Due to increasing popularity for the Vancouver > Taipei > New Delhi route from China Airlines, they now hire South-East Asian flight attendants and try to incorporate Bollywood music and movies in flight. In the “introduction” flight announcement on my flight out of Vancouver, the main flight attendant announced, in English, that with the crew on board today, they have “one Indian”. I felt like bursting into song – “two little, three little Indians…” How totally PC of everyone, and me.
It’s now 6:20AM Toronto time on Wednesday, April 22. The last time I was in a bed was 6:30AM on Monday, April 20, where I had just slept for about 6.5 hours. I reaaaaalllllly miss sleep right now. If I don’t make sense here, I blame it on lack of sleep.
Coming to Taiwan is always exciting because the place I live is so familiar to me that I feel at ease and ready to reacquaint myself with my hometown right away. However, the twists (and there’s one more this time) are that seeing the grandparents always depresses me a little bit, and this time around my parents are not speaking to one another (and have not done so for about 3 years now). So please, imagine the awkwardness of trying to keep a conversation going on the way home from the airport with my parents in the car.
When I go see my grandparents, this is what typically used to happen: my evil grandma beats me down emotionally with comments like, “you get fatter every time I see you” and “wow your arm is quite thick *squeeze squeeze*, my sweet grandma compliments and fusses over me repeatedly because her short-term memory isn’t great, and my grandpa smiles serenely in the corner and adds appropriate bits and pieces in a conversation.
This time around, my grandpa is shaky on his legs and can’t really organize his thoughts. He tries to start a conversation but loses his train of thought halfway through. It is especially hard for me to witness age as I’ve been so far removed from it, and so sheltered from the effects of it, for most of my life. Except glimpses into my grandparents’ lives when I visit, I never get to see and feel “age” ripple through a family. I hate the quiet desperation behind it all – they’re all so calm, but they’re all so afraid at the same time. There’s nothing we can do about Grandpa; his brain has simply aged 92 years now and is quickly deteriorating. While doctors can reverse wrinkles, they can’t rebuild brains and bodies, and I’m not even sure if they should be able to. It’s only natural to age, but the gracelessness of it and the helplessness everyone feels about it haunt me.
Luckily for me, my evil grandma not only has the regular steam of my “weight issue” to harass me with, but with my age (almost 25!) she’s got new material now: don’t forget you need to save all your money to give your parents for their retirement, and i sure hope you’re sharing your income with your sister too! plus the inevitable marriage speak. Except the marriage speak is so warped with talk about praying to God for a fantastic husband, and perhaps going through the names of people I know from university who are church-going Christians and narrow down from there – yes, these were her suggestions. Never mind that I had just confirmed Alex and I are still together. Wow, seriously Grandma, because I desperately need a man to make me whole. Thanks for asking about my super-awesome-career that’s supposed to pay for two (very likely separate) retirements and support a younger sister. In case you were interested, Grandma, that career doesn’t exist in my life currently and has no starring role on the horizon either. It’s hard for me to be understanding because she has just put me down with all that fat talk, even though I know she’s from a different time where a woman moved from her parents’ house to her husband’s home…
My sweet grandma is sweet as ever, but she had a really rough time a while back that everyone thought she wasn’t going to make it. She is recovered now and very chatty. Aside from the no-short-term-memory thing, she is an amazingly strong woman who just doesn’t quit. I love seeing her. I like seeing all of my grandparents. However, I also noticed that as I got older and started to pay attention to my surroundings, the fact that my grandparents’ homes have stalled in time makes me sad. It makes me want to help them clean up the old stuff and re-paint the house, but at the same time it makes me remember all the memories I have in their houses with those beige-walls or red chair cushions. It’s an odd nostalgic feeling combined with an impulse to clean and de-clutter, and it also reminds me of how selfish I was as a kid. I accepted the way things were and never thought that their places needed facelifts. Now, I totally see the changes we can make to improve their lives, and I feel guilty for not having caught on earlier, and not being able to be around and help. At the same time, I’m a little glad for things not changing. It’s strange.
I didn’t want to do a post without pictures, but I really can’t function much longer, so I’m going to sign off now. I did take some serious cultural shock photos earlier today that I will post later after I finally catch up on some sleep. Stay tuned!
Tomorrow: visiting my second family, my god-family. Very exciting!