Last night, we went out to eat. There is a new burger joint nearby called The Diner, and we like to go there every once in a while to get a milkshake and a burger or sandwich. Last night, at The Diner, we ran into a colleague and three students (who were all there separately with their families). Our colleague, who comes from a city in New York, looked at us and said: "small town".
Sean and I both laughed.
Hsinchu is a city. It's kinda obvious. It's actual name is Hsinchu City. It has a population of 1/2 million people. There is an actual rush hour and multiple trains and so many traffic lights. There is a downtown and a bunch of shopping malls and two universities and taxis everywhere.
I'll show you small town.
I come from small town America.
I grew up in Kingston, Washington.
Population: 2,000 (I just Googled it).
There is one road in, and a total of 3 stop lights (which, given the length of the town, is actually a wee bit excessive).
However, they're mostly to regulate ferry traffic.
That one road?
It literally drops off into the Puget Sound.
The only way out of town to the east is on a ferry, or for those of you not accustomed to that word, a large boat (think Gray's Anatomy).
During my childhood, I couldn't really appreciate my small town.
I wanted more.
I wanted to see the world and be worldly and live in a city and have an exciting life.
And here I am, being all worldly living in Taiwan, often finding myself nostalgic for small town America.
Life is funny like that sometimes.
Last summer, we went to Kingston's 4th of July parade with my family.
Every single fourth of July when I was growing up, this is what we did.
Over summer, a classmate from middle school recognized me.
We all grew up together.
She was there with her kids.
Other elementary school classmates of mine were there too.
Also with their kids.
I hadn't seen a lot of them in more than a decade.
I told them that I lived in Taiwan and that I did not have any children, which just elicited confused but polite nods, but I guess that is a story for another day.
The funny thing was that it didn't seem weird to see those familiar (albeit older) faces lining that familiar road watching that familiar parade.
The Kingston parade includes horses, motorcycles, high school marching bands and construction equipment.
Everyone knows everyone, and it's definitely the most exciting thing that happens in Kingston all year.
Now that's a small town.
Last summer, we also drove 20 minutes to another small town: Hansville, Washington.
Even fewer people live there.
We went to the post office for my mom and collected a package.
When the mailman saw my mom's post office box # on the slip, he was so excited.
My mom had told him all about her daughter who lives in Taiwan, and of course he just knew that I had to be that daughter.
We spent a good 30 minutes talking to this stranger who practically knew my life story because my mom chatted with him every time she brought in a care package to send off to Taiwan.
Now that's a small town.
Walking down the street in Port Townsend, our favorite Washington State small town, I heard: MRS B! It was a student from my very first year teaching, Anna. My teaching career began in Port Townsend nearly a decade ago. I hadn't seen Anna in practically a decade, and there we were hugging and chatting on the street. I ran into two more former students from my first year teaching at the shoe store.
Talk about a small town.
While I don't think I could ever live in my childhood small town again, there is something so special about small town America. And sometimes, even a city as tame as Hsinchu feels so big and so impersonal.
No mailman to chat to.
No fun parade filled with non-strangers.
No phantoms of the past appearing here and there.
And because I am a proud Washingtonian, here are a lot of pictures that prove my home is way better than your home.
Small town America and all.