Thursday, February 6, 2014


Taiwan and I. Hmmm. Well for starters, I was determined not to have another “Korea” in my life. By that I mean that I didn’t want to develop a hatred for a country I hardly knew and then have to work through the healing process. I’ve got other shit i’d rather learn thanks. Now the fastest way { I } know to avoid hatred is to find a way to enjoy before malcontent can set in. So I thoroughly enjoy nature and food and knew from my previous trip to Taiwan that both of those things are all around you at all times. Boom - book me a ticket. I came here post Philippines, so that’s another variable that I didn’t expect, but I wouldn’t say its a hindrance to my goal. In fact it might have helped get me in the right frame of mind before I came. Oh look ~ unexpected aid. In Taiwan I expected nothing more than to accomplish the following: 1) Make a circuit from Taipei in the North, working down the west coast, stopping in the major cities and back up the east coast back to Taipei for my flight almost 2 weeks later. 2) Eat like i’m not gonna have another chance to 3) Rest and find peace for my soul. So far i’ve done all of that except for make it back to Taipei - but i’ve got lodging booked and a general idea of how i’ll get there (not to mention 5 or so days left to do it~). I’m now in the most “different” place in Taiwan that i’ve experienced. It’s important to note that i’ve spent the past week going down the west coast, going to night-markets, watching people and yah - I’ve been living in China for going on 3.5 years. So when I say “different” I mean, unusual compared to all that. This is Village called DuLan, just a bit north of Taidong (台东 ~aka Taitung) whyyy oh why did i choose a village? because all the hostels in the city itself looked laaame, and i’ve been in enough cities over the past week ~ and you can see the sea from the 3rd floor of this hostel. Not gonna lie - being sandwiched between the sea and the mountains is pretty glorious. Quick recap: up until this moment i’ve been from Taipei in the far north, to Taizhong on the central west, Tainan on the mid-south-west Kaohsiung on the sooouth west, and now over to slightly above taidong on the south east. Geography aside: this is the most grim and hostile place i’ve been in Taiwan. Not that anyone has been mean or anything, its just that “vibe.” I wonder if its something the sea brings with it when its cool/cold? It reminds me of that grim artwork of fishing towns, where people have this calloused expression like they half-expect you to go to sea and not come back. Dark y’all. Gloomy folk aside though ~ i’ve been to the beach 3 or 4 times just to sit there and let my heart pour out. I also climbed the road going up the mountain to an art-cafe (which if you’re ever in DuLan ~ I suggest “The Moonlight Inn (月光小栈)”) There is an awesome view of the sea, the air is super clean and the coffee is reasonable. I was expecting it to be way expensive, but the price matched the quality (reasonable...). It was an accessory to the moment lets say. I get drawn to nature a lot. Migratory birds need to go south for the winter; I need to find a forest, stream, ocean, or mountain with some quiet vistas when the call comes. So its a pretty conflicted place i’d say. Its odd though. Its a little spit of a village ~ i’d be quite surprised if they break 500 people, but there’s foreigners floating around all over the place. I went to a pizza place run by an italian guy who’s girlfriend works in Taipei (like 200 miles away...). He doesn’t like the city so he came down here and runs a little pizzeria out of a tin shed ~ how bout that. Yesterday I went to the old sugar factory (there’s one here too??? its not as cool at the one in KaoHsiung though...). There is a stage and they have live music weekly ~ and there was a bamboo shack off the entrance of the parking lot that has coffee and drinks etc ~ and LEGIT japanese beer sold in blue bottles. There were reindeer and snowy peaks on the front and I do believe that enhances the flavour. How can such classy things be available in an otherwise dump-esque place? What brings people (tourists) here (and they ARE here)? is it just the vistas? There is surfing, but its on like 2 foot tall waves so I can’t say that’s it... To spit it out solid - this has made me seriously wary of my notions of setting down a head-quarters in Alaska. Not expunged those notions, but definitely call into question. The value of geography and scenery can be sullied and distracted from by the local (albeit small) populace. Taiwan, Taiwan. What do I have to say about you. I think it would be easier to live here than in Mainland China. There is a lot here to make one comfortable. There is a lot of interesting, delicious, clean, polite, new. Its small, but there is a lot of good here. If I had come here