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You live, you learn

April 20, 2013

It was the first time I had stepped into a gym. I had bought a 16-pound weight back home, and struggled with it. But this time there were lots of weights and machines – a body-builder’s haven. Of course, there were also treadmills and cycles.

I could get in for free, and work out after my classes. But I had no clue about what to do. Luckily, my friend (who is small, but has a lot of experience with these things) taught me. Now I go to the gym every other day.

This is one of the innumerable “first times” I have ever had since I came to this island. There is just a huge measure of freedom afforded by being outside the Philippines which I can’t explain in a few sentences. Perhaps it’s the lack of scrutiny by the people who used to tie me down. Perhaps it’s the atmosphere. Perhaps it’s the friendship. Perhaps it’s the unrequited love. Perhaps because I am a foreigner, and am driven by necessity to discover for myself what life is like here. Well, a lot of things, really.

I have made so many mistakes here. For one, the language mistakes (none of which, thank goodness, led to serious situations). I’ve experienced being lectured in Chinese about how to get to Taipei’s Gongguan station (because I thought the bus will pass by there). Also, the not-so-savory experience of finding yourself short of money and having to return the items you thought you could buy. (You had to negotiate which items you’d allow them to take back – some second-level Chinese [!])

And it’s not just the Taiwanese. I live with a number of Vietnamese here, and some of them have stayed for two or more years. As Confucianism goes, knowledge is passed from generation to generation, and that’s true of Vietnamese. Some of them tell you what to do – even if you don’t want them to tell you what to do. Well, not all, but Little Flower especially. I have had to tell him, “I KNOW!” at times, and he just remains silent. But I interpret it as concern – somewhat annoying, but not at all when it comes from the one you love.

And yes, I have sat with Vietnamese at meals, wherein I was the only non-Vietnamese person. Sometimes I listen while they drawl on with their ae‘s and their üö‘s and their uh‘s and their five-tone repertoire, and imagine myself being Vietnamese too, just deaf and dumb. But no: I’m too fat and too tall. When Miss Anh* from Huế City smiles, though, I can’t help but smile (widely) too.

There are times when I feel offended, such as when Vàng** laughed at me while speaking to me in English, about a matter that did not merit laughter, and switched to Vietnamese with the rest, still pointing at me. I really do not like him, because I feel he is a glorified gossip, but I kept the peace and checked Facebook on my phone (thank goodness for Wi-Fi).

You may have wondered why it took so long for me to post anew. The past weeks have been too busy living and learning. I discovered my desire to experience a lot of things, and made me into a whizzing daredevil, limited only by resources, but still whizzing. Right now I’m trying to swim, and I have a lot to improve upon. But this is how people should live. Alanis Morrisette said true, I guess.

My parents hate the idea of making mistakes, because they say these mistakes cost. In a way, they are right – mistakes mean that the expenditure of time and resources is wasted on practically nothing. But these are the risks of life. If we cannot make mistakes, then we better not move. This, however, is relieved by considering that every mistake (in every area) is an investment. It cannot not have value in the long run if managed properly. It might be painful or unpalatable, but (this from the stories of people who have achieved so much in life) mistakes will be worth much more than their original weight in gold (so to speak) if they are learned from and improved upon.

And this day has left me with the feeling that the investments of today and the past weeks must be managed with the sharpest wisdom.

*real name, but many people in Vietnam are named that, so good luck with the sleuthing 😀
**not real name, it means “gold”, does not reflect my feelings about him, just had to find a filler name

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