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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Doggone it

The skies were overcast, with occasional drizzles, and I was still suffering from a cold that had started last Thursday, to the point that I was still wearing a face mask during my Tuesday morning classes. So of course conditions were ripe for a walk this afternoon in the mountains of Tak'eng 大坑. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, trails 9 and 10 were busier than I'd imagined, even though the warm temperatures today left me a sticky, sweaty mess at the end of my nearly two-hour trek around the hills. While out and about, I came across...


...this butterfly. チョウちゃん must have been feeling sluggish in the muggy conditions as well, because it allowed me to get up close and take several shots before finally flitting off. And...


...this grave, post-Tomb Sweeping Day 清明. It's certainly been cleaned up (all the overgrowth has been removed), but with lots of ghost money left behind to (hopefully, but doubtfully) biodegrade. What you can't see in this photo are all the rubber bands that the ghost money had been wrapped in lying scattered around on the ground (most definitely not biodegradable) , along with the ashes of all the plant life that had been burned in the tomb clearing process. Traditional Chinese culture and environmental awareness - two trains of thought that often collide head-on, with the environment usually on the losing end. And...

...on the walk down Trail #9 going back to my scooter, a middle-aged woman and her pet Husky. At least I assumed it was her dog, by the way it was running circles around her as she was walking. It soon became apparent, though, that the woman was scared. I asked her in my awful Mandarin 中国官話 if the Husky was hers, and just as she was answering it wasn't, the dog started to growl at her. Yelling in my huskiest (pun intended), cold-induced voice, I charged the beast and drove it off. The woman made a hasty getaway, stopping only to pick up a stick for defense, and continually looking over her shoulder and back up the trail for any sign of the Husky. Taiwan has a problem with free-roaming dogs, stray and otherwise, and many Taiwanese are scared of canines, most probably due to past traumatic experiences with man's not always best friends. I've had more encounters than I'd like with aggressive loose dogs while hiking, though these almost always end up being a case of the proverbial "all bark and no bite". Sticks, stones and words, in concert or acting individually, are effective anti-dog deterrents, I've found. The hairiest (another pun intended) experience for me had to be the time I was surrounded by a pack of seven mutts. Armed with a large stick, and having identified which one was the alpha male, I was preparing to charge the leader and make a break for it, when an old woman appeared out of a shack along the trail up ahead and called the dogs off. By Taiwanese standards, that made her a responsible K9 owner!

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