Showing posts with label home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label home. Show all posts

Sunday, July 1, 2012

On Break: Sturm und Drang and Joy It Up

You may have noticed that I haven't blogged all week.

I've decided to take a blogging break for a bit - a few weeks maybe - to figure some stuff out. Don't worry, nothing to get worried over, just that between work, my insomnia, dealing with feelings related to this family illness thing, more work, permanent residency paperwork etc. I just need a break.                               

I may pop back in during this time to do some easy blogging - reviews, quick notes on interesting links to articles, photos, nothing that requires any thought beyond "the nachos were tasty". 

In my daily life I don't actually feel so stormcloudy, negative or emotional, I feel basically OK, but clearly I've got to sort some things out. I especially want to spend less time blogging (and a few other things) and spend more time taking care of my insomnia problem, my feelings about this family illness, and definitely more time with good people who raise my spirits (as an extrovert I do find that that really helps). All of this means less time in front of a computer. I want to take care of the sturm und drang while I can still manage it.

One other thing that really lifts my spirits is happy people finding love. One friend of mine, someone who was really there for me when I needed someone to talk to the most, who has struggled with finding contentment, has found love (or rather, it seems he's recognized the love he's had all along) and will get married in the near future, and I am really happy for him and excited for them. 

So, I made them this card.  It gave me joy to make it, and will - I assume anyway - give them joy to receive it (with a fat red envelope inside, ha ha) - and I hope it gives you all joy to see it.

So, joy it up:

And another card, made for friends who have already gotten married:

And, uh, what? I'll catch you on the flip side? See you on the other side? Dunno. I'll be back, and I'll be (basically) fine. As fine as I can be.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Weird House

Welcome to the house of WEIRD FOREIGN PEOPLE

Just for fun on a sunny morning, I wanted to make the quick observation that culture differences span not only attitudes, interpretations, actions and reactions - and when at home they extend far beyond what you do at home. They also affect what you do to your home.

I'm obviously not the first person to notice this: my husband has noted that in Korea, people pump a lot of money into their cars and comparatively little into their homes. I once heard an expat in China muse that the money we'd spend on a new floor, a nice print for our wall and a paint job would be spent, in China, on a designer bag - the walls could stay dingy and the floor could stay cracked or peeling. That's not always true, of course, but there's a grain of truth to it.

What I've found interesting is that in the US, people often assume, when we talk about where we live and what our home is like, that "Asian people decorate in an Asian way, and we decorate in an American way." I don't know exactly what they picture, but I get the feeling that a lot of Americans think that everyone in Asia lives here:
from here

Or if they don't have money, here:

from this site - go visit so they get traffic and don't sue me
You know, this idea that I'll always have a couch and coffeetable and they'll have tatami mats and lanterns or something, with red walls and round doors, and a futon and those old Chinese chairs and they'll sit around playing zither and drinking tea out of impossibly tiny cups while they talk about Confucius. Or something.      

Whereas it seems the exact opposite is true. Young travelers who come to Asia to set up shop as English teachers generally don't have enough money to live anywhere much better than a horrible cement monstrosity (although some luck out) - maybe not as bad as the one pictured but pretty bad. I lived in one. Those who do have money would, very often, prefer to live here:
from this site
I know I would.

And most Taiwanese people I know would laugh at that and instead jump at the chance to live here:

from this no longer functional site

Most people don't have the money for such interiors, but if you look into what people do with their decorating budget, and what their dreams are, you will find a stark difference: and it's really not what you might have imagined.

A lot of people visit our home, now that I have one that isn't horrible, and we've gotten some rather surprised reactions to how I've chosen to decorate and even interact with my living space that goes against cultural norms in Taiwan.

I do want to keep this lighthearted - I'm not trying to make fun of anyone here, except in a friendly way, but here goes. A short list of things locals have said when visiting my apartment:

1.) "You don't have a TV? But...what do you do in the evenings?"

2.) "AAAAH! CAT! Can you make him go away?"

