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Disclaimer: It has been a long time since I posted, my laptop stopped working so I had to go old school and use a pen and paper to keep up with life in Taiwan. Then I used the excuse it was too sad to go back and read what I have written down. I miss my home in Taiwan, family, and friends every day.
My mom came to visit me for ten days in March. This will always be so special to me because I got to share my new home with her. I was so nervous for her to come, I wanted to her to love my families and friends just as much as I do. She arrived at five thirty am!!!! She knew my host father and I were picking her but we surprised her by having all my friends and all three of my host families at the airport to greet her. My friends helped me make posters and my host mom had flowers for her. The look on her face was priceless. It reminded me so much of when I arrived in Taiwan. My mom hugged all my families and friends….which is so not normal here in Taiwan. I remember thinking how strange it was watching her hug everyone. The look of being overwhelmed was in her eyes or maybe it was jet lag and I told her welcome to your mini taste of being an exchange student. In the car, my mom asked what was going on and I told her we all are going to breakfast.
My mom was looking out the car pointing to mountains and kept looking over at me and saying I can't believe I am here with you. My three host families had a debate over where to take my mom for breakfast. Which is normal for us to end up in a major debate of where we are going or what we are doing. I still didn’t know in the car where we were going until we pulled up to McDonald's. It sounds silly, we have McDonald's in the United States, and it was silly! But I believe my host families didn’t want to make the same error they did when I arrived, they took me to a restaurant and ordered me all meat and seafood dish. I am a vegetarian, so I couldn’t eat. The first breakfast was hilarious, I got to translate what my three host families were asking my mom, and then translate my mom’s responses to my families. Later that day my mom told me how much better my Chinese was than the thought it would be. At the time, I thought my language was okay, but I realized that I was translating entire conversations. My mom in McDonald’s had to take a picture of the famous squatty potty. In my mind, I was why this is normal to see. My mom was only visiting me for ten short days and all I could think of is how much I had to show her in such a short time. After breakfast, we said goodbye to my other two host families and headed to my home. My host family from the moment they knew she was coming told me that she must stay with them. My papa and mama were tired from getting up early from picking mom up and wanted to take a nap but my mom was ready to go explore.
My mom was like omg Destiny your school stuff is on the table in the dining room, you have clothes on your floor, and all your stuff is in the bathroom. She was like Destiny it looks like you live here and I was mom I do live here, it's my home. She also said to me, I don’t want to sound mean but did you wear dirty clothes to pick me up at the airport in. I just laughed because I forgot how in the beginning of my exchange it took me forever to get used to clothes being dried outside and sometimes it takes three days for our clothes to dry with the humidity here. I just smelled normal like Taiwan and my clothes stiffer from being hung up outside on the porch to dry. I showed my mom the washer and where we hang up our clothes and she was amazed that we used Tide just like at home. After the full home tour, we headed out to explore. Our first stop was 7-11 to get a bottle of water then to MRT to head to 蔣中正(Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall). It is one of my favorite places that I love going to with my friends. We watched to changing of the gauds and took lots of pictures. I kept thinking in my head, my mom is such a tourist. Later that night we were meeting all my host families for dinner. This time they picked a French fancy restaurant for us to eat at. My mom was panicked because we were undressed but I was like don’t worry, It is normal for the exchange kids to undress or overdress. I told her, welcome to being an exchange student, sometimes you never know what is happening until it is happening. At dinner my host mom ordered everything for my mom to try, it was so much food but once again this is normal for me. After dinner, my host fathers wanted to speak with my mom about what our plans are while she was here. I had to translate all of it. They wanted to know what hotels we were staying at when traveling down south and basically every detail of our trip. They kept saying how they loved me and wanted to make sure their daughter was safe when traveling. Mom was clueless what was going mostly since we were only speaking in Chinese.
We did so many things over the next couples days. We traveled by High-Speed Rail and slow train to various places South of Taipei. One of the funniest moments while traveling with her was we got lost in Toucheng (a city South of Taipei), we could not find our hotel, we had taken a bus and then walked around for a few hours. We saw many cool temples and statues in that time but we wanted to check in. I hailed a taxi and told him the address of our hotel, but he just started yelling “TAIWAN”, I was like yes I know we are in Taiwan that is why I am speaking to you in Chinese. But the taxi driver kept yelling Taiwan, after several minutes of this, it occurred to me that maybe he didn’t understand Chinese, but only Taiwanese. The older generation in Taiwan, like my grandparents only can speak Taiwanese. We eventually got to our hotel, it was a fun adventure and a memory with my mom I will never forget.
