Kudos. Blarghen. Void matter. Splatter drat. Hurt head. Consequence revolve. Narcissist evolve. High dragon copulate. Earth nymph flounder. You. Me. Everyone stuck in between. The thousand people we wanted to be and all the others we wish we weren’t. Sadness spike. Volleyball diamond crossbeam explosion. Flippant words make for lesser turds. Grandiose runs do no good to nuns. Blarf on me. I like it. I inhale your excrement and spew it back at you smelling floral. My guts are a biome, you know that? I’m all the fauna you need baby and then some. Furries got you worried? Minority haphazard carrying on. Let them. Think its all cool and all good. It is. Don’t fool yourself. The world is dying, sure, but you aren’t so hey it must be okay. Right? Wrong. Because you are dying. Only they call it living your best life. Your best life is a moment resplendent on the shores of your blurry waking consciousness. Everything else is struggle. Suffering. So why not surrender. Take the next moment and truly pass. Go to the next life and all will be better. Only you won’t remember. And back to square one. Ticking time bomb. Your explosion of life means little to the 8 billion of us. But it means everything to the family of you. So keep it this time. Be nice to it. Watch your body grow fruitful and full as the world continues, just as in your past life, to burn. We’re all doing it, don’t feel bad. It’s natural to laugh at bad things. It makes us okay with it. Problem right there. We shouldn’t be okay with it. We can see what we’re doing and yet continue to laugh. It’s not a coping mechanism. Its pure madness. We’ve been conditioned to not care enough. To care for ourselves first before others. Selfish ignorami. Halt your advances on nature. But Millions will die. Yes, great sacrifices must be made. Would you sacrifice your son, your wife, your mother? If it all happened right now, yes. I’ll feel different in half an hour. The sweet light of positivity and ignorance will shine on me again. I’ll make tea and drink it. Have a cake and shit it out tomorrow. Thanks for the gas, mass production.
Once upon a time, as innocuous as that beginning may be, there lived an asshole of a narrator. So full of shit was he, that the local swine population often confused his house with their “bathhouse”. The townsfolk barely knew him and thus all kinds of rumours abounded; Beastiality, dark magic, dark shadowy shadow things and other such inflammatory hearsay. In truth, he wasn’t all that bad. Or so he told himself (and therefore is now telling you).
In the village, there was a barmaid and her father, a flagrant example of a man of the cloth and an all round “let’s not go there’ kind of fellow. His hair was unkempt, his smile dowdy and his whole manner was just oh so punchable. The barmaid was a gem of moonlight, her hair seemingly always bathed by the light of angels, even at the darkest hour of night. She glided across the dirt road in the mornings and late evenings, her dress never seeming to get tussled up by grime. The bar was not a typical bar, because of her.. All who came for drinks were polite and amicable. Her very splendour seemed to have the power to still all those around her.
And our esteemed/emotionally fragile narrator was, of course, in love with her. Half the town was (the dickheads). And he had no idea how to win her heart, all the while understanding only very deeply in his subconscious that a heart cannot be won; it can only be given. He had tried of course, with various spoken word epithets from his sour heart. The speeches rung out for all the town to hear. Unripe tomatoes feel like rocks when thrown, just so you know. After trying a number of toxic tactics, he gave up and fell into a terrible depression. So bad it was that he stopped all his musings, even his writing.
One day, a man came into town. He stood of average height yet seemed to tower above all, such was the command of his body, posture and manner. He spoke to no-one and went straight for the bar. A short time later, the barmaid came out with her bag packed. The mysterious man closed the bar door with such graceful finality that the now gathered crowd gasped a breathless whisper. They stood with baited breath. But not a word was spoken. The man gathered his cart, helped our beautiful barmaid aboard and with a soft whistle, the horses moved slowly away. She turned and waved goodbye to everyone. To her father. To the town. To that horrible man who attempted courtship so many times. She turned to the man beside her and spoke to him of the miracle of change. He laughed and it echoed in her ears as one she had heard before. And she was home.
Our dear narrator? Well, he did come out of his mucky muck of a mind. He travelled for a very long time which gave him perspective, inner reflection and forgiveness of self. And after some time, he did start writing again.
I promised you I would call.
I promised you I would check in.
I promised you I would visit.
I promised you I would get it fixed,
get it done,
get it sorted.
But I didn’t.
You can rely on me,
You can trust me,
But you can’t
And you shouldn’t.
So I’ve said goodbye.
Goodbye to you.
Because you deserve better.
I’ve said goodbye.
To that self too.
To the self that only
Looked out for itself,
Waited to be told to what to do,
Cared only when it could mean trouble.
I have a lot of choices
And if I promise one thing,
that old self might creep back.
I’m not promising anything.
But I am doing
A hell of a lot.
And that might be better
Than any promise.
Let’s be honest and clear with each other. I’m about to offload a whole shit ton of baggage from my first 10 days in Taipei. You, being human, love hearing about other people’s bad time, especially with travel. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact. This piece should be amicable for both of us.
Our troubles started at the airport. Landing in a new country with a different culture, language, time zone and hemisphere is one thing. Doing it without the pram you requested to be in hand luggage when you have a one year old crawler is grounds for murder. We had six twenty two kilogram bags plus three carry ons of about six kilograms each. Getting to customs was easy with the trolley, although Basil Alan had decided that our bosoms were not his friends. We got to the customs queue and had to abandon the trolley. I strapped a bag to my back and my front and held the squirming fleshkin on one side. I moved with crab-like stiffness, shimmying three heavy wheel bags while Sandy navigated the other three heavyweights. Basil Alan rode on top of one of them for a time. The queue was long and slow. Tempers were hot and high. I was exerting my raw stench and will power to endure the aches and be strong for just a little longer, a little longer, a little longer. Pure fatigue makes these preceding details blurry, we may have only gotten the heavy bags after customs. Point is, it felt like we had six twenty two kilogram bags with us the whole time.
