Thursday, January 17, 2008

WALKING TAIWAN: Modern Monk

For the other blog: (more pictures coming -- this computer's taking forever)


I had tea with a police officer who talked through current politics, only half of which I understood. We slept at a police station in a small town in the South of Taiwan that night.
Apparently, the wasp we had almost stepped on earlier is known to kill humans. A teacher took a few students to do research in the mountains some years ago, and unfortunately, came back dead after two stings. On the bright side of things, if local patrols find wasp nests, they can be steeped in rice wine and the resulting product is great for sexual impotency: the more poisonous, the longer the night! Before night fell, we crept out of (what I like to call) the jungle after following a one-lane road for some 20 kilometers. A stray dog we decided to name Slinky followed us for about 5 of those kilometers and then disappeared before we got to town. We even saw a couple monkeys. A truck was stuck in the sand on the beach, so we offered a helping hand to push. The driver thanked us but said it required a tow truck, so we kept on jaunting down the road in the rain. A while later, the truck pulled up next to us and offered shelter from the storm: a ride to the next town. Good deeds come full circle. I told mother I wouldn't walk at night, but I guess that's what happens when you're a lazy college student who usually gets a late start to the day. About a week ago, as we walked down a mountain road at night, a van stopped to offer us a ride. We approached with caution to find only the kindest of all earthly creatures: William, the driver, and his two golden Labradors.

We hop in and he hands me a card.

"Read the card, and you'll know why I picked you up," he says.

The card read, "All for one, one for all." He explained that he was a fellow backpacker and that his club had handed out these cards for its members to share with the world. The basic concept: help the world feel at home in your part of the world and others will do so to you in their part of the world.

That night, we stopped at a 7-Eleven (or 7-Enlighten as we like to call it now) and William helped map out some great destinations. He dropped us off at a world class sleeping spot, a fishing port, where we woke up to the freshest of all starts.

Fast forward a few days and about a hundred kilometers, a simple twist of fate puts us back in touch with William. We'd been walking along the main road and we hear a yelp. The van swerves to the side of the road. He tells us to get in.

We can't turn him down after our first run-in, so we grab dinner at a vegetarian joint and find out that William's a monk. That explains his shaved head, thin structure and gray clothing, but not his cigarette smoking and coffee addiction. He's still a monk though – a modern Buddhist monk.

Monks these days aren't quite the mystical characters we think them to be in the West. Sure they wear the robe and are devoted to religion, but they also use Mac products and are into organics too.

By this point, William, a beautiful specimen of the Earth, has talked our way into a free dip in the local hot springs where we can relax our tired bones.He discusses politics in the form of humanity, and he likens Buddhism to milk: chocolate milk, strawberry milk, apple milk, etc. Just like any other religion, some sects think they are the one and only milk. A few hours of chatting later, we find that he teaches art and volunteers at prisons.

So long for now, William. The world still spins round and I promise to pass along the goodness of mankind.

After 15 kilometers of walking today, we're almost at our final destination, Kenting. A pretty girl offered us a ride, but I had to turn it down. We're almost there, and besides, this is supposed to be a walk on my ethnic lines. Maybe we'll run into her tonight.

[Excuse the silly Bob Dylan references; I listened to too much "wandering music" before I left for this walk.]

2 Comments:

At January 20, 2008 at 10:28 PM , Blogger Abigail said...

This has to be one of the coolest things any of my friends has ever done. :)

 
At January 22, 2008 at 12:57 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

haha sweet. is this abby wright?

 

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