On a bright day in Taipei toward the end of the first grade, I made my way past the two houses further down the lane to the broad, muddy, magic green rice paddy. I looked out over the open, flat expanse that seemed to stretch forever into the distance. My house, was only two doors behind me, down the walled lane; I felt safe.
Here on the muddy dike that stretched for miles along the town side of the paddy, looking out over what seemed the entire expanse of China, I felt a sublime contentment. My insides rushed out over the land, like a swooping hawk, to join it. I stood for a few moments, just watching the straw hats of the people squatting far off in the mud and inhaling the cool air from over the expanse before me.
Then, suddenly, feeling a surge of confidence and laughter that filled my body like helium, I skipped over toward a water buffalo with its head down nuzzling in the ooze. Not five feet from the beast, I stood, holding ground, and watched the tail of the water buffalo flicking flies.
I did not know it yet, but this is how it would be forever. Just before leaving each place I lived, I would go on a walk and, pausing, a surge of contentment would rise within me. Somehow, the country I lived in, its people, my life, would spread out before me, whole and verdant. The land would shine, all its beauties apparent for the first time.