03 April 2008

Tracing my roots

This is a great article in the NYTimes Magazine about the changing landscape of Taiwan.
I really wish I could go back now. All the other times I've visited, I was either too young or too ignorant to really experience the place. Now that I can sort-of speak Mandarin, and a couple of random phrases in Taiwanese ("wash your hands," "beautiful people don't have beautiful names," "tired-to-death"..."anything-to-death")--and now that I've learned to enjoy traveling like a real traveler and not a tourist, I am dying to go back. I just want to go back and get to know my relatives in their own language. I want to go back before I forget the measly amount of Chinese I've managed to learn in the past three years, which is already happening too soon. I want to go back before the culture is diluted with the mainland.

My immediate family is a tight knit group, but whenever big events come around (like my impending graduation), I get asked a lot, "So, are all of your relatives coming down? Grandparents?" As I explain, I am thinking, no, I don't really know my relatives or my grandparents. They don't really know me, because we've never spoken to one another beyond a couple of broken sentences in either of our native languages. To me, they are just the cute grandparents who I see in pictures, and maybe once every five years, who make amazing food and send me money. To them, I am just the American child who grows up too quickly and comes back every five years a foot taller, speaking less and less Chinese.

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