The idea of a sun, with 12 rays, is continuous progress towards prosperity and democracy.
It was Monday November 5 when I started writing this--a year to the day since a very blurry-eyed Lao-puo got off her plane from Vancouver at 0530--to be greeted by her equally blurry-eyed husband. It seems a lifetime ago, and it seems like yesterday. Taiwan is like that.
I give up! I’ll never understand this place! Not far from Mei Luen hill there is a military establishment, in front of which is parked an old Sherman Tank of WW II vintage, and an even older-looking fieldpiece that looks like it was last fired at Ypres. Apart from a high brick wall topped with concertina razor wire, two guards in battle dress with M16’s, and red lines and Chinese writing warning passers-by not to stop, there is nothing else to see.
Well, imagine my astonishment last Saturday, when the place was open to the public. There was all kinds of stuff on display, from an Apache helicopter gunship to a self-propelled AA battery to a rocket launcher on a trailer, a few tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and all kinds of machine guns and things.
I wandered in for a look, observing that others were taking pictures before I
Wicked-Looking Apache Helicopter
The Armageddon machine. It's got rocket launchers, a Gatling style heavy machine gun, and another machine gun in the nose that automatically aims where the pilot is looking. It must be hell on the sunbathers, whenever an Apache overflies a nudist colony.
took any. The highlight for me was the machine gun display, with bug-eyed little boys lining up behind a general purpose machine gun, and the kid whose turn it was looking like he was itching for the mainlanders to kick up. You couldn't get near the .50 cal.--because the kids considered it even more cool than the GPMG.
Buddhist Tzu Chi University, where Lao-puo studies Chinese, does a lot of things well. Last Sunday they organized a cultural tour for us, a day outing. They laid on an anthropology professor from Taipei, who explained the stone culture of Hualien County to us. We started out at Mei Luen Park, a beautiful hillside park not far from our home. There is an aboriginal burial ground up there, in the middle of a bamboo thicket. I always thought that the aboriginal people arrived in Taiwan hundreds of years ago, not thousands, like the Hawaiians. Not so. It was interesting to know that people had been living, right in our city, where we now run our dogs, all those years ago. (We don’t let them just run anywhere—they must stay on the grass because there are venomous snakes here).
Death on a Ping Pong Table
I think the soldier had to periodically wipe the spittle off the breech, from the little boys making firing sounds as they examined the weapon.
went down south of Ruisui, to a hilltop monolith similar to Stonehenge. There were two enormous slabs of stone set upright, a type of stone not found for miles around. People must have somehow dragged two huge stone slabs down from the mountain, just to upend them on a hilltop for an unknown purpose. It’s all tea plantations around there now, and a commanding view of the East Rift Valley.
They laid on a lunch for us back in Guangfu, at an aboriginal place. Being a Buddhist University, everything was vegetarian, but good nevertheless.
The bus then took us through the mountains down to the coast to Fongbin—Guangfu to Fongbin is my favourite motorcycle ride in the world (blind corners and oncoming buses notwithstanding). We stopped for a restroom break at the hospital, of all places. It was interesting that the hospital signs were bilingual—Ami on top and Chinese (smaller) at the bottom. A Filipino guy on the bus said he could read the Ami, from which I infer that Ami is similar to Tagalog in structure.
We then clambered up a steep hill, with a commanding view of the endless Pacific, to view a stone coffin.
Armoured Personnel Carriers.
They look impressive, but they are sitting ducks against a well-equipped enemy.
The people used to hollow out huge boulders for their tombs, but this one came down in an earthquake and tipped the hapless occupant out of his eternal rest. (I don’t suppose the guy cared much, at that point).
That was last weekend. To be honest, we don’t really do much during the week. I get up at 0445 to run the babies every morning, because I have to get my train at 0600. If it’s raining I get Lao-puo to drive me, but I usually enjoy the motorcycle ride around the base of Mei Luen Hill to the train station. By nine or so at night, I have trouble keeping my eyes open—teaching is a real high-energy job, so to tell you the truth I’m a bit of a dud until the weekend.
Last Friday we had a hankering for pizza—good despite the peas and corn on the topping; on Saturday we went to Debbie’s speech competition. She was really pleased to be on the Internet.
Monday morning. Back in the saddle. The hellish wind has died down after seven days. I look out my classroom window at cloud-shrouded mountains, and count the blessings that have
You might say that the ROC ground forces take AA batteries.
provided me with two consecutive years in this beautiful place. I wouldn’t call Taipei beautiful, by any stretch of the imagination, but we have had a few happy years in that exciting and vibrant city.
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