Monday, May 11, 2009

Wu Feng Road

Wu Feng Road is the name of the street I grew up on in southern Taiwan. As a kid I played in this street with my friends. No matter from what dusty lane game we were engaged in, I would pull away to watch their mothers' congregate at the water pump to wash rice bowls and chopsticks in the evening. Crouching around the well, I would listen in on their conversations, mostly gossip and worrying about their children. From these stolen moments, I learned a lot about the inner workings of my neighborhood. It was a key to their innermost courtyard.

The neighborhood mothers called me "Jing Yu," behind my back, which means gold fish on account of my hair color and because it sounded a little like Jeanne. But to my face they called me Shaio (Little) Ming, part of my proper name, "Ming-An" which means, Luminous Peace. The ladies didn't approve of this name. They would sigh with long winded "Waaaaas" and then "tsk tsk", saying it sounded like a boys name. This was a polite way of saying I was rambunctious, NOT peaceful. Since I was white, these matriarchs and maids never edited their thoughts when I was present. At the pump, they acted as if I was invisible. What I did with the information spilled didn't seem to count, for they knew it would never end up in the family tablets over their ancestral alters. They did not fear me at all. Maybe they should have.

When I grew up and moved away, I missed them terribly. I started painting their faces to ease my homesickness and to keep their thoughts in my head.

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