When I arrived back in Taipei at my uncle’s home, I had a feeling that I hadn’t felt until this point in the trip. It was the feeling that I was home.
Today was a special day for me. I woke up and spent some time with my cousin’s children. We watched Saturday morning Japanese cartoons and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (made popular by Wu-Tang), which is probably the best kung-fu movie ever. Ever.
We ate lunch with grandma and grandpa and relaxed into the afternoon. Then people began to show up.
First, my dad’s oldest brother arrived. Then, my dad’s sister arrived with her husband, daughter, and her daughter’s children. Then, my cousin arrived with her husband and daughters. Then, my dad’s sister arrived with her two children. Cousin after cousin after cousin walked through the door. Pretty soon, the house was filled with my family members, at least 25 people from 4 different generations. I was overwhelmed at the number of family members that showed up. And this is only a fraction of the entire family!
As dinner approached, the men headed upstairs. We feasted on various dishes prepared by my aunt, sipping on whiskey Dad brought from the duty free store. At dinner, men raise glasses to one another, similar to a “cheers”, except it happens constantly throughout dinner. My cousin Kunlam told me to raise my glass to Grandpa, and I obliged. We drank and Kunlam told me in English that it made Grandpa very happy.
We continued to eat, drink, and talk into the night. Like most of my “talking” in Taiwan, it involved a lot of tracking the speaker, trying to figure out certain words that I know, and nodding. Dad will turn to me often and say, “We’re talking about . . .”
My dad’s youngest sister, Sharon, has three children that are about the same age as my siblings. Her younger son, Su Yi, is going to be a senior in college this coming year. He can speak some English, so we connected and had a good conversation that lasted into the night. We talked about girls, drinking, music, baseball and family. I made him a promise that I would come back to Taiwan very soon and bring my siblings with me.
This large family gathering made one thing clear to me: family transcends language. While I didn’t have the words to say the things I was thinking, the feeling of family made me feel at home.