A combination of many things has put me into a state of deep nostalgia for Taiwan this past week, so a year and a half since I followed around bits of a major Mazu (媽祖) focused temple festival in Tainan, here are some photos from the night of 2018/06/16.

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That night, rather than trust my sense of direction, I followed the sounds and scents and lights of the festival through alleys crisscrossing the city, through rainy, damp darkness made alive with collective 熱鬧 energies.

I surrendered my mental map of Tainan, carefully built up over years to meld how colonial-era attempts at order mapped over organically grown alley systems of the late Ming and Qing blended into a sometimes-comprehensible whole…

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…to a route whose logic was never made visible to me, but here you might read every left and right zigzag the gods made that night.

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The rain, in fits and starts, lit the ground as the sky…

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….and centuries collapsed whenever they felt like it, as blue flipflops beat in time to the god’s chair, generators on long cords hummed along behind LED displays…

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…and an old man in a farmer’s hat and straw raincoat and sneakers set off volley after volley of incendiaries.

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As good citizens of a city where some do need sleep, festivities ended promptly at a decent hour, and I was shocked at how empty the now beetle-nut-scented streets were again, well before midnight.

The following morning, in the watery light of a rainy morning, I raced along main streets on my errands, disconcerted by how quickly I could move across the city on routes set by human efficiency, not the friendships made by people and their gods.

A city lives many lives.

Its soul pulses along arteries feeding nodes of the spirit.

How lucky to be swept along by that cadence, even just for a single night.

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One thought on “whose streets these are i think i know

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