1.Kaohsiung 高雄 (Taiwan Style, February 二月 2011)
I can't really say much about Kaohsiung County 高雄縣 as a whole. Most of my experiences in Kaohsiung are limited to Kaohsiung City 高雄市. We drive to Kaohsiung City every couple of months, so I know my way around that part of Taiwan, but I haven't spent much time exploring the rest of the County.
Kaohsiung City is the second largest city in Taiwan. It's a lot more spread out than Taipei 臺北, which is both good and bad. The good thing about being spread out is that the traffic in Kaohsiung is less intense than what you would encounter in Taipei, but the bad thing is that there really isn't much of an "urban culture" to be found there. Kaohsiung has all the stores that Taipei has, but lacks the more unique destinations that truly concentrated cities like Taipei produce.
For years, the area between Kaohsiung and Tainan 臺南 was known as the industrial center of southern Taiwan, if not of all Taiwan. In more recent times, much of this industry has been moved to China, and the factories visible from the freeway north of the city sit largely unused. Kaohsiung still has enough oil refineries to pollute the air, but tool makers and steel refiners in that area are facing heavy competition from the Mainland.
Kaohsiung can be fun for tourists, but it's nothing like Taipei. With the newly-completed MRT, it's a lot easier to get around Kaohsiung City, though catching a bus to places further afield can present a serious challenge. I think that the Lantern Festival 元宵節 put on in Kaohsiung is the best on the island, and surpasses even Taipei. There are also the usual run of department stores in Kaohsiung - FE 21 大遠百, Sogo 太平洋, and even Dream Mall 夢時代, which at one point was the largest department store in East Asia.
The zoo in Kaohsiung is to be avoided. There are, however, some surprisingly nice beaches. I would suggest visiting the harbor in Kaohsiung City. It's one of the busiest ports in Taiwan, and offers a good glimpse of Taiwan's international side.
I've been up the Southern Cross-Island Highway 南橫 in Kaohsiung, and I would have to say that it's not that great. There are some hot springs up there, and some good views, though neither of these are reason enough to fight weekend traffic.
I'll be in Kaohsiung this weekend for the Kaohsiung Marathon. I'm sure that I'll find a good restaurant while I'm there, visit a park or two, and generally enjoy the big city. If you are in the neighborhood, you might do the same.
2. 5 Cats, 4 people, and 0 dogs 5隻貓, 4個人, 0隻狗 (Taitung Style, February 二月 2011)
We now have 5 cats in our tiny, tiny apartment. This means that the number of cats in my apartment now exceeds the number of human beings. This is especially obvious when we feed them in our tiny, tiny kitchen. Now, instead of one or two cats, we have a SWARM of cats all over the kitchen floor, noisily demanding food. 我們現在養了五隻貓. 這表示我們現在貓的數量比我們家庭人數還多. 最明顯表現數差的時候是早餐時間. 我們的小廚房擠滿了一群貓, 充滿了牠們要食物的喵喵聲.
We brought three of our cats over from our old apartment. Then one of them ran away and (I'm not making this up) got eaten by dogs. After that we were down to two. Then we found two more at the pet hospital, so we were up to four. Then my wife brought another one back from the pet hospital, and we are now up to five. 我們搬家的時候帶來了三隻貓. 其中一隻從我們新家偷跑, 被外面的狗吃掉了. 我們再從寵物醫院領養兩隻回來, 變成四隻. 最後我太太又把一隻帶回來, 所以我們現在總共有五
So now we have 5 cats, and I spend evenings watching them knock over, scratch, urinate on, and in other ways destroy our earthly possessions. Yes, they are very cute cats, but three of them are kittens and they like to play - A LOT. 有五隻貓的家庭很熱鬧. 三隻還沒完全長大, 所以牠們很有精神. 雖然牠們破壞了我們家很多東西, 但是牠們真的很可愛.
Oh well. At least we managed to get rid of our dogs. One of our dogs ran away in the Forest Park some time ago, and we found a home for the other in Jin Feng. This, at least, is progress. 我們沒能留下以前養的那兩隻狗. 因為一隻在森林公園跑走了, 一隻送給金峰的一位小姐. 減少了我們照顧寵物的負擔.
At least I can say that instead of 8 pets we have 5. And that's something, right?"五隻寵物"比"八隻寵物"聽起來簡單多了, 不是嗎?
3.Pollution in Taiwan (Taiwan Style, February 二月 2011)
I'm not sure why, but a lot of people - especially people from overseas - ask me about pollution in Taiwan. It would seem that Taiwan gets a lot of bad press in this regard, and some of this bad press is undoubtedly justified.
The obvious question being: "Is Taiwan polluted?" The obvious answer being: "Yes."
But then again, so are America, Canada, China, and any other country I can think of. Taiwan is indeed polluted, but it is, in the mere fact of its pollution, unremarkable. The question is really one of degree, and when we ask this question - namely: "How polluted is Taiwan?" the answer is more complex.
