Challenges of moving to and living in and writing about Taiwan

 

As I get used to living in and occasionally blogging about Taiwan, I have been trying to be as optimistic as I can get. But there are times when I have to admit certain challenges in changing locales, figuring out new ways to live, finding inspiration to write, and how I don’t always take it as well as I’d like.

Moving is always a bitch, even though in many ways going from PRC China to ROC China still contain many similarities. It’s not like I’m totally new to the whole Mandarin-speaking Asian country thing. And there are so many convenient things about Taiwan, from the high speed rail to those kiosks at convenience stores where you can pay phone bills and order taxis.

Also it’s quite clean. Taiwan is an incredibly efficient and well run little country.

But it’s not all good times, least not for me. Sure overcoming minor challenges is of course positive in it’s own right, of course, yet I’d like to take this time to share the slightly complainy perspective if you will.

 

I canz #scooter~ #Taiwanlife

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There is the subject of transportation. On this I terribly miss Shenzhen. Even with all the China-police state crap, it was so easy (and so cheap) to get around by the subway or bus or hail a taxi. Taipei does have great public transportation, but I’m living a bit out of the big city for now… So that means a scooter.

I had to learn a new skill and everything. I was nervous at first, having zero experience with motorcycles. I was never the kind of expat to rent a motorbike and ride around Southeast Asia. I do like to bicycle, and I cannot say that’s the same. Now I am getting more and more used to zipping around town at 40-60 kilometers an hour, and the left turns are particularly tricky.

It is kind of awesome, actually.

 

#OnePiece: the Restauarant!

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Food. Not that Taiwan food isn’t great, as everyone knows. I mean, the night markets!

I just miss my life in Shenzhen when I could order in inexpensive Chinese food at any time of the day. The grocery stores are well stocked with domestic and foreign items here, and health inspection laws seem to be much better than in the mainland. It’s a great culinary delight to live just about anywhere in Taiwan.

I was however really used to my routine of ordering in tomato-eggs rice from the Hunanese restaurant, and vegetable curry from the cha chaan teng Hong Kong diner, and those peanut noodles from the little stands, and so on.

Currently I have more routines that I’m slowly getting accustomed to, which so far has mostly consisted of ordering inpizza from Dominoes. Soon I will learn better.

Meanwhile in Taipei, what’s better than discovering a One Piece-themed restaurant!!!

 

 

Travel is a blessing and a curse. I will probably take the high-speed rail to Taichung over the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival holiday weekend. Even though everyone says the nature and beaches are better along the east coast, which doesn’t have high-speed rail connection.

I was something of an expert at traveling in mainland China, if I do say so myself, that vast land with no end to history and tourist traps and epic cities and quaint villages. Etc., etc. I knew all the good websites to book guesthouses and where to stand in line for train tickets. Guess airbnb does work anywhere though.

It is amazing that the relatively small island of Taiwan contains so many places to go, and it will be years before I travel it all out. For now I am slightly intimidated on how to organize trips to new places.

I did enjoy taking the slow train to Fulong beach a couple of weekends ago; that wasn’t bad.

 

Then, there’s most important aspect of wherever it is I live: creative output.

Writing-wise, you see, I am in a bit of a rut.

I only got here fairly recently, and it takes time to get a feel for a place in order to write about with a sense of authenticity…

Do not expect a barrage of travel articles any time soon. I’m no expert on the place yet. Inspiration, for me, is more often a train of the slow-running variety.

Do stay tuned for a certain fictional writing project, which is far from ready to be announced and I will give away no hints as yet, but when the time comes then the time will come.

 

 

And also, the people. I don’t know too many here as of this writing. I know some. Honestly, the caliber of expat on average is a grade or so higher than many of those crazed outcasts who end up in China.

That’s just one of those things that happen when one moves, making friends can take time and all that.

It’s not that I’m super lonely. I am only a bit lonely.

That is what the internet is for.

Eh, mostly can’t complain.

 

 

 

Still, to everyone out there who’d like to keep in touch and maintain friendships and moreover check out Taiwan, please hurry up and come visit me!

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Art in Taipei!

Last weekend I went to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum to see the “Arena” exhibition, and I was not disappointed.

From the official website:

Arena brings together dance, the human body, theater, music, sound, image and text, exploring a synergetic relationship arising from the convergence of exhibition and performance. Crucially, the way an art exhibition is mixed with performance, whether it be bringing the two in close proximity or intermingling them, can be seen as a form of creative “symbiosis.” At the level of meaning, live performance dovetails with the concept of exhibiting “living objects.” Fundamentally, when this kind of work is placed within the structure of an exhibition, the participants perform repeatedly throughout the exhibition period, serving the function of continuous and cyclical display. The main distinction is that they use non-visual forms of expression and an immediately present mode of performance.

Within such a context, this exhibition combines static display with live art. The displayed portion encompasses an exchange exhibition between Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Gwangju Museum of Art. The Taiwanese artists seek to “interpose the viewer,” causing a structural transformation to take place in a single subject (work), to engender a real experience for the viewer, and not merely an experience existing in the viewer’s consciousness. Meanwhile, the Gwangju Museum of Art presents seven Korean artists at the height of their careers. Through a variety of art forms such as painting, installation and video, they demonstrate the diversity and value of Korean art. Through this “Arena,” both the Taiwanese and the Korean artists endow their works with a distinctively present-tense significance, engaging in a dialogue on the societal level in conjunction with the Summer Universiade currently taking place in Taipei, and seeking out a highly hybridized social milieu, either outwardly manifested or lying latent within contemporary existence.

