Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, and, the Anatomy of a Taiwanese Woman

bakeryI couldn’t sleep last night (surprise surprise).  I got up in the middle of the night to do some online stuff before trying to sleep a bit more.  When I finally got out of bed, it was eight-thirty.  To my mild surprise, no brother barging into my room.  Nothing.  Fifteen minutes later, I heard a soft knock on my door.  It’s my niece telling me it’s time to get up.  So, right off the bat, things were different this morning.

My mom showed up.  We grabbed some pastries for breakfast, and then it’s off to the National Palace Museum.  My father was busy all day long, so I did not see him today.  It makes me sad to say this, but I was relieved I didn’t have to spend any time with him.  In addition to the fact that he can reduce me to tears in a minute, I have had two more flashbacks (one a day) since I’ve been here.  The images aren’t anything new (him fingering me, him penetrating me), but the lack of surprise doesn’t diminish the emotions the images stir up inside of me.  When my mom showed up alone, I knew that I wouldn’t have to see my father at least until supper.  Then, when I found out he had a party he had to attend, my reaction was one of intense relief.   I wouldn’t have to see him at all today.  That allowed me a modicum of relaxation.  In addition, the fact that he wasn’t with us meant that I had a better shot at getting my three hours at the National Palace Museum.

We got there around a quarter to eleven.  It was crowded as hell because of all the tourists.  We did our own thing, and I got to spend my three hours there.  They had a special exhibit on teh best emperor evah, or maybe the worst.  They are not quite sure.  All they know is that people still talk about him, even though he only ruled for thirteen years.  I loved the exhibit on carvings the best.  And, I think I mentioned that I saw a black cat on the (glass) roof of the museum yesterday.  Well, today, in one of the exhibits, there was a black cat figurine.  My niece pointed it out to me.   I found comfort in seeing the black cat yesterday, and I found comfort again today in seeing the black cat figurine.

yum yumWe had a light snack in the NPM before going to Taipei 101.  It was the tallest building in the world at the time it was built.  We went up to the 89th floor to the observatory so we could see all of Taipei.  It was pretty neat.  Then, we stopped at a bookstore, one of the biggest in Taiwan, before heading down to the Food Mart to eat.  Yes, you sense a theme here.  My family is very food-oriented, which made it all the more difficult to have my niece say no to every food she was offered.  She is a picky eater (she gets it from her mother), and she would try one little bite of something and then make a face.  We have had to buy her croissants for breakfast, and she had a ham and cheese sandwich (with veggies) for lunch today.  I have to give her props for being a trooper about walking around all day long with very minimal fuss, though.  I just think it’s a shame she’s missing out on all the fabulous food we’ve eaten.  Before we went to the night market, we got her a sub from Subway, which made her very happy.

So.  Off to the night market.  We stopped in a temple first.  It was a temple for Mazu, a Taiwanese goddess.  This is funny because it’s one of my nicknames.  Then, we started walking the streets–er, walking through the night market.

Now, before this, I only had the urge to snap at my mom a few times in the car when she wouldn’t stop talking.  However, in the first half hour that we were at the night market, I came very close to yelling at her again.  She insisted on buying food for us that we didn’t necessarily want because it was famous in Taipei or whatever.  Then, she would be mildly upset if we didn’t want to eat any of it.  Finally, after she had to finish off the oyster omelet she had bought for me (I wasn’t in the mood for fried oysters.  I had a few bites, but that was it), she said she was so full that she wasn’t going to buy anything unless we asked for it.  Um, yeah.  That’s kind of the point, I thought.  You see, there is a part of Taiwanese culture I don’t like:  insisting on doing something for other people ‘for their pleasure’ or whatever.  It’s supposed to be a huge gift to us to be buying us these foods (and it’s not just my mom in this respect), no matter if we want the gift or not.

IMG_1381When she got full, however, she got much better.  She did actually wait for us to ask for whatever we wanted.  It was much more relaxing, though my feet were screaming at me by then.  I had two amazing pork buns, excellent fried mini-wontons, good fried bread sticks with hot almond tea, half a dozen samples, green tea ice cream, watermelon juice, stinky tofu (which is the one thing I didn’t like), and my personal favorite, dough-hua (tofu pudding).

