Why I Love Taiwan (The End)
I loved that I would wake up with that big sun, go surfing come back and I never knew what was going on. I remember waking up during a mid day siesta to the sound of a pig being slaughtered on the road. I went out to see what all the fuss was, and saw a dig tent had been erected on the side of the road, and it was the beginning of a non stop three day party (lots of bad karaoke) (卡拉OK).
I went back inside and when I emerged for my afternoon surf, I saw a completely drunk local trying to drive off on his scooter. Well, he ended up collapsing and both him and the scooter ended up on the ground. So naturally, I helped him up, and his friends came across and helped him as well, and all shook my hand, and thanked me very much, tried to give me all the cigarettes and bing lang I never needed and invited me for a drink.
The funny thing was they helped the guy up, and put him on his scooter, started it up for him, and off he rode, zig zagging his way home.
Another night I was awoken from my roof top bed, by the sound of guys running down the side of my place all with torches. My first thought was, “Fuck robbers” – no it was frog harvesting time, every idiot knew this except me. And the boundaries of property didn’t matter for frogs, nor for their collectors.
I spent a lot of time with the locals, in San Xian Wu(三仙屋), in Dong He(東河), in Tai Dong and elsewhere, and I loved it. They had this simplicity, this realness, this substance, which although in form was very different from me, resonated completely with me. I voluntarily taught local amis and Taiwanese kids to surf during the holidays for fun, and local amis kids in the village English during the weekend in exchange for learning carving, but on every occasion I always received so much more than I could ever give back.
I loved the wild countryside kids, the simple people, they all had their problems, but there was this core of goodness in them this light that hadn’t been jaded. It’s the most human place I have ever been.
It’s the only place where I have been surfing in over head waves, breaking on reef, looked around and found little kids no more than seven treading the water next to me. They stayed out there for over two hours following me around. I have never received more random kindness than in Taiwan.
For example, one day a foreign friend Mat and I were surfing at a local spot called the reef. Mat had quite a nasty gash on his shin from a day or two before and it looked like it was getting infected. When we pulled up in the morning, there was a middle aged Taiwanese guy there meditating.
We said hello and then went out for our surf. The guy continued to watch us for a while and then took off on his scooter. We came in after a while and were getting changed when this guy returned. He had gone to buy my friend Mat some medicine for his leg and had stopped off to get us some breakfast as well. Well we didn’t know what to say, this complete stranger doing this for us. Feeling very overwhelmed we thanked him and he simply put his hands together said ‘Amitofa”(阿彌陀佛) and then with a big smile jumped back on his scooter and rode off.
These are just some of the random acts of kindness that I have received in Taiwan. I have never found a more warm and genuinely kind people than I encountered on the East Coast.
I think why I particularly love the Taiwan Aboriginal persons most is because of the deep connection with nature they have. This was the only aspect I sometimes found difficult connecting with the average local Taiwan person on, was their fear of or removal from raw nature, which I couldn’t really relate to. However, I found that the Amis(阿美族), Bei nan(卑南族) and Lan Yu people(達悟族) I came into contact were not like this and really had a life immersed in nature.
They were very much still connected to the breathing wild environment around them. It wasn’t something alien to them, it was an extension of themselves – this I guess is why I connected so deeply with Taiwan’s aboriginals.
And in the end of course I love Taiwan because it brought me Kite, who I met after spending eight months in the East Coast. If I had never come to Taiwan, I would never have met Kite. But that’s another story…..