Archive for the 'Family' Category

04
Mar
09

Forget the stork…

So my mother and I were chatting the other day and somehow the subject of where babies come from came up…

I was telling her about my long-held belief as a child that I was really a fairy princess and they were just weird people who were posing as my parents (this was generally rumination resulting from a certain sulky line of thought probably due to being denied the chance to watch more TV or forced to *gasp* do homework) until my REAL parents would whisk me off in a breeze of sparkly fairy dust and grandeur once I came of age.  (I may have read a bit too much imaginative literature in my impressionable youth.)

There was a (slim) amount of logic behind this supposition.   I’d never seen any baby pictures of me around though there were certainly photos of my baby brother in his cutting-teeth phases.   (Years later while cleaning out the basement and opening boxes, I did discover my baby pictures… complete with hair that defied gravity much more fetchingly than Don King’s.)  My mother thought that I’d have been able to see the resemblance between my father and myself (I had much better hair– for the record.)  Oh, and the fairy princess part was just because I figured my particular variety of weirdness necessitated a  supernatural basis…

Anyway, instead of the stork or cabbage patch as a diversionary tactic of squirrelly parents who don’t really want to answer the ever-present childhood question of  “where did I come from?” my mother insists that Taiwanese parents would generally say that they picked up the kid from the train tracks.

Sneaky parents–I mean, instead of some bird coming and dropping off the bundle of joy, they cast themselves as heroic saviors of babies left between the train tracks (obviously by poor parents who just knew someone would be along at some point…)  My mom said that this was generally said with laughter and then would be used by siblings to insult each other (i.e.  “Hah– you’re not even really mom and dad’s!  You were just left on the train tracks!”)

My mother said her parents never tried this with her or her siblings and she had no idea where the tradition of telling children this white lie came from.  After all, it must have been around the Japanese occupation, I’d guess, considering they did a lot of railroad building.  I wonder what people evaded their kids with before that…

09
Feb
09

Surfacing

I can’t quite believe that it’s February.  Outside a full moon has made my quiet street glow with a sparkle of frost.  The spruces behind our house are taller and fewer than they once were.  It is shiver-cold and the air has that snap that Taipei was always a bit too soggy to reach.

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted and responded to all the lovely comments that some of you have left me.  I know it’s been quite a while, but I guess I’ve needed to be a bit taciturn.  I miss Taiwan.

I’ve relished in living with an oven again (though I was disappointed that my lasagna was crunchy and my first attempt at brownies were weapons-grade hard on one end– apparently I needed to ingratiate myself with the new oven),

and raking leaves (though perhaps I was rather over-enthusiastic after getting over my cold and raking for six hours straight with some joyful jumping in the piles was not such a lovely idea though it was the right sort of fall morning for it),

and voting (though I managed to be welcomed so heartily by the cold germs of the US that I coughed my voice up that morning and had to slide my driver’s license as if I were being carded to spare the election volunteer and myself from my threaded painful squeaks attempting to spell my name.  Hopefully I didn’t infect the buttons),

and shoveling snow again (though I’m still waiting for a satisfying blizzard to dump a couple of feet on us– an inch of dusty flakes was too easy and a few inches of sludgey slush with a crisp skin of ice was too heavy).

It’s hard to believe that I still wear a tan line on my derriere (okay, to be honest, it’s a sunburn-turned-tan– little swimsuit skirts do not provide full coverage and I was tan-armed, white-legged, and baboon-bottomed thanks to short sleeves, slacks, and snorkeling on Tioman with a life jacket that conspired to turn me into a colorful duck with my bum bobbing as I looked for fish, but I digress as usual…and I can’t believe I’m mentioning my bum in my blog– I obviously should be asleep).

I’m back to living in my mother tongue of English and the ever-present quest to figure out how to be a proper grown up, yet avoid stodginess.  So far this has involved glancing at want ads, catching up on Jane Austen movie adaptations, perusing online class offerings, walks, narrowly avoiding car accidents as I accidentally run yellow lights red, moving furniture, painting a wall and two corners, reading journals from 4th grade (apparently the principal denied girls the right to play soccer, and I had a lot of quizzes), typing up a Christmas letter for a hunt-and-peck writer who had lots of children and grandchildren to inform everyone of, talking to wise people, a House marathon with my cousins, contemplating my Myers-Brigg’s personality profile (but I couldn’t decide what first letter I am), and being gravely warned away from child predators by my friend’s precocious 3 year old (a rather avid watcher of political commercials who was going to vote for Barack Obama and was impressed by the State Attorney General’s crackdown on the aforementioned child predators).

Being back in the place where I grew up is disconcerting.  For the first time since I left high school, all of my stuff is in one place (with the exception of one box lingering in Taiwan or in transit), albeit mostly in boxes and piles.