If I were to compare Taiwan's pollution in one area - for example water quality - to my own country, the United States, Taiwan comes off looking polluted. Then again, were I to compare Taiwan's water quality to China, Taiwan comes off looking better. Taiwan is far from the dirtiest country I have been to, and anyone who doesn't believe me is invited to visit Shenzen or Bangkok.
Add to this the fact that Taiwan's pollution problems are not evenly distributed over the island, and the specific nature of these problems differ from area to area.
Kaohsiung has a very serious pollution problem to deal with, not only in the area of water quality, but also with regard to air quality, and the nature of chemicals either leeched from or spilled into its topsoil. This is in keeping with its history as an industrial center. The Kaohsiung City and County Governments are to be complimented on what progress they have made in cleaning up their environment. But even still, they have a long way to go.
Taitung, however, with both a smaller population and a sparse industrial base, faces a different dilemma. The biggest problem here is the use of fertilizers and pesticides. These fertilizers and pesticides are seeping into the ground water, and also getting washed out to sea. This problem is now so serious that Orchid Island's fisheries are being affected, and this is not even to speak of destructive practices currently employed by many local fishermen.
If you come to Taiwan looking for pristine wilderness, it can be found. Despite the rising population found on the western side of the island, much of the island's interior remains undeveloped and in many cases untouched. If you want to find dark, sludgy rivers, and piles of garbage, you will also find them here. Taiwan has any of the problems experienced by any country along a particular axis of development, namely the transitional stage between an economy based on manufacturing/agriculture and the more "service based" economy seen in most Western nations.
Still, I wouldn't despair over this. I have seen improvements, and I have faith in the Taiwanese people's ability to influence the quality of their lives and their environment. I definitely think that it will require further efforts in the spheres of both education and law enforcement to correct - or at least remediate - the harm done to the environment here, but I think it can be done.
And before you judge Taiwan too harshly on the score of being "dirty," you might reflect on the fact that many countries, such as the United States and Canada, are in a sense the cause of this pollution. Why do you think most everything in the West says "Made in China" now? It is not only because it can be produced more cheaply in countries such as Taiwan and China, but also because much of the pollution associated with this kind of manufacturing can be passed on to nations like Taiwan.
4. Running around Taiwan 慢跑臺灣 (Taitung Style, February 二月 2011)
Between February of this year, and February of last year, I ran in 7 races around Taiwan. These were, in order, the 2010 Kaohsiung Marathon (4.5K), The Ma Dzu Temple Road Race in Taichung (6K), the Green Island Marathon (5K), the Hue Lan Cup in Hualien (5K), the Taitung Marathon (5K), the Taipei Fu Bang Marathon (9K), and most recently the 2011 Kaohsiung Marathon (12K).從去年二月至今,我總共跑了七場:2010年高雄馬拉松(4.5公里),大甲媽祖健康跑(6公里),綠島馬拉松(5公里),花蓮的洄瀾盃(5公里),臺中馬拉松(5公里),臺北富邦馬拉松(9公里),和最近的高雄馬拉松(12公里).
I like running a lot. I find that it calms me down after a long day of work, and also helps me think. I know that a lot of people hate running, often for perfectly understandable reasons, but it is my preferred mode of exercise.我很喜歡跑步,它能讓我在一天的工作後放鬆,同時也幫助我思考.我知道很多人有許多理由不喜歡跑步,但它卻是我最喜歡的運動.
For foreigners, it can take a while to get used to running in Taiwan. Compared to Seattle - where I'm from - the climate in Taiwan is very humid, and the heat during the summer months can be formidable. Running in a different climate is hard at first, but you can adjust.對一些外國朋友來說,通常需要一點時間習慣在臺灣跑步,對我自己來說,臺灣的氣候比西雅圖潮濕,而且夏天的熱氣更是一項考驗,剛開始很難,但並非不可能.
I think participation in sports is a great way to learn more about Taiwan. My running has taken me to some very strange places, and these are often places that I would have no other reason to visit. The race at the Ma Dzu Temple in Taichung, for example, was one of the most interesting events I have ever attended.參與運動是一個認識臺灣的好方法,藉由跑步活動,我到過一些從來沒有理由拜訪的地方,例如臺中大甲的媽祖廟,那是一個有趣的經驗.
Alongside this fact, there is an interesting contrast between the popular, well-organized events in places like Kaohsiung and Taipei, and the less popular, badly organized races in places like Hualien or Taoyuan. Runners of any ability are not likely to place very high in big city events, simply because there are more people running, and more obstacles to keeping your pace. The more rural events, however, offer a chance to place higher, but are often very disorganized - or just plain unfair.熱門有組織的賽事和組織較鬆散的有一個有趣的現象,例如在較大型的慢跑賽中,跑者很難拿到好的成績,因為多人參與,反而沒有足夠的空間伸展身手,而小型的比賽,雖然得名機率高,但也因為他們的計畫不足而較容易有不公平的現象產生.
