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  • Writer's picturechristineklin

DAY 55: Ocean Amis

a lot of things are starting to come together. it's like all the bubble maps I've drawn in my notebooks about sailboats and austronesia and ocean life are finally connecting! two and a half years ago I had a brainchild of an idea I called "Ocean Amis" which was essentially a braindump of potential projects I could do involving filmmaking and the Amis connection to the ocean. but I knew i had to be in taiwan for a period of time to begin to understand all that was here. and I can't rush it – sometimes things present themselves to you when the time is right.

yesterday I hung out with a new friend I made, Fuday Ciyo (Guang Liang in mandarin). I met him at the marine conservation workshop I was at last month, where he was hired as the filmmaker. he's Amis himself and has made a bunch of docs on Indigenous life in Taiwan as well as ocean related stories, which is right up my alley. we paid a visit to our friend Martin who runs Torik Ocean Surf in Douli. Martin was the translator for the marine conservation workshop and I met him through Futuru awhile back. his Torik Ocean Surf shop is at once a surfing haven as well as hub for preserving Amis ocean knowledge. he has a wall at his bar where he painted the east coast with Amis place names:

he showed me his Amis-English dictionary, one of the only dictionaries of its kind around. I even found the name of my family's community, Tafalong (spelled Tafalog in the book) listed in there!

this morning, Fuday and I were going to visit Martin at his shop again to surf but he had to take care of his baby who's sick, so we decided to watch their friend perform at the Amis Folk Center across the street instead. when I first visited the center at the end of march, I was still getting my bearings of taitung county (which includes dulan, douli, and taitung city), and taiwan as a whole. when I wrote about my "reckoning" with dulan, I remember feeling like a total outsider looking in at my own heritage when I watched people perform at the Amis Folk Center.

fast forward a month and a half later, and I'm watching the same performance, this time with an entirely different understanding of place, and the people here. I'm cheering on the guy that we drank whiskey with the night before, next to my friend who runs an Indigenous Austronesian production company. I'm really glad circumstances brought us together because I've always wanted to find Amis filmmakers in Taiwan.

after the band, I noticed people were working on a bamboo raft under a hut so I went up to them to ask about what was going on. the boat piqued my interest the first time I visited the center, but when I asked last time they told me it was on hiatus. I learned that they're currently restoring the traditional Amis raft, which is actually a sailboat (!), in preparation for an upcoming journey to sail from Taitung to Green Island in two weeks. I was floored and asked if it would be okay to film them. to my pleasant surprise, they were totally on board! now Fuday and I are talking about going back to film them when they sail to Green Island this month and making a short documentary out of it.

this is literally what I have been looking for since 2021. when I asked around, I couldn't find out if anyone still knew (or was interested in) restoring traditional Amis boats or if any kind of journey was happening, similar to what the Polynesian Voyaging Society is doing with the Hokule'a. it makes me so happy that something like that is happening here in Taiwan, with the Amis community. Fuday implied that there's some drama between these boat people and the community/Futuru and Martin, but I'm not really sure what it is. either way I'm gonna jump on this when the opportunity presents itself. except sadly, women aren't allowed on the actual raft because of Amis traditions :/ I'm gonna find my way next to it on the ocean one way or another though! the girl I talked to who was working on the boat invited me to join the Austronesian Voyaging group chat, which I gladly joined. I love that it's a thing and that all the dots between the voyaging societies across the Pacific are connecting together. <3

this evening back at the travel bug hostel in dulan, a magazine caught my attention and guess what I flipped to? Martin's own article about returning to Taiwan after growing up in Germany and finding a home where his ancestors are from. it makes me happy meeting all these people and making tangible connections between Amis people and the ocean when not so long ago it was all just a jumble of hazy ideas in my head. I feel like there isn't a definite end to this journey about learning what it means to be Amis. it's only the beginning, and that understanding will only build on itself every time I come back and spend time with people like Martin and my uncle Mosy and my grandma.

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