1. Teaching English 8: A Tuesday at Tung Hai (Taiwan Style, September 九月 2012)
I work at Tung Hai Elementary School 東海國小 in Taitung City 台東市. Here was my Tuesday...
From 7:50 to 8:40 AM we had a staff meeting. I brought in an armload of assignments to correct, just so I'd have something to do. You would think that the most boring staff meeting would be better than the worst of my classes, but I have never found this to be the case. Even the WORST of my classes is still better than ANY of the staff meetings. Staff meetings are, in other words, the bane of my existence.
During the meeting, various coworkers talked about various things. Someone talked about earthquake preparedness. Someone else talked about our upcoming English-language mentor program. After everyone reported, the principal offered comments on what everyone had said. He also commented on his own comments from last week's staff meeting. Our principal is a great one for comments.
From 8:40 to 11:10 I taught three of the fourth grade classes. The subject of my lesson was numbers and colors. First I showed them a series of flashcards, then I passed these flashcards out. Students had to come up to the front as I said phrases such as "one red ant" or "two blue dogs." After than we played hot potato, and then there was a worksheet featuring a story and a coloring exercise. At the end we played a game.
And the thing is that I really liked this lesson last week, when I wrote it. But by now I've taught it to 12 classes, and the repetition is really getting to me. It could be the most fantastic, enthralling lesson in the world, and after the fourth or fifth time it will still be intensely boring.
Ah well. This is my life.
From 11:10 to about 12 I had a free period. During this time I was correcting assignments from today and yesterday. I was also writing this entry in my blog. But not so much.
From 12 to 1:30 I ate lunch and took a nap. Our lunch today consisted of rice, pork, and vegetables. I never drink the soup. Most of the teachers in my office sit together at a big table to eat their lunch, but I return to my desk to eat it. I just don't like trying to have a conversation when I'm eating, and I also don't like feeling crowded.
From 1:30 to 2:20 I had another free period, so I used this time to prepare for tomorrow's English clubs. These clubs are starting tomorrow, and I want to be well-prepared for them. These clubs are usually more demanding than my regular classes, but they are also more interesting for me to teach.
From 2:20 to 3 I taught one of the fifth grade classes. This was pretty much the same lesson I used with the fourth graders this morning, but after the rest period I found it much less irritating. I keep telling myself that this "review period" will end soon, and after this period the classes for each grade won't be quite so similar.
From 3 to 4 is my prep time, but I have almost everything finished. This means that I can sit here, and type this!
2. September 2012: What's Going On (2012年九月發生的事) (Taitung Style, September 九月 2012)
Here's what's going on in my world... 這是我最新的消息:
Item 1: My stomach feels much better. I stopped eating sugary foods and drinks, and my stomach isn't bothering me at all now. It took me a while to figure out what the problem was, but after weeks of altering my diet I finally found out that sugar was the culprit. Those cokes I used to drink will be sorely missed. 我的胃好多了. 我最近不吃甜食, 所以我的胃沒再作怪. 我花了幾個星期的時間控制飲食,最後才知道是糖讓我的胃不舒服. 我已經開始想念可樂了.
Item 2: Moon Festival is this weekend, but a big typhoon is coming! 這個周末是中秋節, 可是颱風要來了.
Item 3: I am still exercising four times a week, though not for any specific event. I run 6.5 KM on Tuesday and Thursday, and I will be moving up to 8 KM next week. I swim 1.5 KM on Saturday and 0.75 KM on Sunday, and I will be moving up to 2 KM and 1KM next week. I also bike 20 KM on Saturday and 40 KM on Sunday. I'm pleased to say I haven't injured myself yet. 我還是每個禮拜運動四次, 但不是為了運動比賽. 我禮拜二, 四跑6.5公里. 下個禮拜開始跑8公里. 星期六游泳1.5公里, 禮拜天則游泳750公尺. 下個星期開始要個別游2跟1公里. 我星期六, 日除了遊泳, 還各騎單車20跟40公里. 我很高興地說: 我還沒任何的運動傷害.
Item 4: The Jung Hua Telecom Company is sponsoring a Reader's Theater English Competition this semester. Teacher Tsai and myself have decided to join. I have a strong dislike for these competitions, but for various reasons I'm going to do it anyway. 這個學期中華電信舉辦一項英語Reader's Theater比賽. 我跟蔡老師決定參加這項比賽. 我不是很喜歡這種比賽, 只是為了某些原因, 我們還是會參加的.
