III - People of Taipei

What would be the city without its people? It is so true in Taipei, not such a beautiful place, not so perfect, but full of grace and poetry, so much that just one person will make you smile, and you will do this experience over and over again, you will enjoy the city with everyone, half accepted and half tolerated, you will go to the bank and try to retrieve money, ah, such an adventure, you will smile at the lady behind her desk conscientiously using her rule to draw a perfectly straight line at the perfectly right place, such an effort she has to curl her tongue and summon all concentration in the world, so touchingly; once outside you will chat with taxi drivers, students, protesters, shopkeepers– oh don’t worry, you won’t even have to understand, sometimes, in the beginning, they will talk to you for hours, and you will nod, and you will smile, and even grab a bit of what they say; you will argue with the bus drivers disguised into Santa Claus outfits because it’s Christmas, you will see people running 10 minutes after you to give you back your wallet, you will also find your landlord in the middle of the night crying softly in your living room repairing a broken canalization – you will find her also cooking when you come back earlier from a trip, quite funny- you will make complicated tests to check if it is right that people smile more when the stock exchange goes up and you will eat a lot of strange vegetables supposed to help you get a promotion, even if it didn’t work the first year and even if it seems that your colleague has gotten it and not you – who cares, you will flee the big concrete walls and hide behind the tall herbs, just there, with your friends who just know everything and show you, a secret privilege, some hidden spots, you will learn how to make insects sleep so that you can quietly make snapshots of them, you will discuss with them the ECFA, the world flower international exhibitions, put your winter clothes when the temperature goes below 15 degrees, woolen pullovers, ski jackets and thick caps; ride the metro and watch everyone sleep after long days, spend whole days eating, laughing, guided by the Chinese characters on the walls, on the streets, on the doors and between the buildings, throw sky lanterns in the air and rest in hot springs, play the old wise man in ancient tea houses, live there, just live there.

All of us share the secrets of the city, some kind of untold poetry coming from the roots, from the knowledge inside the secretive alcoves, hanging on the aerial roots of ancient trees like ripe fruits of happiness. A city as a center of freedom, arrogantly emptied from any need to produce food or industry, all looking at its services, all man-made, forgetting where it comes from and living within the imagination of men, a city of many books and stories, spinning on herself with its own rhythm, made by people for people, with freedom at its heart, the nascent feeling of doing what you want, just a smile passing by at the youth discovering discos and chatting with girls, a bit awkward, o sweet feeling, the city lives under the giant solar clock of 101 pointing successively at districts a welcome shadow, so thin, so real. “You know Ben, in Taiwan…” people fighting against promoters to prevent buildings from being built because some centennial trees, and even a white nose squirrel, live there, a city of contradictions, ugly and natural, yes a poetic city after all.

(Photo: B. Girardot flickr.com/photos/litanies)

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