At the last race I attended, the Kaohsiung Marathon, I placed 80th out of more than 2000 participants in the 12K race. The highest I ever placed was 7th, at the Hue Lan Cup in Hualien, for the 5K. That race, I think, had about 200 or so people participating.最近的一場高雄馬拉松的12公里跑步,我在2000人當中拿到第80名,我最好的成績是花蓮洄瀾盃的5公里比賽,我在200人左右的比賽拿到第七.
I'm getting faster all the time, and if I keep it up, I can foresee a day when I might start placing in the top 3. This is not my main goal, however. For the most part I just enjoy running, and just running well is satisfying enough for me.我的速度越來越快了,如果我繼續練習,某天有可能拿到前三名,雖然拿名不是我的主要目的,但卻讓我享受跑步的樂趣和滿足.
Whether you are a world-class athlete or just a beginner, I would encourage you to get out there and take part in your local races. This is just as true for those living in Seattle as for those living in Taiwan. As said above, sports are a great way to explore the place you live.無論你是世界級選手或者是剛開始嘗試跑步,我建議你參加你社區當地的慢跑活動,因為它是一項認識自己的城市的好方法.
5. Sex in Taiwan (Taiwan Style, February 二月 2011)
Many Americans see their sexuality as a defining characteristic. They are always in a hurry to tell you whether they are straight, gay, bisexual, or something else, and just as eager to tell you what they consider "perverted," or "immoral," or just "wrong" - whatever that means.
This is perhaps because we Americans have, for the most part, inherited much of the Judeo-Christian outlook of our ancestors. This is not to say that we always agree with it. This is not to say that we don't find it confining. But just to say that it is an unavoidable part of our makeup, and removing all those Judeo-Christian scruples from most Americans would make them, in the end, unrecognizable as Americans.
People in Taiwan, for the most part, don't have that kind of biblical tradition to answer to. They don't have all of those "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt nots" rolling around in their consciousness. Of course there are Buddhist teachings that fill the same role, but this is only a case of parallel evolution - in which a bird's wing and a bat's wing serve the same purpose, yet function on an entirely different set of principles.
So even if people in Taiwan consider something "perverted," it's probably not for the same reasons that Americans think so. Incest, homosexuality, bestiality, and prostitution are all frowned upon in Taiwan, but not because they are making Jehovah angry. More likely, they are frowned upon because they are harming society as a whole, or one family in particular. Religious traditions enter into such attitudes, but they are not informed by the kind of American puritanism that brought many of my ancestors across the Atlantic to the New World.
One thing about sex in Taiwan: everybody's doing it. They just aren't talking about it. Americans will bore you with discussions of their sexuality, often because they think by doing so they are displaying a liberated attitude towards it. In Taiwan, people don't feel the need to tell you who they are sleeping with, or why, and in many cases their conquests are a strictly private matter.
A lot of guys in Taiwan cheat on their wives. A lot of other guys in Taiwan don't. Whether they do or they don't, they definitely don't get divorced as often as Americans, and that's saying something.
Some women in Taiwan cheat on their husbands, but my feeling is that this doesn't occur as often as with men. This may be because women in Taiwan don't have as much opportunity to do so. Or maybe it's just biology. I've had married women offer to be my mistress, but I've managed (just barely) to keep my dick in my pants for my entire married life. May the good Lord give me the strength to keep doing so.
Some guys and girls in Taiwan are gay or lesbian. Homosexuals in big cities can be very "out," but when they return home to the country they often pretend to relatives that they are still looking for a wife or husband. I think a lot of girls in high school probably experiment with lesbianism at some point, simply because many schools are single-sex and they have few other options.
Hetero guys in Taiwan prefer Japanese porn. This makes sense, because most Taiwanese men would prefer Japanese women. There are a lot of cultural similarities between Taiwan and Japan that also make this so.
All of the porn in Taiwan is censored, in that the naughty bits are blurred out in most videos. The women spend most of the films with this blurry thing entering their blurry place, and then the blurry thing shoots a load on their face. I've seen only one Taiwan-made pornographic film in my life, and it was in most respects just like the description above. The only difference was that part of the movie contained this bizarre subplot about someone's grandmother growing very ill. It was the most erection-killing subplot I've ever seen in any porno.
Sometimes foreign guys ask me how to get laid, or how to get a girlfriend in Taiwan. I honestly don't know why they have trouble. There are plenty of women and men in Taiwan for the taking - whether you are looking for sex, a relationship, or just a conversation. Guys who complain that Taiwanese women and men are "unfriendly" or "cold" probably have only themselves to blame.
It's not hard to find sex in Taiwan. In a country this densely populated, it might even come looking for you.
