I was born in Taipei, and at age 3 my family moved to Argentina. When I was 6 I returned to renew my Taiwanese passport, but I don’t recall anything from that trip. The last time I was here was when I was 16, for about a month. I remember it rained almost every day, and I eating Taiwanese food three meals a day was hard for me. I was more used to western food.
I’m now older and more curious, with a different and better mindset to get to know my country of birth. Since I could remember, I have lived in western countries where I’m ethnically different from the majority of the people. I was very aware of this while growing up in Argentina, where racism is more prevalent. I then moved to Los Angeles when I was 18, and have lived there ever since. I love it for its diversity. It opened my mind to people and cultures from all over the world. In LA, I’m rarely aware of my ethnicity, as I can’t remember being the victim of racism even once.
I must clarity that I mention all this not in a negative way. I never use race to frame myself as a victim, or as justification of how I’m treated. I mention all this because it wasn’t until this current visit to Taipei that I have been in a place where 99% of the people are of my same ethnicity. I don’t know if I’d give up the diversity of LA for this, but it feels refreshing and strange at the same time. A feeling I wanted to explore for a longer time than I anticipated.
I’ve been here for almost two months, most of the time in Taipei. I haven’t done much sightseeing, choosing instead to hang out with friends and relatives. My parents were here for a couple of weeks for a cousin’s wedding. My dad has six brothers and sisters, and it was one of those rare times in the last 40 years where they were all together in one place.
Speaking of relatives, I have been away from them for most of my life, since I grew up overseas. Things that are common to most people like spending time with their grandparents have been very rare for me. I barely know any relatives from my mother’s side, who also has six brothers and sisters. I did get a chance to visit my only living grandparent: my mom’s father. He is over 90 years old and is not in great health. I don’t even think he recognized me, but it was a very emotional experience to see him interact with my mom, to see how happy he was.
While here, I have done more people-watching than anywhere else. I want to see how people dress, what expressions they use, how they go about their daily lives.
My mandarin is not very good. I think my pronunciation is correct but my vocabulary is limited. This makes it very confusing to some locals. I look and sound like them, but I use the wrong words sometimes and I get a look of “what the hell are you saying?”. I also love the food here. It’s delicious and cheap. I must have regained here most of the weight I lost hiking in New Zealand.
One thing I don’t like is the heat and humidity, making you not want to go out much during the day. Another thing is that people drive like crap. This includes both cars and scooters.
I guess I’m just making up for lost time, trying to live experiences that I always believed to be common for most people. I’ve thankful to have had this opportunity, even if it was for a short time. Many thanks also to my friends here who have showed me a good time and have made me feel very welcomed. I was pretty drained after traveling very fast in New Zealand and Australia. But after two months here I feel re-energized, ready tackle the rest of Asia for the rest of this year.
Below are some of the places I visited while in Taipei.