1. Thoughts 4 (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
Just got back from a few days on the west coast. The longer I live in Taitung 台東, the more difficult it is to imagine life on the other side of Taiwan. The traffic in Taichung 台中 was HORRIFYING.
It's hard to imagine living in a place with so many people, all wanting the same things and trying to squeeze into the same places. It would be so difficult to save money in Taichung. There would always be another cool restaurant to visit, or a new pub, or a department store. You'd always hear people talking about the newest hot spot, and it would be hard not to care. Before you knew it, you'd be fighting the crowd with the rest.
Saw a couple Taiwanese friends in Taichung on Sunday. They seemed very happy, and were talking about getting married next year. They took us to a pizza restaurant, and I had a great time. I just wonder about how they see the world. Always competing, always arguing, always fighting against the crowd. It would be a hard way to live - at least in the beginning. I used to thrive on that sense of competition. Maybe I am getting old now. Or maybe it's just Taitung.
But it's not that the west coast is all bad. Yunlin 雲林 was the same as ever, and I was grateful to see that there are still pockets of tranquility in even the noisiest city. I could see myself living somewhere like Douliou 斗六. It's big enough to be convenient, but not so big that the more countrified elements have been displaced.
One thing about the big city - women there are very forward. I was waiting to go to the bathroom in a pub, and this woman ran her hand over my stomach as she walked past. When I looked up she was looking right back into my eyes, and it was very difficult to look away. Being a good husband would be harder over there, I think.
I look forward to going back to the west coast, but I am always happy to come back east. The west coast definitely has its good points, but I'll take visiting the west coast over living there. I think this is one of the great advantages to living where I do: I can enjoy the best of both worlds.
2. Having Kids in Taiwan (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
Both of my daughters were born in Taiwan. My older daughter was born in Taichung 台中 in 2000, and my younger daughter was also born in Taichung, five years later. They both have US and Taiwan passports, and they have both lived in both countries.
There is nothing like seeing your first child come into the world. I know that movies wax sentimental over this kind of thing, but it's the truth. After you see your first child you will never be the same. It's not anything at all like getting married, or graduating from college, or other life-affirming events. It changes you in ways that you don't fully realize until much later. It is a devastating experience - but in a good way.
The birth of our first child happened quickly. My wife and I were fond of walking around Taichung at that time, and all of her walking helped my wife towards a speedy delivery. She was only in labor for a few hours, and then, thankfully, all the screaming and swearing came to an end.
I was in the delivery room when my older daughter came into the world. To see this little person - your child - come into the waking world is amazing. My older daughter didn't cry when she was born, and the doctor was very worried. I think she was just happy to finally get out of that womb, and to get on with the business of living.
The doctor who assisted with the delivery was very professional. I would assure anyone with qualms about medical care in Taiwan to rest easy. Doctors in Taiwan do a good job, almost without exception.
My younger daughter didn't arrive so easily. In this case the labor took much longer, and it was far more painful for my wife. They ended up giving her drugs to speed things along, and my wife was a long time recovering afterward.
Unlike her big sister, my younger daughter came into the world pissed off. During her first few months of life, we became famous throughout the neighborhood as "the parents of the baby who cried all the time." Yes, my younger daughter was exhausting.
Getting my daughters their US passports was no problem. It was far easier than getting my wife's green card later on. We got the Taiwanese birth certificate, applied for the US Certificate of Birth Abroad, and after that the passport was a snap. Getting their Taiwan passports was even easier.
After my daughters were born, people often asked me if I saw the world differently. I suppose I did, but this difference isn't something I could put into words. It was more a feeling at first. It took time for it to develop.
People also asked me if I planned to take our daughters back to America, in order to enjoy all things American. I am, at best, ambivalent about things American, so this has never been much of an issue for me. I am happy to be in Taiwan, and my daughters have enjoyed growing up here.
Come to think of it, I have too.
3. Green World 綠世界 (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
It's a bit of a cross between an amusement park and a zoo. There aren't any rides there, but there are performances involving birds and other animals. Green World goes to great lengths to put on a show. They are not far from the more famous Leo-Foo Village 六福村, so I suppose this makes sense.
The scenery around there is not bad, though far from spectacular. There are also many other attractions in the area, and the price of admission isn't shockingly high.
What I like most about Green World is that they have a lot of animals native to Taiwan, and actually seeing and interacting with these animals is much easier than it would be in the Taipei Zoo. They have several kinds of deer, and many native birds, but sadly no Formosan Black Bear. I can't remember if they had monkeys or not.
Anyway, if you are in Hsinchu it's worth a visit. Just follow the signs, and you'll be there before you know it.
4. Teaching English 6: Side by Side (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
A lot of people complain about Side by Side. They say it's boring. I would not argue this point. It is boring, but only if you study it all the time.
I've found that for students I only see once a week, this book works pretty well. The sentence patterns are used with enough frequency for students to get a firm grasp on the grammar used, and new vocabulary is introduced very slowly.
Of course, Side by Side is not perfect. The stories at the end of each chapter tend to be a little complicated, and some of the words included in these stories can be a bit strange. I've found that I usually need to simplify the stories by typing them again, and by inserting these typed stories into whatever pages I have co**ed from the book.
Not that I would ever copy pages from a textbook. That would be copyright infringement. And that would be wrong.
At the end of each chapter there are more complicated articles, relating to the subject of each chapter. These articles are usually WAY beyond the English level of whatever student I am teaching, so I tend to skip them.
