July 26, 2007

Episode XXX: Hard Goodbye


My adventure with Kaohsiung began eleven months ago, in August 2006. In September I came to Kaohsiung Broadcasting Station to start Foreigner's View on Kaohsiung. This is its thirtieth and final episode. The chapter closes. I would like to express my appreciation and friendship to the people who I spent my time with during that period. You are all important to me.

Let's start with Britta Jurgens, Chiara Gomiselli, Nasima Khusnutdinova and Satoko Murao. Those four girls and myself have been members of the same project. We all arrived to Taiwan more or less simultaneously, representing Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan and Poland. It was a true pleasure to me to meet you and have a chance to cooperate with you, as well as spend some spare time.

We used to discover secrets of Taiwan together by traveling, meeting people, going out and partying. Each of us is pretty different but we found ways to get along fairly well. Thank you for your patience, outstanding sense of humour and a good will.

Our trips to Kenting, Fo Guang Shan and Hong Kong were fantastic and the memories of it will stay with me for years. Days spent together have got a great value to me. I have learnt a lot about the others but also about myself. Taiwan did connect us. Taiwan will see us apart.

Great words of appreciation have to go to Rita Su, who did a tremendous job by making splendid efforts to keep all five of us organized, safe and happy. Her help is priceless and I will never be able to return all the favors. The project is you, Rita!

No mistake. The place to be for me was KBS – the radio station. I could easily list everybody who works there but I want to focus on a couple of people. First of all Jennifer Tzeng. A person who gave me lots of confidence and was showing me her understanding. I could not think of a better superior than you!

Amber, Ge-Shien and Linly. You are the women who know what does hospitality and care mean. Being in your company I always felt special, important and lucky. You genuinely made me feel like home. Without you I could not be happy in Kaohsiung. All the help and advices given, all the questions you had to answer, all that I will never forget and never underestimate. It was my honor to share a working place with you.

Another person without whom I could not imagine my life in Taiwan is Marshall Chen. We are almost of an equal age and share a true passion for cinema. I am not able to recall how many films we have seen and discussed. Besides having a good time together, Marshall was always there for me if I needed help or any kind of assistance. You are a firm friend Marshall!

All of you comrades made my stay in Taiwan wonderful and unforgettable. You were my family here and you always will. If I think of Kaohsiung I think about you. No doubt.

Now is the moment to say goodbye to the people who listened or read my writing. Thank you for your time and attention. It was brilliant to do something like that. I will be missing it. Cheers!

Episode XXIX: My Very Own Moments


The summer in Kaohsiung is in full. Early afternoons are extremely sunny and hot. It was great to experience it at first but at the moment I'm trying to hide in a shadow as soon as I can. There is no way I could underestimate such a blessed device as air conditioning.

Lately also the sky in Kaohsiung is clearer. Maybe it is because of the heavy rains. A possible mighty typhoon as well would get rid of the smog alright. The fact is I have not seen before such a nice blue colour in the south of Taiwan. Big white shapely clouds add that extra thing, which makes me feel delighted.

Only in May I had an opportunity to find a moment to take some quality photos with that extraordinary beautiful sky. It was on Sunday. I simply quickly grabbed my camera and rushed to the Lotus Pond. Without a doubt, that is my favourite place across the whole city.

I walked around it taking countless pictures. It was a wonderful time. Just later I found out that it caused me some heavy suntan. Being exposed to the baking tropical sun might be tricky. Sunscreen is truly recommended.

To change the subject I wanted to say it took me ten months in Kaohsiung to finally decide to visit the viewing deck of the tallest building in the city. So-called 85-tower offers a splendid panorama from 300 meters above the ground. Believe me it is impressive. Especially because there is not much competition in height around the whole area. Even the skyscraper at the intersection of Shyhcyuan and Minzu looks small, though once it was the top structure throughout the whole island.

The view of the harbour is amazing. I have just realized how big it is. Another thing that struck me was the size of Chaishan (Monkey Mountain) and its dominating proud green mass. It has got an unquestionable role in the landscape of the city. It is actually hard to believe before taking a look from a different perspective. Give it a try. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee.

If you are looking for something as exciting but social I honestly suggest paying a visit to a live baseball game. Stadium located at the Cheng-Ching Lake area is one of the biggest grounds in the country. It can host 25 thousand people. The residing team you will see there is Kaohsiung Bears. Taiwan champions of 2006 season.

You say you do not fancy baseball? Friend of mine was saying the same. After the game he was genuinely happy and glad that I persuaded him to accompany me. Baseball in Taiwan is about much more than simply the sport. Each team has got an orchestra, flagmen and a fairly big bunch of determined supporters.

Game is loud. Drums and trumpets do not stop playing. Speakers are tireless and loaded with energy. An atmosphere is intense and overwhelming. A phenomenon itself. It is worth of witnessing as part of the cultural studies.