3.) "Your window is open? Without a screen? I never do that! If you do that it's too cold, or it's too hot." (We do have window screens, I just usually open the window fully so the cat can go out on the casement and I can get to my herbs, and I like the open air feeling. Apparently a fully open window is a weird thing).

4.) "Wow. Why did you paint so many colors on your walls?" (Instead of the usual white or cream color you see in apartments)

5.) "Even if I didn't know you I would  know that foreigners live here." "Why?" "Because IT'S TOO CHINESE!"

6.) "You sit on the floor?" (we have a tatami dining area with floor cushions). "I thought white people liked chairs."

7.) "Oh, no TV?"

Yes, we sit on the floor.

8.) (friend's wife, to my friend) "Psst, there's no TV?" "No." "Really?" "Really. She told me before." "Wow."

9.) "Why don't you have a TV?"

10.) "There are so many pictures on the walls. I have no pictures."

11.) "Why do you have this? This is Chinese."

12.) "You don't wear your shoes inside! I thought foreigners didn't take their shoes off."

13.) "You have too many spices."

14.) "So, what's your rent?"

15.) "Where's your TV?.....oh."

16.) "Why do you want curtains made of chiffon. [that was not really a question.] That's too light. You should use this heavy fabric. See the nice flowers on it? I also have it in shiny gold. Do you want tassels? No? I have lots of tassels. Oh." (from my tailor, who made our curtains)

16.) "Is your TV in another roo....oh."

17.) (looking at my cat) "You have a cat?"

18.) "WHERE DID YOU GET THIS? It is too local. We don't have this. It's too Asian." (referring to a basket we own that used to be a typical household item in Taiwan)

Not our basket, but close enough. I'm too lazy to take a photo.

19.) "I like your house but I prefer Western style in my house."

20.) "Wow. Your coffeemaker! But you can't make lattes!"

Of course, not every comment has been critical - and most of these were meant in friendly banter. Surprise, even, that we'd choose a more Asian style for a lot of our decorating flourishes, that we would eschew a TV, that we do take our shoes off, or that we'd open the window all the way to let the air in, and only close the screen if there are too many bugs. And, of course, rather than a tiny, yippy Maltese we have a cat who appears to have multiple personality disorder (although, honestly, don't all cats?). They're not surprised that we don't go down the typical route of blue or black vinyl couches, a Fat Buddha calendar, a round dining table and a glass-topped coffee table (and a side table made of yellow wood topped in thick, greenish plastic) with a huge TV on the wall, but I think what they often expect is something more Western, you know, like they'd choose and like they imagine we'd choose because we are Western.

It's always interesting to visit other peoples' homes and see what they've done with their interiors - and I look forward to being able to make observations.                                                                 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

So Far Adrift

迢遞三巴路, 羈危萬里身。 

亂山殘雪夜, 孤獨異鄉春。 

漸與骨肉遠, 轉於僮僕親。 

那堪正飄泊, 明日歲華新。

Farther and farther from the three Ba Roads, 
I have come three thousand miles, anxious and watchful, 
Through pale snow-patches in the jagged nightmountains -- 
A stranger with a lonely lantern shaken in the wind. 
...Separation from my kin 
Binds me closer to my servants -- 
Yet how I dread, so far adrift, 
New Year's Day, tomorrow morning!

I've written before about how I tend to get a bit brooding and maudlin around the holidays - especially leading up to Christmas. I do consider this a good thing, or a sign of a good thing: I wouldn't feel this way if holidays with family were not not happy memories for me. I don't feel this as strongly around Chinese New Year, because it's not my holiday, but there is something to be said for being in a country celebrating  a major family holiday, when everything is closed, and you don't have many ways to celebrate (although I try to find a few). I have my husband, who is my most immediate family now, and my sister also lives in Taiwan. She's younger, though, and has her own friends and while we hang out often,  she's definitely in a younger expat contingent than her fuddy-duddy boring old married sister. This doesn't bother me: it's normal. I was that age, too. Once. Years ago! I don't have a big family dinner to attend. As I said, this doesn't bother me as much as it does on Christmas, but it does cause me to brood a bit.

Here's the thing. I've written about how the common misconception that expats move abroad because they can't make it back home is not true. People often believe that there's something wrong with folks that run off to Asia or wherever, there's something about those people that makes it hard for them to fit in back home, that they're too weird for their own countries. This is not true for me: I have a lot of close friends back home and I make an effort to see them at last once a year. One has visited me (two if you count Brendan, who subsequently moved here and became my husband) and two others have indicated their intention to. We keep in fairly close touch even as our lives take different paths. I left an active and happy social life. I left a crap job that nevertheless had the potential to be an, ahem, "real" career (whatever that means). I left a large, loving family and a brilliant townhouse rental in a pretty cool city. I left dating prospects, all to be abroad just because I wanted to study Chinese and I wanted an adventure. I'd never intended to stay, or to get married and continue staying, abroad - but stay I did.

Well. All of that is still true. And yet, while I can say that I did fit in well enough back home, that I never quite fit in - but then who among us has not felt that way at some point, especially the more adventurous, intellectual or creative types?

Despite having a large and diverse group of friends, and making new friends fairly easily and quickly wherever I am, I've always felt as though I exist in a liminal space. I was not quite of mainstream life back home and I am clearly not quite of mainstream life in Taiwan - as evidenced by the fact that I'm not celebrating Chinese New Year the way most people do here. I recently said on Facebook that I have this loneliness: I never felt that I fully fit into American culture -  I'm not interested in living a life that requires car ownership or extensive driving, for one, but there are other things, too. I don't fully fit into Taiwanese or expat culture either, so who am I?  Then I attended a company year-end banquet at the invitation of a student and as I was watching the craziness go down, I thought to myself: I have my friends, I have my family, and I may not really be able to settle into any group or culture but I'm me and that's OK.

I'm not sure which came first - did I start to feel like I existed on edges and thresholds before I started living abroad, all the way back in 2000 when I went to India for a semester, or  did I start living abroad because I fundamentally feel this way? I have to admit it is a lot easier to give leeway to this part of myself while abroad, because people generally expect that you won't quite fit in. It's easy to "not fit in" when you're not living in your native culture or ethnicity (and are not married into it, either). It's very different indeed to "not fit in" when you live where you came from.

These two ideas might seem to be contradictory, but I don't think they are. Neil Stephenson said something in The Diamond Age (brilliant book right up until the end, when it got all "what the hell" and had a thoroughly unsatisfying and  not-thought-through ending) that resonated with me. In my own words to summarize Stephenson: there are some people who will fully embrace a system and refuse to see fault in it, who will rationalize away contradictions and problems. There are those who will see the faults inherent in a system - any given system, including a cultural structure in which they are born or raised - and use those to tear down the entire thing, rebel, run away, renounce everything about that system. Finally, there are those who will see shades of color in a monochrome, who can accept seeming contradictions, who can understand how one thing and its opposite can both be true, who can accept subtlety and and complexity.  These are truly intelligent people.

I don't want to go off and be all "haha, I am one of the intelligent people!" because that's not my point.

My point is that this issue, for me, falls into the last category. Having a great social and family life back home and fitting in insofar as living well, loving and being loved by many can co-exist with a feeling of liminality, a feeling of not quite "matching" what's around you, a feeling of constant weirdness or eccentricity. One can feel comfortable and settled in a new country, have friends, participate in events, sometimes stumble and sometimes swim like a sleek fish in that context - and still feel like they live life on the sidelines of that culture. One can have and be both.

Never is this contradiction more clear to me than around the holidays.

雲母屏風燭影深, 長河漸落曉星沈。 

嫦娥應悔偷靈藥, 碧海青天夜夜心。

Now that a candle-shadow stands on the screen of carven marble 
And the River of Heaven slants and the morning stars are low, 
Are you sorry for having stolen the potion that has set you 
Over purple seas and blue skies, to brood through the long nights?

