Hop on a bus…

So, today, with cold in throat, and bag on back, I went to Taipei Main Station. I’ve been there before, of course, wandering through the subterranean mall on my way to dance class. I hadn’t been up to the train station above the subway this time, however, and today, on the quest for a bus, I had the deja vu that I have every now and then in Taiwan, realizing that this is a place I’ve been to before with my family in the time when the streets were a parking lot, at least one of my grandparents was alive, and my hair was long and probably braided.

The skylight ceiling and the big echoing space where the big board still flips through places and times with the same sort of rhythm trains on the track would have called me back.

The last time I remember Taipei Main Station, it was when the MRT was still being built, and the toilets didn’t work because the construction for the MRT had disrupted the water lines. My mother said there was some rather naughty graffiti on the signs apologizing. The space was dark with shadows, and we were hot and tired, and there were people all around us in waves.

This time around in Taiwan, I’ve realized that some of the foreignness of Taiwan to me was just the strangeness of staying in urban spaces for the first time in my life. Tiny apartments on top of each other instead of a house. Busy traffic outside. It was all so different from keeping company with the cherry trees and the grass on our hill in the suburbs.

Anyway, today I was brave and went to Hsinchu to try out a writing group that I’d kind of nudged into existence and then didn’t join as soon as it started. I wandered around Taipei Main Station for about half an hour, realizing that I only had $1000 NT on me, which isn’t bad, $30 US can go a ways here, but seemed skimpy to leave town on, and that I’d left my phrasebook at home. My mangled Chinese was enough to get me to get lost enough to find the bus station and catch a $140 NT (about $4-5 US) bus to Hsinchu. So I sat in the green lazyboy-ish recliner chair with my personal little TV, unraveled my gauge swatch and looked at the lights flickering out of the window as we passed shadows of mountains and rice paddies. Buses in Taiwan can be quite plush.

I managed to not need to call for further directions. Hsinchu is called the windy city, though it didn’t feel too dreadful to me. I had kumquat tea, which was bright orange and hot and slightly tart. We wrote and read and wrote and read and I met some lovely creative people.

Was escorted to the bus stop and ushered onto the bus by my newfound writing colleagues, and mused the whole way back in the dim light of the fluorescent illumination. I love that space to just sit and go.


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Free Rice

January 2007
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