In Kaohsiung I feel like home. I am happy to be here. I am happy with what I have seen and experienced. My attitude is to enjoy a very single day. It pays off.

July 15, 2007

Episode XXVIII: Rice in the Soup


Some people describe Taiwan as a food paradise. I will not argue with that statement. I think it is pretty accurate. Local cuisine is tasty and inexpensive. An impressive variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is available on almost every corner.

Tofu is eaten in every possible form. That is splendid news to all who do not fancy meat that much. I would still recommend watching amounts of fat and salt that are being put to the dishes. If you care about your health I mean.

The base of a regular meal in Taiwan is a bowl of rice. Not too big. Just to fill your palm comfortably. The rice is usually eaten separately. The rest is on the plate or another bowl.

Before I have arrived to Taiwan I did not have many occasions in my life to eat with chopsticks. Obviously it was a challenge at first but I have taken it with a pleasure and joy. Now I do not even think about it. It simply became a part of myself. I feel very comfortable with it.

I would like to talk about some significant differences in food culture between Taiwan and my homeland – Poland. If Taiwanese person will ever travel to Poland, I suspect might be very surprised with what we do with rice.

Rice fried with an egg is probably common everywhere but in Poland we often eat it sweet. We add sugar, butter, and cinnamon and apple mousse to it. Quite a popular dessert it is. I know it might sound like a blasphemy to the Taiwanese traditionalists but there is nothing I can do about it.

Another thing is we do not use those smart pressure machines to prepare our rice. We boil it directly in the water. That is not the best option. I know.

To shock you more I will tell you that we also do put rice into the soup. Just instead of noodles. Sounds crazy? It is tomato soup, which is commonly eaten that way. Actually I have never question it before but after spending some time in Taiwan I feel like I should. Maybe next time I am offered I will tell the people what a missed idea it is.

To continue the strange stories from a distant Poland I would like to mention that we have totally different bread back in Europe. First of all we have many kinds of bread – white, brown, black. Soft, light and sweet. Hard, heavy and a bit sour. Crunchy and full of grains. The choice is vast and mouth-watering.

I suspect the Polish people could not live without their bread and potatoes. It is like rice and noodles in Taiwan. Eaten everyday and in big amounts. Our potato is not sweet to clear the doubts. It tastes the best with a pinch of salt and lots of fresh dill.

Another noticeable difference between Taiwanese and Polish cuisine is that here red beans, green peas and lentil are mainly consumed as a dessert or a snack. Often with squares of solid jelly and roasted peanuts, all drowned in a sweet soup or a hot herbal jelly. I was used to eating beans with a spicy tomato sauce back home. Nevertheless after a while in Asia I became a true amateur of a local specialty.

All those funny or sometimes shocking differences make the world exciting and inspiring. That is why I enjoy discovering new tastes and ways to cook and prepare food. It is a pure joy and delight!

June 26, 2007

Episode XXVII: The Path Around


Since I have arrived to Kaohsiung city, my home is Tsoying district. There is where I live, hang around, eat, walk etc. Chongde Road is my street. Carefully filled with busy barbeque stands. Fresh fruit juice stalls and small bars and restaurants that I visit very often. I would say I am kind of friends with some of the owners. That is a great feeling.

This place is so familiar to me at the moment that it is really hard to imagine how it is possible. When I went for a trip to Hong Kong in December for a few days, on my way back to Kaohsiung I genuinely felt like returning home. That was a strange sensation but I will not complain. That means I have found my place in Taiwan.

Before I decided to come here I have never been to Asia before. My longest stay away from home was three months and it was in Scotland, which is not that far from Poland. Taiwan was supposed to be a big new challenge and an adventure. It is all came true unexpectedly easier than I thought.

Kaohsiung city has got many attractive places to visit and I live simply in the neighbourhood of one of them. I am talking about the Lotus Pond. There are a few scenic locations in the city. Takao British Consulate, Chaishan also known as a Monkey Mountain, parts of the Love River and without a doubt the Lotus Pond.

It is a perfect place for a relaxed walk. Far from the city centre its rush and noise. Whenever I am in a mood I take my camera and go there to spend some guaranteed jolly time.

The best spot to start is the place with the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. It is exceptionally beautiful at the nighttime. Its warm and soft lights create an atmosphere that strongly requests to be immortalized with photography.

During the daytime I recommend to go upstairs and take a look at the Pond. Refreshing and cool wind can be helpful on a sunny day. But do not stay there for too long. There is much more to see around.

Next stop is a colourful and huge statue of the God of Justice. It stands tall at the end of the platform stuck in the Pond. During Chinese New Year it is all decorated with yellow lanterns, which produce a magnificent view. Visit the turtle's colony and the tank with the big red fish.

Continuing my walk I usually get to the Confucius Temple. In front of it there is a shapely photogenic bridge, the wall and the gate. Many trees have flowers and splendid thick leafs that attract my senses.

