In 1959 I went to work as a nurse at the Veteran’s hospital in Taiwan. I had left China with my mother, and we were at the time very poor.I think my mother worked as a schoolteacher, in music, while I went to school. We were living with someone, a friend of my mother’s, and my father came later. She just rented the place, that was maybe 1949-50 in Keelung, on the seacoast, and that’s where I went to elementary school. I was maybe seven or eight. And I remember we had to learn Mandarin.If you didn’t speak Mandarin, you had to wear this little thing on your neck, sort of a circle, to show you spoke Taiwanese. And then we moved to Hengchun for one year.That was very hard, it was the countryside.We didn’t wear shoes so of course I was barefoot all the time.If you wore shoes people laughed at you.We had a lot of fun picking fruit.It was free, so why not?They have cottonwood, and we have so many fruits, mango, lianwu, and fivestar fruit.Then my father came and we lived in a Japanese captain’s house, where there was only gas heat.It was a large plantation and I remember walking a lot.At the time a lot of Japanese had hanged themselves.
The captain—the owner of the plantation—had an enormous house. My dad was head of the factory there. We had to raise our own eggs, chicken and vegetables.We stayed there only one year because my mother said it was too back-country.So my father changed jobs and worked at an ice factory; at that time, ice was valuable.Then I went to high school there, and my mother worked—this was in Kaoshiung.So we just stayed there and I’m not sure what year it was but it was the time the communists took over.And we all wanted to join Guofang to go to the military.Because I think communist China was bombarding something, I don’t know which year this was exactly. So a lot of us wanted to go fight, and I wanted to go. My father said “No, you’re not joining the military, if you do you won’t come back.”So I didn’t go.That was your father’s school, he went there to study medicine.Then I decided to just go to nursing school. So I went a year ahead.My best friend and I took the test; she wanted to be a nurse and I wanted to be a Chinese poet.I ended up passing the test and she didn’t, so I want to Taizhong Nursing School.Ying Laoshi wanted me to marry a ‘52 bomber pilot who went to Taizhong Lugong.Her husband was chief of the airforce in Taizhong. I don’t know if I still have his dictionary or not. I was too young and didn’t want to marry.So he was so depressed.He told my friend, “I am grabbing a log in the whirlpool.”Well, he was nice.When there was a taifeng颱風 and I wanted to go home, there was no transport available, but he put me on the military airplane so I could go home.I was 18.I had so many boyfriends; English majors and Chinese poets.Then there was someone who came and sat through my wedding. He had a doctorate and eventually moved toToronto, he probably has a lot of kids now.
So in 1959 I finished school, then I took a test and went to veterans hospital to work. So I worked mostly with the dignitaries. They picked me because I was tall and slim. So I was Chiangkai Shek’s nurse. Xiangxi, who was well known for being the richest man on the island, married Chiang Kaishek’s sister. And Kung Xiangxi, I think the sister was gay. She always dressed like a man. People warned me; don’t go so close. So many people, all these senators. Chiangkai shek just had shifan (rice soup). He was always very polite. Didn’t talk too much, all he said was good morning, xiao jie. Kung Xiangxi was kind of old and sick so I took care of him. A few of us were picked to take care of him. And his wife, and then somebody else. I don’t know who was this general and his wife. Wife was kind of big, he was small. Everyone was scared of her, she was quite huge.
Back then the war was already over and everyone was sick in the hospital.I was chosen to cut the ribbon at the ribbon cutting ceremony – it’s on the newspaper with all the war heroes.