6. The 9-21 Earthquake (Taiwan Style, March 三月 2011)
The 9-21 Earthquake was one of the most devastating earthquakes in the history of Taiwan. It occurred during September 21, 1999, hence the name. Many people died during this earthquake, which caused the most damage in central Taiwan, and many more thousands were either rendered homeless or simply too frightened to return indoors.
I arrived in Taiwan about two weeks before this earthquake. I remember that it was either very late at night, or else very early in the morning, when one of my roommates barged into my room and started yelling, "Wake up! Wake up! We've got to get out of here!"
I grudgingly did as I was told, and later, standing in an open field in front of our apartment building, we got to watch a structure of considerable size bounce around like it was made of jello. I have never felt such awe at the power of nature - before or since.
Because of the earthquake, we also got a week or so off of work. This was good for several reasons. For one thing, I was new to Taiwan and new to teaching kindergarten, and the unexpected vacation allowed me some time to relax. For another thing, our building was without power for several days after the earthquake, and the respite allowed my friend and I to stay in Taipei while the business of life was reorganized in Taichung 台中, where we then lived.
I remember getting off of the bus in Taipei, and hearing about a bank vault that had broken open during the quake. Apparently there had been a rush on the contents of this vault, and the police in Taipei had shut down several intersections in an attempt to restore order. A lot of people were in shock after the earthquake, and some people were even talking as if it was the end of the world.
Staying in Taipei gave me a chance to call my parents. The earthquake was all over the world news, and they were very worried after they heard about it. I assured them that I was OK, and that life as usual (for Taiwan), would restart in a week or so.
Anyone interested in this event is encouraged to visit the museum they built in memorial. It is somewhere in Taichung or Nantou 南投, and I'm sure it can also be found in a guidebook. I myself have yet to go.
I think that it is a given that for every evil there is a subsequent good. This is just as true for 9/11 as it was for 9/21. Those of us who live on are sorry for those who died, and those of use who remained safe are sorry for those who suffered. Just the same, we have our lives to be thankful for, and our health to treasure. There is no shame in this, for it is in our nature to rebuild what has been cast down.
7. English Literature (II) 英文文學 (II) (Taitung Style, March 三月 2011)
A while back I offered a list of "good books" in English, mostly for the sake of those who wish to study the language and/or broaden their understanding of Western culture. The books discussed in that post were not necessarily my favorites, though all of them are certainly very good.之前我為想學英文或是想了解西方文化的人推薦了一些"好書".這些書不見得是我的最愛,但都是非常精彩的書.
This time I offer a list of my top five favorite books. Most of these books are famous in Western countries, most of them have been adapted into movies, and most of them continue to be studied and talked about today. I cannot say which of these books have been translated into Chinese, but for those who have the time they are well worth reading.這一次我分享的書是我喜愛的書籍中的前五名.它們在西方都是耳熟能詳的,有的甚至拍成電影或是課堂上的討論用書,我不確定它們當中有哪些有中文翻譯,只要你有時間,它們都是值得一讀的好書.
1. "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis "美國殺人狂"
This book details the exploits, or perhaps the hallucinations, of a serial killer. I believe it was banned in Germany. It was adapted into a very good movie starring Christian Bale, who went on to play Batman in both "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." The movie holds true to the spirit of the book, though the book is much more graphic.這本書詳細描述連續殺人狂的犯罪手法及內心幻想,它曾是德國的禁書,根據它所改編的電影是由主演蝙蝠俠的Christian Bale擔任殺人狂,真實地傳遞書中的人物精神,但是書中的描寫則是比電影的表現更血腥.
You might think me strange for saying this, but this book made me cry. The main character is so lonely, so unable to connect with others, and by the end of the book the horror of his loneliness far surpasses the horror of what he does to his "victims."這本書讓我忍不住流眼淚,你可能會覺得奇怪,書中的主角是那麼地孤單,無法與他人建立關係,等結局到來時,主角恐懼孤獨的心理反而比他對受害者所做的行為更恐怖.
2. "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville "白鯨記" 梅爾維爾著
I'm certain that most people in Taiwan are already familiar with this book. Moby Dick is the story of Captain Ahab, and his quest for the white whale. It is also a story about futility, about arrogance, and maybe even fate. The author, Herman Melville, is one of the truly great American writers, and this book, despite its difficulty, ought to be read by everyone.我相信大部分的臺灣人對這本書都不陌生,白鯨記是關於亞哈船長和白鯨的故事,包含了虛榮,傲慢甚至有點關於命運的主題,這位作者是位有名的美國作家,儘管內容困難,還是大家應讀的書籍之一.
3. "The Man in the High Castle" by Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick is very famous in the States, but not so well known outside America. Many of his books have been adapted into movies, the most famous examples being "Blade Runner" and "Minority Report." He was a master of writing paranoid, futuristic stories wherein it's hard to tell what's true from what's false.Philip K. Dick在美國非常有名,但在其他國家就不是了.很多他的書都拍成電影,最有名的是"銀翼殺手"和"關鍵報告",他擅長的主題是偏執的未來世界,難以辨別真假的世界.
