Tuesday, October 11, 2011

好久不見!I've been in Taiwan since June - that's over four months now! Most of you probably know how and why I ended up here, but here's a brief recap for those who don't...

After traveling by train from Holland through Russia and Mongolia, I arrived in Beijing December 23rd, and have been in the so called 'Sinosphere' ever since. I really enjoyed my time in China, and it's made me want to learn more Chinese. But since they use simplified characters over there, I decided to come to Taiwan and learn the traditional ones. After some research and asking around, I signed up to study at Tunghai University (東海大學) in Taichung (台中), Taiwan's 3rd biggest city. I got here in the middle of summer, so dealing with the heat humidity has been a challenge to say the least! Though it's been a blessing in disguise; the heat forces me to stay inside for most of the day, allowing me to focus on my studies. That's a first for me, too - I never did study very hard when I was younger...

(Taichung's most famous landmark - the chapel at Tunghai University. It's supposed to represent two hands folded in prayer. What's also remarkable about its design is that it doesn't use any support pillars. Whether by strength of design, or by the grace of God, it has since survived many of Taiwan's frequent earthquakes)

When the 2-month summer semester ended in August I went back to Holland for a few weeks. I was happy to see my family again. My grandparents also happened to be celebrating their 50th anniversary on September 4th, and it was nice be back for that.

(Almost the entire family was present at my grandparent's 50 anniversary celebration. Some even flew out from Australia to be there!)

My good friend Mark came out and played a few songs with me at the party. Mark is a great musician in his own right, and spread a lot of good vibes that day playing soprano saxophone.

The next day my sister shot some film of us playing a few tunes. A few days ago I subtitled the first one, and put it up on Youtube. It's called 'No season is too much'

It's a song I wrote a few years ago when I was in India. Like a lot of my songs, it's based on a Chinese Zen poem. In this case one from the Wumenkai (無門開) that sort of goes like this:


Hundreds of flowers in the spring, the moon in the autumn,
A cool breeze in summer; and snow in winter;
If your mind is not clouded by unnecessary things
No season is too much for you

Besides the music lots more happened when I was back in Holland. I caught up with a couple of old friends (though not all of them, unfortunately) and visited some places I'd never been before. I felt like a tourist in my own country, seeing all these things for the very first time! I also found some new perspective on my connection to this land.

(Typical Dutch picture taken on a beautiful day at the 'Zaansche Schans' - it's one of those places all the tourists visit but the locals never see... or at least I never have! I'm glad my friend took me to see this place though, because it turned out to be among the highlights of my trip to Holland)

I've been back to Holland from time to time since I left to travel the world in 2005/2006, but for some reason this time was special. Visiting for such a short time opened up the door to experience things in a different light. It felt like I was on the outside looking in - not really actively participating in Dutch society, but sort of just passing through, quietly observing. Here I was, speaking the same language, yet it was as though I was coming from a different culture. I have often felt that way, coming from a small town in the southwest of Holland, quite a ways from the big cities. The culture that raised me was that of the sea, the clouds, the sand and the dunes. It was small town, countryside. There was always enough, but never more than you needed. These things taught me how to keep my cup empty, to always have some space left to learn. I don't think I realized all of this growing up, but in retrospect it seems to have been a big influence.

This short trip back to Holland has made me grateful for where I come from, and has helped me make some peace with a land where I was born but never felt at home. I still don't, but now it doesn't really matter anymore. I realize that 'home' isn't some place you find outside of yourself. 'Home' is where you feel at home, and you can only find that inside your own heart.

(the sea, the clouds, the sand and the dunes)