Headed for Pingxi 平溪

If Bangkok is the place I think of when I want a short reprise from work, then Taiwan (and its many cities) is the place I think of when I want to take slow, long walks and photograph the small details of ordinary life.

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TAIPEI | 好氏品牌研究室

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Of all the cafes I have been to, anywhere, this is one of those I remember most vividly. It’s the kind of place that takes you away from reality temporarily. It has a bit of everything in almost the right amounts – nothing too whimsical or clinical, too bright or too dark – yet overall, maybe a little over-curated in places, but still oozing with character.

I’ve been saving these pictures for a good day, but I got carried away, and it has been perhaps two years since I visited this café and design store in Taipei. But, it is still there (I checked their FB page to be sure), although I am not sure how it has evolved since.

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Youth and I

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The other day, I found an old thumbdrive which was left neglected in my stationery basket after dropbox and google drive took over my professional life.

I have been using it for about a month since, and decided today, of all days, to click on an old folder labelled with my name. It turned up another folder “atheleventhour”, named after my now-defunct blog. Went down the list of mostly half-completed, mostly unpublished scribbles that brimmed over with so much youth that I laughed and cringed over my words.

On ways to introduce myself, these are versions I wrote that didn’t make the cut:

“Really likes the number eleven and gets most motivated at the eleventh hour. Writes, for love of the language… and for love of the past.”

“A sociology graduate who counts buying novels and notebooks among her interests. Reads, writes, plays squash, sings, and will spend the last dollar on travel.”

The young version of me also thinks and whines too much about doing things, without actually doing things:

That aside, I worry too much that I may cease to write. The anxiety results from a lack of academic diligence. Then again, I don’t think I can stop writing completely.

… and is sometimes insecure, sometimes pretentious:

“23 years and 361 days, with weight issues.”

Contrary to her lackluster grades in school, she is deeply inspired and intrigued by sociological thoughts. The construction of social reality titillates her senses, in the same way cultures and their people fascinate her.” — what?

It is no wonder these never saw the light of day until now. Almost a decade on, my hobbies and interests haven’t varied much. Very much still fascinated by cultures and the human condition, very much into travelling and writing, favourite number’s still 11, and so on.

But so much has changed too. That youth, like a struggle to establish myself, is all but gone, and my words have become plainer and more personal with the years, as though time has lifted the veil on me and here I am, more comfortable than ever in my own skin.

Exposed.

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This late morning, I was on a comfortably-packed train, wondering if I should drop by the poke bowl shop to pick up lunch before heading for the office. I had a small craving for it, but not enough to rule out a simple sandwich, or a bowl of noodles, completely.

Lost in thought over my first-world problem, my idle fingers found the folder of film-taken pictures on my phone. I should post something on the blog, I thought above my lunch thoughts.

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I flipped through pictures of my Italy holiday, my multiple Taiwan escapades, and weekend walks, pleased to see them again. Then my finger hit a folder of experimental double-exposed (and somewhat failed) photos. I had connected with a stranger on the other side of the world for this little project, and for my part, I wandered into the streets off East Coast Road to complete it.

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But as I looked at these photos, it wasn’t the stranger I thought of. Or the streets I could no longer name. Or the reason why I couldn’t take a proper double-exposed photo. My thoughts strayed onto the companion who’s absent, yet undeniably present in all the photos.

Strange how life could change the course of a friendship, how archives and archives of fond memories were not enough to keep it together. Not nearly enough.

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Then the overhead sound system announced my stop. I barely heard it, but my body has learnt the routine, and I stepped out to join the rest of the working crowd.