I would recommend Side by Side if you have younger students that can read well. Kids that are very intimidated by a lot of text will be put off by this book. I've used it for years, and I have found that after completing the first Side by Side book, students can easily jump up to something like English Firsthand, which is much more interesting.
Side by Side might be boring, but I have found it very useful.
5. Comforting Food (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
I have nothing against vegetarian food, but the company that does vegetarian food for our school doesn't do it well. I am sure it will be weird, limp dumplings yet again, or else equally bizarre sandwiches that don't taste like anything. Whatever it is, it's not going to be good.
Just a moment ago, I was talking to a coworker about our trip to Washington D.C. next month. Our school is part of some global technology forum, hosted by Microsoft, and I am tagging along as an erstwhile translator. My coworkers are very nervous about this event. Since I have no real responsibility for the outcome of this forum, I'm not.
What this conversation did get me thinking about was the food back home, in the States. I've never been to Washington D.C., and I started to wonder what kind of restaurants I might visit while I'm there.
I'm hoping to at least eat one good burger while I'm Stateside. A good burger is crucial. There are no more good hamburger restaurants in Taitung 台東, where I live, and I am starving for a good hamburger. All we have in Taitung is McDonald's, and another, unspeakably bad restaurant called "Gary Bee '69." High school kids and college students love the new Gary Bee, but I don't.
I am also hoping to find some good fish and chips. I freaking love fish and chips. There are some restaurants in Taitung that make good fried fish, but as anyone who loves fish and chips knows, it's just not the same thing. Salmon and chips, I tell you. Salmon. And. Chips.
There's also pizza of course. But I can get pretty good pizza where I live. There's a good pizza restaurant on Shin Sheng Road 新生路 in town, and I also had a lot of awesome pizza in Taichung 台中 last weekend. I think I've had enough pizza for a while.
Indian food is another one. I've never had good Indian food in Taiwan. I'll be on the lookout for a good Indian restaurant.
However this forum thing goes, I'm sure I'll find at least one good meal somewhere. I'm sure D.C. has a few good brewpubs, and a beer and a burger sound mighty good to me. Anything is better that the food that the lunch lady just brought in. Oh Lord, looks like dumplings...
6. Halloween in Taitung 台東 (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
Halloween in Taitung is a non-event. In fact, it's even more of a non-event that in other parts of Taiwan. This would make it less of an event, but more of a non-event, eventually speaking. Or perhaps I should say non-eventually speaking, since I am describing a non-event (or not describing a non-event, since there is no event to describe), rather than describing an event or eventuality.
But I digress.
The only place to buy Halloween stuff in Taitung is San Shang Department Store 三商百貨(which isn't really a department store), Carrefour 家樂福, and RT Mart 大潤發. San Shang has the best costumes, Carrefour has the most costumes, and RT Mart has a lot of crap.
But even though there are three places to buy costumes, there is really only one place to go trick-or-treating. Not far from the airport is the Yang Ming Mountain Village 陽明山莊, which is a gated community housing most of Taitung's illuminati. Most of Taitung's professors live there, teachers and educational administrators from throughout the county call it home, and you can even find a few government officials at that address.
Every year they host a "Halloween party," wherein those with invitations can come and trick-or-treat on the premises. Those without invites to Yang Ming are probably out of luck. They'll be at home, watching scary movies, or else ensconced in the hellish Halloween shows that a few of the local English schools will undoubtedly put on.
Fortunately a lot of my coworkers live in Yang Ming, so I'll have no trouble getting inside. I just wish someone would sponsor another kind of Halloween activity, somewhere without gates. Halloween should be a day accessible to everyone.
7. The National Taiwan Aquarium 國立海洋生物博物館 (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
The National Taiwan Aquarium is in Pingtung County 屏東縣. It is located in the middle of Kenting National Park 墾丁國家公園, which is, in my opinion, one of the least interesting national parks in Taiwan. It is an easy place to miss, so make sure you check your map or bring your GPS along. I've been there many times already, and I still get lost.
It's a great place for kids or adults. Many of the exhibits are fascinating, and the "underwater journey" (i.e. the glass tube through the main part of the aquarium) is worth the price of admission.
Just inside the entrance there is a large pool with statues of whales. Kids love this place. On a hot day the water there feels wonderful, and if you are visiting in the summer, I would encourage you to bring a change of clothes along. Lying down in that pool only adds to the fun.
After the pool there is a large lobby, with various hallways leading off to different sections of the aquarium. Most people make a beeline for the "underwater journey," though there is another, rotating exhibit on the second floor, and also a section dedicated to Taiwan's marine life.
The gift shop in the aquarium is also worth a look. I've bought many gifts for people Stateside in this place, and my biggest "hits" in the gift-giving department have all originated in this gift shop.
My only complaint about the National Taiwan Aquarium is that it's hard to get to. Whether driving there from Taitung 台東 or somewhere on the west coast, it's never a convenient drive. Even driving there from Kaohsiung 高雄 is not fun, since it involves fighting your way through the continual traffic jam that makes Kenting's more famous spots so, um, delightful.
If you haven't been here already, you will find that it's money well-spent. It is definitely a world-class aquarium, and compares favorably to other aquariums in the US and Canada.
Am I an "avid cyclist?" I don't know. I go riding once a week - 40 KM or so - but if I ride more often than that, my wife starts to get jealous of my bicycle. I have also been in a few triathlons and bike races, and I seem to do OK.
Presently I am riding a Cannondale CAAD 10 for my Saturday excursions. This is a road bike that sells in Taiwan for NT 120,000, though I bought it in Seattle for half that price. It is comparable to a non-carbon Giant Advanced, which sells for about NT 60,000. I also own a Giant Sierra, which I ride to work in the morning.
