Chasing Mirages

Tag: ROC

Blue Skies in Taipei

by on Oct.03, 2010, under Posts

I don’t want to take up a lot of space defending my reasons for including a post about Taiwan in a blog discussing “Environmentalism in China.”  Let’s just leave it at a fact that nobody can deny:  Taiwan is the operational base of a political entity called ROC, aka the Republic of China.

I spent a bit of time in Taipei when I was a kid in the 80s and early 90s.  I have vivid memories of how dirty t he place was, at least compared to where I grew up in the U.S.  I remember being shocked when I came back to Taiwan as an adult in 2002, about eleven years after my previous visit.  The skies were blue, the rivers and creeks were clear, the streets were free of dog poo (we used to call it 黄金 (huang jin, meaning yellow gold), and that distinctive Taipei smell (those of you who visited Taiwan in the 80s and 90s know exactly what I’m talking about – a mix of rotting plant matter and sewage) had all but disappeared.

Here’s a picture I took near one of my favorite bookstores in the world, the Eslite (誠品書店,Chengpin shudian) in Xinyi district, Taipei.  Visible in the picture is the Taipei 101 tower, the tallest skyscraper in the world for a few months before the Burj Khalifa in Dubai overtook it in 2004.

I marveled out loud at how blue the sky was, and my cousin and his friends, Taipei locals, told me that the air quality was not as good as usual because many people were making burnt offerings for 中原普渡, a festival that’s celebrated in the seventh month of the lunar calendar to pay homage to wandering ghosts.  I asked them if they remembered when the sky was always grey and looks of bewilderment shaded their faces.  “No, the sky is always blue on sunny days, and usually even bluer than today!”

I turned to my cousin and asked him if he remembered when we were kids and, after playing outside all day, we would run our fingernails along our arms and scrape off a layer of black, like ink under our nails?  Or how our boogers would always be black from the air pollution (kind of like what happens in Beijing now)?  <Warning – the next picture is not for the faint of heart> (continue reading…)

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