Recap of What I Expected to Find in Taiwan:
(see Taiwan Adventures – Going Home 1 for the full intro)
-Familiar but unfamiliar: being too-rusty in language skills, feeling a stranger in a friendly city
What did I find?
Aah, that southern Chinese accent! Familiar, just …familiar.I walked off the plane to find the Taiwan scents and accents floating around only familiar. It’s this kind of lush, humid smell with a subtle industrious undercurrent. Not as plastic as Hong Kong, with a strong hint of tropics. Delightfully homey.
Sometimes when I hear another language, it sounds like something on the edge of my hearing, where I can’t quite understand but if I listen a little more in a different way, it’ll make sense. It’s like a whisper of misty rain, sifting by and gone before you know it. It also didn’t feel like I was drowning in a foreign language.
In Taiwan, like a tranquil pool, I was happy to sit in it and let the words float by in a sea of general comprehension. Some waters were in other unknown dialects, like Hakka and Taiwanese, but those friendly waters floated by harmlessly.
I’m trying something different this time with the writing. Let me know how it goes. Thanks!
Belonging is a funny thing. As an Asian American kid growing up in Minnesota, I just wanted to be like everyone else I knew. My mother (born in Taiwan) persistently spoke to me in Chinese despite my brother and I coming home from school and responding in English for about ..twelve years. My parents sent me to Chinese language school on Saturday mornings. Despite being a good student on weekdays, come Saturday morning, I would just put down all the words I’d crammed for the quiz Friday night, wistfully think of the cartoons on tv I was missing while in class, then get on with my day.* Perhaps this allowed me to continue pretending I would grow up to be 6 feet tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed, with Scandinavian features when I grew up (it’s Minnesota, people look like that).
This April, an opportunity came up for me to go to Taiwan. Unlike last Fall, this one worked with my schedule and current obligations and seemed a good chance to go explore places where my mother grew up. It would be my first time back in 16 years. I say “back,” but honestly, I’ve been to Taiwan three times in my life: