2020 was certainly a unique year. The lockdown has impacted schools, activities, performances, etc. In many ways, it suddenly put an emergency brake on life and we didn’t know when life would return to normalcy. With my dad working as an ER Doctor, the pressure of him potentially getting infected by COVID was immense and scary and it felt like a roller coaster ride. For a long time and even now, dad has to strip everything down after coming back from work and sanitize himself in the guest bedroom before he joins us in the main house.
But before we could enjoy full freedom, 14 days of strict quarantine was mandatory for everyone who traveled from overseas. The strict quarantine required we not leave our quarantine place at all or we would receive up to a 30,000 USD fine. My mom booked an Airbnb and our days were spent on movies, deciding on all the good food to eat, some academic and music work, exercise, opening the door and watching pedestrians walk by. Overall, even though we could not leave the place during those 14 days, it was quite an interesting experience. When we finally sat in a restaurant packed with people after being reunited with my grandparents, it was a bit weird at first as we had not eaten in restaurants for a few months and seeing so many people without distancing was kind of weird but made the quarantine all worth it.
During our stay, we traveled a bit around the island. I was able to go scuba diving and spent a night sleeping with penguins in the aquarium, met my friends who used to be our neighbors in Shanghai. We even watched Tenet and Mulan in the movie theater with popcorn and drinks. All of these activities seemed normal and we enjoyed them so much during the un-normal times. We stayed in Taiwan for almost three months and we enjoyed the freedom people collectively achieved.
As a violinist of the Santa Fe Youth Symphony Orchestra, I was able to have in person lessons with a master teacher and we even attended the National Taiwan Youth Symphony summer festival concert conducted by Maestro Mei Ann Chen. Maestro Chen completed a double major in conducting and violin performance, an inspiration to me. She made her place in the US classical music industry and as a music director to Chicago Sinfonietta and guest conductor for Carnegie Hall Youth Orchestra too. We discovered she was originally from the southern part of Taiwan, where my mom was also from. Being able to attend a real-time, in person concert performed by young musicians just like myself and conducted by someone I consider a mentor was a highlight for me! Just a week ago, we were happy to find out that Maestro Chen will be coming to Santa Fe in November and will be conducting Pro Musica’s 40th anniversary celebration. What a small world!
Well, it looks like our life is slowly coming back to normal with the full reentry of school starting this week, which is a wonderful thing. But summer activities still seem limited in the US, so next month, I will head back to Taiwan, repeat the 14 days quarantine, and spend my summer there. I am looking forward to playing music again with my friends in the SFYSA Youth Symphony Orchestra this fall!