It was seven o’clock when we were done.  My mom asked if we wanted to go to her house for a bit.  I dithered, but my brother simply said, “No.”  He didn’t raise his voice or throw a hissy-fit; he just stated it in a calm, but firm voice.  Granted, my father wasn’t there (even my bro has a difficult time standing up to my father), but still.  It was impressive.  I filed it away for further use.  Then, my mother asked us about NY’s Eve.  I had been dreading it because she and my father wanted to take us to watch the fireworks around Taipei 101.  No matter where we went, there would be roughly a million people.  A million fucking people.  Perhaps y’all can see from where my terror sprang.  Anyway, she asked how strongly did it matter that we saw the fireworks in person.  I said I didn’t want to go.  I have no idea how I managed to say that–probably because the very thought of being amongst 1,000,000 screaming drunk people on NY’s Eve was enough to make me break out into a cold sweat.  Anyway, my brother backed me up.  My niece didn’t want to do it, either.  My mom said we could watch from te roof of her building, but then we would have to find a taxi ride home (which would be impossible).  I said a couple times that they must show them on TV and that’s how I always ushered in the new year.  My bro said he didn’t want to stay up that late.  We just kept repeating these statements until my mother finally acquiesced.

So.  Nine-thirty in the morning until seven at night.  Do you know what I’ve learned about myself on this trip?  I am a fucking wimp.  My brother is trooping around all over the place and not minding it a bit.  My mom is doing the walk ok as well.  My niece didn’t do so well, but she’s eleven.  I am so out of shape, it’s not even funny.  By the time we reached the end of the night market, my feet were burning.  Actually, they started aching at the NPM, and they just hurt more as the night wore on.

When we got back to the hotel, I hung out with my bro and niece for a bit, oohing and aahing over the photos.  Then, I came back to my room and chilled until my brother brought me a memory stick with the photos of the day on it.  Here is a link to the entire album for the day.  You will be so jealous when you view the whole album, let me tell you.  All in all, today was a much better day than yesterday.

However, I must confess something to y’all.  I feel like I’ve misled you, and I am very very sorry.  You see, I’ve been telling people that I am Taiwanese American because both my parents were born in Taiwan (and yet, I could run for president of the United States if I wanted–oh, sorry, wrong blog entry).  Now that I’m in Taiwan, though, I have to say that I am not a Taiwanese woman at all.   You see, I have seen hundreds if not thousands of them by now, and I have to reluctantly conclude that I am most definitely not one of them.  I am not a size zero with concave thighs.  I do not have perfectly mussed hair that reaches exactly to the middle of my back.  I do not have a wide-eyed blank stare as if someone has removed my personality.  I do not giggle or talk in the voice of a twelve-year old girl.  I am not fashionable, and I don’t risk breaking my leg by walking on the beach in three-inch heels.

Damn it, they are all so skinny and perfectly put together.  They are all so damn pretty.  I feel like an elephant around them.  An ungainly, awkward elephant galumphing around as they float on air.  I was ready to be a freak here (even more so than I am in the States), but I do get tired of being looked at as if I were a space alien with three eyes.  I know it’s also my tats and my, ah, ample cleavage that draw the looks of curiosity, but if I am going to be a freak show, I want to get paid for it, damn it.

Tomorrow is going to be a rougher day because I will have to deal with my father.  Hopefully, the food will be as good as ever because in the end, that’s what really matters, amirite?

10 Responses to Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, and, the Anatomy of a Taiwanese Woman

  1. You are doing so great. Hang in there – you are making it through.
    Also, I’m in pretty good shape, and my feet would sure as hell be hurting after 10 hours of walking. No need to be so hard on yourself.

  2. The sore feet – I think it’s symptomatic of what’s wrong with Minneapolis. NOT a pedestrian-friendly town.

    And just because you don’t look like another Taiwanese ‘barbie doll’ doesn’t make you one iota less awesome. They can have their Stepford lives, and you will continue to RAWK.

    Glad the kittehs are showing their support as well.

