What the … the big concrete stage in the town square that I’m staying in was suddenly painted and all done up. Bright red characters were now standing proud on its pillars and above on its masthead.
I had just walked by this thing at noon on my way to the Seven Eleven for some noodles and a beer break. It looked like something that should have been referred to in the past tense. The paint was all chipped off, there was a blanket of dust and dirt and crap over its stage area, there was piles of garbage everywhere. It looked exactly as it had since I showed up here a couple of weeks ago.
But by evening the scene was different. In the few hours that passed they had painted the thing, cleaned everything up, and hung a big red banner that had China on it on the back wall.
Although it’s claims are losing steam, the Republic of China still tries to position itself as the legitimate government of all of China.
Then the military trucks started showing up, and the soldiers started pouring out. They were carrying cute little seats which they aligned in nice rows and sat upon. Soon, there was over a hundred if them, sitting on their cute little chairs in neat rows.
They were mostly conscripts, drafted for two years of service like all men of the ROC since they took up shop on Taiwan in 1949.
But what is interesting here is that these kids will be the last of Taiwan’s conscripts. The practice is set to end next year.
Kinmen was once packed full of soldiers. It was the front line of an active war and the frontline of a 20 year cold war. But now most of the troops have been withdrawn. The realization is that if the PRC was going to attack that nothing the ROC could do on Kinmen could stop them, so why bother funding a huge military presence here?
But the soldiers still have a presence here. You can see them daily jogging down the roads, eating in restaurants, walking around towns. They are mostly kids — 18 years old or so. They tend to be laid back, and are sometimes good for conversations. Nobody seems to be worried about war.
But these soldiers and the military apperatus is a very deeply ingrained part of Kinmen’s legacy. It would almost be kind of sad if the soldiers were withdrawn completely.
The show soon began. Some young women in short skirts started singing karaoke. They had some skits that appeared to be comedy, some bands, dancers, and a girl who kept playing the flute…
It was the typical entertainment for soldiers anywhere in the world. Kind of like the old USO variety show stuff you’d see in a movie. I’m not sure where this tradition emerged from, but I imagine it’s not going to be around much longer.
There was just something really archaic about it all: conscripts, an old concrete stage in a town square, local-quality entertainment. Everybody — soldiers and townspeople — totally digging it.
It make me feel oddly nostalgic.
Oddly nostalgic for a time that I’ve ever really lived.
Me with an actress named something like Yang Gui Ming. I’m told she’s famous in Taiwan. She’s here on Kinmen filming a movie or a mini-series or something about the civil war. I sometimes see them around the villages filming.