Date: Fri, 28 May 1999 12:31:29 -0400
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU>
Leibo, Steven A. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: H-ASIA:: Taiwan Diary
Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 19:36:52 -0700 (PDT)
From: Scott Simon <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Taiwan Diary
We left Kaohsiung early Saturday morning, stopping at the
McDonald's Drive-thru to pick up Egg McMuffins and coffee. A-san
from Meinung was taking me and his friend
Jack up into the
mountains west of the city. As most Taiwanese now take every other
Saturday off from work, the winding mountain road was crowded with
cars full of day-trippers. A-san laughed it off, saying that in
crowded Taiwan one has to expect traffic jams any place, any time.
Occasionally, we pulled off the side of the road to take pictures of
ourselves standing in front of gaping crevices or flowering
We drove through a desolate aboriginal village on the way to our
destination, a nature preserve at Teng-chih. Long before we reached
our destination, we found ourselves waiting at the end of a long line
of cars. Finally arriving at the park forty minutes later, we found
ourselves stalled amidst a dense crowd of cars, trekkers with
backpacks, vendors selling soft drinks, mineral water,
tofu, and various food items. A parking lot attendant walked up
to our car and told us that the parking places had all been taken. We
would have to wait approximately an hour to park before we could enter
Never mind, I suggested,
why don't we go back down to
the aboriginal village? That decided, we headed back. We parked
the car on the side of the road, and walked into the village.
Constructed on the mountain side, the streets were narrow steps and
steep inclines. There was not a car to be seen in the village itself.
A Catholic church at the top of the slope dominated the village. In
the valley below was an elementary school with a red KMT flag flying
in the courtyard. As we walked through the streets, we saw an old
woman feeding chickens, a group of old men drinking rice wine in the
courtyard of their house, and a pack of dogs, some of which playful
ran over to us with wagging tails. There was no 7-11 in this village,
only a small village store with soft drinks, candy, preserved fruits
and meat, and sundry daily use items. We bought some soft drinks and
sat down on the steps outside.
Would you want to live in the mountains like this? asked A-san.
No, I replied.
There are no convenience stores, no grocery
stores, no bookstores. You would have to drive a long way just to buy
food. It would be far too inconvenient. I said the village
reminded me of Indian reservations in the United States and noted how
unfair it seems that the aboriginals in the mountains are so poor,
while the Chinese people in the cities seem so rich. A-san said
that's why we only see old people in the village. The young ones
have all migrated to the cities in search of work.
An old woman approached us on the steps. Looking at me, she nodded
her head and said
Konnichi wa in Japanese. I responded in
Japanese, which elicited a pleasant smile. She sat down to talk to
us. I complimented her on her Japanese. She said she learned it in
elementary school during the Japanese period. I asked which
aboriginal group she belongs to. Paiwan, she said. She asked me
questions about my country and my family. I told her about the
mountains, and about the poor situation of Native Americans. She
asked me if I would prefer living in the mountains or down in the
cities. Honestly, I said I prefer the convenience of the cities.
She smiled and said,
Actually the mountains are much better. The
air is cleaner, and the people are better. The cities are dangerous
and full of bad people. People say we drink all the time, but when we
mountain people drink alcohol, we just get happy and sing songs. When
those city people drink alcohol, they get angry and do bad things.
The young people go down to the cities and work, but they always come
back during the holidays. Then we can eat and drink together. Life
here is happier and easier. We are all good people here. It is much
better than the city.
Nodding good-bye, the woman continued inching her way up the steps. We returned to Kaohsiung by the same mountain road that had brought us up that morning. As we drove through the streets lined with convenience stores, fast food restaurants, car dealerships, betel nut stands and KTV parlors, there was silence in the car. That old woman had said it all.
Scott Simon, Ph.D. (Anthropology)
Wen Tzao Junior College