This poem is supposed to be about regret at doing something one was not supposed to do -  such as Chang-yi, who was left to be lonely after stealing an immortality potion not meant for her and subsequently floating up to the moon and ending up trapped there for eternity.

To me, it reads as what happens to a person when they live for a period abroad, especially if they like and allow themselves to be affected by their new surroundings (to be true, plenty of expats, especially the corporate types, are sent abroad, preserve as much of life at home as they can, and return happily unaffected). As a friend of mine once said, once you live abroad, you can't really say you belong to any one place. You don't feel the same way about where you came from and probably never will again, because you've changed. You've become bigger and you no longer fit the mold you were raised in. And yet, you don't really feel totally at home in any new place. You feel like just you - the way I felt during that annual party - and a little bit apart from wherever you are, even if you are home. 

It's just as though you, like Chang-yi, were handed a potion when you got on that plane. You drank it, and now you have floated off to some other place and can't go back again. You're left to brood. You, to steal a cliched Matrix analogy, swallowed the red pill. I will not go so far as to say that you ate the forbidden apple, but you get the point. 

Expat Women: Confessions deals with this feeling, answering a question from an adult who had a childhood that included moves to foreign countries. The question  poser asks where and how to live - she doesn't feel at home in her "native country", the country of her passport, but neither is she fully of any other country. The book wisely dubs this the "international citizen" condition, and people who feel this way often feel most at home among others like them - other long-term expats or adults with a lot of life experience abroad - no matter what country they find themselves in. Find other "international citizens" and you'll be most at home.

And yes, I did drink the potion. I'm left to brood beyond purple seas and blue skies. I can go home but I'm still off somewhere - I can't really go home ever again. I also can't really be Taiwanese or be of any other country where I choose to live. I am most at home among others like me, and let other aspects of my personality out through local friends or friends back home. Home is where Brendan and I live, wherever that might be, and that's really true for us because it can't be any other way. I can form attachments but I can't be of any given place. Not anymore.

I am still working my way through this realization, but I think it's OK. The poem says that Chang-yi must regret her choice, but do I regret mine? If I had known that this would happen, would I have done what I have done with my life? Would I have drunk that potion?


I would have.

I never felt quite 'in place' anyway, so why not? I'm me, and that's OK.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Home Is Where the Lao Jia Is

Photo of colorful yarn from here

"I should let you know," I said recently on the first day of a new class, "that I'll be leaving for a few months in August. I'll come back around mid-October."

"Really?" my new students exclaimed. " did you get such a long vacation and where are you going?"

"One of the advantages of my job is that I can take all the leave I want, as long as I let the company know well in advance. I don't get paid for it, but that's OK. I'd rather get more unpaid leave than less paid leave. As for why and where, I'm going to Turkey for two months and then home to visit my parents and in-laws."

"Why Turkey?" came the obvious question.

"Because my mother's family is Armenian from Turkey," I said, writing out Armenian (亞美尼亞人) in Chinese on the board as I said it - nobody in Taiwan knows it automatically in English. "Many Armenians used to live there, but in 1915 the Turks started to kill them and force them out, and many died and others ran away. My family came to America. So you could say that southern Turkey is my ancestral home," I replied as I wrote "ancestral home" on the board and invited students to guess what it meant.

"Is it like 老家?" one student surmised.
"Yes, exactly. I'm returning to my lao jia for a visit."

There was a pause.

"Man, I sound Chinese," I said as they laughed.

Since then, two thoughtful blog posts I've read recently - Home is the Lint in My Pocket fromOffbeat Home and Home and Books by Kathmeista have gotten me thinking about home. (Both are definitely worth your reading time). Home as a person who has a lao jia - most Americans do, but few ever think to visit it, and many have no idea where it might be - home as a person currently dealing with a family illness (fortunately all signs point to it being something we'll get through with a happy ending), and home as both a traveler and expat.

