Anais, Taiwan

It’s been almost three years since I moved to Taipei. I’m French. I spent 6 years in Japan before landing in Taiwan, this beautiful island full of color and life. This is, without a doubt, the best place to be in during the pandemic. Although it feels like being in a golden cage. It’s like having this beautiful and safe place, where everything is running as normal. We keep gathering, dancing, hiking and sharing as we used to, and still, we are stuck.

I remember feeling scared when all of this started. There was a point where doctors were overbooked and at the top of their capacity, that they stopped receiving patients. So, even though you had some symptoms of Covid-19, they wouldn’t receive you. Not even for a test. At that time my dad got sick, so I felt very scared. Luckily, he got better. He is okay right now. Also, I was in Indonesia when the pandemic kicked off, and I was freaking out because the flights kept getting cancelled. I went to the airport almost 13 hours before my flight and I remember seeing how they were cancelling every flight. But mine is not. So, I don’t feel the right to complain or to feel sad. I haven’t really been affected, and I’ve been truly lucky.

In Paris the situation is really unstable. They keep opening and closing shops, restaurants and bars. It’s complicated because there are a bunch of angry people that don't want to follow the rules. But it has always been like this. Western countries are really individualistic. We are raised as a person and not as a community, and that’s why it’s complicated for these people to understand some things such as the importance of wearing a mask: they claim it is their right not to wear a mask, but no, it’s everyone’s right to be healthy. That’s why we are supposed to wear a mask, to not spread the disease.

The last time I was home was two years ago. My family is from the south of France. I was born by the Mediterranean Sea near the border of Spain. At 18 I moved to Paris. All my friends and family are there now. I miss it. There are so many beautiful things to do and see but living there is so much stress.

Especially as a woman. Now that I’ve been away, I cannot imagine myself living there again. I would feel unsafe. There is too much aggression. You could be walking down the street, get catcalled, and it doesn’t matter if you react, or you ignore them, they are going to react to both. If you pass by, they will get aggressive “I’m talking to you bitch”. And if you react, then you are a whore. It’s my right to dress how I want and go where I like to at night, and I stand up for that right. I dress how I like and go out at night, but to hold to that statement was so stressful. I needed to be careful everywhere all the time. I ended up living in a constant state of fear. Here in Taiwan it is different, it’s safe, and this feeling of safety should be normal everywhere. It should be normal to live without fear.

Like a lot of people I know, I found out that putting my travels to standstill has been the biggest challenge for me. Ever since I was a child my goal in life and my dream was to travel. So, as I grew up, I started to base my life on that goal. It was through traveling that I grew and that I opened up. Then, all of a sudden, no more travel plans. I had to find new ways to learn and grow. And although I found some, a big part of me still feels like I am just waiting, going through the weeks, until I can go to an unknown place again, and see, listen and understand with new eyes.

I started hiking a lot. It helps me to keep on track. But it’s been too long now. My mom is not doing well emotionally, and I can’t support her as I would like to. My mom and I are really close, and I feel very lucky to have her. She has always been very respectful and supportive. She has never put any kind of pressure on me, and I know she wants me to have everything she couldn’t have when she was young. But, as I grew older, I started to realize how hard it has been for her to let us go. I left when I was 18 and my brother lives in the USA. My other brother lives nearby so he is the only one who visits her more often. But neither of us is married or has kids, and we are very far away. I can just imagine how much she has sacrificed for us. Now she is getting older, and perhaps lonelier.

It’s been getting harder, because there are so many people that I can’t support, and I’m afraid some of them may just break down. The parents of one of my closest friends got infected. He had to go back to the US. His father died. When he came back, he was broken, and he still is coping with that pain. He was in California, which was a risky area, so we decided to gather with social distance. I felt horrible. I didn’t know how to cheer him up, and on top of that, we couldn’t even get close. I started crying. I cried for hours. I think that has been the only confrontation I had with covid, but it was very intense and emotional.

Throughout this process, I’ve learned how fragile the apparent (and relative) stability of our modern world is. Although some parts of the world have been touched by wars and disasters, this is the first time since I was born that I see the whole world fall apart in so many ways.

Lately I’ve been working a lot on myself. I’ve learned to spend time alone, to be more patient and to handle my emotions better. I’ve also been learning how to accept things more easily. It has always been very hard for me to just accept them and let them go, but sometimes it is necessary. However hard it can be, we need to learn how to lose control, how to let things go. We can certainly make decisions that will shape our life, but our life will never be completely ours.

Ever since I arrived in Taiwan, and even more since the pandemic, I’ve been working on staying away from toxic people and environments, and focusing my energy on positive thinking and self-improvement instead of draining myself dealing with negative situations. Keeping myself healthy is my priority now, and, as I get older, I know my limits better.

When the pandemic is over, I’ll visit my family, check on them, and listen to all these things that they haven’t been able to share. Then, I want to go to a country such as Nepal, or maybe somewhere in South America, somewhere where I can hike. I want to be in nature for as long as possible, push my limits, and come back with a pure, clean energy to learn how to live in this new post-pandemic era.