Saturday, March 25, 2006

New Discovery: March 24, 2006/Taipei--Ximen Metro Station

Today, I woke up with an anxious feeling--my first one since coming to Taipei a few weeks ago--well, besides the anxiety I felt after taking the translation test: "What if my translation abilities didn't meet their expectations?" It is kind of funny that such feelings (the ones I felt this morning) should arise now, given that I am less than two days from opening a bank account into which my first paycheck will be deposted, and from hearing the final decision from RTI. Why now? Why today? More mysteries offered by life and my swirling consciousness.

So, after eating breakfast I went to the metro station, thinking I would go to 101 (still the tallest building in the world) to continue reading the new Murukami book in the lobby outside the Page One bookstore. But by accident...I got on the blue line of the Metro going in the opposited direction, towards Longshan Temple: "Oh, I guess I'll go hang out at Longshan for awhile. However, I never made it to my favorite temple.

Instead, I got off at the stop before--Ximen (West Gate), which I had always known as a hangout for high school students and as a place to see movies. I got off there and after walking around for a bit ("Wow, it's pretty cool here!"), I entered a Starbucks and ordered a coffee. Inside, on the second floor, there was a large window in front of which you could sit and look out at the scene of walking people enfolding before your eyes. I sat...and sat...and sat...and read my book.

Then, after some time, and finishing my drink, I walked outside--the sun was threatening to go into hiding behind the impetuous clouds--and explored the streets. Just as the thought to get back on the Metro and fulfill my (second) original plan to go to Lonshan Temple crept back into my mind, I happened upon another temple--the Palace of the Heavenly Empress--the wife of the Jade Emperor--the Saintly Mother of Heaven Above--Mazu. Of course, I entered.

One thing I like about Taipei, and I guess Taiwan in general, is the amount of seemingly random temples you can chance upon at the most unexpected moments. From large temples like Longshan to very small shrines used and maintained by locals. Enter any one of these temples and you are in a different reality, one governed by deities, and in which incense smoke reaches the highest heavens.

Well, I haven't gotten to my discovery. Eventually, I returned to the Ximen station, and was ready to renew my (first) original plan. As I was waiting for the Metro to arrive, I glanced upon an ad for iced tea. A girl, her upper body concealed from the viewer, apparently observed something, but you can't see what it is. The imagination must fill in the missing space.

Next to the girl are the following mysterious words:

which, after further inspection, I will tentatively translate as:
In an instant, while my vision was bedazzled, the grassy field transformed......It's better not to say anything about it. You wouldn't believe me anyway if I did.
Frankly, I don't know what these words mean, but they left me with a mysterious feeling (especially after spending time in the temple), and I was struck by their use in an iced tea advertisement. What is the connection to iced tea?

Were these words concocted by some advertising wizard? No! They were written by Xu Zhimo徐志摩; that was my discovery--Xu Zhimo. I had known about Xu Zhimo before, but had never before read his lines. It became my mission to discover what poem this was.

So, I got on the train to 101, now with a mission: What was the poem?

Again, I never made it to that destination--I got off at the right stop, but I never entered 101, because the City Government Eslite (Chengpin誠品) bookstore was closer. I walked in and asked at the information desk where I might find Xu Zhimo's books. I said I saw an ad with a poem by him and really liked it. He took me to the place, led me to Xu Zhimo's, and told me about the famous litery genius and his beautiful prose which is like poetry.

I sat there for hours looking for the no avail. Do you know why I couldn't find it--because it wasn't a poem; it was a work of prose one of his sanwen散文. When I got back here, I did a google search and discovered that the lines of what I thought were a poem were the ending of his famous prose piece: "The Cambridge That I Know," about his experiences at Cambridge University.


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