I was on the road with my scooter when it started to rain. Coincidentally, a 咖啡 (coffee in Chinese) sign appeared in sight. I entered without thinking, and found that it was an open meeting place filled with handmade musical instruments with some deck chairs on the side for guests and ornaments for sale on the counter. It was an aboriginal public hall.
Several people were chatting joyfully in circle. I sat down in one of the deck chairs, ordered iced coffee, and relaxed myself in between the pouring rain and the cheerful gathering. There were men and women, hippie-style free spirit and traditionally humble presence, from teenagers to middle-aged folks to an old man. It looked as if an entire clan was sitting, although clearly they did not share blood lines. Whatever different elements each member carried, they were all in harmony.
They started to practice dancing and singing to a traditional tune. The wooden musical instruments, the chorus of mixed gender/age voices, and the raining background provided an instant, free, open concert. One of them told me that they were going to tour around in DaXi (大溪) with a big smile. I smiled back big too—I was already smiling and I did not notice it. The whole atmosphere was contagious, in the best definition of that word.
Like the other aboriginal experience, the whole place was covered in a unified spirit which automatically soaked me up and permeated through my skin. But unlike the other experience, life and harmony was at the core. Was it purely a coincidence that I happened to be near this place when the rain started, that they happened to have a gathering, that the practice time began right when I sat down, and that this incident happened merely a day after the last—too serious—encounter?
Watching them, I was tracing back my childhood memories, in the last era when three generations of families enjoyed meeting up regularly. These days, I no longer have a single opportunity where people of both genders and all ages sit down and have a good time just by being there. Those aboriginal people still had what I had long forgotten.
I knew I was just daydreaming: The idea of bringing back lost tradition is attractive yet practically impossible and highly dangerous. The advocates of right-wing movements that are gathering power all over the world due to current economic situation aren’t trying to destroy the world. They want to go back to the glorious memories where they stayed innocent and harmonious and happy. They just need to “cleanse” some debris along the way, such as minorities, LGBT, and freedom—anything that threatens the status quo and unity.
Just when they finished practicing, the sun started to appear among the parting cloud. I said thank you, they said you are welcome anytime carrying a huge genuine grin on their face, and we went on each others’ way. Everything happened as if someone had planned all along.
The two aboriginal experiences sit at the polar opposites of my emotional spectrum, and my whatever previous conceptions about Taiwanese aboriginal life have been wiped off due to too much incoherent data, which is of course the best thing to happen. I can start walking with a clean slate. Now what?