Visit and learn from this place

ry=480Explain why you would like to go there and what you would expect to find and learn.

By Hector Caceres

Written 8/22/16

When faced with the conundrum of choosing a place to visit that I have never experienced before, the options seem potentially limitless. Had I the resources and the ability, I could venture out into the stars in the sky and spend millennia scouring the universe for foreign planets. But the reality is that my travel interests are a bit more grounded. I would set my sights on the Earth. Granted, this place is large and wonderful, and there are thousands of interesting locales in our world inhabited by billions of people. The choices of places to visit in this hemisphere alone are staggering. However, I turn my attention to a very specific place in the far east that until a few years I knew very little about. That place is Taiwan.

I met my wife for the first time over 4 years ago, back when she was not yet my wife. In getting to know her, one of the first things we spoke about were our respective hometowns. I am originally from Puerto Rico, and she hails from Taiwan. In my time getting to know her, she has had nothing but great things to say about her home country. Sometimes when introducing herself, many people misunderstood that she was Thailand so she always makes a point to correct them. She has an inherent pride in her country that I’ve never seen in anyone else.  She told me about Taipei 101, the tallest building in the country, and at one point the tallest in the world. It is used as a focal point during Chinese New Year’s as the building erupts into a flurry of light and sound. It quite literally becomes an oversized, living firework.  She told me about the wondrous forests in the mountains. There are even a few wildlife habitats that people can come visit during the hot and humid summer months. I’ve heard so much about the city, Taipei, a bustling metropolis that is constantly filled with people. It’s like Japan, she tells me, but with people who mostly speak Chinese and even some English!

After hearing all of these great things about Taiwan, I decided that one day I would like to go and see what she spoke so highly about. In the past, she made it a habit to travel once a year with help from her relatives. Unfortunately, it has been over 3 years since her last trip, and she is a little homesick. Since we got together, we decided to focus on life, on work, on getting married, and purchasing a home… Let’s just say it has been difficult to plan a trip. I would like to go to Taiwan for myself, but I would also like to go to see my wife happy again. She tells me so much about her country, and it’s almost as if every day I learn something new about Taiwan and its inhabitants.

As I mentioned earlier, my family is originally from Puerto Rico. Throughout my life I have had several opportunities to visit my extended family on the island. Before my wife and I got married, we got the chance to visit my family in Puerto Rico which allowed me to introduce her personally to the island of my ancestors. The relative proximity of our house in Georgia made this trip much more feasible and the timing of the trip occurred during a lull in both of our careers. While we were vacationing, she made a point to mention that she loved the food at practically every place we ate. Also, the weather in Puerto Rico reminded her of Taiwan because of the island’s relative locations to the equator in their respective hemispheres. As a result, she found the weather in Puerto Rico to be very agreeable and it pleasantly reminded her of home.

One of the neater things she got to see in Puerto Rico is a tiny animal native to the island. It’s so unique in fact that it has become the mascot for the island and a symbol of its identity. It is known as the “coqui”. The coqui is a tiny green or light brown tree frog. They’re really easy to identify by their distinct call. Every time it rains, the coqui come out of their hiding places and they sing a very peculiar song. It’s a high pitched squeal which is similar to the sound of its name: “COKE- EE!” The tree frog can only be found in Puerto Rico. It is literally unable to thrive anywhere else. If you take the frog away from Puerto Rico, it will eventually die.  Several attempts have been made in the past by scientists and zoologists to remove the frog from its natural habitat, but it cannot survive for very long outside of the confines of the island.  It almost sounds like an urban legend, but I assure you that its very true. The climate of the island is especially well suited for the frog. It’s interesting because many native Puerto Ricans have assimilated this quality of the coqui and installed this same sense of metaphorical pride wherein they pledge to never leave the island for fear of not being able to survive away from home.

I tell you the story of the coqui because when I listen to my wife describe her homeland, I envision her as a tiny Taiwanese coqui. That isn’t to say I see her like a frog, but I see her as a creature that longs desperately to be back in its natural habitat. So much so that it could die. She misses her homeland but she tries not to make it too obvious and it makes me feel for her. But when she talks about Taiwan, it’s like I can hear her singing from her heart. It isn’t for lack of trying because we have been trying hard to plan a trip for several years, but somehow things have never worked out. Timing, shifting of careers and lack of funds have all contributed to this sad state of affairs. One day we’ll get the chance to go together. I would expect that not only would I find new places to visit, I would find the opportunity to see my wife in her natural habitat. If I could, I would visit Taiwan right now. I want to go not only for myself, but also for my wife.

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