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Looking Back at 2014, Looking Forward to 2015

I’m writing this post in my home in Sicily. I have no running water, and electricity comes and goes. An unusual way to end an unusual year. 

Sicily is often associated with sunny, warm weather. But this winter is different. There was a snowstorm yesterday, and now all streets of my small hometown are covered in white. Unfortunately, this island is not accustomed to snow. Even in countries like Germany, snow can cause disruptions, but here it’s a real disaster. Yesterday evening there was suddenly no running water. We thought a pipe was broken. But then we realised all our neighbours had no water, either. This morning we called a technician, and he explained to us that the water in the pipe had frozen. That’s because the pipes are built outside and not inside the walls. Anyway, now I have to write quickly, I must go and see if there are candles (!) in case electricity fails again … 

2014 was a strange year. My father got sick and I spent six months in Italy. It was a difficult time. Then I went back to Taiwan and spent a few months in Taipei and a few weeks in Hong Kong. 

As some people who read this blog may have noticed, I have become quite disillusioned with Taiwan, and 2014 has reinforced this feeling. Although my blog started as a personal virtual space where I could write about my life in Asia (hence the title, which I now don’t like and would like to change), I have actually written very little about it. That’s because I didn’t want to offend people by portraying Taiwan in a negative light.

Obviously, every person has subjective experiences and opinions. When you write about them and people read them, however, you disseminate views that might disturb others. Moreover, so many people are involved in my ‘stories’ about Taiwan, and I prefer not to talk about them. Actually, 99% of what I have experienced in Taiwan has never been mentioned on this blog. 

I have met so many people and done so many things, I have a ‘baggage’ of memories from two years of my life. Unfortunately, many of them have not been very positive, on the personal level, I mean. This is a topic that I will have to address, sooner or later. I have talked about it sporadically, but never systematically. I am reluctant to rant about my subjectively negative experiences. I did it from time to time, like when I wrote about Guanghua electronics market in Taipei. As a rule, such posts raise controversies; annoying and empty controversies, I might add, in which others try to convince me that I have no right to have a subjective point of view or to express it. Such criticism is a waste of time and energy, but every blogger has to deal with it. 

In 2014 I have realised how much I like Hong Kong (I’d say, I love Hong Kong). Every time I go there, it is magic. It is one of the few places where I feel ‘at home’. It’s the same feeling I had when I went to Berlin for the first time. That city drew me like a magnet. When I finally managed to move there, I discovered its ups and downs. However, the ‘downs’ were nothing compared to the ‘ups’. I loved Berlin from the first to the last day I spent there. 

Perhaps, I could find a way to spend more time in Hong Kong, maybe a few months. If there was this chance, I’d be very happy. But, realistically, it could be difficult. You can’t run away from your real home forever. I, too, have my own responsibility. Not only towards my own family, but also towards Europe, which I call my home. It’s easy to desert the ship in the hour of need. But we are called on to make sacrifices and try to solve the problems of the present, so that the next generations may live in a better place than the one we are living in now. 

Despite some negative experiences, though, I had a lot of fun in 2014. In Taiwan it was more of an ‘intellectual’ kind of fun. I read some interesting books, explored the history and architecture of Taipei. It is – in my opinion – impossible to ‘know’ a country. But perhaps it is possible to know a city. By focusing on Taipei, I think I have, at least, become a little bit familiar with its history, its buildings, and its streets. 

In Hong Kong, I met a lot of great people. I spent a lot of time in a hostel there. Last year I had rented a flat, but this year I chose not to do so, and this choice payed off. It was a cramped hostel, eight people in one room. One might think it would be impossible to stay there for a long time. But I enjoyed every moment of it. I met so many travellers from all over the world, most of them coming to Hong Kong to get a visa for mainland China; but I also met backpackers and some mainland Chinese tourists. It was great. But even if I had met no one – just walking in Hong Kong, seeing the skyline, the crowds, the buildings, made me feel happy. 

Next year, if everything goes as planned, I will go back to Beijing for a few days. Mainland China is one of the places where I wish I could spend some time in 2015. But it seems unlikely. If there weren’t so many restrictions on freedom of speech, I would have gone long ago. The libraries don’t have the books I need. My blog is blocked (as are all Google websites, I believe). The internet is a catastrophe. Yes, you can use VPNs to circumvent censorship, but it still annoying and I’m not sure if it’s illegal or if you could get into trouble. By the way, the very idea of having to use a VPN to avoid internet restrictions angers me. 

2014 was a year full of trials and disappointments, but also of great moments and experiences. All in all, I feel privileged I had the chance to do so many things, live in wonderful places, learn something every day, and meet amazing people. 

I would like to thank my family and my friends for all their support, warmth and kindness, and I wish them, and all of the people who have visited this small blog, a happy and successful 2015!


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