Friday, September 29, 2006

around the world in 90 days...

I've been in Taipei for about two weeks now, and I've been in school for 5 days. Before I got here, this is how much I traveled.

Taipei, Taiwan, to Suva, Fiji: 4848 miles
Suva, Fiji, to Tokyo, Japan: 4493 miles
Osaka, Japan, to Shang Hai, China: 845 miles
Shang Hai, China, to Beijing, China: 666 miles
Beijing, China, to Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia: 727 miles
Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, to Moscow, Russia: 2874 miles
Moscow, Russia, to St Petersburg, Russia: 396 miles
St Petersburg, Russia, to Helsinki, Finland: 184 miles
Helsinki, Finland, to New York, USA: 4108 miles
New York, USA, to Taipei, Taiwan: 7774 miles

You certainly might not find all that above interesting, but it was interesting for me to figure all that out. And what is a blog for if not for the blogger to self centeredly figure things out for herself? The total number of miles traveled in one summer is 26,315 miles. The circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles. I guess I got used to airplane air (thin and stale) and railroad air (stinky) but now I'm acclimating to Taipei's (gray and wet). If you put it in miles per hour, I've been moving at a rate of 12 mph, on average.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


The girl's headscarf says "tan" or "corruption".

Obviously, the big thing that is happening in Taiwan right now are the protests and calls for Chen Shui Bian to step down. What is lesser known is that the protests that are shaking the country right now are also extremely catchy dance parties. In a brief synopsis of what has happened until now, various members of Chen Shui Bian's family and contacts have been found guilty of corruption charges, either by siphoning off money or accepting bribes or the like. Chen was only elected last term by a slim margin, that, many think, only swung his way because he (allegedly) faked an assasination attempt. Nobody knows if it was real or not, and more and more people seem to think that it wasn't, but it got him into office and he has presided over a stagnant economy. Now, after the Guo Ming Dang's sweep of local elections when I was living in Yilan, people are beginning to call for his resignation, discussing impeachment, and, according to my cousin, being "jealous of Thailand". In the south people are wearing green in support of Chen and up here people are wearing red and dancing. The biggest thing is the corruption allegations, though, which are seeping into every corner of Taiwanese politics--the (KMT) mayor of Keelong was just arrested, even handsome, charismatic KMT leader Ma Yin Jiu is alleged to have taken government money to adopt a dog (and pay for its vet bills?). I will try to do more research in the future to present a more informed viewpoint.

But anyway, the protests. Were fun! Today is the 17th day, and people draped in red, fanning themselves with fans reading "depose" illustrated with angry thumbs pointing downward, were roused suddenly when a giant speaker system began playing a catchy, danceble tune with a chorus saying "Xia Lai" or, "come down." As in, "impeach". It was fascinating to see the whole crowd rise to their feet and begin dancing to this song, making thumbs down symbols as a kind of protest dance move.

The "thumbs down" dance move.

Happy protesters who saw my camera and had to have their pictures taken.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Those are the characters that I chanted for about an hour and a half today. I'm currently in the South of Taiwan, where everyone is wearing green shirts in support of Chen Shui Bian and my family lives. As when I usually come here, my aunt takes me up to a large temple built into a mountain. After driving to this temple, getting out, and trekking up the mountain for a few minutes, we arrived at the tiny tin house of a Buddhist master, a spindly little man with incredibly long eyebrow hairs who my aunt visits and brings food to several times a week. Completely bald, with random tufts of hair sprouting from unlikely places on his body (like his wrist), this man served us tea and sat placidly as mosquitoes feasted on his forehead... of course, as a devout Buddhist he doesn't kill them, although I did see him cut down several trees while I was visiting. I've gone to see him before with my aunt, but never before has he taken me on two of the spiritual excersises that he did today: chanting and barefoot hiking.

Barefoot hiking:
is quite painful, but in some ways did feel like an engightening experience. It's feeling the earth, through pain, through the balls of your feet. We walked through mud, through wet grasses, and on paths, stopping every so often to whack at overgrowth and chop off young bamboo shoots (which we ate for lunch later).

