That was one day before he would fly back to Singapore. But we managed to see each other. The plan was simple: having a nice dinner and possible see a few areas of Taipei. I had spent the whole day enjoying the sea side in Keelung with William. Huang Yi had cancelled the rehearsal to stay in BaLi and work at the Cloudgate studio with Hu Chien. I had not shaved, and my t-shirt still strongly smelled of the hotspring water from the past night (something between sulfer and rotten eggs which takes a quite some time to dissipate). Time was running short and I had no time to go back home and change. It was in this state that I went to find a childhood friend I had not seen for eight years.
An was there with a colleague of his, Jay-Jay, a jovial French born African fellow who also settled in Singapore a few years ago. They had not seen much from Taipei except a few streets near their hotel.
"Let's walk a little" I suggested. They were delighted. They had not seen anything else but their office and the some posh restaurants where they would spend the evening.
I took them to a local restaurant near the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial which specialises in a dumplings. Quite ironically, we were so happy with the food that I forgot to show them the monument...
We headed to Ximen where they could see the younger and hipper side of Taipei, which owes a lot to Tokyo's Shibuya and Harajuku. An spent a few years in Tokyo so he could relate to it even more.
An had been relatively silent during the evening, Jay-Jay being the one in charge of the talking. We had more time to catch up (coud we really in so short a time?) when we came back to the hotel and comfortably sat in the lounge bar. He talked about his family, his wife who suddenly showed signs of a stronger devotion in her religion: Islam. I had actually seen that on the pictures she had recently posted on Facebook, where she would wear the infamous veil. I was more surprised when he told me had also converted to Islam.
"For my wife, her family... But I don't care much about it" he said as an explanation. "And that was 12 years ago, and if I had to do it now, I would definitely not!"
I asked him whether he found it hard to be in a culture which was not his own. "I make sure that my children are taught the right thing. I don't mind that they receive a religious education. But I don't want them to be brainwashed."
I felt relieved to hear that. "Do you study the Coran since you'll certainly will have to talk with some narrow minded persons who only worship the creed."
"Of course I do. My wife can be worked up when the issue of Islam is touched and what she says sounds like it comes from a tape. So I must have the background to discuss the subject with her so it's not black against white..."
"Funny, she didn't strike me as a devout Muslim when I first met her years ago in Tokyo..."
That came after she turned 40. Someone said that it often happen with women who reach their forties. They suddenly feel the need to follow religion more closely... But the weird thing is that none of her friends did so... Only her."
"Maybe it's an unconscious reaction to prove that she is still one of theirs, since she married you, a free thinker and foreigner..."
"I haven't thought of that... maybe..."
Then we talked about our parents. In his case, his father, since his mother passed away a long time ago. I was glad we could talk about her mother. Her death, left us in such a state of shock that somehow what mattered was to keep on and survive the grief. I was already deeply affected, I knew it was worse for he and his brother. Maybe that explains why he had to leave Paris a few years later. His life started again, elsewhere.
Listening to him speak and reminisce, I felt so much warmth and love. We were childhood friends and we were still there. My brother and his brother sadly do not have that bond anymore.
"I remember how going to your place was the biggest event. As soon as we got out of the car, we would run to your flat. I remember clearly, it was on the groundfloor, on the right side of the building, wasn't it? We woulod ring the bell and ten seconds later, we were playing in your room!!! How old were we? Five or six???"
I smiled when I saw that he could remember so well.
"I remember what I want to remember. And that, I want to remember!"
I smiled again
|An & An in Ximen|