30.10.05

ghosts and witches

Boys and girls, yesterday's lesson was in ghosts and witches. Pretty apt in a day-before-Halloween kind of way.

J and I made our way to the Taipei Arts Park (we love parks!) - which is essentially the locale around the Fine Arts Museum. We didn't enter the museum, but wandered around in the drizzle to look at these groups of kids practising their dances. That's something we noticed in almost every park or large public square/space we've been to. Kids rehearsing their dances in groups of 5 to 30. Then we did the touristy thing and went house-visting by the Museum to the Taipei Story House and the Lin Tai Ann Mansion. The latter is a real beautifully conserved Chinese house from the 18th century (see pic below), and the former is the pseudo-French home of a tea-merchant.

LinAnTai
Very 家春秋 yah? image by J - click for larger view

Sitting at the French cafe at the Taipei Story House, we quizzed the waitress in Mandarin (a tall willowy girl with bunned-up hair)
J: Why is this place called Taipei Story House?
Girl: Oh, [rehashing an oft-repeated answer] it's an old building from 1914 based on a French style of architecture. It's beautiful so it's preserved.
J: So, I see...but why is it called Taipei Story?
Girl: [a little puzzled] Why? Well, it was built in 1914, about the time of modern Taipei...and when the Japanese occupied Taipei, this house was also requisitioned by the Japanese. Then later it became the home of a politician, when we were free from the Japanese secession.
J: [either real dense or wanting to extend the conversation with this girl] Yes, but why Taipei Story?
Y: It's Taipei Story because the history of this house also tells the story of Taipei's development.

Thus saved from her questioning, she quickly went away from these 2 inquisitive tourists

J: [staring wistfully at the pumpkin soup] The Taiwanese value history hor.
Y: Yup. I guess because they are conscious of who they are.
J: That's a good thing. We don't. Taipei's got... soul, somehow.
Y: We do too. But maybe we are not so good at telling stories.
J: And we don't like old things. We think it's dirty, scary.
Y: Hmm, well, we have ghost stories. That's a kind of history.
J: [dipping into the soup] No soul, got ghosts.

My "theory" is always that our ghost stories (almost every building or beach in Singapore is haunted!) act as our unofficial history. A testimony to the fact that people have walked, lived and died on this island. Some have died for our island. And with that in mind, we fearlessly explored the dusty corridors and dark rooms of the Lin AnTai Mansion - where no doubt, folks have walked, lived and died.

And moving on to witches!

After dinner, we went in search of the legendary Witches cafe. Legendary only because it's launched the careers (well, kind of) of Taiwanese indie singers and Sandee Chen would occasionally still perform there. The chairs are decorated with bras, and upstairs on the second floor is a LBG bookshop called Fem Books. Yup, we're in a University dig.

J was a little apprehensive about staying for the performance. Given the place, we could end up having to listen to angsty university students. But it was a good thing we did, because we were treated to "The Mirror" band (or literally "Magic Mirror"). Lots of stories told as they sang in Min Nan Yu (the Taiwanese indigenous tongue, kind of like Hokkien) these jazzy tunes. 3 of the musicians are visually impaired, including the leader Jun Jie - a keyboardist who plays for all these popstars. It's pretty hard to describe the music or their performance, so I shall leave you here with an unfinished illustration:

TheMirror
Will colour this drawing another time

Well folks, that's almost all for yesterday! Oh yes, we did make it to Xi Men Ding in the end. But no, we got there late so the free concerts by the boybands were all over. Instead, we saw him instead. Probably a little mentally unsound, wearing a walkman, holding a marker as a mic, and lip-syncing and gyrating to the music in his earphones. He would sometimes pose, smile and gaze at his curious onlookers. Some of the kids would get up the stage and pose for photographs with him, as if he was a real celebrity. So we'll leave you with this photo:

NoMoney2Eat
image by J

3 comments:

fortycalibernap said...

just walked back in from night one of the mountain goats (perhaps the best show i've ever seen), and then the first thing i do is read this.

sometimes life just seems like a wonderful dream. beautiful writing -- a couple of wondrous people in a wondrous place.

samuraibunny said...

you know who's a witch? my neighbour.

ampulets said...

40calibernap - until you wake up ;P

sb- your brooms go missing?

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