14 November 2005

Things I Meant to Write About, Part 4: YiWen and Brother

Allow me to more formally introduce my friend YiWen, my Chinese teacher, tour guide, mother hen and opportunity organizer. And if my faith would let me say it, oracle. I met her at church but I think she just came the one Sunday in order to meet and greet the new foreign teachers. She's a member, but might be better described as a silent partner, for reasons I won't go into just now. Or proabably ever.

Since then, she's been responsible for kicking many of our butts into more mainstream Taiwanese experience. (Living on the campus without a scooter can become something of a fishbowl.) Previously, she has taken me to visit her elder brother on weekends because she aches for him to know the Jesus loves him and believes that he will listen to me. Every Monday night she prepares dinner in her home for some of my teammates and me. Afterward she and her husband teach us Chinese.

Last Saturday she called me up while I was still tangled in sheets, her predictable m.o. (though it was kind of hard to avoid on this particular Satuday because I slept quite late), to ask if I wanted to go to an art exhibit. She said the gallery was somewhere near her folks' house, where her elder brother would most likely be. Convenient. We organized a time. I went back to rolling around on my mattress in attempt to avoid the reality of sunlight.

Soon enough I found myself at the gallery with her, asking where she'd heard about the exhibition. "My mom told me about it. She knows I like to go out and do things". Inside, a large panel outlining the lives of the artists greeted us when we entered. She pointed them out and matched up each artist with their work. As she lingered, I surveyed the room but we met up by the work of the only artist in the exhibition I really appreciated. Each had an inscription beneath, adding proverb to the didactic mindscapes. Sometimes she translated one for me. As we left, commenting on this artist's work, she looked to see when the artists were present at the exhibition, suggesting that I could meet him. I didn't know what I'd do meeting such a man, so I did little more than smile acquiescently, hoping she wouldn't put too much effort into the endeavour.

We got into the car and headed off in the direction of her parents' house. The conversation dwelled on the life of the artist. "All of those in the exhibition live in this county. Many are very poor, even though well known." I nodded, and she continued by speaking my own thoughts. "But they're rich by what they have inside."

"Have you heard of any of those artists we saw today?"

"A few I know very well." I had had no idea. In actuality I had all but given up hope on the presence of art in Taiwan. These are people who take every other weekend off because it's a requirement. "Too bad we missed them at the exhibition. It's all right, there will be another opportunity." A lot of time when I'm with YiWen, I just keep my mouth shut because I'm not sure what's happening. Instead I looked out the window, wondering how such an artless environment could have produced such vibrant and imaginative artists. I really don't understand Taiwan yet and I would be well-served to reserve judgment, just like I keep my mouth shut around YiWen, but I guess that's why I have a blog. Blogs and reserving judgment seem mutually exclusive.

Pretty soon we pulled up at her parents' house in the country, as expected, but I had to re-confirm my bearings when YiWen sighed, perhaps, I thought, transitioning to audible internal monologue, "So maybe we won't meet the artist today." I looked around. She looked at me and deadpans: "The artist is my younger brother. Let's move." This is what she says when she means "Let's go." She has no idea how colloquial it sounds. I even think she was surprised to see me double over in laughter at her ruse. I guess we both have to get used to one another.