Bali / Tamsui
Longshan Temple / Ximending District
It’s Saturday morning in Taipei, and after a 15-hour flight, it feels funny to eat breakfast and still have a full day still ahead of us.
We’re hanging out at my cousin’s apartment. 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 our family’s connection to Taiwan, where she spent her first 22 years before graduate school in New Jersey, where she met my dad—who was also an international student at the time, from Hong Kong.
As a kid, I learned about Taiwan from afar. I was obsessed with maps, and I thought Taiwan looked kind of like New Jersey, except without a belt around her waist. I would also repeat after my mom aloud when she spoke on the phone with my grandmother—or Ah-Ma—in Hokkien.
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.