first, maybe I would prefer Taiwan over Mainland. I am glad that I didn’t come here first. I am glad that I started in the Mainland (not really an active choice, as much as it was an acceptance of fate). I’m also glad that I had my rough experience with Korea. I am glad because, through that dip in the crucible, I have learned much (burned much?). I have learned that judging a country(culture {language}) by what they have or what they do is not wholesome. It may be “fair”, but i’ve seen that “fair” is a judgement that sucks a lot of the possible good out of the world. Taiwan has a lot of good. So does Mainland. And the dog-eat-doggery of their relationship makes thing difficult indeed. I’ve met wonderful people from each of these places ~ and shit heads. And whats more, I don’t care to say that because of any of my experiences, I think one should rule the other. (PS they both have {at one time or another} expressed an entitlement to the other.) Possibly my favourite thing in this island is the night markets (their transportation is pretty legit too~) after maybe 5:30 or 6 these areas open up, and they’re available in all of the major cities I’ve been to in Taiwan. Think of any “county fair” or “carnival” that you’ve ever been to. Booths upon booths of people selling food and random stuff ~ thats a night-market. Massive variety, and abundant deliciousness at such cheapness that anyone can wander about with a nonchalant spend-happy demeanor. So thats what i’ve done for over a week. I worm my way into the flow of people and go from booth to booth looking, and when I find something that I think looks delish - I dig my heels in, and all those suckers can flow around me while I wait for my deliciousness to be made ready for me. Milk-tea in a bag, little egg cakes with shrimp tails sticking out the top, some sort of mascarpone cheese with wild berries in a footed cup, everything possible on a stick, everything possible deep fried in tempura, fried noodles in a deluxe hot-dog bun, the list goes on just as quickly as someone can think of something new and set up a booth for it. Transportation wise ~ the trains go everywhere (admittedly, the island is like 300 miles long and there is a mountain ridge that runs down the middle, so “everywhere” isn’t exactly expansive). The have vending machines for train tickets, so you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll get where you’re wanting to go plus or minus an hour or two (pending loads eh?) Their fast train is lovely ~ but also only necessary if you are in the direst of hurries. Slow train will get you from top of the island down to the bottom in 5-6 hours, and if you’re used to Mainland China ~ that’s par for the course. uh~.~~.~ What is there to say really? I suppose the thing that I think is most worth saying, and ties into my trip to the Philippines, is that Taiwan is generally more developed than Mainland China, but that does not mean that it is “better.” I have said that I Taiwan is a more comfortable place than Mainland China. Neither do I count this as factor that really defines Taiwan as “better” than Mainland China. Taiwan is cleaner, the people are more polite, and there are a lot of international comforts available around every corner. But this glorious wedge of cheese needs to be viewed with the the mouse-trap as well. Politeness for one. The more rules there are to follow, the more judgement follows when the rules are broken. In Mainland, if I ask someone for directions somewhat vaguely, they’ll answer me, or they might not know, and they’ll tell me. In Taiwan, if I don’t know the exact name of where I want to go, or the address for the place, I might get a “oh... I don’t know what you’re talking about dude” and a half-roll of the eyes that echos the same face we’d use in the US when thinking “you should really be better prepared than this.” ??? So yah, there is more politeness, but I wouldn’t say there is more kindness here. Cleanliness ~ the west coast (all the major cities) are noticeably polluted and covered smog~ its not a wide island. What would happen if there was an actual “inland” to this island? No more sea wind to pull of some of that stinky stank? Littering wise, there is no comparison, Taiwan wins hands down on that front. International stuff ~ oh its lovely. I love me some of that, cheese influenced foods, wine, international beer options. Japanese candies, Cold Stone Creamery ~ and Tieguanyin (a unique kind of tea) Ice-cream. OH my. Lots of good foods, and openness to new types of foods it seems too. But in a way, I think so much comfort in a place like this makes you never want to leave. Its easy to weigh all of this good and say that, because of its creativity and its development, taiwan is better. I rebel against that line though. Taiwan is a munchkin land by comparison with Mainland