Finding the Rabbit
August 13, 2006
Hi, everyone out there –
How is life finding you? I’m doing pretty well here. We’re in the middle of our busy summer season, so there hasn’t been much time for day hikes or trips anywhere, so I’m afraid this installment won’t be as interesting as the others. You’ve probably heard about the “super typhoon” which has wreaked havoc on China’s southeastern coast, killing a lot of people and flattening a lot of buildings. That typhoon passed us by, though we did get its residual rains. At some point last week they were predicting three typhoons headed for Taiwan at the same time. Whether those three merged into this one super typhoon or two of them died off, I don’t know. People around here were eagerly awaiting the government’s announcement on Wednesday night that schools and businesses would be closed on Thursday, but alas, no such announcement came. And no typhoon came, either. We got rain and a little wind, and life went on as usual.
Last Sunday I was bitten by the shopping bug – which is a very foreign bug to me – and went to the Gongguan district of Taipei to wander through the shops. Actually, I think it was more that I felt like being in Gongguan than actually shopping, but the result was the same. The shopping district borders National Taiwan University, and there’s a good-sized park there with benches, so my plan was to look for a couple more shirts for work, then buy some food and go sit in the park. However, when I got there, we were surprised by a sudden thunderstorm, with a hard downpour and lightning hitting the ground, so I had to activate Plan B, which was….shopping. For me, shopping is like paying bills or going to the doctor: you do it because you have to, and as little as possible. It took me about twenty minutes to buy two shirts (checking in three stores), and after that I hopped on the MRT and went to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. I’ve been here a number of times, but each time was in bad weather, so I think these are the first pictures I’ve taken of it. (Remember, you can click on any picture to enlarge it.)
The National Concert Hall and the plaza. I wish Keelung had something as big and open as this, so I don't have to travel so far to come here.
And then all these cyclists started pouring into the plaza. So I sat down to watch them, wondering if they were going to do something interesting.
They all collected here and posed for a big group picture. I took this to mean the race was over.
The coolest bike helmet ever
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
I like its porches outside better than the museum inside.
Gardens and koi pond
Mid-July through mid-August (which makes sense in the lunar calendar) is Ghost Month in Taiwan, which seems to have arisen from a combination of religion and superstition. It’s believed that the ghosts of their ancestors come back at this time of year, and so a lot of effort is put into both appeasing them and keeping them at bay. For the whole month there are lots of tables filled with food, incense, candles and flowers as offerings of respect for the dead. Sidewalks are crowded and even closed off when whole office buildings worship their ancestors at the same time. Our building had theirs yesterday, though I didn’t participate because I was in class all day. Last Monday, Keelung shut down at 4 pm, and most of the streets downtown were blocked off for a parade. The temple on the hill was strung with lights, and portable stages were set up in front of it for religious plays. People have come to this area from all over because apparently Keelung goes all out for the Ghost Festival, much more than any other city does.
The temple at Jhong-Jheng Park. This is one of the central players in the Ghost Festival. During the festival, vendors come up here (and tons of tourists) and there's kind of a mini night market set up. Last week they set up some portable stages where they perform religious plays. People come and sit or run around with their kids and dogs. The lights have a mesmerizing effect, and lots of people seem to zone out, just staring at it. Jennifer and I sat up here talking about dragons, and I kind of fell into that myself too.
This temple is high up on a hill, and is visible from very far away.
Not only was the temple brilliantly lit, but it was vividly colored too. So far I've come up here twice, and could only sit and stare at it, even though it wasn't really doing anything.
The twelve Chinese zodiac animals were lined up at the base of the temple, actually looking more like a rock band than anything else. These are the tiger, rabbit, snake and part of the dragon.
I think these are prayer wheels. You spin them and ask for whatever they represent. When I came back up here with Jennifer, Stephanie and JB, we spun all of them many times. They say things like "Study" (education), "Wealth," "Healthy," "Safeness" (safety), and "Filial Piety".... ahem. Given that I neither have a son nor am I son I had to pray really hard for that last one!
The Rooster Bridge
I had fun taking pictures of these lanterns. I took a lot of pictures that I won't post here, but for nearly all of them I was lying on my back on a garden wall. Some of them turned out kind of cool.
Coming back from Taipei, I had the good fortune to find these floats on their way to somewhere just as I was crossing the street on the overhead crosswalk. So I got some good pictures of them in daylight.
Strangely enough, most of these floats were playing rock music.
Getting ready for festivities. People came from all over the island to Keelung for this festival. It's celebrated throughout the Buddhist world, I believe, but apparently Keelung puts on a better show than anyone else, so our population has swelled considerably in the past few weeks.
Ai San Road, along with many other streets downtown, had been blocked off since about 4 pm. It felt funny to walk down the middle of my street with no traffic on it. The crowds here mark the end of that freedom, however. They're staking out spots for the parade.
I felt like I was at a huge rock concert or something! This is the downtown bus station, where the parade will come through and stop and perform. It was so crowded that you literally couldn't get through on the sidewalk. McDonald's (on the corner behind me), however, was lovin' it.
In order to head further down the parade route, I cut through the night market, which, for once, was not the biggest show in town. This is empty, even for a Monday night.
I went down to the start of the parade route, on Shin 1st Road. While I could see everything here, they weren't really performing yet. They saved that for downtown, in front of the bus station. Because of the crowds I didn't even try to get in there. But I still got to see some good stuff here.
There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.
- Robert Louis Stevenson