Item 5: There are quite a few new restaurants in town. The new Sam's Burger on Kai Feng Street makes some great burgers, and the Leo Italian Restaurant on Jung Shing Road makes some excellent pizza. There is also a new Tasty Steak Restaurant on Shin Sheng Road. 台東有很多新餐廳. 開封街上的Sam's Burger美式餐廳不錯, 還有中興路上的獅子座義式餐廳, 他們有好吃的比薩. 新生路也有一家Tasty牛排.
Item 6: I do actually read the newspapers on occasion. Aside from the usual glut of crazy teachers and car accidents, there are the usual worries about the economy. In my opinion, worrying about the economy is one of the most useless things you can do. Economies are so big and so complicated that there's really nothing you, as an individual, can do about them, so why bother? I think it is better to just live your own life, and seize opportunities where you find them. Let the economy take care of itself. 我有時候看報紙. 報導除了瘋狂的老師們跟車禍之外, 還有很多是報導台灣的經濟. 我覺得經濟問題光緊張是沒有用的. 經濟問題又大又複雜, 個人的力量沒辦法影響. 所以我覺得照顧好自己的事, 為自己尋找機會比較實在. "經濟"會找到自己的路.
Item 7: In other national news, a lot of people in Taiwan and China are very, very upset with Japan. Japan, China, and Taiwan all claim sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, which lie between the three countries. China's government is using this dispute for propaganda purposes, all three countries are eying the potential oil reserves to be found there, and the question of who really owns those barren, uninteresting pieces of rock remains unresolved. 很多台灣跟大陸人民最近強烈抗議日本對於釣魚台的行徑. 台灣, 中國大陸都認為這個小島是他們的國土. 台灣, 中國大陸和日本三個國家都想利用這個島的石油. 只是目前還沒確定這個島到底是誰的.
And that's it for me. If you have the time, let me know what's going on in your world. I'd be happy to hear about it. 那我就說到這裡. 如果有空的話, 告訴我你的世界的消息. 我會很高興知道.
3. Homeward Bound? (Taiwan Style, September 九月 2012)
My wife and I have been discussing our bi-yearly trip back to Seattle. We do this every two years.
It's not that we don't want to go, but rather the cost of going. Every year the price of tickets increases, and every year our daughters grow a little more. As of this summer, our oldest daughter would be paying the adult fare back to the States, which means that we'd be paying almost 200,000 NT for our family of four to go back. That's a lot of money to part with, and to make matters worse, we would need to part with this money in March, when tickets are reserved. This gives us roughly six more months to save up a whole big pile of cash.
Not an easy thing to do. Not an easy thing at all. But of course, on the other side of that equation there are two or three months of Seattle, visiting with my family and friends. The cost is high, yes, but it is weighed against the time we'd spend with loved ones.
I'm sure that many other expats are in a similar position. For single people, this won't be such a big deal, but for those of us with wives, husbands, and/or children it can be a real burden. Living between two countries is never easy, and requires many sacrifices.
Hopefully, at the end of every day, the sacrifices are well worth it, but it's hard to predict the future, and just as hard to balance present wealth against future enjoyment. Yes, money is just money, but for every time we go back to Seattle I am a few house payments shorter, and also that much poorer when I return. It's frustrating when we can't save any money. It's frustrating when things need to get replaced, or fixed, and we don't have the cash.
I don't want to deny my daughters their American experience, but I also feel that we LIVE in Taiwan, and parting with all that money isn't the wisest thing to do. Had we not gone to Seattle during the past few years, I could have put a down payment on another house by now. Or I could have bought a newer, safer car. Or we could have just gone on trips to other places, for a fraction of the price. We wouldn't have the memories of Seattle that we treasure, but we would have more in the bank, and lives where we don't have to pinch every NT.
I really don't know what to think. I'm still meditating on it. My wife and I are still discussing the issue. The issue is under discussion. Part of me wants to say to hell with it, and just go anyway. The other part wants to tell my parents that we just can't make it this year.
Whatever we end up doing, we don't need to make a final decision until March, when the tickets are reserved. Here's hoping I win the lottery before then. I could sure use the money.
If I was in Taipei right now, I'd probably be at the Taipei Main Station. I'd be getting off a train, and there would be so many people everywhere. I'd most likely be on my way to the adjoining MRT station, and from there to some other destination, farther down the line.
