chinese is a language that fits its speakers. the way most dogs seem to fit their owners. what you say doesn/t matter so much as the way you say it. just like what you do doesn/t matter so much as the way you do it. intonation is key, just like presentation. unfortunately, of those who speak mandarin in tainan, those who speak it with an accent that sounds anything like standard mainland chinese are slim to none. as if i can hear a difference. but it makes even attempting to understand basically impossible.
from behind our closed curtains & with eyes closed i imagine faces to match the voices on the streets below. i picture the old weathered man who rides his bicycle in slow-motion down chongdao late at night & nods each time he sees me. so slowly it/s hard to understand how his bike remains upright. but he only comes out when the streets are quiet. i/ve never heard him speak & for some reason can/t picture him even owning a voice. if he did it would be soft, like the opening of morning lilies or a cloud passing unnoticed in front of the sunrise. his face slowly withers & i try to picture others but i can/t. for some reason duras/s insane beggar is all that comes to mind. yelling in tongues barefoot in the hot streets of saigon. incoherant. crazed & almost violent.
i open my eyes & shift. my feet peek out from under the blanket. it can/t be past seven and already i can feel the heat of the day coming. i quietly gather my things & tiptoe past the others. before i reach the bottom of the stairs to the second floor i/m sweating.
the heat in taiwan is an exhausting heat. the air so full, so heavy. everything sweats. the people, the streets, the walls. everything constantly glowing. the air is so thick with humidity, it/s a wonder i can/t reach out & grab hold. the kind of humid where you don/t feel the need to drink because breathing the air seems enough to stay hydrated. mid-day it/s unbearable. but it/s still early morning. i won/t need shade for a few more hours.
by now my route to the park is fairly routine. i round chongdao to chongde. pass the man with his pineapple stand. he says hello every time, but it/s the only word of english he knows. i smile. i walk past the empty market square with its abandoned stalls. it doesn/t open until afternoon, but the smells of yesterday hang rife in the heavy air. follow the street as it curves west. take my choice of lefts past various mom & pop shops & wander through residential taiwan. the doorways, the alleys, the colours, they all fascinate me. i meander. i dally. i mozy on through the streets of tainan.
the park is buzzing as usual. groups of tai chi practice, focused. walkers zip by. men sit on marble benches by the stream that winds lazy next to the pathways until reaching the lily ponds. i smile. everyone is so happy here. so connected. so alive. i can feel their joy pulsing through the air. i find a patch of grass that seems flat enough & lay out my mat. this is my time. my time to become one with taiwan. my time to observe. to listen. to breathe. my alone time.
i finish with breathing & meditation. i miss home, but not enough to crave familiar land. i remind myself where i am. it still doesn/t feel real. but really it/s no different than the past few months. the line between dream & reality has somewhere been confused. i keep trying to think about staying grounded, but i/m so high up i can/t even see the earth below me. & then i remember it reality is as much an illusion as travel or fiction or love. maybe not so much illusion as concept. concept requiring interpretation. if i interpret my reality as dreamlike, who are they to try to alter that? i see beauty everywhere these days.
[after an intense, fulfilling yoga session.]
besides, i/m just a hopeless romantic. or so they say...