On the MRT to my next destination, I opened my new Chinese seal and tried it out. It wasn’t my name. I studied it for a minute, since I sometimes forget my name.
I got off at the next stop and hopped on the train heading back towards the 30-square-foot shop.
“Excuse me, but . . . this isn’t my name.”
“That’s your name,” the stamp guy said, puzzled.
“Sorry, but it isn't."
He shuffled through a messy stack of papers, finding the one with my information on it. “Here - this is what your mom wrote!”
I recognized her handwriting and remembered Mom scribbling on the pink scratch paper. We had spent the afternoon doing errands.
“Oh, you're right. Sorry! I guess she doesn’t know my name.”
We laughed and I ordered another seal.
Later I asked Mom about it.
“Sorry,” she said sheepishly. “Aiyah, why do you need your name on a seal anyway?”
“It’s for painting.”
“Aiyah, so particular. Not necessary.”
In between Twister, Temple Run, and Jenga With Sudden New Rules Made by Cheating Children, I noticed a Hal Leonard’s Guitar Method Book 1 and a kid's guitar sitting on the floor next to me.
I picked it up and played some songs - Greensleeves, Shenandoah, Red River Valley, etc. I thought I was doing pretty well, and mentally patted myself on the back.
“You’re horrible,” Italo said.
On the internet, Positano looks gorgeous and saturated with color.
When we showed up last month, it looked like this:
Haha! I still liked it, though.
Eventually, it looked more like this:
I'm not a photographer, so this view was way nicer in person.
And now, please enjoy this inviting chair that we found outside of our Airbnb.
I was on Facebook the other day (five years ago), and saw a comment on my cousin’s Facebook page.
Kai-Hsiang uses Chinese characters for his Facebook name, so every time Mom asks me to show her photos of Kai-Hsiang's kids, I go to my cousin Yi-Ta’s page (he uses his English name, Benny, in his profile), and look for Kai-Hsiang in the “Mutual Friends” section. Kai-Hsiang’s photo features him posing with the hideous-pink starfish guy from SpongeBob SquarePants, so he’s easy to find.
The comment on Kai-Hsiang’s page came from someone named Shampoo Hsu. I’ve always thought that Shampoo Hsu was an underused name, and I wanted this person as a friend, or alternatively, I wanted to rename myself Shampoo Hsu.
A year later, I noticed another comment from Shampoo Hsu, and clicked on his profile.
Shampoo Hsu is my cousin!!! As it turns out, Shampoo is the English name of Kai-Hsiang’s younger brother, Kai-Jin. Six-year-old Kai-Jin used to lock me in his family’s laundry room at 6 a.m. while everyone was sleeping and I was tooling around the apartment, jet-lagged, and mutter “You monkee,” “You doge” and “You peeg” through the glass door. How I miss those summer visits to Taipei.
Apparently, shampoo - “xifajing” in Mandarin - sounds similar to “Hsu Kai-Jin” (“Xi” is the same as “Hsu” as long as the tones and character match; it’s just a different Romanization). This was why Kai-Jin picked his name.
A scan of Shampoo Hsu’s Facebook page reveals more glorious bounty. Shampoo has collected friends named Liquefy Chang, Achilles Hsieh, Macro Chen, Conductor Wang, Mejust Chuang, Agroup Tsai and NewWay Hsiao.
In Taiwan, kids pick (or their teacher picks) their English name while in school. As far as I know, they can change their name later, but I hear they often stick to their first choice (I’ll ask Kai-Hsiang about this later, since I’m not sure). This is why you can befriend adults named Pizza, Glitter, Maximus, Policeman and iPhone in various parts of Asia.