I’d like to introduce you to my new friend Felix. My nephew couldn’t stuff himself in an envelope and still get through customs, so he sent Felix instead. Felix is a rabbit who travels the world and brings back stories, and I am as far from Atlanta as I can be here.
I got him a traditional kung fu uniform when he arrived, with a white belt, of course. I prefer the white belt myself. I have others, but the student wears the white belt, and I prefer to be the student. When you become the teacher, it is so easy to forget to learn. The symbols on his chest stand for “kung fu,” not in the English sense of the word. “Kung Fu” means hard work and time. Anything can be learned through hard work and time, as long as you find the right teachers. Kung fu is life, and life is kung fu. Even when you don’t realize it, everything you do is work, and we are always using our time.
This is Beichatianshan, North Sky Piercing Mountain in English. It is about a mile above sea level, and half of that is hand made ladders and ropes up steep muddy cliffs. The wilderness is beautiful here, even if it isn’t overly wild. There are people everywhere, and the main difference is that the out of the way places are filled with amazingly friendly locals. Sometimes disturbingly friendly. But then paranoia isn’t really a thing here.
There is beauty out there, and you can feel the wilderness even with all the man made additions. It’s not so much going back before man, but before the trappings of modern civilization with all it’s safety and comfort. Like walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. Unfortunately Felix arrived the day after this trip, so all I can do is show him the pictures and take him somewhere closer.
We passed by Taipei 101 on our way to something closer. It’s not worth going to the top compared to the sunset from the nearest mountaintop. Elephant mountain overlooks the tower, and there is no other building like it. For now it stands alone in the skyline, but the city is growing fast.
The local trails are easier, mostly because they are close, but also because they are paved. Nothing but stairs and clear paths. It has the feel of the wild, but there are no rockslides and little mud to be found. A comfortable rabbit can go up Elephant Mountain and back within an hour, including the time it takes to catch the sunset.
We passed through an at gallery at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial hall subway station. The subways here are always decorated and clean, but only a few feel like museums. This was a series of local artists done as a celebration of what Taiwan is, and has been. I like the simplicity of the mountains and the lakes, but it also takes me back to when I traveled there.
Felix chose the coastline, and I don’t blame him. I haven’t been able to surf here, but the beach is amazing. Some of my favorite walks have been across the beaches and cliffs here.
They also had portraits of some of the traditional outfits here. I can’t read Chinese very well, so I can’t know what the outfits represent or where they are from. I have met a number of people from the tribes here, through trips across mountains and through rivers. They are light hearted and wonderful people. They have kept much of their traditional outfits and dances, but for some reason they seem to like Enigma’s Return to Innocence as part of their shows. A mix of new and old, but always with a sense of humor.
Felix liked this picture of a tribe gathered together. I think he is more of a family rabbit, looking back to be with people at home. I think I have the adventurous streak between the two of us. There is something about being home with family that you can’t always find when you’re away, though. Even if it is just the free food.
We traveled up to the memorial, but first you come across the theater. There are two buildings like this that house concerts and art galleries. They are beautiful, traditional, and amazing. Death is not something that is buried here, it is the center of many people’s lives. They honor the dead and leave them gifts, or burn spirit money so they can buy things in the afterlife. It’s so different from back home, where the dead are remembered privately, or in public way that strip them of their individuality, memorials for thousands rather than one.
This is a special monument, the largest in the city. The square is open for people to relax and there were people practicing dances to one side, or taking wedding photos in the middle of the square. Back in Mexico there would have been food and games, a central hub of the city. Here, there are people and a clean open space. Life and death, all in one.
Felix wanted to give everyone a bit of perspective on how big this place is. Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of the Taiwan government after they left mainland China. He was an important leader, and his memory still holds a great importance for the people here. There are 89 steps leading up to the memorial, with a massive statue of the man, still guarded by the living. Below is a museum, with exhibits that change as time passes.
We finished with a trip by my classes, where the students wrote letters to America. Hopefully they will have time to write back, talking with people a world away. Felix will be heading back home soon. He would have left earlier, but the school back home is on vacation anyway. Maybe next time he can drag my nephews along for the ride. There is always so much more to see.