If I was in Taipei right now, I'd be down the street from the 101 building, sitting outside the Starbucks. I'd have a coffee in my hand, and I'd be looking down the road at the 101. It would be sunny, and early in the morning, just as the big Eslite bookstore is about to open.
If I was in Taipei right now, I'd be arriving at the Danshui MRT station. It would be late afternoon in the summer, and there would be musicians performing on the sidewalk outside the station. My family and I would walk down the road to where the night market is, and it wouldn't be too crowded. Just crowded enough.
If I was in Taipei right now, I'd be at the National Palace Museum. I'd be there with only my wife, because my daughters lack the patience for that place. All of the Shang bronzes would be on display, and I'd spend a lot of time looking at the "Going Upriver at Ching Ming Festival Time" scroll. As my wife and I strolled through the museum, we would talk about where we meant to eat dinner.
If I was in Taipei right now, I'd be walking up a trail in Yangmingshan National Park. It would be early morning again, perhaps sometime in March, and there would be rainbow-colored lizards skimming over pools beside the river. The sun would be coming up from behind the trees, and the air would be cool.
If I was in Taipei right now, I'd be in a bar near the Jung Shiao Fu Shing Sogo. The bar would be crowded with beautiful women, and perhaps a few handsome men, and they would have a selection of my favorite beers. A band I've never heard before would be playing, and they would be great.
If I was in Taipei right now, I would not be in this office, typing on this computer. I'd be much happier perhaps, but much poorer than I am at present. All of those trains, and cups of coffee, and night market food, and tickets into the National Palace Museum, and taxi trips to Yangmingshan, and beers in new bars add up to a lot of money.
If I was in Taipei too long I'd be thinking about Taitung, and how much cheaper it is to type, and to imagine. If I was in Taipei too long, I'd be tired of the crowds, and the weather, and the noise. If I was in Taipei too long, I'd be thinking about going home.
5. Pingdong/Ping Tung County 屏東縣 2 (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2012)
Pingdong. What to say about Pingdong? Well, to start with, it's the southernmost county in Taiwan, lying below Kaohsiung 高雄 and Taitung 台東 counties on the map. It's sparsely populated - at least compared to other parts of Taiwan, and generally more difficult to both get to and get around in. It is also one of the poorer counties, and the main industries are probably farming and tourism. I can't imagine much else going on there.
The parts of Pingdong nearest Kaohsiung are more industrial, and less pretty. These are the parts where you run into the most traffic, and where you begin to wonder why people bother to go to Pingdong at all.
At the southern end of Pingdong, which is also the southern tip of Taiwan, there is Kenting National Park 墾丁國家公園 and many other scenic areas. The hostels and hotels in this area are plentiful, but most of them are not cheap. The town of Kenting tries very hard to resemble Pattaya or Ko Chang, but doesn't quite succeed. There are some good restaurants and bars around there, however.
The east coast of Pingdong is very remote, and has a predominately aboriginal population. This is my favorite part of Pingdong. I like it because parts of it are beautiful, and it's also a weird place to drive around.
Other parts of Pingdong can also be accessed via the Southern Cross-Island Highway 南迴公路, and also highway 199, which branches of from the Southern Cross-Island Highway. This is a great area for cycling, though it is not easy to get to. The Shwuang Liou 雙流 Recreation Area is here as well.
I would avoid the Ou Luan Bi 鵝鑾鼻 Lighthouse at the southern tip of the county, especially if you are wary of tourist hordes from Mainland China. The park around the lighthouse is cool, and most tourists don't bother to explore it. You will still need to pay the fee for the lighthouse, but if the tourists are unpleasant, it is easy to take a side path off into the park.
One of my favorite things in Pingdong is the aquarium. It is easily one of the best I have been to, anywhere in the world. And I've been to a lot of aquariums. The aquarium is located inside Kenting National Park.
Kenting National Park is one of the less interesting national parks in Taiwan, but good if you like snorkeling. It's mostly flat, and the only really scenic parts are up in the mountains. The park can be a hassle to get to, but once you're inside the driving's not bad.
I go to (or through) Pingdong once or twice a semester. It's a good place, even if it has some serious transportation issues. Getting around there in a car is relatively easy, but the train doesn't stop anywhere convenient, and walking around certain areas can be less than fun.
