Things have been busy since I got back from my trip to the states; the main thing has been preparing for and teaching my photography course at the Zhongzheng Community College. I’ve never really taught before, so it has taken some getting used to. Over the past couple of months, however, I’ve gotten into the swing of it, and of course Chenbl has been a tremendous help in organizing things. I’ve been purposely avoiding telling students how and what to shoot, preferring instead to give them the confidence and tools to find what they’re looking for, photographically speaking. Having been wrung through the Taiwanese educational system, however, most students feel the need to be told every little thing and what it means, whereas I’ve mostly been emphasizing the importance of intent, of communicating one’s personal truths by telling them what others have done and how, showing them quality work and analyzing it together. And I’ve been incorporating photo walks along the way, which have been pretty successful. Most of them have responded positively to this kind of instruction. But it’s a little difficult to overcome the feeling that being a teacher means that one must know everything and be right all the time, which of course is BS. Teacher Xu warned me about this when we were talking about teaching Tai-chi. Now I can see what he was talking about.
Speaking of Teacher Xu: He’s back, back in the park and teaching again. Everyone is happy about this, and a lot of old faces have been showing up in the park, as well as some new students. Practicing tuishou is different with everyone, and it’s always refreshing to switch styles. I’ve stopped updating the tuishou blog, by the way; I’m planning to incorporate all of my various blogs (although I’m not entirely sure how to do this in WP…importing? Exporting? I have no idea) once I can get my website updated, somehow. Finding someone to do this has been a challenge, so for now I’m continuing with my antediluvian design. It’s not as if people still read blogs anyway.
I noticed that a large temple procession was taking place in front of the Presidential Office by the park as I practiced on Sunday, so afterwards I went over to take a look. It was for the Chenghuang Temple, and involved seemingly hundreds of palanquins, costumed dancers, flags, trucks, fireworks, etc. After that I decided to walk over to the CKS Hall MRT station, but on the way I found myself in the midst of a large Retrocession Day activity in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where I used to work. Well, when I say “large” I mean the preparations were large-scale, but there weren’t many people there, and the ones who were were rather old. The only young people there were police and completely obvious plainclothes officers, as well as brigades of black-shirted young men who wouldn’t have seemed out of place standing in the background while jets and sharks danced with each other. New Party banners waved over the small crowd, and the “military” brigade posed for photos by the East Gate. I’d actually forgotten that Sunday was Retrocession Day, and I imagine that most of the country had as well. A for-hire military band stood in front of the stage, and policemen ringed the barriers, standing outside the yellow police tape and checking the bags of people who wanted in. They weren’t very busy.
Curious, I went in just as President Ma took the stage to give a speech on the Potsdam and Cairo declarations. After a few minutes I felt a prod on my shoulder. It was my old college roomie, Yao Fu-wen, who has worked for the Kuomintang for many years. We chatted for a bit; he seemed a bit discouraged; the whole thing was really kind of sad. The production felt cheap, and the regurgitation of references to ancient Japanese aggression felt as old and tired as the audience. It’s hard to believe that the KMT doesn’t know how out-of-touch they seem these days. Chu’s initial refusal to run for president, followed by Hung Hsiu-chu’s bizarre nomination and subsequent hard-core unificationist rants, resulting in the party’s realization that they’d not only lose the presidency but also the Legislature if this shit continued, and their dumping of Hung in favor of a still-reluctant Chu, all point to a party that has lost its way. It’s almost a certainty that Tsai Ying-wen will win the presidency; the KMT must know this; the only thing they can hope for is to maintain a majority in the Legislature, otherwise they wouldn’t have even bothered to replace Hung as their candidate, but it seems that internal bickering has taken priority over the actual reform they so desperately need. I guess we’ll see what happens, but it seems to me that if the KMT were willing to focus on the future of Taiwan rather than the past of other countries, it might stand a better chance.
Leaving the Retrocession event, I walked over to CKS Hall, where huge crowds of people were watching military-themed demonstrations, including hand-to-hand combat, paratrooper “training” rides, tanks and other equipment, all under a Discovery Channel banner. It seems that the uniforms have changed again, to a grayer, more “digital” design from the camos that we wore in our time. Hopefully this will result in higher recruitment rates for the volunteer military, because the numbers have been disappointing so far.
Behind all this, right in front of the CKS Memorial, was a “Chinese Culture” exhibition, including wood carvings and people in ancient costumes, and a female choir singing on the stage. Only a handful of people sat in the hundreds of chairs set out for an audience. I could only hope that this was a rehearsal and not the actual performance, because, well, damn that would have been embarrassing.
The weather’s been strange lately, quick successions of wet and dry that we’d expect in Spring rather than Fall, and the water in Bitan is still a murky yellow from the typhoons. It might be a while before we once again see that beautiful jade-colored expanse again. In any case, it seems that change is on the way.