Sept. 8 - 13, 2004
||I have been invited by my friends at VDMFK and Mr. Ksing ku Ti of the Chiang kai Shek Memorial Hall to attend the opening reception for “All Angels”, an international exhibition of paintings by members of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. I will join with delegates from throughout the Asian countries and members of the Board of Directors.
Even leaving Seattle at 5:30 AM after a 2 1/2 hr. wait it will be the 9th by the time we arrive at Chiang kai Shek Airport. I pick up a paperback about the Beatles 64/65 American tours and settle in for the 12 1/2 hour flight. We’re in row #28 D and E middle rows. The bulkhead is reserved for babies and one cries incessantly.
AMFPA Director Chen is there to greet us and ushers us to our waiting van that will deposit us at the most deluxe hotel in town, The Grand Hyatt. It is hot and muggy and I’ve the remnants of a cold but I’m comfortable enough and begin to recall sights that we first saw during our trip here in ’95.
The scenery is industrial and farmland and occasionally reminds me of the paintings I will soon witness in depth. We check into our appointed rooms before enjoying a sumptuous lunch. The hotel café features 4 buffets including an American menu, Chinese, fruit and seafood and pastry selections that will nourish us deliciously for the next several days.
The world’s tallest building is next door to the hotel. The Taipei 101 Tower is 1,674 feet and certainly deserves exploring. It has begun to rain as we cross over and there is other construction going on but we manage easily and enter the monolithic structure. Chic fashion shops and jewelry boutiques abound but we don’t see anyone buying anything. There is an incredible bookstore, a veritable library unto itself and we linger long in the stacks.
It has been a long day in several ways and Anne is ready to get some rest. She takes a nap while I review the exhibition materials and welcome gifts we have received including stamps, a t-shirt, cards and calendar and watch the local television. She wakes long enough to help me and I am in bed myself by 7:30 PM local time, 3:00 AM by my clock.
After a restful sleep we are better prepared for the exhibition and have some time before our transportation to the opening reception. The Sun Yat Sen Memorial is quite close by so after breakfast we emerge into the swarming metropolis and head towards the gold roofed memorial. We arrive in time to witness the changing of the guard and tour an educational exhibit on his life. There are dozens of floral arrangements in preparation of a ballroom dancing exposition and participants are practicing their steps on the terrace. A stunning collection of paintings delights our eyes and an equally impressive show of calligraphy is indecipherable but beautiful.
It is cloudy and quite muggy but hasn’t begun to rain yet. We window shop on our way back to the hotel where we are informed that we will ride to the reception with VDMFK President Eros Bonamini and his wife and niece. There is time for lunch and a change to our formal clothes. By the time we are all ready the rain has come and the traffic is building. We arrive in plenty of time and meet our volunteer who shows us around the building and escorts us to a VIP lounge. It is a pleasure to meet with my fellow artists including Soon yi Oh from Korea.
Taiwan’s Vice President Annette Lu who welcomes us graciously and tours the exhibition with other dignitaries opens the exhibition with remarks. The marvelous paintings are inspiring and several artists are demonstrating their various techniques. I know I could never master the Asian style of painting but hope to give it a try. I have two small works on view, a European village scene and a geometric abstraction of a peace symbol that was used in a previous publication by the VDMFK.
We return to the hotel to freshen up and prepare for a special dinner at the foreign ministry. The minister, Tan Sun Chen, speaks fluent English, French etc. and is gracious and hospitable. To our unsophisticated tastes the food is odd and the vintage rice wine is barely drinkable but we are obliged to consume abundantly as toasts are generously proposed and welcoming remarks by the minister and friends have us all tinkling glasses. Over dinner we come to know Alice who will become one of our guides and share secrets of the orient with us.
It has been an extraordinary day and one we will not soon forget. Before going to bed Anne calls our friend Shu Li to arrange a time to visit and get reacquainted. She was a fellow delegate when we both received the Torchlight Award in ’95 and has stayed close to our hearts ever since.
We sleepy fitfully on account of my snoring and the loud neighbors in the adjoining room. We are supposed to meet early with the delegation in order to load onto the bus and drive to our excursion to the National Palace Museum. I am particularly excited for the chance to revisit this museum. When I first viewed the outstanding collection I was cut short prematurely and missed a major portion of the painting. At first it appeared as though I may be disappointed again as we are informed that the rain has washed out our access. After further developments progress we are back on schedule and arrive in time to have a delightful lunch together before our tour begins.