The funny thing about my Cannondale is that it was made in the same factory as my Giant. Even though Cannondale is technically an American bike, all of the higher-end bikes in the world are made in the same factory in Chang Hua 彰化, Taiwan. From Fujis to Cervelo, all the world's best bikes are made - at least in part - in this same superfactory in central Taiwan.
If I was Taiwanese, I'd feel very proud of this fact. From being a producer of second-tier mountain bikes, Taiwan - in a few decades - has gone on to produce the best bikes in the world. I'm sure hardcore cyclists are going to point out those elusive Euro brands, and someone from the States might even point out a few brands still produced there, but the market for these brands is exceedingly small. The world's elite cyclists probably aren't riding them, and buying those brands (outside of the countries where they are made) would pose an extreme challenge.
I'm guessing here, but about 90% of the people in Taiwan ride either a Giant or a Merida. Merida, like Giant, is a Taiwanese company, but most of Merida's bikes are manufactured in Mainland China. They have a group of German bike designers working for them, but the bikes are primarily Chinese. Even the Shimano gear systems, once made in Japan, are largely produced in China now.
One thing that bicycles always bring home to me is how small the world is getting. No matter where you are, no matter what kind of bicycle you are riding, you are linked into the same supply chain. All of these bikes are produced in the same set of factories, all of them are put on the same boats, and they are all sold in the same stores. I am reminded of what a salesperson said to me last time I was in Seattle. "It doesn't matter what brand of bike you pick. They're all made in the same factory, and they're all made in China!"
He might have forgotten about Taiwan, but he had a point. As I go riding this Saturday, I'm sure I'll see the usual assortment of other riders, on other bikes, all made in the same places. Riding a bike 40 KM might make the world seem slightly smaller - at least this is the feeling I get from it - but the bikes we ride, and the choices we make, are making it smaller still.
My second daughter's birthday, and her great-grandmother's death, occurred within a few days of one another.
My second daughter was born in Taichung 台中, in the Veteran's Hospital near Tung Hai University 東海大學. I drove my wife to the hospital when her contractions began, had to leave her for a while and pick up my older daughter, and by the time I returned with my older daughter, things were well underway.
There was a lot of screaming after that, and I had to take my daughter outside to keep her calm. I would have liked to remain with my wife for what was a very difficult labor, but every time I looked back at my daughter, her eyes were getting very big, and she seemed on the verge of crying. Giving birth is a scary thing to witness, especially if you're five.
So I drifted in and out of the "waiting area," or whatever it is that hospitals call that room where women suffer collectively. Eventually they gave my wife drugs to speed things along, and she went into the delivery room to deliver our second child.
Not less than fifteen minutes after our second daughter arrived, I got a call. It was my wife's grandmother, and she was calling to see if everything was OK. I told her it was, and that she was a great-grandparent yet again.
I never got to know my wife's grandmother that well, but I always knew that I liked her, and that she approved of me. Language was always a barrier between us. My wife's grandmother only spoke Taiwanese and Japanese, and could only speak very haltingly in Mandarin. I saw her fairly often, but our conversations were brief.
Then, a few days after, she died. She had been in some hospital in Taoyuan 桃園, and her passing wasn't exactly a surprise. What surprised me was how two things - birth and death - could so nearly coincide. No sooner had my new daughter come into the world than another person, her great-grandmother, passed out of it. Life can be funny that way, but I suppose such coincidences are bound to happen.
I am sorry that my younger daughter never got the chance to meet her great-grandma. I'm sure they would have liked each other a great deal.
10. Dong Shan River Park 冬山河親水公園 (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
Dong Shan River Park is in Yilan City 宜蘭市, not far from the ocean. I visited the place for the first time last year.
It reminded me a lot of the (Deep) Forest Park 森林公園 in Taitung City 台東市, though it is a bit smaller, and also more heavily manicured. Unlike Taitung's Forest Park, there is an admission fee.
The great thing about Dong Shan River Park is the fountains. Just inside the entrance there is a huge area where you can play in the water, and this place is like heaven on a hot day. We didn't do much sporting in the water when we were there. It was January then, and too cold.
On the other side of the fountains there is a dock where you can board a ferry. The ferry passes from the park to the adjoining river, and along this river the ferry makes several stops. I don't know if people ever swim in this river, but it looked wonderful. I hope I can go back there next summer, and give it a try.
We took the ferry to another local attraction, the Taiwan Center for Traditional Arts 國立傳統藝術中心. This is an area dedicated to Taiwanese culture, with a lot of stores selling arts and crafts. I thought this place was fun, but you might not enjoy it so much if you aren't bringing kids. You can also see performances of Chinese Opera in this place, watch puppet shows, and eat a fairly good meal.
After visiting the Center for Traditional Arts, we took the boat back to Dong Shan River Park and began the long trek to our car. I had a really good time there, and I am eager to go back someday.
11. Chinese Invasion! 大陸客在台東 (Taitung Style, October 十月 2011)
I've heard that from next month, tourists from Mainland China will be able to fly directly from Nanjing to Taitung. This change marks yet another step in the government's program to open up Taiwan to Chinese tourism. And while it remains to be seen how this move will change Taitung, the major reason behind it should be obvious. Chinese tourists have a lot of money, and are eager to spend it in Taiwan. 我聽說下個月開始可以從中國大陸的南京直飛臺灣台東. 這個改變顯示台灣對中國大陸的旅遊市場更開放了. 大家都不知道這政策將會對台東造成什麼影響, 相信大家都知道推行這個政策的主要原因 : 大陸客很有錢.他們也很願意在台灣花錢.
