Thursday, May 21, 2015

Trip Home 04

There is a pallet in my father's van.  There is a lake in southwest Arkansas.  What more does anyone need to know?

I've been sharing with some friends: coins I brought and munchie treats, but the real trick comes at my reunion.  I've brought back a bottle of gaoliang to share with my classmates.  If you know what gaoliang is, that's all you need to know.  If not... c'mere, let me show you!  It's so delicious!  Really, you won't cry at all, I promise!  Um, how much enamel do you need for the rest of your life?

I've been eating like a queen.  Today we baked potatoes and took the leftover porterhouse and sliced up inside with blue cheese on top.  Even our leftovers are magical.

I forgot to bring a swimsuit.  What?  Like I haven't been looking forward to Lake Ouachita since I left? Dad's loaning me some swimming shorts and I guess I'll wear a tank or something.  Can't be bothered to spend the money I just brought over from Taiwan and deposited in my account for student loans. Felt really good to deposit that.

I've been sleeping a lot too.  Lost a whole day when I got here.  I wonder how much of it is due to what.  Mental illness? Jet lag which I've never had a problem with before?  The simple fact that I've returned to my childhood home, a place that has always represented healing and nurturing for me?

My perfect sweet baby doggie!  Man his coat had not been touched since I left. First I tried to trim it down but it came out really patchy because it was so thick and even a little matted in some places in the under coat.  As we trimmed him down we could see all the dandruff.  Dad was helping me and I think he saw how much the coat really does need attention every few months.  Brought Loki in and took him in to the bath where I scrubbed away with some gentle Aloe skin shampoo that we still had and he's a completely different dog today.  His haircut is less than beautiful, but I'll touch him up before I go.

Well, it's time to pack and get in the van; I've got a haircut scheduled pretty soon I need to get to with my old hairdresser who understands curly frizzy Western hair!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trip Home 03

The place does not feel foreign. The place feels like home.  The place feels like I never left.

Actions seem foreign.

Why are people wearing shoes inside the house?

What are these big clunky things in my drink?

Why do we just throw trash away?  Shouldn't we be rinsing and separating it all out?

Where's the potty-side trash can? Wait, I just put the paper in the potty and flush?

So far every meal has been a treat.  Tonight I ate four different kinds of cheese on French bread.  What decadence!  One afternoon I ate cold guacamole with a fork.  Marvelous.

Tomorrow I head to Hot Springs, what I consider my home town. I'll see Lake Ouachita and if it isn't too cold I'll climb down in it.  I'll go to my high school 15 year reunion.  I'll get a haircut. I'll hug old friends and sleep in a van.  Then to Little Rock for more friends and chosen family.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Trip Home 02

I was on my way home, on schedule, ticking off my to-do list, making great time, everything was fine, until I found.....

So that set me back several hours, going to the vet and getting supplies and giving her medicine and a bath and... etcetera.  I made the trip up to Taoyuan to my friend's house, where we had some nibbles and some sips, and then it was two hours until I needed to wake up, so we bedded down and I dozed while her cats went crazy all around us.

In the Taipei airport I bought a few treats at the duty-free to share with people when I got home.  On the first flight I kinda dozed for about an hour on and off.

Free wi-fi was too awesome to sleep through, so no sleep in Tokyo.

Then on the loooong flight across the Atlantic I kinda lost it.  I was trying to figure out how the time changes worked and could only figure it had to be because we were traveling with the day, staying in the sunlight of the day the whole time and I watched a movie about time travel and looked out the window and it was dark and I was going crazy about how time wasn't even real and maybe I could manipulate it and...

I just wanted to nap.

When I landed, my sister met me at baggage by pinching my butt.  I'm not sure why but my butt had been some kind of magnet the whole trip where people were bumping into it and hitting it and I was like WHAT but when I spun around it was her.  When I hugged my daddy for the first time in so long we both cried.  Headed down to Beale Street Blues City Cafe for a bunch of tamales and chili and marinated salad and porterhouse steaks and steak fries and beans and slaw and and and and hugs and my aunt and uncle and my cousins' kids and it was great.

