Posts Tagged ‘真愛’

“The sacrifice wasn’t in going… the sacrifice was in leaving.”


To love a place. To hold it so dearly that one aches at the memory of it. Are we not most fortunate?

Both quotes come from Bo Caldwell’s A City of Tranquil Light: A Novel


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When I posted last week about my ongoing questions about identity and feeling Taiwanese in America, I had no idea it would become my most-viewed post ever and elicit such a positive response from the Taiwanese American community.

I owe TaiwaneseAmerican.org a huge thank you. My post linking to them triggered an alert, which led someone there to read what I’d written. Their almost immediate response was overwhelmingly kind.

Picture 10
(click to enlarge for readability)

In a single day, I saw hundreds of new readers visit this little blog, some of whom left comments here or messaged me with friendly words on Facebook. Days later, I still lack the words to describe how grateful I feel for such an open, welcoming response.

From now on, if you see me in Chicago joyfully wearing my Taiwan pride t-shirt, make sure to say “Lí-hó!”

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We briefly fled the heat of Taipei for a night away with my parents in the high mountains around Cingjing.

Yesterday at this time, we were hiking along a ~3200m (10600ft) high path to the peak of Mt. Shih men (石門山) in Taroko National Park. This was the easiest trail offered at this part of the park, taking only about 30 minutes to reach the peak on a fairly well maintained path. For the more intrepid climbers, the park offers trails that take up to 8 hours of hiking, with a few intermediate ones at 2-4 hours estimated time.

It was probably only 15C (59F) outside, and when the sun went behind the clouds (which we were walking among, not below), I appreciated my sweater and scarf. I profess to hate cold weather, but the truth is that I enjoy it in small doses. This was delightful.

To get there, we drove over the highest “automobile pass” in Taiwan, at 3275m high.

There were a lot of tourists, so finally I gave up on getting a picture of the sign without a stranger posing in it.

It’s 33.8C (92.8F) in Taipei now and those peaks seem a world away, not a mere 5 hours by MRT, high speed rail, and car.

Let’s go back.






Hehuanshan National Forest Recreation Area

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A few months ago, I was chatting about my own TCK identity with an American woman in Taiwan and mentioned how I was thinking about getting one of these great shirts from taiwaneseamerican.org that says “I am Taiwanese American.” Look at that amazing green!

Image from taiwaneseamerican.org

“But you’re not Taiwanese American!” she replied. Sigh. I guess not.

That’s part of why I didn’t order one. Another part is that I’m worried Taiwanese Americans themselves wouldn’t like me using the label either. I’m afraid of that rejection. Perhaps it’s best not to invest money in apparel proclaiming an identity that I’m not entirely sure I should go about proclaiming. And that the first assumption will likely be that I’m wearing it ironically, as a white woman thinking it’s funny to pretend to be Asian. That’s a reading that will upset and hurt precisely the people I don’t want to hurt when I’m in America.

Instead, I want to share in the joy of having found another someone from my little home country while far away across the ocean in that big strange land. Like I’ve done several times in Chicago thanks to my boys’ and girls’ high school bags from Kaohsiung. I’ve had many delightful conversations about home. I’ve helped lost Taiwanese tourists who saw a familiar object and dared ask me for directions. If you’re reading this, Ching-Fang, our chance meeting on the 6 bus and continued friendship is probably the most fun of them all. :)

I suppose I’ll just stick with those identity markers, rather than anything more explicit and open to negative interpretation.

You know, I’d buy the Ai Daiwan shirt that taiwaneseamerican.org sells, but the brown t-shirt it’s printed on would look awful on me.

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Blogger Lao Ren Cha 老人茶 already has an excellent post on getting clothes custom made and fitted by tailors at Yongle Fabric market in downtown Taipei. You can read it yourself here and gawk at her gorgeous wedding dress.

Though I’ve been to the Yongle market a few times this year (to buy fabric for the couch cushion covers, the bedroom curtains, and the living room hanging dividers), it’s too far to go to for the kind of tailoring I want – resizing all my too-big clothes.

So what was I to do?

You can’t walk a block in our neighborhood without coming across a sign for a tailor who fixes and alters clothing. Most of these places are tiny and look perfect for hemming your pants shorter or fixing that broken strap on a dress, but not for more complex alterations.

Finally, on one of my walks, I spotted a tailor with an actual store. Better yet, it was occupied by about four older women in their late 60s or 70s, chatting with the tailor while she worked. Perfect. I’ve really come to appreciate my neighborhood aunties this year, whether I’m dancing with them at exercise class every Tuesday, buying vegetables with them at the market, or observing them gossip like a gaggle of geese in the park nearby. If this tailor shop came with aunties, it had to be good!

I took two dresses, two dress shirts and a skirt in for alteration. The dress needed the most work because it was already a little big when Gene’s mom bought it for me in 2011. Add to that my becoming even smaller this year in Taiwan and by March, the dress looked like this:

Now, thanks to her work, it fits perfectly!

The total for altering five items came to 1100NT, or ~$37US. I have a few more blouses to take in before we go, and I think Gene might try to get some of his boxier dress shirts cut down to fit him better.

The tailor speaks both Mandarin and Taiwanese, but be careful – as soon as it became clear I could speak Taiwanese, one of the aunties decided I wasn’t allowed to use Mandarin anymore for the sake of practicing. It was marvelous! As was this exchange:
“Is it your father or your mother who’s Taiwanese?”
“Neither, they’re both American.”
“Then why are you so short?”

I love Taiwanese aunties.

Neihu District, Donghu Rd. Lane 33, #24


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It’s so quiet here tonight, which seems like a silly thing to say because it’s also a night punctuated by strings of firecrackers going off in the distance. But there’s almost no traffic. 7:30pm, and everyone that can be is home with family, beginning a night of festivities that will carry them from the Year of the Dragon into the Year of the Snake.

Fancy paper money, burner and fruit offerings.

Fancy paper money, burner and fruit offerings.

Just about everything that can be closed has been closed. The streets are dark and 7-11, Family Mart and OK Mart signs glow garish against the fragrant night. All day long, people have been burning paper money and incense, taking leave of this old year. After all the bustling of shopping and cleaning, it feels like our neighborhood is taking a deep breath before launching into uproarious celebration and 熱鬧.

Last year's 門聯

Last year’s 門聯

I’ve taken down the old 門聯 (Taiwanese: meng-lian) around our front door and soon we’ll put up a new set I’ve had waiting for just this day.

The new ones will read:
救世宏恩盈宇宙 (top)
新春新歲新希望 (right)
愛主愛人愛鄉土 (left)

Salvific, magnificent grace overfills the universe.
New spring, new year, new hope.
Love God, love people, love native land.

I think that encompasses everything that matters to me about this coming year.

Happy New Year, friends! 新年快樂!

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Stationery stores in Taiwan are a uniquely delightful part of life here. As many friends in the US will attest, I can’t resist buying notebooks, writing paper and cards and mailing them off, far and wide. Thankfully, this is a fairly cheap vice.

Carrying my camera with me and covertly taking photos of some of the stranger cards and notebooks does help keep me from buying them all and starting a collection of oddities and amusements.

Sometimes it’s the odd English:

Sometimes it’s the bizarre imagery:


Sometimes things are just too cute for words:

Would you like me to share more of these kinds of things? I see them all the time and love them (even better, Gene enjoys browsing stationery stores with me) but I’m not sure if the humor and charm of it all translates outside of the magical space of the stationery store.

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