The trees of which I wrote earlier, the ones that line the streets and seem to shoot out of the cement rather than grow up from it, are called Ficus microcarpa, miniature fig, or Chinese Banyan.
There is an elevator which takes me to the hostel. It often reaches its weight capacity, which means no more than four people at a time. I take the stairs a lot. A large delicate cockroach died in the stairwell a few days ago and its body has greeted me every morning since.
Sometimes I forget I am on an island in the Pacific, so engulfed am I in the city and its distractions and opportunities, film, music, food. Then I look down one of the man made canyons of department stores and on the horizon I see the mountains. In fact, mountains can be seen from every direction. It almost feels like Taipei is sitting in a giant crater.
I met a woman selling bananas with Ashley. I had heard how delicious these were because they are grown on the island. I don't think I'd ever eaten a banana that hadn't flown at lease 2ooo miles. The woman wanted to know where we were from. Discovering that we were Megoren (Americans) she put out her left hand "Taiwan" then her right, "America" and clasped her hands "Pongyo (friends)." Scenes liked this happened more than once with older people and also with poorer people.
Wealthier people I've met seem noticeably to avoid talk of politics. I get the sense that even broaching the subject would be taboo. It is a very difficult habit to break.
Last night I was walking with an Aussi and Megan. Zach is his name. He is here studying Chinese and is a rather nice chap. We walked past a large map engraved into the side of the wall, we were in the business section of town and this was just outside the World Trade Center. I was struck by the map and said "hey, that map is backwards." Joking of course, because i'm used to seeing north and south america on the center left and aisia on the right and this map had asia focused in the center left and north and south america were being crowded out the edge of the right hand side. Understandable. Then the Aussie chap looks at it considerately and says "yeah, there is something off about that map" "that's because your maps are upside down." i said.
KTV is brilliant. I understand why it is so popular. We went to a place called "Party City". Everyone was dressed to the nines. You are in a private room and the staff comes in with pitchers of ice, casese of beer and to take your order for noodles and dumplings when you are peckish. there is a large semicicular couch and a table in the middle and the television screen at on end of the cozy room. Also a private bathroom for each KTV room. with a remote control you can make your song selections from the karaoke book. There were two microphones in the room but I'm sure more could be had if needed. And there were some kind of sound effects on the microphones that made everyone sound amazing, like it was autotuned or something.
One friend of Weiwei's who we have decided to call "cool Jeff" (he introduced us to Taiwanese hiphop, even rapped for us a bit) was so surprised when I explained the rough and humiliating way we americans practice karaoke. He was positively frightened. "you mean, you are in a public place? and everyone can hear you? what if you are bad! oh that sounds so horrible!"