Forward, Forward, Forward
For Me, Movement Defines Taipei
Where can you find the true spirit of Taipei?
For Me, Movement Defines TaipeiBy Keerthi Sridharan
I’m typing this on a laptop sitting in a crowded Starbucks. Everything around me is in motion. A mother of three runs to catch a bus outside. The elderly couple next to me doubles over in laughter at something they’re watching on a tiny phone screen. A toddler trips and falls, and the whole coffee shop stops in horror, breathing a collective sigh of relief when she starts laughing. The cars outside my window are never at rest, even when they aren’t moving - every pause feels temporary, like that moment before an exhale.
I glance up at the sound of rain; two minutes ago, it was sunny enough that I could feel the heat on my face through the window. Even the weather feels restless, constantly changing. No one stops; we’re all just lying in wait. I realize I’m the same way, my feet tapping out the rhythm of a half-remembered song on the legs of my chair, one hand switching between tabs while the other reaches for more over-sugared coffee.
This is what drives Taipei - movement.
The year I’ve spent here would’ve been formative regardless of where I was - my senior year of high school, a time of transitions and uncertainty, rife with decisions that are meant to shape the rest of my life. Moving to Taipei only compounded the chaos further.
At the start of the year, I was lost, in a new country, armed only with approximately zero friends and with the Mandarin I’d learned as a six-year- old in Beijing. Ten months later, I can hold a two-minute conversation with a cashier, know enough to navigate to the nearest coffee shop (clearly), and have made some of the best friends of my life. More than that, though, I’ve fallen into the same patterns that drive the people I pass on the street; the same thrum of constant motion that flows through the fingers tapping on the keyboard next to mine and the giggles of a child in a high chair two feet away has become habit for me as well.
It’s what being here does to you; move or be moved, caught in the horde of people swimming downstream. In most of the places I’ve lived, the realization that I have three weeks left here would make me panic, desperate to cling to moments, and people, and places. But as my flight draws nearer, I’m reminded that there is no time for grief or self-pity here. Sure, you can experience Taipei by taking the elevator up 101, or hiking up Xiangshan, or hitting your nearest night market.
But the true spirit of Taipei isn’t engraved in a steel pendulum; it’s at pedestrian crossings, at 7-11 cashiers, at bus stops. It’s the life that I live here every day.
Everyone always has somewhere to go, and something to do, but instead of the usual big-city apathy and detachment, observing a Taipei
resident in their natural habitat inspires something else: passion.
It’s everywhere if you know where to look. Deep underground, for one - doors open and osmosis occurs across platforms, people flowing out of train cars with Easycards clutched in fists and laughter spilling out of mouths. The sidewalks outside malls, where at any given point a crowd of tourists is accumulating around a pan flautist’s rendition of You Raise Me Up. The streets of a night market, scents and sounds and sights so all-encompassing you don’t know what to give your attention to - you know, though, not to stop for longer than a minute, lest you get left behind in the flood of people moving forward, forward, forward.
(This article presents the opinion or perspective of the original author, which does not represent the standpoint of CommonWealth Magazine.)
Keerthi Sridharan is a 17 year old poet, writer and musician currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English at Oberlin College. She has lived in Beijing, Hong Kong, Fiji, Washington, D.C., and most recently, Taipei.
Other works by Keerthi Sridharan:
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Yeh Shyr-tau （葉石濤） , one of the most acclaimed Taiwanese litterateurs, had once said, "Taiwan is a good place for people to dream, to work, to love, to marry and to live well." Do you agree with that?
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