China, and this island has had a lot of international help (at least through economic exchange and military support), whereas the Mainland has fought for everything they have. What will happen over the next 50 years in China? I hope to see whatever portion of that time that God will leave me on this earth for. Mainland is humongous and draws influences from all over its massive territory. The opportunities for new, and different are proportionately massive. Let me wheel around now and talk of the Philippines for a minute and hopefully this will become clearer for you. This is not some mighty tally sheet where I am keeping score between the Mainland and Taiwan. I don’t think that kind of cosmic math will come up with “the right” kind of answer when we are trying to understand the world we are in, or the world we hope to be in. The Philippines is a special place. I believe it’s classed as a third-world country, and that was a term that used to evoke in me the response: Aw~ how sad. They should have “more.“ I wouldn’t likely say something like that because other people would think it hateful and judgmental unless they were having the same thoughts and had voiced them first... But I found a number of sources of “more” and “muchness” that I have not seen ANYwhere but in the Philippines. Somehow we get caught up doing what we do in our countries, but many of us are left horribly incontent. Yet we secretly consider ourselves better off because of what we have, or have easier access to. The most shocking point of realization for me was children. I’ll not lie ~ I don’t typically like kids. I find most of them obnoxious and gross and its always a question I have as to WHY on earth people would want to have them. Some people collect children like bits of shiny rock and show them off to the other adults. “Hey, have you seen my latest off-spring, see how it drewls? fabulous right?” And my normal internal response is that convulsive shiver that runs up my torso like my spine’s been replaced by a slimy-escaping eel. Kids do have their bright moments, but for my part i’d say the frequency of bright to dark moments is usually on the less respectable side of the fraction. Kid by kid basis of course ~ and multi-lingualism instantly makes kids cuter to me somehow. More personally though, I will also admit now that I do not have a feeling of congratulations and excitement for people when they say they are pregnant, or having a child. The feeling just isn’t there for me to give. When I hear that news, internally i think ~ well~ you’re life is gonna get a whole lot harder now. And thats my first thought. I don’t even really nurse an after-thought along the lines of: your life will be more enriched because of this toil later. Nope - to me thats a very insubstantial maybe. It might be enriched because of your toil through pregnancy, raising and hopefully cultivating the child. Perhaps. But the Philippines gave me a very different look on things. I’ve forever looked at children as a burden and sources of natural discomfort like mosquitos or bed-head. Here though, kids’re just a part of the show. Life goes on whether they stub their toe or grow up to drive a tricycle taxi. They just let them “flow.” In China kids are almost all called “treasure” and they are treated like it, and they have massive entitlement issues and give me no hope for the future. In the philippines they’re just set to roam with the other kids in herds like cattle. They run out into traffic, but the tricycle taxis (a motorcycle with a side-car that looks to me like the soviet interpretation of an amish-buggy) are all used to kids not paying attention to a single damn thing, and they swerve around them with a dexterity and tolerance that I massively respect. The kids play with each other. None of the parents is apparently concerned about the other kids being a bad influence on “their” kid, and the parents mostly let them keep their own lord-of-the-flies-esque society. Aside from them roasting one of the unfortunates of their society, pretty much anything goes. I didn’t see too much interfering. Kids are taken along on all sorts of trips, but they are not allowed to dictate how the cookie crumbles when they are in adult society, and they are kept in line when it comes to infringing on the other adult members human experience. The kids of my host’s relatives were constantly being told to keep their voice down and this or that when they were around me, because my host was super perceptive that I can’t handle the full spectrum of “the childhood experience.” I wasn’t rude or imposing, but I can’t help but wince when a rug-rat decides to bellow his opinion to the world a foot and a half from me. Why do they progressively get closer to me? They like me often, even though I don’t think the world of them. My Co-worker was with