My roots in Taiwan’s fertile soil are both shallow and deep.
I was born there, in an industrial city in its south, and grew up playing on dusty streets in sunshine so intense it prickles the skin. Yet I never really looked like I belonged.
Though it’s where my heart calls home, I am not its citizen.
When I left to go to college in America, it was with the unsettling knowledge that I could never go home again for the long term without a stack of official documentation supporting a visa. I’ve had one wonderful chance to do so, from fall 2012-summer 2013, thanks to a research grant. More may follow.
Shallow roots. I’m sown on rocky ground legally speaking, and I could have withered away.
But other roots grow strong and deep. In Taiwan, nature starts to devour the city if left to itself long enough.
It grasps onto foreign bodies and incorporates them into itself with tropical ferocity. It hasn’t let me go.
This blog’s title takes its inspiration from the book From Far Formosa: Its Island, Its People and Missions, by George Leslie Mackay, first published in 1895.
Mackay, a Canadian Presbyterian missionary to northern Taiwan, arrived in 1871 and remained there until his death in 1901. When living in Taipei last year, I attended one of those churches he planted in Taiwanese soil as he trekked around the country wearing a ridiculous pith helmet and an impractically large beard.
Over a century separates Mackay’s years from my childhood, but I grew up in and around the Taiwanese organization he helped to found – The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. My parents have been partners with various bodies in the organization for over 30 years. The Church celebrates a wide range of Taiwanese identities, and I maintain my membership in it.
Good ground in which to be planted.
Mackay’s From Far Formosa offers me a jumping off point for writing about my own experiences of the island and its people.
Of being a Third Culture Kid and a missionary kid, especially now that I am far from home.
And of being a scholar, one who studies Chinese literature and religions, out of the conviction that we’re all listening to and telling stories to help us figure out this wide, green world we’ve been planted in.