Monday, June 16, 2008

Headlights & red lights

It's late, and I should be sleeping, or if not sleeping then getting our bags packed for tomorrow's jaunt to destinations north and an overnight with friends.


Yesterday we were on the peninsula for a family get-together and on the drive home Cole was struck by the sight, as we came over a rise in the highway, of a solid band of headlights in the on-coming lanes and a solid band of tail lights ahead of us. He said, "That looks cool. Headlights and red lights." For some reason that resonated, like some sort of metaphor for life, or at least travel. Today it formed into a more concrete thought after rattling around in my brain: I do love coming home to Washington for the summers, seeing friends and family, eating favorite foods, losing sensation in my toes because it's so freakin' cold here in the summers; but when I'm here I have a general sense that I am looking at everyone's life from behind. It's not that I couldn't live like most people here, but the lifestyle seems one step ahead of where I want to be; if out of reach, only because I am taking small steps while everyone else marches on. Staring at the back of the American Dream: those are the tail lights.

On the other hand, living in Taiwan virtually guarantees that I'll not fit the mold. I live better than most locals, but am poorer than most expats; I am valued for my ability to speak my native tongue yet frustrated daily in my inability to speak Chinese; I do not really understand the culture around me, am not sure of my real reason for being there, but still persist in trying to make sense of all the whys and hows. Taiwan stares me down every time I step outside my cozy little nest: headlights.

This would be a great spot for an epiphany, or at least a platitude, but I have none. It's a puzzle, how we sometimes end up in unexpected places and then start calling those places home. And what was home becomes home again only when you're not there.