Less than 200 years ago, children went right to adulthood. Then someone proposed the idea of adolescence, which took on. The “teen” years were clearly defined as those during which a person’s age ended in a “teen”. Further parsing in recent years has given us the concept of “tweens”, who, though no longer children, have not yet acquired the coveted “teen” morpheme.
“Tween” is an in-between state.
On a recent visit to Taiwanese friends in New York this “in-between-ness” was felt in at least two situations. The first regarded Taiwan itself, which, though independent since 1949, is not accorded independent status by the world at large. China claims this nation as its own. Taiwanese people disagree. A recent poll found that only 13.6% of the population would opt for Taiwan to become part of China. Discussing the situation with an elderly Taiwanese man who immigrated to the USA in 1965, I mentioned Puerto Rico as another example of an in-between place. He took great exception to my comparison. Puerto Rico, he said, would continue to exist whether it became the 51st American State, the next independent Caribbean nation, or continued to muddle along as a US Territory. Taiwan, should it become part of China, would be totally destroyed.
The other in-between-state occurred in Manhattan. We had arrived by train, and without leaving Penn Station left for New Jersey for a night and day. The next day we returned to Penn Station and took the Long Island Railroad to Flushing, Queens, again without leaving the station. Less than 48 hours we passed through the station again, changing to a long distance train back to the middle of America. Three times in Manhattan, but never there.
Like international airports and their attendant conference centers, it’s possible to be someplace, and yet never be there at all. Train stations are that way. So, it could be argued, is Taiwan.
David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.