Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 12 2009

20 years

Besides the usual dates that stand out each year, like birthdays and holidays, a few have personal significance for me and hardly anyone else, and on such days I usually just think a bit more about what they mean and let it go without mentioning it to anyone. February 26th, the day I was drafted into the army, is one such date. Another is June 24th, which is the day I stepped off the airplane at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport for the first time, in 1989. 20 years ago.

I wasn’t alone. My friend and classmate Boogie was on the same flight, but he’s back in the States now. Our Chinese professor, Dr. Hill, passed away a few years ago. I’ve lost touch with most of the other students in our class. Returning to the place where I stepped off the airport bus isn’t anything particularly special, as I work a block away and pass by it on a daily basis, though of course things have changed a great deal in the time since (the hot, muggy weather at this time of year, however, is the same). In any case, I’ve been wondering just how I should commemorate this anniversary. Back then, the prospect of spending a whole year in Taiwan seemed incredible; now it’s been 20. Somehow, having dinner somewhere unusual doesn’t really do much for me. I was thinking of going out to the airport and taking the bus back in again, checking into the same YMCA (though it has since been redecorated) where we stayed for the first week before traveling down to Taichung. Maybe I could even bring my suitcase (I still have the same one, incidentally) packed with heavy things to drag across the awful sidewalks…but the sidewalks are much better now, and there’s no obstacle course of slimy pedestrian overpasses over Zhongxiao West Road to traverse any more. I might at least try to get the same room. Something seems a bit desperate about doing all of that, though I don’t have any better ideas at the moment. What do you think?

Last night I went to see my friend Matzka play at the Riverside behind the Red House Theater. I’ve always liked his music, and although the speakers were a bit tinny and harsh at times, it was a great show. The audience seemed to be leftovers from the last show, but it must be hard to get a lot of people out on a rainy weeknight. At one point everyone on stage traded instruments, with Matzka switching with the skinny little drummer. That…well, didn’t really work, but it was funny and reminded me of Band class back in school when we all switched instruments for the benefit of some clueless substitute teacher.

posted by Poagao at 5:50 pm  


  1. You’ve been here twice as long as I have, and most Taiwanese I meet consider me an old timer. LOL

    My anniversary is easy to remember: December 25.

    Comment by Brian Webb — June 12, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

  2. I think going to the Y is a great idea… do you remember where you went the first couple of days? Where did you eat? What did you want to go see first? Do you remember the music you were listening to back then? Memories are so much more than visual, so take it all in. You might document how you, your beliefs and goals, have changed in the last 20 years – what you have learned about yourself and your place in the world.

    Comment by your sis — June 12, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

  3. I vaguely remember where we went, but I go to those places all the time, so I’m not sure if I’d be able to see them properly, if you know what I mean. I also have many of the songs I liked then on my iPhone, but I don’t have a Sony walkman to play them on any more. I’m not the same person I was 20 years ago, and Taipei isn’t the same city. What I’ve learned in that time would take longer than a blog post to write.

    Comment by Poagao — June 12, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

  4. ok, maybe not then…..

    Comment by your sis — June 13, 2009 @ 4:41 am

  5. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good ideas, and I might still try it out. I haven’t had any better ideas myself, in any case.

    Comment by Poagao — June 13, 2009 @ 7:58 am

  6. i first went to taiwan in 87. went back and forth for some years btwn taiwan and the us. i’ve been back in the us since 97. if i were you, i would try to seek out people who helped me during my period of culture shock. I would take some small token present to thank them, reminding them of how they helped me, and i would take a photo with them. i would seek out people like former adult students who live in the area, the parents of students i used to teach, etc. basically people who had shown me simple kindness. i would also want to reflect on my next 20 years on taiwan and think in a serious way about the legacy i would want to leave. how could i become more involved in way that would make taiwan a better place and would be fun and fulfilling? i’m thinking of maoman’s great contribution with forumosa and straydog’s contribution with animals. you have already made a contribution with your writing and music, so perhaps the contribution/participation in taiwan would just be a continuation of what you are doing now.

    Comment by v — June 14, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

  7. I never really went through much culture shock, and never really taught English. I keep in touch with people I knew back then, but I’m sure there are people I’ve lost touch with over the years, and seeking them out sounds like a good idea.

    Comment by Poagao — June 14, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

  8. Is Matzka a reggae band? If it is, I saw that at a Nike show in Ximen. Good music.

    Comment by Frostfox — June 14, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  9. Yeah, that’s him.

    Comment by Poagao — June 14, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

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