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  • “Tshàu-tāu-hū! Tshàu-tāu-hū!” ("Stinky tofu! Stinky tofu!") I close my eyes and listen to the conversations around me. They are all in Mandarin.

    Where am I, you ask? Well, I am “home”—on a coastal island on the Pacific Ocean that I haven’t step foot on in almost seven years—Taiwan. An island where the majority of my family and elementary classmates live. An island that I used to proudly proclaim as home.

    The first time I returned “home” was 11 years ago, after staying in another country for way too long. The moment remains fresh in my memory as if it just happened yesterday.

    The excitement I felt to learn the traditions practiced by my parents, the languages I never seemed to understand and the culture I had always adored was unforgettable.

    I can still recall the times I tried memorizing the different festivals and their origins, and the echoes of my voice from practicing the indigenous language during my spare time.

    Before I knew it, four years at “home” passed and I was once again ripped away.

    My forced departure stripped everything away from me—my hard work to become a part of the Taiwanese community and friends that finally had something in common with me.

    The most heartbreaking of all, however, was the loss of a place for me to finally call “home”.

    All I remember was the stream of tears that escaped my eyes, the way I stuttered my final goodbyes, and the painful last glimpse of the island from an airplane window.

    I can still feel the sorrow creeping underneath my skin and making its way towards my broken heart despite how much time has passed.

    Close friends and family have turned into strangers in a blink of an eye.

    Roads that I used to pass by while on the way to school have become foreign avenues that strangle each other.

    I couldn’t help but break down to the drastic changes.

    Back in those days, there was no way to keep in touch with anyone; it was only until a couple years after I moved that I could create a Facebook profile to connect with my friends.

    It was too late, they had already forgotten about me, made new friends, and moved on.

    I don’t feel at home anymore even though I am physically in my grandma’s apartment pondering if I should meet up with my elementary classmates.

    I struggle to remember the routes to take to go to places I used hang out in and where I spent my childhood at.

    I can’t run away from the burden to leave my room that is caused by the overwhelming sights I see: undying neon signs, bizarre advertisements, and staggering crowd of people.

    This is not the Taiwan I knew. This is not the home I used to dream about when I felt homesick. This is a land filled with unfamiliar faces and decayed memories.

    Where do I belong?

    In the community I grew up with, never in a specific place.

    Who is my family now?

    My parents, my brother, and the friends I made and still talk to.

    Where am I from?

    All the places that I created memories in.

    Who am I?

    A girl who wanders across the world trying to find somewhere to stay.

    Where do I call home?

    Nowhere and everywhere.

    (Photo source from Celia Lee)
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