My mother recently sent me an old piece of writing I composed when I returned to Taiwan during the summer breaks after moving to the States. What year or how old I was when this was created is unknown, but the writing serves its destined purpose of documenting a life that I knew I would no longer remember. It also reminds me of a time when I wrote for the pure enjoyment of writing, unlike the obligatory writing that now occupies my days.
It’s another typical trip down memory lane. Revisiting a place you once spent all your days in during your childhood always results in a dramatic flood of nostalgia and your old way of thinking. It reminds you of just how far you’ve come, and just how far you have left to go.
My former home, now only occupied by my mother, is a humble flat three stories tall, siting in a narrow alley with neighbors we’ve never met. We supposed they were street venders, since they were always loading up their trucks early in the morning. Behind the condo is a burnt-down structure once planned to make a movie theater/night market. Now it sits abandoned vehicles, trash and unspeakable mutant creatures. Every morning at three o’clock, we would hear a loud truck back into the alley behind us, reaking a nasty smell into the room by the window. A few hours later, the local butcher would go to his cart and start chopping meat, banging into the sunrise. At dusk, an old woman would stroll past leisurely as she clapped her hands and massaged her body as a part of her morning routine.
This condo once housed myself at the tender age of 12, my sister at her McDonalds-loving days of 14, a fat black and white spotted bunny, and my single mother. Although the bunny has passed away, and my sister and I have long left this country in pursuit of the American dream, this place remains the kickstart to my puberty. This is where I once daydreamed about life in America, where I once put myself in the shoes of Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls and watched all the Nickelodeon teen shows, imagining myself with a red locker and pretty friends.
This is where the neighbor’s dogs barked every time I turned on the bathroom light. Where I once feared the stained glass stickers on the bathroom window wasn’t blurry enough, and secretly showered every night crouched underneathe it. This is where our pet rabbit once roamed free, and left little dried balls of poop at random places every once in a while. This is where I once spotted a giant rat strolling past our beds, making me scream like a madwoman. This is where we once were able to use the wifi for free for two years, until the neighbor finally figured it out and locked it. This is where I avoided the kitchen at night after seeing a spider as big as an apple on the dining table. The cockroaches scatter as the lights flicker on.
The woman remains at the sewing machine every night I walk past. The family selling aboriginal clothing remains watching silly variety shows as the young children run around naked after their showers. The eyeglass shop clerk rolls the gate down, and rides away on his scooter. The noodle shop employees mop and close for another busy day of good business.
Time stops here.
Thank you mom for the unique memories.
Endless yearning does wonders for a child.”
Below are a few photos I took of Pingtung City, which was the place I was writing about.
Our home was the one with the white gate.
This was the old man who lived across from us. He was an obvious bicycle hoarder.
When I was little, we would hop on a scooter and go sight seeing around the rice fields, looking for Egrets.
Mopeds are the scariest but most convenient thing to be of abundance in Taiwan.
Due to the intense humidity and monsoons, many houses resort to using metal plates on their roofs to prevent leakage.
The only similarity between Bloomington, Indiana and Pingtung, Taiwan is the fact that you can drive for five minutes and be completely surrounded by crops and farmland.
On every parked car, you will see either card board or old t-shirts like the ones you see below, an attempt to protect the tires from urine of stray dogs.
The outdoor markets are always crowded and slightly terrifying. After all the vendors leave, an eerie emptiness stays at the deserted land.