In approximately one week, I will be headed on a journey that I haven't taken in almost 19 years. I am returning to Taiwan, the birthplace of my father and the destination of my mother's medical mission trip as a young nurse. The last time I set foot in Taiwan was in November of 1987, when I was 5 years old.
I am now 24 years old and my memories of my first trip to Taiwan have all but faded. If I close my eyes and try to picture it, I have flashes of high-arching bamboo bridges over streams, cheap toy robots at the night market, poinsettias blooming on the mountainside, and the smell of cakes wafting from the bakery down the street. I remember wearing a 1987 World Series Champion Twins sweatshirt on a train, as I watched the tropical countryside pass me by. But the pieces that connect these disjointed memories escaped my dreams long ago.
The circumstances of my visit are a combination of happenstance and fate. For about a year now, something has been tugging at my heart to return to the small island on the other side of Earth. I never went so far as to plan a trip, which may have been the result of my laziness or salary.
In early August, I got a call from my mother. She explained to me that she had received word from family that my grandparents had fallen out of health. My grandparents, who are both in their nineties, have always been mentally and physically strong people, rarely showing signs of letting go their vitality. The news of their weakened health had weight in my mind.
At the time I received the call from my mother, I was pursuing a job opportunity in Manhattan. When I had the good fortune to be offered the position, I felt both a sense of relief and a sense of urgency; relief that I had secured a new job, and urgency to plan a trip to Taiwan. Luckily, my mother was two steps ahead of me and booked the tickets for my father and me as soon as I got clearance to push back my start date.
As I sit and wonder about where I will be a week from now, I try to fathom the experience that lies ahead. What will happen when I see my family in Taiwan again? Will I feel connected to the people and places that are so distant from me in location, time, and culture? What does this trip mean to me?