me, and he was doing his darndest to get them to like him, but I maintained my feline semi-detached state. Thats really my problem ~ they always want what they cant have :D. The kids in the area I was in were given a very loose leash. They were left to occupy themselves with the other kids, and they played with whatever and whoever was around. There were kids wrestling and fighting in the streets, no one stopped them. You know that old-school game in illustrations of like the 1800’s North America where there is a hoop and a stick and the kids try to keep the wheel going as long and as far as they can while they run along-side it. Yah ~ they still play that in the Philippines. And I tell you what ~ there were loads of kids playing at it all along the way ~ and I spent almost ten hours flying (slamming?) around mountain roads in a Jeepney to a different province. And they looked content. What more could you really want? something that you’re willing to be occupied by, food, friends, and love. They have all of that. But how many kids do we have in our own stretch of the earth that are sat at home going: I thought I was gonna have some more fun today. My own niece said that when she was at headquarters (my parents home) a few years ago. I thought it was a dreadful thing to be feeling. An expectation of fun, and then being disappointed about it. Kids need society, but in our larger society, I see less and less kids finding it. Yet we go about worried about whether our kids are getting “exposed” to the “right” kinds of education, society, and culture. We worry about: are we rearing our kids “correctly”. We meddle. We control instead of coax. By controlling on such a wide scale, i’d say the controlee (the kid) comes to expect that the controller will have the answers. And what happens when we have a few extra kids and that kid, that was being controlled or led about on the leash now has a bit “too much” freedom? What roads do they go down when they get all that extra leash or no leash at all and they’re open to doing all the things they were told they couldn’t but have constantly harboured a desire to do? I don’t see the Philippinos pulling out their hair about this?!! and I am immensely impressed by their ability to cultivate, and love, and develop fantastic members of their ever widening communities. And it really is community. Everyone is allowed in. We were dwelling in an area that I would have considered a slum before I came to the Philippines. There were tin roofs everywhere, bars an all sorts of windows, narrow alleys, and ram-shackle of every shade and texture available. We stayed in the tallest building in the area (a three story building that towered over the other one and a half story dwellings nearby.) I was honestly a little worried (surreptitiously) about being judged or scorned by the locals because of it. I hate the word “rich”. I particularly hate it because it is usually the word that people in the US use to express contempt for people who have money. It’s judgement passed on someone who has something, with a feeling of “they don't deserve it” steeped through the entirely too potent one-syllable word. That was the sentiment that I was worried people would pass off on me because I was a foreigner (first) and because I was in the dwelling of a friend who was (at least apparently) better off than the typical member of the community. There was NONE of that. Sometimes you get a feeling or “vibe” when you are in a group of people. Friendliness, ill will, etc. they all carry certain tangibility that is often not expressed directly with open language. This negativity was not in that place with us. And I am humbled and somewhat embarrassed by it because I know the same civility could not be seen in the majority of my first world country. People came up to us left right and center, and there was plenty of opportunity for them to. We went around with our host ~ being that it was Fiesta (A celebration in a certain district within a province for their Patron Saint). They have some of the most gifted and well rehearsed marching bands i’ve ever seen. After high-school, where does that kind of dedication and enjoyment of skill and community exist outside of the full-professional world in the US and Canada? There were marching bands from each “Barangay (bah-rang-GUY~ the subdivision of a municipality ~ each being maybe the size of a city block? someone with more knowledge can correct me.)” Members of the bands ranged in age, stature, gender... whatever. I saw little munchkins with trumpets, and old men with those massive things that are bigger than tubas (the ones that wrap around your torso and look like funnels that willy wonka or Doctor Seuss would use.) And some of the youngest were stealing the show - there was maybe 14 year old on a drum-kit who was taking my breath