On the other side of the Pond there is a choice of interesting places. Wetlands offer an exotic area full of swamps, insects, trees, bushes, little ponds and walking paths. Usual destination for a quick family wanders. The biggest draw is a watching tower that should not be missed.

To end my walk I choose to go to the Clear Water Temple, which is readily recognizable for a massive Buddha sculpture on its roof. That is a fantastic place for a few reasons. From the top I can observe both the Wetlands and the Pond. With and silent company of a Buddha I count the sails of the boats and stare at the gigantic mirror of the Pond's surface.

Carvings, bas-reliefs and statues of the Clear Water Temple belong to my favourite. Maybe because they are plain stone and have a distinct texture and seriousness. Colourful temple lack that feature.

So I walk around. Absorbing the surroundings and analyzing what I see. Trying to adopt and keep a part of it. This is me and my Kaohsiung.

June 12, 2007

Episode XXVI: Climbing the Monkey


I have been living in Kaohsiung city already for a while but did not experience one of its most famous attractions for several months. I admit my fault. I have been to the Love River, Cijin Island, Takao British Consulate, Lotus Pond and Fine Arts Museum. Some of those places I have visited multiple times. But I missed some other thing.

I am thinking about Chaishan, in foreign community better known as a Monkey Mountain. Actually it is not a real mountain. Rather a huge hill covered with forest. It is located in the western part of the city. In Gushan district.

Funny thing is the radio I am working in is placed very close to it. Isn't it an irony? Being in the neighbourhood of something so often and do not know it well.

With my friend from a football team – Guy, the one I have been cycling in the Pintung County recently, we went to the Mountain during the noon on the weekend. It was pretty hot and humid. I was sweating a lot.

Chaishan is well equipped and very convenient for its visitors. There are boardwalks all over the place. Wooden paths that guide you around. Maps and directions. No chance to get lost.

Though it is always entertaining to see the people who treat themselves very serious while going up there. In fact it is more of a walk than a real climb or even a trek. Nevertheless professional gear is often seen. Full waterproof shoes, sticks, hats, ponchos, big rucksacks etc. It looks like wearing deep sea scuba diving equipment in a swimming pool.

Chaishan is well known for being home to many Taiwanese monkeys. They are quite spoiled by the tourists I have to say because they do not hesitate to harass a person in due to get a free meal. Having a sweet potato, peanuts or a banana I do not recommend going for a walk. It will most probably end up with an eye to eye confrontation with a bunch of hungry monkeys. I put my odds on the cheeky mammals.

One thing is to visit the Mountain during the day, another to go at night. To do that a torch is required because it is pitch black up there after the sunset.

With my experienced friends who love to camp and explore the nature spots of Taiwan I went to the Mountain at night. It was a totally different adventure.

We went to Chaishan to look for wild animals that live there. Definitely it was a great lesson of nature. We have seen some snakes. Small green bamboo viper and the other colourful one. Besides that many crabs, which find homes in snail shells. Spiders and bats. I was said small deer can be found as well. Monkeys are sleeping at the time. Situated high on the rocky shelves.
It is a great thing to have such a mysterious spot right next to the city centre. From now on I will surely visit it more regularly. Have to try to know what it is. I already do know.

May 23, 2007

Episode XXV: Climbing the Roof


There is only one structure of the Kaohsiung city that is visible from a far distance. It is a symbol of the city and its pride I am sure. An 85-floor sky tower located in the downtown, the neighbourhood of the harbour. A building, which has got a shape of a Chinese character that means nothing else but high. No wonder why. It is 378 meters tall.

Kaohsiung's tower used to the Taiwan’s tallest between 1997 and 2003. It remains very impressive but few years ago a true rival appeared. It has got 101 floors and that is why it is called Taipei 101.

Taipei 101 is the first building to break the half-kilometer mark in height. Its 508 meters give it the title of the tallest in the world. It had left behind the giants such as Sears Tower in Chicago and Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

Located in the eastern part of Taipei city the tower overlooks and absolutely dominates the environment. In Hong Kong for an instance there are many great structures. In Taipei there is only one that cannot be missed out.

In the neighbourhood of the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and surrounded by numerous shopping malls and entertainment centre, Taipei 101 is one of the biggest attractions to a visitor who dropped in to the capital of Taiwan.

Taipei 101's design is unique thanks to a bamboo stalk's pattern. The tower looks very slim and soaring. It does not weight down with its figure. Actually it gives an impression of being quite light and slick. It does not look that heavy. It is just a pure height.

I have to admit that I am afraid a heights a bit. I really wanted to climb 101's observatory when I went to Taipei in a first week of April but it was a thrilling experience after all. It is so tall that almost unbelievable.

