Another perfect morning. For the first time in daylight I scanned the view from our Tainan hotel room window, congratulating myself on having asked for the better room. Where the fireworks had been launched the previous evening, a family now picnicked along the canal. Who picnics at seven o’clock in the morning? Other hotel guests, if the oversized hotel robes worn by the children were any indication. They probably hadn’t asked for a better room, I thought, smugly.
One or two bicyclists rolled by now and again, enjoying the safe, wide, flat cycling paths. I craned my neck out the window to see how the paths went, but couldn’t see past the first bridge. Frank suggested we use the hotel bicycles – another freebie – but I demurred. While I had come up just fine from the previous day’s ride – a major victory, both physically and psychologically – riding in a big city is a very different thing to riding in a rural setting, bike paths or not. “My next cycling accident is likely to be my last cycling accident” I told him, “and it isn’t going to be today.” Continue reading 03. Dutch Retreat
This is my sixth visit to China, if you include Taiwan as part of China. Oh, also, you’ll have to include Hong Kong as part of China. I am assuming you concede Shanghai as part of China. And Beijing? Surely, Beijing is part of China.
Wherever you draw the political borders, ten minutes in Taiwan leaves one sure the place is Chinese. Mandarin is the language, and a traditional form of it at that, like a Bostonian’s version of English or a Montrealer’s version of French. The food is undoubtedly Chinese, albeit on the noodley side, rather than the ricey or dumplingey side. The commerce is aggressively capitalist with an overlay of familial dysfunction: more American than the Americans, a trait I have often attributed to the Chinese.
The Taiwanese are most Chinese, though, when speaking to each other in exchanges that sound like a New York taxi driver discussing politics with the French Ambassador to the United Nations. Or a Parisian taxi driver discussing economics with the President of the World Bank. That is to say their conversational tone of voice is harsh, almost violent. If you don’t speak the language, what sounds like an accusation of murder may be a compliment on the quality of the fish intestines served. Continue reading 02. Traincatching