Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Bushman, the Model, the Activist, and the Chubby, Balding Blogger

Friday we went to Taipei for the blogger meetup at Swensons on Saturday. While me wife reconnected with her family, I took my kids to the local internet cafe so that they could get their needed dosage of second-hand smoke and ensure the proper level of myopia.

Friday night we went to Wa Cheng Thai Restaurant in Yungho, right on the corner of Chungshan and Chungcheng. Here a cop handles traffic on the corner.

Sheridan (right, pink) and her cousin Aiwen (left, pink) prepare for dinner.

My father and mother in law.

The Thai sausages were a welcome change from the local Chinese sausages.

Saturday I got up early and went downtown. Ever since I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, wandering around Nairobi at the crack of dawn, I've loved to walk through cities while they are still sleeping. Early on Saturday the streets were empty, and the buildings all fogged in.

A convention of coffee: thanks to Starbucks, the color of coffeehouses is green.

The world trade center exhibition hall, currently housing the book fair, and Taipei 101, setting new records in both height and hideousness. I do not like the imposing monumental architecture in this district of Taipei; it is built to an inhuman scale, and there is nothing of the reassuringly human anarchy of Taipei's back streets -- vendors and small shops having been banished. A chilly, lifeless place.

One of Taipei's most amazing qualities, though, is that you can leave the sterile spaces where modernity and power have written out the human, and dive into a side street where the human writ still runs.

Concrete canyons of Taipei, from the long pedestrian bridge near Swenson's.

Another interesting feature of Taiwan's cities are the numerous small temples.

Michael from The New Hampshire Bushman in Taiwan and The World.

Not many people came this week -- too many people out for Chinese New Year.

After the morning breakfast, Michael and his photogenic girlfriend Hui-Chen, myself, and Linda Arrigo went off to find GPS equipment in the computer district of Taipei. Michael is an engineer and businessman, tough, competent, and experienced -- a good man to hang out with on a Saturday afternoon.

A jade market along a side street.

Jade jewelry.

The remains of Guang Hwa Market, the famous computer market in Taipei. A section of it was recently demolished.

Linda Arrigo, a long-time Taiwan democracy activist and researcher, and I flank a very interesting character from out of Taiwan's history. Once a KGB agent and the owner of a student hostel in Japan where he recruited overseas Taiwanese students for the Communist cause in Taiwan, the founder of the short-lived Taiwan Communist party (membership quickly dwindled to 1) and a former candidate for the legislature (a joke), he now ekes out a living selling cellphone cases in the market.

Temporary quarters for some of the demolished computer shops.

We headed over to the Flower market, a wonderful place to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon. There we saw this religious procession.

As it paraded by, the three of us, foreigners with 70 years combined experience in Taiwan, made numerous perceptive comments, such as "Damn, that music is loud!" and "My, what a long procession," and of course "No, I don't know what that is either."

Michael with Hui-chen. Michael is one of the two coolest men in Taiwan.

Michael noticed that this was not a real Jeep, but a -- Joop.

Each of these recorders was hooked up to a speaker, truck after truck of instrumental music. The noise level was incredible.

Here is the interior of the Flower Market. Mom and Dad, if you're reading, we're definitely bringing you here.

A view of all my ex-girlfriendscacti for sale.

Orchids were everywhere, and cheap.

Bonsai plants, also very cheap.

A beautiful couple.

In addition to flowers, you can also buy tools and other accouterments of construction.

Linda not only taught me about Taiwan history, but also filled me in on the ins and outs of orchids.

Michael took this picture of Hui-chen. He had thoughtfully borrowed the camera to take a few pictures with of me, since like all inveterate photographers, I have few pics of myself.

Juying tells me it's time to head back to the plantation for the night's festivities. For I had forgotten that today was Lantern Festival, traditionally marking the end of Chinese New Year.

The Jade Market across the street. Alas, I had no time to explore.

In the evening we headed to a large local park in the city/suburb of Yungho where crowds had come out to see the local displays.

Seeing the vendors, my wife observed that night markets have become the paradigm defining public festivals in Taiwan.

Her powers of observation are clearly acute, as every kind of deep-fried, hell-on-the-heart food, was available.

A local English chain trolls for students.

A fortunate tellers.

My father in law the artist and calligrapher discusses the merits of brushes with a vendor.

My sister in law (black), my wife (white), and my niece Aiwen (pink) examine the wares.

Yes, it was a beautiful evening, the kind Monday Night Football announcers love.

An array of floats lined one of the streets.

Zeb and Aiwen find something to amuse themselves with. Despite the many vendors, there was little interesting for children to do. The crowds, which Chinese love, were too overwhelming to enjoy any of the displays, floats, and food offerings.

The kids did find this place to jump around in. That's my wife making the Asian Sign of Picture Taking.

Looks great, eh? Completely passive, with plenty of things to look at, but nothing to interact with.

Individual companies set up floats and displays on the themes of lanterns and the Year of the Dog.

Outside the park, festival-goers made wishes and threw coins in the fountain.

A vendor rakes in the cash.


Anonymous said...

I like the Taipei 101 area. When I'm there, it reminds me of home.

MJ Klein said...

great shots man! Hui-Chen says that photos add 10 KG to my stomach though. we had fun man, and thanks for the really cool hang. after you split, went to another area with Linda and she showed us some great places including an excellent restaurant 大團園 where we enjoyed the local tofu specialties. what a great day we had! we gotta do that again! next time we want to meet Mrs. T!

Michael Turton said...

I'll try and persuade her. We should go out for dinner in the evening, that way we can bring the kids along.


Mark said...

Speaking of pinyin, though... I couldn't figure out some of your "old Taiwan-hand" pinyin. "Yongho" = "yonghe", right? Is "Chungshan" the same as "chengshan"? And what's "chungcheng"? I used to live in Yonghe, but I'm embarrased to say I'm at a total loss as to which spot you're talking about.

Michael Turton said...

Well, Chung = the first character of china, Shan = Mountain. So it was at the corner of Central Mountain and Rectifier of China rd. Actually, they are the same road, the name changes, only.