  3. I felt the same way about the seemingly “average Taiwanese girl” (you can’t even call them women) when I was in Taipei. I was disgusted by what I saw–all the degrading materialistic 撒嬌, never-made-it-to-puberty, I-can’t-do-anything-for-myself bullshit being pulled by women up to twice my age.
    Fortunately(?) I think it’s a sort of capital city phenomenon–when I was in Kaohsiung and even mildly-touristy Kenting (I hate Taiwan’s 通用拼音 romanisation, by the way :P), I didn’t see much backwards behaviour like that. I don’t know where all you’ve been recently, maybe you’ve noticed it too? I felt like the farther away I got from the 101 shopping centre, the fewer “fake anorexic whiny girls” surrounded me. haha
    But yes. I can definitely offer words of commiseration on that part because I totally understand it. You can be happy that you are a strong individual who values things that are truly important…instead of 高跟鞋 and 化妝品, or whatever materialistic crap that TW Barbies waste their lives on. Please don’t let yourself feel bad, which I know is easy to do.
    Good luck with your dad and whatever 10-hour days may be ahead of you(!!!!) Don’t be so hard on yourself, that would kick anyone’s ass!

  4. I think the fact that despite everything (expectations, history, etc) you had a fantastic day! It’s the positive time spent that counts. And all that food sounds amazing (I am jealous).

    And don’t worry… I left the US because I felt out of place, different and uncomfortable. In Europe I feel just the same. But I learned to embrace and enjoy my being different and I glory in it now. If I feel uncomfortable somewhere I just reach down deep inside and find the things I like about myself that no one else shares and I’m ok.

    A big huge hug to you my love and Happy New Year.

  5. Betsy, thanks. I am keeping a countdown in my head. Three days down, seven more to go. As for my feet, the best I can do is hope that they will become numb so I can’t feel the burning sensation any longer.

    Choolie, yeah, but even when I used to walk twenty-thousand steps a day back home, it never hurt like this. Then again, we’re walking all over different types of terrain here, so that’s different than the basic flatness of Minnesota.

    Gregory, thanks! (Swallowing the impulse to make all kinds of denials). Today was a mostly good day, too. Tomorrow, on the other hand is going to be rough. Family reunion with my father’s side of the family, and there are class issues there. Big ones.

    Loreilei, sing it, sister. Yeah, it’s hard to say. I’ve only been in Taipei thus far and mostly touristy areas, so much of what I’ve seen are the WATB Taiwanese Barbie dolls. Today, I was in Danshui, which is an older town, but it’s still touristy. I will be blogging about it pretty soon. Most of the time, I am happy not to be like that. Once in a while, it makes me wistful.

    Jamie, I hear you about feeling strange wherever you go. Again, I am mostly ok with it. Just once in awhile, it makes me feel completely alienated. I am trying to focus on the food and forget all the furtive stares directed at me. It’s not easy, but I’m trying.

  6. Minnachick — you said that you are not a Taiwanese woman because:

    “I am not a size zero with concave thighs. I do not have perfectly mussed hair that reaches exactly to the middle of my back. I do not have a wide-eyed blank stare as if someone has removed my personality. I do not giggle or talk in the voice of a twelve-year old girl. I am not fashionable, and I don’t risk breaking my leg by walking on the beach in three-inch heels.”

    Um. OK. Is that really what you’re striving to be? Because I have to be honest with you, my friend (and I am -always- honest with you!). If that is what your goal is, if that’s what you truly want to be, then our friendship is doomed.

    Because MY Minna is hilariously funny, brilliantly intelligent, ascerbic, sarcastic, quick-witted, wise, introspective, gorgeous, curvy, with a killer smile, and most of all, she’s REAL. Which is what I want to have in my friend.

    Please, please tell me you aren’t aspiring to be that. It would be such a disappointment to so many people!

  7. Kel, yes and no. Mostly no, but sometimes yes. The longer I’m here, the more I hate the way I look. I don’t want to BE vapid and giggly and shit, but I would like to be a size zero, I must confess. I knew this was gonna be a big problem here because they are even more size-conscious than we are in America.

  8. Well, as someone who is attracted to women, let me just tell you that I’d rather someone with your body type than that of your cousin. I’m just not overly attracted to women who look like children.

  9. Kel, I’m not attracted to that type of women, either. I just want to be that type of woman–which says something about me, I’m afraid.