These photographs have been lingering in my head (ETA: I think they rather visually depict my topsy-turvy state of mind lately).  They’re from my grandfather’s pond in Tainan.

If you’ve been clicking through waiting for me to come back to the world of blogging, or waiting for me to reply to e-mails, comments, etc., thanks for your patience.  I’ll be rewarding it soon.  In the meantime, I hope you have the chance to go outside and see your shadow from the full moon.

03
Nov
08

Back in my Swing State!

Now I’m back in the house I grew up in where the trees got all dolled up in gold to welcome me home.

It’s kind of weird being back in a place where I never quite fit.  Things feel smaller somehow (and I haven’t really grown in height probably since sixth grade… Um, yes, I’m that short.)

I ran into one of my middle school teachers when I went to volunteer to get out the vote and she didn’t recognize me (though to be fair, I wasn’t completely sure until I left the building either).  Note to all of my former students that may be reading this– if ever you recognize me and I don’t recognize you– do run back, introduce yourself, and submit yourself for hugs.

Things I miss about Taiwan already:

1.  FOOD.  My mother has been making me yummy food, and my cousins and auntie treated me to some very yummy food too in CA, but it isn’t quite the same.

2.  7/11.  I didn’t realize it, but being able to go anywhere and rely on a 7/11, FamilyMart, or (what’s the pink one’s name again?!  Ack, it’s only been a week and a half post-my whirlwind bye-bye tour and I’ve forgotten!) to be in the immediate vicinity was really convenient.  Gas stations just aren’t the same.

3.  The MRT.  Actually this is a Taipei one, and really if I were in NYC or Boston, I might not miss it as much as I do in the car culture of suburbia, where the closest thing we have to public transit is a bus that stops around four times a day around a mile away.

4.  Not wondering if people are looking at me funny just because I’m… well, rather atypical for the area.  I don’t know if that’s fair to say– considering that it is something I didn’t feel or was oblivious about before.  Arriving in our local airport with its three baggage claims (which is WAY nicer than the in-renovation scariness of LAX.  I know it was almost Halloween when I arrived, but the DANGER and CAUTION strips hanging off of the exposed ceiling were rather odd, and the customs agent didn’t even say “Welcome Home” which is a small thing, but I missed it.  LAX has to be the least foreigner friendly airport — all English signage– even Atlanta had digital signage in the terminal shuttle in Arabic, etc.   LAX was also not friendly or helpful when I got my tea through Agricultural Inspection.  I ended up falling into the conveyor belt with my luggage.   It didn’t give me a very good feeling about coming home.  P was my fun seat neighbor though, and he and his co-workers were really gallant and chivalrous in helping the people around them get their bags, so I knew that there are still friendly Americans.  Sorry, /end LAX rant.)*  Umm…  What was I talking about?  Oh, yes, I know there were heads swiveling when my mom and I reunited and I practiced my Chinese as we left the airport.   But I do (fairly or not) feel an impulse to shrink a bit the way I did when I was in middle school, and school was a dangerous territory considering how much I got picked on.

5.  And most of all– my students, cousins, aunties, uncles, friends, colleagues, and roommates in no particular order.  Hugs to all of you (and I just remembered, I forgot which relative I was supposed to call when I got in safely, sorry…).

* to be fair, the Taoyuan Airport is a bit grey and dry, and I had a nervous moment while they went searching for the “Cancelled” stamp to put on my visa before my 30 day re-entry bit was to begin.  They were pretty polite about it though.

And for my fellow Americans stateside– Tomorrow is Election Day!!!  If you haven’t already voted, GO VOTE!  If you have questions about your registration or what your polling place is or how to volunteer for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, click here…  and hopefully we’ll get to party Tuesday night!

02
Sep
08

Keelung

On a memorable weekend before I left Taipei, my dear cousin took me out to the beach by Keelung.  We drove to a scenic point on the mountain where I had fun with my zoom lens figuring out what people were doing on the shore.

I am guessing that they are checking out a fish, or perhaps a snail.  Or maybe someone dropped a contact…

A little purple wildflower that was all over the mountain where we first stopped to enjoy the view.

Tiny blueberries growing by the side of the road.

We hung out by the tide pools and my cousin and his friend attempted to catch fish with no luck, though they did catch a crab, and a few snails I believe.  We let them all go before we left.

I wonder what they’re looking at.

Something about this picture makes me think of zen.

Dusk on the beach.

The fishing boats all have these garlands of humongous clear light bulbs to illuminate the area around the boat and attract fish.  At night, the boats are independent stars bobbing on the darkness of the ocean on the edge of the horizon.  According to my cousin, one needs a permit to go with a fishing boat out to do deep-sea fishing.  (Thanks go to my cousin for the patience and help in setting up this not-completely blurry shot of the fishing boat at night…  I actually bought a tripod, but just don’t seem to bring it when it turns out I could actually use it…)

Corn dogs.  The one with the orange bit wrapped around it is cheese, and the one with the green bit wrapped around it is wasabi (I think).  I’ve eaten duck tongues, pig feet, and all manner of intriguing cuisine here in Taiwan, but the cheese corn dog ranks as the most disgusting thing I think I have ever eaten.  So much for rebelling against nutritionist-mothers!