When I arrived to Taipei the weather was not good enough to have a clear view from up there. Clouds were covering tower's top floors. I was disappointed because I truly counted I will have a chance to see something. I had to wait until Saturday night when the visibility became satisfactory. Then I came back.

I have entered the fastest elevator in the world that moves with the speed of 60 km/h. That was something unreal. After reaching the destination I have realized that it is simply too high for me. I enjoyed taking a look but with some kind of natural and inexpressible pleasure I went down to put my foot on the ground again. Nevertheless I was happy to fulfill my goal.

Probably Taipei 101 will not remain the tallest of all for long. There are some challenging structures to be completed soon. One of them is a tower being built in Dubai in United Arab Emirates. According to the plan, it is going to be 800 meters tall. As a matter of fact it is already in cosmos. Or even somewhere beyond.

May 15, 2007

Episode XXIV: The Cabbage and the Palace


First week of April brings an important holiday to a Taiwanese society and its culture – Tomb Sweeping Festival. I could compare it to a Polish event that happens in November. People go to the cemeteries to visit the tombs of their family members. Lots of candles are lighted up. People prey and gather to spend an evening together.

Since Tomb Sweeping Day of 2007 was a Thursday, most of the people got the Friday off. It meant four days in a row that could be used for a travel. I made my mind quite quick. I decided to go to Taipei. I have been there before but for a very short moment. Without having a chance to see anything. This time it was supposed to be a different story.
I have stayed in the capital of Taiwan for three nights and I have an impression that I have seen a lot and felt the atmosphere of the city.

MRT system is such a wonderful invention that I cannot wait until it will be completed in Kaohsiung. It will definitely give a huge impact to the city’s development. It will take it to a next level.

Taipei as every cosmopolitan capital city has got a load of venues to visit. There are many tourist attractions and places of a cultural and historical interest.

In my opinion no visitor to Taipei should miss a National Palace Museum. It is said to be the biggest collection of Chinese artifacts and artwork in the world. Only some part of it is exhibited because of the lack of space I suspect. Splendid, magnificent and fascinating. In those words I express my admiration to what I have seen.
When visiting a museum in Europe I mainly expect to see paintings. In Taipei I have not seen many of them. The most famous and desired item to be displayed is something I would never believe. Not even an item of a great size.

It is something as common as a vegetable. But a vegetable one of a kind because made from an unusual piece of white-and-green jade. It is simply a cabbage. A small carving in a shape of a cabbage. It could sound a bit disappointing but after seeing its beauty I have valued it very high.

Architecture of that museum is fantastic. It is truly a palace of an art. A cabbage makes it even more mysterious and curious. For sure I will come back to see it again in the future.
Although I had a really good time in Taipei, on my way back to Kaohsiung I felt like returning home. That half of year here produced a strong emotional bond between the city and me. It is good to be here. I do not want to think about leaving but I keep my head up.

April 25, 2007

Episode XXIII: More Than a Game


In February 2007 I have joined the football team based in Kaohsiung. All of the players are foreigners and I am the first Pole to play with them. Some of those guys lived in Taiwan for over ten years. Name of the club is 100 Pacers and I am proud to be their friend.
In primary school in Poland I used to play basketball all the time. I was representing my school in some games and even scored few important points. I was obsessed with NBA basketball at that time, which was and still is the best in the world. I was a stats nerd and a fan of teams from New York and Orlando.

I had a football in my wardrobe when I was a kid but not many chances to kick it. There was no place around my house to play it. Only thing I used to do was running around the room with it during some exciting games shown on a TV. Probably World Cup 1994 was my first real football experience, which launched my passion for the discipline.

In secondary school I seriously started my interest in it. My father and grandfather were fans since I remember and it helped me a lot to learn about the game. Dad used to describe legendary players to me and great games he have seen in the past. That worked for my imagination and gave a good background to become a true fan of football.
I loved to watch, read and talk about it but hardly ever play. Than when I went to a university at one point I started to play with my friends. Outdoors during the spring. During autumn and winter indoors. There was where I picked up basic football skills. I have never reached a dream level but there was not the most important factor.
I did not expect to find a football team here in Kaohsiung that I could join. It came out all of a sudden. Accidentally I met one of the Pacers in a pub and I was told about the chance to have a game so I immediately agreed and that is how easy it was.

During the fourth weekend of March 2007, football tournament took its place in city of Taichung. Sixteen expatriate teams from all over Taiwan participated in it. One was formed from African players, another from Japanese. Truly an international company.
Weather was great, atmosphere and venue as well. Humors were positive but unfortunately we did not manage to win any trophy. That is the unpredictable nature and beauty of sport. You can never tell what is going to be a final result.Time spent with my friends from 100 Pacers is always top class. It is not only about football. It is something more and that is why it is so valuable to me. Hail Pacers!

