Making my way to the Refuge was a long time coming. Distinctly, I remember a friend telling me of its infamy in the first month I arrived.
"Just ask any foreigner in Taichung. Everyone in the music scene here knows 'Boston Paul'. Everyone."
I knew this was a guy I needed to meet. But for this reason or that, it took 8 months before I bumped into the local legend. It was at the "International Food & Music Festival" - an excuse for foreigners to get together in a park, eat Burgers or German Sausages and listen to other foreigners on stage, sponsored by Taiwan Beer.
I was there for the food and music; Paul, because his band, Militant Hippie, played. Now, Militant Hippie happens to be the perfect description for Boston Paul. A former serviceman in the Armed Forces, Paul left his life of war in the States and became an expat to Taiwan. Now, he devotes himself to promoting world-change through Community.
At the Food Festival, Paul was sure we'd met before; I was sure we hadn't. That didn't keep us from talking like we had, though. Some friendships are just like that. After only a quick conversation, we promised to keep in touch, and he invited me to his home.
Just over a month later, I finally trekked my way to the Refuge. A Facebook invite beckoned me to LUVStock -- a full weekend music festival in celebration of the Refuge Community of musicians and artists. I knew I found the excuse I needed to make my first trip.
Over the span of two days, it's safe to say I fell in love with what I found. Totally unique to any where else I've ever experienced, the Refuge prides itself on being a safe haven for artists, musicians and thinkers.
It boasts a bar, library, graffiti/art wall, demo-recording studio, stage w/ full PA and a room full of instruments ready to be brought out for anyone to join in on whatever fun is being had.
As Paul explains, the Refuge acquired its name naturally. Home to him, his wife, and their 3 year old son, the Refuge was once just a place where he would invite friends and fellow musicians for an escape from the city smog to a slightly higher elevation in the hills just outside the city. Overtime, his house and its open-door policy began to take on its now familiar title. When the realized there was something organic birthing and taking life, the hosts began to create an intentional space as their vision of what their home could become grew.
Unintentional as the naming might be, it was no accident. Author of the (hopefully) soon-to-be released book, The Tao of Community: A Manifesto, Boston Paul has set his entire life around the pursuit of love and Truth in community.
Inside the communities of expats looking for a breath of fresh air, musicians looking to fiddle with other artists, and wandering Taiwanese hoping to meet a few foreigners, there's a nucleus group of like-minded people, willing to stare culture in the face and say "There's another way to live."
This was the glimmer I saw when I first met Paul back at the Food and Music Festival, and this is what drew me, like a magnet, to the Refuge.
I've met incredible people and had amazing conversations in my short few trips to the Refuge; people and conversations that have both challenged, inspired, and broadened the lens I use to see the world.
People like an incredible family from South Africa, whose young sons pick up percussion instruments and microphones to join their father in singing Beatles, Dylan, and Cash; who have adopted a little girl named Asia-Faith, and are fostering a Taiwanese infant awaiting departure to a loving family in the States.
Or the young married couple who met at the Refuge just a few short years ago: he, also hailing from South Africa; she, the East Coast of the US.
As she and I were once admiring the Taiwanese foster child (mentioned above) - engrossed in amazement over the infant's tiny, wiggling fingers and toes - she remarked,
"I couldn't imagine being a mother in Africa or in India somewhere and holding a baby like this and having to watch it starve. But that happens, every day. What are we doing about it? We can do something about it!"This is an international community that genuinely cares about the world and the people around them. They breathe compassion. They truly believe, as Boston Paul's mantra goes,
"Community will Change the World."...and I have to agree with them.
Whether or not Boston Paul and the others know it, they have taught me through simply living their lives. Though my time with "the Refuge Crew" is waning, I know I will take with me the treasured examples and memories of this true Community wherever life brings me to drift.
[Photo found on "The Refuge, Taichung, Taiwan" Facebook Group, Taken by Brendan Dempster - a much better photographer than I am.]