Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Dec 10 2003

(Update: I’ve added a few pictures from my little …

(Update: I’ve added a few pictures from my little jaunt to Taichung)

I’m back in Taipei after three days in Taichung over the weekend. I know, it’s been several days, but for some reason I still don’t feel like I’m really back. For one thing, I’m filling in for someone at my old company for a few days. For another, I’m still sick. This tonsilitis/cold/flu/whatever just won’t go away. Every time I think it’s gone, it just comes back. I’ve been sick with this shit on and off for over a month. From the sniffling and coughing sounds going on around me, mixed with the usual ringtones of abandoned cell-phones and pretentious, English-ridden conversations, everyone here is sick as well.

I had to get out of Taipei for a while in any case due to the heat I’ve been taking for wondering if I should put a Paypal link on my site. Hundreds of emails have been pouring in telling me what an awful person I am. People were stopping me on the street and saying, “Hey, you’re that scumbag who thought he could get away with putting a Paypal link on his site! Man, I’d clock you but you’d probably just blog it and get more hits.” The library canceled my card, and a few nights ago Luo Fu-chu even phoned and called me an “immoral extortionist”.

Thus, I’ve decided that I shouldn’t lower myself to the level of those moneygrubbing hacks with their donation buttons, wishlists and other tools o’ Satan, so I nixed the whole donation idea. If you really, really want to donate, just send me money in an anonymous wooden box. Small, mixed bills, please.

I’m glad I got out of town, though. Taichung has a whole different feel from Taipei, and it is, after all, the first place I lived in Taiwan, so long ago, so I hopped on a train there on Friday afternoon. I didn’t reserve a seat and ended up sitting in a crowded doorway along with 12 other people all the way down. My old friend Lai Yuan-ming was still working at his factory, which makes steel parts for something or another, so I strolled down to the Taichung Park to pass the time until he got off and could come get me. The streets were oddly deserted, especially for a Friday night. Downtown was far less bustling than I remembered from my college days. As I sat in the park I held a little conversation with myself from a decade and a half ago, summing up what lay in store for that young man, newly arrived in Taiwan. It wasn’t a bad tale, I decided. I’ve done some interesting shit in the time since my arrival, and I’d like to think that my former self would be impressed and encouraged by such prospects.*

Later on, Yuan-ming picked me up and took me out for hot pot with some other old friends. The hotpot was pretty bad, as they didn’t have the little fish dumplings I like so much in hotpot, and the meat wasn’t too fresh, but the company made up for it. I don’t get down to Taichung often, but whenever I do, I wonder what it would be like to live there again. Things got pretty bad there for a while, gangster-wise, but the situation seems to be shaping up lately. The streets are cleaner, there are more infrastructure improvements, and rents are still far cheaper than anything in Taipei.

The next day, Saturday, I borrowed Yuan-ming’s scooter and rode up to Tunghai, my old campus. When I first went there it was located a long ways out of town, but the city has grown around and past it, so things are a lot busier up there these days. I discovered the newly constructed Taichung Municipal Park on top of the ridge of hills that stand between the city and the ocean. When I was in school I would ride my motorcycle out there and watch the air force jets come in for landings at the base in the valley below. The ridge is still dotted with Japanese-built bunkers, which remain throughout the park, giving it an odd, incongruous feel. The bunkers cover a network of tunnels I used to go explore on occasion. Theoretically they’re still military property, but you hardly ever seem military personnel using them.

They’ve built a lot of new buildings on the Tunghai campus, including new dorms that resemble hotels, contrasting sharply with the old Tang-dynasty style hovels that I lived in for three semesters. The city has a plan to link Zhonggang Road on one side of the campus with the industrial park on the other side, a plan that would result in destroying the Luce Chapel, an architectural landmark designed by I.M. Pei, and effectively splitting the lovely campus in two. Bastards. I hope they don’t go through with it.

Night was falling as I proceeded back down Zhonggang Road to the city. At the campus gate traffic stopped as people gawked at a light-blue Citroen trying to do doughnuts for several minutes. The French car slewed around and around several times, its tires screeching and smoking, before deciding to depart. Traffic then went on as usual.

On Sunday morning I met Yuan-ming’s neighbor, who has a bolt shop next door. He had a 1300cc Honda CBR he was going to buy, and he let me ride it around. Man, that thing is a monster. The acceleration is frightening even at low revs, and the brakes impressive for such a large bike. As I waited for the light at Le-ye Road, another large motorcycle drove by, its rider waving at me as he passed. Apparently there’s a real cameraderie among large motercycle riders. As much as I enjoyed riding the beast, I still think it’s far too large for Taiwanese roads. I’d prefer something in the 400-600cc range myself. Like that’s going to happen.

Later that day I joined Yuan-ming and his family on a trip out to the countryside where our mutual friend, Ah-mu, had just finished building a house on part of their family’s rice fields. The house looks like a miniature version of the presidential palace in Taipei, and is divided into two halves for two family groups. It is also located on a bicycle trail full of weekend cyclers who glared at us as we drove up. Ah-mu greeted us and showed us around. His bedroom suite is the best part of the house. His bathroom along is about the size of my bedroom and so filled with plants it resembles a jungle. Not bad for a wood carver. After showing us around, Ah-mu indulged his latest passion by brewing coffee for us while we chatted with his family. My Taiwanese is so poor I only understood half of what was being said. God, I’m lazy. Perhaps if I had stayed in Taichung my Taiwanese would be a lot better. Ah-mu showed us his dog, a Husky that scared all the kids and tried to mate with the leg of anyone who approached it, and then we were on our way back to Taichung for more hotpot, a good, home-brewed one this time.

On Monday morning I caught a ride with Yuan-ming out to Tiger City, one of the new malls that are sprouting up all over the place these days. It was closed, but I got to walk though some nice neighborhoods, two-story houses on quiet streets and near open canals that didn’t smell too badly, on my way back to the train station. I wasn’t fast enough, though, and had to catch the next train back to Taipei. Perhaps it was my subconscious wish to stay in Taichung.

In other news, Flying Chair is holding an Asian Weblog contest, and he’s already having trouble with asshats going in and screwing with the voting. Shades of the Lady X voting disaster. To quote Phil: “The other problem I am dealing with now is people asking to be removed from the list because of some of the incredibly nasty things that people are writing about other nominees.”

How can people be so petty? They’re weblogs, fer cryin’ out tears! Why take them so seriously? I swear, half of my friends take this blog much, much more seriously than I do. Yeah, before you ask, my blogs are up there in the Taiwanese weblog category and Asian-language-as-second-language category, but I don’t honestly care much if I “win” or not. They’re blogs, people. Have fun with them, but don’t think they’re deeply reflective mirrors of various bloggers’ souls. Sheesh. Vote or not, it’s up to you, but it’s still a good way to find other interesting websites, all categorized by region.

Oh, we just had a little earthquake. The lights here were swinging rather violently (we’re on the 10th floor). Since we’re located right next to Taipei101, I went to the window to see how it was weathering the quake. Apart from a slight movement of the crane cables at the top, there was nothing. Seems like that big steel dampener they have up there is doing its job.

*Of course, my former self would more likely say something like “What? You’re not a globe-trotting billionaire with several top-selling movies and books to your credit? And you’re almost 35? What a loser!” Then I would punch myself.

posted by Poagao at 3:17 am  

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