I guess it's time to update the subtitle of this blog, seeing as Taiwan is not my locus anymore. I'm sure it will still play a significant role as I transition from expatriate to repatriate, but the "Life in Kaohsiung (Redux)" chapter is behind me and Phoenix is where the story will next unfold.
Phoenix is beautiful. I don't think I ever would've expected to say that, seeing as I'm fond of green and rainy places generally, but the desert has its own personality and I'm enjoying getting to know the feel of the place. In Taiwan I measured humidity by how clumped up the salt in my salt dish got; I knew a typhoon was coming when leaves fluttered up to our windows on the fourth floor. I haven't been in Arizona long enough to get a sense of when changes are coming, but I am noting how the shadows move, how early in the day the pavement gets hot, what kind of clouds gather at night to reflect the pinks and oranges of the sunset back down to earth. The saguaro were in bloom when we landed, and while those blooms are starting to fade others are taking their turn -- prickly pear bearing plump purple fruit, waxy green round-leafed shrubs dotted with tiny jasmine-scented white stars, and marigold-colored pompons on low dense hedges that feed the white-tailed rabbits that live in this neighborhood.
I visited a ghost town today on my way back from downtown. I went looking to replace something I'd broken, a souvenir I'd gotten last summer. As before, the ceramic wares were set out on tables and shelves in front of the shop and in the shop -- with no shopkeeper in sight. A cashbox stood beside the door, with newspaper and plastic bags laid out so you could wrap up fragile items and get on your way. I like the honor system. I like that even in a tourist destination, where people are free from the constraints that often keep us on our best behavior, this craftsman trusts his creations -- his livelihood -- to strangers.
Taiwan has made me more of an observer and also more of a joiner than I used to be. I'm eager to establish community, to connect with the people in my new church, to meet neighbors and teachers and get to know the fabulous crew at Trader Joe's (because TJ's always has a fabulous crew). This is what settling in feels like. I haven't had to do it this fully since our first move to Taiwan in 2001, when everything was foreign and every day was spent clearing new trails, relationally, culturally, linguistically. Coming back to America after so much time away there are trails to be broken here now, but it's a smoother terrain and the wide open skies make it easier to see where I'm going. It doesn't quite feel like home yet, but it's getting familiar, and that's the first step.