A history lesson

Upon reading the words “history lesson” please do not get bored right away and disregard this blog post.  I am not a big history buff as well, but I do enjoy learning about some history if the mode of education is through artwork and literature.

Twice I have had the pleasure of visiting Taiwan.  The first time was focused more on discovering the island’s nature (read about it), while the second time consisted of studying more about Taiwan’s art, culture, and history.  Both times included indulging in great street food and much missed quality boba milk tea!

I was introduced to Taiwanese art by numerous stopovers at their Taoyuan International airport, which I feel is the best airport I have been to so far just because the airport is filled with art.  I travel a lot and have been through many airports, so which airport is the worst on my list?  I agree with this article that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila is the absolute, positively, wholly, the worst airport.  Prior to departure from this airport, one must pay a ~750 PhP — but where does the money go?  The airport is still run-down despite the millions who leave Manila through this place.  Due to my frequent travel, I accumulate so many airline miles that I am bumped up to first class for free once in awhile.  Twice, this happened to me when departing Manila, and one of those times (and the last time) I took up the invitation to stay in the one of the VIP airport lounges.  Which, sad to say, offers no extra comfort than waiting at the usual gates.  However, I do look forward to  the Bo’s Coffee space to grab my favorite drink that I cannot find anywhere else in the world.  It’s basically a frappachino blended with espresso beans topped with a generous helping of whipped cream.  Everywhere else, uses chocolate-covered espresso beans, and I am allergic to chocolate.

The second worst airline in my opinion?  Well, it is a throw up between Kahului, Maui airport and the Fiumicino Rome airport.  But because the Roman airport is tied to some of my best memories, I decided that the Maui airport is the second worst airport in the world.

Sorry, I digress….

After realizing the creativity that lies in Taiwan, I was fortunate that my second visit was full of art musings.  At the time, my dear friend was visiting family in Kaohsiung and allowed use of her flat while she was away.  Luckily, her place has easy access to art at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, MOCA Taipei, and even underground art at the main train station.  I was in Heaven!  Some examples of the exhibits (click on the picture to enlarge, please):

Forever Bicycles (Ai Weiwei) - He used 1000 bikes for this installation. Sorry about the poor quality or angle of the picture. I was trying to be a photo ninja because the security guards were trying to make sure no pictures were being taken in the museum.

Grapes (Ai Weiwei) - These are made of 32 Qing dynasty wooden stools. It must have taken great mathematical precision to organize them this way. Do you see the face?

Art within the museum also provides Taiwanese history lessons expressed through paintings and photographs:

Aboriginal bride and groom

Artists such as Shui-Long Yen and Tse-Hsiu Huang depict the scenic nature and documents life among the people of Taiwan.

Then after the museum visit, I suggest grabbing a book from a book vending machine

My favorite type of vending machine...books!

and taking it to a quiet tea place…maybe one with cats stealthily roaming around:

I named her Rose, because I was drinking rose milk tea during this moment.

Another way to get a history lesson is through literature.  During a flight, I was reading the book by George Orwell, “Homage to Catalonia”.  I had a few coincidences while reading the book in the airport.  I met a Spanish guy who was from Barcelona and I was listening to Stereomood when I discovered a good band from Barcelona, called Berlinist.  I found this book a few years ago from a public library located in Los Angeles, California, USA (Tip:  Public libraries provide a wide selection of used books at inexpensive prices!).  Although I have been to Barcelona several times, it was interesting to read how this area was in the past, and during a war.  It is said that the Spanish Civil War is known more for its literature, rather than the politics involved.  A reason for this could be what Orwell describes as a distortion of the conflict due to the ideologies surrounding the issues of the time.

The Civil War also spurred the arts, as shown by the University of California, San Diego Library.

Here are some snippets of Orwell’s account as a soldier fighting in the war:

  • “It appeared that even in Barcelona there were hardly any bullfights nowadays; for some reason all the best matadors were Fascists.”
  • “I knew there was a war on, but I had no notion what kind of a war.  If you had asked me why I had joined the militia I should have answered: ‘To fight against Fascism,’ and if you had asked me what I was fighting  for , I should have answered: ‘Common decency.’…As for the kaleidoscope of political parties and trade unions, with their tiresome names–P.S.U.C, P.O.U.M, F.A.I, C.N.T, U.G.T., U.C.I., J.S.U., A.I.T.–they merely exasperated me.  It looked at first sight as though Spain were suffering from a plague of initials.”
  • “One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”
  • “There was a section of Andalusians next to us in the line now…the Catalans, who professed to look down on the Andalusians as a race of semi-savages.”
  • “I am well aware that is it now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality…Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact..the thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the ‘mystique’ of Socialism, is the idea of equality.”
  • “Nearly all the newspaper accounts published at the time were manufactured by journalists at a distance, and were not only inaccurate in their facts but intentionally misleading…Like everyone who was in Barcelona at the time, I saw only what was happening in my immediate neighborhood, but saw and heard quite enough to be able to contradict many of the lies that have been circulated.”

I’ll be selfish and keep this book for myself.  It is old and beautiful (so old, the original price was only $1.25):

 For my next post, I will discuss two books because I will need two books to keep me occupied during the planes and trains of my Japan trip.  To keep with the theme of traveling to the land of technology, I hope my iPhone will be useful in finding the way around.  I want to see if Siri will be able to find and direct me to “bathroom”, “temple”, “food” , “train” while I am there.  I usually do not like being so stuck on my phone because it seems so “cliché”?  I even did not add any apps to the phone, except Skype to save me money on international phone calls.  Definitely, did not do the Facebook app because I do not want to turn into somebody stuck on always checking and posting on Facebook.  However, I did re-activate my Facebook account so if you would like to add me as a friend (isn’t that the usual etiquette?  — Mention the word “Facebook” to someone then offer the “add me as a friend”) you can do so here.  Don’t expect too much activity from me on Facebook, though.

 Current reads: “A Geek in Japan” by Héctor García and “The Castle” by Franz Kafka.