Set against the backdrop of the displayed art, a series of live exhibitions penetrates the many different levels of exhibition and performance. Within the frameworks that are made possible, the artists create a spectrum of performance forms, from participatory art, webcast and lecture performance to puppet theater, documentary theater, dance, music, sound, performance art and video, comprising a single collective theme. Ultimately, the effect this exhibition aims to achieve through consciousness of form (exhibition and performance) is to stir up visitors who have long been in the habit of leisurely viewing exhibitions, jangling their nerves and their spirits, and placing them in a state of unease, excitation, suspension and bemusement. It aims to pose questions regarding the media and materials of contemporary art, the relationship between viewer and artist, and the social and public nature of art environments.

The exhibition will be open until September 17th.

 

Do please take a moment to check out some photos of my favorite works at the space, in particular the collaborative performance space in which people can dress up and pose in bizarre outfits:

Collaboration was a consistent theme, with various pieces involving wading through a world within digitized curtains, strange installations that change depending on what angle they are seen, and even a cutting-edge VR painting set.

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Reflections on the year 2016

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2016 was, to say the least, a tumultuous year.

It’s already something of a meme to say that 2016 sucks so much. And yeah, that’s largely true specifically in the political sense anyway.

However, in my personal life I can definitely declare that though it’s been hard I can claim lot of positive growth over the past year. I traveled the world, I promoted some writing, I published here and there, wrote another book, and I even moved in with my girlfriend!

There has been a lot on this very blog worth share. I reviewed, I interviewed. And although at this stage it’s hard to say if it will lead anywhere, one of my personal productive favorites of the year was starting anew on my hobby of drawing silly little comics.

In thinking over this arbitrary marking of the Earth going around the sun that we all mark on our calendars, I have thought about it most nostalgically and created a list of links below. Here, a few posts that stand out to me to sum up the crazy intensities of this most epically year:

 

In February, right after Chinese New Year, I was lucky enough to be detained by the Chinese police after attending an unlicensed rave party. I tested negative for drugs and was soon released, while sadly others I knew tested positive, leaving me with the opportunity to write what proved to be my most popular piece of writing ever. The guys over at Reddit China were somewhat opinionated. But I had my say.

Hey it even led to a piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

 

With my novel South China Morning Blues published — from Blacksmith Books, Hong Kong — in late 2015, I was very focused on promoting the book all over Shenzhen (and Guangzhou, and Hong Kong) over the beginning of the following year and on. It was a big part of my job for months on end. The highlight was definitely in March when I went to both Beijing and Chengdu for a little get-together known as the Bookworm Literary Festival.

 

The travel it did continue. I visited the great country/not country of Taiwan as part of my girlfriend Bronwen’s art residency in May. Absolutely wonderful place. There will be more on Taiwan come the next new year.

And in June it was time to go to Israel for the bi-annual visiting of the family. What a trip I met some little nieces and nephews, saw my parents, had emotions, all the while some legal complications came up and had to be dealt with.

 

One event that really stood out in the summer was the art exhibition by Bronwen and some other locally sourced artists over at Sin Sin Fine Art in Hong Kong. Great work. I happened to write an article about it.

 

At last, the dreaded subject of American politics. Over the second half of 2016, I carried on with my life and moved and wrote and promoted, meanwhile in America (totally affecting the rest of the world) it all went well and truly insane. I became rather consumed in following the politics of the horrible election cycle. Finally, of all things, I was forced to start writing political columns. The anxieties of the day before, then November’s horrific results, and a touch of conspiracy theory commentary.

Sadly, at this rate I will probably have yet more to say in 2017. A lot more. Despite the apocalyptic scenarios at hand, I’ll try to be optimistic about the new year. What’s certainly true is that nobody knows what will happen next.

 

Thus was the year. I and you survived. Thanks for paying attention to me and my humble perspective. On a concluding note, let us mourn the actual concept of truth and facts with this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow… RIP truth~

Good luck to 2017, we’ll need it!

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Dream Community – Art Center in Taipei, Taiwan

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Recently, I took a trip to the Republic of China — also known as Taiwan — to visit the great city of Taipei. There comes a time when we all need a break from the mainland.

My girlfriend was invited to participate in a workshop at 夢想社區 // the Dream Community, and do check out the link. So I tagged along for the holiday weekend. She is a glass-blower, and relished the opportunity to use their studio for which to work on various creative projects. I was very lucky to be there to observe.

The Dream Community is a fascinating place, inspired by the aesthetics of Burning Man (recall I’ve been there) and full of amazing structures. The have a camp called Burning Mazu at the festival and it was quite cool to see how it gets built all the way on the other side of the world. The models, the building of parts, the planning and the labor. It sure takes a lot of work.

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The entire space was filled with glorious wonders…

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The space consists of several buildings with workshops inside. You can go there to explore, soak in the atmosphere, and even drop by while people working on projects.

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A lot was going on. From the glass furnaces to feats of art car engineering. For one thing, here’s a tile project:

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