Three Weeks in My Taipei Time Capsule

6F Balcony Taipei
The view from the 6F.

Hey Charlene,

Three weeks in Taiwan went by just like that. Stepping off the plane three weeks ago, I realized how long it’s been since I’ve been back in the summer. The heat and humidity strike at the airport, which though ugly, is filled with lush rainforesty plants and signs reminding you to check your temperature. I arrived at 5:30AM and by 9AM was walking around the city in a jet-lagged haze, imagining that I was a kid again, back for a two month summer break with very little homework, supervision, or plans. And I was a kid for a long time – still am, for the most part – just a kid who’s about to get married and hopefully start working.

Taipei is a time capsule. My aunt, uncle, and cousins on the sixth floor are some of the most routine-oriented people I suspect I’ll ever know. I don’t even get this feeling of sameness when I’m home in Villa Park. Larry’s married with a baby now. Yet even so, not much is different. He and his wife have “moved out” to the 3rd floor, where the layout is exactly the same as the 6th floor (along with every unit in this building), except he has updated, modern furniture. Every morning they come up to the sixth floor to have breakfast with my aunt, uncle, and Karen, and drop off their giant pork bun of a baby before heading off to work. My cousin Karen is still there living in her childhood bedroom, single and forever unwilling to mingle, much to my aunt’s dismay.

When I’m in Taipei without my parents or now, without Tom, I sleep with Karen on the 6F. It’s like we’re both still in high school, talking about celebrities and family and other people’s marriages. Except when we were younger we could stay up until two, three, or sometimes even four. Now, we routinely conk out before midnight and Karen has to wake up to go to work.

Taipei has also been good for my liver. I drank just twice in three weeks. I mentioned how strange it was to not having a hankering for a wine (or four) in the evenings and my aunt and Karen wondered what kind of life I was living in New York. Now our “going out” consisted of showering and heading down to the 3rd floor after dinner, where we watch TV and take turns holding the baby while Larry and Angela stand by, in case the baby starts to cry. Larry tinkers on his computer and Angela pumps. Sometimes they went down to 7-11 to buy snacks so Karen and I can sit on the couch like fattening spinster aunties, eating chips and red bean popsicles and drinking cold green tea while watching the Handmaid’s Tale (which is really good but creepy and intense, btw).

If I wasn’t with Tom, I’d have no problem staying even longer. Why not a full month or even two? Yet I waffled between enjoying being there on my own and wishing Tom was with me so we could wander the streets together. Except in the summer he’d probably moan about the heat.

On certain nights I could see myself settling into the comforts of Taipei, hanging out with my cousins while the world spun around us. The living is so easy, not least because my aunt makes it so (three meals a day at the ready) and things I enjoy from eating out to public transport to weekly housekeeping are so much cheaper (aside from property prices that rival New York). But the baby has to grow up and, despite my aunt’s wild fears, Karen’s probably going to meet someone sooner or later and move out. That’ll probably be the biggest change to come, I think.

Selfishly though, I want things to stay the same. If Karen meets someone, I want her to stay in that building. Maybe move to a floor between her mother and brother. Things have changed enough already haven’t they? Grandpa Ho’s long gone. My parents are getting older. Tom and I are getting married. Taipei, for as long as you can, I’d like you to be my little time capsule.

Anyway, I’m back in New York and jet-lagged. I’ll call you soon.



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