Saturday, November 18, 2006

Up to my old tricks....

Ah! I found them! Dancers to photograph! One of my teacher friends, Shu Fen (Dana), learned of a performance by the dance troupe from one of the local girl's high school s at the cultural arts center. Then she set about finding a way for me to attend the rehearsal and somehow managed to know someone, who knew someone else and so yesterday Pei-Ling and I spent a couple hours watching a private performance. Here are a few of the photographs. What fun! Next week my own school has a dance performance, but I have classes during the time they perform. I did photograph the students practicing a few weeks ago, but without lights, make-up and costumes... and with a cluttered dance studio, the chances of catching just the right moment are much slimmer. So, I was delighted to have the opportunity to photograph a rehearsal. I wish there was a way for me to be able to photograph Taiwan's premier dance troupe, Cloud Gate. From what I have seen, Cloud Gate is incredible. They will be performing in Chiayi in December and I have a ticket. Second row, front and center (my favorite), but of course, photography is not permitted during actual dance performances. It would take some real manipulation to be able to photograph their rehearsal, and I am not going to hold out any hope of sneaking my way in for that. A month or two ago I saw the Taipei Ballet. I was not able to photograph them either.... but, for some reason, I still have hope for being able to photograph them. Their performance was more like a work of art than a dance performance. Here in Taiwan, dance is just beginning to be accepted and appreciated by the Taiwanese. The heavy stress of academics has not allowed young people to dedicate enough time to the art. So that is how I have spent my weekend so far.... sitting at the computer playing with photographs. It was only hunger and an empty refrigerator that inspired me to take a break, grab my scooter and helmet and go off in search of whatever I could find for dinner. Rice, chicken, bamboo shoots (really good!) and several weird vegetables that weren't too bad.... plus some milk tea. It may be that by the time I get back to the United States, I might kick the coffee habit and drink tea instead. Tomorrow, I am going off to the mountains with some of the teachers. It should be a good time and of course, I am taking the camera along.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I was delighted to learn of the American elections last week! There IS hope. As an American living in Asia, I have to admit, it is often easy to forget some of the political issues back home. But the election results brought undeniable joy for me. The politics here are quite different. Taiwan is probably unique in it's complex identity to the rest of the world. As a foreigner, I've tried not to form too many political opinions. One opinion which I cannot escape though, is that I do not wish to see Taiwan become so "Westernized" that they take on the social characteristics of America. The "traditional values" here are genuine traditional values.... unlike the same label some of America uses to oppress people and thoughts different from their own. This blog is not the place to discuss too much on political viewpoint, though, so let it suffice to say that here in Taiwan, people are very kind to one another and respectful. Here, someone could turn his garage into an exotic bird sanctuary, walk down the street barefoot and in his underwear, carry all his worldly belongings strapped to the back of his scooter, or sit silently at the edge of the lake for hours contemplating the desire of Gods.... and he would be treated with all the respect and kindness offered to any other human being. Perhaps in the eyes of the ancient Gods, money is a temporary thing. Ghost money burns daily here. A symbol. And while Taiwan was probably never the "Garden of Eden" entirely, I can see that somewhere in this country, someone has tasted the forbidden apple, and innocence is being traded for the upscale high-rise super mall, and the culture of the lesser gods is being emulated. These photos are from a temple near where I live.... I visited it on Sunday when I was practicing driving my scooter. Ah, my scooter. I am not sure I mentioned that earlier. It has been a few weeks or perhaps a month now that I have had a scooter. I try to drive it every day, but so far haven't taken it too far from home... it would be fairly difficult to describe the driving and traffic situation here in Taiwan. The independence I feel at owning the transportation here is huge. But I can't help but remember the words of my grandma back in the my teen years... reminding me wear clean underwear and socks without holes each time I went off on a risky adventure.... and when I'm driving down the roads here where traffic laws are made to be broken and bumper cars come to mind as vehicles park in the middle of the street, cars drive on whichever side of the road that is empty at the moment, and four lane highways have 6 vehicles, Grandma's words seem a lot more weighty than back in the old days when I would joke at her worry as I kissed her goodbye.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Oh no!

I spent Saturday in Taichung, Taiwan with 4 other foreign teachers from the United States. As I flipped through the photos to post some for you to see, I realized that 85% of them could probably be mistaken for photos taken back in the States. With the exception of a few tropical trees, some Chinese signs, and an abundance of Asian population, many of the photos could have been taken in a quaint little upscale boutique area of Columbus, Ohio, or in an artsy metro park there. I don't really know what to think about that. Maybe the people I was with were feeling a bit homesick for the good old USA. But as close as it was to election day, I wasn't feeling too nostalgic. The few photos posted today show more typically Taiwanese influenced things such as the "jen jew nye cha" (as it sounds, but not as it's really spelled) which is milk tea with "bubbles" of large circular tapioca. And, honest, this is a photo of the fire department we walked by as we were leaving the restaurant where we had lunch. As you might imagine, I prayed no fire would develop during the night in our typical big city hotel in the budget range across the street from the train station. I am not sure how much trust one can put in the seriousness of fire fighters who look all too much like cartoon characters.
We did see some cool statues at a park and listened to some Taiwanese music in a very nice area near the park as we had bubble tea and just relaxed. I was fascinated by some artists who had wandered outside their gallery to hear the music. The shop appeared to be ceramics and paintings or calligraphy. It was quite beautiful and I daydreamed of "someday" when I can spend my days creating art. Sadly, I am beginning to realize that those days may never come. That's not an easy thing to accept.
Then we visited another area of Taichung which is a pedestrian shopping that resembles Europe (I am told). I woke before sunrise and took a few photos from the hotel window overlooking the train station. This weekend was also the weekend of the All Soul's Procession back in Tucson, Arizona. Last year I spent a few days at the procession and the day leading up to the procession. It's an incredible thing the artists do there. Ah, sounds like I also was feeling a bit nostalgic and missing some of the things I remember about America.