by Rolf-Peter Wille
The Loyal Dog
September 16, 2008:
The Loyal Dog
Today I met a very loyal dog: I hiked up "Finger Mountain"—which resembles a giant thumb—and a young black dog followed me all the way up to the top. I met the dog quite serendipitously (check the dictionary), or actually the dog met me on the street right after I had left the taxi as, ingloriously, I had missed the correct entry of the path. Right in front of a little temple I went into a stinking bathroom and pretended to pee, hoping the dog would become bored. But sure enough: it waited for me.
The path itself was horribly overgrown; it had practically disappeared devoured by fern, high grass and I couldn't even see the dog, just some shaking of the brushes as if a giant snake was following me. A few times I stumbled over roots and accidentally stepped on the paws of that dog, but it didn’t mind. The jungle air felt horribly humid when I crossed a little wild river in the valley. I wasn’t just followed by my loyal dog but by a swarm of no less loyal mosquitoes as well. Approaching the peak I felt severe pangs of "pu hao-i-sze", I mean I suffered from guilt, because this unpolluted animal loyalty exhausted my conscience. What to do with my friend if it followed me all the way to Taipei, as surely it would? Could I respond with indifference? Could I be so treacherous as to deny my friendship? On the other hand how would a black dog behave amidst the antiques of a cramped apartment?
Then I noticed a stranger sitting on the peak. This I found unpleasant. The peak of "Finger Mountain" is narrow and just a single person can sit there. I wanted to show my dog the spectacular view of Taipei City and was anticipating its reaction. Thanks God, the stranger stood up and went down when we approached. He did not smile and neither did I. And my dog just, well, followed that man down and completely forgot about me... (now I don't have to feel pu hao-i-sze!).
October 10, 2008:
A strange encounter I had today. On a very lengthy bicycle tour through the mountains, uphill, uphill, uphill, I became unusually exhausted and the sweat was burning into my eyes. Then, instead of staying on the main road, I chose a real "bird-no-drop-shit" way, as they say in Chinese, somewhat too bumpy for bicycles, and leading straight into nowhere. I began to scold myself for this idiotic self-torture, when suddenly I noticed a commotion in the woods on my right site. It was too noisy for a squirrel or an eagle—eagles behave with dignity and never make any noise when they glide through the trees. Then I saw two rather large monkeys (smaller than me though) escaping my approach. I had never believed it, when people told me about monkeys here. The largest surviving Taiwanese animal, I always thought, was the snake, and the rest must have been eaten a century ago.
Back home I consulted Wikipedia and learned that I had encountered two specimens of the Formosan Rock Macaque, though I saw them on the trees, or Macaca cyclopis, to be scientific, of the family Cercopithecidae (which you are quite familiar with), genus Macaca. These Macacas are often used for very humane and scientific little experiments and I remember now to have seen them long time ago on Taipei’s Snake Alley—boringly renamed Street Tourist Night Market—together with snakes, turtles and eagles. Madame Fujita once took pity when she saw a caged Macaca on Snake Alley, liberated him from the cruel owner with some dollars and invited him to stay at her residential garden in Yangmingshan (Grass Mountain). Unfortunately he turned out to be naughty and left his business everywhere including the roof of the next-door neighbor, the Uruguayan ambassador. According to Madame Fujita the monkey business fell onto his head when he opened the door. He rang the Fujitian bell screaming "caca de mono, caca de mono!" ("Mono" here is not related to the Japanese "tabemono" but means monkey in Uruguayan Spanish. "Caca," I suppose, has the same meaning as in Spanish Spanish.) It took Madame Fujita quite a while to convince the ambassador that "caca de mono" brings luck, more luck actually than bird droppings. Later they became the best of friends and I guess, Madame Fujita must have been invited to tour Uruguay, though I am not sure. The monkey, unfortunately, was transferred to the zoo.
Anyway, now I know why they are called Macacas.
October 17, 2008:
Today I took the subway to school. Maybe I should not say "subway" because we had emerged from the "sub" and took our way through the sun. A group of semi-sexy girls had taken possession of my car and chattered heartily. I felt confused. I could not decide which girl to look at and my head went left - right - left - right as if the eyes followed a tennis ball. Finally—it might have been Shilin station—the group exited and I was allowed to concentrate on a plump little mother vis-à-vis complete with glasses and baby. The baby clung to her stomach which made her look like a Koala mother. Unlike a Koala baby though, this one was covered with a blanket, and with not too much effort I could imagine it still inside its mother. This would have been a monstrous pregnancy—11th month, maybe? Only when the blanket was lifted, sporadically, to prevent suffocation, the baby emerged like a fish sticking its gulping head out of the water.
When we reached Xilian station, another mother—a giant twice as large—appeared and took her seat right next to the Koalas. She owned a baby twice as large. This I had to guess because it was covered by blanket as well. Instinctively I wanted to rise and offer my seat which was one of those dark blue ones reserved for the elderly, the challenged and the pregnant. But they had found a seat already and it did not matter.
It was quite impossible not to stare at this quartet. The new mother looked truly robust, had legs like an elephant and ignored the Koalas. The Koala mother though, seduced by curiosity, stared at the Elephant, or—to be more specific—at the invisible Elephant baby hidden inside the blanket. Finally she could not restrain herself any longer and asked a question. The two mothers started to smile at each other, proceeded to unwrap their babies and exchange various data, which I did not catch since it was too soft, too Chinese and I don’t care about baby data (unless I date the "baby"…).
Suddenly the conversation turned dramatic as the Koala shouted "wo-men shu-le, wo-men shu-le! (we lost, we lost!)" Hm…, they must have compared the birth weight. The looser mother laughed heartily while the elephantine one managed to maintain a look of stoic indifference. Interesting though: What means "we"? This is a new grammatical form. If an emperor says "we", he means "I": majestic plural, or pluralis majestatis. If a mother says "we", she means her infant: pluralis infantis?
Kuantu station. I had to get off.
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