Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Of cabbages and kings

I guess I never wrote about the Hohaiyan Festival; and, in truth, there isn't much to write about. I went on a crowded train with no sitting room to Fulong beach, and was greeted with a scenario very much similar to when I visited Danshui: lots of little tourist shops and game shops and food vendors, bright neon lights and way too many people.

The music itself was hit or miss. The band that was playing when I arrived around 6:30 wasn't bad. There was also a girl with a guitar who was pretty good as well, playing covers of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" and Coldplay's "Clocks," as well as some Chinese songs. I listened, took pictures, and, after a couple hours, went in search of food. I figured it would be better to leave early and avoid the congestion at the end of the festival. Only realized later that that meant missing Cui Jian, the "Bob Dylan/Bruce Springsteen" of China. Damn.

It probably would have been more fun to have gone to the festival with other people, but no one wanted to take the trip out with me. And, considering I am over the half-way point of my stay in Taiwan, I would like to get out more, even if that means going solo.

How clichéd. But it is true. I am not so much trying to connect to my "roots" as just seeking companionship and a sense of belonging in a place I do not really feel I understand. I'm not sure going to rock concerts alone does this, as I did not meet anyone new there, but what would my alternatives have been? Staying in my apartment? Or going out with my relatives to the next hot new restaurant to laud their food? Or tagging along with my cousins to Sogo or the Breeze Center?

The events of the past few days really brought out this misalignment of interests between me and my peers here. Last night, after a lone dinner at Alleycat's, I went to visit a nearby relative's house, where another cousin had also come to call. My uncle, upon seeing me, declared that he was going to take me out for drinks, and managed to drag my cousin along as well. Turns out he took us to Saints and Sinners, whose environment I thoroughly enjoyed, as my uncle kept pointing out: "See, you're from America! This is your kind of place."

In any case, there was a foosbol table and pool table, much to my delight, and after beating my uncle soundly at foosbol (sorry, Uncle, for the disrespect), we returned to our table and had drinks. I had a way-too-strong gin and tonic, and later ordered fries to help finish off my drink. We chatted inbetween sips and munches, and my cousin noted how I was now going to be busy now, with one uncle wanting to take me out to pubs, and another wanting to take me hiking up mountain trails, and how their respective families will be glad now that they won't have to deal with being pestered about doing these things.

And, yes, that's exactly what I enjoy doing. Going out to bars, maybe shooting some pool, at night, and exploring both the natural and urban trails of Taipei, by foot. I get remarks from my family about how "good at walking" I have become-that is a direct Chinese translation, with connotations that I am slightly too weird and independent for my relatives to understand.

"It's because she's American-born and raised," they say. And I guess it is. What self-respecting Taiwanese girl goes outside, without an umbrella and risking getting skin cancer or, worse, dark skin (cue Hermione Granger voice and Ron's incredulous 'She needs to sort out her priorities') and spends hours tramping around alone instead of buying cute clothes and looking for marriage prospects?

The worst of all of this, because I personally could care less what they think (and that's not necessarily a good thing in any case), is that everything I do reflects back on my mother. She warned me of this very clearly on the car-ride to the airport, told me not to make her look bad, or that she would be unable to go back and face her family.

So...what do I do?

Oh...and also, my moth appears to be a member of the Theretra latreillei species. Hurrah!


T.S. Tang said...

word, I totally don't understand the suntanophobia among Taiwanese girls -- and I grew up here! One of my ex-co-interns went to Hohaiyan completely wrapped head to toe like some sort of fragile imported fruit.

Your relatives seem thoroughly conservative and traditional (as mine are) but I think the current generation is (just?) starting to get fed up with that, and I think it's an exciting trend. So don't get too fed up with the vacuous shopping/eating/clubbing lifestyle that most kids seem to life by -- just think of them as transplanted Californians : p.

We should totally go to a live-house cafe sometime. one of them's right next to ShiDa and they have cool graffiti!

T.S. Tang said...

also, Treasure Hill Artist Street seems ridiculously rad. The cafes at Huashan Cultural Park and Taipei Artist Village are also pretty okay places to read the afternoon away. They have free newspapers and arts-performance fliers at these places too.

somimi said...

I am all for checking out the live-house cafe scene. Sounds pretty nice, actually. That, or a nice pub with a pool table and foosball. Hehe.

Anyway, I agree, the current generation is not completely playing into the traditional values and whatnot, but still! They're still going to school from 7am till 10pm, and there is such huge pressure to excel academically. It's painful to think about!

As is all this shopping and luxury-eating. I recently rediscovered the simple joys of a scrambled egg and crackers with cheese from a grocery shopping trip.

(Maybe I'm just a lazy git though)

I've signed up with the Taipei Artist Village's newsletter, so hopefully I'll get to check out some cool stuff with them. Exciting!