Things Ephe­meral

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Tai­wan has a de­cent col­lec­tion of air­lines, some old and some new, some far­reach­ing and some lo­cal. Ac­cord­ing to the UN, Tai­wan ranks 55th in pop­u­la­tion with a whop­ping 23,396,600 in­hab­i­tants. Last on the list, with 800 in­hab­i­tants and un­likely to in­crease very much through nat­u­ral birthing given the mono-sex­u­al­ity of its pop­u­la­tion, is The Vat­i­can City (yes, it's a rec­og­nized coun­try!) in 233rd place. But let's get back to Tai­wan's air­lines (at least the Vat­i­can has no air­line; it uses blind faith in Air Italia for reg­u­lar flights, and other forms of lev­i­ta­tion to reach the higher heav­ens).

Trav­el­ling back and forth to Asia in the past cou­ple of years I have been struck by the thought that Hong Kong seems still to be a ma­jor gate­way to the Ori­ent when re­ally Taipei could just as eas­ily play that role now that Main­land China has opened its air­ports to di­rect flights by for­eign air­lines. In days gone by, Pan Amer­i­can used to fly round the globe on a daily ba­sis; you could hop on a plane, make nu­mer­ous stops on the way and end up where you started from with­out ever re­vers­ing your track. It oc­curs to me that per­haps Tai­wan's ma­jor car­ri­ers like Eva Air or China Air­lines might like to take over the man­tle of the global air­line. It would work like this: Tai­wan is just about on the op­po­site side of the world from Saint Lu­cia – there's a 12-hour time dif­fer­ence – so fly­ing the stretch in one long hop is not re­al­is­tic. As things stand to­day, trav­ellers from Saint Lu­cia have to make their way to New York or Toronto and take flights from there. It's also pos­si­ble to fly via Los An­ge­les or San Fran­cisco but it usu­ally takes at least two or three flights to get across Amer­ica from the Caribbean. There's also the east­ern route of course. Fly from Saint Lu­cia to Gatwick, change air­ports, and then fly from Heathrow to Hong Kong or Shang­hai, for ex­am­ple, from where you can get a flight to Tai­wan. I can't get this out of my mind be­cause I'm think­ing of tak­ing Rick to Tai­wan if I can wan­gle a cou­ple of F/C tick­ets from the Em­bassy. He hates fly­ing so I have to make it com­fort­able for him.

Any­way, back to what I was writ­ing about. I imag­ine a cam­paign slo­gan some­thing like “Em­brace the World” that would evoke the im­age of two arms hug­ging the globe af­fec­tion­ately. Now imag­ine look­ing down on the Earth from outer space some­where above the North Pole. The air­line's head and shoul­ders would be in Tai­wan, while one el­bow would be in Europe and the other in the USA, and the two hands would join in the Caribbean, at Vieux Fort. Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions could be Mos­cow, Scan­di­navia, Switzer­land, Italy and Hol­land, all with very few, di­rect sched­uled air­links with the Caribbean. Like­wise in the USA, cities such as Den­ver, Dal­las, or even Seat­tle, all with­out sat­is­fac­tory Caribbean, or even Latin Amer­i­can links, could be em­braced. If Tai­wanese air­lines were to adopt such route maps, the Far East would gain ex­cit­ing, pros­per­ous new gate­ways in Europe, the Caribbean and the USA. Vieux Fort could be­come the Caribbean gate­way for count­less busi­ness and hol­i­day trav­ellers from Europe and cen­tral and western parts of the USA that to­day lack di­rect links. Tai­wan Air could pro­vide the nat­u­ral gate­way to the Far East for many Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions, and could pro­vide, for the same mar­kets, di­rect links to the Caribbean and mar­kets in Cen­tral and South­ern Amer­ica, while Caribbean busi­nesses would gain di­rect ac­cess to new cities in North Amer­ica.

Any­way, even if my fan­tasy of Tai­wan's global avi­a­tion reach comes to noth­ing, there are still plenty of places for planes to take off and land on Tai­wan. De­spite the ex­is­tence of the high-speed rail­way down the west coast, Tai­wan has about 20 air­ports of vary­ing sizes, which is im­por­tant be­cause some of the in­te­rior is not eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. The coun­try also has over 20 is­lands un­der its ad­min­is­tra­tion, many of which have an air­port. One of the smaller ones is Qimei Air­port lo­cated on an is­land of fewer than 4,000 in­hab­i­tants, that was for­merly known as South Is­land but was re­named in 1949 to com­mem­o­rate a leg­end of 7 women who com­mit­ted sui­cide when Ja­panese pi­rates raided the is­land (qi is Man­darin for 7) and the is­land's 7 tourist at­trac­tions: its scenery, the sea­wa­ter, lo­cal prod­ucts, peo­ple's hearts, its ge­ol­ogy, its ar­chi­tec­ture, and its his­tory.

By the way, the name Qimei is shared by Wen Qimei, mother of Main­land China's supreme leader, Mao Ze­dong, who dic­tated ev­ery as­pect of life for his sub­jects. Wen Qimei was con­cerned for her baby's health, which was not sur­pris­ing, as two sons had pre­vi­ously died in in­fancy. She took the baby to see a Bud­dhist nun (yes, there are Bud­dhist nuns) who lived in the moun­tains, and asked her to take care of him. The nun re­fused. The mother even stopped at a tem­ple where she prayed that the de­ity would be­come her son's fos­ter mother. I won­der if Chair­man Mao ever knew that he was al­most adopted by a de­ity? I sup­pose he did. If he didn't, when he reads this, he will turn in his grave – ac­tu­ally, he was never buried in a grave; they keep him stuffed in a mau­soleum as a tourist at­trac­tion at Tianan­men Square in Bei­jing even though his wish was to be cre­mated, which proves that earthly power, how­ever great, is very tran­si­tory in­deed – some­thing for all politi­cians to remember and pon­der over. Death is pretty fi­nal. When you're gone, you're gone, and you can't do a damned thing about it!

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