It has been ten years since I came back to visit my birthplace Taipei. I was immediately dazzled when I arrived at the city center where my hotel is located. I cannot remember how many times I have hung out in the area when I still lived here, but now I feel so lost after all the dramatic changes. Happy to be home but I feel like a stranger.
The entire city is connected through MRT (a clean and efficient subway without single graffiti) and a bus system. I have a route chart in my purse and can travel painlessly from one place to the other. I have walked miles after miles in the streets looking for MRT signs, tasted almost everything that I missed, and sneaked out whenever I can to take pictures.
It is very difficult to refuse long-time friends’ hospitality and reception. Easy 3-5 hours can be spent in a coffee shop to play catch-up, still unfinished. Since I got here, I have had only one free day to hang out in the bookstore and visit my undergraduate school. I also made it to my grade school watching little school boys and girls playing. All the classroom buildings are new, but my old feeling and emotion won’t ever go away. It almost drew me to tears walking on the playground. I was the 2ndtallest in the class and the president of the class for 6 years. But, when the school play needed a tall girl to be the groom of the key role, Rat Bride, I was not chosen because the bride was even taller than I. I was heartbroken for a while.
In my childhood, I loved to watch puppet shows. The guy who held the puppets not only did a great job manipulating the characters, he was an awesome storyteller. He made the puppets come alive and entertained the big and small audience. He worked behind the scene, the no-name hero. There are so many heroes in our lives that we have never seen but they left imprints in our hearts that last forever.
At age 6, I wanted to help my mom to pump water from the well in our living complex. I was too ambitious and had too much water in the bucket.
On the way back, I dropped the bucket of water and my left big toe nail was split in half by the sharp edge of the iron bucket. I only remember that it was bleeding hard and I was taken to a nurse. My old brother later said I did not cry at all. Really? I must be tough. The scar is forever although old style well no longer exists.
Like these little ones, I ever surrounded the man who was skilled in making wood molds himself with various shapes of animals and fruits. I am not sure how he made the candy dough that can be blown and shaped into little rabbits, turtles, pineapples, or birds, but it was fun to play with candy animals before melting them in the mouth and eventually swallowing them down the throat.This food art is no longer available in the marketplace. It was touching for me to watch the wrinkled hands to keep innocent faces smiling in the folk art culture center. Our children do not have a traditional childhood anymore. Their leisure time is spent on iPhones and Ipad. Young parents’ expectations have created for them a busy life early on, learning piano or violin, playing soccer or basketball, running or swimming, or anything else that will make them distinguished in any way, and be competitive.
Banana is my favorite fruit, but I have not tasted this kind for ten years. The size of this banana is less than two inches long, but it has an outstanding flavor and texture. The taste is far superior to what we can find in regular supermarkets. Guess what? I even discovered a flower that I have never seen. Plant, Flower, and Fruit are three natural progressions of growth, but I often ignore one or the other.
I certainly appreciate the time I have in hand now. If there is one thing I like about retirement, it is time.
Except in classic Chinese movies, I almost forgot about this old-fashioned wooden door. It is constructed with very simple ideas and mechanisms, but it worked well.
Before I went to grade school, I actually lived in a house with this kind of door. It is welcoming when you open the door with two hands spread out.When you get mad, you cannot slam the door easily like we do in modern days. You have to close the first panel, then the second, and latch them together. Your ‘flame’ might have been reduced and diminished by the time when the door is being latched. We want everything efficient and speedy, but slow-motion gives us time to re-think and not rush into decisions.
It has been almost 30 years since I left my roots ground and went to a foreign land afar. Now I am reversing my route back to where I originated from.
Every day, I either meet a friend, a group of classmates, a group of our relatives, or play solo with my camera. Whatever I do and wherever I go, my mind is filled with old memories. It is not just this ten-year lapse, it is decades length that I have not been so close to my root and thought about it every day. I miss home back in Oregon and meanwhile, I feel like staying here longer. Where do I really belong? I am not sure if I can ever answer this question.