This entry exhausts my supply of pictures. If I want to talk about Pingdong again, I will need to go back and take more photos. I've been wanting to explore Da Peng Bay 大鵬灣, and when I do - and when the pictures from that trip make their way back to my computer - I'll be sure to post them here.
6. English in Taitung County 台東的英語教學 (Taitung Style, 十月 October 2012)
Last Wednesday I attended a meeting at Kang Le Elementary. The subject of the meeting was the county government's plans for English instruction. In attendance were English teachers from Da Wu, teachers from Cheng Gong, and even a teacher from Green Island. Besides these Taiwanese English teachers, there were also four Foreign English teachers on hand. It was a crowded room.上星期三我到康樂國小參加一場會議, 主題是關於台東縣政府對於英語教學的計畫. 出席的英文老師有的從大武 , 成功, 甚至遠從綠島而來, 除了本土的英文老師之外, 也有四位外籍教師到場, 場面顯得很熱鬧.
The meeting began and ended with a speech. I will not comment on the content of this speech. Suffice to say, we were encouraged to believe in ourselves, and in all of the possibilities that each day brings.會議開始前, 後都有一場演說, 在這裡我就不詳述內容了, 大體上是鼓勵老師們要對自己的教學有信心, 每一天都是好的開始.
Between the two speeches, the principal from Hot Spring Elementary talked about the county's plans for English-language instruction. He mentioned the addition of more Foreign English Teachers (FETs) in the near future, and the county's utilization of the Fulbright Program to cull these teachers from American universities. He talked about the English competitions that come along every semester, and more specifically about this semester's Reader's Theater competition. He also discussed the fact that many Taiwanese English teachers from other areas try to avoid working in Taitung, and also some of the peculiarities of teaching (and learning) English in Taitung County. I agreed with the statements he made, particularly with regard to FETs in Taitung County.會議當中, 溫泉國小的校長談到台東縣政府對英語教學的計畫方針, 他提到未來將徵聘更多的外籍教師, 計畫從美國大學招攬更多人才來臺任教, 也提到每學期的英語比賽 , 尤其是這學期的"讀者劇場". 也討論一些現實狀況: 很多臺灣的英語老師不喜歡到台東任教, 而台東在英語教學及學習上也有些特殊差異, 我贊同他的見解, 尤其是他對於外籍英語教師的意見.
Afterward there was a discussion period, and this was where the meeting broke down. We were separated into area groups, with people from the Rift Valley in the back, people around Taitung City in the front, people from south Taitung County to the left, and people from the northern coastal areas to the right. Each group was charged with answering a question about local English instruction, and they had about twenty minutes to formulate their answers.之後有一部分的討論時間, 我們大家分成幾個小組, 鹿野,關山及池上來的人在後, 台東市區的在前面, 臺東縣南部的人在左邊, 北海岸線的人在右邊, 每一組回答一個關於英語教學的問題, 並且在二十分鐘內討論他們的答案.
The trouble was that we were all sitting in an auditorium, and it is really difficult for anyone to have a group discussion when they are facing forward, and the seats don't move. A lot of people didn't want to join the discussion, and I can't really blame them for that. In the end, a few people from each group tended to monopolize this activity, and what most people thought about the questions remained a mystery.問題是我們是在會議室裡, 很難有小組討論的感覺, 因為所有的椅子都朝向同一邊, 根本不可能搬動, 因此很多人不想參與討論, 我可以了解他們的感覺, 最後, 只有每組中的少數幾個發表意見, 大部分的人的意見仍是個秘密.
What struck me about the meeting was how little we discussed WHY our students need to learn English. You would think this would have come up somewhere, but maybe it was taken for granted. Or maybe the issue is too contentious.讓我覺得不可思議的昰: 我們幾乎沒有談到為什麼我們的學生需要學英文, 我以為這問題應該會有人提出來, 也許這是大家都知道的事, 也或許這個問題太具爭議性了.
It just seems to me that there are many different reasons to learn (or to teach) English, and identifying these reasons would be the first step towards setting goals and trying to reach them. For example, are we teaching English for purely academic purposes? Or are we also teaching English for aesthetic reasons related to personal development? And what about local economic factors? Would a broader English-language base help open up Taitung County to tourism opportunities? Would it help students in their later careers?對我來說, 學習英語或是教授英語有許多的原因, 了解學習或教授的目的有助於設定目標及達成. 例如: 我們教授英文昰為了學術需求? 或是自我能力的充實? 還是當地經濟因素? 好的英語能力是否能幫助臺東縣發展觀光? 是否能幫助學生就業?
