Yes, I took this picture.
No, I don’t have anything else to say about it.
Because I’m speechless.
Into the “Wilderness”
We were on our way to the Chimei museum, but got distracted on the way there. I wanted to see some nature, since we were headed away from civilization anyway. My friends agreed, and said we could stop and wander into the wilderness for a while. They said they knew of a wilderness park right next to a school where we could do exactly that.
We hopped off the train at the appointed station and proceeded to walk along the road for half an hour or so in the punishing heat, which was wafting into our faces off the pavement. We got to the school, and then wandered into the “wilderness.”
The other American and I, who also hails from heavily-wooded Wisconsin, tried not to laugh at the “wilderness.” We failed miserably, but we did try… well, for at least a few seconds. Then we burst out laughing, each goading the other into further hysterics. We knew they were serious about this being wilderness, but it just seemed so ridiculous to us.
The near-identical trees were planted in perfect rows as far as the eye could see, with all the underbrush carefully removed in the straight paths between for people to walk on. Our friends argued with us that the trees naturally grew that way, in exact rows, and that this was a “wild” area. We debated good-naturedly with them for a while and then simply dropped it. This is Taiwan. Get over it.
We walked up and down the rows of trees for an hour or so, lazily bantering about cultural differences and the role of connection to nature in human existence. Then we sidled over to the school to play on the playground.
Time For Recess!
So we did the same.
Okay, we didn’t yell and scream much, but we ran around, played with whirligigs and had a great time. Remember those little maple seeds that helicopter down from the trees in the fall? Some people call them helicopter seeds, and they have a thousand other names. We two girls played with those for a good long while, tossing them up into the air and laughing delightedly as we watched how they came down. Our activities earned many disdainful snorts from “da boyz.” Then again, I saw them toss a few up when they thought we weren’t looking, so I know they were secretly having fun acting like kids, too.
Speaking of acting like a kid, I saw a jungle gym and instantly scaled it and started playing on it. I got a gazillion weird looks from adults and kids all around, but to hell with them, that’s just how I roll. I eventually managed to coax all three of my friends up onto the jungle gym, too, and we played and talked up there for 30 minutes. We would have stayed longer, too, but we noticed that a couple of kids desperately wanted to play on the jungle gym but were too intimidated because four “responsible adults” were sitting up there chatting.
So we went back down, and headed off to the museum.
One of Tainan’s Hottest Controversies - The Chimei Museum (奇美博物館)
Now don’t get me wrong. I am Western myself, and have no issues with Western things, design, structures or people. I grew up surrounded completely by Western ideas, buildings and languages, and knowing nothing else. But even to me, this museum feels like something is awry, amiss, or at least misguided. It feels like a slap in the face of Asia and Asian culture, but a slap that pretends it is a caress.
The museum made me feel like I was a kid with a playground bully screaming in my face at recess, but with a little voice in my ear whispering “this is your conscience… you deserve to get yelled at… he’s trying to help you… he knows better than you… just listen to him and everything will be fine… be a good girl.”
I shook off the “bully” feeling and enjoyed the scenery and my friends. We had a great time goofing off, watching the sunset, talking next to the fountain and walking around the paths. Despite the discomfort with the oddness, it was visually and energetically stunning, and I reveled in the quality time with friends and beauty.