I think the Man in the High Castle is his best book, though A Scanner Darkly comes very close. The Man in the High Castle outlines a future in which Germany and Japan emerged victorious after World War II, and the struggles of the everyday man in a "today" that differs quite markedly from our own.我認為"the Man in the High Castle"是他寫得最好的一本書,雖然"A Scanner Darkly"(心機掃瞄)一書也很棒."The Man in the High Castle"的故事背景是德國和日本在第二次世界大戰中勝出,與現實世界中的史實相反,完全顛覆了現今的固定思維.
4. "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien 魔戒三部曲-托爾金著
I think that the movie adaptations of these books were very bad. The first part of Peter Jackson's trilogy was fairly true to the source material, but the second and third films deviated very far from Tolkein's stories. The "love story" element, for example, introduced in the second film, was completely absent in the book.我覺得改編自這些書的電影很差,彼得傑克遜的三部曲第一部分跟原來的故事出入不大,只是第二和第三集就偏離了原著,例如第二集的那些愛情故事就不曾在原著出現過.
If you have the patience, the book versions of Lord of the Rings are classics. Never before - or since - has a fantasy world been rendered in such astonishing detail. These weren't just the works of a lifetime, they were also the works of a generation.如果你有耐心,魔戒三部曲的原著可以說是經典讀本,從來沒有任何一本書將虛幻世界描寫得鉅細匪遺,甚至是時間上的世代變化.
5. "Sister Carrie" by Theodore Dreiser"嘉麗妹妹" 德萊塞著
This book is the sole exception on this list, since it is neither popular, nor has it been adapted into a movie. Sister Carrie was written by Theodore Dreiser at the beginning of the 1900s, and it is the best example of "realism" in American fiction up to that point. In many ways, this book anticipated the work of later authors and trends in world fiction.這本是唯一冷門的書,它既不出名也沒被拍成電影,這是19世紀初德萊塞所寫,它是美國小說中"現實主義"的最佳代表,作者當時在書中所提出的某些想法,成為後來小說的寫作趨勢.
I doubt it's available in Chinese, but perhaps Taitung University might have a copy. It is a sad book, full of characters driven by contradictory impulses, and it is also one of my favorites.應該是找不到它的中文版,也許在台東大學可以找得到這本書,這是一本很灰色的書,裡面的主角充滿了矛盾,這是我喜歡這本書的原因.
8. Thoughts (I) (Taiwan Style, March 三月 2011)
Is anyone reading this? I feel like I'm speaking into a void. Blogger tells me I am getting quite a lot of "hits" here, but I don't know whether it is for this blog alone, or for all my blogs together.
I get a lot of emails and Facebook feedback about Taitung Style. This makes me happy. What I find slightly disconcerting is that I started writing that blog for the sake of my work, and didn't originally intend to write so much in Chinese. It's not that I dislike writing in Chinese, mind you, just that I feel that my "inner voice" is more clearly expressed in English.
Sadly for me, most of the people reading Taitung Style are only doing so in Chinese, and it is possible that this blog, and everything else I put out in English, isn't getting read. Then again, I am increasingly mindful of the fact that you can't choose your audience. Your audience, rather, chooses you.
I wonder how I might get more people reading this thing. This, unlike Taitung Style, was something that was truly meant for a wider audience. I realize that there are a million other blogs in the world, and a million more are created daily, but I really haven't seen more than one or two English-language blogs (about Taiwan) that were worth reading.
If you are reading this, perhaps you could give me some pointers. For instance, how would I go about making this blog more interesting to people in general, or specific groups in particular? How would I go about advertising it? What should go? What should stay? I would very much like for this blog to reach a larger audience - especially among other foreigners living in Taiwan, but I am presently at a loss as to how I might go about doing this.
Whatever I end up doing, here's wishing you a happy Thursday. The world is a big, big place, but it is getting smaller all the time. Take this as a greeting from a neighbor, even if I am across the ocean from you.
9. The First Hour, The First Day, and the First Month (Taiwan Style, March 三月 2011)
1. The First Hour
My first hour in Taiwan was spent in the Chiang Kai Shek International Airport. Where else? Back then all of the international flights went through CKS, and other airports were for domestic traffic. This was also the first time I had been across the International Date Line, so I was especially disoriented. Too bad I wasn't from here, because then I would have been REoriented (forgive the pun!).
I don't remember sleeping much during the 12-hour flight from Seattle to Taiwan. I was too excited. I somehow wandered through immigration, made it out to the arrival lobby, and found a Canadian guy I never met before who was somehow looking for me. He told me that we we going to work at the same school.