I want to say, at the outset, that I only know one person from Mainland China. This would be an acquaintance from Hsinchu, who married a Taiwanese man in China, and has already lived in Taiwan for many years. She is a great person, and I think Taiwan is better for having her. 我認識的大陸人只有一個. 我們昰在新竹認識的. 她在大陸跟一個台灣人結婚. 目前為止也在台灣生活好多年,是個很好的人. 也為臺灣的經濟成長盡了很多力---努力工作.
I would also like to interview some Chinese tourists, and ask them what they think about Taitung, and Taiwan in general. However, any such interview would take up a lot of space, and will be reserved for a later date. I am extremely interested to know what Mainlanders think about the place where we live, but that is also an extremely complicated subject, and will not be discussed here. 我很想跟一些大陸客聊天, 問他們對台東或是對台灣的看法. 問題是這項討論的文章會太長, 所以改天再來討論這個部分. 我也想了解大陸人對台東的看法, 可是這主題太複雜了. 改天再說吧!
This said, I'm sure a lot of people are wondering how this increase in Chinese tourism is going to affect people in Taitung. My suspicion? Not so much. Aside from a few local businesses that cater to these tourists, most people in Taitung aren't seeing much of that money anyway. Most Chinese tourists visit the same restaurants, the same hotels, the same coral dealerships, and the same parks - all in the same set of buses. Local businesses that serve Chinese tourists are guarding that trade jealously, for perfectly understandable reasons. 我相信很多台東人開始思考這項政策將對台東造成什麼影響. 我的意見? 應該不會改變很多. 除了一部分的商人之外, 大多數的台東居民大概賺不到大陸客什麼錢. 那些旅行團都是去一些固定的餐廳, 固定的旅館, 固定的珊瑚店, 固定的公園, 坐固定的遊覽車. 平常店家應該很難沾到邊.
Still, there are exceptions. Occasionally people from China visit my school, as part of educational exchanges between Taiwan and Mainland China. I haven't yet had the chance to talk with any of these visitors, since I am either busy with work or they are in a tremendous hurry. I have also run into Mainlanders on the train to Taipei. Sometimes I even see them at the Family Mart near my house. They seem nice enough, though they have a tendency to speak VERY LOUDLY. 可是還有些例外. 有幾次大陸的教師來我學校交流參觀. 我沒有機會跟這些大陸教師講話, 因為他們來的時候我在上課,或是他們趕時間要離開. 我也在往台北的火車上碰到大陸客. 偶爾我家附近的全家便利商店也有他們的蹤影. 他們通常都看起來很熱心, 而且說話聲很大.
Time will tell if we see an increase in individual Chinese tourism in Taitung. I kind of hope we do. It is, after all, exchanges between individuals that are most rewarding. Tour groups offer little besides money, and do little to advance one culture's understanding of another. Taiwanese people might think about this themselves, since group tourism is such a popular way to see China. You miss a lot when you travel with a group, and the travel experience tends to be a lot more artificial. 可能以後個人旅遊的大陸客會比較多. 這樣也好, 因為個人旅遊的交流比較有意思.旅行團主要的目的是金錢交流, 而不是增進兩國的文化了解. 很多台灣人應該也注意到了, 因為很多台灣人都是跟旅行團去大陸. 而跟團旅遊所得到的異國文化刺激是有限的.
There are also environmental questions to consider. For example, will an increase in Chinese tourism also increase the demand for local coral? Will more Chinese tourists accelerate the development in Shan Yuan and other areas? And when does saying "no" to certain financial opportunities serve our future interest? 也有環保的問題需要關心. 比方說, 想買珊瑚的大陸客也更多嗎? 更多的大陸客真的會讓台東的發展更好嗎? 台東的居民什麼時候該為了永續的綠色家園跟經濟發展的機會說"不"?
One thing is certain. The Chinese are going to be bringing a lot of money over here, and with that money will come changes. I, for one, hope that the debate about Chinese tourism amounts to more than a discussion of how much money everyone can make. There are bigger issues at stake, and many of them are very critical to our well-being. 只有一件事是確定的. 大陸客會帶他們的錢過來, 隨之而來的也將會有一些環境的改變. 我只希望大家想的不只是賺錢的機會而已. 還有很多更重要的事情需要我們共同深思.
12. Betel Nut: Good and Bad (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
I read a lot about betel nut when I was assembling the pictures for that "Betel Nut 檳榔 Girls 2" post. Despite my best intentions, however, I found it difficult to seriously discuss this issue in the context of semi-nude women.
So instead, I might as well begin that discussion here. Anyone looking for further information is welcome to consult Wikipedia's article on betel nut. That article, and the references provided by it, were where I got most of my information.
Which is not to say I've plagiarized that entire article for my own aggrandizement. I've lived in Taiwan for twelve years now, I know people that sell it, and I know people that chew it. I also know people that regard it as an absolute evil, and an emblem of all that is backward and undeveloped about Taiwan.
What follows are some pros and cons with regard to betel nut.
- Betel nut provides economic opportunities for many in rural areas.
- For those who enjoy it, it tastes good and helps them relax.
- Betel nut encourages young women to stand in glass booths, and to parade around in a variety of sexy outfits.
- Betel nut allows many people in Taiwan a chance to reaffirm their cultural roots, and to strengthen social ties. This is particularly true among members of aboriginal tribes, who have a long history of chewing betel nut.
- Betel nut trees are cute.
- Mouth cancer.
- Many people find it disgusting, and for this reason chewers of betel nut may face some forms of discrimination.
