Stories from Taiwan
Updated: Feb 22
Recently I realized that I've been writing a blog for almost two years and haven't really given much information about my life, where I grew up, what I majored in, in college and what's my favorite ice cream flavor. You know what I mean.
You might not get all your questions answered in this post, but stories from a distant land are always exciting, so here they are:
I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, an island southeast of China.
My house rested right across from a small piece of farmland. We lived at the end of a cul-de-sac, where my brother and I rode our bicycles in the neighborhood, and our dogs were able to run freely alongside us. My family and I would take car rides to the ocean side, enjoying the warm breeze, while eating authentic street food, as we made stops to rest and recharge. Time was spent with my friends going to night markets, where we enjoyed simple street food and buying trinkets, taking pictures to capture memories of our childhood. We also enjoyed going to the movies, singing karaoke and getting foot massages too. Life revolved around good food, conversations and making memories.
Despite having a beautiful place to grow up and a supportive and loving home environment, I felt different, even from an early age.
By the time I hit puberty in the eighth grade, I was already towering over others at 5’9. Supposedly, the average female height in Taiwan is 5'2.75", while the average male height is 5'7.5", making me taller than the average male in Taiwan! I have always been pale, too, with my ivory-colored translucent skin compared to most Taiwanese people who had a natural tan.
I stood out like a lighthouse in the night.
Whenever I went out, people looked up and stared at me. Despite the fact that I spoke Mandarin and Taiwanese, the native languages of Taiwan, people assumed I wasn't from the area. I was treated as an outsider, spoken to in English, stared at and examined because people were curious about me.
And it wasn’t just in Taiwan that I was labelled as being ‘different'. It seemed like everywhere I went, I didn’t quite fit the culture’s expected mould. Over the course of my childhood, I travelled through several provinces of China. I can remember one time, when I was visiting a northern region of China, Harbin, which is close to the Russian border, where I was mistaken to be half Russian and half Chinese. People didn't seem to know what to think of me.
Another time, I visited a remote small town in China, and I went to a local spa for a massage and facial. I'm not sure if it was because they were not accustomed to visitors from other places, but I remember the lady looked at me with wide eyes as if she was a little girl learning about dinosaurs for the very first time. She was fascinated with me for some reason. She was examining my skin in curiosity as if she was in a science lab while massaging the facial products into my face. I was different. Not what she expected.
Throughout my upbringing in Taiwan, I felt like I didn't fit in. I had many questions and what felt like conflicting identities. Was I Asian or Caucasian? Was I a jock or a girly girl? I identified as Taiwanese, but the people around me didn’t treat me as such. And I wasn't a true jock, despite being a competitive swimmer. Yet I didn't fit into the other common categories that friends so easily slipped into, from math whiz to a beauty queen to creative artist either.
For much of my life, I have been sorting out how to best classify myself. Girly or Sporty? Asian or Caucasian? Smart or Dumb? Successful or....not so much?
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