Monday, September 21, 2009

Dialogue with the City

People usually associate nostalgia with the concept of home. "哇,好懷念喔~" ... "懐かしい〜" ... "Wow, the last time I did this/ate that/saw this was bla bla years ago", so do people say.

But sitting in a rather uncomfortable chair typing this blog entry, surrounded by boxes/bags of junkies in this now-storage but ex-room of my brother's, I cannot feel more foreign (if not uncomfortable) than anywhere else in the world.

The only thing in this surrounding that evokes any tiny sense of nostalgia is probably the dial-up internet connection that I used all throughout high school to complete all my essays and reports and ICQ chatting. Mommy refuses to upgrade so the daughter who only comes home once or twice a year have no reason to voice opinions against.. I refuse to call it "懐かしい〜" though, *sigh*, 'cuz it's plain inconvenience.

What is it about home that people miss and desire to return to? Is it friends? family? the food stall down the street? or the familiar intonation that you once call it your mother tongue? The thing is, even though the shabby grocery store down the alley of my house remains standing (except shrinking in size as the owner apparently wants some extra income by renting out half the space to a real-estate agent), the 7-11 simply has moved from across the road to this side of the road, and the buildings in the neighborhood are gathering more dirty water marks on the outer walls and some old trees grow older and taller, nothing has changed much around here. Yes, more cafes and more newly built apartment buildings have sprung up, and deserted cats and dogs are no longer in sight. But, it's the same, old neighborhood that I grew up in, the same, old house that housed me till I became a young adult, and the same old Taipei that I still refer to as my home city yet I no longer know what that means.

Perhaps I've "outgrown" this city or the city has outgrown me. Whichever process came first I'm not sure. This city has its own sense of rhythm and change, and so do I. But the two rhythms no longer match, the experiences have differed, and worst of all, not enough contacts have been made between the two to rekindle the sense of affinity if not familiarity. My impression of the city stays in whatever it was like 12 years ago, but the city has outgrown that impression. Meanwhile, what I have expected of the city, it no longer responds or cares.

I return to Taipei and recognize that this is no longer the city that I'm used to anymore. My accent has changed and so has the accent of the city. My expectation remains high but the city would rather take a pace of its own. I wish I could simply take the perspective of a true foreigner who just comes and intakes everything as it is, remaining on the outside and just respecting everything seen and tasted, no judging no questioning no feeling of bother. But I cannot. Because everywhere I go I see with a perspective of the past lingering in the background. Where goes the whatever-whatever, I want to ask, or why does such and such remains this way, I want to shout out loud.

But girl, you no longer live here, so no judgement no questions and no feelings of bother please, I hear the city talks back to me. You mean, I no longer belong? I want to probe further.

Silence, that's all I hear.

Perhaps that itself is the best answer to that question, I realize.

It's only going to be a few days anyway, I murmur.

梅ちゃん at 11:23:00 AM



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