- It is an addictive behavior, and for some has narcotic properties.
- Many people spit their chewed betel nut onto public roads, and this is a serious sanitation concern in some areas.
- Betel nut trees have very shallow roots, and this can be a cause of erosion where they are cultivated.
That's all I could come up with for now. I hope anyone with additional pros and/or cons will let me know, so I can add them to the above lists. Betel nut is a very public concern for those living in Taiwan, and I only wish it was more widely understood.
13. A Misunderstanding (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
When I was teaching kindergarten in Taichung, all of the foreign teachers had a Chinese co-teacher. Their job was to deal with "bathroom issues," other issues of general hygiene, and communications between the school and parents. Most of my co-teachers in that kindergarten were great, with one exception.
This particular co-teacher, who I will call "Connie," did everything she could to sabotage me. She invented reasons for what I did that had no parallel in reality. She did her best to instill bad manners and bad study habits within my students. No matter what the perceived offense, she went out of her way to make the parents think that it was all my fault. By the end of the first semester, I was doing everything I could just to keep her out of my classroom.
One day Connie looked up at me, with her unintelligent, cow-like eyes, and told me that I would never understand Taiwan, or Taiwanese people. I asked her, carefully keeping my temper, how I might remedy this situation. All she could do was shake her head and say, "There's nothing you can do."
I have thought about that encounter often. Sometimes I wonder if Connie, for all her surprising ignorance, was somehow right. The cultural divide is not so easily crossed, and there might be something in what she said.
But I don't know, and in the absence of knowing all I can do is try. I may not be from Taiwan, I may not have grown up here, but I have lived here a long time. That means something, doesn't it? That matters, right?
I certainly hope so. All I know is that communication is worth striving for. People are put into this world for the sake of other people, and in this context communication is essential. It might be the most important thing there is.
So if I can't understand Taiwan, then that means that Taiwanese people can't understand me. And if the Americans and Taiwanese can't understand one another, what about the Chinese and the Taiwanese? Or the Canadians and the Americans? Or the people from the eastern U.S. and the people from the western U.S.? In the end we have to hope that communication is possible, and that we can surmount the barriers set up by our local or national identities.
Maybe foreigners like me will never understand Taiwanese people. But we are going to try.
14. Intro 3 (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
All questions taken from the Longman English textbook, Volume 8.
1. How's the weather today?
It is cloudy today, but it will probably clear up by afternoon. I am hoping that it will be sunny this weekend.
2. What do you do on Sunday?
On Sunday morning I go swimming in the Flowing Lake 活水湖. After this I go home and take a shower. Then I usually have breakfast. After breakfast we take our daughter to her choir practice, and my wife, my younger daughter, and myself will usually go out somewhere. On Sunday we usually have lunch out.
3. What does your daughter do on Monday?
Which one? They are both students in the elementary school where I work. My younger daughter has class from 7:50 to 12:30 or so, and my older daughter has class from 7:50 to 4:00. My older daughter has drawing class in the evening, and my younger daughter has ballet class at the same time.
4. What are you wearing today?
That is a very sexy question. I am wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I am also wearing a watch, a ring, and a pair of sandals.
5. Whose key is this?
I have no idea. Can you stop pointing that thing at me?
6. On Chinese New Year, we get money in red envelopes and say, "Gong si, Gong si."
This is not a question, but thank you for the information.
15. McDonald's in Taiwan (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
McDonald's in Taiwan is pretty much the same as McDonald's in other countries. There are regional variations, but the entire selling point behind McDonald's is that it's the same food, in the same restaurant, served in the same fashion.
The McDonald's in Taiwan offers milk tea, corn soup, and burgers on a rice bun. Aside from these "local specialties," the rest of their menu is identical to what you'd find in the States. The Big Mac, the supersize coke and fries, the happy meal, it's all there. The toys in Taiwan are different, and less tied in with whatever Hollywood blockbuster is on offer that week.
There are McDonald's all over Taiwan. Every city has one. Taitung 台東, where I live, has two.
McDonald's is hugely popular over here, with adults as well as kids. Kids love the happy meals and play areas, and adults seek the air-conditioned refuge that is McDonald's when they want to study or chat with friends. McDonald's has an enormously successful marketing campaign, and their commercials can be seen on TV all the time.
I myself am not a big fan of McDonald's. I never liked their food much, but I liked it even less after I read a book called "Food Inc.," which is also available as a film. After I read that book, I lost much of my enthusiasm for processed food.
Not that I don't get dragged to the local McDonald's now and then. I have two daughters in elementary school, and they are as susceptible to McDonald's charms as any other kids. We visit the place every two months or so, and I try not to think about what I'm eating while I'm there.
Ba Gua Mountain is in Chang Hua County 彰化縣, central Taiwan. Depending on where you live in Taichung 台中, it's anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour away.
I wish I could ride my bicycle up Ba Gua Mountain, but unfortunately I live on the other side of Taiwan. I think it would be very nice to ride up there in the early morning, especially after a nice, long rain, and admire the view. It wouldn't be crowded then, and the only other people there would be the older folks doing their morning exercises.
The road from the main gate to the top of the "mountain" isn't steep. I use "mountain" in quotation marks because it's really more of a hill. Chang Hua doesn't have any mountains. You could easily walk from the main gate to the top, and provided that it wasn't too hot you would probably enjoy doing so.
At the top of the hill there is a great big Buddha statue. There are stairs inside the Buddha, and you can look out from his head at the view. There is also a large temple complex around this Buddha, and the temple precincts are worth exploring.
