Hualien: street activity

As I’m cycling up the long straight Zhongshan rd (a common name in Taiwan) lined with vertical neon and navigated with civil respectful and kindly driving of scooter, bike, taxi, car, truck, I’m aroused by the childish jingle of an ice cream van. I glance over my shoulder eager to see how these icons of childhood manifest in Taiwan. Nothing to be seen. By the road locals are clasping bulging rubbish sacks and various junk. A yellow truck passes by, and slows as it passes these folk: on a step at the rear of the truck is an operative in helmet and yellow overalls hanging on by one arm snatching the rubbish sacks like the hook on an old fashioned mail train. It’s a refuse truck and the sacks are tossed by him into the perilously close crusher of the vehicle. In fact there are 2, and the second deals with recyclables. Outside a motor cycle accessory shop I see a woman toss into the crusher box loads of old helmets. Creepy to see them pulverised, these should protect heads. Like a kid in awe of a carnival I pursue this spectacle along the road.

Earlier on guolian 5th st the heat of the afternoon is intensified by blazing roadside braziers into which are solemnly tossed huge bundles, even boxloads of yellow paper “money”. I later learn that this is the day of ghosts. I am told this by a temple worker, outside which trestle tables under awnings which barely stifle the heat are being set up by enthusiastic volunteers with identically assembled bags of assorted staples: corn oil, doritoes, canned meat, fruits. These will be later be bought and left as offerings to the ancestors on temporary shrines constructed at the front of each house, often on the sidewalk, where prayers are said and incense burned. Later when I pass again a foursome of costumed old men playing a pipe and gongs finish a parade inside the same temple and fire crackers are let off.

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