Take care of yourself

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French influences are evident among the bakeries of Seoul, so I was not surprised to see French contemporary artist, Sophie Calle, on exhibit at 313 Art Project.  Featured is  “Où et Quand? (Where and When?)” which accounts Calle’s six-year journey dictated by a clairvoyant whose method includes randomly selecting texts from books.  In accompaniment, is Calle’s work: “Prenez Soin de Vous (Take Care of Yourself)” which I find is more compelling and engaging.  The subject is a break-up email from Calle’s Ex which starts off romantically and ends in a rather uncouth fashion.

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Like many girls, I have been the recipient of this type of email with those dreaded words Take Care of Yourself…as if ending with that phrase makes the heartbreak any less afflictive…as if placing that phrase into the break-up email absolves the (cowardly) writer of any blame for severing the relationship.

The email Calle received could be interpreted numerous ways and her Take Care of Yourself exhibit featured over 100 feminine interpretations of the break-up letter.  In this way, Calle dealt with the split and took care of herself.

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Well, whether recovering from the disintegration of a relationship or just the hustle and bustle of Taipei city — head to the mountains!  Suffering from the latter, we headed to Tien Lai Hot Springs resort settled amidst the Yangmingshan mountains.

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About an 1.5 hour drive from Taipei, there are two possibilities to reach the resort which is rather isolated (but that’s a good thing).  One option is to take the bus from the main Taipei station whose route is dominated by twists and turns abruptly tackled by the bus driver despite rainy conditions among the mountains.  The other option is one we decided to take for the trip back into Taipei.  There is a bus that leaves Tien Lai Hot Springs Resort to nearby Danshui fishing village (worth exploring for at least half a day), and from Danshui, another bus is taken back to Taipei (75 minutes) via a highway that is less likely to leave your stomach churning.  And after spending time at the resort, I found my belly full of scrumptious food essential after the “strenuous work” of settling in the different hot springs pools.  Even if eating at resort’s restaurants are not pursued, I recommend to at least sample some JinShan sweet potatoes roasted here:

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The snack goes great with their ginger tea whilst watching the mist play among the mountain peaks.

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As you will notice by the above photo, our time there was shared with the rain.  I was a bit reluctant to strip off my peacoat and boots to don my swimwear for the outdoor hot springs, but the resort has an indoor hot springs area to attune the body before sitting in the cold weather.  In the outside hot springs area are various massaging fountains, a fish pool providing pedicures, and several hot springs pool that range from cold to temperatures of 42C.  Beside each pool is a sign explaining what ailments it can relieve such as skin tone, inflamed joints, or women pains.

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The highlight of the outdoor area were the partially submerged lounge chairs perfect for reading a book.  In Japan, I bought this book and finally read it:

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In the book, David Plotz connects with some of the children born from the Nobel sperm bank in order to determine if they were living lives of “greatness”.  Created by Robert Graham in 1980, the Nobel sperm bank rendered over 200 “genius children” until the bank’s closing about 20 years later.  Creator Robert Graham created the Nobel sperm bank in order to inseminate women with sperm from the world’s brilliant men.  His reasons included:

to save mankind from genetic catastrophe…our best specimens must have more children.

Ten men of high intelligence can be more effective than 1000 morons

…this is just a taste of the racism and elitism Graham was unpopular for.  Even women who employed the Nobel bank’s services were blunt in their notions for doing so:

When you are growing fruits and vegetables, you don’t pick the bad ones and try to grow them.  You pick the best.  Same with kids.

Other interesting points of the book included the identification of sperm donors’ compulsion to breed as an extreme form of narcissism and some laws that allow the sterilization of “feebleminded people” as a public health measure.  Although informative, I felt that Plotz’s journey with some of the Nobel sperm bank children to be a bore and would have rather just read about his subject in a magazine article.  I do not know what caused me to purchase the book in the first place.  Thankfully, I am back to reading good literature…

My current read:  “Orlando” by Virginia Woolf

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