When the Kuomintang (KMT) moved to Taiwan, the government provided cheap housings for the soldiers. They were simple 2 bedroom apartments, complete with a small kitchen and a bathroom. These housings were all over Taiwan at one point. But starting in early 2000 many of these veterans passed away. Those who were still alive were put in nursing homes or stayed with their children. The apartment buildings were then demolished, nowadays most of them had become parking lots.
Few years back, the residents of the veteran apartments in Taichung’s Beitun District were told to move out. The buildings became abandoned and soon became haven for squatters and homeless. Local residents around the area decided that they could make a good use of the buildings, after all the buildings are one of rapidly disappearing historical landmarks in Taichung. Some of the plans to preserve them are to turn them into community centre, artisan shops, or even museum. So today they organized an event to raise awareness and as well collecting signatures for a petition to plead the government to give the maintaining right to the community.
It was a community event, meaning that there were loads of people participating. During this event visitors could come inside this buildings to see the conditions. It was a weird experience, as in some of the apartments there were mattresses, blankets, and chairs still left inside. There was a wall with a child’s measurement written on it with colourful markers. It was as if the people who lived there before left in a rush. Rubles and shards of glass scattered on the floor, demanding to be swept clean.
Like many community events in Taiwan, this one was seemingly chaotic as well. There were 2 stages set on the opposite of each other. One stage was having a brass band playing, the other had a karaoke competition. Sounds jumbled on top of another. Vendors were selling tea, coffee, and noodle. There was a clown making poodles and chickens out of balloons. Not more than 50 metres from the hustle and bustle a house was decorated with wreaths, signing that someone recently died and the family was still holding a wake for the deceased. But hey, that’s how organized chaos is held here in Taiwan.
The enthusiasm from the crowd was high. There were hopes that the community would be able to save the buildings and turn them into something useful, something that could also give back to the people. If not, then the buildings will face a grim future as another unnecessary parking lot. And when that day comes, Taichung will be forced to face the fact that they are losing silent witnesses that had helped created Taiwan’s modern history.