The warm rain has produced steam rising above the green hillside and the museum has a majestic setting that is worthy of the treasures within. Unfortunately, the museum is expanding and major portions are off limits including the famed tearoom on the top floor. What we are able to see is superlative from tiny jade carvings to enormous screens and four thousand year old bronze artifacts.
I am able to deposit one of my pins in the corner of a raised bed by the main entrance doors to the museum. I will look forward to the improvements on our next visit and see if it is still there.
We have decided to visit the Jaoho Night Market to shop for souvenirs and in spite of the continuing rain and the mounting traffic we enjoy the drive and are deposited at the magnificent Tsuyou Temple that anchors one end of the street. Mostly the shops are selling cheap apparel and video games and food stalls. We also get soaked but dry off over pepper steak and noodles and egg in what might have been a bit of a risk had our friend Soon Yi not ordered it for us.
We do not purchase anything for ourselves but pick up some gifts and linger in the colorful temple while awaiting the return of the bus. By the time we return to the hotel we are in the mood for a drink in the lounge and looking out from the balcony terrace with a female singer serenading us, we toast our good fortune. Anne tries a sourtini, a special cocktail with lemoncella and I have an Australian Shiraz wine to cap off another exciting and event filled day.
After breakfast we return to our room to await Shu Li who soon arrives with her student and helper Maggie. Her post polio has progressed and she explains that she may require joint replacement in the near future. She has come bearing gifts and I am happy to reciprocate with one of my small original paintings.
The mayor of Taipei, Ying-jeou Ma, is scheduled to tour the exhibition and meet with the artists. We await his appearance and enjoy showing the exhibition to Shu Li who acquires a catalogue and has many artists sign their pages. Anne and I take a moment to see the giant statue of Chiang Kai Shek and then meet more of the artists.
The rains have not lifted so we are obliged to go to visit a new modern mall for shopping and lunch. It is a delight to spend time with Shu Li and we are pleased to introduce her to my fellow artists. I acquire a beautiful bamboo box for my collection and see some marvelous art in the various galleries.
We all load up and drive to the ancient Lungshan Temple in the heart of Wanhua commercial district that gleams with gold and bright red pillars supporting a grand structure that is completely enveloped by incense streaming from the censors and the outstretched hands of devotees. The rain lessens and we are able to soak up the spiritual surroundings and take many photographs. Maggie wants to show us some local fortuneteller stalls across the street and we smell but do not taste some curious meals being offered. We say a fond farewell to Shu Li and Maggie before we depart for our long ride back to the hotel and a joint dinner with Serge from France and Ruth from Denmark and their companions.
We rendezvous with our bags after our last breakfast and say goodbye to the familiar wait staff who have been kind and helpful. Our bus will experience a breakdown and an inoperable lift but first we’re treated to a long drive out to the country, past giant Buddahs, temples and ornate mausoleums. We stop at Window on China, a theme park that is mostly deserted but it has stopped raining and it is very pleasant to stroll the manicured grounds and ponds. Anne shops for more gifts and we see an amazing display of miniature buildings and shrines and an impressive Great Wall of China. I am dumped from my wheelchair inadvertently while ascending a ramp and am soon righted with minimal damage.
Time is becoming an issue and if we are to eat lunch and get everyone to the airport on time we had better move on. The bus has other ideas and refuses to start when the ignition is engaged. After some mild panic, Jean Christian one of our party identifies the problem and remedies the situation. A short drive is a resort that overlooks a tremendous dam. The rains have washed out the main water pipe and although businesses have remained open there are very few people around. Our driver lets the engine idle while we enjoy our last meal in Taiwan and we begin to say our farewells to each other before reloading for our journey to the airport.
We are there in plenty of time to spend the last of our New Taiwanese Dollars on gifts and mementos and arrive at our gate for assistance into my seat. The flight home is long and arduous with a movie to pass the time. We travel against time and arrive home just a couple hours after our departure. In reality we have traveled thousands of miles. We have made wonderful friends, witnessed a remarkable culture and demonstrated with our paintings that the human spirit can soar if determination is applied and inspiration is realized.
I am deeply grateful to the Association for all the opportunities that Anne and I have been offered and I am extremely pleased to have added my contribution to further the aims of our admirable organization.