Sunday, April 19, 2015-[Family Reunion at Shiryokiya, Ximending Shopping Area, dinner at a Hong Kong style restaurant, and a visit to the top of Taipei 101!] So many of my family were so concerned that we were doing activities I might enjoy. Many of them said to me that this shopping area is popular amongst a younger crowd, and that perhaps their American cousin might like shopping. I was deeply struck by their consideration in trying to think of activities their American cousin might like. What I like, is just being with people in their element. This is where beauty lies. In people. In these faces. In these hearts. This is what I love.
On that Sunday morning, my sister, David and I accompanied my mom to a church. What I loved most about the church we visited was that it had a global theme and was full of diversity. We had to leave the service early to get a taxi and go to Shirokiya, a Japanese cuisine restaurant, for our family reunion.
Monday, April 20, 2015- Lunch with Michael & Jo at the famed original Din Tai Fung, walking around and shopping, dinner with Tall Aunt & Fat Uncle at a delicious vegetarian restaurant.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015-Errands, Lunch with mom at Japanese, more errands, dinner with cousins and then scootered over to Cindy's house.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015- Packing, meet up with cousins, go to grandmothers house, lunch, airport goodbye. As we walked with our cousins Mina & her kids and Alice to grandma's house, Michael met us on the sidewalk on the way there for a last goodbye. We also saw our elder aunt at Grandma's house, then walked back to the hotel where our youngest Aunt (Tall Aunt) waited to meet us. All of our family came together in one form or another to see us off. Such beauty, these people.
Written the morning of Wed, April 21, 2015.
My Chinese family extended such constant and incredible thoughtfulness and grace, it's astounding.
More than once I have been told by different family members, "You will always be my family." I have also been told, "We will always welcome you and Caleb here, and Caleb's son, years from now." And, "You will come back with Caleb? I will be waiting." More comments have flowed than these. The last time I was here, I was two years old. I am now almost twenty eight (come Saturday!). And they welcomed us with such eagerness and thoughtfulness. They planned in advance events, thinking carefully of what an American girl my age might like to do.
This is love in action over an American cousin whom they haven't seen in nearly twenty six years. This is love because we share the same Chinese blood. This is love because no matter what, no matter the space or time or geographic and cultural differences of living half a world away, they have loved. And they planned carefully for this so they could see us as much as possible and do things they thought I might like to do. They did not allow us to pay for a single meal. They were incredibly considerate and thoughtful at every possible opportunity-not even allowing my tea cup to go unfilled. They took us to some of the most famous world renowned places. They created space and time and offered many gifts for my son. Their kindness has been unmatched. They were affectionate and familiar with me even though I have been in another country all these years.
I kept watching them thinking, "These are my real cousins and my real life aunts and uncles. My uncle. My aunt." I wish I could talk to them more. I wish I could understand.
The family reunion was on Sunday. I saw all of these people I haven't known yet that are my family. These people planned lunches and dinners and offered the best. I don't need the best (though I sure appreciate all that fine, delicious cuisine!). I love seeing life as it truly happens. I love walking streets and seeing the natural environments of people and the land. And I am so very grateful and appreciative of the loving kindness and generosity that my family extended during my visit.
I have lived in the United States my whole life. Southern California is my and Caleb's home. It is so important to me that Caleb knows his family, because I have not known mine. We are a small unit here in the US. Tradition is something that I deeply value. Family and community too. We just don't have that as much in the US. It's been hard for me. I think that's part of why seeing all of their kindness these past week has struck me so much.
The one aunt I remember is Tall Aunt. Growing up, we called her Tall Aunt and her husband Nick, Fat Uncle. He's not fat and never has been. But he is a big guy who leads high mountain climbing groups to trek for days at a time. Tall Aunt came to visit us when I was seven. I remember loving her then and always have. She's always been so smart and beautiful, so refined, and a true woman of class. When I saw her walk into the restaurant, I got up right away and waded through the many bodies that make up my big Chinese family to go to her. I am not an emotional person, but I cried instantly. It was overwhelming to finally see her again. To see all of them again. But her, I remember well. I remember loving her and admiring her so much. I still do.
I am very independent and like my space. I realize what a precious thing it is, to have family. Somehow, despite my geographic distance and language barrier, they still love. Somehow, there is still a bond that transcends all barriers. "You will always be my family." These are the words spoken to me, to us, from my cousins and my uncle and aunts. How can that not be one of the most meaningful statements ever spoken?
Not only that, but my boy was asked about constantly. He was thought of in great amusement as active and wild. They said he seemed to be quite the character. And as we all know, he surely is.
This is one of the main things I take away with from Taiwan- The love and great kindness and generosity of a people who will wait for our return. Who hope I will bring Caleb. Who cannot help but be altruistic. In light of this, the heart speaks and for once, words fail.
Today we leave. I am in my hotel room and family will be coming to see us off and have lunch. Our plane takes off this evening. Taiwan is a beautiful, interesting, unique, and deeply kind place. And crazily enough, it is part of me, and it is the home of my mom. These are her streets. This is her family. My family. These are the brothers and sisters she grew up with, and the children they had are my cousins, and my cousins children are told to call me Aunt. What an intrinsically beautiful thing this is. This strange thing known as family. Even still, the whole thing feels a bit foreign.
Click photo below to view larger. Photos are all from Sunday, with a few random ones from Shifen and Jiufen on Saturday.