These would have been valid questions to ask, but there didn't seem to be any forum in which to ask them. As it was, we were presented with a list of questions to answer, and it was hard to address other issues. It just seems to me that before we get to the HOW of local English instruction, we first need to define the WHY. 這些會是很好的問題, 但那裡似乎不是個很好的討論場所, 因為我們手上已經有一堆問題等著我們回答, 所以很難再提出任何的問題, 對我來說, 在討論到"如何做"之前, 應該先需要知道"為什麼做"!
Anyway, those are my thoughts on last Wednesday's meeting. There are other points I might raise, but I have raised them elsewhere in this blog. Hope you have a happy Double Ten Day next Wednesday. I know we could all use the break! 無論如何, 這些昰我對上星期三會議的一些想法. 我也對英語教學提出一些其他的想法, 這些都在我的部落格裡, 祝你有個愉快的雙十節, 啊! 我們都需要休息一下.
7. Dragonfruit 火龍果 (Taitung Style, October 十月 2012)
Dragonfruit is a big crop in Taitung. It's not as big as bananas or "shr jia" (buddha-head fruit), but it's definitely not hard to find. The first picture below, and also much of the information in this entry, were taken from the Wikipedia article on dragonfruit. You are encouraged to visit both that article and the attached links if you are interested. 很多台東人
栽種火龍果. 雖然火龍果不是跟釋迦和香蕉一樣受歡迎, 可在市場上也是隨處可見. 以下這張照片還有些資料是從維基百科來的. 如果你想多了解火龍果, 也可以從"維基"上找到.
I love dragonfruit. It is one of my favorite fruits. I like dragonfruit more than everything except pineapple. It has a tart taste, but it can also be very sweet. The dragonfruit found in Taiwan is always red and green on the outside, but the inside can be either white or purplish red. 我超愛火龍果. 它是我最喜歡的水果之一. 我最最最喜歡的水果是鳳梨, 第二名應該是火龍果. 它的味道酸酸甜甜的. 台灣的火龍果有紅色的外皮, 裡面果肉是白色的也有紫紅色的.
The other English name for dragonfruit is Pitaya. In Chinese it is called "huo loong guo," or "fire dragon fruit." It is grown throughout Asia. 火龍果的英文名字是dragonfruit. 它另外的英文名稱是pitaya. 亞洲到處都有火龍果.
The dragonfruit plant was brought to Asia from the New World. It is a member of the cactus family, and can be grown in a variety of climates. 火龍果是從中南美洲來的. 它是仙人掌科三角柱屬. 很多氣候都適合種火龍果.
There are three varieties of dragonfruit. There are the two mentioned above, and also a third variety, which is yellow on the outside. I have never seen this yellow variety in Taiwan. 火龍果有三種. 有白色果肉的,紫紅色果肉的, 還有黃皮的. 我在台灣還沒有看過黃皮那種.
The fruit can be harvested 5 or 6 times a year, though the number of harvests depends on whether the dragonfruit plant can self-pollinate, or if it requires local bats or insects to do the pollinating. 火龍果每年可以收成5, 6次, 收成的次數是看授粉的次數而定, 可是不會自身授粉的火龍果沒有那麼多的收成次數. 它們要靠蝙蝠或是昆蟲傳粉.
Dragonfruit is an excellent source of vitamin C. It also contains antioxidants, and is low in saturated fat. I'm sure everyone in Taitung has eaten them, even the foreigners like me. 火龍果很營養. 它有很多維他命C. 台東人應該都吃過了吧! 台東的外國居民也是.
8. Bicycling Around Taitung County 臺東縣 (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2012)
I've already covered this topic in my other blog, so forgive me if this seems familiar.
Bicycling around Taitung County is something I know quite a bit about. I have lived in Taitung since 2006, and have been biking around the county for at least that long. I started out on an old, rusted Giant mountain bike, moved up to a newer Giant mountain bike two years later, and about two years after that I began riding my CAAD 10. I joined the "Love 197" (戀戀 197) race a couple of years ago (I was 15th in the 60 K), and I have also joined a couple of triathlons.
Taitung County is great for cycling. For that matter, so are Hualien 花蓮 and Yilan 宜蘭counties. There is a lot less traffic on the east coast of Taiwan, and a lot more wide-open spaces. I think central Hualien, along highway 9, is probably the best place to go riding, but most of Taitung County comes pretty close.
