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  • Writer's picturechristineklin

DAY 17: a reckoning with dulan

I feel conflicted today along with the skies. the morning began with blistering heat before shifting into a cluster of moody clouds. after ordering another turnip cake (luo buo gao) and coffee, I drove 25 minutes north to the neighboring town of Douli to visit Asan at his surf shop. he calls it Torik Ocean Surf (he later told me that Torik (tu-leek) means "to weave" in Amis). it's one of the only Amis-run surf shops in existence. from the twenty minutes of chatting with him, I gathered that he has a very different opinion of dulan than the people in dulan themselves, and it confirmed some of the doubts I had about this place being a haven for both Amis culture and traveling surfers.

something I've noticed since arriving here in Dulan is that it's split into two very separate worlds: 1) the tourists and surfers from other parts of taiwan, asia, and europe, and 2) the Amis families who populate the village right behind the main street. while it seems like a lot of the businesses are still owned by the locals, you'll see one spot that sells breakfast for $2 and another that sells an omelette made with the same ingredients for 10x the price. in half of the most popular bars and restaurants, you'll see a white guy cooking next to his taiwanese wife or a mixed Amis kid making drinks. I ate an admittedly delicious hamburger at a place called "Bryce's Garden" last night. most signs along the main street are in english first, mandarin second.

Dulan is at once the town with the highest ratio of foreigners to locals in all of taiwan and the birthplace of the Amis people. yet the first night I arrived at the hostel, none of the travelers even knew what Amis meant. and then there's me, a foreigner with local-ish family who I barely know, grasping at distant roots to a place that's both gentrified and deeply sacred.

the streets need to be shown in Amis. the hostels need to be named in Amis. they need to integrate the Indigenous names of the land and share books and paintings made by the locals next to the murals of surfboards and volkswagens. it can't just be an afterthought, an afternoon activity where you learn how to braid some coconut leaves because you have nothing else to do, or else no one will remember. I'm afraid this place will forget its Amis songs in thirty years' time. even the younger people who grew up here can't speak the language anymore. I want to learn and I've asked around but it seems like most people have given up. there's no written language, so I've been recording little audio notes for words like "ngay'ho" (hello) and "maranam" (breakfast) and "marasam" (to be drunk lol) as I learn them from family members and friends. but it still feels like it's not enough. I imagine people feel similarly when they visit their homes in Hawaii and Mexico and so many other places around the world.

I stopped by the Amis Folk Center after walking along the beach next to Asan's surf shop and caught the tail end of a performance where dancers and musicians dressed in traditional Amis clothing took photos with a gaggle of taiwanese or chinese tourists. it's interesting to me that even though dulan is like 50% european at this point, I didn't see a single one there. I read the informational signs explaining the architecture of the traditional bamboo huts, bought a pair of bead earrings made by a Paiwan artist, and petted a goat. I'm a tourist myself, learning little by little about my own culture from an outsiders' point of view, and I don't quite know what to do with that yet. I brought my camera but it doesn't feel right to start filming the people I'm still getting to know. I think what I want to do at this point is to just continue learning and hanging out with more Amis people. the backpackers aren't all that bad, I'll probably still watch Dune and karaoke with them, but I want to be intentional with my limited time here. Rainboy, my maybe-long-lost-cousin whose name I'm finally figuring out is Yu Xin, and Michelle just hit me up for dinner. my stomach is ready :D

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