Taipei! First impressions…

I (Liz) landed in Taipei yesterday, after a whirlwind week before of prepping for this trip along with plenty of other work, supporting JM’s intense rehearsal schedule with the Jiangsu Orchestra (here’s to JM for great concert played last Friday night!), and in the middle of that – attempting to celebrate Easter. Whew! Needless to say, I landed in Taipei a bit fried, and actually thought I’d crash for the night before my real business starts today (I’m here to recruit students for the school I work for). I rallied though and went to a night market and for a long walk, and wow, is Taiwan beautiful! I was awarded for my efforts with an up-close view of a traditional parade in celebration of someone’s birthday… (Still trying to figure out just whose birthday :)).

For starters: It’s cleaner, more organized, more developed, more colorful, and more open than mainland China, from what I can see in only a few hours. The taxis are plusher and the drivers don’t smoke!!! There are few bicycles and many motorcycles and everyone wears helmets! I visited a Buddhist temple and the I can only describe the religious devotions I saw being practiced as really alive and enthusiastic in comparison to the temples in China… I’ll have to think more about how to describe the difference, but it is quite evident. Perhaps it’s that the people here have had a continuity of spirituality and the traditions aren’t being dug up and re-invented as they are in mainland China now. So the religious devotion seems more natural and unaffected than it does in China.

I also am a bit sheepish to admit it – but I basked in the consumeristic joy of seeing many more familiar brands in the stores – Singer Sewing Machines! Oral-B Floss! Burt’s Bees Chapstick! And more, oh my! It’s evident that people are better off here on the whole – they are dressed better, have better teeth, many fewer rugged faces revealing lives of hard labor. I’m told the gap between the haves and the have-nots is much less wide here than in the mainland, and I believe it.

It definitely more closely resembles, say, Chinatown, in New York way more than any place in mainland China. And that makes perfect sense.

I’m off now to visit the National Palace Museum – where many of China’s precious cultural things were whisked off to in the KMT’s move to Taiwan during the Communist revolution. I am sure I will be dazzled.

All that to say, it is definitely still so very China, the language, the cultural reserve and conservatism, the traditions, the Confucianism, and so much more…

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