Wednesday, September 22, 2004

News from Taiwan: Nudity at Home

Students at a girl school in the Taiwanese city of Taichung received a shock recently when they looked out the window late in the evening. In the building opposite, a man was doing his fitness exercises all in the nude.
The problem touched on issues of privacy and on the tough anti-nudity laws in Taiwan. The man was practicing his exercises in the privacy of his own home, so outsiders can’t really take him to task. But the media here also explained that because the man made no attempt at hiding himself – standing in front of the window with the light shining on him, knowing quite well people in the building opposite could see him – he could still be prosecuted.
Being naked in a public place could get him a fine of up to 6,000 New Taiwan dollars, roughly 170 U.S. dollars. But as we said, he was in the privacy of his own home, so that law doesn’t apply in his case. Under the other law, however, a person who is naked in a private place but where there is a clear view from outside, because the doors or windows are open, or in a confined, clearly visible space such as a car, can receive a prison sentence of up to one year.
In the Taichung case, the school has advised its students “to close the curtains,” an unlikely solution, while also contacted the management committee in the 14-storey building where the man lives. The committee has said it will not reveal the man’s identity but will contact him.
That’s a warning for when I move to my new place and want to enjoy the sunshine or escape the oppressive heat by practicing naturism!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

After Valalta: Now It's Taiwan's Turn

Now that I’ve attended my first-ever naturist congress, and did my temporary duties as the Taiwan correspondent for the International Naturist Federation, my attention must turn to what I’ll be doing at the next congress, tentatively planned for August 2006 in the town of Estepona, in the far South of Spain.
I don’t want to sit there and listen, but I want to come up with concrete achievements. Instead of writing letters to the editor and printing news releases as I said in my previous post, a better way would be a more hands on approach: why not form a naturist group myself.
Before I left for Croatia, a Taiwanese friend suggested to me we should each set up a naturist club, he one for locals, me one for foreigners in Taiwan. I promised to get back to him after the Congress, so now is the time to do so. Mind you, by club, I don’t mean I’m buying a property to open as a resort with a lake or river, restaurant and bar, or even any other amenities. All I’m saying, is find a group of people willing to live naturism and organize smalltime activities for them, visits to hot springs or hot springs hotels – a popular weekend pastime in countries like Taiwan and Japan – excursions to remote nature spots like mountain lakes and desolate beaches, though that would need a car and bravery, considering that public nudity is illegal here. Another possibility, which has been done by local naturists I know, is to find a pub or restaurant that is willing to host a naturist dinner. I have no idea what kind of response a proposal for an international naturist group will have with foreigners here. There are thousands of us here, from countries all over the world, but how many are already familiar with naturism or have the time to try and indulge in it during their stay here, is another question.
Still, if I don’t try it, I won’t know. And it’s better to start something than to do nothing. If it works, at least I’ll have something to report about at the next INF congress.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Valalta: the International Naturist Federation Congress

