It’s a question I’ve certainly asked myself lately – echoing the sentiments of that Aussie ad campaign featuring Lara Bingle, haha! The expression seems to pretty accurately and succinctly sum up my feelings as I’m beginning a period of uncertain length on a small island in the Taiwan strait in the South China Sea.
We had the opportunity to be caretakers in a hermitage here which is actually pretty exciting for us because we are supporting somebody with an excellent project, and we also have the opportunity of a quiet, peaceful life in an extremely idyllic setting. The only downside is the remoteness and loneliness (the three of us here being the only non-Taiwanese and fluent Anglophones on the island) which really hit me hard when we first got here, but now feels rather nice.
Of course, the beauty of the internet connecting me to everyone and everything at any hour of the day certainly helps to allay any feelings of missing out or isolation, but when I first got here I was helplessly floundering to fight off the tail end of a really dreadful flu which made me feel pretty vulnerable.
Fortunately, I recovered! Getting sick is definitely one of the worst parts of traveling and I have not been spared much in my time of traveling unlike Jesse who never seems to get struck down! Now our days have a bit more of a regular pattern, involving cooking, working, reading, shopping, meditating, and doing a little exploring of this beautiful island.
Cooking and shopping have of course been two of the most fun and interesting activities, trying to work out what food is available/appealing to us here, and how to cook it! When we first decided to come here we were told that the only shop was a 7 Eleven! Fortunately, that was not true – there is also a small selection of local shops featuring everything from baked goods to fruit and veggies to frozen food and strange dried/pickled/frozen foods which we don’t recognize at all. As you can imagine, everyone is very nice and rather curious about the sudden appearance of an American and Australian in their midst! But while walking or cycling around we get friendly shouts of ‘Ni hao!’ from the front patios of the small stone cottages that populate this island.
About 500 m down the road is the local airport which receives one flight a day (weather permitting) and about 1 km in the other direction is the ‘shopping centre’. The entire island is about 4 sq km, but like the rest of Taiwan, still fairly densely populated with 3,500 people. The wild life consists of mainly goats and the not-so-wild life, cats and chickens – EVERYWHERE!
Qimei really reminds me of somewhere in the English countryside, with the rambling stone walls along narrow lanes and bare branched trees at this time of year. And you can imagine it’s just like that, a small town where everyone knows each other, everyone knows what’s going on, and that to some extent is a bit immune to the rest of the world. I hope my presence is not changing that.
But you also get the feeling of what it must be like to grow up here. Isolated from the outside world to some degree, you’re torn between trying to build a vision of the future that’s where you want to go, where you fit in in the world, but also wanting to stay in the beauty, comfort and familiarity of home. But I guess that’s how I feel as well – maybe we all do!
Check out some of my amateur pictures of the gorgeous, windswept and a little bit lonely Qimei.