I am prescribed Xanax for my anxiety and I'm to take a half a pill each morning and evening.  That evening I looked at the pill and thought, what if I didn't break this one in half?  I was still in my haze the next morning when my father came to knock on my door and said, your friend Christopher is here.  What?  Christopher.  I'm trying to swim through the medicine to being aware.  Come outside, he says.  As I'm coming around the corner it hits me and I say, "With a K?"  And there he was, my beloved long time friend from Virginia, who'd just finished a conference in Atlanta and had driven west for hugs.

The torta was so amazing.  

We thought we'd take a little food coma nap after our late lunch and we ended up sleeping until 1:30AM, at which point we decided it would be better to sleep on until morning and be on the right schedule than wake up and have fun etc.

I sure missed my baby doggie <3 p="">

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Trip Home 01

Tomorrow morning I'm flying home

from home

and after three weeks at home

I'll go back home


I've been living in Taiwan for a year, eight months, and nine days.  This is home now.  This is my normal.  This is my every day.  Signs with Chinese characters in front of every store.  Overhearing Mandarin and Taiwanese everywhere I go. Speaking it with people.  Everyone is Asian around me.  Chinese, Hakka, Aboriginal, some Korean and Japanese, and of course – TAIWANESE.  I can't blend in.  I'm too tall.  People take my photos not-so-candidly.  People force their children to speak broken English to me.

I buy lunch on the street and dinner too.  I pay for things mostly in coins, some paper, never plastic.  I don't drink the tap water.  I don't put my trash in a dumpster, I wait for the truck playing cute music to come by and take it down (or more often than not my roommate does because I'm at work).

I alter my mother tongue.  I slow it down, enunciate more. I don't use my native accent, nor any of my many “isms” or affectations.  I speak Mandarin poorly, but better every day.

I drive a scooter everywhere and am surrounded by scooters.  I pay my bills at the 7-11 which is just down the road from the Family Mart and across from the OK Mart.  I buy drinks at any of the five tea shops per block and hang the bag they come in from my scooter and drive on.

Rice lunch boxes.  Steamed buns.  Cold noodles.  Ramen.  Beef noodles.  Coffee shops on every corner selling too-sweet too-white coffee in tall cups, no walls at the shop, lots of shops with no walls actually and just tables around.

Last month I went to eat at a western restaurant.  UK style, British fare with a Welsh chef. They gave me a knife and fork.  They felt heavy and awkward in my hands.  I dropped them loudly on the floor.  I asked for chopsticks.

What happens when I go “home” now?

I'll be experiencing my native land but it will feel foreign.  It is not my normal anymore.  It is not my every day.

There will be white people everywhere.  There will be black and brown people, too.  They will be much larger than the people I see here.  I will understand every word said around me all the time.  No one will stare at me nor try to force a photo with their kids.  I will not be special or different.  I will get inside a car and be surrounded by other cars and we will all park them in … parking LOTS?  There will be signs that say “parking for xxxxx customers only” and they may even be enforced.

When I read a price, that is not what I will pay.  I will pay a nontrivial percentage of tax.  I will pay an even less trivial percentage of tip.

I won't happen upon a random circle of locals sitting roadside sipping tea and eating fresh local seasonal fruit, chewing betel nut and spitting the thick red juice in streams on the asphalt.  In fact, people won't be outside too much at all.  All inside in their central heat and air fortresses.  Rushing to jobs to pay bills multiple times more expensive than my own.

What else will be different?  What will surprise me, astound me, frighten me, offend me?  What if it's so foreign in fact that it's at the level where I'm going to catch a wee cold or something when I first get there from foreign bacteria?

I'm nervous to go home.  I'm afraid to learn I miss it too much and must return quickly; I'm afraid to learn I miss it none and never want to move back.

The first thing that happens is I go to my father's home.  After a few days of down time there, I'll go to my high school 15 year reunion in a town I consider my hometown.  I'll swim in the second cleanest lake in North America, which also happens to be one of my favorite places on the globe I've been to in my life.  I may go up to the NY/NJ area.  I may also just spend the whole time hugging my dog and talking with my beloved father.

I'm not sure what this trip will bring or even feel like. I know this and feel it in a way I never have before any other trip.

What happens when home becomes foreign?

Let's see.