Taiwan: It felt good to slow down in a place that moves so fast, 24 hours a day. This is a sketch blog. I was almost a tourist attraction. People stopped to take photos of me sketching.
This is the view from our hotel room way up on the 14th floor.Taipei to Taichung
We took the high speed train from Taipei to Taichung, travelling along at about 200km per hour felt just like taking the subway in Toronto, only we travelled from one end of Taiwan to about 3/4 of the way down the island. High speed train is an unthinkable infrastructure in Canada because we don’t have the population to support it. But just imagine how convenient it would be to travel by land between cities. No long waits at the airport, fast and effecient.
It felt like an endless city from one end of the island to the other. Rice fields with about 3 weeks of new growth on them butted up against buildings. Reflections of the buildings rippling amongst the green sprouts.
Flying down the island on a high speed train you realize that Toronto would appear as a small dot amongst a billion dots. There doesn’t seem to be any feeling of boundaries or city limits. However rivers and fields are very much part of the cityscape.
When we reached the factory, Donald, Dereks partner thought it would be nice for me to visit the temple, so they dropped me off several blocks away from the factory and said be back by 4. They gave me a Nokia phone in case I needed to call (little realizing how phone illiterate I am, especially when all the symbols are in Chinese) and pointed me in the general direction.
This is a self portrait of me trying to learn about putting incense and paper money atthe temple.The temple is dedicated to Tian-Shang-Sheng-Mu Mei-Zhou Mazu who was a doctor. Mazu rescued people and helped people who either had suffered disaster at sea, or helped prevent disasters at sea. It is difficult to tell exactly, because the translation is odd to say the least. The pamphlet is a bit ambiguous. In any case, I bought some incense and some paper money and travelled through the 5 stations to pray. There is a ritual way to pray at a temple. At one of the stations you can take a photo of one of the Gods. Then you wave it in a clockwise direction over the incense and it is supposed to provide you with protection. After completing the five stations, you can make a prayer to Mazu and then you take two little half blocks of wood that are painted red on the outside and resemble two slice of apple sandwiched together. After you have prayed and told Mazu your name and address and what you are praying for, you toss the slices of wood. If they dont open the correct way (one slice has the red peel up and the other slice has the bare wood up) then you pray some more and try again. Then if you are successful, you then pick out a stick with a number on it and repeat the process. If you land the correct configuration then you look at the number on the stick and go over to a small cubby hole and pull out a fortune. So i made a prayer for Emilio. I prayed for him to find his path, enriching his life with things that interest him and feeling good about his work. I had to ask Penny and Donald later on what it meant. I noticed that people come to the temple to seek help from the Gods in their endeavours. They place the money on a table while they go from station to station praying. I noticed a man pulling out bundle after bundle of the fake paper money. he literally had brought a sack full. He must have had a very important business deal.
I then wandered up the wrong street and got a little panicky as the streets stretched out in a star and i wasnt sure which direction I had come from. i pulled out my camera to look at the pictures I took along the way to attempt to retrace my steps. Once I had found myself, I felt comfortable finding a bench to sit on and sketch the market street. People swarmed around me, curious about the scene i was painting, wondering how my foreign eyes see their world.
I could have been anywhere, my drawing primative and disappointing compared to the elaborate detail and exquisite craftmanship of the wood and jade and bronze trinkets they sell in the shops. We were shy of each other, with only the language of smiles that were brighter than any trinkets they sold.
Back to the factory where i sat for a few minutes to sketch one if the girls working on piece work. She was really very smiley, only when i drew this, it got quite smudged. So I did a little mixed media with it.
It seems somewhat mundane to mention that our hotel we were staying at had enough living space for several families from a Taiwanese viewpoint of real estate. After dinner we browsed the shops then at 10pm we went for a massage. The place had at least 30 spots for foot massages then an entire open section of over 30 beds for full body massages. We opted for a more private area for our massage. We were happy they were able to squeeze us in to their full schedule, and treat us to the best deep massage I have had. Anybody can talk about their best massage. What they don’t often find though is a culture that has refined it to a 24 hour “must have” as part of a daily routine.
Next day we were well rested and relaxed, and ready to return to the factory and family business. . The toy factory is a family run operation which includes grandma and young children. They all stop for a communal lunch at grandmas house. The table is filled with choice bits of, squid, fried fish, beans and anchovies, pork, soup, and vegetables. We notice sleek racing bikes in the corner which belong to Chenys son, who is competing in triathlons. He is competing nationally. We ask Cheny how well he does, but he says he will wait and see.
Penny, Donald’s partner looks at her watch for time and her fitbit to see if she has reached her mandatory steps count for the day. She prefers her watch for the time. she doesnt like looking at the fitbit since the time shows up digitally and she doesnt like to see the number four. Superstition mingles with practicality. I am not sure why there are pop bottle on the family alter, or the no smoking sign in the house.
We take a side trip to a very old temple. I fall in love with a very old tree there.
While Derek was discussing business at the printing factory, i was treated to a day out at the art gallery with Sharon and Mandy.
Then out for a vegetarian meal, followed by more shopping which consisted mainly of stopping for more food then off for supper for a traditional meal in Tainan. I thought I might miss my western food, and was surprised that being so full all the time kept me quite conten
Derek and I went to Huilien to have a small tour on our own. Donald arranged everything for us, which included a private driver, meals and hotel.
These are some sketches of the places we stopped at.
The first is supposed to be a bridge at the university. There is a sign just to the right of the bridge that says “hermetically,no swimming fishing boating dabbling or bring to justice”. The sketch is a little rough as I really didnt want to be caught dabbling.
This was little Juifen. in the early 1900’s the Japanese created a village to harvest some of the cyprus trees in Taiwan as they were ideal for building temples. This carried on until about 1945 when the Taiwanese began to protect their forests. The Japanese built
railways to carry the timber out from the mountains.
Taiwan is heavily populated on one side of the island and less so on the other, but the cental mountain range is fairly impenetrable. The mountains have steep cliffs as well as the instability from typhoons and earthquakes keeps the mountain range from being developed.
Our taxi driver told us that a carrier pidgeon could travel faster to Huilien than a person travelling by car from Taichung, which lies approximately equidistant down the western coast. This picture to the right is one of the village houses. I like the slate roofs.
Then back to Taipei. While Derek and Donald talked business, I went out to sketch again. This was an old army barracks close to Donalds office. People come here to take wedding photos, graduation photos, and millions of selfies. Taipei 101 is in the background. It used to be the tallest building in the world.
The last in my series is from outside the city hall in Taipei. I sat and watched a woman play with her two dogs. One of the dogs was fifteen years old and had had a stroke. He looked at the world on a bit of an angle. We sat and watched as busload after busload of Chinese tourists paraded by. The tour leaders have long poles with some kind of distinctive identifier such as a stuffed banana hanging on the end dangling like a fish from a fishing pole. And to help keep track of all the people in their group, they give them all red hats. They herd them from one monument to another.