It started raining last night. Lately, every time when I sit down to look and listen to the rain it reminds me of a Hong Kongese movie director Wong Kar-wai. Maybe it is the melancholia that has finally taken over me. Or maybe it is the unholy alliance of the rain, the heat and the sweat, which renders the sunshine completely unnecessary in the process of bodily perspiration. Out of the twenty eight decembery degrees of warmth, none have Christmas spirit whatsoever.
Alternatively, could the reason for the “Wong Kar-wai rain feeling” be, that the traditional balcony, accessible through the East Asian style sliding doors – of course – where I observe the rain from, happens to be in a building ordered to be demolished, yet which has been taken over by the mafia and renovated, and, for some reason, all this makes perfect sense for me to call home now? What am I doing here anyway?
Every morning in Dongmen metro station the doors to the carriages know how to slide open and close in four different languages. As I step in I am relieved to discover that there is no game of thrones going on with the seats this time. I would have not fared well, I am afraid, as I am on my way to the northern part of Taipei, Tamsui, where I am supposed to meet the professor of linguistics, and really, it must be the end of the line for me, no doubt.
I expect the journey to last for an hour or so, as I forget to look worried in likes of the stressed business people around me seem to do. I guess this is it then, finally, the feeling of being old in spirit.
It is somewhere along the way, where the train enters from an underground tunnel to above the ground, where the hills and the mountains ripe with all sorts of vegetation set the scene for those thousands of indigenous species of animals to eat – or get eaten by – other animals.
Hence, it is no wonder, life itself existing in a circular fashion as it can be observed here, that the various religions from Buddhists to Catholics have found a save haven from this island and are visually present even in the most commercial parts of the city. Regardless, the common spiritual atmosphere has maintained its delightfully atheistic fragrance.
A family of five enters the carriage. They speak Japanese to each other, as it is a common sight in Taipei. No doubt that their polite and modest conversation concern the most passionate and religious topic imaginable: dinner plans.
If food would be a religion, I would be hell-bent for martyrdom by now, as I have come to realize that in order to navigate through the versatile fabric of Taiwan and its culture, the most important skill necessary is the unsatisfied hunger. Those who lack the hunger, better not set their foot on this soil that is jam-packed with Taiwanese, Japanese and other Asian restaurants, not forgetting the western trends. Even the locals´ take on – what is called – Chinese cuisine deserves a silent smirk and a modest nod of approval, that is, if I am lucky enough not to receive my favorite continental noodle dish covered with a sauce that has the color and the consistency of a diarrhea, and of which name I do not even dare to mention aloud, just in case.
The scene changes into something completely different and unknown to me as the carriage doors slide open once again. Change makes evolution possible, I remember some world renown biologist to argue. Feeling emerges as a breeze of fresh tropic-like air kicks in. I exit. There is still time. And it is exactly that immediate flash of a moment, that makes me wonder: would I change anything.
No, nothing.. In this case I would not even change the change itself.
The sun set down faster than usual in that day, but not because of the thieves, the swindlers and the other lurkers of the dark were chasing it, but rather because of the ever-present, relaxed and tranquil state of existence that got me carried away as I entered into a philosophical dialogue with a newly met acquaintance who was soon – no doubt – to evolve into a dear friend, as it so often happens in Ilha Formosa.
Truly, Taiwan is best described as an island of infinitely repetitive bye-byes, yet which were evolved from, and hence signify, the existence of infinite greetings, thank-yous and rendezvous; basic human kindness in interactions, with the persistence of the rainy season.
Text and photos: Markku Väisänen
Read more interesting blog posts written by Markku, Study Advisory’s team member, staying in Taipei: