It’s Saturday morning at my cousin’s apartment in Taipei. Breakfast after a 15-hour flight feels funny, with a full day still ahead of us. My dad and my brother nap on the living room couch as a Grizzlies-Rockies game airs on TV.
My mom chats excitedly with my cousin in the back room. She’s why we’re here, our family’s connection to Taiwan, where she spent her first 22 years before graduate school in New Jersey, where she met my dad – also an international student, from Hong Kong.
Growing up, I learned about Taiwan from afar. I thought Taiwan’s map looked like New Jersey’s, except without a belt around her waist. I would repeat my mom aloud when she spoke in the Hokkien dialect on the phone with my grandmother – my Ah-Ma.
We visited Ah-Ma in Nantou County a couple of times when my brother and I were little. Now she’s gone. It feels funny to be back in Taiwan, to be here on vacation in my mother’s homeland, though she herself has never seen most of the places we’re going to visit.
It’s a rainy morning in Taipei. We follow my cousin through a temple, then through a series of subway trains. He leaves us at Taipei’s central transit hub, where we board a train headed southward, toward a Taiwan my mother didn’t know.