away. The majorettes ~ a term i just learned in the Philippines, were smoking out the place too. I’ve never seen a society enjoy fire-engine red lipstick quite like these Philippina ladies. And my was it pleasant to behold. Beautiful. They were feminine, but strong, and proud, and it was such a breath of fresh air. It was innervating (videogame word) to see those girls genuinely excited to be getting into their dance routine - especially at what was obviously their favourite hip-popping part. I approve. In the competition there were 3 sections: 20 minutes for the band routine ~ formations and what-not, 10 minutes for the majorettes to do their exposition, and there was like a 3 or so minute solo exposition by one of the majorettes, and they all brought honour to their ancestors, I tell you what. Even when they made mistakes, they just kept going (possibly while grimacing their face a little bit. I would have done mighty deeds if I could have been given a recording of their inner dialogues.) I love China, but I am soooo put off by the frail sickly-cuteness that the majority of Chinese girls try to put on. I want nothing to do with a girl this is going to wail and fall over if I were to poke her in the shoulder with my index finger. Philippinas ~ I would expect to look at the poked shoulder with a sneer of offense and then punch me in the face shortly after. And THATS how it should be dangit! And no-body was tearing them down for their efforts ~ or their mistakes. A few casual jokes here or there, but nothing quite so cutting and judgmental as what I know from my own experience (giving and dealing) in the west. The Philippinos, when regarding someone with respect (someone older, or maybe a police officer...) usually ended their sentences with “po” which has no other function apparent to me than to show respect. For example ~ you say /salaMUT/ in Tagalog for “thank you.” Our host (62years old) asked directions of a police officer (30 som’n) and he (who was by far older) said “salamut po” and he meant it. My hostess ~ when her dad would say something to her, but she didn’t quite hear him clearly, wouldn’t say “whaaaat??” she’d say “Po~”. That sort of genuine recognition is really touching to me. My mom will do the same thing in English in her own way, but I certainly can’t say that it reflects the majority of my country. I, being employed in the service industry for “so long” am used to using respectful/polite language, but I also know the stink of kind-words that are not backed with gold in Fort Knox if you understand me. There is so much more, but this is what I want to share at the moment on this train of thought. Much, much more. To bring this 车(che1 - literally car {ref. to train}) into its 终点站 (zhong1dian3zhan4 {final destination}) what needs saying is that I have been very fortunate to know and meet the people that I have. And here I am now in 花莲 on the east coast of Taiwan, in the shadow of the mountains, in my hostel next to a three meter long indoor koi pond drinking a beer. #hipsterking #content #y’alloughtabejealous #betterifyouwereheretoo I in fact just met a guy from Sichuan province (mainlander) and we chatted for a while. (good ~ I need more Sichuan acquaintances). I told him what I felt about polite societies being difficult to understand. He said that China was like a piece of paper that has been written on already, but the writing has been erased, so its easy to write on now. I thought it was a fantastic metaphor. And thats where I wan’t to leave this installment. I think that our chapter of history is just like my friend said ~ its like a piece of paper that has been written on and erased. Nothing is new under heaven as the wise king once said. And I think the important thing as we move forward in this chapter is to move delicately, and do what we can to engage those around us, rather than control or coddle them. I for one don’t have any clue how to raise a child ~ which is part of why I stay FAAAAAR away from that barrel of monkeys. But even more difficult than raising a child is managing a nation, let alone a community of nations. I’m not saying its my place to do this, and i’d be woefully ill equipped for it if it was my place. What I am saying though is that we, as members in mutually influential societies (increasingly more so) need to learn how to live together much more effectively than we do, rather than looking for quite so many opportunities to help or control each other. “Helping” is another part of that cosmic math I was talking about earlier. Through “helping” we are also setting ourselves up with the mind-set that we have done good, and deserve good back. Instead, I think we need to learn to live with a respect for how much our foot-steps muddy the waters. And that goes for us all.

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