Thursday, January 01, 2009

Setting Off

I don't about you, but I tend to get more excited the night before a journey than pretty much any other time. Christmas eve is cool, but it's not really a prelude to adventure in the same way that travel is. Maybe it helps when you're going somewhere you haven't been before.

I tend to get so overcome with nervous energy that I find it hard to enjoy things like reading a book, and get easily distracted by things like that massive howling wind outside (Brisbane seems to be getting more storms lately than it's had in quite a few years, and they're really violent).

I've tried to think about what I'm hoping to do on this trip, but the things I come up with are quite a scattered bunch. Here's the rough draft which is bouncing around in my head, first for Taiwan:

-Learn something of the Southern Fujian dialect spoken by my friend's family.

-Visit shrines and temples to see how more commonplace religion is in Taiwan, and hopefully find out something more of Buddhist texts. I've read the Dao De Jing but nothing of Buddhism.

-Grab some political propaganda for the Nationalist Party.

-Buy some novels written by Taiwanese authors.

-Buy some works on Matteo Ricci, Adam Schall and Ferdinand Verbiest (hopefully some works written by Ricci as well)

And then in Beijing...

-Visit the Summer Palace in snow

-Make my way to Qianmen

-Visit the old Observatory

-Walk around Zhongnanhai

-Check out the zoo

And that's what I have so far. The last one was probably inspired by Wang Xiaofeng's New Year's Resolutions. Anyway, see how the Beijing ideas are quite clear whereas the Taipei ideas are quite vague, or otherwise just retail-oriented? That's because I don't know what the actual city is like, at all. Which leads me nicely to the final point I'd like to make.

I'm always interested at how, when you first arrive in a foreign city, each little corner and landmark seems ephemeral, and doesn't settle down in the mind. So you feel lost at first. But once you're familiar with a place- a process that you can't seem to affect, but willl nevertheless occur- it's really hard to imagine not being familiar with it. Like how when you learn a foreign language and it's odd and exotic at first, and then later you can't not understand it. Or how it's impossible to recreate the feeling that you get the first time you listen to an album.

I'm looking forward to that feeling.