Instagrammer to Introspection

I recently archived all of my posts from over a decade ago.

This has been a recommendation from my brother-in-law, also coinciding with my own embrace of technological minimalism.

I’ve set the social media alarms; I’ve ignored them. I’ve listened to songs that can commiserate with the endless thumbing, i.e. “Scroll” by AdrianXpression.

Now I use it to casually stay in touch. Still, I feel the tingle especially during a visit to a mountain village in Taiwan.

The Taiwanese aboriginals are related to the Austronesian people. They speak a dialect I do not as Han-American-Chinese, fully utilizing the dashes.

Throughout the day's festivities, I am handed a badge and I feel I should be opening my phone apps. Around me, the younger aboriginal people who’ve managed to make the trek from the cities where they work, hold their phones in one hand while simultaneously carrying one end of the long bamboo which holds a pig tied to a spit. The sun beats down on everyone standing in the field of the elementary school as we observe the rites, elders with eyes closed, children fidgeting. Everyone is dressed traditionally; the clothing signifies the tribe. Intricately beaded dresses and colorful headpieces adorn the community.

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By evening we’ve traveled to another mountain village. Beneath a large tent, we watch as competitors scramble up ropes to grab the prize. This is followed by a competition to see who spears the coconut flying through the air onto their sharp-pointed poles first. It looks challenging from afar because the coconuts appear smooth when they are fibrous which snags on the spears quickly. There are communal dances and a special one reserved for the young and unmarried.

Boy climbing up rope
Boy climbing up rope

This village is famous for music. As sunset dissipates into the night, the sounds of an award-winning choir of acapella harmonies rise to the beams of the venue as if their voices and timbers were born to coalesce.

Livestream. But I know that my phone will not capture the ethereality.

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A local woman shares that she has been lazy to attend the festivities recently, but explains that the songs are a conversation.

Each might be indistinguishable to unknowing ears, but they are call and response like the birds of the remote mountaintops. This form of serenade is gradually being lost she notes.

Before leaving I am offered a traditional long dagger resembling a machete to purchase. These have been brought from Hua Lian, a city on the East less populated side of the island. That is when I become most poignantly aware of being Han-Chinese-American.

We are exchanging oral histories, and stories in a way bartering content. I don’t need the machete, but those knives are a relic of the time when the locals had to walk nine hours to the store for a pack of cigarettes.

I reflexively ask, “why didn’t you buy more?”

“We couldn’t afford it,” the local woman responds.

Written by

I am a writer and artist made in Brooklyn. Now I live in Taiwan. I am an avid walker who loves singing and lemonade stands.

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