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 5 a.m. while everyone else was sleeping and I was gazing, jet-lagged, out of the laundry room window. He would smirk and mutter, “You monkee,” “You doge” and “You peeg” through the glass door. Ah, 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.
In Kansas, my parents liked to save energy by minimizing heat usage during the winter. We wore parkas around the house. If you poured yourself a cup of water, it was icy cold a while later.
“Guess what my favorite word is,” my niece, Calliope, said at dinner.
“Pink,” Mom said.
“Flower," I suggested.
“Yes." She didn't seem surprised that it only took three guesses, and went back to her noodles.
My aunt shared her secret for making perfect Japanese food. It's her method for perfect food in general, but since she's in denial that she's not Japanese, she only makes Japanese food.
"I make every recipe 100 times in a row," she told me.
As a result, her dishes (including onigiri) are impeccable and mouthwatering.
My aunt also makes you shower the second you enter her house, immediately launders your clothes (made filthy from the outside world), and directs you to change into a different pair of slippers for each part of the house. She once refused to let my friends (who were dropping me off after dinner) into her house to use the bathroom, for fear of their germs.