By Leah King
[3 minute read]
The first time I went to Taiwan was during the summer of 2017. My mother is originally from Taiwan and is quite an interesting character. She is selfless and loyal, but growing up she would work late hours, go on work trips, or go back home to take care of her mom. Because of this, I didn’t really see her that much when I was younger. In Asian culture, supporting family comes first even if that means not seeing them for a while. My dad and my aunt became the “mom” figures in my life. They would always take me to school, take care of me, and play with me. I was never mad that she wasn’t there, but I was often sad and a little confused when she would leave. She would miss every holiday and family trip. I remember one time my mom left for a modeling trip in Asia (she was a successful Asian model back then). The night before she was supposed to leave I asked her to stay, but she couldn’t and she also had to make money to support us. And in the morning when I woke she had left. She would always call and cry saying that she missed me.
Now that I am older, I have a better understanding of why she was gone so often. I went to Taiwan to study Chinese with USC’s Taiwan Summer Program. I left a little early before the program with my mom to visit my family in Kaohsiung and Taitung. Taitung is the town where my family is from and I had never visited before. Taitung is on the east side of Taiwan and it is not as economically advanced as Taipei or the US. We drove to my mom’s old home and in order to get there, we had to drive through a field and some isolated roads.
The house was pretty run down. My mom told me that they had to walk to the river to get water and take showers outside. They would have to boil the water to help kill the germs so that it was okay to use for cooking, drinking, and showering. My mom had to work from age 7 to help support her family. Seeing this, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I realized how lucky I was to be able to go to school and have a shower because my mom had to work since she was very young. Seeing this, I understood why my mom worked so hard and continues to work hard. At a young age, my mom had to support and help her family in order to survive. She had to give up a good education and many parts of her childhood. I always appreciated my mom but I admire the sacrifices she made in order to help me have a good childhood, a good education, and a good life. I am really happy that I was able to go to Taiwan with my mom because I gained a better understanding of our culture and her life.
Leah is from Chicago, and she is studying Cognitive Science and East Asian Area Studies. She has always had a passion for learning languages and helping others. Leah has traveled to Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and Japan in recent years to improve her Chinese speaking skills as well as further her understanding of other cultures. In her free time, Leah loves to eat food, go to the beach, explore LA, dance, and play video games or watch movies with her friends.