Home Towns

I wrote this in response to someone’s question about my hometown.


I currently live in Stamford, CT, USA. I came here in 2013 in order to be with my husband. He’d moved here in 2012 for work.

Our favorite restaurant changes with the season. Currently it’s Dinosaur BBQ. We don’t really have a favorite anything else because Stamford is not really our scene.

We go to the movie theatre a lot; and there are 2 Cineplex theatres here. Our favorite of the 2 is the one in the mall because it’s not as shabby.

We spent a lot of time at the Stamford Nature Center one year in Spring, now we spend our weekends up North a bit at a new State park we found.

I see this one bus driver, Charlie, a lot. He’s always cheerful. Doesn’t have that, “I hate my job” vibe that most bus drivers have. he talks too much though.

I see this other bus driver, I call him Parrot guy because I think he has a parrot. He constantly has a scar over his nose and it always looks like it’s a new scar. I’ve taken his bus for 6 months now, and the wound always heals a bit and then looks fresh again. I’m sure he probably doesn’t have a parrot and it might be some other story; but I’d like to think he has a grumpy parrot who pecks him and he’s grumpy back.

He used to be grumpy whenever I saw him, but I started smiling and asking him how his day was all the time. He started smiling back, and whenever he saw it’s me boarding the bus, he’d laugh and say “hey!” I hope I’ve made his day a little better.

I don’t like living here, to be honest. We’re planning to move to Australia at one point, which I’m really looking forward to.

Before we came here, we lived in Vancouver. There are countless interesting things to do in Vancouver that it would take a whole hour just to write them out.

Before that, I lived in Taipei, Taiwan (where I was born). My favorite restaurant there was this chain steak house; because they have unlimited free soda. My brother and I once went in there with a paper cup and filled up on our way home from elementary school; the waitress chased us out. Free soda was for paying customers only.

In Taipei, we lived by this huge river with a dam. We took walks along the dam most nights after dinner. We’d walk up to the skate park and our aunt would teach us how to roller skate. Lots of great memories from there, too.

Like the time I took in a stray puppy (snuck it in my back pack, kept it at school, then took it home with me) and hid it in my closet for a whole week. I moved it to my brother’s closet at one point because I was afraid it would poop on my clothes. It ended up pooping on his jacket. That’s when we moved the puppy into a card board box in our room (with the help of our aunt).

It took a whole week before Dad found the puppy. He then helped us construct a more secure box. A couple days later, Mom found out, and that was the end of keeping Puppy. Mom didn’t like animals, so we had to return it back to the wild.

In Taipei, in the 90’s, there were A LOT of stray dogs roaming about. I think animal control back then wasn’t very well funded.

I always get stumped by the Home Town question, because I have two. I have childhood memories from Taipei and Vancouver. Then when we include where I live now, or have lived, then there’s a lot more.

I used to hate moving around. I felt displaced a lot and never felt like I belonged. Since I’ve met my husband, I’ve come to enjoy it. I think my mind has re-centered what it thinks of as “home” to just “husband”. Now it feels like it doesn’t really matter where we live; it feels like home as long as we’re there together.

Back From the Land Down Under

I’m back, and yet I’m not.

Jamie and I spent 3 weeks in Australia visiting with family, and I loved all of it. I fell in love with his family, who accepted me as part of them, now that we’re married.

What I remember, most of all, is what Jamie’s father kept saying to me the summer before this last. Summer 2013 was when we last visited them. Jamie and I wouldn’t be married until mid 2014, and we weren’t yet headed in that direction.

I eat slow, and so did Jamie’s dad. Each time this was brought up, Rod would look up at me meaningfully, and say, “I’m glad to have another slow eater in the family.” That meant so much to me. I fell in love with their family then.

Now that we came back, we can both feel the loss of family. We don’t enjoy living here in America. We love each other very much, yet we also realise we need other people in our lives. Other people who love us and who we love.

So we’re planning. We’re going to get ourselves home. Soon. It’s not easy, but we know we need to do it.

Gradually Settling In

I went for a short jog today down to the Nature Centre. I think it’ll be a thing now. Stopped off at the breakfast place that Jamie and I like so much. Got a Twister wrap and a small coffee. The people there are fun.

It’s Been A Few Months

These past few months have rolled by FAST. It’s October. It was almost July when I last wrote here.

Since July, I’ve turned 29. I’ve purchased a Google Chromebook. I’ve finished some TV shows. I’ve started the Novel version of Different yet again. I started knitting a wrap.

Not much else to add here except that my 29th year is passing awfully fast. I miss Jamie. We expect to see each other again by this month. And if not by this month, then in November at the latest.

Home… And Not Home

It’s a strange feeling.

I’ve been off to Australia for the last three weeks, visiting Jamie’s family. It was really wonderful to be there. The familiarity of being around people who enjoy your company.

The strange feeling of homecoming. I say strange because this isn’t really home, is it? I haven’t been in Stamford long enough for it to feel like home to me. It made me realise that I still largely associate home with all the familiar faces I’m unable to see now. Family, best friends, Sir Roderick, and even my co-workers and my bosses. I have no ties here except for Jamie. Seeing Vinnie, his wife, and even our house mate… it’s a different feeling entirely.

I guess I still feel like I am “on vacation” here because this is not really home. I feel stuck between one world and another. Like in the Magician’s Nephew, where I am in that limbo place full of different trees, which lead to different worlds I could enter. I am not gone but I am not at home. The terror of being groundless with no roots.

It’s funny because I love flying. I guess I wouldn’t want to be flying free as a bird–but more flying tethered like a kite.

Why can’t I want to be like a bird? Am I that insecure and that afraid of being alone that I must always have a keeper?

—————————–

Australia is interesting. Especially in Denmark, WA this time of year. It was much colder than I expected it to be. I think it was more damp cold rather than the dry cold I’ve experienced anywhere else.

We didn’t go to see any sites or take any tourist trips, but I enjoyed my time there regardless. I was able to learn more about Jamie’s parents and what I’ve learned has endeared them to me. It was a dream and a fantasy that I didn’t really want to wake up from. There was no internet, no phone connect, but I felt that I didn’t need any of those things. I felt that I had everything I needed.

I read a really fantastic book while I was there. The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. It made me want to keep writing my work. More on the book later.

Ack, back to work.

One Month and A Day

It’s technically a month and one day, as it is now after 12 am. Why am I still awake? Because he’s not here.

Distance is funny. We spent more than a year apart, sleeping in our own beds. So you’d think four nights alone would be easy peasy, right? How wrong. It’s only my second night alone and I still can’t sleep. I stayed up late last night, too. Thank science and technology that I don’t have to drive into work.

It’s not easy being here without him. It is and it isn’t. I feel like it’s time for me to do whatever I want… but all I want is to be laughing beside him as usual. I feel half of a person without him. Here in this room full of his things. I guess it was easier to be alone when I was in a room filled with just my things.

Being here has been amazing. I really feel like I belong with this person. It will devastate me if he ever felt that we should no longer be together, but I’m no longer afraid of that. If we want to stay together, then we will.

I’ve been communicating more with my father. Trying. I have gotten some more work done on my writing projects. I can’t call them books–not yet. They are not whole yet.

Jamie and I are looking at getting me a road bike. I think I would really love it.

I had a dream last night that Andrea (house mate from last summer) was my boss here. How terrible is that?

I’ve got a meeting early in the morning, so I’ll sign off for now.

Jump

I did it. I took the leap. 

Well, the ticket is paid for. I haven’t gone on the plane yet. But I don’t care. I’m going. And I’m not looking back. 

Two Home Towns

I have two home towns. The first of which I was born in, and the second of which I became an adult in. There is also drastic cultural differences between the two.

During my recent work on the novel, I had to do some research of the town I was born. Taipei, Taiwan. It’s a city that most have not heard of until the completed construction of Taipei 101 in 2004. Before that, Taipei was a city that only the Taiwanese immigrants around the world cared about.

Because we moved across the ocean when I was only 12, I never had any real, substantial knowledge of Taipei; knowledge that only an adult would have. I knew where my elementary school was. I knew its name. I remember the colours of our uniforms. I remember that on Mondays and Thursdays, we had to wear a white blouse with a mint-green and white plaid skirt: our “business” wear. On Tuesdays and Fridays, we wore the athletic uniform: t-shirt with coloured sleeves and either shorts or sweat pants. Girls’ athletic uniform was red and white; and blue and white for boys.  On Wednesdays and Saturdays, we had half-days (went home at lunch) and we got to wear casual wear.

