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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Neighborhoods

I'm sitting in an internet cafe for the first time in ages. It is the same internet cafe I came to before I got ADSL in the same neighborhood I lived in for my first eight months in Taipei - an area called Shida because of its proximity to ShiDa University and perhaps because the street is called ShiDa as well.

I was reading the paper today and there was a story about a car bomb in Beirut, one that killed another anti-Syrian politician. The man was killed in the ------ neighborhood of Beirut (I don't have the paper with me to tell you the actual name). Reading about that reminded me of the near daily news reports of car bombings and suicide attacks in various neighborhoods around Baghdad and in Iraq.

"A huge car bomb detonated in the ------- neighborhood today, killing --- and wounding ---," the story usually goes.

What kind of neighborhoods are these, I wonder? Can't they be called areas instead of neighborhoods? I mean, neighborhoods are supposed to be nice places with trees and gardens and yards separating houses. Neighborhoods are supposed to be the first place kids play baseball or basketball or soccer with kids that are their first friends thanks to the proximity of their houses.

Anytime I see the word neighborhood in a newspaper, I think of picnics and fireworks on July 4th and Christmas lights dotting the near distance in winter. I think of the two private drives and 10 or fifteen other houses that comprised my neighborhood when I was young (now a whole lot bigger with two new subdivisions, or maybe more now - who knows what has been built in the last year and a half). I do not think of concrete and apartment buildings and traffic, and I certainly do not think of car bombs and suicide attacks. The again, I am a kid from the suburbs so what do I know?

Really, though...even when I came to Taiwan and people referred to ShiDa as a neighborhood, I had real difficulty accepting that terminology. ShiDa is a busy night market area and there are probably several thousand people living in the square kilometer around my first apartment here. That is not a neighborhood. It is an area, a section of a part of town. Even though I saw several people on a near daily basis as I made my way around the restaurants and to the MRT, I could not consider it a neighborhood - except perhaps for the fruit lady who sold me fruit for exceptional prices.

Things have changed though in the time I've been here, now that I think about it. My last apartment was in a part of town that had no real name, at least none that I knew of. When people asked me where I lived I just told them the nearest major intersection. Despite this, though, I found myself calling it my neighborhood when talking to people - saying things like "There is this one restaurant in my neighborhood that has great dumplings," or "There's a few guys in my neighborhood who wave to me every morning and say hello as I walk to the bus."
So I guess my concept of neighborhoods has changed a bit, enough anyway to accept concrete and high rises
and highway overpasses and 24 hour traffic.

I'm thinking about neighborhoods as my time here winds down (less than two days and a half days to go!). What will it like to be in a neighborhood full of yards and space and trees? What will it be like to hear grasshoppers and crickets at night? What will it be like to hear only sporadic traffic at night - sporadic enough to make me wonder who would be out driving a car at three in the morning (although here my memories are more of being a young kid - with all the new subdivisions traffic has increased quite a bit 'round our little neighborhood)?

This strange thing is happening right now. The closer Saturday comes, the farther away it seems. Today I just about hit the exhaustion point sometime around 5:30. Perhaps this is why Saturday morning feels like it will never arrive. I think about the errands and packing that remain tomorrow and I think "Man, I don't want to do that, really." But, it must be done, and who am I to complain when I'm not going to be working for the next half year?

Anyway, maybe I will write again before I leave. Then again, maybe I won't. I keep meaning to write something about Taiwan - something that will somehow capture the import of my time here, something that will bring a sense of closure to this particular experience. I cannot though, not yet. Maybe that is what the flight home is for. To bring together everything, or to let it settle and start to make sense. Or maybe that particular essay is not meant to be written. Maybe it is meant to stay inside of me, to be for me. Maybe, maybe, maybe...maybe this is a problem of mine, the reliance on this word maybe.

But then, how does one who believes in possibility, in opportunity, in chance strip away that word maybe? When the options seem endless and non-existent at the same moment, what is there beyond maybe?

1 Comments:

Anonymous Natalia said...

SOrry haven't read your blog for a while, you know why.

Will catch up with it in CINCI!

6:51 PM  

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