Brad Carpenter now residing in Minnesota forwarded an e-mail recently recounting his feelings of Taiwan. So many of the letters I receive have the same thread running through them. Taiwan truly shaped many of our hearts with everlasting impressions of wonder and joy.
My father was stationed as a captain and then major at MAAG from 9/72 - 6/75. I was a mere child at the time, growing between the ages of eight and three-quarters and eleven and one-half, but I too am deeply indebted to the memory and experience of my time in Taiwan.
I attended Taipei American School between the third through fifth grades. I can find but two scant YouTube videos to remind me of the location; the school moved to a new locale in 1989, and the old site is dilapidated and will, I'm sure, soon cease to exist. My memories are more similar to yours than we might imagine - chasing girls, who did not yet know if they wished to be caught or not; playing baseball, whether with local Taiwanese children (this was during their Little League hegemony, mind you!), American kids, or my dad.
The thrill of wandering - as adults, the term would metamorphasize into, "hiking" - along the Tien Mu trail, with a perpetual eye scanning for haboo, or pit vipers lurking evanescently in the green shoots of ever present bamboo. The seemingly secret knowledge of the whereabouts of a remote and pristine water fall, location reachable by Huffy or Converse only, where uncounted "young men" would lurk about in caves and occasionally thrill to the sight of amorous Taiwanese couples who would venture covertly to the spot, unaware and uncaring of their youthful voyeurs.
I have friends, neighbors - even family - who this day do not understand why I sometimes grow nostalgic, and melancholy, over my inability to grasp tangible evidence of my Taiwan experience. My sense of loss at childhood friends forever absent confuses, and possibly annoys, them.
"If you chose to cease being friends - that's either their call or yours," they say. "You can't go online and seek these people out - that's indecent and obtrusive," they add.
But I wonder, always. My decisions were not my own to make, as a young boy. My friends, subject to the same rules of military rotation as I, were never constant. But they were dear. "Serving my country" as a dependent did have a great affect on me through a child's level maintenance of a topsy-turvy inconstancy. I continue to seek out those names that I do recall, if only in the hope that I might grant an element of - hopefully - warm imagery and cheery reminder to those with whom I've shared that special Taiwan experience.
Thank you for sharing yours with me.