Time is an interesting construct. It can seem to drag for eternity (and what is eternity?) or it can zoom by before you have a chance to realize that it happened at all. Long time or short time. Is six months a long time? I swear, I was drinking hot chocolate in Grovers Mill Coffee House on a rainy Sunday morning with some of my best friends just yesterday. But since then I’ve taught hundreds of students English in a small school, climbed the Great Wall, spent weeks sweating through my shirts, ate real kimchi in Seoul, completed an entire semester’s worth of schoolwork, snorkeled in the Pacific Ocean, sang karaoke, learned a new city.
And is it really a week into January already? Then how come every minute seems to stretch on and on…will it ever be Tuesday? Six months now.
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In anthropology, we can talk about monochronic and polychronic peoples (shout out to Edward T. Hall!). As Americans–those without too much extra-cultural influence, anyway–we are severely monochronic. We do one thing at a time, are regulated by schedules and to-do lists, value promptness, and are accustomed to short term relationships. Time is a linear, one-way street. Polychronic people, on the other hand, do many things at once, are highly distractible and subject to interruptions, change plans often and easily, and build lifetime relationships. Time moves round and round, a circle or a squiggly path.
Of course, nobody fits perfectly into either of those formulations. However, by moving between cultures, this is something I’ve had to–and many travelers have had to– reconcile time and time again. And maybe it is because my monochronic tendencies are doing a dance with some polychronic fledglings, passing instances in life are all becoming very acute to me.
So, in the spirit of polychrony I am not going to make a “to do” list of new year resolutions. But, at the same time, it can’t hurt to set some new goals and refresh some old ones. My primary goal for the remainder of the year is to really improve my Chinese language abilities. It has been a lot more difficult than I anticipated and, with some greater self-discipline, I think I can really stand to better myself in this way. Second, I am going to strive to be a better friend–not only to those I have here in Taipei, but also to my closest ones I have back home (and this includes family as well). As I travel, I realize how significant relationships truly are. No matter how far I go–and honestly, I don’t think I can go much farther than this–I rely tremendously upon the relationships I have to keep me sane and to keep me motivated and to provide me with reason to do what I am doing.
And, finally, my last goal is perhaps something more pertinent to you, dear reader. As I said before, time is a funny thing. It’s gone before you know it; replaced only by a memory that is subject to fade. I will strive to record these instances more consistently and as they happen on this blog. If it helps, I will try to think of myself as a travel writer like my idols in National Geographic or those really helpful dudes who write for Lonely Planet.
For the next few days I will be putting this blog on rewind and will be posting multiple entries about various experiences I have had during the past month. This includes points of destination, Taipei travel guides (ie: tourist traps, restaurants, etc.), events, cultural oddities and so forth. All this before I am spit-wadded back to the good ‘ole US of A next week (no worries, Taipei is back on the agenda beginning February 15th). Oh, and how’s this for a time warp? I leave Tokyo, Japan at 3pm and arrive in NYC at 2pm the same day. Yes, folks, time travel is possible.
And with that, I have to run to lunch! Time’s a’wasting!
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