Q宝

It was during our fourth day in Taipei that we met Q宝 at the 早餐店 down the street from my grandma’s place.

He was an adorable little sunshine boy of three years old, happily running around the legs of the shopkeeper’s assistant, cherub cheeks and all.

When we first saw him, he was outside, crouched by the tables under the sun. In one hand he held a bar of half-melted chocolate and in the other, a handful of dirt.

“Q宝, get back in here! It’s blazing hot outside!”

He grinned cheekily at the sound of his mother’s voice and remained crouched silently next to the tables, as though he could turn invisible just by staying completely still.

“Q宝!”

He giggled – an adorable little squeak almost – and ran back into the shade. His mother sat him at our table soon after, and we had a short but lovely conversation which consisted of us trying to wheedle his name out of him, while he laughed shyly and hid his face behind his tiny hands. It was – forgive the repetition – adorable. He spent the remainder of our time at the stall playing with the discarded chopstick wrappers and trying to nosy his way into his mother’s business whilst she moved the gas tanks around and gave customers their breakfasts. Everybody seemed to delight at the sight of him, the way we had.

I’m not sure what exactly it was about Q宝 that made him so endearing. Maybe it’s the way his head seemed too big to fit onto his little body, or perhaps more accurately, it’s how curious and contented he seemed with everything around him. There was no iPad for him to fixate on, there was no obnoxious screaming when his mother took his half-melted bar of chocolate away. He just smiled his toothy little smile and started prodding at the next thing with all the childlike wonder in the world.

I probably won’t see Q宝 until the next time I go back to Taiwan (and god knows when that would be), and even then I might not run into him at the shop anymore. But I hope he never ever loses his appetite for all the little things in life and keeps that little toothy smile for many, many years to come.

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From the window seat of the high-speed rail

There is something about long train rides, window seats, and the prospect of an as-yet unknown adventure ahead that makes one particularly pensive.

The rolling greens of the countryside are flashing by and invariably I find myself thinking about some of the things I want to accomplish, hopefully sometime in the near future. So here I go.

1. Participate in the Words on Wheels volunteer project with SIF next year.

2. Learn how to play the piano.

3. Pick up a third language decently (and not stop unceremoniously at the halfway mark the way my German did haha).

4. Improve on my video-editing skills.

Now given how fleeting my attention span is, I’ll probably have a new set of goals by next month. But, alles in allem, having more goals doesn’t necessarily mean you will accomplish less. It just means you will have more things to put your heart into 🙂

The train operator just announced, “next stop: Taichung station“, which is my cue to leave this lovely plush seat by the window, and embark on the next adventure. My pilgrimage to the original bubble tea shop here in Taichung is calling. Till next time.

The scars you carry

If there was one thing my parents hated about me, it was my tendency to pick at my scabs.

Stop it! They cry suddenly from across the living room, index finger pointed accusingly in my direction.

I freeze, knee up the chair, fingers midway through a peel at a scab on my leg.

You’re going to have so many scars. It’s going to be so ugly!

I grin sheepishly as my mother advances, nostrils flaring, and give one final pull at the dry, hardened skin.

As it turns out, I did have many scars. My aunts, during the dreaded Chinese New Year family gatherings and birthday dinners, loved to remind me of the marks I have.

And yet still, sometimes, it was just immensely satisfying to pick at something I know I’m supposed to leave.

Sometimes, the wounds are so small you forget about the blood that pools. It’s interesting for the first few seconds, then you get bored, and you let it heal.

Other times, it’s a laceration. Torn into your flesh, deep and gaping – blood flowing, tears streaming – and it never seems like it would be complete again.

Or more often still, it’s healing. It’s trying to make you as whole as you once were, but it somehow starts to itch, so you absentmindedly start to pick at the edges again, bit by bit, little by little.

Then you hit blood, and you hastily push the skin back down.

At some point though, you either set your mind to letting it recover, or you simply stop remembering it exists.

So you let it heal.

Scars are like carrying around a constant reminder of what went wrong. Eventually, it heals – although sometimes you can still see the smudges of what once was, but never will be again.

And you let it heal, because for once, just once, you so desperately want to feel some semblance of normalcy again.

It’s never really the same the second time around.

But you let it heal anyway, because you don’t have a choice.

Some day, something small will remind you of the scars you carry. It could be a few days later, or it could be a year later. It could be anything at all: an unexpected reminder of how you got scarred, or the sudden presence of someone else’s newly-acquired scar. So you’ll look down for the first time in a long, long time, and realize with surprise that the scars have faded so much, they don’t look anything at all like what you remembered them to be. Daunting. Harrowing. Tormenting.

Because on hindsight, that’s all that scars will be: a random topic during one of those dreaded Chinese New Year family gatherings. A small blemish, a little discoloration. A gentle reminder of your own strength, and your ability to heal. Any time.

Every time.