That’s right, we had school on Saturdays.

I could tell you where the closest 7/11 to our apartment was. I can describe the cool cement stairwells of our apartment building. I can tell you about how we played with fireworks every holiday at my grandpa’s place while the older kids picked up last-minute cooking ingredients from the convenience store downstairs.

There was the time my older brother and I got too thirsty on our way home from school that I led us up to a second floor buffet to get some free soda pop. We snuck in, got some pop, and snuck out. We thought we were so sneaky, but I’m sure the staff there noticed us. How our family laughed. Oh, that crazy Jane, always leading her brother into trouble. Ha-ha. Stealing pop. Ha-ha.

I can describe the night markets. The sheer amount of the people there every single night. Vendors calling out to my mother. Middle aged Chinese men chewing betel nut, the Taiwanese equivalent of chewing tobacco, with their lips and teeth stained bloody red from the unhealthy nut.

But I can’t remember the names of anything other than my school, my street, my city. Hell, I don’t even remember our home phone number there.

There were the mountain hikes our grandpa took us on every weekend. I remember the trails and I remember pretending we were military scouts, marching in a straight line. But I don’t remember the name of the mountain, nor the name of the temple up top.

At the temple, Grandpa would give the three of us, my cousin, my brother and I, a 5 dollar coin to go buy whatever lunch we wanted. We usually got instant noodles, knowing Grandpa would not chide us for it like our mother did. Sometimes we bought chicken feet, and Grandpa would chide us for that because he would have made chicken feet for us back at home.

While the hikes were fun, I liked it most whenever the rest of the family came with us. Our aunts and uncles drove up with our older cousins, all of them being “too modern” for the climb. Then we’d order a large round table at the restaurant up top and we’d have a family lunch.

But I don’t know the names of these places. I was told the names as a child, but my childish mind didn’t care enough about labels to remember them.

The decision to move to Canada was so instant. I didn’t realise what was happening until it happened. I don’t remember the packing process, I don’t remember saying goodbye to my friends, or if I had any friends. One minute I was in school, and the next I was on a plane. The excitement of travel must have been so great that it overshadowed the fear of displacement.

The first night in Canada we ate instant noodles. Our family stayed at my Big Aunt’s house because her and her family had already been in Canada for two years. That entire week went by and I still never thought about the implications of what had just happened. It wasn’t until the first snow that I it fully hit me: we’re not in Kansas anymore.

The first time I saw snow was a Tuesday afternoon. Sometime in February, 1996. We’d been forced to nap in the living room by our Grandpa. He sat there holding a fly swatter, swatting our legs if he caught us with our eyes open. Eventually we fell asleep.

When I woke up, the first thing I saw was the odd white clump covering the skylight. I lay there wondering for a couple of moments what it could be before I remembered Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Bruce Willis screaming “HOLLY!!” while he collapsed in the snow. I’d jumped up so suddenly that I startled my cousin and my brother awake. It wasn’t long until the three of us ran outside, throwing ourselves into the white clumps as if they were clouds.

That was how Coquitlam, BC, Canada became my second home town. I made friends, I learned how to bike here by pushing my bike down our steep alleyway. My brother and I picked raspberries on our walks home from summer school. I attended ESL. We did our homework at the kitchen counter until our desks arrived from Taipei. We laughed at our cousin’s jokes. Our Grandpa farted every time he stood up from the dinner table. He walked us to school in the morning after packing our lunches.

Amy was the name of the only Chinese girl in my class. She spoke to me in Chinese and translated things for me. She was my security blanket, so much so that I think after a while she got sick of being followed around by me. It was just as well, since I thought she was a snob.

And then there was Sonya, Klarissa, and Rachel. These were my friends. The losers. Yes. From grade five until high school graduation, I established myself in the Loser group. And it was fine, because it taught me humility, modesty, and acceptance.

I have two home towns. They are in distinctively two different worlds and I feel like a culture mutt. Uprooted too early from one place and planted too late in another to have any solid set of values.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.