As part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month every May, San Francisco's Union Square is home to the annual Taiwanese American Cultural Festival. When I heard about this day-long celebration of culture, music and food, I knew there was one person I had to invite: OS blogger Linda Shiue.
I was ecstatic when Linda emailed me saying she'd love to meet up. Admittedly, I'm a little wary of meeting friends I only know from the Internet. But this was Linda-- a person whose essays often feel so familiar, that I feel like I am reading descriptions of my own childhood. She's just as lively in person as she seems online, and it turns out we have much more in common than our love of good food.
While I had hoped we'd be able to snack on some the traditional Taiwanese street fare, the booths seemed to be running low by the time we arrived. And, since we had both brought our kids along in hopes of teaching them about their heritage, we had to hurriedly gulp down our food while standing in a crowded plaza, juggling armfuls of flyers and craft projects, with answering the never-ending soundtrack of, "Mom, I'm bored!"
As we wandered around the displays, Linda and I discovered that neither of us had been properly taught to speak Mandarin Chinese or the Taiwanese dialect spoken by our families. Like many Gen-X children of immigrants, we both were raised with sort of a mish-mash of English, Taiwanese, and Mandarin.
While there were displays of traditional puppets
and booths to learn Chinese brush painting
The children all liked the carnival games the best, like this one where kids choose a prize by poking a hole through a random square on a paper-covered box.
And while you don't have to be Taiwanese to attend the festival, it was especially fun to visit with someone in whom I could see a reflection of myself.