“I think it’s Wednesday, the evening, the mess we’re in-
The city sunset over me-
We spend the weekend in Taipei, on bicycles and in playgrounds, in restaurants and a friend’s home. It’s the kind of quick hop short haul weekend we imagined common on moving back to Asia. It’s the kind of weekend that was common, in 2018, when we moved to Hong Kong.
It was also our first time in Taiwan since a frisbee tournament in 2019, and our first time seeing these friends since Tokyo in August of the same year. We celebrate their birthdays, remembering the last time we did so, when they lived in Singapore. The intervening years go unmentioned. They will always go unmentioned, in these conversations. Gaps in our lives filled with bouldering and surfing, with ping pong and big decisions.
The sum of these years has finally arrived. Pandemic babies play together in the play pen, both almost one. I help the older daughter, now six, walk across a high bar at the park, and watch her cartwheel and jump. We race most everywhere we go, on foot and on scooter. Everyone has changed jobs since our last conversations, everyone’s career is in a new phase. Our collective values have changed: the mornings are earlier and the nights likewise, and the restaurants all have high chairs. It’s a phase, and one we are happy to share. Our ability to visit each other while residing in different countries, while all out of the nation of our birth, has been a dream for so long that it feels historical, ancient. At some level the boys who started writing each other letters on paper from China and Japan in 2002 are fully grown, able to say “see you soon maybe in Tokyo” and mean it. In some ways there is always so much more to learn, the people we are woefully incomplete. In some ways the world itself has proven unreliable, and those promises are, we now know, subject to powers mostly invisible. For the next phase we will try to be better partners, better parents, and still our old selves, hard working and athletic, curious and well-read. The conversations reflect these challenges, and discussions of starting consultancies and building a regional client base mingle with conversations about finding pre-schools, about the gift of child care and the pleasure of bike-able neighborhoods. This last is a wonderful gift, something we miss in Hong Kong, and Clara’s first bike rides are happy ones, on Taipei’s bike share and sitting behind one of my oldest friends. Taipei’s combination of density, Mandarin-speakers, and trees gives us a good feeling, and we promise to return soon, to keep making these short loops while we live so near.
At the end of the weekend we say goodbye lightly, having forgotten or chosen not to remember that the last time it was for four years. On the way home we talk about how good it feels, to be out in the world with our daughter, to be able to travel lightly, as we always hoped.
She won’t remember this trip to Taiwan, or probably the next. The lightness of travel, though, and our comfort with it, though, the foundation of a family at home on the go, that we think she’ll remember, one way or another.
Quoted lyrics from PJ Harvey’s ‘This Mess We’re In’, from the 2000 album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea