“Fee-nix,” I said, sketching the word Phoenix on the chalk board. The class of shy students slowly uttered the word in a light whisper.
“Again,” Gladys said.
“Fee-nix,” I reiterated. The students murmured again in unison. I grinned warmly at them and continued on with my speech about Phoenix, Arizona.
This summer I lived in Taipei, Taiwan with a host family. Li-Yun Liao, or Alice as I called her, was my host sister. I stayed with her family of five for sixteen days, and for four of those days, I stayed with her aunt Gladys, who happened to be a teacher, just like my mother. Gladys brought me to her school and I was introduced to her class of shy teenage Taiwanese students, all around my age.
I was then given the opportunity to inform the entire class about my hometown and then listen as each pupil quietly introduced themselves to me in English. Later that night, my mother joked with me over instant messenger saying, “You still manage up in a school even when you’re eight thousand five hundred and twenty two miles away from me!”
She was quite right. I had been attending school since I was two because my mother had always been a teacher, and here I was, in a different country, and I still ended up in a school environment! I didn’t mind though. Meeting all those kids that day changed me. Seeing how adorably shy they were and realizing how dissimilar our cultures were was quite a shock to me. It was a memory that I won’t forget.
Taipei, Taiwan, was definitely a place quite different from my small town home in Phoenix, Arizona. I went there expecting gringo Chinese food and found out that real Chinese is quite unlike American Chinese. In Taiwan, they serve octopus and other fresh sea food whereas we have smelly old seafood in Arizona. They have smelly tofu, we just have regular. The Taiwanese speak Mandarin, an insanely hard language, and Americans speak the uncomplicated language of English. Taiwan is full of luscious green plant life and Arizona is a desert.
I could spend all day contrasting the two places, but that in itself cannot capture my dive in the culture of Taipei. Of course, that was after sixteen hours of flight!
It was strange to me how someone could go from talking on facebook to living with each other in just a day and yet now that Alice has returned to Taipei and I’m back in Phoenix, I feel like I’ve lost a sister. The memories that we had in Taiwan and Phoenix together were numerous and unforgettable.
Taiwan had so much to offer. Night markets, playful pandas, beautiful scenery, convenient transportation, intricate buildings, and so much more. Being subjected to their special culture was undeniably a fantastic experience that I will treasure forever in my heart.
Living with Alice and her family in Taiwan, I grew extremely close to them and when the day came for me to come home I just couldn’t imagine life without them. It was hard to say goodbye to my mother and father, my older brother, Charlie, younger brother, Jerry, and of course, my new sister, Alice. With promises of returning I set off for home.
I will go back someday. The plant life of Chi-Tou Forest and the sea-side city of Danshui will see me again, just like my new family will. Only this time, I’ll bring my family too, and the reminiscences will be even greater.
One thing is for sure: these memories shall never fade.
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