Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Dec 29 2011

In summation: my trip

One of the main things I got out of my recent trip was a reassessment of my relation to the US. Perhaps over the extended period of time I’ve spent in Taiwan,  a period that already covers most of my life up to this point, my recollections and impressions from my American childhood have assumed a greater status in my memories than they actually deserve. This is natural, I suppose, and comes to most people with the passing of the years, but on this trip I realized that who I am today is actually more the result of my experiences and choices as an adult in Taiwan than my experiences as a child in the US. I’ve never lived as an adult in the US. I’ve been out of touch with the on-the-ground culture there for almost a quarter of a century, if I ever really was in touch with it when I was growing up. We all attribute great meaning to our formative years, of course, and being away from the place where those years passed for me has accented that time and place in my memories, set them apart as something special and important. Which they are, but it was when I started to make my own choices that I began creating who I am today.

This point was particularly driven home when I was dealing with my relatives: I was the baby of the family when I was growing up; my older sister and brother seemed infinitely wiser and more in touch with the world outside than I was. Communication with my parents was difficult as I wasn’t coming from anywhere in particular. Their viewpoint was the only viewpoint, and if it didn’t make sense to me, I had nothing to fall back on. Now I see my brother and sister as equals, friends and  companions, and even difficult conversations with my parents are somewhat easier because I no longer depend on their judgement for my sense of self worth.

While I have changed significantly over the decades since I left the US, the country itself has changed as well, though it’s difficult to be objective with a moving target. Americans these days seem larger in frame, yet somehow diminished in daring.  Children don’t play, adults don’t wander. Cars, grocery stores and meals have all become huge, while people meekly submit to a general paranoia and mutual suspicion actively engendered by the government in various official acts seemingly designed to strangle open discussion. Perhaps one is a reaction to the other. Perhaps the two phenomena are symbiotic parasites.

Or perhaps I just don’t know what I’m talking about. How can I tell all of this after a couple of weeks flying and driving around the country? Obviously I can’t; it’s just my fleeting impression. Of course, Taiwan has changed as well, though this is even harder to note as it has happened day by day over a long period of time.

But when I returned to Taipei after my trip, I felt it: The familiarity, the comfort, the intimate knowledge of a place rushing back into your environment that signals the simple fact of coming home.

posted by Poagao at 5:40 pm  


  1. Great post. So many quotable lines that I find extremely poignant. Keep up the fantastic reflections.


    Comment by Michael — January 20, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

  2. I’ve read and re-read this post a half-dozen times since you first posted it. It’s one of your better pieces of writing. Michael is right – you’re downright poignant!

    Comment by maoman — March 19, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

  3. Thanks. I do need to write here more often.

    Comment by Poagao — March 20, 2012 @ 9:41 am

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