Lulu Cheng

Mompreneur. Children’s Book Author. Educator.

I am a founder of Bitty Bao. I am a mother of two; I spend my days providing the two kids with hands-on and personalized homeschooling experiences, complete with the requisite shuttling of kids to various extracurriculars. My nights are spent building and growing the Bitty Bao brand.

I was born and raised in Taiwan with an American education. I was raised in a proud Taiwanese family. My grandparents only spoke Taiwanese. Whenever we were around them, we were forbidden to speak Mandarin or English. Living in Taiwan, gave me a strong sense of identity – I was immersed in the culture and language. I came to the US for my undergraduate degree at Cornell University and later my Master’s in Teaching at USC. After nearly a decade teaching in East Los Angeles elementary schools, I decided to shift my priorities and focus my energies at home with my children.

Books are such an important part of our home. Many of which were bought and shipped over from Taiwan. I wanted Chinese to be the norm at home. I wanted a print-rich environment in traditional characters so it was a common form of writing and text. As I continued my search for books and expanding our library to English books, it became apparent to me that there was a lack of representation of Asian cultured books available for my children to identify with.

This sparked the creation of Bitty Bao in December 2019. I wanted a series of books that would help my own children learn about their own culture and heritage. I wanted books that they could identify with. I also wanted books that helped normalize being Asian, in an environment where the culture is predominantly western. Now more than ever, we need books that expose children to different cultures so that our differences may be appreciated, respected and celebrated.

 

How does being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American and/or community ally play a role in your life?

I didn’t realize that living in America would cause me to embrace my Taiwanese identity, culture, and heritage even more.

Motherhood also had me dive deeper in reflecting on my own values. One of these core values was learning Mandarin. Language was in my opinion the greatest skill that my children could learn. Speaking and learning Mandarin could open so many doors– in learning their culture, building deeper relationships, finding connections, and appreciating their heritage and identity. It’s also language that would make it possible for them to communicate between generations. I knew that without the ability to communicate fluently with their grandparents in Mandarin, my children would lose out on so many valuable conversations and experiences. Through their relationship with their grandparents and visits to Taiwan, it was my hope that my children would connect to Taiwan as their second home.

My Taiwanese American identity sharpened as I became a mother and that took on additional facets and considerations when I looked at the next generation. I found it even more important to raise my children to know who they are and to root them in their Taiwanese language, culture, and traditions.

 

If you could teach future generations 1 thing about being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American or Taiwan, what would it be?

If I could teach future generations about what it means to be Taiwanese it would be this- to be proud of who you are and where you come from. Knowing and understanding the uniqueness of your culture and ethnicity only helps to develop yourself as an individual and who you will become. I would advise for future generations to enjoy, share, and learn about stories, origins, and cultures of each individual. Only through the learning and sharing of our culture and heritage, can future generations begin to understand the suffering, hardships, and difficulties that our parents and their grandparents before them had to overcome. It is through their successes, determination, and accomplishments, that our generation today are able to enjoy the freedoms and way of life we currently cherish. I hope that future generation will learn the stories of their families, embrace their language, and find those connections that will link them to their roots, making them proud to be Taiwanese.

 

What does the future of Taiwanese America look like?

I am hopeful for the future of Taiwanese America. Taiwanese American’s will learn to embrace and celebrate our individual minds, voices, and emotions. I am hopeful that as my children grow, the prioritization on mental health and wellness will continue to increase in our Taiwanese American communities. I would love to see my children grow up supported in their mental health needs, with resources available to them, and capable of having destigmatized conversations about their emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

 

Favorite memory of Taiwan/Taiwanese America?

My favorite memory of Taiwan was during an extended trip back with my children. I was able to share with them the food carts that I grew up with. More specifically, standing on the street eating a bowl of 何仔米線 (ô-á mī-sòaⁿ – oyster vermicelli), grabbing a stick of candied strawberries (草莓糖葫蘆 – Cǎoméi tánghúlu), and trinket shopping in西門町 (Xīmén tīng) district. We would also take the MRT to 淡水老街 (Dànshuǐ lǎo jiē – old street of Dan Shui) where we snacked on some really authentic 魚丸湯 (Yú wán tang – fish ball soup) and 阿給 (Ā gěi – tofu wrapped noodles). Walking around the Fisherman’s wharf and feasting on fresh seafood for dinner made the trip all the more memorable. Our other nights were routinely spent visiting 士林夜市 (Shì lín yèshì – Shih Lin Night Market). There we would devour on 烤玉米 (Kǎo yùmǐ – grilled corn) and 蜂蜜檸檬愛玉冰(Fēngmì níngméng ài yù bīng – honey lemon Ai Yu slush). The looks on my kid’s faces were so precious as they were enchanted by all the shouting of the local street vendors. And finally, we would visit the traditional market 士東市場 (Shì dōng shìchǎng) which my parents would take me as a young child. At that market, they were in awe by the abundance of open seafood shops, meat butchers, tofu stores, dedicated bean stores, vegetable stands, and fresh fruit vendors.

This month-long trip to Taiwan with the children made a world of difference to me as I was able to show them their Taiwanese roots. Most importantly, the language we spoke at home was the same language spoken throughout the entire country! They got to hear stories from their grandparents about their mom (me!) and see the actual places in real life, while tasting all the foods that I grew up with – with the same 老闆 (Lǎobǎn – owner/boss) that made the foods for me when I was growing up. Each and every moment of that trip was so heartwarming, and the lasting impression it left on my kids was so great that when discussions of vacation come up, they enthusiastically say “I want to go back to Taiwan!”

 

Favorite Taiwanese food?

As you can tell, all my favorite memories of Taiwan involve food. But my most favorite food of all, regardless of weather, is a big steaming piping hot bowl of 滷味 (Lǔwèi – selected foods braised in five-spice soup). And not only any bowl but specifically the 滷味 from a corner stand at 萬年大樓 (Wànnián dàlóu – Wan Nian building) in西門町(Xīmén tīng) district. They definitely have the biggest selection of skewers and noodles to choose from. More so than anywhere else I’ve been in the city. It’s also the district where I was born and raised. The smell from that stall always permeates throughout the neighborhood and each and every time I walk by, I’m able to already taste it. Honorable mention for my next favorite food would be the affordable snacks and multitude of drinks at any local 7-11!


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