Saturday, January 19, 2008

blah blah blah the end blah blah

We're done walking! ...for now at least. We finished our walk in Kenting, Taiwan, one of the southernmost cities on the island.

We arrived in the afternoon at the main strip of town. Most stores were closed, and no one was walking around on the street. I guess this is what all beach towns are like during the off-seasons.

We spoiled ourselves to a small hotel room that cost us about $20USD. It included dinner and breakfast. Good news for us, but quite potentially bad news for our stomachs. I was couped up in my aunt's house for a whole day because I got some sort of intestinal infection haha. I didn't see the outside world at all. Steve got sick too. We both feel quite a bit better now, but it was a pretty terrible feeling being immobolized from sickness. I wonder if that's what it feels like to be old sometimes. I guess I'll find out in many years.

Still got some intestinal germs to fight off!

So we're done walking. It's weird to be done. It also seems like history already. It's kind of like it happened years ago. It was only 17 days of my life. That's nothing in the timeline of a life, but I guess a lot can happen in half a month. We didn't sleep in any one place for more than two days. That's probably one of the cooler things about the trip.

Each day we awoke to different scenery, people, questions, whatever... and it's just a great feeling to have continuous change in life. It keeps you on your feet, literally.

We're in Chia-yi now, my parents' home town. We've been here for 4 days -- one too many, because of this intestine thing haha. It's fun though -- just chilling in my would-be home had my parents not decided to save up money for the big move to America.

As I grow older, relationships with relatives have the potential to grow a little deeper, and I've realized that my limited language has slowed my ability to communicate. It seems unfair. There's only so much that can be discussed, and it seems like if I stayed any longer, there'd be nothing in the air to chat about anymore.

So far as I've noticed, language is the barrier between me and half of my ethnicity. It's the point where I can't learn any further about the culture. Sure I could sit for a million years and watch the world spin and see what kind of interactions take place between the people of Taiwan, but without a stronger sense of linguistic communication, it can only go so far.

Religion is a huge factor in the culture. Only by the guidance of any close relatives would I know how to act in any sort of religious setting. I don't understand most the gods I'm praying to, why I'm praying to them, and the hierarchical structure of which I should do so. It's wild how this culture is so intertwined with religion.

The relationship between culture and religion is interesting here, and I'd like to learn more, but at the same time, I've never really been one for any certain type of religion. I treat it as more of a learning opportunity to see what kind of faith people have in different aspects of the world.

My parents come from a Buddhist ancestry line, and since they've moved to the U.S. 20-some years ago, I've noticed that the amount of days they burn incense and set out offerings has gone down quite consistently. Instead, they seem to have taken up more humanitarian issues in the community with helping in Adopt-a-Road programs, nursing homes, food for the homeless, etc.

Has one form of spirituality turned itself into another? Was religion lost because there was a lack of culture surrounding my parents in America? Has religion evolved into a new species after having traveled thousands of miles to America?

It's more than just immigrant families that feel disconnected with root cultures. One distinct culture I know of is the native population of Taiwan. The youth are often stuck between the ability to work in the city or to lead a traditional life. There are positives and negatives to both lifestyles in today's world, and I think that it's highly important for the youth of all multi-ethnic families to insist upon and garner a healthy balance between traditional and progressive values.

So, I guess the "walk" in the non-literal sense is not over yet, and won't be over until I die. Perhaps that's why the supposed ending to this trip wasn't a celebration. It's not over yet. Nothing's concluded. It won't be for a long time, and that's probably the greatest thing in the world, because endless possibilities are forever challenging, and that's what keeps us alive.

Thank you, dearest reader, for reading. I guess this is sort of a final post for this adventure, but I'll post up some walking stats soon and probably some pictures too. This project might turn into an independent study for Spring semester, so stay tuned for a potential multi-media short documentary. I've been recording audio and video along the route. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


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.]

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sorry -- no pics today. The Internet Cafe doesn't allow USB plugs.

The other day, we were walking on the road to Taidong, and our buddy William (you might remember from previous posts) pulls up next to us again!

It had been a few days since we saw him last. He had dropped us off at a good sleeping spot at a fishing port. We thought that would be the last we'd see of him. This time, he tells us to get in his van, and he'll show us some cool look-out points.

We get in, and he takes us to a few beautiful Pacific look-outs. We had dinner at a vegetarian place, and then find out that he's a monk. He took us up to the hot springs, and talked his manager friend into letting us all in for free. Sweet.

I've learned a lot from him, a fellow traveler and continuous learner. I'll get into some (probably) in another post.

The past two nights, we stayed in Taidong with my father's cousin, so I think that's my uncle. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) He's a cop in town, and we got the executive tour. A co-worker of his took us into the mountains and we saw this art studio where these guys make ceramics.

We also went to sort of a cultural center for one of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan, the Bunun Tribe. It was interesting. I need to do some research, but I think there are a lot of similarities between the way aboriginal tribes all over the world are treated by colonizers. (Also something I'll try to touch on in another post.)

Today, we walked about 15 kilometers, and we got to a pretty dangerous part in the road, so we stopped. The first car I thumbed down picked us up. I guess it's that easy here. It was the Coast Guard. Again, authority over here is real nice.

We're at our stopping point for the night now, Dawu, Taiwan. My uncle treated us to a hotel room for the night. Awful nice of him. We'll be getting a 20-minute ride in the morning to a safer starting point. From there, it'll be a few more days until we reach the tip of Taiwan. We'll be doing a couple days inland until we get there.

It's so chaotic in this Internet "Cafe."