Saturday, May 25, 2013

Taiwanese Lifestyles: Hanging at the Park

One thing that’s nice about the Taoyuan City/Bade City area that we live in is the number of parks throughout the cities.  In a half kilometer circle around my house are five parks.  The really cool thing is that in the evenings there are large numbers of people at the parks enjoying the cool shade and other things.

The park right across the street from our apartment is a gathering place for old chess players.  This is quite a tradition in China and Taiwan.  At any given time there are several chess players huddled over boards playing the game, surrounded by up to ten others watching, offering advice, or trying to learn techniques or strategies from the old masters.   I’ve seen games going on at 11:30 at night. I have to admit that I sit there and watch, too.  I want to learn the game well enough to play without feeling intimidated.  So far I will only play the game on my computer, but I’m practicing so I can join in.

My Chess buddies in a late game
Every park is also outfitted with exercising equipment.  In the mornings the parks are full of people, exercising on the equipment, briskly walking around the park, practicing Taichi or just doing park exercises.  Park exercises seem to be peculiar to Southeast Asia; they consist of vigorously swinging arms, and shaking butts, kind of low impact calisthenics.  We saw a woman the other day, and I thought she was dancing until I saw that some of her “moves” were park exercise moves.

The parks are also a great social atmosphere.  People gather in the parks to walk dogs and generally gossip about the neighbors.  Unfortunately, because of our foreigner status we are often the topic of conversation.  People are always friendly to us and invite us to join in conversation, with them.  Some of the old chess masters have invited us to watch and learn.  They try to engage us in conversation and it’s really an enjoyable time. 

The parks are one of the reasons I like Taiwan at this time of the year.  There’s a lot of people around doing interesting things and for me one the real pleasures is to sit in the cool of the evening and just watch.

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