Later we stumbled into the owner of said school. He took us to his car, and I still have a very strong impression of how BRIGHT it was in Taiwan compared to Seattle. I also remember feeling very thankful that I had packed summer clothes. The owner packed us and our things into the back seat of his car, and we were off down the freeway.
I began to realize how exhausted I was, and I slept.
2. The First Day
I was so out of it that first day in Taiwan. It's all a blur. Jet lag was largely responsible for this, though the shock of being in Asia for the first time also played a part. Me and the Canadian guy from the airport were dropped off at an apartment in Taichung's Industrial Area. There was nothing in this apartment, just mats on the floor.
Somewhere between arriving and venturing out of the apartment, I slept for a long, long, long time. In moments of wakefulness I realized that there were three other guys sharing the apartment with me. We were all new to Taiwan, and we talked about how amazing the convenience store downstairs was, the heat, and what our work was going to be like. They were good guys, I recall, but I lost track of them very quickly.
During that first day, the most I did was walk down the street and stare into the windows of shops. There were far fewer 7-11s in Taiwan back then, and most of the shops looked very foreign to me.
My new roommates were much more adventurous than I was. They walked all the way from the Industrial Area, to the Taichung Train Station, and back. It would take you at least an hour to cover this same distance on a scooter without heavy traffic. I cannot imagine how long it would take you to walk it. Their stamina impresses me to this day.
3. The First Month
I spent more time worrying about my new job in Taiwan than I did actually doing it. At least during the first month. A couple weeks after my arrival, the 9-21 Earthquake devastated central Taiwan, and I got an unexpected vacation.
I was very worried about teaching small children before I came here. Up to that point I had only ever taught adults, and small children were a frightening mystery to me. I adjusted, of course, but it took some time. Anyone who wants to know how I felt during this time is invited to see the movie "Kindergarten Cop." Schwarzenegger's first day of class is pretty much what my first week at work was like.
But fortunately work was only the most stressful part of that month. There were also the friends I made, and the beautiful girls, happy to show me around Taichung on the backs of their scooters. I knew that between the weather, the food, the culture, and the job there would be a lot to adjust to, but I had no choice but to try.
And I really think it is this first month that makes or breaks you in Taiwan. For some of us, this first month is a fabulous experience, and cements a lifelong relationship with this island. For others, this first month is a nightmare, and the only way of waking from it is the next plane home.
I can only hope that for most foreigners this first month in Taiwan is a positive experience. It was definitely so with me, and for this reason I can look back at this time with a sense of satisfaction.
10. Taichung 台中 (Taiwan Style, March 三月 2011)
Taichung City 台中市 is the third largest city in Taiwan, behind Kaohsiung and Taipei. Taichung County 台中縣, as the name implies, is roughly in the center of Taiwan.
I lived in Taichung for four years, so as you might imagine I have a lot to say about it. I still have quite a few friends over there, and I visit as often as I can. My only trouble is that Taichung is now so far from where I live. I only have time to visit the place during either summer or winter vacation.
During my years in Taichung, my family and I always lived in or near the Industrial Area (工業區). My first apartment in Taiwan was in Taichung, not far from Taichunggang or Chung Gang (台中港) Road. I also lived for a time near the International Street (國際街) north of the city.
My only complaint about Taichung is that the public transportation there is horrible. If you are in Taichung, and you want to get anywhere that's NOT on Chung Gang Road, doing so without a car or a scooter is a major headache. It is much easier to get around most of Taipei 台北 or Kaohsiung 高雄 than it is to get around Taichung.
The weather in Taichung, however, is usually much nicer than in Taipei (too rainy) or Kaohsiung (too smoggy). Taichung City is also very modern, with all of the department stores, restaurants, and bars that can make city life interesting. At the same time, rural areas in Taichung County are never that far away. A detour up Wenshin (文心) Road in either direction will take you into some fairly rural places within an hour.
In terms of urban culture, Taichung is a little more advanced than Kaohsiung, if not quite as trendy or modern as Taipei. Kaohsiung City still has something of a seaport feel, while Taichung feels closer to the "high tech" side of Taiwan. This can also be a drawback, of course, but you have to weigh the traffic and crowds against the richness of nightlife in Taichung. There really is a lot to do there.
For foreigners looking for work in Taiwan, Taichung is a natural magnet. There are literally thousands of private English schools in Taichung City, ranging from the shady ones to the high-end "academies" that draw upon the bank accounts of wealthier Taiwanese parents. Educationally speaking, all of the competition in Taichung can be a good thing.
When my family lived in Taichung, we went to Tiger City 老虎城 a lot. Tiger City is one of the smaller department stores, easily accessible from the Industrial Area. They had a Sega World in the basement, and I have spent many, many hours with my daughters in that place. We also spent a lot of time at the Science Museum and the night markets.
Even still, I'm very happy where I am, and I know that if I miss Taichung too much I can always go back to visit. Taichung never changes that much, and it's only five hours away by the fastest train.
