1.15.2015

vassar girls abroad

Claudia and Danielle. Taipei, 1971
Learning another language and going to another country—the more exotic the better—can transform you. You probably have to be at an impressionable age, say between 18 and 25, when you don't  know exactly who you are yet as distinct from your family and culture. (There is a very funny article in the Onion about this called Search For Self Called Off After 38 Years.)
    You could be in the military or doing the Grand Tour or maybe just studying during a junior year abroad. I have friends whose lives were utterly changed—the woman who became a Tibetan Buddhist in Nepal and later adopted two Tibetan kids, the medic who served in the Vietnam war and made death into an art form, the kid who went to Africa and came back an adrenaline-junkie journalist for whom the smell of shit, petrol fumes and cooksmoke would always be perfume.
   I was studying Chinese in Taiwan, and my Vassar friend Danielle was visiting her parents, who were stationed there in the U.S. Foreign Service. I am not sure what effect it has to actually grow up trotting all around the globe as Danielle did—you'd have to ask her—but for me that six months abroad changed my brain. Along with taking acid and having a child, living in another language made me a different person. (No, I still haven't found myself either. Let me know if you run across me someplace.) It also gave me a serious case of wanderlust and a lifelong friend, Ping, who was a girl of my age in the family I stayed with in Taipei.
    Full circle, Danielle's daughter who is learning Chinese and working in Beijing is visiting Taipei. She will be staying in Ping's apartment. The apartment, like Taipei itself, has been transformed in the four decades since Ping, Danielle and I connected there—and so have we—but the process continues.

 

9 comments :

Dianne said...

I'm still waiting for the book...

Claudia said...

Well, there's a lot more than what you saw, Dianne. Butdoing this damn blog takes a hunk out of my work day!

DaDa said...

I think perhaps it's affect not effect, but I could be wrong, as I am typing this without fully thinking it through as usual.

DaDa said...

I take it back.

otra rubia said...

Same great gams. They haven't changed at all

Kate Knapp Artist Blog said...

I like your skirt...such a little cutie

Claudia said...

Oh yes. The skirt and blouse I sewed myself. By hand, not machine.

Anonymous said...

The photo was taken before you discovered beer?

Claudia said...

I was into psychedelics at that time. Though not in Taiwan!