A few hours after departing the city of Taichung on the day after my trip to Alishan, my companions and I drove through the Southern city of Kaohsiung (pronounced ‘Gow-shung’) and arrived in Kenting (‘Ken-ding’) at the Happy Panda beach. We were, of course, greeted by a big smiling panda statue, + the usual Chinese squiggly lines. Tall palm trees were everywhere, and tents of all different colors sat all over the sandy area along the boarded pathway toward the water. It was still light out, but the sun would soon make its way down. I saw a lot of foreigners between the Asian masses, and a boat with a tiger statue on it in memorial of Life of Pi, (which I recently learned was shot in none other than Taichung).
I thought I’d give the water a try. “Why are there so conspicuously few people in the water? and the ones that are are all concentrated in one spot?” I stepped into the water. It was the warmest and most comfortable ocean water I’ve ever been in. I continued to walk in, and the waves were quite high. One wave was all it took to send me beneath the surface into the rocks, my hands bleeding as I walked back up through the thick sand to the rendezvous. After that I looked up at a palm tree and decided to draw it.
The rest of this trip was rather ordinary and involved a lot of pointless side adventures (including watching and listening to a Korean punk rock band, going to a side-road bar at 3:00am where I didn’t drink anything, watching a go-kart race, walking alone and reflecting on the effect of Hinduism on modern world-religions while looking at an obelisk with swastikas on it, buying dumplings at 7/11, and going back to the water and lying down in the sand) with one exception; witnessing an actual real-life crime scene.
While outside a bar (where the Koreans had just finished their performance) I was talking to another American when I heard some kind of crashing sound, and I turned around and saw that a car had driven full-speed up onto a divider and into a pole, just as we heard the sound of the air releasing from the tires. A door slowly opened, a man exited, and then three foreign guys chased him as he fled (with, if I’m not mistaken, the remainder of the drugs, the same type of which enabled the crash). Some of the American and/or Canadian girls naturally decided to look through the contents of the deserted automobile before the police arrived. I was in one of those states of mind where you’re consciously afraid of the car suddenly exploding into a fiery inferno, but somehow knowing that this is highly unlikely, and not based on enough solid evidence to refrain from trying on the pair of stylish sunglasses your friend just handed you.
A brunch consisting primarily of omelettes occurred the following day. In Taichung. After driving back. In the early hours of the morning. All the way from Kenting…
I have an adult student who tells me that “[my] life here in Taiwan is very colorful.” The truth is, the colorful part happens not miles (sorry, I mean kilos) away, but on the other side of that very wall, where kindergarteners battle fiercely against their instincts to speak Chinese, shout, or ignore teacher in order to earn a coveted heart-shaped or Halloween-themed sticker.