11. Development in Taitung 台東的發展 (Taitung Style, March 三月 2011)
My family and I recently attended a dinner given by a local association. I won't say what association, given that my views on local development might conflict with theirs. 我和我的家人最近參加一個臺東當地的運動協會的晚餐聚會. 我不想說是哪一個協會, 因為他們對"臺東發展"的看法跟我的有所出入.
As anyone who lives in Taiwan knows, the price of a free dinner is having to sit through at least one speech. Before we were allowed our allotment of food, several people got up to speak. All of these speakers talked about development in Taitung, and about how this development would benefit everyone else in the room. 台灣人應該都知道:天底下沒有免費的午餐. 這頓飯的代價就是開動前要聽些關於臺東發展的演說,每個拿到麥克風的人都對臺東的發展有一番見解, 也認為它將為台東人帶來利益.
In case you didn't know, the Taiwan Railway Administration is working very hard to improve train service to this part of Taiwan. Other public and private groups are also working to improve the roads into and out of Taitung, and it is now possible to fly directly from Taitung to Mainland China. 如果你還沒聽說這個消息:台鐵將致力於東臺灣到臺東的火車電氣化工程. 還有政府單位跟一些私人機構也努力促進改善臺東對外的交通,現在也可以從台東機場直飛到大陸去了.
Other recent developments have included 台東最近的發展也包括:
- The construction of housing along Jong Shing Road and in other areas. This reflects the local government's determination to "build up" Taitung, and to increase the number of people living in Taitung City. 中興路上多了許多新房子.這反映了地方政府為了提高台東市人口數,致力於土地的開發.
- The construction of a new road on the other side of the putting range/golf green near the Naruwan hotel. 多了一條新馬路在娜路彎飯店附近的高爾夫練習場後面.
- The resumption of construction on the Shan Yuan Hotel, despite local protests and environmental concerns. 之前遭環保團體抗議的杉原飯店又開始動工了, 忽略當地居民的抗議跟環境汙染問題.
- The construction of a new resort in Lu Ye, just past the entrance to Kao Tai. 鹿野高台多了一個度假村.
- The construction of a new "river park" along the Tai Ping River. 太平溪溪口蓋一座新公園.
- The construction of water filtration ponds near the mouth of the Tai Ping River. 多了一個生態自濾池在太平溪的溪口.
- Renovation of local roads, including the resurfacing of Chuan Guang Road. 馬路重鋪. 包括傳廣路跟南迴公路.
Local farmers, for instance, are going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to buying land - unless they already own a great deal of it. Those without a home are also going to be at a disadvantage, since the price of real estate is escalating quickly. This is because many wealthier residents are using the new housing developments as a place to invest their money. Not trusting their wealth to banks, many of these wealthier residents speculate in land and houses, of which they are usually the first buyers. This in turn drives up the cost of real estate. 比方說當地的農民, 如果不是本身已經有農地的話, 買農地就成為一項難事,對於想購屋的無殼蝸牛也是一大壓力, 因為有錢的人不再相信銀行,只好買地買房等待增值,台東不動產的價格越來越高的原因,應該和這個原因有很大關係.
I just hope that the city and county governments have a plan behind all this development. I hope they have some understanding of the need for "green spaces" within a city, and of the need to tackle the pollution problem in the area. Building more and more might help the economy in the short term, but massive building projects can also be used to mask other weaknesses in the local economy. 我只希望台東縣市政府有一個好的發展計畫. 我希望他們了解城市綠地跟環保的重要性. 蓋越來越多的建築物當然會在短時間內幫台東發展城市規模, 可是這種方式也可能掩藏了地方經濟的重要問題.
I, the local foreigner, don't have much of a say in all of this. I might go to dinners held by local associations, but I can only ever be a spectator in the political life of Taitung. I just hope the local decision-makers are making their decisions with the long term in mind, and with everybody's well-being at heart. 我,台東的外國人,沒辦法有意見. 我可以參加當地發展協會的晚餐, 可是沒辦法投票. 我只希望做決策的人考慮的是縣民長久的未來, 還有大家想過好生活的心情.
12. Teaching English II: The Wrath of the FET (Taiwan Style, 三月 March 2011)
Any school employing Foreign English Teachers has stories about the teachers that "didn't make it." You can learn a lot from these stories. They reveal a lot about people and their expectations, realistic or otherwise.
I have generally observed 5 types of Foreign English Teachers who "didn't make it." Maybe they quit, maybe they got fired, but from the school's perspective whether they were quit or they got fired makes little difference. From the school's perspective, the only thing that mattered was how much trouble the Foreign English Teacher did or did not cause.
With this in mind, please don't think I'm taking sides here. Lord knows I never have all my priorities in order, and there were times when I had to disappoint present or potential employers for the sake of personal circumstances. We all live in our own way, and for every teacher that "didn't make it" there is a story of how they "made it" somewhere else.
