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Moved House

Haven’t updated for a while as I have been busy moving apartments, getting my subjects at uni organised and also starting to teach English again at a different Kojen school. I moved from a relatively quiet and serene apartment complex with a nice garden and a swimming pool with the drawback of being at the outskirts of Taipei to the noisy urban metropolitan, hip and trendy centre of where all the action is. It can be compared to moving from Rowville to right across the road from Myers in Melbourne.

I now have Sogo, Breeze Center and its movie cinemas, Eslite 24hr bookstore, Asia World, Ikea and the ice skating rink all within 15 minutes walk.

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View from old window

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New window

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Surrounding the President

Last Friday night, the protest to out President Chen was stepped up a notch with an organised march around the central Taipei area with a route designed to create a 5km circle of people around the Presidential Office. As you can imagine this would require a tremendous amount of people, and that was exactly what happened. There’s no other way to describe the turn out except to use the overused cliche ‘sea of people’ as it was literally a never ending flow of red down the street. There was no way to tell whether you were at the start or the end of the march as it was just people for as far as you could see.

The enthusiasm and energy of the crowd was kept high with never ending chanting and shouting. When one person stopped, another would take over. It mattered not who you were, whether male, female, old or young. As long as you shouted the President’s nickname (阿扁), the crowd would respond with “Step Down (下台).”

Saturday, the very next day, the President’s supporters dressed in green staged their own sit-down rally literally a block away from the Red camp. Both groups have been there since and tension is quite high as any miss-hap could result in an explosive riot. It’s obvious this is not just a few activists with nothing better to do. This is something that the whole population is involved in.

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MRT after the march

Voice of the People

The rage all over the news for the past six months has been scandal after scandal involving the President’s family. First it started with the President’s son-in-law being involved in insider-trading and using his name and position to receive knock-backs from promoting certain products. The dust from that hadn’t even settled when it was found that the First Lady received a large sum of cash-vouchers for Sogo, an upscale department store in Taiwan, to influence the company’s take-over decision.

It was then uncovered that the President himself had been shifting his election campaign money into a personal account and also money that was allocated to him for Government purposes has been spent on personal items such as the rent for his son-in-law’s apartment, and the salary of their nanny. Of course the President denies the accusations or that he had no knowledge of the wrong-doings of his family. Regardless, the people are fed up and want him to step down.

Starting from September 9th, thousands of people have converged outside Parliament House dressed in red to stage a peaceful protest. They have sat there through battering rains, thunderstorms and the scorching hot sun without any indication of backing off. It’s a protest where people come and go as they please. People go off to work, then come back and mothers are bringing their kids to show them democracy at work. Interestingly over half the people at the protest are women so the chances of this turning into a violent encounter is slim. They also show their motherly touch by looking after us young people, offering us food, water and rain coats.

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Check out the rest of the photos from today here. Might go again a few more times during the week to see what’s going on. Oh yeah.. Bali write-up. It’ll happen when I’ve collected and gone through all the photos from my friends which is gonna take a while.

Off to Bali

Tomorrow.. or should I say this morning, at 8:30am I will be on a China Airlines flight to Bali which is almost back to Aussieland. I will need to be at Uni at 5:30am to meet up with my classmates to take the coach that will take us to the airport. It should be a good trip as I may get to see the other side of what are normally very conservative and tame people. I’ll see you all in five days.

I’ll leave you with photos from Venessa’s pot-luck party a few weeks ago. It was quite a success with some majorly good food, and almost all the Kojen people past and present showed up which is definitely a rarity.

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Random photo of the crowd

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View from roof.

Wu Lai Hiking

On Sunday I went hiking in Wu Lai (烏來) which is better known for its hot springs, but instead I got to tread through icy cold water and jump from rock to rock all day. It was such a good feeling to get away from all the usual comforts of the city and into the harsh n’ dirty hills. Felt just like going on camp again, having to waterproof everything with plastic bags, cook lunch with a metho burner and eat out of plastic bowls.

Though I think the girl in another group we bumped into didn’t understand the notion of hiking and brought her LV bag. I know that being high quality leather and all it should survive being in water, but still… can’t help but laugh and shake my head when I see a person waist deep in water carrying a LV bag.

A typical Taiwanese tropical thunderstorm started towards the end of our trek upstream and we were very lucky to make it to a small shelter to avoid the brunt of it. However the rain did not stop on the hike back down the mountain and left us having to trudge through unstable muddy terrain and navigate across rudimentary bridges with water roaring pass below. In the car on the way back we heard on the radio that emergency crews had to rescue a family who were camping there, luckily we didn’t get in the news too.

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Taipei at Night

With the shopping done and the dinners eaten, Taipei’s hustle and bussle winds down to become an almost relaxed state. It’s very easy to just aimlessly wonder down the street and look at the flickering neon shop lights, the lit up high rise buildings or even a few mysterious dark alleys. Walking is never a bore in Taipei.

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Roosevelt Rd, Gong Guan

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A lone bicycle.

MRT Taipei

One thing that a person living in Taipei will experience everyday other than seeing the red splatter of a dried up Binlang is the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). It is in my opinion one of the best metro rail systems in the world in terms of efficiency, frequency, timeliness and hygiene. Not once have I experienced a cancellation and the wait during peak times is no more than 5 minutes, though usually less than 2. There’s also an army of cleaning ladies who are busy wiping, mopping and brushing every second, so much that they are even a common sight in a crowded male bathroom.

Melbourne needs to take a page out of Taipei Rail’s books and start fix the rotting system that the Kennett government left behind. There’s no way people are going to want to forgo the convenience of the car and use the existing service when it’s such a dud. They can start by increasing the frequency of trains and prevent cancellations. Then major upgrades and expansions to the routes is required with frequent buses to shuttle people to the trains. After experiencing Taipei MRT, you won’t wanna go back.

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Trains need to rest too.

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Zhong Xiao Fuxing, one of the busiest MRT stations.
Right underneath the infamous Sogo Department Store.