I know what you’re all wondering… Would drinking one of those bubbling steamy drinks make steam shoot out of your ears???  Sadly, no.  My friend said it wasn’t half-bad and she got to keep the cup with a steam vent on it.  I think there was dry ice involved…

23
Aug
08

Barclay Park 2

When we went to Barclay Park this spring (yes, there’s a backlog of postings, my apologies– but fortunately for ye readers who like attending my witterings and pretty pictures, since there is a backlog, the blog will likely not die even after I finally return to the US in the fall for the kiss and cry of the election…  Oh, where was I?  Right… Barclay Park, a spring morning when I actually woke up REALLY early to go take photographs), the air wasn’t oppressively hot, and there were plenty of people doing their morning exercises of Tai Chi, and stretches and strolling energetically about.  In spite of the hopping pathways which hosted adorable tots being walked by their parents, there was a certain ambiance that retained that silent watchful quality nature has, even when it’s not all that silent…

lizards

Cute lizards

lizards

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A smushed flower– these are pretty common if you stroll underneath the trees with slightly fern-like leaves and red flowers which I don’t know the proper name of.  They’re beautiful though, and I’ll photoblog them at some point.  ETA: My mother informs me that they are called “flame trees” and that Tainan has also been known as the “flame tree city.”

flower

Another flower that was growing on bushes close to the water’s edge.

I think these are vaguely orchid-like, even though they are attached to a bush.

A water hyacinth.

Sunflowers always make me think of Provence, but there was a little field of them in Barclay park too.

17
Aug
08

Barclay Park

Barclay Park is a nice little park in Tainan that I visited with my aunt this past spring.  It is named after a missionary.  I was on a mission to shoot photographs of lotus.  Unfortunately, the park didn’t have any lotus (so I am still on my quest– tips on places to shoot lotus anyone?  For some reason whenever I want to shoot lotus, I run out of battery after one shot, or it’s raining, at night, etc…)

However, there were many other things to take photographs of…

Fishing in the pond.  I always think those long black fishing poles look like antenna, flicking up and down, tasting the air above the water with a graceful arch.

A sleepy red-eyed duck.
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Geese eating bark for breakfast…  Mmm…



This is a close-up of breadfruit, which I have yet to eat.

Mangoes hanging from the tree. (This reminds me of an illustration class I was in once, where an extremely talented artist in my class made a gorgeous illustration, except all the mangoes were hanging upside down on the tree.)

Shuei lien are water flowers that only open at night and close by mid-morning.

Close to the stream, the sound of the cicadas rose into a pelting loud chorus as we walked under the trees. This is my attempt to shoot the living one that my aunt pointed out to me.

Her shot was better…

12
Aug
08

A quick post…

I’m much busier than I thought I would be here in Tainan.  Apparently my Chinese has improved to the point where my aunt can tell me Chinese mythological stories about the gods and goddesses and after a very long time of her explaining every other word to me, I can understand why the lovers are separated by higher powers…

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the celebrations for the children turning 16, and the lunar 7/7 day which always rains at night because the weaver and the cowherd are reuniting on a bridge of birds, and raining tears of joy and sadness.

I also picked (and nibbled) longyen (a fruit directly translated as dragon-eye), gave myself a mini-shower in my first attempt to pump the flooding from the typhoon out of the basement (oh, right, attaching the hose–an excellent idea, and I didn’t actually electrocute myself!), and got a mini-lesson in shufa or Chinese calligraphy from my aunt (well, it’s more like beautiful Chinese printing for my very elementary skills at writing words).

Tainan is hot, but there is oftentimes a small (if also at times warm) breeze floating through the air. 

Oh, and I printed out some of the photos I’ve taken over the years for the very first time, and they turned out well!  It was rather exciting, since they usually sit in my hard drive…

I’ve gotten myself (slightly) lost walking past temples, and through back alleyways which are so narrow one can hear the voices behind the doors chatting in Taiwanese.

My aunt and I stopped by Chikan towers, where there was a quartet of musicians playing traditional Taiwanese songs and children’s music (the theme to Doraemon was one of the ending pieces), in front of a backdrop of beautiful Chinese buildings that I’ll have to go back to shoot photographs of during the day at some point.

My Chinese has improved to the point that people now ask if I’m from Singapore, instead of Japan when they meet me and realize I speak English and Chinese that has possibly progressed from tot to pre-school level.




Free Rice

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