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Patience, Grasshopper...

An entertaining account of what happens when Worldwidemike "loses it"....

sunny 90 °F

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Looking across Anping Harbor towards Tainan, Taiwan

I wanted to start off this post talking about patience. Not preaching, just discussing. From time to time, I hear, "Oh, you teach middle school? You must have a lot of patience!" Yes and no. I feel I am pretty accepting of other viewpoints -- especially when it comes to travel or understanding other cultures. I also believe everyone has a right to their own views on religion, politics, and right and wrong. My patience wears thin when it confronts inefficiencies, though, and those who aren't putting forth much effort at their job, school, work, life -- you name it. So, what do I do when I lose my patience? How does worldwidemike blow his top? Well, today would be a great illustration!

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Anping Fort nowadays -- my main destination for today's travels

Remember what I said in the previous two entries about buses? Well, today, I was headed to the historical enclave of Anping. This is where the Dutch colonized Taiwan, and is not far (I thought) from yesterday's destination of Tainan. In fact, I retraced my footsteps, taking the train to Tainan and ducking into the Tourist Information office. They recommended I take the special tourist shuttle #99 from Tainan to Anping. I decided to make an exception to my bus bias and headed to the stop. I must have just missed it, as the attendant there recommended I get on bus #88 (which was also listed as a tourist shuttle on the map of Anping I'd been given). I hopped on, paid my 20 New Taiwan dollars (67 cents), and sat back to enjoy the ride.

Now, I normally have a good sense of direction. And it became clear to me pretty quick we were heading every point on the compass -- not just west to Anping. It honestly seemed to me we would head down one street, make two right turns, then head back up in the opposite direction. I began to pay attention to street signs and saw many familiar names from yesterday's walk in Tainan. It became clear we were just slowly looping back and forth. Any westwards movement to Anping was on a gradual basis. If we were in a race west with a glacier, we'd be falling behind. A half hour later, I looked at a temple we were passing that seemed familiar. It was Tainan's Confucian temple...where I'd STARTED my sightseeing yesterday. In 30 minutes on this bus, I had gone the distance it had taken me 15 minutes to walk yesterday. Plus, we made a turn and were headed back East towards the train station.

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Renaissance era Chinese cannons

It was then I blew my top. Now, I'm sure you're all dying to see what Mr. Patient World Traveler does when he blows his top. This is especially interesting in that a key concept of Chinese culture is "face." You lose face when you lose control of yourself in public. So, ranting and raving would be viewed extremely poorly. Plus, is it really the bus driver's fault his managers designed an idiotic route? If I lose my patience, I tend not to take it out on someone else. I decide on a course of action which punishes ME more than anyone else. Think of it as my monastic self-mortification -- the hidden medieval flagellant in me. Those of you who are one step ahead of me, here, have probably narrowed it down to three possible courses of action. All three involve getting off the bus, of course, which I did immediately. In order of sensible-ness, the choices would be:

take a taxi to Anping
Say "forget this!" and leave in a pouty rage
walk to Anping

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Banyan trees taking root on the almost 400 year old, crumbling, brick walls

Which did you choose? Well, remember the self-mortification part. Of course, I decided to walk to Anping. In the 90 degree heat. The only problem was I had a map of Tainan which didn't show Anping, and a map of Anping which didn't show Tainan. There was a common street, so I knew I could get there by heading west on Mincyuan Road. I just had no idea what the distance was between the two. I found out, though. One hour. Of course, considering the principle of the Taiwan Two-Step, the actual distance is probably less than my walking pace times one hour.

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The brick walls of Fort Zeelander -- today's Anping Fort

Okay, so here we are, five paragraphs later and I haven't described a thing...well, except for how much of an idiot I can be at times...! So, why was I going to Anping? I wanted to see Anping Fort, which when built in the early 1600s, was called Fort Zeelander by the Dutch. Eventually, I arrived there, drenched in sweat. I paid my admission and was given an English pamphlet. I found a shady spot with a nice breeze and took about 10 minutes to read through it, I also knew I needed to recover my calm, and find my patient middle school teacher self, again. Zen achieved, I jumped up and headed to the fort museum. It took only about 10 minutes to go through it. I then began to explore the fort grounds, taking pictures all along. The inner citadel is in fairly good shape, but the outer walls have deteriorated quite a bit. In fact, their ruination is somewhat colorful in parts where banyan trees are literally sprouting out of the walls, their roots crushing the bricks in an "Angkor Wat" type embrace.

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Dutch powder horn used to charge their matchlock muskets

A smattering of Renaissance era Chinese cannons that have been mounted here and there in the fort. The three-level, inner citadel is the most scenic part, and is accentuated by a modern watchtower, flowering bushes, topiary, and a statue of our old friend, the deified Ming General Koxinga, who defeated the Dutch in a three month siege here and chased them off of Taiwan. From a military historian's perspective, I wish there were more details on that siege. The fort museum has examples of Chinese and Dutch weaponry (as you can imagine, it was Dutch Renaissance era matchlocks vs. Medieval Chinese melee weapons and bows). Or at least that is how they portray it. They do say when the Dutch Governor-General returned home he was tried and court martialed for losing Taiwan. They don't really say how the Chinese won, though. My guess is that, with a three month siege, the Dutch were simply starved out and had no hope of relief. Koxinga was victorious, Taiwan returned to the Chinese, and the General was eventually made into a god, of sorts.

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Chinese tombs in the style of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Next, I walked through the neighboring Anping Matsu temple, one of the oldest in Taiwan. My heart wasn't really in it, though, as I'd had my fill of temples the last two days. I moved on to the nearby graveyard to check out the hundreds of ornate tombs in the style of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The graveyard itself was overgrown, but the tombs seemed fairly well kept up. Had it not been for modern photo-etching of the occupants on some of the tombs' stonework, I would have guessed they were all centuries old.

After the graveyard, I checked out the one of the ruined coastal artillery batteries, and one of the 18th century European merchant houses. It was getting late in the afternoon, though, so I decided to call it a day. I hailed a taxi and paid about $7 for a quick, 10-15 minute ride back to Tainan's train station. I didn't know whether to chuckle as I retraced this morning's footsteps (but in air conditioning), or feel ashamed of my pig-headedness. Did I learn a lesson, today? I guess I did. I learned that I lean towards a kind of masochistic, self-mortification when I get angry. The one who suffers when I get mad is usually myself. I'm not sure who I am "showing" by treating myself brutally. I guess it is better than taking it out on others, though. I mean...heck! Heaven forbid I lose face! Lose patience, sure, but face...?

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Anping Fort -- was it worth the grief? Sure....especially if you're a military history buff like myself!

Posted by world_wide_mike 16:16 Archived in Taiwan Tagged fort tombs taiwan tainan anping zeelander

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