April 20, 2007

Episode XXII: Ride the Country


I'm a very lucky person to have lots of good friends here in Kaohsiung. Sometimes I feel like I have not enough time to go out with them and do things together because of my duties at work and also because of a number of friends. If I want to spend time with all of them regularly I would have to take some days off, which is very unlikely to happen.
Third weekend of March brought me a great opportunity to have a wonderful time outside of Kaohsiung city. Friend from South Africa whom I usually play football with took me for a cycling trip. Previously I only rode the bike once here in Cijin Island but the crowd of people wandering around spoilt the pleasure a bit.

This time we went to the country side. First got to Pintung city and from there we started our cycling towards the mountains. Whole tour was a little more than 50 kilometers, which is not that small for a person that does not practice quite often. Thanks to my mate Guy, anytime I needed a break we stop. That does not change the fact that after returning to Pintung I was totally pumped out of energy.
Fantastic thing about going to the country side is that you can see the fields where pineapples and papayas grow. For somebody coming from Poland, a relatively cold place, that is an unusual view to see those exotic fruits in their natural environment. Another good thing is you can enjoy fresh pineapple bought straight from the local farmers, which is an excellent addition to the whole scenario.
Flashing green rice fields supply relaxing landscapes. Orchard of palm trees makes the route look interesting and inviting.

Air is definitely better than in highly urbanized areas. Not as many scooters or cars as in Kaohsiung but still there are some. Those 23 million of people must live somewhere. Finding really empty place is almost impossible in this part of the world.
Cycling brings me joy so it does to my friend Guy. According to this there is a big chance soon we will organize a further trip with an overnight stay maybe somewhere in area of Maolin. That would be a memorable event. Hope fully we will make it in the nearest future!

April 09, 2007

Episode XXI: Island of Plenty


Food and weather are not the only things that make a difference between my home-country Poland and Taiwan. Being brought up in Eastern Europe I am used to daily lack of opportunities in terms of looking for a job or finding entertainment without spending much.

In Poland for young people like me, main problem now is to find a job that would match with ours educational background. Most of the people, if they are lucky enough to get any employment, work in other field that they should. That does not lead to anything good.
I am sure that Taiwan is not a paradise and there is also unemployment but for sure nowhere that massive as it is in Europe. Especially for English-speaking foreigners settling in Taiwan it is not that hard to find a job. As long as people will remain interested in learning the language they will try to answer for a demand.

I know myself at least twenty English teachers living in Kaohsiung area. Most of them coming from England, Ireland, Canada, States, South Africa or New Zealand. Some arrived to Taiwan with the plan to stay for a while but after they found a good job, tasted gorgeous Asian cuisine, met local hospitality and beautiful women, there was no question about going back home. It seems that life here suit them really well. That does not surprise me. Modern western world live with high tempo, lots of pressure at work and huge everyday expenses. So much opposite to a life of a foreigner in Taiwan.
Some people leave London for Kaohsiung. It could sound as something crazy but after a deeper consideration, reasons of such a decision are understandable. Less stress, more chances for leisure and tourism.

That is no secret that Taiwanese society, market and lifestyle are pretty Americanized. It is quite clear to me because in Poland that process is not that visible as here. By Americanization I mean easy access to plenty of things. Let's start with shopping. Almost anything can be purchased in Taiwan. There is only the question of money and knowledge where to look for it. In Poland some things, like for example exotic food, do not exist on the market. Simply cannot be found. Taiwan is full of European or American products. Maybe it is not Hong Kong yet but it is far ahead of Poland, which is not the thing I am happy to admit.

If somebody is looking for a venue to do particular sports, I am very sure it is not a problem. Basketball courts are extremely popular and located everywhere throughout the whole city. Football pitches are available at most of the schools. Practicing golf, baseball or softball is even easier since those sports belong to favourite of Taiwanese people. If team disciplines do not attract you, why not to join the group of people that do dancing or tai-chi classes in the evenings at the museum or park areas.
I am sure that Taiwan offers extraordinary occasions for having a wonderful time, while also make a living. Definitely it is worth of giving it a try. But there is a danger of falling in love with it.

Episode XX: So Long


When I have arrived to Kaohsiung in August 2006 I obviously was not thinking about the moment of my departure because it was just the beginning of a great adventure. It was too distant and actually without much sense to do so. I am still around and not going anywhere for a few next months but one of my close friends already left and that is the reason I would like to talk about her today. Let it be some kind of a way to say good bye.
Her name is Satoko and she comes from Japan, region of Nagoya city. She came over to Taiwan at the same time as our friend Chiara from Italy and me. A bit later more people joined us. We have spent half year together working on a few projects in Kaohsiung. Also exploring the city, its secrets, surprises, streets, people and atmosphere. We went outside of the Kaohsiung, which was the happiest time for all of us.

