Friday, October 10, 2014

Dispatch from the Road: Day 8--Last Day in Taiwan

It must be time for me to leave this dynamic, wonderful place, because my sleep cycle has thoroughly matched to the time zone.  I nodded off at 2100 last night and woke at 0600 this morning, refreshed and ready to tackle or last day here.  Yesterday was a good day and worth a bit of retelling.

Parade figures
As we discussed, yesterday was Taiwan's "National Day", and we were treated to front row seats at the National Day Parade/presentation in front of the building the President works in (he lives in another).  The streets were packed with patriotic Taiwans (I hear people using this phrase rather than "Taiwanese", and I like it better anyway), and it was clear that folks were into it.  A brief diversion?  We in the United States are metaphysically certain of both the greatness and the exceptional nature of our Republic.  For many, we simply can't understand why anyone free to choose would not try and move to our country.  The funny thing is, lots of people in lots of other countries feel the exact same way.  Have you ever landed on a plane in Japan or Turkey?  I have.  And when the plane touches down, people applaud.  Because they are back where they want to be.  Being here this week and especially yesterday gave me yet another opportunity to reflect upon the universality of love of country. The people of Taiwan have a LOT to be proud of, and it was good to share this day with them.

101 Taipe looking up
We sat on a broad boulevard and watched the dancers, acrobats, military bands and marchers pass by, mostly in the cloudy morning, but occasionally in the rain.  We were provided with large rain hats and slickers to protect us from the elements, and they did come in handy when the heavens opened up.  There were speeches and exhortations which the crowd seemed to appreciate, but my lack of Chinese language skills left me to just people watch, mostly.  Occasionally I cracked a tasteful joke.  And a few less tasteful.  But I digress.  We were provided with a translated version of the President's address, and it hit all the high points.  The bottom line for me after making this trip is that right here, just off the coast of China, is a version of China that blends all the wonders of this ancient culture with the vibrancy of representative democracy and economic dynamism....and the world chooses to believe that it does not exist.  That countries such as North Korea and Syria have seats in the UN and Taiwan does not seems unjust.  Again, I'll take my foreign policy stuff to another blog, but as an American, you ought to question degree to which we accommodate the mainland in order to salve their poor ego's where Taiwan is concerned.

Warning on a mirrored floor
We headed back to the hotel after the parade to change out of wet clothes and then head to the Taipei
101 skyscraper, formerly the tallest building in the world and now sixth.  We had a delightful dumpling meal in what our handler assures us was a very famous restaurant, and then we headed to the observation deck on the 89th floor.  We didn't get back to the hotel until 30 minutes before we had to turn around again and head off to a diplomatic reception, but the bus waits for no man and so I changed clothes again and headed to the reception.

This was quite a party, and the whole diplomatic community--such as it is in a country where 9/10ths of the nations on Earth do not extend full diplomatic relations--was on display.  Food and booze were everywhere, and the crowd was in good spirits. We (my companions and I) mingled a bit and then congealed in a central location to share our observations and to people watch.  It really was quite a party, but we were all pretty ragged and so we alighted from the gaiety and headed back to the humdrum of our hotel.

The Hullabaloo
My mission upon arriving was to deal with the logistics of all the presentos I had received in the past week.  The lovely woman in the business center hooked me up, selling me a box and directing me to the concierge who handled the particulars of mailing it back.  I had the choice of using FEDEX to ship my stuff for nearly $400, or the Taiwan equivalent of "Joe's Shipping" for $138.  I chose the latter, and managed to lighten my traveling load by packing a bunch of non-essential/dirty clothes into the box.  It is estimated to reach Easton in two weeks.

Today is a sightseeing day and departure.  We'll hit some local history until lunchtime, then back to the hotel for packing and preparing for the flight.  We leave tonight at 1900 and land Saturday night at JFK; we'll overnight near the airport and fly back to Dulles on Sunday morning.

I will probably get the inflight wifi for the flight home, so there may be a closing post then.  If not perhaps Sunday..  But for now, signing off to go to breakfast.  Cheers.


JT1310 said...

Thank you for a great few days in Taiwan, Bryan. Takes me back to my JSJ5 days when I got to spend some time there. Very well done.

Mudge said...

Concur. This has been a first class tour of Taiwan seen through your eyes and expertly transmitted to my eyes through your gifted writing. Takes me back to my JSJ5 days when I got to spend some time in my windowless office wishing I had been in a regional policy branch.

One note on this last post though, there is a profound difference between love of country and exceptionalism. There are wonderful countries and wonderful people all over the world and there are certainly better people than me, the American Mudge, all over the world. Exceptionalism has nothing to do with how happy people are or how much they love the place they were born and spend the vast preponderance of their lives ( although these are highly likely outcomes in an exceptional nation). Rather, what is, or at least was, exceptional here is our once steadfast assertion that we citizens of this country value our personal liberty so highly that we will limit our government to its Constitutional bindings and that, if our Government ever strays from those bindings, we will exert our Constituionally-guaranteed rights as citizens to remove those elements of government and replace them with more obedient representatives. We were so serious about this point that we even secured in that same Constituion that we citizens would remain an armed citizenry and there would be nothing our government could do about that point but to obey us and our Constituion. Then, we fortunate inheritors of this world-unique covenant, could be free to pursue our lives' ambitions with a vigor and hope for success unlike our fellow men and women who were born into less exceptional relationships with their governments. Our current disappointment of a President thinks every country is exceptional, and when you have as much distain for our Constitution and the nation whose course it directs as he and his "Progressive" ilk do, then of course every country looks "exceptional." But even that doesn't really work because if everyone is the same, then no one is the exception. Of course, for leftists, everyone must be the same and exceptionalism shall not be tolerated.

Sorry for the rant on what should have been nothing but praise for a great series of reports. Thoroughly enjoyed your 'exceptional' reporting.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Don't get me wrong, Mudge. I do believe we are exceptional, and to believe that, one must believe that virtually no other country is. But what I believe and what others believe are two different things. There are a lot of people around the world that believe their nation is exceptional, and furthermore, by the standard by which they arrive at that assessment, the US isn't.

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