I should add that the number of types below is completely arbitrary. There may well be 50 types of teachers who "don't make it," or there may be 0, given that each situation and each individual are different. I just find the number 5 convenient to work with, and suitable for describing certain trends or types as I see them.
1. The Victim of Culture Shock.
This is the person that either cannot or will not adjust to Taiwan. They get homesick, and they leave. They decide they hate Taiwan, and they leave. The food here is too spicy, or too oily. Or the people are rude, and they refuse to speak English. Or the weather is too hot, or the traffic is too bad, or everyone stares at me and makes me self-conscious. Whatever the reason, these are usually the first people to skip out on their jobs. Naturally we have all felt these things at one time or another - and often about the place where we come from - but it is the ones who really internalize these feelings of alienation that disappear the fastest.
2. The Late Arrival.
This is the person that can never be on time. I have met several drug abusers who would also fall into this category. They are five minutes late on the first day, ten minutes late on the second day, and by the end of the first semester no one really knows whether they showed up at work that day or not. Often these kind of people are, paradoxically perhaps, very likeable, and the time it takes them to get fired is usually proportionate to how likeable and/or attractive they are.
3. The World Traveller.
This is the guy that just got back from hiking across the Silk Road, or the girl that travelled down the length of South America in a hot air balloon. Whatever the nature of their adventures, you can be sure that they will only be working at a school for as long as it takes them to save the money for their next plane ticket. I'm not trying to say that people who love travelling are inherently dishonest, but I have met a lot of guys who backpacked across Southeast Asia - only to disappear from work the following Sunday.
4. The Lecturer.
This person thought they were just coming to Taiwan to lecture, and that, when finished lecturing, they would be free to disappear into the dismal confines of whatever apartment they inhabited. They are usually sad, lonely people with few social skills, and they are like the Black Plague in any kindergarten classroom. As anyone who has taught for a while knows, teaching is more than mouthing a set of sentence patterns or vocabulary words. Sometimes you actually have to make it interesting.
5. The Perv.
This is the kind of person who watches porn on the work computer, or who makes lewd comments to staff members, or who touches kids. Of this type I have only met two, and that is during 11 years of being in Taiwan. I am happy that I have not met more of them.
13. Monkeys 猴子 (Taitung Style, March 三月 2011)
It's pretty easy to see monkeys in Taitung. It's so easy, in fact, that I no longer feel excited about seeing monkeys. If you are anywhere north of Tai Ma Li, and relatively close to the mountains, you will probably see them sooner or later. 很容易在台東看到猴子. 也因為很容易看到牠們, 所以我對看猴子沒什麼興趣. 對想看的人,你只要到靠近山區的地方都有機會看到牠們.
In Taitung, the most popular monkey-viewing area is just west of Dong He Town, on the road that leads to Tai Yuan. There is a bridge 5-10 minutes down the road, and it is always easy to find monkeys on or around this bridge. This is primarily because tourists regularly pass through the area and feed the monkeys, probably to the great annoyance of farmers in that area. 在台東,最有名的猴子景點在東河村, 開車從東河往泰源的路上十分鐘, 會來到一座橋. 觀光客常常在這裡餵食猴子, 這附近的果農應該對這行為很頭痛.
Monkeys also congregate near Jin Dzuen, on the cliff face above the beach. I have also seen plenty of them in Jer Ben, both inside and outside of the Forest Recreation Area. The ones I encounter in Jer Ben always seem more aggressive than the ones in Dong He, probably because their contact with humans is more limited. 金樽海灘的猴子也不少,知本森林遊樂區內及附近也有很多, 知本的猴子比東河的猴子兇. 可能是因為東河的猴子比較常看到人.
I don't know about you, but monkeys make me nervous. They have large teeth, move fast, and their behavior is hard to predict. Monkeys scare me more than any other animal, including snakes, killer bees, and sharks. I never feed them, and I usually go out of my way to avoid them. 我不知道你對猴子的觀感, 可是猴子讓我很緊張. 牠們的牙齒很大, 動作很快, 而且很難預料牠們的行動.我怕蛇,虎頭蜂和鯊魚的程度都沒怕猴子的程度高,我從不餵牠們,而且盡量避免接近牠們.
The only variety of monkey in Taiwan is the Formosan macaque, or rock-monkey. There is a picture of two below. They grow to between 36 and 45 cm tall, and they weigh between 5 and 12 kg. They are very social animals, and they like to plunder orchards around the county. Every time I ride out to Jer Ben on my bike, and happen to see one of them in a tree, a sense of dread almost overwhelms me. 臺灣猴類只有臺灣獼猴. 下面有祂們的照片. 祂們的身高是36-45 cm,體重5-12 kg,是重視社交的動物.牠們也很喜愛偷吃果園的水果. 我每一次騎腳踏車到知本,只要看到牠們在樹上的身影都覺得好恐怖!
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