A lot of people write about where they fit in (or how they fit in to a new community), where they're from or how they define "home". I see it a little differently - I feel as though I have many homes, with different connections to all of them. Instead of viewing these connections as a web, I view them as different skeins of yarn with varying thicknesses, textures and colors. I'm connected to all of them, just in different ways and with different feelings attached to each. I'm closer to some than to others, but no matter how pale or thin the thread, there's still some slender attachment.

As many Americans do, I technically have more than one lao jia - I can count Armenia via Turkey, Poland, Switzerland and the UK/Ireland among them, as well as a trickle of Iroquois blood. The reason I tend to be the most attached to my Armenian heritage is not out of any feeling of superiority: simply that it's the one with the closest generational association. My grandfather still speaks Armenian, after a fashion. I have no other living relatives whose native language is Polish, or Swiss, or Iroquois or Gaelic (although on one side, many speak some Polish as a result of growing up in a community of Polish immigrants). We still set out hummus, babaghanoush, lahmajoun, tabbouleh, shish kebab, pilaf, bowls of olives, string cheese and cheorog at family functions. While kielbasa, pierogies and galumpkies have made an appearance on the other side, it's far more rare.

That said, I'm also proud to be Polish (kielbasa! yay! If I ever do go vegetarian, kielbasa along with lamb kebab and lahmajoun may be the last painful threads to cut) and do fully intend to visit Poland one day, in the not-too-distant future.

I've never been to Armenia, Mousa Dagh (where my Armenian ancestors are really from), Poland or Switzerland, but I feel connected to these ancestral homes with slender but vibrantly-colored thread, a connection that seems tenuous but, like a dark dye, has seeped into me in ways that I'm still discovering. The yarn seems thin, but the importance of the tie presents in its brilliant hues. I'm sure that when we do make the journey to Mousa Dagh later this year - this year! We already have tickets to Istanbul! - that I'll discover even more ways in which I'm tied to this place I'd never laid eyes on before.

I've found that many Taiwanese and Chinese people feel similarly: they may have never been to their ancestral home, but making a trip there, if done, is not something to be done lightly. Their family may have lived in Taiwan or a province of China that they're not originally from for hundreds of years and even tens of generations, but they can still tell you, if not the village of their origin, then the region or province. Even Taiwanese who in every other respect do not think themselves Chinese are often able to say "Well, I'm Taiwanese and this is my country, but my great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents came from Quanzhou (in Fujian)."

I have two hometowns - Saugerties, NY and Highland, NY. My thin, white connection to Saugerties is really just in childhood memories: picking all of mom's tiger lilies to make a bouquet. Roller skating in the kitchen. Playing with my friend Peter up the street. Picking some sort of azalea and finding an earwig inside. Listening to Richard Marx (hey, it was the '80s) with friends from school. Winning a school award for art. The time my sister found the little cup of hydrogen peroxide that Mom was soaking earrings in, and drank it (they called poison control. She was fine). The time I filled the house with smoke trying to bake Jiffy Mix cornbread without permission. Mom's screaming and Dad's snapping to action when the cat brought home a still-living black snake.

A slightly stronger, but murkier, connection to Highland: my family still lives there in a lovely old farmhouse with all sorts of annoying quirks. I go home once a year or so to spend a week with them, and I enjoy several aspects of that time: crickets in the evening instead of traffic and neighbors shuffling about. Cooler, less humid weather. Waking up to American morning shows (totally vapid, but I have this thing where I like to watch them when I'm home). Trees and grass right outside.

My parents' beautiful rural backyard at our day-after-wedding brunch.

When I was going through adolescence, though, I can't say I held any warm feelings for the town. I didn't share the town's community values (conservative) or outlook (not inclined to celebrate learning, focused more on sports). School was very much a "why do kids needs all these 'arts' and 'multicultural studies'? When I was young we learned the three R's and if that was good enough for me then it's good enough for my kid!" I had friends, but we were more of a little group apart from others than among them: I just wasn't interested in the things that interested the town. You should have been there to see the shining of my eyes the day I was set to leave for college. I would miss my family but not the town. Highland taught me a lot about who I was by showing me what I didn't want to be, and while I visit home, I really restrict it to visiting my parents and the much cooler town of New Paltz down the road - I don't bother much with Highland. You can say I've never really looked back. I do like some small towns - New Paltz is great, and I find Bangor, ME to be really charming - just not Highland.

