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  • Writer's picturechristineklin

DAY 51: on belonging in Dulan

The most asked question I get from the locals is, “Of all places, why did you end up here?”

Now that I’m back in Dulan for the second time, it’s starting to feel less like travel and more like a part of life. After staying at two hostels and an inn, I’ve found myself in the best crib yet: a converted bus on the rooftop of a surf cafe! I’m pretty sure the cafe is a front, which is why you can’t book this place online. That’s precisely the reason you get a rooftop deck, bathroom, and a bus all to yourself for under $25 a night. Sometimes you get a mosquito or two as a rent free roommate, but you can’t complain.

After all the nonstop travel and hotel hopping, it’s like a breath of fresh air to come back to Dulan. I can finally wake up without an alarm, say hi to my new friends at my favorite coffee shops that are sporadically open, and most importantly, whip out my mechanical keyboard. :D

But above all the appeals of slow living by the beach, the real reason I keep wanting to come back is because Dulan is a merging of worlds; and for once, it’s a place where I can find footing in each one of them.

There’s the A’tolan Amis community, the people who were always here and who have a sacred connection to the ocean to the east and the mountains to the west. There are the local Taiwanese travelers and settlers, mostly visiting from big cities like Taipei who find respite in a place like Dulan. And then there are the foreign travelers, mostly from the West, who flock to this tiny town for the same reasons as the Taiwanese travelers.

I had an idea about this merging of worlds when I first found out about Dulan when I was researching Amis history, but I didn’t know just how apparent it would be until I started spending more time here.

Take the past two days for example: yesterday was my first full day back in the town by myself after returning from Green Island with Nanako and Rina. I woke up to sunlight peeking through my bus windows, then got breakfast with Michelle, a Californian abc like me, and her friend Xuan Xuan from Taipei who has been living in Dulan for the past month. Michelle and I usually speak English with each other unless we’re in the presence of other Taiwanese people, like Xuan Xuan, in which case we’ll seamlessly transition between English and Mandarin. The night before, we hung out with a group of Amis friends who invited me over after recognizing me at 7-11. The Amis backyard hang was exactly where I wanted to be given my intention to connect more with the local people here and especially after running into Yu Xin at Wagaligong’s karaoke party a couple hours earlier.

Anyways after breakfast, I took a nap in the bus and then walked down the main road to look for “a group of archers under the bridge”. Someone had invited me and my uncle, Mosy, to join after he introduced himself in Amis to a group of neighbors. I ended up finding them after following the voices down the road next to the bridge. Turns out it’s a group of middle-aged locals who bring their traditional Amis bamboo bows to a makeshift range. Besides practicing for their weekly archery competitions, I think they’re mainly there to drink beer. It was very much a vibe, though I didn’t see a single person my age. And they even let me shoot a few arrows. I got one bullseye!

  1. Archery under the bridge / 2. an attempt! / 3. Bullseye :) / 4. a friendly competition

For dinner, Xuan Xuan and I got burgers at Bryce’s Garden, a cute dinner stop converted from shipping containers owned by a couple, Bryce and Cici. Bryce is a white dude who moved to Taiwan like 20 years ago and met Cici in Kaohsiung, and now they surf by day and grill burgers by night. I told them I was planning on renting a board from Wagaligong if the waves were ok the next day. “Just use our spare foamie! It’s 7’8”, that’ll be perfect for beginners.” Cici said. And that’s how I ended up in the ocean with the three of us (mostly them) catching waves at eight in the morning.

  1. the beach this morning / 2. setting up / 3. busted my lip trying to clean the foamie :/

If I didn’t speak both Mandarin and English, if I wasn’t drawn here in the first place to understand my Amis heritage, I wouldn’t have access to the full breadth of experiences that I’m making here. If I was just a part of one of these three worlds, perhaps I would be staying in my bubble like most of the backpackers…surf in the mornings, drink at the hostel in the evenings.

But Dulan, for me, offers a world where I can explore all of my curiosities, where I can take pictures of kelp by the sea and learn about Amis cuisine and take three naps and catch one good wave and talk to local filmmakers and sailors and artists all in the same day. I can relate to Suming’s songs when he sings about his love for the ocean in Amis while singing along to Haley Henderickx in the same establishment.

another merging of worlds: between my family and the local Amis friends

“Dulan isn’t quite like the rest of Taiwan,” my friend once told me.

Why did I end up here, and why do I keep coming back to this small strip of land and sea? I don’t have any family here, and I don’t quite belong – but neither does Dulan.

And I think that’s why, of all the places on this entire island, it’s the place where I feel most at home.

cheese :)

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