Taiwan: Confucius Culture Weekend

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This weekend, I’ve enrolled myself into a World Youth Confucius Camp Culture weekend, to learn a little about Eastern philosophy and religion in Taiwan. Besides learning about the life and times of Confucius himself, we explore the culture that springs up around philosophical thinking: the culture of Confucianism that is prevalent in the Eastern hemisphere from learning about the architectural and decorative construction involved in Taipei’s temples, observing modern and contextual Confucian rites, to lessons on deciphering his readings, acting them and  in the modern day context.

The weekend camp runs in the early summer of each year, and is free to successful applications, so definitely check out their facebook page for details here. Besides being a fantastic introduction to Eastern philosophy, the camp gives an, albeit brief, tour overview of Taiwanese history.

Great trip!

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Taiwan: Eslite Book Haven

誠品 Eslite

2nd Floor: Bookstore

Having a wee read between the aslies of Eslite, the haven of book-lovers. A book and one square meter of floor space. Utter contentment.

I’ve written before about the merits of Taipei bookstores, but this afternoon in Eslite Bookstore really takes the biscuit (if only they did custard creams here…). Ethics of reading books without buying them aside – I’m a poor student, forgive me – there’s nothing like being able to open books of the English Classics section and read it with pleasurable medical attention to not creasing pages, and certainly no shudder-inducing corner folding. Seats all taken, I sat cross legged at the end of a aisle on the cool tile floor, back to the stall of books, and surrounded on either side with similar book lovers – every end of aisle was taken.

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3rd Floor: Record Store

After my legs grew numb and Dante’s grew sick of his poetic Inferno being played out by the brilliant graphic novel illustrations by Dustin Weaver in Jodie Picoult’s Fifth Circle – which, by the way, is an incredible read and great introduction to graphic novel if you’ve never done them before – I headed up to check out the Music section upstairs. Not having the biggest affinity for either CD or vinyl (I’m more of a itunes download and listener than a format connoisseur) I’ve brought a few photo highlights for your amusement…

Highlights:

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Ooooo… alphabetised!

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Oooo… well-stocked!!

(Spot the band from little old Bangor, Northern Ireland, anyone?)

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Oh.

Well, that’s just weird.

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Taiwan: Tropical Flowers

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It’s Spring! And these sure beat daisies. The sub-tropical climate in Taiwan, straddling the Tropic of Cancer, is altered slightly across the island by the the island’s backbone ridge of high mountains; the vegetation therefore, produces a really spectacular range of flowers every spring and summer – just in time for me to return!

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Maybe you can’t really see this strange tree, but in early June it’s nearly finished its stunning bloom of huge fat, sturdy flowers; the burning orange petals have a strangely firm cotton-like feel. Just flowers, no leaves. My mum tells me that earlier in the year the whole tree is bursting with flowers. Can you imagine? Asia does tree flowers rather spectacularly. Even in the middle of the city.

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Taiwan: Mini Fruit Explosions

Mini mangos: so cute my brain’s exploding.

A pleasant sufficiency every time… Bliss.

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Taiwan: Catan Creations

A 100% home-made Travellers of Catan board. Unbelievable.

A great day of first meetings, roof-top sight-seeing and my first time playing Settlers of Catan after years and years of listening to my male friends talking about their ‘Catan Parties’ and feeling not at all slighted by the lack of invite and deciding it must be rubbish anyway; it turns out to be a great game! But I can’t tell if that’s just my exultation at beginners luck win or the sheer awesomeness of local Taipei Alabamian Council Vaughn’s incredible home-made Catan board. Little bit indicative of political leanings, if you know how the game works 😉 but the ingenuity of getting around international postage fees of these local expats makes me laugh. What a great evening!

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Taiwan: Dinner & View

Dinner with a view = £1.20

And no, I did not eat Mr. Squid, he was someone else’s. That was one unhappy squid.

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Taiwan: Vaseline Thermometer

Runny Vaseline Thermometer

The Vaseline’s runny. Well, it must be warm then.

There’s no doubt that Taiwan summers can get roasting hot, where opening the front door feels like what must be a chicken’s reaction to an oven: death is certain and sweaty. Over the last few years, my trusty Vaseline has become a talismanic indicator of when it is acceptable to sit back and say “Mmm today’s not the day to do anything. In our ancestral history, we once read signs such as these with no understanding of the whys and hows; there were some things in life that told simple truths; the viscosity of this pink candyfloss pond can certify, beyond all need for numbers and centigrade, the current level of suffering.

And this is no exception. Today is going to be a day of wafting with a sticky primal wistfulness between 7-Eleven air-cons and slow, Taiwanese-style walking.

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Taiwan: The Nose

the nose

Two Oba-san sitting opposite me on the metro discuss my ethnicity in chinese. Do I interrupt and point out I can understand what their saying? Who knew my nose, which seems to be the conversation focus, was so interesting?

Well, I’m intrigued now, tell me more…

(…I feel I should add that my nose is normal as far as I can see.)

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