Monday, August 14, 2006

Our Former Family Home in Taipei-A Year Later

I moved to Taipei almost two years ago to help my mother and grandmother move out of the Japanese style home they've lived in for forty years. In Taiwan, our home was on government property, doled out to us from the government because of my grandfather's service in the Army. Now they were reclaiming the land (valued at 3 million American dollars!!!) and putting us in a brand new apartment building for displaced officers and their families. (not worth 3 million dollars) There was an effort to preserve the house which was about 100 years old, and a former home to an adviser to Chiang Kai Shek and the grandfather of the first Chinese American Astronaut...but we lost out and this poor place will be razed. Most like to make way for a character-less shell of an apartment building. Or a parking garage.

I took these photographs a year after we moved out. I was moving to an apartment near my family's new place, and we still had some old furniture left inside that we could use. A private from the Taiwanese Army let us in. Here you can see the extent of the termite damage to the outside structure.

This used to be a very grand living room. The tents are there because the roof was leaking, and towards the end when we knew we had to move out we just didn't bother fixing the roof. (plus, all the roofers who knew how to fix these old houses were all too old to climb up them anymore) That's why we resorted to using these tarps the last few months were were there.

Not even a week after we moved out, some thieves broke into the house and stole/cut out a priceless wood carving that was used as a room divider. It was a horrible blow to us, because at the time were still holding out hope that the house would be chosen for restoration by the historical society. The carving was to have been a major centerpiece for our argument for its value and beauty. On top of that, they ripped down picture frames and stole very valuable art work that we had hidden behind the cheaper art, and rummaged through all the leftover drawers. We felt horrible, but then the police came and MADE IT WORSE by doing a half ass job of investigating the crime...and then looking around our home for stuff that they could "take off our hands"! They never caught the thieves, but they left with our garden decorations.

This is the remaining wood carving that the thieves tried to take with them, but then thought better of later when they realized that by sawing it off, they risked causing the entire roof to crash in on them. Hmmph. It'd serve them right if it did.

Our old kitchen. That is a remnant of the painting that used to decorate our front entrance. I guess the thieves ripped it up to wrap the valuables they stole from our house on this table.

This is the upstairs apartment. My grandfather had a cousin, one of the few relatives he had who was able to leave China and come to Taiwan with him and my grandma. I called him "Uncle" and he used to take me to the park and tease me when I was a kid. He never married, but lived with us instead, maintaining his own bachelor existence upstairs in the teenage bedroom of my Uncles Thomas and James, who had since moved out. He passed away when I was in America, but because I never saw him when he was sick, his death still doesn't seem that real to me.

This used to be one of Uncle's old desks. After his death, I adopted his old room as my "area" because it was the quietest place in the house. Sometimes I would find little notes he'd leave for himself there, such as a poem reminding him not to lose his temper, and how to maintain a sense of happiness about his daily life.

Obviously WE didn't leave the library like this. Apparently, more burglars came in after the first round and they ransacked through all of my grandfather's old books. We were in the process of donating them, and it just made me so upset. These books are mainly business textbooks from my grandfather's MBA courses at Indiana University from the 1960s...Uncle James' Computer Science Textbooks from the 70s....and Uncle Thomas' old coin collection books. Later, I found and kept a book on Astral Projection from the collection. My mom found a holographic poster of Jesus Christ's Crucifixion scene. It's awesome. You shift it to the left and right, and it looks like Jesus is swaying on that cross. We have no idea where it came from. Mom credits the robbers for unearthing it.

I found a dead cat in the study. It had presumably crawled in through the termite ridden wall just to find a quiet place and die. Animals, especially cats and dogs have been known to do that, they like to go to dark,quiet places and leave the world alone with their dignities intact. The poor thing was just a pile of dust and orange fur when I found it. I wondered if it was Morris, the orange stray that I used to help feed 7 years ago. Him and his sisters were born in our backyard and adopted it as their home on and off while we lived in the house. 7 years would be a good life for a wild cat. The average lifespan for strays in Taipei is usually 5 years.

This was the room I shared with my mom when I first arrived in Taipei from Dec 2004 to March 2005. I wound up taking the wooden desk to my new apartment. It's about 50 years old, and used to belong to my grandfather. Later, as I was cleaning it, I removed the shelving paper in the drawers, and found a naked pinup chick from the 70s on the other side!!!! Luckily, it wasn't grandpa's. It's? They came from the contraband porno calendars she seized as a customs agent at the airport where she worked right out of college. She thought the paper was "good quality" ...and it was, lasting like 30 years.

When my grandpa was sick, we put his bed near those windows so he could get fresh air and sunlight. He really enjoyed looking out at our garden.

My grandfather used to keep this Japanese styled garden IMMACULATE, but since we moved, this place has taken on a wild look. Flowers growing on the floor, the vines out of's very Secret Garden.

Toilet still works! The bathroom and my mom and aunt's childhood rooms were concrete additions later added to the house during the 60s. Observe the funky tiles.

Leaving to go back out the front yard. The robbers thought about stealing that (empty) wooden padlocked crate and that old purse of my grandma's, but then changed their minds, leaving them by the door.

This fellow hung on our front door. He looks like Aslan from Narnia. If I have a chance, I'm going to rescue him before they knock the house down.


jfk2pvg said...

this a friend of maggies. she sent me your blog, since i too moved from nyc to asia, shanghai to be exact. thanks for sharing your last post. the pictures of the house really do reveal a once beautiful place that will last in memories. sorry about the theft. hopefully bad karma will find them soon.

jfk2pvg said...

this is friend of maggie. she sent me your blog cuz i too moved from nyc to asia (shanghai). thanks for posting your last post. the pictures do reveal what a beautiful house it was. sorry about the robbers. hopefully bad karma will find them soon. p.s. blogger is now available in china. but if ur friends are still having problems, just have them go thru a proxy site such as

Maggie said...

Hello. I love this entry. Your memories connected to the house really touched me. The whole part about finding your uncle's notes to himself... absolutely heartbreaking.

I wish I could come hang out with you in Taiwan. Maybe one day!

Hiding in Asia said...

Aaaaaw! thanks you guys! yea, it was a bummer to see the house like that, but I was really glad that I could show it to everyone because as much as I can describe certainly fill in where my eloquence (and decaying english abiliity) happen to end.

Maggie, I hope you can get to see me! I LOOOOOVE visitors. I have an extra bed too!


Wow. Thanks for bringing me back to some great memories from TPE MK...

Great pics btw.



Captain OE said...

Wow, what a beautiful house! It was so nice to see it through your eyes, and your memories. Definitely take that lion door knocker with you. One day when you own a house, you can stick that on your front door, and what a story you'll have to tell :)

Helgatron said...

Wow what heartbreak! It must have been awful to see the old family home vandalized like that. And the police response is so disappointing! I can't believe they got away with that shit!!!