Speaking Through Rivers: The Humans of Gushan Day Market
January 5, 2020
The days are long and humid in the summers of Taiwan. The rivers swell with rain, changing the color of the landscape to shadows of blue and immodest green. At the time of day that air turns cool but concrete stays warm, the birds swarm and fly away from the flooded fields of rice and the pastel houses into layers of orange cream haze above. They take off from branches and power lines, they go to where the people do not know. To the places not home. The people of Gushan Market press on, by now learning that the rain is part of the cycle that endures here, and so must they. We were curious just to see.
Hsan stirred the pot of fish head stew as if he was meditating. Behind him, pink dragonfruit stacked on the table, left overs from the passing crop. The chill from the rain brought people closer to him, being allured by the sweet smells of golden onion and salted ocean. Hsan, like many others, don’t live in the concrete jungles of Taiwan’s cities. He lives instead in Pingdong, just an hour away from Gushan Day market.
He calls the market “the end of the river,” where most things tend to end up from food to tea to people. He has sold his stew on the sides of roads, at tourist attractions and night markets. Most days he has usual customers, some days more than that. The rain hit the tin awnings around us. Hsan continued, ” to live in this world, at this time, you have to do things to stay above water. Then after awhile, you don’t mind it so much. It becomes habit, it becomes part of you. You learn to swim.”
Motorcycles without mirrors yell passing around intersections and veering away from vendors. Music carefully bends noises into an orchestra of street sounds that bounce and change between the markets bricks and bones. Rain ponchos flap against over coats, pink and green and blue. A girl with a red umbrella waits on a curb for her mother to come back as she watches a man, blurry pretty eyes, red like a doe, hug a balloon full of smoke across the street. It hanging out of his mouth, childlike, coddling, happy. The sky grows silent in Taiwan’s twilight, for it too does not know where the birds go when the ground drowns with rain.