Return to the western motherland.

I’m fighting jet lag and some exhaustion in order to put some fingers to the keyboard. Twice in the past year or so, I’ve started an entry about our visits to Seoul and Kyoto/Osaka, but it’s so hard to encapsulate everything about a new visit to a new city, and yet that’s just what I want to do. Recently, we also went back to Taichung for a day, and in revisiting some of the blog entries I wrote in the summer of 2015 about our time there, I was reminded of not only how lovely some places were, but how I was transported back to that rhythm of life by the entries I wrote neatly documenting the minute details of our lives. It made me resolve that I’m going to spend more time putting that down, even imperfectly or piecemeal. Perfection is the enemy of getting anything done, as far as my blogging is concerned. So here’s some imperfection.

I had been planning my first trip back to the US since we moved to Taiwan, but it got moved up since I left my job at the end of December. Thus,  I scheduled it for late January to avoid the crush of Chinese New Year, but I forgot the temperatures I would be facing. In fact, I left all my scarves and gloves in Taipei, and the first day out here, I started bitterly regretting that fact. The weather is just one of the many things I’m startled by. I’ve taken to religiously smearing Vaseline on my lips before bed, and reviving my habit of lotioning up. The cold is not only cold – it’s dry. I raise static on my arms taking off and putting on sweaters, the ends of my long hair stick to my puffy jacket, and I actually shocked myself the other day, something I haven’t done since 2013 in Chicago! How cold is it, you might ask? After lows in the 40s Fahrenheit in Taipei, I’ve now been thrown into the lower 20s, with significantly less humidity and more wind. My phone still thinks I’m in Celsius territory, though, so it routinely reminds me that it’s -1 degrees Celsius outside, striking fear into the hearts of those who know me back in Taiwan. Thank goodness for long underwear and my double-coated method, although I did have to buy myself something resembling a hat and gloves the first day I was out. 

My first two days back brought me back into stores right away. The nice thing about being in the US is not simply being with my mom, who’s eager to dote on me and ask if I need to buy anything and bring it back. It’s about the sheer amount and scale of things that are available for purchase in any given store in the US. The first morning I woke up, I wanted to check out Target to see if they had something I wanted in person rather than online (I know I’m like the only person in the US who didn’t want something delivered), and when I walked in, I just couldn’t stop taking photos. Of an absolutely gigantic person-sized shopping basket display, of all these shelves of processed foods that I haven’t seen in months and months, of rows of multivitamin gummies but no more actual multivitamin pills. I didn’t find the item I wanted, but I did just gape and wander around the mall with a sense of wonder. Later on the same day, I ended up in a Goodwill thumbing through racks and racks of clothing so new some of them still had the tags. What a country. Yesterday, I ended up in Eataly Boston after having two glasses of wine, and whether it was not having a proper dinner to accompany the alcohol or simply the effect of a place like Eataly, but I also started snapping pictures like there was no tomorrow. Of huge haunches of prosciutto hanging from the ceiling, of red wine tagiatelle and ravioli in every color of the rainbow, of cheese hard and soft with names that I have never heard of before, ranging from $4.99 to $39.99 per pound. If the entire complex had been filled with expats set down from Taipei, we would’ve just been running to each other and exclaiming over labels over and over again.

Today, my mom took me walking around Marshall’s, GAP, and Best Buy,  helping me pick out some new shoes and shirts and other stuff, and I thought I’d gotten over all the shopping stuff, only to lose my mind this afternoon when we walked into Market Basket to grab some groceries. It’s an amazing store in any mindset, just because it’s a great neighborhood institution, and I just wandered around touching containers labeled like “Milked Hazelnuts”, started random conversations with strangers hovering near the deli counter, and took non-stop pictures of the chip aisle. I mean, there was fruit there out of season, mangoes from Peru, next to avocados, shiny grapes of three different colors, and cactus pears. People have it good here, that’s all I’m saying, because in Taiwan, you mostly just have to deal with whatever’s in season, and there’s the odd peach or oranges from the US and bounties of apples from New Zealand. But then there’s also times when fruit is in season, and mangoes flood the market going for less than $8 USD for a cardboard box that would take both arms to hold. So Taiwan has its perks.

Okay, that’s enough gushing about shopping and food. You get the idea: the US is a land of excess where we can get what we want all the time that we take for granted all the time. It’s weird to be here. I miss my dog, my boyfriend, and the simple warmth of waking up in Taipei. But I also treasure being here hanging out with my mom and seeing my friends, talking to all these people I know so well and remember fondly. Even the streetcorners here are familiar, and I realize while walking by or driving by with a jolt of memory that I know what this corner looks like, where we are, how long that red light is. It’s good to be somewhere that I feel like I belong so effortlessly. Time for bed.

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