Why I Love Taiwan (1)
Kite asked me to write a small piece for her blog about why I love Taiwan, and especially why I like Taiwan’s indigenous people so much. Well I don’t know if this answers that question, but here is my reply.
Firstly, it’s true, I really love Taiwan, there is no other place I have been to that I have felt this way about. It’s strange because I never actually ever planned to go to Taiwan, I just sort of found myself there. So here is my story Taiwan story, in its meandering bumbling way.
I’ll start with me, because I think that’s part of it. Yes as Kite says I am a farmer, but actually no, I have never lived on a farm, and aside from wanting to have a small organic garden I have no interest in traditional farming (as us Kiwis will understand it) I am from a family that comes from a very small town in the far north of New Zealand. My family lived up there for over a hundred years (which in New Zealand is a long time for non Maori families), and it really is a small place. Just one store back then and even today there is only a café, a couple of stores and a pub. It’s actually a very poor part of New Zealand and most of the people back then as today were Maori.
My family were sailors, not farmers and the town was right on the edge of a big harbor that went out into the extremely rough and dangerous Tasman Sea. This place the “Hokianga” has had a huge impact in shaping my family and me as well. Firstly, my family were poor (as most were back then), however their quality of life was high.
Also, unlike almost all parts of New Zealand at that time and even today, there were never any problems between the Maori and Pakeha (white New Zealanders). People intermixed, intermarried and just got on with it respecting each other. The other effect is that Pakeha families like my own adopted a lot of traits of Maori family culture, not consciously I think, but just absorbed it - they were all simply shaped by the land and the sea together.
Part of this has flown into me, even though I was actually raised in Auckland, not the Hokianga (my family left the Hokianga before I was born for economic reasons). Such traits include a deep innate reverence of nature, a love of a simple life and a centre based around family. My father’s family differed a lot from other Pakeha families; they always stuck together, there was never a sense of yours or mine within the family and no matter right or wrong, family was always right. My dad’s family being an Irish / Norwegian mix, from the sticks, sure could fight between themselves, but the instant an outsider would step in, well the family would come together.
Also, my dad’s family never had any money but there doors were always open to every one who was a friend and everyone always got fed. No matter what, everyone ate, everyone could stay as long as they liked -and my nana had five sons, and a husband who spent most of his time at sea – she was one tough, fair and beautiful lady.
I know this is a massive diversion to my tale, but I think it’s important, because I think about myself and who I am. I am like my father’s family, and have the best and worst of them. I grew up in Auckland, but really I have never liked cities. I love the ocean the most, which is probably why I ended up surfing, but I also love all nature. I find cities hard, my dad says it’s just in our blood, and I believe him. I have never lived in the Hokianga, but whenever I go back up there, I feel like I am home.
I love the wildness of it, its wild and its tough, but it has substance and heart. Two things I love most in this world are substance and heart. That’s why I love Kite so much because she has more of those two qualities in her than anyone I know (except my Nana), She also has an amazing amount of kindness, which is another quality I think is super important,(but that’s another topic).
Ok back to Taiwan. Like I said, I found my way to Taiwan by accident. I worked in Hong Kong as a business consultant for a while and spent quite a lot of time in Mainland China on project work. At that time, I was working too hard, and it was all getting to me. My boss at that time would do all the Taiwan field research portion of our projects, and I did all the mainland side.
I would crawl back over the Shenzhen border after a three week stint in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin, and I would be absolutely buggered. I remembered sometimes I would even forget what floor my apartment was on and all sorts of things like that. At the same time my boss would come back from his week in the field in Taiwan, and would always tell me how great it was. But as he was the boss, this situation never changed.
Anyway, one time at the end of one of our big projects, I was due some leave so I planned to go to Xinjiang. But just before I left, my boss had to do a big presentation in Taipei, and asked me if I would come along to give him a hand to help out. I said ok, and delayed my trip by a couple of days and off we went to Taiwan, my first time.
We pretty much worked all that night, and I remember the next day we had to give a presentation for the full day. At the end of it all I was absolutely shattered, but for some reason we went out for dinner and one thing led two another and we ended up meeting some local Taiwan guys and Foreigners who had been there for a long time, who led us around for the whole night.