Sunday, 30 November 2008


Xu Xu is back in the land of Oz. I arrived back to my apartment on the orchard, the front door unopened since I was last there in early june. I was greeted by the daddy long legs spiders which had woven their webs throughout the three rooms, covering me as I enter. There are also numerous black house spiders, which I always take as a good sign as meaning there are no poisonous white tail spiders in the rooms. This could just be some class of urban myth but it is known that the black house spider is the favourite prey of the white tail. The flyscreen edges are the favourite dwelling places of the mean looking black house spiders, which keep to themselves and I like to have around, as they are very adept at catching any flies that manage to get inside. Sometimes I catch a fly or two and throw them into a web and watch spidey come out and grab it. There are soooo many flies outside, which is par for the course in these parts.
Work - currently I'm busy thinning peaches, which will be finished this week and followed by some apple thinning before the first harvesting of the season begins in a couple of weeks with apricots.
The crop is looking good this year with the exception of the plums which are disappointing.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Last post from Taiwan ..... for now

This will be my last post from Taiwan for some time. Tomorrow I fly to Australia to work in the fruit orchards of northern Victoria's Goulburn Valley.
I leave just as ex president Chen has been arrested and detained pending charges of graft, bribery, forgery, money laundering and illegal possesion of state assets. He is also one of the few world leaders with the guts to stand up to the Chinese communist party and it's goverment. His arrest is making news around the world, and depending on the editorial stance of various news outlets he is either a crook or one of the few world leaders with the balls to stand up to the Chinese. Which is he? He is both.
The Taiwanese judicial system will deal with him, fairly or otherwise, but to many he will always be the hero of Taiwanese independence.
I believe that that the Taiwanese government is correct in choosing to engage with the mainland government in dialogue, but I also believe that Taiwan is, and must be recognised by the rest of the world as, an independent nation, providing that that is the will of the Taiwanese people.
As for me, my posts will likely become slightly less frequent, as I will have more limited internet access, and will be busy with work, but I'll do my best to post regularly. I'm yet to replace my stolen camera, the crazy exchange rate fluctuations of the currencies I use mean that it is cheaper for me to buy the camera I want in Australia rather than in Taiwan.
So it's goodbye Taiwan, for now anyway.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Taitung, Chenggong, Hualien - 台東 成功 花蓮市

Man it was good to get outta the rat race of Taipei! Even though this weekend I'll be back in the boondocks working again among the trees of the Zurcas orchards in rural Victoria, I wanted to head down Taiwan's rugged and relatively sparsely populated east coast. I took a train from Taipei Main Station, following the coastline down to Hualien then heading inland passing through the Eastern Rift Valley, a land of tropical fruit orchards and rice fields. Stunning scenery. I arrived in Taitung (pronounced Taidong) to discover that the hostel I was planning to stay at had shut down, so after wandering about for a while I checked into a cheap but clean and friendly hotel for three days. Taitung is a very laid back coastal town, the beach is clean but rips make it unsafe for swimming. There is an airforce base just out of town and military jets often fly low and slow over the town on their approach to the runway. I spent alot of time on the beach and in a coastal forest park with shady paths, birdwatching huts, a butterfly reserve and rowing lake. One evening around dusk while sitting close to the surf upon one of the many great ugly concrete wave breakers placed here and there along the foreshore I saw a waterspout for the first time. A great tornado of black cloud perhaps a kilometre offshore lifting water from the oceans surface. Wow. Leaving Taitung suitably relaxed and less pale skinned than when I arrived I caught a local bus up to the fishing port of Chenggong, the town itself is nothing special but the port with it's large and small fishing boats coming and going was a fine sight. The harbour itself is protected by large concrete walls in the ocean - neccesary protection from the frequent summer typhoons. I was lucky to be there for the auctioning of the days catch. I saw swordfish, yellowfin tuna, barracutta, and perhaps two dozen other sorts of fish which I have no idea the names of, black, blue, silver, orange and even a few stripey ones. It was a real treat. Saw some hard as nails fisher men and women too, harder than nails I reckon. Even the women chew betelnut in these parts. They didn't pay much attention to me though, they were just busy getting on with their tasks. I saw a couple of really cheap looking hotels in Chenggong, but they didn't look too inviting so I continued up the coast by bus to Hualien, the largest city on the east coast. I had the large comfortable bus to myself for half the journey, and was joined by another passenger who bummed a Yuan(NT$) from me for the rest. Oh, there were a dozen or so aboriginal junior high school students who got on at one small town and who got off at various spots in the next, the whole time engaging in lively banter with the driver. The east coast is home to many of Taiwan's aboriginals of which there are nine tribes. There is evidence that suggests they are related to New Zealand Maori. They certainly look the same. The coastal road offers some stunning scenery, and traffic during weekdays is sparse, it reminds me of parts of New Zealand's South Island west coast. Spent a night in a hotel in Hualien, where I visited last year, enjoyed it just as much as last time. Perhaps if and when I return to continue my Chinese studies it could be at the university there...... Taipei's charms seem to have worn off for me. At about eleven thirty I recieved a call to my hotel room asking if I needed a massage. What service! The whole time I was away I spoke nothing but Chinese, which was hugely satisfying. I'm now back in Taipei for my last few days in Taiwan - on friday night I catch a plane to Melbourne, Australia......

Monday, 3 November 2008

A lot happening, but I'm heading off for a few days

There's a lot happening at the mo', here in Taiwan, in the world, in the life of Xu Xu. Taiwan is hosting a high level official from mainland China for important talks, for the first time since the end of the Chinese civil war sixty years ago. This is a fantastic development and a (not "an")historic event. Unfortunately the pro independence Democratic Progressive Party is opposed to the talks and is behind most of the protests being organised. The DPP's view is that China is the communist enemy and should not be engaged in dialogue. My personal view is that Taiwan should be recognised as an independent country, and when I first came to Taiwan I supported the pro independence DPP. I now have very little faith in them, their former president, Chen Shui Bian is a corrupt crook, a thief and embezzler, many of their members of parliament are prone to violent outbursts and extremely stupid statements, as are many of the partys' supporters. There are a great many thugs among their members and supporters. I believe daialoge with the Chinese can only be helpful to the current situation. The Chinese representative is under heavy police guard, to protect him from irrational DPP protestors. It's very sad for me, a supporter of Taiwan independence, to see this.

There is an election in the United States of America tomorrow, the result of which will have ramifications around the globe. There is also an upcoming election in my home country of New Zealand, which the rest of the world probably couldn't give a damn about.

As for Xu Xu, he has perhaps spent more than enough time in the megopolis of Taipei. His Chinese language studies have finished, he went to an evangelical mass conversion and a buddhist retreat in the space of a couple of days, and seems to have started referring to himself in this blog in the third person. It's still another couple of weeks before I head to the isolation of the Australian orchard for another season of fruit and flies, and later in feburary a world of backpackers who will come to struggle with the same. I'm escaping the city tomorrow morning, heading for the east coast backwater of Taitung for a few days. I'll be away from the internet and away from as much Taiwan and world news as I can manage until about the tenth.