Poetry; Native Taiwanese; Nature

There is poetry hidden in every language, just where you least expect it.  I have 2 students who I teach privately on Saturday afternoons for 2 hours, my boss's elder brother and sister-in-law.  They were trying to tell me about their morning, but they couldn't figure out how to translate the Chinese phrase they were thinking of.  They kept saying "green shower".  I even looked it up in my Chinese-English dictionary.  It also translated it as green shower.  I finally figured out that the Chinese phrase for "green shower" actually means "to take a walk in the forest", and not "being peed on by a sick dog".  Ah, metaphor.

They had gone and taken the walk at a place called Wulai, an hour's bus ride south of Taipei, which is famous for its hot springs and forest trails.  There is a beautiful gorge there.  It's not a humongous place, but the scenery is just wonderful.  At some point, a digital camera and computer will be acquired and used to upload pictures so y'all can see the beautiful places around here.  I went there a few weeks ago with my friend Jeff, and we took a tour of the Wulai Aboriginal Museum before wandering around communing with nature.  It turns out that Taiwan actually has quite a complex network of aboriginal tribes, whose traditions and crafts look quite similar to those of some Native American tribes in many ways.  There are about ten officially recognized aboroginal groups, as well as about the same number that have yet to achieve official government recognition.  The aborigines who live around Wulai are called the Atayal.  The Atayal language, along with the other aboriginal languages of Taiwan ( not including Taiwanese, which is a member of the Chinese family of languages) are all related to the Austronesian languages spoke from Madagascar to Hawaii.  (These do not include the Australian Aboriginal languages, which are completely unrelated to all other known languages).

About 400 years ago when the Ming Dynasty was busy collapsing, a horde of immigrants from Fujian province in mainland China crossed the strait to Taiwan, and pushed the aborogines off the Western coasts, so now their villages are almost entirely situated in the mountains of central and eastern Taiwan.  The aborogines kept their traditional ways, including headhunting, a practice which apparently went on up until the 1930's, during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (which ended in 1945).

Well, that got a little bit off topic.

Anyway, after we saw the museum, we walked through the town and up to the gorge.  There is a cable car across the gorge, which gives you a fantastic view of the Wulai Waterfall, which while not amazingly high or wide, is probably one of the best looking waterfalls I have ever seen.  There's just something about water leaping off of a high cliff into a narrow valley that stirs something in my soul.  (Okay, actually it was my bladder, but I'm trying to be poetic, here, ok?  Sheesh.)


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