In contrast to the itchy woolen yarn in forgettable colors that connects me to Highland, I'm tied in several ways to my home during college - Washington DC and its surrounding area. I didn't like everything about GWU, but I did get a good education there, not to mention the chance to study abroad, live on my own and be exposed to an urban awakening that has kept me a happy monkey in concrete jungles ever since. Could I have gotten a similar education for less than GWU's exorbitant price tag (though I was on a Presidential scholarship so I paid a lot less than many students there)? Yeah, but I met Brendan at GWU which is why I affectionately call him my "very expensive sweetheart"! Gee-dub wasn't perfect by any stretch, but it was cool and urban and without it I wouldn't have such a fantastic husband.

After a year in China, I returned and lived in nearby and just-as-urban Arlington, VA. For most of that time I rented a townhouse with others on Columbia Pike, and the safe-yet-multicultural, not-yet-gentrified, slightly gritty feel of the neighborhood weaseled its way into my heart with its downmarket charm, Ethiopian and Salvadorean restaurants, independent coffee shops and second run theater that serves alcohol. I made a lot of friends in that time and while I didn't care for my job in those years, I do look back on my social life in Arlington with a warm heart.

More distinctive threads connect me to India and China. In her story "The Long Conversation", Deryn P. Verity says, "...but the cliche is true: your first foreign country speaks to you as no subsequent one can. Although you may come to prefer life in other places, first patterns persist, providing insistent, if faded, touchstones for everything to come."

India was like that for me - I can't say whether I do or don't prefer life in other places, because my experience in India was so life-changingly different that "preference" doesn't really come into it. Simply put, India is the touchstone by which I measure everything that has come after. It's not a matter of preference. It's a matter of what is. I got my first taste of children on dusty side streets shouting questions at me just for being foreign: Sister, Sister! Are you liking our idli-dosa? I lived a vegetarian life in which I was woken up by chickens cawing and put to bed by goats bleating. I cooled off on the hottest days by sitting on the floor. I learned to use a squat toilet and got my first taste of true bargaining in a riotous market. You may think you bargain in flea markets in the states - you don't. I learned to enjoy Saturday nights that consisted of watching TV with Amma and Shiva and going to bed at 10, before the current would go out. Do I "prefer" life in Taiwan? I can't honestly say. India was a home to me when I was so desperate to see something of the world, a home to me in that I lived in a family home and, for all intents and purposes, had a family there.

A taste of a different kind of urban life in Madurai, India

China was not as much of a life-changing experience. If India is the touchstone for all future experiences abroad, China is anti-matter. Brown and gray, the frayed threads that connect me to China bring back memories of a Miao wedding in the hills, the best Sichuanese food of my life (although Tianfu in Dingxi comes close), friendly locals, fiery haw-berry brandy, seeing a giant roach while playing canasta with my roommate, watching horrendous state-sponsored TV, and memorable trips to Xinjiang and Xi'an. Drinking beer by the paved-over riverside and hiking in Phoenix Park and taking the bus to Guiyang just to eat pizza and have tea in the pagoda on the river. It reminds me of walking up the hill behind the department store, through the market and to Fragrant Mountain Temple, one of the few truly preserved temples in the country (covering over a temple in bathroom tile and calling it 'restored' does not count), and studying Chinese in the Guanyin shrine while drinking tea with Old Zhang.

