Part One: Taipei, Taiwan

As most of you know, I took a three week break in September and went back to Taiwan. As always, the trip was filled with adventures that nourished my soul and opened my eyes even wider to the wonders of the world. I've decided to split my trip into two blog posts: the first one more thoughtful and focused on family and lifestyle and the second one visually showcasing my travels. Enjoy!

When we think of Taiwan, the first things that often pop up in our minds is its cuisine and local attractions. My friends and I often express our mutual appreciation for this country and our personal experiences that excite us whenever we plan our next visit there. For me personally, I am always beyond excited whenever I have the chance to go back. It's quite odd, however, because despite being raised in Texas, Taiwan's not exactly foreign to me. Starting when we were only a few months old, my mother made sure to take my brothers and me back every year to familiarize us with the other half of our culture. After all these years, it warms my heart to know that I can still call Taiwan my second home. 

In my previous trips, I normally arrive in Taiwan at late hours of the night, when the lights are speckled colorfully throughout the city. It was a nice change to be greeted by the morning haze and lush clouds that framed the backdrop of my view.

Before I saw such a glorious view, however, I remember marveling at the midnight sky that glittered with the biggest and brightest stars that ever shone. It was personal and fleeting, yet I can't help myself from sharing it to others. I initially tried to photograph it, but I eventually decided against doing so as I knew that my pictures wouldn't have done it any justice. Instead, I enjoyed it as it was, with humility and recognition of life's grandeur. 

Gradually, the sun began to peak out of the horizon. A rainbow gradient boldly swept through the sky before fading into the clouds with shades of lavender and musk. 

It's a shame that such moments as this come and go so quickly. The sky faded away into an overcast and the clouds opened up to the familiar sight of Taiwan's farmlands that extend throughout the country. On the edges of the island, its harbors were lined with boats that were preparing to set sail for their morning catch. 

It was a comfortable sight, and although this country isn't necessarily "home" as I am from the States, I very much consider it one because it's deeply rooted with the histories of my childhood, culture, and family. 

 

 

 

family

Sometimes, small means everything. Despite having only known so few members of our entire family, we were able to cultivate an intimacy that only grew stronger throughout the years. My immediate family is the only one in the States so I often crave the rowdiness that can be experienced at family reunions. There's nothing more special than the feeling of closeness and family warmth. More importantly, family time creates opportunities to hold aimless conversations, which are ironically quite powerful in the way it shapes how we live and understand life. 

I love to share about my American life with my cousins, banter with my aunts, and play battle of wits with my uncle until one of us admits defeat. All the while, my mom is in the kitchen cooking dishes with Taiwanese and Chinese, specifically Fuzhou, influences. The smell itself can bring me to tears because they remind me of my childhood.

food

Speaking of food....

I recently joked that if I didn't do anything else in Taiwan besides eat, I'd be just as satisfied. There's no denying that Taiwan's food is a huge attraction to its visitors, but it's so much more than just "yummy food" for me. I feel so much nostalgia whenever I get to indulge in delicacies that are reminiscent of my childhood. Back when my grandpa was still alive, we'd often have our family dinners outdoors, next to his little house (He was a colonel in the army so we lived in a military district), and we'd always share huge meals together. It was humble, authentic, and joyful. In fact, our family valued family dinners so much that it was a requirement to eat together every night no matter what. 

Aside from my love for the taste, I find myself particularly attracted to the authenticity and love that is put into the food. When I purchased food anywhere along the streets, I always found it quite endearing to regard the owners as "auntie and uncle" or "grandma and grandpa". They, in return, served us with smiles and converse with us with a tone of familiarity. It brings people together and cultivates a sense of intimacy that can be shared with anyone, even strangers! 

Beef Noodle Scoup. A classic . 

Beef Noodle Scoup. A classic

Grilled Squid at a Night Market

Grilled Squid at a Night Market

Sugar Apple

Sugar Apple

Oh-ah-misua: Oyster & Pig Intestine Vermicelli

Oh-ah-misua: Oyster & Pig Intestine Vermicelli

Mi Fen: Taiwanese Fried Vermicelli and Cuttlefish Soup

Mi Fen: Taiwanese Fried Vermicelli and Cuttlefish Soup

Beef Soup Dumplings

Beef Soup Dumplings

Pork Soup Dumplings

Pork Soup Dumplings

Typical Taiwanese breakfast: Egg Pancakges and Soymilk

Typical Taiwanese breakfast: Egg Pancakges and Soymilk

Dou Hua:  Tofu Pudding with Peanuts and Ginger Syrup

Dou Hua:  Tofu Pudding with Peanuts and Ginger Syrup

Egg Tarts

Egg Tarts

Beef Wonton Soup 

Beef Wonton Soup 

Taiwanese Tempura

Taiwanese Tempura

Seafood Hotpot (who cares that it's 80 degress outside, right?)

Seafood Hotpot (who cares that it's 80 degress outside, right?)

Taro Cakes (best translation I can do)

Taro Cakes (best translation I can do)

Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato

lifestyle

It was a great feeling to step out of the ordinary for a little bit and be inspired again. The simplicity in Taiwan's lifestyle paved way for emotional and mental rest as well as a rejuvenation of my mind to learn and explore again. It was magical to wake up to sunrise every morning and start each day in anticipation of the journeys that lie ahead.

However, this created a conflict in me. On one hand, I'm in love with the simplicity and slowness of Taiwan's lifestyle. It brought forth a happiness that I haven't felt in a while, and I loved listening to my relatives' stories about their childhood from the 60's and 70's. To them, this was their way of life, but I saw it as a unique form of freedom. 

On the contrary, now that I'm much older, it felt odd to see life conduct itself so simply, and I often found myself wondering if the people there were content. Of course, Taipei itself has developed quite impressively throughout these years, but in the outskirts outside the city, such as where I live, it lacks the luxuries that I am often blessed with in the States. When I pass by quaint villages that have housed little cottages and communities for decades, I can't help but wonder if the people there have experienced a world bigger than their own. 

It wasn't long until I realized that perhaps by questioning their contentment, it was actually a reflection of my own heart. I mean, why shouldn't they be content? They have what is essential to their lives and it's held together by family, tradition, culture, and love. True, perhaps many of them aren't able to see and experience the rest of the world in their lifetime, but they've managed to turn their quiet lives into a treasure of its own. Something a foreigner can appreciate and perhaps even long for. 

It was a humbling revelation to realize that perhaps I haven't been prioritizing what is actually essential to my life, and instead, I've been focusing all of my attention, desire, and identity on what is only fleeting.