Behind the temple there is a food market. None of the food there is good, but I end up buying it anyway, every time I'm there. I just wish people wouldn't throw their garbage everywhere after visiting the market. Yes, others will come along and pick it up, but that's no excuse.
If you live outside of Chang Hua or Taichung counties, I wouldn't go visit Ba Gua Mountain on its own merits. It's not impressive enough to be worth the drive. If you are in the area, however, it is a nice place to spent a morning or late afternoon.
17. Code Breaker! (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
Using the secret code below, find the secret message!
Did you break the code? Great job!
18. Sports In Taiwan (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2011)
What kind of sports do people in Taiwan like? The same sports as people in other places. There's not a huge following for Cricket, Ice Hockey, or American Football here, but just about everything else is covered.
As far as team sports go, I think baseball has a bigger following than any other sport. There are many professional teams on the west coast, and there are also youth leagues in other areas. Baseball has a huge following in Taitung 台東, primarily because a team from Hong Ye 紅葉 once went all the way to the youth baseball world series.
Many kids here also love basketball, but this love of basketball tends to revolve around informal neighborhood games, and dreams of NBA glory. People in Taiwan go crazy for the World Cup when it comes around, but there isn't much soccer playing done in Taiwan. Pro-wrestling, if you consider that a sport, has a big audience among teenage boys.
As for sports that people actually play, aside from baseball there's table tennis and badminton. Table tennis and badminton are as popular in Taiwan as in other Asian countries, and many Taiwanese people excel at these two sports. Pool is also popular.
Hiking is very popular in Taiwan, and there are many mountain-climbing clubs all over the island. Surfing is big for those with the time and money to get into it, and many of the "Johnny Walker" set on the west coast are into golf. My wife's father-in-law used to sell both whiskey and golf equipment to many of the ranges around southern Taiwan, so I know more than I want to know about the Taiwanese golf scene.
A few years ago the bicycle market exploded in Taiwan, and there are a lot of clubs and activities for cyclists. There is a "Tour de Taiwan" around the island, as well as many smaller events. A lot of people come to the east coast just to ride a bike and enjoy the scenery.
Running is very popular in Taiwan, and there are marathons and smaller races all over the island. Every county has something for runners. Taipei 台北 and Kaohsiung 高雄 have the biggest marathons, and the most popular marathon on the east coast is probably the one through Taroko Gorge 太魯閣 in Hualien 花蓮.
As said elsewhere, triathlons are about as big here as they are in Western countries. Most of the really famous triathlons are on the east coast.
Aside from the above, there are countless other physical activities you can engage in, ranging from endurance swims across Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 to "family fun rides" through major cities. You would think that the hot weather would be an obstacle, but it doesn't seem to deter people from breaking a sweat!
This weekend is Halloween, and I hope you have a happy one. Next week I'll be attending the 2011 Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Education Forum. This event will be held in Washington D.C., and I'll be spending five days Stateside with two of my Taiwanese coworkers.
With all the transiting back and forth, this means that I'll be away from Taiwan for about a week. I won't be there long enough to miss Taiwan, but I'm sure that it will be somewhere in my thoughts, most of the time.
Thanks to those who've read this blog. My best wishes to you and yours. "See" you in two weeks!
All of the questions below were taken from the "Hello Darbie" Level 5 textbook, and should in no way, shape, or form be construed as anything other than incipient schizophrenia.
1. Are you done?
No, I've just started. What's your problem, anyway?
2. Thank you.
You're welcome. Have a great day.
3. What day is today?
Today is Monday. This would be the day after Sunday, and also the day before Tuesday. If Thursday is "Thor's Day," then what is Monday? I could probably look up the answer on Wikipedia, but I don't feel like it right now.
4. Is today Saturday?
I have already answered that question. I really wish I could pay attention to myself.
5. Who's talking?
Right now no one is talking. My wife has taken our younger daughter to ballet class, and my older daughter has gone by herself to drawing class. Thus I am left to my own devices.
6. What do you do in the afternoon?
If I have classes, I go and teach those classes. If I have papers to correct, I go and correct those papers. If I have nothing else to do, I devise uses for my devices.
7. What are these?
To quote Captain Beefheart, "You might think these are the finest pearls/but they're only cardboard balls/Seamed in glue."
21. The 2011 Taitung Lohas Marathon 台東樂活馬拉松 (Taitung Style, October 十月 2011)
On November 27, Taitung hosts the 2011 Lohas Marathon. This event, like the Taitung Marathon, will be held in Taitung's Forest Park. I am already signed up for the 10K race, and one of my coworkers (also a good friend) is signed up for the 5K. 台東將在十一月二十七日舉辦樂活馬拉松賽. 這次的比賽跟台東國際馬拉松一樣在台東的森林公園舉行. 我已經報名十公里的比賽. 其中一位同事也報名了五公里的比賽.
My only problem with this event is that there are too many other events in the same place. The Flowing Lake Triathlon, The Beautiful Taitung Triathlon, the "Super Ironman" Triathlon, and this marathon are all held in almost exactly the same location. This means that I always end up running down the same road, towards the same finish line, among many of the same people. 我對這個比賽的唯一意見是: 太多比賽都在同一個地方舉行了. 例如: 活水湖鐵人賽, 台東之美鐵人賽, 超級鐵人賽, 和這一次的馬拉松都在同一個地點舉辦. 參賽者很多都是同一群人從同一條路跑到同一個終點.
I really wish they would hold this marathon in another place. There are, after all, many places in Taitung that would be equally suitable. 我真希望除了森林公園之外, 他們可以在別的地點舉辦馬拉松. 畢竟台東還有很多適合的地點!
