When my dad was a young boy, he was quite the troublemaker. People in his village knew him as the kid that would sneak into their gardens and stab holes at all their vegetables and fruits with his handy choptick. At least once a week, my grandparents would receive some sort of complaint from his school or a neighbor. So, they sent him away to a boarding school in Tam Suai (near Taipei) in hopes for change. And boy did he change into a man there! Here at this junior/ high school was where my dad converted from Buddhism to Christianity. He had started studying the bible more and learning the ways of religion that he decided he would be baptised at the high school chapel. He came home a changed man to my grandparents. Though they were disappointed he had switched religions, he was no longer a menace, so they eventually came around to his new way of life. It was definitely a struggle for my dad being the only Christian in the family, it felt and still feels alienating at times, but my dad lives with no regrets about his decisions.
He spent 7 years in Tam Suai before enrolling into the army, here was his home for so long and after 53 years of leaving, it was a bit overwhelming when he returned today. He’s had some very life changing memories at this school- being baptised, discovering his passion for geography, being a better person, and also finding my mom! She remembers coming to Tam Suai to visit him over the weekends!
Of course, the area has changed a lot since he was last there. And unfortunately the school did not allow him to enter in the grounds during our visit, even though we begged the guard and told him we flew in from America, he was a sweet guard but really couldn’t let my dad in. So we stood outside the gates while my dad told us stories of his past and what he remembers. The chapel still remains on campus, what used to be the principal’s house on campus has been converted to the admissions office. Watching my dad’s eyes glaze over with light tears as he reminced and stood in silence sometimes thinking of his past was heart warming. It’s hard for us kids to remember that our parents too had a life before us. They went to schools, they had struggles, they lost and found love just like us…it was truly a very touching moment to see and hear my dad of the present reflect on his past. I wish we had more moments like this.
We continued walking through Tam Suai and visited some market areas, Lover’s Bridge, and snacked on some treats from Mister Donuts while overlooking the water. Today’s visit was all about my mom and dad and it was an honor to hear about their lives before I came around!