The End (in Taipei)

This has been a week of rip-roaring good times. Literally. Typhoon Aere slammed into North Taiwan on Tuesday, and we were shut down and largely housebound for two days.

Taipei got off easy – a couple feet of rain, some 1000 downed trees, assorted downed powerlines, and only limited flooding. Elsewhere in the north disasters abound. Our house was in a bit of a “typhoon day” holiday mood, and so we broke out the lychee rice wine and sat around telling travel stories all Tuesday afternoon. Nobody got any sleep that night, though, when the full force of the storm him. In addition to the howling wind and rain, everytime a gust of wind slammed into the cars parked on the streets below, their anti-theft alarms would go off. Like, every fifteen minutes. So annoying.

Yesterday things started to open up again, though I learned just how serious the storm was when I went out in search of tapioca bead milk tea, and found none of t he ubiquitous tea stands open. By evening things were mostly back to normal, however, with the exception of a great deal of perfectly random debris – and hundreds of abandoned broken umbrellas – littering the ground. This sort of amuses me: why bother with an umbrella in typhoon force winds?

I leave Taiwan tomorrow, so today I am trying to get in all those last minute tasks, and setting myself up for failure. There is no way I can possibly eat all of my favorite foods one last time; there are just not enough hours in a day. Of course, some of these things will be found in Nanjing, but it is hard to know what is universally Chinese and what is just Taiwanese. Sorting this out provides difficulties when I ask my nationalistic Taiwanese friends, who are convinced that everything is Taiwanese and they couldn’t possibly have the same kind of stinky tofu and red bean cakes on the mainland. Tonight, just to be sure we cover it all, the plan is to eat our way through a night market, which they really don’t have on the mainland.
The research is getting all wrapped up, with the exception of the Saga of the Closed Guomindang Archives, which is an epic length story and, unfortunately, not even the least bit interesting. Basically, I’m seeking out a local research assistant to go in and check the files that were closed for “straightening” – at least, that is how the Chinese translates. Who knows what kinds of secret plots were being hatched in the upper levels of the Nationalist Party this year – more assassination plots against Chen Shui-bian? (Not likely; for those of you not following the bizarre Taiwanese presidential election last March, everyone thinks Chen himself was responsible for the bullet that grazed his stomach and caused such “injuries” that he walked, unsupported, into the hospital for treatment. But the attempt was enough to get him re-elected on the sympathy vote.)

I’ve never claimed an opinion on what party is best for Taiwan, but the Guomindang has annoyed me so much that I’m tempted to take my friend Yu-wen up on her offer of an “A Bian” (a nickname for Chen) baseball hat. Of course, wear that on the mainland and you can count on being arrested as a Taiwan separatist….


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