When Jerry Ho arrived in Holland, it was early August. A beautiful season in Holland. Or to be exact, the only good season here.

“Dutch weather is like a woman. She changes her mind every  two seconds,” Ian once told him.

The early summer is the best time in Europe. To a Taiwanese boy who left his country for the first time, it’s almost like starring in an Italian movie. A beautiful one. The first time he took a trip abroad. The first time on his own, all by himself.

It all started with a fight between his parents. Not that kind of bloodshed and tears, just a typical dinner scene that can happen in any Taiwanese family.

One night they were having dinner, his mother cooking in the kitchen and him watching news on TV with his father in the living room.

“Those fucking idiots. DPP is all nuts. Who do they think they are? They surely think they are the only real Taiwanese voice,” his father shouted at the screen. Just like most middle-aged men in Taiwan, Jerry’s dad loved (or hated) politics.

“Nonsense! They all do it for the sake of Taiwan. Look at Ma Ying-jeou's stupid trade agreement with China. Surely he thinks China is the best country and we should become part of it. He doesn’t love Taiwan AT ALL!” his mother apparently overheard it and now shouted at his father.

“Oh yeah? So you're saying we should welcome Chen Shui-bian back to the Presidential Office so he can transfer more money to his Swiss accounts?” his dad was getting louder now.

During the last presidential election, there was a big scene between them, too. Before long, his parents found out they voted for different candidates. (Not exactly the most difficult task in the world --his dad always supported KMT, the Nationalist Party, while his mom was a faithful follower of DPP, the Democratic Progressive Party.) They almost  got a divorce.

Jerry didn’t really care. Needless to say, it’s not the first time he saw it. And it wouldn't be the last time.

The next day, Jerry saw the student exchange program on a bulletin board and decided to give it a try. Not that he really wanted to improve his English or anything. He just wanted to get away from all this. He didn’t even care where he would end up--the US, Australia, Japan, Thailand. He filled all the spaces on the list, only hoping to get out of this tiny, crowded island. To the far, far away. Wherever it was.

When he knew he was admitted to a sister school in the Netherlands, his first thought was one of confusion rather than excitement. Where is the Netherlands?

He looked it up on Wikipedia. Soon he learned that technically Holland is only part of the country officially called the Netherlands, though most of its major cities and businesses are concentrated in the region of Holland. To his surprise, the Netherlands is only slightly bigger than Taiwan.

So be it, he thought to himself.

He also noticed that this school was quite close to Amsterdam, a European city most people associate with the red-light district and marijuana.

Jerry was not from a rich family. Not that they were poor, but they were just not one of those who took their kids abroad on vacation every summer, or eventually moved to the US or Canada.

After some rough calculation, he realized that one year’s stay in Europe was going to cost them a whole year’s family income (given that ey don’t eat anything, buy anything, or pay any tax, that is). He started to feel guilty.

The night he decided to give up this stupid escape plan, his mom talked to her sister who lived in the southern part of Taiwan.

“Don’t you worry about money. Your aunt will lend us 500,000 NT. Nothing is more important than education. You don’t have to worry about it,” his mom told him.

500,000 NT. That’s more than 15,000 US dollars. 500,000 NT sounded very surreal to him. His savings had rarely exceeded 10,000 NT, if at all.

When he finally arrived at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, after transferring in Bangkok, it all seemed like a dream to him.

“Why did you come here?” the immigration officer asked him.

Why did I come here? The question almost hit him like a solid rock. Then he remembered he came here as a student. He was going to spend one year in this foreign continent, away from home.

“I’m exchange student. I go Leiden University,” Jerry tried to reply with the best English sentences he could manage.

The officer, a tall, blond Dutch man smiled and instantly stamped on his passport.

“Welcome to Nederland,” the officer blinked at him.

創作者 AveryTaiwan 的頭像

Avery's Vida Loca Avery的異想世界

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  • Ellen
  • I'm wondering... the boy Jerry in this story is you? :-P
  • I'm sure most English dictionaries can tell you the definition of "fiction."

    AveryTaiwan 於 2010/07/20 05:28 回覆

  • Ellen
  • Thanks for emphasizing that, I see. :)