It’s not unusual in Taiwan to hang banners outside of buildings for grand occasions or for “campaign” purposes. I recall one hanging from a fence in Kaohsiung back about 1985 that was part of a public courtesy program, imploring passersby to say “please and thank you”. There was a widely ignored placard in Tainan’s main train station, where stairs go down a tunnel from platform one to give access to platform 2 and the rear station entrance, exhorting high school students to behave properly.

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The person who hangs the banner or posts the sign has done their job. In some places the signs are taken down or replaced, in others they just fade in the sun until the time for the next campaign arises. For the time they are up, they lend color to what can often be a rather grey urban environment. 

When we were awarded our citizenship and identification cards at a ceremony in 2018, one feature was a large red cloth banner, about 10 meters long and nearly a meter high. After 30 minutes of hoopla, it had no further use. It was given to us, rolled up, and now sits in a closet with other pieces of Taiwan memorabilia. It will never hang again, the sun will not shine upon it, and the wind will not whip it to tatters.

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In our current neighborhood, winter slowly ebbs and spring is occasionally in the air. The trees may have received the news, but the leaves have yet to appear. Glancing upward, we still see only sticks.   I’ve taken to tying colorful bits of cloth onto young streetside trees which have yet to turn green. In the absence of leaves to gladden hearts and wave in the breeze, these are about all we have for the time being.


David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.

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