Amitofo (Buddha). This is what I chanted, over and over again, at varying speeds, with varying melodies, for about an hour and 30 minutes. We began by reading passages of Chinese (I mouthed) in a sing-song repetetive manner, then stopped and began to slowly walk around the room where the master lives, singing "Ahhhhh.... Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiii....Tooo...Fooooooooo" extremely slowly, lifting our feet with each second syllable and clasping our hands in different fashions. I think I phased out, but by the time we were done with this section 30 minutes had passed by. We then sat down in front of his house shrine and chanted Amitofo very quickly with crossed (and numb) legs for another 30, then lapsed into something of a meditative silence, before finally standing up and shaking our limbs back to life.

To a novice, which I am, spiritual englightenment is physically painful. But as silly as I felt singing the same four syllables and walking in step as my shoulders fell asleep, it does seem to have something to it. In fact, I felt as if it would be nearly impossible not to find some sort of trance while chanting for an hour and a half.... I felt as if I lapsed into nothingness... which, I guess, is the essence of understanding Buddhism.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

illustration friday: change

A foot changing into a hand.

doodles between watching lost

Some new ideas, or reiterations of old ones really...

My first few days back in Taiwan have been marked by downloading and watching Lost and hiking up and down the cliff at the top of which my apartment is situated. And thinking about graduate schools. Applying to MFA programs means writing artist statements, and writing artist statements means giving reasons for the art that I do. Now that I'm forced to think about it, suddenly every piece of work is given new meaning... but I have no idea if I am truly tapping into my subconscious or am just accidently making things up that seem to fit. Do the disembodied feet symbolize displacement? Do the tightrope walkers symbolize living between two cultures as a biracial expat??? Hopefully I'll come up with something that doesn't ring too false, and in the meantime keep doodling until school starts on Monday.

Schools I'm thinking of: Penn State, Yale, Columbia, California Institute of Art, Parsons, Maryland Institute, Art Institute of Chicago, Virginia Commonwealth University

Sunday, September 17, 2006


hello, dear blog,

I'm finally back from my month and a half of travelling and can once again settle into the routine of living in Taiwan and posting thoughts about it. Since I didn't think to start a blog until the last month or so of my Fulbright most of this blog seems to relate more about me in Fiji or me in transit, but now it can begin, or re-begin, or return to, its original use... which is detailing Taiwan. I arrived back in Taipei on the 13th, after taking a flight on September 11. Taking the exact same route (Boston-LA) as one of the planes used in the terrorist attacks was, rather than being scary, just very sad. After having lived in Israel I've taken on the perhaps unhealthy but also realistic attitude that I should never be afraid a catastrophe will happen to me... so instead of berating myself for booking the 11th I watched CNN talk to the mothers and husbands of those who died.
I arrived in Taipei during the beginning of a tropical storm, which actually was scary, and bouncy. Since then I've settled into a cheap bedroom with a roommate, like college, except that she is 38 and very quiet and thoughtful. My next move is to get to know some of the people in my program, although they all seem to all be intent on speaking only Chinese to me and each other... indicating how much more serious they are and making me automatically resent them. But I'm sure I will get more into it once classes start.
As for my month of the Trans-Siberian, I will remember it forever. Here, a picture of Lenin in solid chocolate in St. Petersberg, child statues at the feet of a boddhisattva in Japan, a Shaman worship mound with the skull of a horse at the top of a mountain in Mongolia, and a length of slightly more wild Great Wall.

Best place to eat (other than the Taipei night markets of course): on the street in Shanghai, with stir fried stinky dofu, a bottle of beer, and plastic bags for plates.

Most awe-striking place: Moscow's Red Square, which made me think the Mall in Washington really doesn't get the awe thing (perhaps because of the nature of democracy... hmm).

Most peaceful place: in a ger tent in Mongolia with the fire on and the wind whipping the fabric.

Most uncomfortable place: 3 days straight on the train from Lake Baikal to Moscow.