Saturday, May 8, 2010

Trip to Taiwan

My Mom cooked the usual dinner for my ninth birthday in 1948: noodles with some delicious meat. I no longer remember what kind of meat, it must have been some pieces of pork or chicken. There was no cake, no candles, and no funny hats, as in the US, to symbolize the celebration. Since noodles are long they represent "long life", which is of course the most important for kids. Ed was born in April, we now had four siblings in the family.

The talks during dinners after my 9th birthday got more and more centered on the communist problems in the Manchu area, and how and where we needed to go when they became serious. I started to notice the urgency of the matter. They mentioned that we could go back to Wuhan where Father had properties. Or we could go to Vietnam where Father had very good friends. Or we could go to Taiwan to visit my Mom's brother (YauYau to me) temporarily and wait to see how the situation settled down before a final decision could be made. After much discussion, for many days, the "wait and see" option to Taiwan was finally decided upon. The situation became more urgent rather quickly; Mom had barely enough time to communicate with her brother, my YauYau, before we stared to move.

One late afternoon, Father came home to tell us that he had got boat tickets for the whole family for the trip to Taiwan in three days. I do not remember whether or not the tickets were easy or hard for Father to get. Mother had to pack up everything for us kids in a hurry. In addition, we saw Mother sew some silver dollars into our clothes for safe-keeping. You could feel the serious air in the house. In the last quarter of 1948, after a short train ride, we all got on the boat to sail to Keeloon, a port in North Taiwan. I do not remember much about our boat ride, as we were not allowed on the boat deck. Both parents were not feeling good on the shaking boat. After three long days, we finally saw land.

From Keelon to Kaoshung was more than 12 hours on a slow train. Somehow my parents were not prepared for this part of our journy as we did not have local currency to buy food. We had a pot of tea and some dried apples for the whole family of six. That was a long day. Mom cited that experience often later. Father went back to Nanking right away, maybe on the same boat. Our life in Taiwan started in a small town near Kaoshung named Tzung-en.

I was then in the fourth grade. Mom tried to register us, Dean and me, in the local school as soon as she could. We found out quickly that we were in trouble as all classes were conducted in Taiwanese. We did not understand a word in our classes. Further, everyone in the whole school was bare footed. Dean and I were the only students who wore shoes. We had a difficult time to adjust to bare feet, even part of the time, in school. Making things worse for us, all students were required to work in the afternoon to cultivate the vegetable garden for the school. Maybe that's why everyone had bare feet. As a result of the combination of these factors, my parents decided that we were not learning anything there and we were soon pulled out of the school. There went my fourth grade!

From the start of our move to Taiwan to the time when we settled down again in Taipei two years had elapsed. In this period, we did not have one single picture of any one in the family. I remember what happened in sequence, rather than just any specific event. Oh, there were a lot of things that happened!

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