Year of the Dragon

On the eve of Lunar New Year, I spent a night in detention at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport in Taipei after being refused entry into Taiwan due to an expired passport, which crystallized a lifetime of experiences as a linguistic and cultural outsider in the country where I was born.


"The young man, a China Airlines employee, addresses me in Mandarin first, then English. On hearing my predicament, he asks whether my passport can be sent from the States. It’s a reasonable suggestion, but there’s only one problem: nobody has keys to my apartment. “Oh,” he says. “You have no family there?”

He must find it hard to believe that a Taiwanese woman could live alone in another country without at least one family member, in-law, or family friend nearby. I consider sending my keys on the next flight to SFO, but I soon realize this isn’t the best option: even if a flight left right away, it would take a minimum of 24 hours to get to California and back, and I’d have to get someone to collect the keys, locate my passport, then re-deliver the passport to the airline. Who was going to do this for me?"