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A couple weeks ago, I noticed these tiles on the wall outside of the Shida dormitories on the corner of Shida Rd (師大路) and Heping E Rd (和平東路) near the night market. I was immediately taken with the very detailed watercolors of Shida night market vendors and businesses by Shida University artists. Some even included people I recognized, like the fruit lady (in her trademark kerchief and green apron) and her husband:

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One of the things that struck me about this new art installation is that it seems to take for granted that all these businesses will survive. I’ve only lived in Taiwan for two and a half years and already I’ve seen a lot of changes in the neighborhoods I frequent. When I first arrived here, Shida night market had a more diverse selection of stores. There used to be a boutique across from 7-Eleven that sold antiques, art and modernized qipaos and had two fat cats lolling in the window. Now that space has been split into two shops: one that sells tarty underwear and another that hawks cheap hair accessories.

I can see why the old store didn’t survive. The prices were high for a student budget and I bet most of the high schoolers and undergrads who frequent the night market don’t have much need for 1950s alarm clocks and embroidered wall hangings. But it was different and it added some character that differentiated Shida’s night market from all the other ones in Taipei City. The food vendors are diverse, but right now a lot of the shops seem to carry the same inexpensive accessories or clothing imported from South Korea (not that there is anything wrong with these things… it’s just that seeing so many of them gets monotonous).

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I hope all the businesses featured in these tiles continue to flourish. Some of them, including two jianbao (煎包, steamed buns) stands, are considered neighborhood landmarks and constantly featured on TV shows and in magazine articles.

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Change is a big part of living in Taipei City. Sometimes owners decide to switch the focus of their food stands or stores to something more lucrative; sometimes places just go out of business. It makes me a bit wistful; when you get used to seeing a store around or saying hi to a certain vendor every day, you hope they stick around. That’s what I like about these tiles — they are almost like a prayer for prosperity and stability.