Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jan 21 2022

Tianmu walk

The weather was semi-nice yesterday when I got off work, so after a nice salmon bento lunch at my favorite restaurant on Chongqing South Road, I walked over to the park station and took the subway up to Zhishan Station. Chenbl thought an area over there might be good for a photowalk with students, so I wanted to take a look.

I exited the north gate of the station by the Ewhat Camera store, remembering fondly the days when I would go there to handle the latest models that I couldn’t afford. Then I walked over to the bus stop by the SOGO to hop on the 280 bus over to the area Chenbl had mentioned. I pay a monthly fee of NT$1,280 for all my bus and subway rides, a nifty deal that saves me a bit of money and also includes some free Youbike rides.

The area in question, however, was almost completely deserted when I arrived, as most areas with rich people tend to be. I can understand the reason, but I still find it a little sad that we are moving from general environments where people tend to interact, i.e. rowhouses with arcades, to more closed-off circumstances such as gated communities and apartment blocks. In fact, a lot more areas seem deserted than they used to, if I’m not imagining things. I skirted the edge of the mountainside, following drainage ditches by abandoned and newly built mansions. It was hot so I took off my sweater and stuffed it with some difficulty into my tiny bag. Occasionally a security guard on an e-scooter would ride by looking for illegally parked cars or whatever it is they do; otherwise nobody was around. Is this what people desire when they think of ideal living circumstances? Perhaps for a large  family it would be fine, but I imagine for a single person it would be mighty lonely.

I walked though the one old veterans’ community Chenbl had mentioned; again, nobody was around, nothing to see, really. So I walked back towards town on Dexing East Road. The weather became cloudy and misty, blustery and cold, so I stopped into the Takashimaya Department Store for a bit, looking halfheartedly for something I wouldn’t find downtown department stores, but there weren’t any surprises. It used to be that stores in the Tianmu area often held certain imported treats that weren’t sold elsewhere in Taipei, but that no longer seems to be the case, especially with the demise several years ago of the wonderful Wellman’s Market. Jake’s Country Kitchen also seems to have vanished, taking their exquisite pancakes with them. Perhaps there are other newer stores now that hold such things, and I just don’t know about them. I can’t bring myself to go onto expat forums to find out, because I’d have to thread the needle through all the BS those places are so full of for very little payback in the form of treats that I probably shouldn’t be eating anyway.

I walked through the alleys rather than the main road on my way back to Zhishan. It still has a fair amount of old two-story houses with yards, a testament to the long history of wealthy people living in the area. A quick glance on Google Maps will show you the swimming pool/movie star mansions dotting the hills above. Times may have changed, but the area still has that expat/bourgeoisie feel to it, with “bilingual” schools and kindergartens and international cuisine here and there. The bias towards the areas north of the city is still clear as opposed to the “sticks” south of town where I live. Each has its own appeal, though, I figure.

Despite the lack of people walking around those nicer neighborhoods, stores and restaurants in the vicinity were fairly crowded. So far we are still at Level 2 vis-a-vis the covid situation, so if things continue to be stable, our class will start up again in March. I have noted my continuing hypersensitivity to people coughing or not wearing masks, though. Smokers in particular seem to get a pass in this respect, as they do in many others for some strange reason, and some days I feel as if my appearance in any one space just makes the people there suddenly want to cough. Today as I crossed the bridge in the rain I saw a man standing holding his umbrella over another man, who was lying on the boards waving a hand and muttering something I couldn’t make out; I wasn’t sticking around to find out, and as an ambulance had just pulled up I figured they had the situation in hand.

It’s still anyone’s guess how the government will proceed in the face of the latest wave of covid cases, which, although significant for us, pales in the face of the scales of outbreaks seen in other countries at this point, even countries that have previously handled things quite well. If this were last summer I’d be predicting that we’d soon be going back to Level 3, but the authorities seem eager to keep things open, and vaccination levels seem to be climbing reasonably fast. Chenbl’s parents have both had their boosters, and we should be eligible to get ours soon. The CDC director,while still expressing hope that it can be contained, has also spoken on the distinct possibility of living with covid, so I suspect that contingency plans will incorporate that as well. We’ll see, I guess.

posted by Poagao at 11:41 am  

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