If I was the head of a local athletic association, I'd probably be looking to hold an athletic event in Guanshan. This would be an easier place to get to, and both the terrain and natural scenery recommend it as the site of a triathlon, bicycling, or running event. Chr Shang would also be a good location. Triathletes could swim across Da Po Lake, and then bicycle north into Hualien. It would be a very beautiful setting. 如果我是運動協會會員的話, 我會在關山舉辦運動比賽. 那裡的交通方便, 風景跟地形也很適合鐵人, 自行車, 還有路跑比賽. 池上也會是個舉行比賽的好地方. 參加鐵人賽者可以在大坡池游泳, 再騎自行車到花蓮. 那會是個很漂亮的路線.
There are really too many events held in Taitung's Forest Park. Yes, it's a convenient location, and yes, it's pretty, but I can't be the only one who's tired of running down the same road, or swimming across the same lake, or bicycling up the same stretch of Highway 11. Many other parts of Taitung County are equally beautiful, and it's a shame people always pick the Forest Park just because it's the easiest place to get to. 在台東森林公園舉辦的運動比賽真的太多. 雖然那是一個方便的地點, 附近的風景也很漂亮, 可是我應該不是唯一不想在同一條路上跑步或是騎車, 或是在同一個湖游泳的人吧? 臺東縣還有很多漂亮的地點, 每一次都選森林公園真是有點可惜.
And here's a final complaint: I hate running down long, straight roads that don't seem to go anywhere. I like a lot of turns in my races, because they are more interesting. That long road next to the Forest Park makes for a boring and frustrating run, and after 5K it almost feels like you're not moving at all. Running up or down Highway 11 would doubtless be more interesting, even though traffic control would present difficulties. 最後一點想說的是: 我最不喜歡在筆直的路上跑步.那讓我感到自己在原地踏步 在彎路上跑步就比較有意思. 森林公園旁的那條路就讓我討厭而且感到無聊, 跑五公里過後就不覺得自己在移動. 跑台11線應該比較有意思, 只是交通管制應該是個難點.
Anyway, here's wishing you luck if you are joining this race. And here's hoping it doesn't rain that day! 總之,祝參賽者都有好的成績. 也希望那一天不會下雨!
22. The Flash and I (Taiwan Style, November 十一月 2011)
When I was little I idolized The Flash. I lacked any other role models. Compared to the Scarlet Speedster, the usual array of sports heroes and rock stars were just boring.
Back then I had all the action figures, I had a Flash T-shirt, and of course I worshiped the comics. I knew who Cary Bates and Carmine Infantino were before I could name the reigning US President, and at 7 years old I probably regarded the Mirror Master as more worrisome than vague threats of communism and nuclear war.
I can remember spending a lot of time running around, battling unseen foes at super speeds, and keeping the city safe from crime. Of course, as I grew older I realized that I wasn't the Flash, and that there was little that I could personally do about either the Mirror Master or the Soviets, but this was a gradual process, unfolding over several years.
This was at the end of The Flash's second run through the world of comic books, an era that many look upon with great nostalgia. Barry Allen, the second man to call himself The Flash, strove against evil each month as part of the Justice League of America, and also individually within the pages of his own comic book. He was easily the most powerful of the Flashes, and arguably the strongest superhero ever, able to run at faster-than-light speeds, and to vibrate his molecules through solid objects. Given these abilities, and given also the fact that he had no real weaknesses, even my 5, 6, 7, and 8-year-old mind had trouble imagining that most of his foes would cause him that much trouble.
But then, out of the blue, came the moment when The Flash turned bad. Or at least the other superheroes thought so. In order to save his fiancee, The Flash actually killed his greatest nemesis, the Reverse-Flash, in a battle that raged across the globe. This was the first time I had ever "witnessed" a DC superhero killing anybody, and the discovery threw my world into turmoil. Before I knew it, The Flash was getting kicked out of the Justice League, and he was losing friends left and right.
What could this mean, I wondered? Was The Flash really bad? Were there times when doing the right thing could make you seem like a bad guy? Were there times when doing the right thing meant forsaking others' approval?
You can imagine my consternation. This was my introduction to the concept of moral ambiguity. I took a lot away from that crisis in The Flash's life, and some of the lessons I learned I will never forget. It might sound silly, but it's true.
Later on, DC killed off Barry Allen in the company-wide "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event. I suppose his killing of the Reverse-Flash was their way of leading up to that. In my heart, I could never quite forgive DC for killing off my idol, and it was only a year or two later that I stopped collecting comic books. Maybe it was also because I was getting too old, but the loss of Barry Allen certainly accelerated my growing sense of disinterest.
A lot of people deride comic books, saying they have no educational value, and that kids would be better off studying accounting and other "useful" subjects. I could not disagree with them more. Comic books not only gave me an idol, but they also taught me a lot. They didn't just teach me about truth, justice, and the American way, but also what it means to do the right thing, even if doing the right thing means looking like the bad guy.
23. Our Trip to Washington D.C. 我們的戶外教學 (Taitung Style, November 十一月 2011)
Myself and two other teachers from my school attended the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Education Forum from November 7 to November 11, 2011. One of these teachers wrote a lesson about plants, the other teacher added technological elements, and I translated the lesson from Chinese into English. As a result of his efforts, the teacher who wrote this lesson was invited by Microsoft to attend the Forum. One thing led to another, and all three of us ended up going. 我和兩位同事參加了從11月7日到11月11日由微軟公司所舉辦的全球教育論壇. 其中一位同事負責寫關於校園植物的教案, 另一位同事負責電腦技術, 而我的工作則是把課程翻譯成英文. 因為教案獲得肯定,所以那位同事受微軟公司邀請去參加論壇. 也讓我和另一位同事能跟著成行.
