February 2011 | Taoyuan, Taiwan
All the excitement and trepidation of day zero on a five-month semester abroad.
I knew that once I boarded the plane to Taiwan, I would be fine.
This despite all the pre-trip anxiety and paranoia that I’d leave out something essential in my luggage, or bungle the application for a visa and be stranded in Singapore while the flight took off without me. And so, heart palpitating just a bit faster than usual, clutching my passport and boarding pass tightly in my right hand (It would not do to have come this far only to drop my boarding pass on the searing cement ground), I strode across the tarmac at Changi Airport’s unceremonious budget terminal, in the characteristic tropical midday heat that I would soon come to miss.
Four hours in the air passed without event. Pillowy marshmallow clouds that laced a powder blue sky gave way to a brilliant sunset, and then the inky blackness of night.
Stepping onto the air bridge that led to Taoyuan International Airport I tentatively brushed my fingers against the glass pane. It was chilly to the touch – not unbearably so, but enough to make me wrap my blazer tighter around me, and sink my fingers deep into it’s pockets.
Airports are clean, sterile places – multilingual signs, taxi drivers speaking what halting english they know, to ease a foreign face into an distant land. But when we stepped outside into the night all illusions of familiarity promptly ended when the cold cut through our jackets and bit into our bones.
But more than that, the night air seemed to be beckoning our little party of six into a new land, into its fold. Winding its icy fingers around our wrists, coaxing us along its way. Holding so much promise, if only we could adapt.
So we sped off, huddled tightly in an eight-seater van, heaving backpacks propped up on our laps, speeding down highways to the hotel which we would spend the night. And I suppose it was then that it began to slowly sink in for us, one by one, that this was the start of something new.