What a difference a month or two makes. If you’d spoken to me back in mid-June you’d have been scrabbling for excuses to leave the conversation. New land fatigue had well and truly set in and was weighing me down, leadening my boots and draining the colour from every scene. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t save any money – unexpected and necessary expenses cropped up around every corner and drained me dry. Big city life was stifling me, the looming towers threatening to crush me and every polluted breathe choking the life from me. The language, thanks to my own laziness. remained an impenetrable mystery, confounding any attempt to bond with the country, culture and people. More than anything I still felt isolated, the kind of isolation you only get in a city teeming with millions of other souls. If you’d asked me then what my plans were I’d answer without hesitation that I was finishing my contract then returning to Surat Thani to recuperate.
Things change though.
As mentioned in a previous post I’ve started making inroads into learning Mandarin, tackling reading, listening and speaking from three different angles. Despite having barely scratched the surface of an incredibly intricate and archaic language I’ve already developed the confidence to be using it every day and have developed a thirst, bordering on obsession, for learning more.
As if in some cosmic reward for my efforts, my finances have also started to settle down, the dollars starting to pile up in the bank account as hoped. Small changes to the saving schedule have been made of necessity (travelling all the way back to Scotland for a wedding puts a dent in any plan!) but it’ll all be on track soon. Despite writing off the first three months I’ve managed to squirrel away almost as much in the past two as I did in over a year in Thailand.
With this new-found linguistic and financial security I’ve been able to appreciate the city more. Not just the city itself but the all-important surroundings – Dakeng, Miaoli and the countless other breathing spaces which offer welcome respite from the fumes and bustle of the centre. Even within the confines of the metropolitan area I’m learning how to ignore the bad and appreciate the good, taking delight in every newly-discovered park, cafe or social event.
The social problems are also fading and I’m accepting the fact that a city this size can never accommodate as close-knit a social scene as sleepy little Surat. Between the size and my decidedly anti-social work schedule I’m getting happier with a growing network of casual acquaintances rather than a small circle of close friends. It’s not better or worse, just different. And since my photography exploits at a protest rally last weekend my circle of Taiwanese friends has exploded, opening up all kinds of opportunities. Most of those in attendance were musicians, perhaps some kind of band may be on the horizon…?
(This paragraph has been deleted in the interested of avoiding jinxdom)
So yeah, things are changing, and changing for the better. Money’s good, language is good, health is the best it’s been for ages and the city is finally opening itself up to me. So what are my plans? Well, Thailand still occupies a massive, squishy place in my heart but am I in any rush to leave Formosa and return? Right now that’d be a no. I’m just getting started here.