My name is Cheng Yang, Tan and I was born and raised in Singapore. My friends call me Cheng, or CY, after the initials of my first name. In Buenos Aires I sometimes introduce myself as Ciro, because in Spanish Y is not pronounced “why” but “I griega” and having a different name just makes things more convenient for me sometimes.
I major in Global Liberal Studies and a requirement of my major is to spend a full year studying away at our chosen study away site, and so this coming semester will be my second one in Buenos Aires, which I chose because I wanted to learn Spanish and because I had never travelled in South America before.
Well I guess now I can say I have, or rather, I still am.
The thing is that I’m not in Buenos Aires right now. As a student that spends the year at the site, I don’t have to attend orientation which started last week and so I technically only have to be in Buenos Aires at 3.30pm on the 5th of February for my first class. I’m currently blogging from San Pedro de Atacama, in the northern part of Chile, also known as the driest place on Earth. I left Buenos Aires on 18 December, after the last semester ended and have spent all 46 days in Chile, 40 of them in Easter Island, also known as Isla De Pascua, or Rapa Nui. And it’s my time there that I would like to write about.
We often think about the time we spent somewhere in 2 phases: before and after.
Whenever I mention spending 40 days on the island, inevitably I get asked: “Why 40? “What will you do/did you do for 40 days?” My answer to those questions changed through these 2 periods.
Before, the plan was: Out of the 40 days, 2 days traveling, 2 days going on tours to see the moai, what the island is known for, take dive classes for a week, and about 23 days to surf, since I only had 30 pairs of disposable contact lenses and I’m pretty blind without any visual aid and maybe a day for a tattoo. That makes it 35, the remaining 5 will be spend “learning about the culture of the island”. Now at this point everyone would have been distracted by the activities that no one actually asks me what “learning about life on the island” actually entails. Lucky, because I myself didn’t quite know that as well.
Looking back, what I did was 2 days traveling, 2 days on tour, 1 day exploration by car, 3 days hiking, only 7 days surfing, and 2 weeks diving because I took 1 more course, 1 day on a tattoo. And of the remaining 10 days, there were some that I did absolutely nothing.
But I did eventually learn about the culture. I learnt about the history, the myths, and most importantly the everyday life.
Before I travel I do not have the habit of googling photos about a place, because I never found them to be accurate anyway. Instead, i plan an initial schedule of how I would like to spend my time. My sense of anticipation is thus created through how busy I’m going to be and not how I imagine a place to be. This way, I still have the opportunity to discover with my own eyes a place for the first time, and learn with both my eyes and my heart. I usually have to rearrange my itinerary, but there is rarely a sense of disappointment because I never built up an expectation of how places are supposed to look like, and when you travel enough, you learn not to be disappointed with how your time was spent, because you learn how things rarely go according to plan, and its less of whether you see the sights, but when along the trip you see it.
Summarizing Pico Iyer, we travel to lose ourselves, find ourselves, and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. I have also learnt new skills and new ways to deal with the infinite puzzle that is life.
That’s why I travel. To learn.