Returning To The Homeland: Taiwan

They say that "home is where the heart is." This must be true because though I have never lived in Taiwan, something about this place unexplainably makes my heart feel full. Stepping off the airplane, I leave behind the comfort of life as I know it in America and embrace the foreign, rough rural plains my mother once called home.

My feet, distanced from nicely paved driveways and familiar carpeted floors, feel funny walking along rocky dirt roads and concrete grounds in houses. My hair, used to being volumed and fluffy, grows wet and sticky with sweat, as the vicious sun never stops beating and there is minimal air conditioning here. I stand in front of my grandfather's plantation and think this is where my mother used to play tag with her siblings. I run my hands across the worn-down walls and think this is where my mother once hid during hide and seek. These thoughts strike me with feelings of both happy nostalgia and guilt as I realize while some of my mother's siblings still live in this house and others visit every so often, my mother is divided by thousands of miles, separated by oceans.

I imagine what my life would be like had I not been born and raised on the other side of the world in America. Like my cousins, I would wake up at 5 a.m., walk miles to the local bus stop, ride the bus to a train station, and take the train to school until 5 p.m. I would exchange three and a half months of summer vacation for a year-round curriculum. While I am incredibly grateful for the life living in America has enabled, it is bittersweet knowing my mother has been distanced from her family for over twenty years and I have missed out on the cultural tradition of many relatives living under my grandparents' sacred roof. As I visit my aging grandparents, they barely remember who I am. I carry a void that can't be filled at the thought that they never got to watch me grow up and I never got to watch them grow old.

Though my childhood and my mother's adulthood may have been different from that of her family's, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to visit the roots of my unique bi-cultural background. No combination of words can adequately express my gratitude to my family in Taiwan that is endlessly loving and welcoming, my friends and family in America that are unwaveringly supportive, and most of all, my mother who sacrificed her everything to give me my everything. They say that "home is where the heart is." If this is true, I am lucky to have found two homes.

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