I recall the taxi van driver being upset, but maybe that’s a vocational thing. During the ride, Basil Alan crawled on our faces. Nice one little dude. We had asked for a big room at the hotel to accommodate the kid and (thank fuck) that was what we got. It consisted of two small rooms with beds and a bathroom with a tub. Everything a new family needs except, you know, sleep. Naturally, we got no closer to sleep than a vervet in a coffee plantation. It’s moments like this that I wish the earth was flat.
After one rough ass night, we were down for breakfast early. We had to be for Sandys job at Hess. I dish up a bowl of sour smelling orangey pink yoghurt and try some,
“This yoghurt is weird,” I look at my wife.
Word to the wise, small islands generally don’t do dairy production. The bowl of goop is so very disappointing. Sandys back was starting to spasm, which we’ve known it to do in times of stress and overexertion. The spasms are no small thing, often debilitating her days at a time. And so, she heads out on her first day of a ten day intensive training course for the teaching job she has signed up for. I cannot thank you enough, my love, for being a beacon of determination and vigour through all of this.
Almost every day she came back to the hotel, her back was worse. Almost every night, she had preparation work to do for the next day. So as a stay at home dad for the first time ever, I’m sweating loads.
In my head, I am cursing the day her spine was formed. However, I’ve gotta give props to Basil Alan who, in the middle of all of this, suddenly starts walking. This is my first real fatherly joy since arriving. It quickly becomes my consternation and frustration as he finds himself able to reach higher and move faster than ever before. Like a tiny non-webslinging spiderman, it seems nothing is out of his reach. He is also having a lot of trouble sleeping, waking up screaming from what seems like cramps. Later we will discover that almost everything is cooked in some sort of low grade soybean oil. He is allergic to all things soy, just like me. When he slept badly, we slept worse. Every day became zombirific. That’s a terrific zombie; Exhausted, excited, partially undead but not biting people. (Origins of Zombirific here)
A typhoon had swept through Taipei the day before we arrived. The winds had cleared out all the pollution and I assume any lingering debris. This meant that the skies were a crystal blue, the towering glass buildings gleaming and glinting; a feast for the crows eye. Taipei was in its prime and I was in love with it. I never thought I would fall in love with a city so quickly, but the energy was vibrant and oddly nurturing. Everyway I looked, there was eye contact and a smile. Hey, maybe that’s because I was smiling too. It doesn’t matter. I was having an amazing time.
There were just a few more things going on.
Exploring Taipei in 10 days from the limits of a pram with soaring temps of 30 degrees in the shade (and around 1000% humidity) is, well, limiting. Nevertheless, we found many parks close by and frequented one where the lawns were well shaded and we were actually allowed on the grass.
I met my first Taiwanese friend, Jerry, at one such park. We chatted in broken English and kept up email comms for a short time after that. It was so refreshing to talk to someone who just wanted to talk – he didn’t want anything and didn’t ask for anything. As a South African, I’ve always had my guard up when rando’s start walking to me or talking at me. There’s always an ulterior motive and if there isn’t, its best not to linger anyway. But this guy? He was on lunch break and I was a foreigner with a cute kid in the park. It was a harmless, beautiful meeting.
So the people in Taipei, in general, bear no ill will.
Then we’ve got the whole, “Let’s sell everything and go on an adventure of a lifetime!” idea. Keywords are “sell everything.” We did not get that done. The biggest sale was still to be made back in Cape Town. We had left our 4×2 cabbie in a friends’ hands to sell.
The thing is, we needed that money by a set date (about a week after we arrived) to pay for my and Basil Alans Alien Resident Certificates (ARCs), the deposit and first months rent on our apartment and be able to survive the first month of living in Taiwan. Absolutely 100% shitting bricks. I had to constantly remind myself to trust that everything would work out and that if it didn’t we would pull rank on life and work it out another way. I was such a frugal monk during those first days. I ate smaller portions for dinner so Bas and I could have leftovers for lunch the next day and afford him some fruit and yoghurt. By some pure force of will (and you know, help from my parents, our friend and some very good buyers) the car was sold and funds were in our account with two days to spare for the ARCs.
Between the first and fifth days, I was washing our families’ clothes in the hotel rooms’ bath tub. I went full rural. Stomping them wet rags down with my feets. Squeezing and ringing the v-necks. Doing this three times per load just for rinsing. Sometimes there were two loads of washing per day and I would spend the majority of my morning raging out in my underwear in the bathtub. The result was of course clothes hanging from anywhere and everywhere I could find in the hotel room. It felt like the PG version of the Flamingo Hotel in Fear and Loathing. On those days I turned on the aircon and headed out for most of the day. By the time I got back, some of the stuff was dry. It wasn’t until day six that I had had enough and decided to go a Laundromat.
California Dry Cleaning.
I’m making it sound ominous, but it really wasn’t. It was further than I thought, cost more than it said it would and I got lost trying to pick our clothes up. No funny quips here.
There was a moment where Sandy expressed one of her deepest fears. That moving to Taiwan would cause an irreparable rift in our relationship. The smallest things would go unsaid and become the un-climbable mountain. We would slowly start to resent each other or would drift apart or something equally awful and unimaginable. I told her the main reason I was able to agree to move to Taiwan: I wholeheartedly trust in the strength of our relationship and the love upon which it is founded. It is the one thing which cannot break.
Our love is an unstoppable force.
And perhaps, in later life, Basil Alan will turn out to be an immovable object and the whole world will implode. Yay!
And still, just a few more things need mentioning.