Archive for November, 2008

Expat Thanksgiving.

I couldn’t be at home though, and eat mom’s fruit salad, and Granny’s green beans and Aunt Patricia’s pies. Nor could any of my companions this thanksgiving be at home, stuffing themselves in a warm room with family or long time friends. So some of us came together, and decided to have fun: A little group of people who know what thanksgiving is supposed to be, outside the stupid pictures of turkeys we hang all around our schools.

We had planned some sort of food, but faced with the complexity of the task, I think none of us wanted to actually DO the cooking. So we all just drank booze and cruised the night market for nosh. I ate squid tentacles and some chicken fat (the fat that comes from the chicken’s butt. It’s REALLY good). Then we bought some betel nuts. I’d never tried them so it sounded fun.

One reason I like Taiwan is the fireworks. I’ve shot dozens of fireworks since I’ve been in this country. For a dollar and a half U.S. we got one of the ones that makes a loud boom on the ground and shoots up a huge star in the air… the kind of fireworks bling that sets a person back ten bucks in the states. I brought the boom to compliment the booze. We climbed up to the roof and shot a couple of fireworks.. We had no injuries, not even serious burns. But we sure did light up the night and we made lot of noise.

Once we climbed down from the rooftops, I learned new card games 17 floors above the quiet streets of Sansia. I engaged drunkenness like a cute belly dancer. I don’t know that dance, so I just jumped right in, loud, proud, and loose. I drank a lot and I even tried the betel nut (never again will I chew one of those, it was horrible). By the end of the evening I couldn’t remember the tune or the words to my single favourite song on planet earth! Wow. To forget my favourite song, that’s a lot of booze. And yes, I was singing. A lot. One of my friends and I were making lots of music together in our drunken state.

Saturday I had the most comfortable hangover I’ve ever experienced. Not bad, just a lazy day… more headache than nausea, though I couldn’t stand properly until late at night.

I wonder what Expat Christmas will be like.


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Eight of us walked the path. The gorge to our left was deep enough that I lost my sense of distance to the bottom, a hundred meters?, two hundred? The view was as spectacular as pictures I see from way out West. The mountains in Taiwan, I like them a lot, they seem sharp to me, and high like the alps. Some of the mountains rise at much greater than 45 degree angles straight into the clouds. Yet they are covered in dense tropical foliage.

Each tunnel seemed longer than the last. The pathway brought us into one and I focused on the hole on the other side and walked through the darkness towards it. It seemed to receed from my approach, but a little slower than I walked. The next tunnel had curvature, and blackness swollowed me for a second until I could catch a shadow from the other side. The next tunnel darkened rapidly and I had to grab the rail on the side and listen for people’s steps so as not to run into anyone. I closed my eyes and walked on, enjoying the sense of cool and moist breeze blowing through the tunnel.

And between each tunnel our group of eight chatted and took pictures and flirted and got to know each other. We shared snacks and water and a jolly good time. Everyone went at the own pace, but we always seemed to have a buddy or two around, like a great moveable party. It was only within the tunnels that are invidual paces seperated us. I didn’t hear people talking much. I would just come to the end and wait as one by one people would find the light and emerge. I’d gather enough friends, or be amalgamated into a group, and we’d continue on into the vast wild scene of the gorge.

The terminus of Saturday’s journey was a tunnel cut by a river. It was fun to walk through, again the darkness swollowing us completely. I nearly lost my footing off the little ledge along the side of the cave. The back side where I stopped and played in the water for awhile, had a ceiling of falling water, many little waterfalls cut through the rocks from some unseen source above.

That night I waited in a long line, a line that told me that the food was good. The line was son long that it warranted sending someone to grab a snack and bring it while I held our place. We were rewarded with the best chinese dumpings I’ve ever had. Those dumplings tought me why people love them and imitate them so much. Four U.S. bucks worth of dumplings stuffed three of us thoroughly. The beach town of Hualien is far enough outside Taipei that the prices are more Chinese. After the feast, we all drank wine by the riverfront until the wee hours.

Today, with half the group hungover, and all of us very tired, we went to the beach and lay on the stoney ground for hours and hours. The view around us was the high Taiwanese mountains, their angles even more striking coming right out of the water. The pacific ocean throbbed as we slept, or talked, or chatted with locals who wanted to hang out. Clouds kept the sun off all day. Staying in one place, the multicolored rocks gradually conformed to us and made very comfortable beds. We passed around beers, we went up to the little beachfront shack and ate fresh fish, we talked about doing something else, maybe biking or exploring. In the end, just laying there won the day.

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Good Music

I finished my Kimchee eggs, vegetables and beef in the little Pan Asian grill place I like. These cooler days seem to draw people together. The tropical dwellers button up for the cold and I eat a soup made with fatty broth and what I think are day lillies. The radio stations play better music: really soulful vocalists that remind me of John Lennon’s Solo stuff, or nice GanaFunk filled with sex and faith and passion.

I remember the last time I ate a day lilly was twelve summers ago, in a field full of them, with a girl named Julia, on what seemed like the finest day of my life. And I remember my travels back then, and the girls I fell for. I remember dreaming for a year about Joanna and searching for her in the streets of Galway Ireland (and I’ve only ever dreamed about Julia, Joanna, or Erica). Ireland was full of castles and caves and weeks of walking on cliffs by the sea. What’s a nineteen year old to do but dream after an experience like that? And I dreamed of Asia after my dreams passed of Joanna, and it seemed so far away.