To all future exchange students if you have a family member visit, it okay to travel and show them around but don’t forget to show them your everyday life, like school and take them to host club meeting if you can. When my mother visited one of her favorite memories was attending my school event. My entire class had been working for weeks on an event for all of our parents with performances and a nice dinner, as a thank you for helping them reach the end of their final year. When I told my school, my real mom was coming that got super excited, and my classmates were also excited! So the day of the event I took my mom to school with me, she kept pointing out how many people were pointing, gawking, and talking about me. I didn't even notice anymore. When my mom asked me why, and I explained that I am clearly a foreigner and wearing a school uniform. Seeing this white girl, with blonde hair in a traditional school uniform just astounds many Taiwanese citizens. When we go t to my school I showed her all around and all my classes and teachers then got ready for the dinner. They sat my mom and all my host families at a front table with my principal and next to the "English" teacher.
I loved the opportunity to show my mom a tiny part of my everyday life there and she loved it too. Later that night she told me how unreal it was to her, watching me at the school interacting, she said it was just like in the Unites States, I knew where I was going, all the teachers etc. Just instead of English, I was speaking Chinese. I laughed at her because she is right, school is very different in Taiwan compared to the United States, but I was just a s comfortable.
Another everyday experience I shared with my mom was a Rotary meeting. I was a little nervous, I love my sponsor club but they are definitely eccentric. My mom loved them, I got to introduce to everyone but the best part for me was watching her be an honorary exchange student. I attended meetings twice a month and presented once a month with notice, but often they would ask me to talk without warning. Two days before the meeting I asked if my mom would be asked to talk in front of my club, the answer was no, but if I wanted to I could do a brief introduction of her. I introduced her of course, but then they asked her to speak. She has nothing prepared and had no idea what to say, but she did talk. She thanked my club for keeping me safe and for loving me so much. She told them she only been here a short while and now understands why I love Taiwan so much. She did so well, I was extremely proud. It is normal for exchange students, having to present and talk in front of people without a warning. This is a great skill to have to speak to a lot of people with little or no prep time.
My host mom wanted to have a party for my mom. She invited all my host families over and I got to invite some of my friends over. I think I had about 4 friends from school and about 5 of my exchange student friends over that night. Papa ordered us Pizza Hut and my host moms cooked all kinds of food. My mom was at the table with all the adults and us kids were in the living with our pizza. Afterward, she was like that was so hard not being able to really communicate with them. I was like trust me I know, that how it was when I first got here too. During the day before the party, my mom wanted to buy something for my host mom for hosting the party in her honor. I took her to the American store and we bought some wine from the USA. Well, I had to buy the wine because she was clueless about Tawniese money. She took a picture of me buying alcohol for the first time in my life. I was like do not post that picture on Facebook, I am not breaking a D!!!
Another normal life thing I took my mom too was speaking at the elementary school. Each month the exchange students from my club get a topic and we prepare a PowerPoint to share with the students at the school during their English class time and then they practice their English by presenting about the same topic to us in English. This month topic was our childhood games. After we did our presentations we went to music class. The class prepared a song and dance for my mom since they knew she was coming. It was so sweet. Lunch time they ordered us pizza and we eat and talk with the teachers. After we were done at the school, I took mom to see Taipei 101. Then later that night we met up with my exchange friends at Xiamen night market and all went out to eat a Thai restaurant.
My families planned stuff for us all to do together, we went to the oldest street called 九份 (Jiufen), hiked many mountains, shopped, went to tons of temples, gave mom tours of all my homes, they took us to their jobs to show us around, we went to Papas Lions club meeting (he is the president of his club) and we ate so much yummy food. On the tour of my first host home, it was funny how my host mom was saying sorry to my mom because she didn’t know the hot water in my bathroom wasn’t working for the longest time when I first got there. She was like daughter didn’t tell us, we would never make her take a cold shower. Sometimes it the small things like this that make your exchange the best! Afterward, my mom was like you were so comfortable in all your homes. This made me happy because I know I did what I came to do and that was to become a member of each of my families.
The time my mom was in Taiwan was a memory I will never forget. The chance to share with her my life there and my home there was priceless and I will forever be grateful to all of Rotary for my exchange. If you visit your kid on exchange it will be a memory shared together for a lifetime, but remember as much as you are there to visit them, take the time to meet their families and friends. It is so special now to me that my mom knows my other families and my friends. You might end up doing things you could do in the USA with them like going to movies but trust me when you go to the movies with a group of exchange students, you will never be the same again. It really is the simple, everyday moments that make your exchange so special. Thanks again to everyone for all the love and support.