Visiting Kenting beach and the park, Fo Guang Shan monastery, Cijin Island or Hong Kong city together was extraordinary and brought lots of great experiences, emotions and smiles. Although Satoko is back to Japan within the first week of March 2007, the rest of us are still here in Kaohsiung. It is not the same without her but we keep on working and save all the wonderful memories in our minds.

Satoko is a kind of a person that you simply cannot dislike. She is the last one to make any harm to the others. Her friendly and bright face was always offering a smile. She represents an example of a positive personality. Humble, warm-hearted, open-minded and smart. Surely it is a great loss to our team that she cannot be with us anymore.

Japanese people are well-known for being reserved. I think that was the issue with Satoko at first but actually only for a very short period. Soon under an influence of a group of our international friends she became more western, whether it is good or bad.

Satoko has got deep emotional nature that corresponds with her inner beauty and uncommon sensitivity. Spending time with her I found relaxing and quite often illuminating. Also chatting with her on various topics is always interesting. Satoko is a particularly intelligent person that does not like to show off with it. It is a sign of a real modesty. An authentic example to follow.

It is very sure that all of us will miss her a lot but what we have done together will stay in our hearts and will not be forgotten. Most important thing is to stay optimistic and keep the fingers crossed for our future reunion.

Here in Kaohsiung Satoko used to be everybody's favourite. I have never met anybody that would not like her. That is not a coincidence. This is a true her.

After she left Satoko told me that it is fantastic that people coming from totally different places of the world can understand each other and be good friends. Like we all did in Taiwan! Thank you Satoko! So Long!

March 18, 2007

Episode XIX: Break the Water


A Chinese New Year vacation is a perfect time to do the things we usually don't have time for. In my example it is visiting the city during the daytime. I like to take photos so that's the reason why I prefer the bright aura.

This time I decided to explore Yancheng district a bit more than I did before. It's a southwest part of the Kaohsiung city. There's a viewing deck just at the harbour, from where I was observing huge ships when they enter the port - my favourite scene.
Everybody knows that during Chinese New Year people feel like going somewhere. Most of the nature spots and places of tourist interest are quite packed than. That doesn't help sightseeing but at least I can watch the people, which became my hobby here. Simply watching how they act, how they approach each other, how they gesticulate or speak.

I came to Yancheng district by Cisan Road, which at that moment was very crowded. Cars were hardly moving. Only scooter riders could go through the forest of obstacles. I passed the big gate and arrived to the harbour. Streets of Kaohsiung were busy and also port's restrain was intensive.
What I like about the Fisherman's Wharf area is that from most of the places there I can take a photo and 85-storey building will fit in my lens. A bit silly but makes me happy.

Going Gushan Road to its end I arrived to another fine spot. A little further west from Cisan Road there's a yacht pier. Not very big but considering that sailing isn't popular here, there was enough boats. The best thing about that location is that's a wonderful point for observing ferries going to Cijin and back. Big white double-deck ferry and few smaller green and blue ones. It's a joy to see those crafts while they make their moves to overtake each other within a limited space.

Then I carried in direction of Sun Yatsen University. On the right-hand-side there is a Former British Council of Takao - superb position for capturing some splendid shots of a harbour. It is placed pretty high, which gives a desired perspective. In a view there are two long-drawn breakwaters that look like embracing the ships coming in. Like two warm arms inviting the sailors to have a rest in Kaohsiung city.

I also went for a walk on ridge of a breakwater. Although I suppose it is banned many people fancy doing it. Most of them are fisherman who I admire because of their patience and balanced moves. Their fishing-rods are placed to the ground with metal holders. That looks like the rods are floating in the air.

I could hear the hum of the sea, waves knocking on the breakwater sides and water drops flying around. Frankly speaking it was a very pleasant feeling.

I recommend you to visit that spot if you are a bit tired with traffic, noise and hurry of the city centre. At least for one hour or so you can avoid that. That reason is good enough.

March 07, 2007

Episode XVIII: Alley of Excellence


I have arrived to Asia half year ago and that is my first time on this fantastic continent. Loads of things surprised me and some still do. I was expecting some of them but there is no chance to really guess what is going to meet you. So far, my stay is absolutely smashing and full of marvelous experiences, adventures and feelings.
Thing I would never predict, most probably because my lack of knowledge, is that I will have two occasions to welcome New Year. First one was, as usual for me, within the last day of December 2006. But here in Taiwan Chinese lunar calendar is in use. That calendar has got rules, quite difficult for me to understand. What is important, living in Kaohsiung I can celebrate New Year twice! For the second time, in a third week of February 2007.

When this special time is coming, there is one place in Kaohsiung city that visitor should not miss or forget to look in. This place is Sanfongzon Street, located in the neighbourhood of a train station, direction west.
It is the oldest shopping area in a whole city, situated between two other streets. It is 400 meters long, narrow, covered with glass roof and hanging lanterns, really stuffed and filled with stalls and shops. You can say: what is so special about it? Most of night markets are places like that.