And I thought I’d never feel that way again.

But this trip is different than my dreamed trips to Asia. I live here. I have now been in Taiwan longer than I’ve ever been out of the country before. Unlike some travellers I’ve met, I never really felt like a dear in headlights here. I appreciate the parts of this country that reminded me of Europe, or America, or the things that I’d never seen before. I’m thankful to be making good money without working many hours. I’m thankful for the endless sense of adventure I feel here. I’m thankful to teach these people’s children. (Nowadays I dream of going back to America and I wake up terrified because I’m supposed to be in China. I laugh in my bed in the wee hours to discover I’m still here.)

Yesterday I had a parent’s presentation day and I watched a boy’s mom read what I wrote about her son. She must have known these things about her boy, he’s smart, he’s rambunctious, I’m glad that he’s cooperating with me because now his outspoken nature contributes to the whole class. She didn’t know I was watching her read and she let out a little chuckle, not more than a puff of air. The kind of unguarded human gesture that communicates truth and knowing past any language barrier. I looked her in her eyes and told her I was happy with her son’s progress. I’m really thankful for my job.

Last night I breathed. I lay doing my Wujifa and noticed I could hear the seconds on my clock. In the past, Rick said that breathing is important. Several times I tried to time my breath to seconds on a metronome. It was hard to do many seconds in and out without getting winded. Last night I did two breaths a minute for about ten minutes, and felt one of the most profound feelings of peace settle over me that I’ve ever felt. I also learned a lot about how to relax to breathe even deeper. I combined that with the cool connections I’ve gotten from Mobu, felt like the Mobu was even deeper. It feels like one more fruit of a living art that could help a lot of people. I’m proud to be part of Wujifa.

And it all makes me wonder what else might be possible. I’m managing to cultivate a persona which is essentially tansparent to my true personality… I think one’s externally percievable self always hovers around the truth, but distance and direction of orbit varies. Now I wonder if something (or somethings) that will be even better than the lovers I had when I was younger might be possible. All this despite the trecherous ground that is the human psyche.


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I could say, “everything spins around something.” Finding the fulcrum is useful, but I think it requires noticing connections…. a really refined process, LOL.

I’m not sure I can really say “Defining the Fulcrum,” because I don’t yet know if that’s possible…

Then I notice that relating to people, often, seems,,, to spin around something, and I don’t get to pick what it is.

And most of us are basically lumps of cells, walking around, oily and membranous… fluids soaked biological playgrounds of symbiotic bacteria, flora, fauna and grey death…

…relating to a human is a little dirty.

which is okay, I think.. I note a lot of my words spinning around my own “preference” or “aesthetics.”

Perhaps it is not such a high art to walk amidst the rot and the growth and the stones of the earth in the forest, where there is more apparent balance, and obvious functional purpose.

But walking amidst the detritus of humanity (including, of course, my own).. sometimes doesn’t seem as clear. Sure, there are streams and rivulets… little moss covered logs with rare flowers growing on them .. and there are cobras too.. and astounding things, long dead children dancing amidst rainbows… the beauty of it and the horror of it is different than nature.

My temptation is to say I feel more comfortable with the snakes of the natural forest. I think horror movies maybe rotate around these haunted woods within the human psychological forest… their spin being a bit fetishistic or obsessive (maybe even flirting with schizophrenia).

Ahhh, and as I write this I discover why these factors make relating to a human hard: I get cought up in the feelings myself. Maybe the enlightened monks can walk through such ghost filled swamps without being touched, or if they are touched they are not stirred inside by it, they do not catch the spin in their own bodies… maybe instead of being made of the fluids that rotate so easily around little fulcrums they have hewn themselves of rock, and they can pass through a whirlpool more easily than I can.

Or maybe they direct the flows within themselves like a push-hands master… I don’t know, My Kung Fu is not that good yet.

I just notice myself feeling stirred by what I see, maybe more than I want to be.

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Nearby YingHe

The “Yixing” of northern Taiwan. It’s apparently been making pottery for longer than I was initially told.

Very cool place. Yes I saw some cool pots and tea sets. The tea tables here are stupendous, and the pots are pretty neat too. My favourite was just carved out of a rock…

And I went into one store that meandered around amidst someone’s living space where they had everything from crappy stuff to huge carved cinnabar pieces, museum quality chunks of amber with big bees in them and a carving of a tree made from a big rock that had dozens of snail fossils into it, the tree was carved out of the stone leaving the snail fossils out at the end of the branches… it was about three feet tall and the biggest snails were perhaps 4″ across. Holy… Crap… it was amazing.

And I wonder if the mercury in Cinnibar can seep into my skin as I just had to touch everything :-)… I’m still searching for some good specimens of Stibnite, though… And the Chinese words for stones seem to vary.. Or, I think those people spoke Taiwanese.

Most impressive of all was a piece of quartz with hundreds of terminating crystals, many of them five or eight inchers… the whole thing wieghed maybe a third to a half a ton. Absolutely amazing. I may buy it in a few months if it’s still there. It is just. Special. So much museum quality stuff…

I’ll definately head back to YingHe to wheel and deal when I want to spend money on apartment deco.

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