As I said, I attended the Congress in Croatia as the organization’s correspondent in Taiwan, more as an observer – watching, listening and learning – than as a true participant. Having said that, the bulk of the Congress activities were devoted to “internal affairs,” such as voting on changing rules and regulations, and electing or re-electing leading officials. As a mere correspondent rather than the representative of a local federation, I didn’t hold the right to vote, so I just watched attentively and took notes.
The key issues at the Congress in a way bore little relevance to the situation in Asia at present. Naturist activities spoke of their worries about falling membership of naturist clubs. Since nudity on the beach is becoming more acceptable everywhere in the West, fewer people feel they should be paying membership fees to spend time nude at a special club or resort. There is also an age problem there, with older people remaining faithful to clubs, while young people are just not signing on. The changes were illustrated by the news that Monsena – a Croatian naturist resort just kilometers away from Valalta – was converting itself into an all-textile, non-naturist holiday center. All this concerns were different from our situation in Asia, where we have no official clubs and even less official naturist beaches or resorts.
As to the representatives at the Congress, most came from Western Europe, plus non-European Western nations, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The exceptions were a number of new Eastern and Central European nations, including host Croatia, and an enthusiastic delegation from Brazil. The final decision of the Congress was where to stage the next meeting, in August 2006: in Spain, which had lobbied hard for the right to stage most of the international naturist events scheduled for that year.
Even if the Congress disappointed me by staying dressed until the final group picture, and by hardly addressing any solutions to the problems of international naturism, I came away with one good resolution: to promote the cause of naturism in Asia. My original idea before the Congress had been to promote it in a journalistic sort of way. Writing letters to editors of newspapers each time issues of naturism and nudity made their appearance in the Asian press. Now, I have revised that intention. What I want to do, is more hands-on work. Set up a naturist group myself. The Taiwanese way, that means a small group of people who go out to hot springs or into remote nature once every few months. With winter arriving soon, maybe my timing is slightly off, but I’ve got the enthusiasm right now. The original suggestion comes from a Taiwanese naturist friend of mine, who is doing the same thing. Indeed, that is what naturism in Taiwan is all about: limited groups of people who trust each other enough to join in naturist activities in private quarters. For the details of my plans, and what I want to be able to write in my report for the next Congress of the International Naturist Federation, in Spain in 2006, come and read my next posting on this blog within a week from now.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Valalta: Naturism with Surprises

So I did it. I attended the 29th Congress of the International Naturist Federation, at the Valalta resort near the picturesque town of Rovinj, on Croatia’s Mediterranean coast.
The experience was not without its surprises, which I highlight in this edition of my blog.
Because of unexpected stormy weather – luckily an exception in August in the Mediterranean – I had to postpone my transfer from Rovinj to the Valalta resort from the morning to the afternoon of August 26, the day before the Congress.
By the time I arrived there on the regular bus from central Rovinj, the sky had cleared and it was beautiful sunshine. So what do you do as a naturist? Of course, you head for the beach. So I spent my first two full hours in Valalta at the beach, from 5 to 7 pm.
As I came off the beach, I noticed that lots of people were walking around dressed, a bit surprising for a naturist resort. Even though it was past seven o’clock, it was still light, and anything but cold. As I had only just arrived, I decided to wander around and check out the amenities. According to the map I had received at the reception, Valalta looked huge. Several beaches, a marina of its own, bungalows and tents, sports fields, a choice of restaurants, carparks, a hair dresser’s, a supermarket.
My first destination was the supermarket, somewhere between the main restaurant and the reception. On my way, I only noticed a tiny minority of naked people. Couples cycling their way back from the beach. The vast majority was dressed and dressed very well for dinner. When I reached the supermarket, I peeked inside to see how large and how crowded it was. Quite large, not crowded. But all customers – and staff, of course – were dressed. And then I saw the sign. Wearing clothes was compulsory inside. I began to have premonitions about the Congress. Since the supermarket was “textile only,” I would do what I would have to do a lot during the following days: return to my room to put my clothes on.
The next morning I followed the same routine: put my clothes on to go and have breakfast, return to my room to take my clothes off, head for the beach and spend some time enjoying the Mediterranean weather, return to my room to put my clothes on, and head for the main restaurant, the location for the Congress. And what I had suspected, was true: the Congress of the world’s largest naturist organization was to be attended by people with their clothes on!
But I wasn’t the only participant who found this contradictory. My colleagues at the Congress told me they had the same feeling. At the previous Congress in the United States two years ago, nudity had been compulsory, which had led to shivers at the air conditioning. For the next Congress, in Southern Spain’s Andalucia, the Spanish naturists assured us there would be no ban on nudity whatsoever.
In the end, I spent more time at Valalta dressed than naked. A truly surprising twist to my stay at a naturist resort. It was only at the end of the Congress that everyone undressed, outside, for a group picture in front of the restaurant. And I concluded my stay at the Congress with four hours on the beach. The perfect ending to an all-too-short naturist experience.