That is not correct. Sanfongzon Street is bustling busy only two weeks a year, just at the time of Chinese New Year. Another thing is that selling goods are strictly connected with a celebration of this annual event.

The biggest difference between Sanfongzon and regular night market is a lack of numerous and various stalls with fresh barbequed, fried, steamed, boiled or any other kind of snacks. You do not go there to have a meal. You buy things to bring home or find some ingredients for your own recipe.
For example you can find large sacks full of dried mushrooms, high quality oolong tea or imported products from Korea or Japan. If interested in local cuisine, things compulsory to try are: sticky rice cake with sweet red beans, colourful jellies in white sugar powder or all kinds of dried seafood, meat or fruits.
Sanfongzon is a popular place and crowds are invading the venue from early hours. Visit to Sanfongzon could turn to a really tasty adventure. Taiwanese custom is to treat the guests with the best goods. Walking from one shop to another we will fill our stomachs quickly. Without spending any money we can try lots of unique specialties. While purchasing, to bargain is accepted.
I was astonished with the number of young people working at Sanfongzon market. It is great to see all those rising folks being so diligent and engaged. Big bravo goes to them. Good job.Time has come to send you my New Year's wishes. Here it comes: Gon-Si-Fa-Cay Hon-Ba-Na-Lay! Take care and keep on rocking!

February 28, 2007

Episode XVII: Big Screen and Small Football


First weekend of February brought me lots of wonderful experiences. Good old tried system says: work on the weekdays, have fun on the weekend. More or less, that is what I practice here in Kaohsiung.

I have paid a visit to Hong Kong at the end of the year 2006. Then I have become amateur of that place. Famous from Hong Kong is cinema, and I personally found it fascinating and brilliant. After coming back to Taiwan I am trying to follow some directors and actors that I became fond of.
According to that plan, with the company of my good Taiwanese friend, lately I have seen two wonderful films that will stay in my mind for a longer while. I simply love how do Hong Kong filmmakers show their city, with all its lights, immensity and ambiguity.

What I truly enjoy in Kaohsiung about going to cinema, is a variety of venues to choose. To make it clear, there are first-round cinemas and second-round cinemas. Maybe it is obvious, but in Poland we do not distinguish cinemas in such a way. Coming back to Taiwan, so-called first-round shows newest premiers and asks for pretty big ransom for it. Usually free drink is served or some wee souvenir given. It is quality.

Yet what I prefer are second-round cinemas. The reason could be, in my home-country there is no choice like that. Here, price is usually three or at least two times cheaper than the first-round. Films arrive few months after their original premier, but I do not mind waiting three months. What difference does it make?

There are some disadvantages like rubbish all around the place, people talking on their cell-phones or sometimes even lack of sharpness on the screen, but frankly speaking I do not care. It gives the place an atmosphere and that counts.

My favourite venue is, famous around the city, He-Chuen cinema, located in the neighbourhood of 2nd Dashun Road. This one is a bargain, offering two different titles for something like 60 NT dollars, which is better than cheap. Calculation is easy for me.

Apart from having fantastic time, being entertained by great films, I also have found another occasion to spend some spare time, which is playing football, better known in Taiwan as soccer. Fact is, far more popular here are baseball and basketball, so to practice football I had to meet some foreigners.
Opportunity came all of a sudden and I just found myself running around after the ball, on the school pitch near to Boai Road, accompanied by folks from England, Ireland, Canada, United States, South Africa and Salvador. It was amazing and I am absolutely looking forward to having more regular chances like that.

Working in office environment is pretty easy to end with the sedentary life style, which definitely I do not want to be familiar with and I think none of us should be. It is time to move!

February 15, 2007

Episode XVI: Summit, Wall and Rail


Unexpected drop of temperature and gloomy weather kept me from reaching the summit of the Kaohsiung city on the last week of January.

As a city peak and its proudest spot I consider the top of the Sky Tower, the 85-storey-structure that climbs up far over 300 meters. Before the completion of 101 Taipei tower, it was the tallest building in whole Taiwan. Unavoidably it became a symbol of the ocean capital, of the Kaohsiung city.

Apart from the fact that opportunity to fulfill one of my goals was not given to me this time, I have visited some other significant places.
As an inhabitant of Tsoying district, northern part of the city, where Lotus Pond is located, I felt obliged to see old Fengshan city wall, which was raised almost 200 years ago. Gate is square and heavy. Fortification, built from red brick is at least two meters wide, with the space for walking, on the top.

After I have experienced the taste of the past, I met the sign of the future, which is, as well, located in Tsoying district. It looks like an airport but it's not. Actually I have found it accidentally, while I was continuing my walk through nearby indigenous plant garden.

