The last time I decided to put myself through the joy of having homework was a bit more than a year ago when I freshly arrived in Ecuador without knowing a single word of Spanish. I became aware quite fast that Duolingo was cool enough to have conversations about a cat drinking milk – el gato bebe leche-, but it wouldn’t help me that much to ask for directions, and even start more intimate conversations with locals.
But what I’m interested in talking about today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, also called the Moon Festival, (中秋節 – Zhōngqiū jié) which is celebrated at the moment (September 13th 2019) all around the Chinese diaspora. This day is a holiday in Taiwan and is about mooncakes, an immortal young lady, a Jade Rabbit and barbecues!
The other night I was invited to talk about my experiences when it comes to accommodations while travelling during a workshop about alternative tourism. It was all organized by the Enjoy’In hostel, which is a project to build a social and eco-friendly hostel in Mulhouse, the city I’m now living in.
I didn’t feel very legitimate to speak right after the Mulhouse’s tourist office and other touristic related companies. What could I bring? In the end, I decided to do as I always do when it comes to talking about travel: I simply told stories.
In my solo backpacking life, my backpack is quite a recurring problem. Too heavy, too voluminous, too much of this, not enough of that, it seems that I can never pretend to drag around a perfectly balanced backpack. You know, the one that would be suitable for any season and occasion, that won’t weight too much on my shoulders when I’m hitchhiking for hours, and that would even fit as a carry-on when taking the plane so I won’t have to pay extra fees. That ideal backpack in which I could even put my travel diary with all my drawing colours, and, of course, some exciting things to read.
As for me, diving into Taiwanese stories was all about getting a better understanding of this peculiar island I chose to call home for a year (and beyond). Reading is a way to apprehend a whole new world, and in this case, it allowed me to understand the debates, the traditions, and this culture so far different from mine. Reading as a way to embrace this island’s contradictions.
Even though I’m sitting in front of my breakfast, my tea getting cold, my feet all so curled up, freezing, on the tiled floor, that’s the taste of sand coming back before anything else when I launch the Spanish app on my phone.