Its only competition being the tumultuous New Student Orientation Week, I returned home just in time for possibly the most eventful, chaotic and memorable week of college, “senior week” as it is called and graduation time. Starting with Llamapalooza, CC’s annual spring music festival that the entire school fantasizes about all year long which happened to start about 12-hours after my return, followed by days of soaking up time with all of the people that have been such influential and important parts of my life for 4 years that are redistributing themselves around the country (and world for that matter), having critical last minute meetings about my thesis, the incredibly over-stimulating graduation schedule full of thank you’s, goodbye’s, and plenty of glasses of champagne… not to mention my seemingly incessant daze caused by jetlag and lack of sleep that was unmatched by the activities set out for all of us soon-to-be-graduates who were willing to consume ourselves with just about anything that would take our mind off the inner-freight and anxiety about leaving college-life and being thrown full-force into the scary real-world. To say it plainly, I was immediately consumed in the vortex of the most exaggerated form of life at Colorado College, leaving me dumbfounded as to how to reconcile my experience in Taiwan and be present in my life back home during such an indispensible time. It seems it has taken me until now, a whole month later, to have both the time and concentration to sit down and write, and I suppose to have even digested the experience enough to write about it coherently.
The trip turned out to be quite an adventure, with very dichotomous extremes of highs and lows. Ultimately, it ended on a very good note and I very much appreciate my experience there. The time was in a sense two different trips, which even a half-a-world away mirrored the life of the CC block plan, split into very distinct 3 ½ week “intellectual adventures” as they call them. I would more call them “unique 3 ½ week psychological, cultural, interpersonal and intellectual adventures,” but that’s probably too wordy (and heady) to advertise to prospective students and donors on the brochures…
The first three weeks (7th block) were some of the hardest of my life, challenging so much of the reality that I thought I knew— I call it my “Murphy’s Law and Madison learns self-preservation techniques” block. At times I was convinced I could not make it, that I had over-committed myself, that I was not strong enough personally to handle the web of unanticipated hurdles, that the last $100 to my name was not going to stretch far enough, and that my immune system (particularly digestive system) was too delicate for the highly glutinous and soy-soaked cuisine. I came out of it though with some very valuable self-engineered methods to promote my own survival and happiness, as well as some new travel “do’s” and “don’t” (don’t mostly), a decent start on the research, design, and implementation of my thesis, and oddly had grown accustom to my bug-bitten body and anomalous food digestion (of which happened to be a parasite, Giardia, I discovered a week after my return home after surprisingly having no relief after I restored my meticulous gluten, dairy and soy free diet).
The last three weeks (8th block) were absurdly busy, but in a different way than the typical CC senior back home— taking their last class pass/fail (or not in one at all) and panicking about the future, yet numbing the thought of it by partying to each night’s different themed gathering as outlined on the 8th block Senior Calendar. Rather, I call it the “Mastering the (my) World Many Things at a Time” block. I think I felt more accomplished on my last day in Taiwan, when I turned in my final paper, did a presentation on the Dance and Disable Project, and submitted my 37-page thesis all in the same day, than I did the day I graduated college!
During the last three weeks, many things changed. For one, the sun came out… which after almost a month of clouded disarray made the world of difference. Having previously contemplated the progressive hubs like Seattle, WA or Portland, OR after graduation, I now know that being a Colorado native I can never live long-term somewhere that doesn’t see the sun at LEAST every 3 days! Having the other 23 students around transformed our involuntary isolation we felt at the beginning into a need to, at times, voluntarily seclude ourselves from the rambunctious bunch of foreigners. It provided us with a variety of fresh perspectives. Visiting museums, reading and writing, accepting guidance about food and activities, and people to help resolve the language barrier, gave us the opportunity to experience traditional culture in ways that we didn’t the first half of the trip… not to mention I got to study Kung-Fu, Calligraphy and Tai-Chi, which particularly Tai Chi, remain on my “Top 10 Things I Learned in Asia” list.
The Dance and Disable project, the most unifying part of the trip, actually turned out to be one of the most significant and life-changing experiences I believe I will ever encounter. Being so ripe in the present, it has been difficult to reflect on the experience in a well-articulated way. What I do know however is that forming cross-cultural relationships, developing creative and authentic means of communication in the lack-there-of conventional verbal language, participating in a social-welfare program, and integrating movement and meditation of my own western-raised heritage into a small community within a larger culture that itself is so centered on the philosophical beliefs of social concern, spirituality, community and personal well-being generated an unmatched experience. It solidified my belief in the healing potential of movement, touch, and creative expression, as well as illuminated the direction that I would like to take my life as an artist, educator, and conscious citizen. I can’t imagine it to have been better, for anyone involved.
So what next? Well, besides working at the front desk at CC for the summer, living with the parentals and taking a breath from the crazy journey of my CC career that accelerated on until the very end, I am working alongside the local Parkinson’s Disease group that my stepmother, Amy, is part of that participates in ‘Movement and Music’ and ‘Water Tai-Chi’ classes to help their condition. It is truly astonishing and has been the best part of being home so far. As I hope to be a part of continuing and expanding the program, my time in Taiwan gave me not only experience and a heightened passion for the field, but the confidence in my ability to take on such a project. Although I do not see myself staying in the Springs much past the summer, I would like to invest myself in being part of introducing the initiative to wherever it is that I go, which is yes… still TBA 🙂
For now, I am finally beginning to connect the dots between my time at Colorado College, my unique expeditions abroad, my unconventional upbringing, and my future aspirations. My hope is that if I continue to surround myself with people and pursuits that both enhance my well-being and that of the world around me, that I’ll end up somewhere good. I suppose that’s all I can ask for— so for now, I’ll end this blogging endeavor with a genuine thanks all of the wonderful people I know who were part of my life before, during and since this adventure (especially those who made it this far in reading my slightly scattered, sporadic, and often incredibly cheesy blog). THANK YOU!
Oh and I’ll also leave you with the inspirational quote-of-the-day I had e-mailed to me yesterday that so appropriately articulates the challenge and enlightenment I experienced in Taiwan….
“A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery, even on a detour.”