Old Zhang at Fragrant Mountain Temple - Zunyi, China

But it also brings back memories of twice-contracted pneumonia, gray chicken feet in viscous soup, picking up my gloves warming on the charcoal heater only to find that they'd melted (I thought they were made of wool!), towels that moved water around but didn't absorb it, being put in a SARS quarantine and not being able to access news easily: I didn't learn that the USS Cole was bombed until I left the country months later. It reminds me of smoggy skies (if India is a touchstone, China is murky quartz) and box-shaped concrete behemoths lurking in the distance. It reminds me of buying jewel boxes topped with shards of priceless porcelain smashed during the Cultural Revolution. It reminds me of people who would overcharge me even after vigorous bargaining and of a blatant disregard for women's rights or respect for women's equality - more so than India. It reminds me of a scarred and saddened country with the worst air and water quality I've ever experienced - a country that I hope, for the sake of its 1.6 billion people, will throw off its sad 20th century inheritance and usher in a new government.

I can't say I loved China, or even particularly liked it, but I do have a lot of stories to tell (like the time I pooped on a pig, or the time I puked on a bus driver, or saw a Muslim cemetery upturned with a new housing development about to be plopped on top) and I can't say it didn't impact me. Was it "home"? Not by a long shot, but it was a kinda-sorta home for the time I was there and for the memories it brought me.

Which brings me to Taiwan. I've stayed here for nearly five years, and so, really, Taiwan is now my home. It will still be my home if we choose to leave, and I can't imagine leaving with no plans to return. I said the same thing about India, and I've been back four times, so I don't take those proclamations lightly. Taxi drivers who have an opinion on everything and ask me questions that would be rude by Western standards, the kids in my neighborhood who practice violin or piano (some are pretty good, others should honestly quit and find something they're more talented at), the pedestrian-unfriendly larger streets with their unrelenting scooter swervings and exhaust fumes and the quieter lanes where a sense of peace rises from the asphalt as I ride my bike through. The great seafood and etiquette-free but friendly demeanor of the people. Four and a half years of friends and experiences. The breathtaking views from the road up Hehuan Mountain and the slower pace of Pingdong life.

Taiwan is my home, in a way that no place has been since India and Washington, DC, and considering the portion of my adult life spent here, now approaching critical "I feel more at home when I get off the plane in Taoyuan than I do when I get off the plane in New York" mass, I feel like there's more than one thread connecting me. A blue-green thread of friends, a bright red thread of daily life and colorful festivals, a heathered thread of friendliness mixed with occasionally rude behavior (OK, not rude, just not polite by Western standards) and a pink fried pork colored thread of food. There are all sorts of tiny but unbreakable bits of fishing line hooking into me from living for years in Jingmei and watching the old folks who sit outside gossiping get older, the kids pushed around by grandmas, housewives or Indonesian nannies get older, stores opening and closing, being on a first-name basis with the 7-11 clerks, and being used to speaking Chinese outside home and work. If I ever moved back to an English-speaking country I swear I'd get jolted back to reality the first time I were to get in a taxi and try to give directions in Mandarin!

I do wish I could say "yes, this is my home". In her post, Kath talked about how Cornwall, New Zealand and Taiwan were all homes to her. In her "lint in my pocket" piece, the writer's home was clearly Guildford, England. My friend Emily talks of England and Australia as her twin homes (although after her latest stint in England she may be more inclined towards Australia).

I feel like I have multiple homes: Mousa Dagh; Poland; Saugerties; Highland; Washington, DC; Arlington, VA; Madurai, India; Zunyi, China; Taipei, Taiwan. I can't name a single one as my true home, and I can't say exactly how to prioritize one over the other. It's like they're all a giant knobby scarf, and I'm woven right in there. Or that they're all ropes for hanging trapezes as well as the colorful net below and I am the acrobat, swinging around to newer places and yet knowing that I am supported and in part defined by the places I've been.

They're all home, and where many people feel the need to be grounded, to have a place of origin or somewhere to come from and go back to, I feel better hurtling through mid-air, far from grounded, knowing that my multiple homes are swinging above me and knitted below me, and that with the experiences and knowledge they've provided I can safely swing to ever newer destinations.