2. What is the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Education Forum? 微軟全球夥伴教育論壇是什麼?
The MPiLGEF is a big conference about education. It takes place every year in a different country. This year it was in Washington D.C. Last year it was in South Africa. Next year it will be in Greece. 這個MPiLGEF是一個關於教育的大型會議. 每年在不同國家舉辦. 今年的舉辦地點是美國華聖頓D.C. 去年在南非. 而明年將在希臘舉行.
Part of the Forum is the exhibition of each school's winning unit plan or project. Another part is speeches. A third part is educational workshops. There are also opening and closing ceremonies. All in all, it takes about four days. 會議包含各個參展學校的課程展覽會,演講和與教育有關的講習. 另外也有第一天的開幕和最後一天的晚會. 整個會議總共佔了四天的時間.
Teachers throughout the world compete to get selected for this Forum, and those who end up going to the Forum also compete against one another for recognition in one of several educational categories. My school was one of three schools in Taiwan to be selected for the Forum, and only one of these schools (a school in Jia-Yi) was selected for recognition in Washington D.C. 全球的教師先在自己國家參加比賽取得參加論壇的機會, 而參加論壇的教師也在同一時間互相競爭, 角逐各項教育領域的冠軍.全台灣只有三所學校被選出,其中一所學校(在嘉義)獲得獎項.
3. How Long Were We There? 我們在那邊多久?
We left Taitung on November 6. From here we flew to Taipei, where we spent the night. On November 7 we flew to Washington D.C., and on November 12 we began the long, long journey back. Including a three hour layover in Japan, the trip takes about 20 hours. Accounting for time zones and flight times, we were gone for about six days. 我們11月6日從台東機場出發, 在台北過了一夜. 11月7日從桃園機場飛往美國華聖頓D.C., 最後在11月12日開始我們冗長的回家的路. 包括在日本轉機的時間, 差不多要20個小時. 將會議的時間和交通的時間一起算, 我們整個行程差不多花了6天.
4. The Best Parts of the Forum? 論壇中最棒的部分?
The exhibition of our project was fun. I got to meet a lot of teachers from all over the world, and I learned a lot from them. One of the lunches Microsoft provided was excellent, and the Closing Ceremony at the end was quite interesting. I had never been to this kind of conference before, and I found it to be an eye-opening experience. 我覺得那展覽會很好玩. 我有機會跟許多不同國家的教師聊天. 微軟公司提供的午餐中的其中一次很棒, 最後一天的晚會也很有趣. 我以前沒參加過這種會議, 所以我覺得這個經驗讓我大開眼界.
5. The Worst Parts of the Forum? 缺點呢?
The speeches and teacher workshops were agonizingly boring. To make things worse, they were geared almost entirely towards teachers in Western (English-speaking) countries, and those from outside the West probably didn't get much out of them. Many people were also unhappy with the judging process as applied to our projects. You might call this "sour grapes," but there was a definite bias in favor of Western teachers. 那些演講跟教育研習超無聊的. 我也覺得這些活動比較適合西方的老師(說英文者). 很多老師也覺得比賽不是很公平. 你可能覺得我有這種想法是因為我們沒有得到獎項, 但是我認為評審比較偏愛西方的老師..
6. Other Stuff We Did... 我們在華盛頓還做了......
We walked. We walked A LOT. I am now thoroughly acquainted with Washington D.C. From Georgetown to Union Station, from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial, we saw just about all of the famous stuff, and went to a few good restaurants besides. 我們逛街. 我們走了好久. 從Georgetown到Union Station, 從Capitol Building到Lincoln Memorial, 華聖頓有名的景點我們都去過了. 也吃了些好吃的美式料理.
7. Highlights of Washington D.C. 華聖頓最棒的部分.
The coolest looking thing in Washington D.C. (hands down) has got to be the Washington Monument. The Lincoln Monument and the Jefferson Monument are also very cool. My favorite of the Smithsonian Museums had to be the Museum of the American Indian. The hamburgers at Five Guys are great, and there are more than a few great bars in the D.C. area. Speaking as an American, the breadth of history on display in this city is truly amazing.
華聖頓D.C.的Washington Monument是最有看頭的景點. 那邊的Lincoln Monument跟Jefferson Monument也很棒. 我想Smithsonian最好的博物館是它們的Museum of the American Indian. Five Guys這家餐廳的漢堡滿好吃的. D.C.也有一些不錯的酒吧. 對我這個美國人來說, 華聖頓D.C.是一個充滿歷史的城市.
8. Would We Go Again? 再去一次嗎?
To Washington D.C.? Naw, probably not. We've seen almost all of it. 去華聖頓D.C.嗎?應該不要. 我們大部分都去過了.
As for the Forum, scheduled to take place next year in Greece, we are still discussing it. Having been through all this Microsoft business once already, we feel like we have a fighting chance to get picked a second time. The only question is whether or not we want to deal with all the work and pressure required to get there. Six days PAID vacation in Greece sounds like heaven to me, but there is a long road to travel between now and next year's Forum! 有了這次經驗以後, 對於明年在希臘舉辦的微軟教育論壇, 我們三個都認為很有機會再參加,為了去希臘可以再戰一次. 但是否要再一次承受準備和來回奔波的壓力? 在希臘放六天的假聽起來很不錯, 可是這之間還有很長一段路要走.
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