I’m in a car with a Taiwanese mother and daughter who do not speak English. We’re driving on roads I’ve never driven on, passing by mountains I’ve never seen. I’m eating food that, two weeks ago, I never knew existed. But these roads, these mountains, this food, is all most Taiwanese people know. It’s all they’ve ever seen, and it’s all some them will ever see.

Ninety-nine percent of the people I’ve asked tell me they’ve never been to the United States. Of those 99%, about half of them have never even left Taiwan. And they are happy. They are content with their familiar life-styles. Who am I to tell them they are “missing out” if they don’t visit the U.S.? What exactly are they lacking, if they are happy? Awareness? Maybe, but most of them do not even have the means to be aware. And by that I mean money. They are poor by U.S. standards.

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A beach In Tainan, Taiwan. A new friend took this picture without my knowledge. I stared at this photo for too long. I was taken back by how different our perspectives can be, even if we are at the same place at the same time.

I gaze out the window and I smile to myself, knowing that there are so many sources of happiness in this world, and that pure amazement is one of them. I stare out the window and I feel warm and appreciative of simple things-like the fact that I’m in a car with this mother and her daughter, who is a student in my classroom. And the fact that they are simply there, offering me awareness of another life’s course.

Frequently my surroundings stimulate a powerful realization, one that is becoming more and more apparent to me the longer I’m here: there are very few customs that can be universally defined as “good.” You can argue which customs make you happy- but they won’t please everyone. You can argue that a certain way of living is ethically good. But there will always be someone who disagrees with you. What I think I know is good and just- I will be re-evaluating, exploring, doubting for the rest of my life ( hopefully). I want to doubt. I want to reconsider. I want to welcome criticism and I want to know better so that I might be able to do better.

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13 thoughts on “Sources of Happiness are Relative

  1. Reading this article warms my heart. Taiwan, where I grew up, is a special place for me. I agree that people seem happy. I do think they travel more nowadays. Several of my friends have visited U.S. in the past. Maybe it depends on where you are and who you ask? I don’t know.. Thanks for writing this!

    1. HI Helen! That is awesome you’re from here! Ya, it might depend on the location. Where I am right now ( in Tainan and Khaosiung), everyone I’ve asked hasn’t been to the U.S. You’re very welcome and I hope everything is great with you!

  2. hello Rachelle, that sounds like a wonderful experience. you are very astute to see the human connection as communication method. based on the thoughts you presented i have no doubt you will succeed in you efforts to know better and ultimately do better! good luck.

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