a tale of 2 cities
i want i want i want! - kid sketched in Singapore, photo of Shilin-Taipei
It's our 3rd day back in Singapore from Taipei - and all the post-holiday blues have made themselves a comfortable home somewhere in my head. We are both due back at work tomorrow (oh, dark dark day!).
Do I miss Taipei? Hmm... I miss more the sense of freedom associating with travelling, made more intense by the chaotic openness of Taiwan. The cabdriver who took us to the airport was full of criticism for Chen Shui Bian's government ("他們比国民党还要国民党!" = "They are more Kuomintang than the Kuomintang!"), but when he attributed all this to Taiwan being "too democratic", "too liberal", it was with an obvious pride. Of course, he added, he could never imagine living in Singapore.
I like, too, the compassion of the Taiwanese. Maybe it's just the language. I like the way doorbells are labelled "爱心呤" (="compassionate bell?") and the seat right by the doors of the subway train is labelled "博爱座" (="seat requiring/seeking compassion"). There is no mad rush for seats in the trains, so kids and the elderly always have a seat. In the least expected places, those little slivers of land between subway stations or in a entrails of sidestreets, you'll find a playground for children. Most of these playgrounds also have exercise stations for the elderly.
disappearing into the city - at a playground in taipei
But I comfort myself: all cities are ultimately the same in their waste, greed and vanity. Where we differ is just the degree of polluted-ness, the breadth of our streets, the size of the urban sprawl, the disguises for our disorderliness, the nature of our violence. As printed below designer labels - Paris, London, New York, Tokyo. And sometimes adding - Taipei, Singapore.
So today, although I still find no joy in our stifling heat (the Old Man was right about how this tropical weather is one of our greatest weakness...) and the giant air-conditioned malls it has resulted in, I thought there was something redemptive in the chatter of children at 1pm, just as they were released from the school across J's flat. It's a happy sound we won't get to hear once we start work tomorrow.
Other things to miss about Taipei: food & books; ghosts & witches; historical dramas; hot