When you’re distanced from something you’ve grown so accustomed to and thrust into a new environment, it’s almost impossible not to miss what you left behind. This old adage resonated with me when I realized that, after spending 7 weeks in Taipei, Taiwan (my country of origin), I actually missed Lima, Peru the city I grew up in.
What you need to understand about me is that I never really have much to say about Peru – despite having lived here for over 17 years – besides “the weather’s relatively stable” or “oh, the food is pretty good” (seriously though , the Peruvian culinary is yum). Having lived here for so long actually made me see the country for its deficiencies: the poor education system, lack of artistic development, lousy traffic, and oh, the government… I could go on. Overall, Lima seemed blunt relative to what so many other countries offered: more developed education systems, more attractions and places to visit, better technological advances, among others.
For the first time in my life, however, I actually feel fond of Lima. Distancing myself from the place I had grown so used to allowed me to see its benefits with fresh new eyes. Here are some of the things that I really appreciate about the country that raised me:
- My house. It’s a spacious, comfy house right in front of a beautiful park. The place where I spend most of my time writing, reading, thinking, creating, working. It’s the place where I can find solace at all times. I’m grateful for this house because the land here is not as scarce as other countries (therefore, my parents were able to afford it).
- The vast, open spaces. Despite the horrible traffic congestion, during non-rush hours you can walk around peacefully, especially at parks. My district is full of them; besides the one in front of my house, there are bigger parks located at walking distances from me. Whether it’s walking, jogging, biking or skating, these parks are such a relaxing an detoxifying way to spend by myself.
- The *relatively* stable weather. It’s getting hotter in the summers and colder in the winters – like everywhere else, but besides that, the weather is pretty stable here. You don’t have to brace yourself for a sudden rainfall, whooshing wind, or any other drastic changes that force you to hide inside your house. Nope. You just have to ensure you’re wearing the appropriate clothes for the season. Comparing Peru’s weather to other countries – namely Taiwan – has helped me appreciate this.
- The simplicity. This is something that I never thought about until now. The fact that Peru doesn’t import as much things from other countries means that it doesn’t really have much to feed consumerism. This means that we’re forced to lead a relatively minimalist lifestyle, which is essentially healthier than being indulgent. Though this is frustrating for someone who loves to hoard things such as stationery, it allows me to resort to other means. I rarely buy online, as shipping costs are expensive (and shopping online is always dangerous), so that helps too.
- A lack of something isn’t necessary bad. The generally poor education system has made me question. over and over again, the validity of the education systems worldwide. The generally ‘relaxed’ atmosphere in Peru has given me ample of time to think and ponder about the way we live. Though living in a more developed country would give me more accessibility and perhaps more opportunities, living in Peru has taught me to get what I want myself. Feeling like there’s a ‘lack’ of things has taught me to ponder about what I can do with what I do have. After all, in the modern world we don’t need to be at one place to get the job done. We can get the job done anywhere – as long as we’re willing to.
Thinking about this post has made me realize that, even though I would most likely choose to live in Peru over Taiwan (if I had to choose between the two), there are definitely things that I will miss from my birth place Taipei that I never noticed when I was younger:
- Living with a big family. I have grown up living with just my parents and my brother, at most (in the last few years, it’s been mostly just my mom and I). Coming back to Taiwan and being in constant companion of my family has helped me understand the functions of a family and be more empathetic, as I’m surrounded by people of all ages (even including my insufferable 4-year-old cousin).
- Using public transportation everywhere. It’s so convenient here in Taiwan. I can bike (easily rent one anywhere), use the bus, metro and walk around to get me pretty much anywhere. It’s cheap, more environmentally friendly, and favorable as Taiwan is just a tiny island.
- The relatively safe atmosphere. Like every country, there are some dangerous districts to avoid; but, generally, I can conveniently go anywhere without worrying too much about my safety. And as someone raised by Asian parents, safety concerns are the first thing I notice when I step into a country.
- The food. Oh, yum. I have more of a Western palate, but the food in Taiwan is really good. Whether it’s eating at home, restaurants or the night market street foods, you can always find delicious appetizers and drinks anywhere you go.
- The beautiful mountains. This is by far my favorite place. Though the weather gets really violent and bipolar up there, the fresh air and scenery is so worth the hike. The mountains are pretty much the only places in Taiwan where you’ll find nothing more than landscapes (unharmed by human touch), so it’s very refreshing every time you get up there.
This is why traveling is so good for us. The moment you step into a foreign country (even if you have been there before), you are subjecting yourself to new experiences that will stay within you; and through these experiences, you will get to know the world around you, and yourself, a bit better.