Barrelled Thoughts #62 – Rainy City Sojourn

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The pattering of rain is a constant in Taipei, which in this time of year is plunged into a rare cool by intermittent cold fronts and northwesters. Raindrops striking the walls and windows of our small rental in Zhongshan District like a chorus of weather emit varying pitches as they fall from different heights, some echoing as they land on awnings before casually gliding off.

Treading carefully past quickly formed and near-invisible puddles on the busy streets, one instantly recognises the sights and smells of this rainy city, the Taiwanese capital, ruled by its made-up and dressed-up city folk.

Having not written anything for this blog in more than a year, I suppose I have our rowdy neighbours to thank for spurring me into action. Lying awake in bed at 4:40am, only imagining how we’re going to complain to the pair next door, the urge to write something suddenly hit me—not enough to make me get out of bed and start typing, mind.

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Photo of the Week – Jan 6, 2015

101

The Giant

Taiwan’s tallest building and national landmark deflects sunlight on a chilly mid-December day at the end of 2014. Officially opened December 31, 2004, Taipei 101 was a world-beater for six years until she was dethroned in 2010.

“Daunting” is how I would describe standing in the shadow of Taipei 101. The engineering feat that made the construction of this giant possible cannot be overstated as it dwarfs all who dare enter its lair. Happy 10 years. Here’s to another 10.

Photo of the Week – Sep 18, 2014

Elephant Moutain

Elephant Mountain

It’s lonely at the top – the glorious stack of Chinese lunch boxes that is Taipei 101 stands as but a shadow of its true self as the sunset steals the show in the Taipei Basin.

On my first trip to the top of Taipei’s Elephant Mountain, my hour-long hike (and occasional climb) was rewarded with a jaw-dropping first view of the entire Taipei Basin with my own eyes. This scene, having been granted to me previously by postcards, was now all too real, and, naturally, a moment I had to capture, albeit with my smartphone.

Barrelled Thoughts #40 – Pro-Transparency Rallies

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I’ve titled the protests “Pro-Transpency” because, of all the criticism in the past few days in connection with the Taiwan-China service trade pact, this is one aspect that I truly support. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a “black box” operation, that is to say, the government has acted “under the table”, making decisions, the details of which were not formally disclosed to the people. I wouldn’t say that. I believe the government possesses, at the very least, some right and authority to make decisions on behalf of the people who elected it, without having to explain in detail every such decision. That said, having called for transparency (albeit amongst many other things), the people of Taiwan (or at least those opposing the agreement) deserve a chance to know what the government is doing in their name.

The accusations.

The accusations—anti-black box; anti-trade pact.

I went to the streets of Taipei today to see why thousands of students led by opposition politicians and spokespersons had decided to rally at the Legislative Yuan. And why, for the first time in Taiwan’s history, protestors stormed the parliamentary legislature, blockading themselves inside, occupying a building signifying the sovereignty of Taiwan. I’m home now, and I still do not have full, detailed answers to my own questions.

The Taiwanese love a protest. The spirit of protesting is generally very healthy and peaceful, giving many an opportunity to understand and experience first-hand the rights of a citizen living in a democracy. Protestors are orderly (except those now occupying the legislature), peaceful and helpful. There are lawyers, doctors, teachers and volunteers all contributing to the rallies, providing whatever services they can offer. Today I also came across a few young people handing out free lunch boxes, raincoats and water bottles—a truly united spirit in the name of protesting. So I can proudly say that the actual procedure and formalities relating to the protests are highly commendable. However, other aspects should take just as much precedence, such as a clearly defined goal. One that doesn’t include strong, extreme (and sometimes radical) political ambitions, but rather one which is formed with the nation’s best interests in mind. Unfortunately, there always seems to be an oblique allusion to China—or more specifically, independence from China.

There’s nothing like a protest between our forever competing two parties (KMT & DPP) to bring out the worst of half a century’s pain and bad blood. On the streets where the protests are taking place, DPP nationalist banners calling for Taiwanese independence and a stronger national consciousness discomfort me; pictures of an upside down Taiwanese flag flapping in the wind also make my stomach churn. What happened to the transparency we were fighting for? What happened to the trade pact?

(At this point I should probably add that I think the trade pact deserves a chance. But that’s just my two cents.)

People attend rallies and protests for different reasons. Some are there to fight a non-transparent government, while others fight for what they believe will be a damaging economic agreement with China (although similar agreements are already in place between Taiwan and other nations, such as South Korea). And then there are those who see this as an opportunity to bring up old arguments. Yes, these issues are forever related, and they may never truly fade away in the hearts and minds of opposition supporters. But when is it time to properly look forward? If, like many claim, the international community is truly watching, then why are flags being turned upside down? Why are radical secessionist ideals being subliminally transmitted to the masses? I wonder, for those rallying for greater transparency, did you see the banners calling for the independence of Taiwan on the side of the road? Because I did, and I immediately felt out-of-place. Surely this is not the time nor the place. On the other hand, if that’s why you went to protest, then perhaps it is.

I am happy to see Taiwan in the form of a healthy democracy where voices are aired tirelessly and endlessly. This is always commendable, so long as you know what you’re shouting for.

I hear this is a students’ protest. But there are always people behind the scenes pulling strings, so I hope this innocent crowd isn’t being led astray by those with malign intent. 台灣,加油!JSF. 

Photo of the Week – March 15, 2014

Children take to a skating rink in Taipei on a rare sunny Sunday. Could this be the beginning of spring, or just the calm before another storm?

Spring doesn’t officially start until April, by which time temperatures sore to around 30° Celsius, and so a rare bright and sunny day brings everyone to the park. A break in the usually rainy winter climate is always welcome.

Picture of the Week – March 7, 2014

The rain in Taipei is often unforgiving, on-off, nonstop for days at a time even in the winter. I believe England has found a competitor for one of the rainiest cities in the world. 

I’ve been back in Taiwan for almost two weeks now, and the rain has welcomed me back with open arms (and umbrellas). This is one aspect of Taiwan I haven’t missed, but it feels familiar and oddly comforting.