I think I wrote about this before, the concept of home and how fluid and unreliable and uncertain it can be. I suppose Singapore is my home by default, but I don't feel like I truly belong there. If all my friends and family migrated to other places I would lost a very, very significant reason to feel attached to the country. I don't feel like a Singaporean, I don't share my countrymen's patriotic fervour, I don't understand half of the local lingo, heck I've been told many, MANY times that I don't even look Singaporean. So where does that leave me? Taipei has moved on without me ever since I left its hedonistic, chaotic, and yet strangely orderly warmth about 8 years ago. Whatever sense of belonging I feel to the city is nostalgia at best, and what place does nostalgia have in a world that's no longer the way you remember it to be?
The one true tenet of my childhood memories had been that bookstore a street away from my old apartment where I used to frequent with my parents. When I was back here last year, it was exactly the same as I remembered it: small, cramped, rows and columns and shelves of comic books squashed against each other, another row of random stationery lined side-by-side. Cramped but cosy, and the boss knew my parents and therefore, knew me. I used to buy scented paper from the bookstore when I was a kid; my previous diary was purchased from there; and I used to get all my stationery supplies from that store.
Walking down that street today saw a wave of confusion sweeping over me as I looked for that bookstore and saw that it has been replaced by a dry-cleaning/laundry shop. It's completely irrational, I have no logical basis for this, but god, that sense of loss that hit me all of a sudden, blindsiding me, was so unexpected. I never thought it would ever change; but if one were to be rational about things, it seems obvious that a small, family-run bookstore located away from the city could not possibly last, well, forever.
I guess the upside is, we ran most unexpectedly into the boss and it turned out that he moved the bookstore a couple of doors down the stretch of shophouses. But still - it was different. The new bookstore is brighter; it's more modern; it looks more stylish. And therefore? It's artificial, it's a mere copycat of what it used to be, and it's a painful and probably timely reminder of the fact that I think I'm pretty much holding on to nothing. My ties to Taipei - what ties do I really have, if you sit down and truly think about it?
Oh, I don't know. This is making me quite sad and it's bringing back the age-old question, cliched though it may be, of: Who am I and Where do I belong?
Deracinated hobo, you know? Nothing much has changed from 2004.
Still, despite my emo-ness, I love Taipei. The smile was apparent on my face when the plane touched down at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (screw you, DPP, for screwing with well-established names. Fucked if I'm gonna call it Taoyuan International Airport or whatever it is) and the air stewardess announced, "We have arrived at Taipei."
My uncle picked us up from the airport and he doesn't even live in Taipei. Any wonder, then, that we bought him Godiva chocolates? He brought my brother and I this huge cup of bubble tea from his wife's family's bubble tea stand and it was fabulous. Any wonder, then, that I don't bother drinking bubble tea in Singapore?
The first thing I did when I reached the apartment is to buy liangmian from 7-11. I have missed you so! And I have missed how awesome 7-11 is here, and it was so liberating not to see anything from Yeo's, et al, and...other stuff. And the night market across the road - I was stuffed from dinner but I didn't care because I have TOTALLY MISSED my braised dou gan and hai dai and I bought a set from some random roadside stall. There are a lot of random roadside stalls, lined side by side on both sides of a very narrow stretch of road, a stretch of road on which motorcycles zoom past every 3 seconds. So yes, it's polluted, it's probably unhealthy, but who the hell cares. It was GOOD. It was the ONLY REASON a person would need to reconsider suicide. Seriously. And I bought a cup of qing wah xia dan (direct translation: frog lays eggs) which is a cup of ice, sugar syrup, and those bubble thingies from bubble tea whose actual name escapes me at the moment. And I came to this conclusion: If I lived in Taipei, I would DEFINITELY grow fat.
Another reason I'm not really Singaporean: I don't care for 99.99% of all Singaporean dessert. But Taiwanese dessert? Oh my god. I haven't had xue hua bing yet but I'm definitely going to eat it at least once. And the frog thing is a tad too sweet but yummy all the same. And bubble tea - don't even get me started on how awesome real bubble tea is.
Have I mentioned I'm bloated? I'm so totally bloated.
Also, yet another reason to completely love Taipei, as if one really needs to justify it: The soy latte is AMAZING. I mean, the soy latte from Starbucks. I was ecstatic when I found one while walking around, looking for some beef-ish food for my brother. They didn't have 'iced soy latte' on the menu, so I was like, "Wo yao yi bei bing na tie. Uh, jia dou jiang."
Taiwanese dou jiang is TOTALLY. FUCKING. AWESOME. And it was my first cup of sweet coffee is a very, very, VERY long time. I can't even describe it; it's just...amazing. I vaguely remember how I couldn't drink soya bean milk for a while when I moved to Singapore because the stuff there simply tastes wretched. And now I probably can't drink soya bean milk anymore when I get back to Singapore because, yes, it's simply wretched. Even Starbucks Singapore's soy latte is going to taste wretched now.
Okay, at least the one in Singapore is not fattening. But still - the one here tastes so much better.
When do I ever get all excited about food, right? Tell me about it.
Nothing much went down today. Landed at around 1.30 in the afternoon, reached the Yonghe apartment at around 3.30, had dinner with my uncles and cousin and grandparents at the usual Hong Kong restaurant, went to the night market with my mom, got back at 8.05 while thinking it was already past 9, stuffing myself on dou gan and hai dai and feeling fat but not caring...yep, that's about it. And I'm beat. I had to wake up at 5.30 a.m. this morning and I only properly fell asleep at 3.30. I fell asleep while watching Night at the Museum and a random episode of CSI NY on the plane. Yup, how awesome.
Plane food sucks but what else is new.
I have to take a shower. I'm all hot and sticky. It's so hot here.