Taipei, the first faint glimpse I could get of my new home was smog. And not just gray air, but thick, heavy, almost oppressive looking, the kind that scrapes it's way down your esophagus and clings to your lungs.
It's no wonder than that, upon disembarking, more than a few of the locals donned masks, some decoratively patterned and printed, to filter out the thick smog air.
I realize that these first two paragraphs paints our arrival into Taiwan as if we were entering some hazy and depressing country. But this (so far) is not the case.
In reality, what few interactions we've had as of yet with the locals has been pleasant and helpful, albeit brisk and efficient. And did I mention the green? Stepping off of the plane, Thuy remarked about how much greenery and life there was around the city.
Coming here, I had expected the stereotypical Asian tiger concrete jungle of highrises and clogged streets, and although our gateway city of Taoyuan is not Taipei, I was 1surprised to see the countless rice paddies squeezed between colorful buildings as we rode down the highway.
And the further south we went, palm trees and bamboo began to dominate the scenery. Even now, as I sit back in my huge bus seat the size of first class airplane seats, and stare out the window, we pass green hills of trees and plant life. I notice too that the smog begins to thin out as we make our way further from Taoyuan.
Our departure from Eko and Thuy was quick and painless. We stepped off the plane, exchanged money, went through immigration, picked up our bags, and Eko helped us buy our bus tickets to Kaohsiung. The bus station is in the airport, which was very easy and convenient.
And what of our inappropriately massive amounts of unnecessary luggage? We didn't even get a blink from the the waif thin bus ticketing agent. She whipped our luggage up onto a baggage cart like it was nobody's business, weaving her way through the crowds as she wheeled along with her one of my huge suitcases that must have weighed half her weight.
She directed us to our bus, told the bus driver to watch out for us, showed us all of the nifty first class contraptions that were built into our seats, and then left.
But of course, all of our thanks goes to Eko, who really helped us get on our way as quick and seamlessly as possible, before giving us both hugs and waving goodbye.
You told us you'd come and visit us down here some day, I'm going to hold you to that promise.
And now here I am, on a Ho Hsing bus en route to the city of Taichung, where we transfer onto another bus, which will eventually take us to our final destination, the southern city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest metropolis. Arrival time to Kaohsiung? 7 p.m.
But for now, I guess I'll just kick back in my fat lounge-chair like bus seat, have a little snack, and reflect on what few experiences I've had so far here in my new home. And of course, look up every once in a while to look out the window and enjoy the beautiful green.
And now we ask: What are some of your most memorable first impressions? Comment below and let us know!
Every day I wake up and tell myself that I will sit down and write. But every night I come home, turn on the computer, load up a fresh new Microsoft Word page, and then proceed to stare at a blinking cursor for a half hour. I may get down a few sentences, or just a couple. But most of the time it remains a blank page with nothing more but a blinking cursor, reminding me that my head is full but my fingers frozen.
I've even dropped money on a book with daily writing excercises. I was visiting some friends the day that it came in. Cressentia and Daisy left to do some errands, and I was alone in the car for a full 45 minutes. My mind wandered into the world of writing as I skimmed through the book's fresh and crisp pages. I read chapter by chapter the art of writing, specifically the art of travel writing.
But I have yet to make application of the things I read on that day.
And so here I am now, setting up a 'blog', of which I have no idea what it's use is for. I guess I will find out once I hit the post button. I really don't know what to expect. It feels as if I am standing on a pathway that splits off into two directions. Perhaps this first entry may be the start of a wonderful and lasting 'blog' relationship. Or perhaps I will hit post, click the x on the top right hand corner of this window and never see these words again, leaving them free to float around for an eternity until they fade away into an electronic 'blog' oblivion.
Whichever way this post button takes me, I hope that years down the road from now I will have known, understood and attained the essence of blog.
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...