I have crossed the park, passed the spot where we played the flying disc with my friends few weeks earlier and got to the garden's fence. Strolling along the wire I arrived to the place where huge impressive freeways were flying high above my head. It had cleared up and aura was friendly. And there it was. Tall as a tower block, packed as a tanker, shining and glittering, incomparably vaster, brand new Tsoying station.
Newest baby of technological development of Taiwan, high speed railway, connecting north and south and offering extraordinary fast transport between distant destinations in approximately 90 minutes.

We can travel at 300 kmph but does it mean we will have no chance to slow down and see how everything else goes by, while sitting on the bench in the park, somewhere in the north of Kaohsiung?
I hope not. Access to the newest inventions is only available for a small part of a society. It will definitely not change their lives. Probably some of them will never have an occasion to experience it.

But that’s how life looks like. And that’s why I love it.

February 01, 2007

Episode XV: Sun and Space


During the weekend I have decided to visit some new places across the city as often as having some spare time. After the period of five months of my stay in Taiwan, there are still many locations in Kaohsiung that I did not see. It's pretty easy to waste time by watching television or wondering around the shopping mall, but I don't want to do that if I have an occasion to go and find some new interesting spots and venues in such an exotic place as Taiwan.
On Saturday I have paid a visit to National Science and Technology Museum on Jiouru Road. I was surprised because I found it almost empty and very quiet. As I already know something about Asia, I was expecting crowds of people who want to take a look at the fighter airplane, try the “moonwalker” or learn something about Taiwan's industry and its most famous products like computers, clothes or scooters. But I was wrong and actually I felt more comfortable in such an environment, where I don't need to force my way to go through.

Interior of museum is impressive. Massive spaces and long corridors make you feel like visiting an airport, not a spot of cultural interest. Most of the visitors were children accompanied by parents, because that's a great place for those young folks. You can push the button or turn the handle and learn how physics, gravity or electricity does work. It's gaining knowledge through experiencing the phenomenon. That's a wonderful lesson.

Then, on Sunday, to ventilate my mind, I went to pier 2, also known as pier of art. There, I have found what I was looking for. Wide, spacious and noiseless location, just at the harbour. That's a place, where modern performers of south Taiwan can exhibit their artistic visions.
I have seen some colourful and surprising sculptures and kind of theatre, where I imagine, independent young people enjoy being actors.

Sky was calmly blue, sun warm and kind, tranquil and vast area made me feel this specific pacifying mood. I felt even better, when I went for a walk along the pier. View of those huge used ships was striking. You could tell they have been through a lot, met some sinister waves and storms in their past. Its mildew could tell stories.

Finally, when I have stepped on the wooden terrace from where I faced the sight of the city, with sky-tower in the background and colossal yellow cranes in front of me, I felt the weight of the distance. Tons of surrounding air, city on my palm and heat falling from above. It was something stirring and solid.
Few blocks further, there was a humble in size but proud of its importance, tight and slender bright shape of cathedral. How many times I have been passing by and never stop to discover its secrets?

January 17, 2007

Episode XIV: Let Them Grow

Education system in my home-country Poland, has changed lately, in 1999. At the moment compulsory are: six-years-long primary school and three-years-long gymnasium, which finishes with national examination that gives the right to enter chosen secondary school.
Usually pupils are spending three years in secondary school, called lyceum, or four years in technical school that already gives specific profession, such as electrician, mechanic or, for example, geologist.

After secondary school and matriculation exam, comes time to go to high school, which is university or academy. Commonly, studies last from three to five years, ended with defense of final thesis and achieving a degree in exact field.

Master’s degree in Poland, is ordinarily qualified at the age of twenty-four. That’s just to tell you few details about how does it look like to go through education path in my country. Now I would like to focus on Taiwan.

I’m not an authority to discuss Taiwanese system itself, I can only comment its effects and results, as I see and meet them here everyday. First thing that made me reflect on this issue is relation between teacher and student. According to what I was said, student is supposed to listen, more than actually asking questions, which from my point of view was a basic way to gather knowledge and communicate with my professors in Poland.

On the other hand, that teaches respect, patience and proper manners. Unfortunately it sometimes brings a withdrawal in form of being afraid to make a mistake.

Taiwanese girl that studies English once said to me: “excuse me I won’t talk to you, I would be embarrassed of my weak linguistic skills”. That was not a good sign for her future, if I may suggest anything.

Other story is the amount of pressure that parents put on their youngsters to bring the best grades from school. Education, especially at the early stages, is about discovering kid’s potential and encouragement to learn and explore. Should never bear frustration and fear.

I had an occasion to watch Taiwanese children around ten-years-old. I need to admit they are smart, bright and able to pick up knowledge very fast. Teacher’s role is to make them enjoy interaction with the others and not let them become shy.To finish this almost serious episode, I would like to mark that Taiwanese people impress me, with costly efforts they make to secure their offspring’s education, welfare and future. It’s really something that should set an example to follow.