I want to say, however, that I am not into long-distance cycling. By long-distance, I mean anything over 60 KM. 80-90 KM will take you to the ends of Taitung County (from Taitung City) in any direction, and I have gone 80 KM exactly three times. I just don't enjoy cycling for hours and hours at a time. I prefer doing it in shorter bursts.
If you are looking into doing a bicycle tour of Taitung and/or Hualien counties. Probably a good first step would be to contact the Giant bicycle stores in this area. They offer many organized bike tours, the fees are minimal, and the tours usually offer a good lunch or dinner. This is probably the best option for those who only have a couple of days to spare, and who don't want to ride to the point of exhaustion.
Aside from what Giant is offering, you'd be on your own. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. I rarely ride with other people, and most of the time I prefer to be by myself. I don't enjoy trying to have a conversation while I'm cycling, and I'd rather not worry about how fast or slow other people are going.
If you don't want to travel the length and breadth of Taiwan, you'll probably be hauling your bike onto the nearest train, and getting off at one of Taitung's many train stations. I would suggest the train station in Taitung City 台東市. This is where most of the lower-priced accommodation is, and there's more to do around here. Other places offer more scenery, but are far less convenient.
There is a bicycle loop around Taitung City, and this is the best option for those who only want a taste of cycling in this area. The loop is 20 KM around, and the best place to start is in Taitung's Deep Forest Park 森林公園. Many signs will direct you to the loop. I should warn you that this loop is particularly vulnerable to whatever construction projects the county government has planned, so some sections of this loop may be hard to navigate.
Riding out of Taitung City is much more interesting, but of course involves longer distances. There are really only three roads out of Taitung City: highway 11 south along the coast, highway 11 north along the coast, and highway 9 north through the rift valley. Other routes are possible, but it's easy to get lost. Distances below are round-trip.
20 KM north along highway 11 takes you to Shan Yuan 杉原, where they are building the hotel. 40 KM takes you to the other side of Dulan 都蘭. 60 KM takes you to Jin Dzuen 金樽Beach, and 80 KM takes you to Du Li 督歷, near the East Coast Scenic Area complex 東海岸風景區. Another 30 KM or so will take you into Hualien County.
20 KM south along highway 11 takes you to Jer Ben 知本, where the hot springs are. 40 KM takes you to San He 三河 and White Sand Beach 白沙灣. 60 KM takes you to Tai Ma Li 太麻里, and 80 KM takes you to Duo Liang 多良, a village so small that you're not likely to even see it. An hour or so further on and you'd be approaching the Southern Cross-Island Highway 南迴公路, and Pingdong County 屏東縣.
20 KM north along highway 9 takes you to Chu Lu 初鹿, where they make the milk. 40 KM takes you to Kao Tai 高台, where they have the hot air balloon festival. 60 KM takes you to Lu Ye town 鹿野市區, and 80 KM takes you to Guanshan 關山. From Guanshan, it would be about 10-20 KM to Chr Shang 池上 and the northern end of Taitung County. After Chr Shang, you arrive at Hualien County.
All of the above three routes are challenging, and caution should be exercised in congested areas. Going north on highway 11, the steepest ascent is just before you reach Dulan, and you will need to be careful coming back down this hill. Going south along highway 11 is probably the most dangerous, especially where the road narrows between Da Shu 大樹 and Jin Luen 金崙. This is a high traffic area on the weekends, and many cars are trying to pass each other on the road. North along highway 9 is dicey through the "green tunnel" 綠隧道 between Taitung City and Beinan 卑南, but after that it's smooth sailing.
Whatever you end up doing, please wear a helmet. I've taken a dive off a bike without one, and I can tell you they are well worth the money. Cycling can be great fun, but it can also be dangerous. Take care of yourself, and have a good ride.
It can be hard to get a grasp on Taiwan's environmental situation. Up-to-date information is hard to locate, and it is often hard to verify the accuracy of articles and interviews. Taiwan's environmental policies are also spread between several government agencies, and are not restricted to the Executive Yuan's Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Agriculture also has a large say over Taiwan's environmental policy, as does the Bureau of Water Management and other, local institutions. It can be hard to locate answers to even the simplest questions on this subject.
For non-Chinese speakers, a good place to start might be Taiwan's Environmental Problems page. The EPA website can also be informative, if a little difficult to navigate. The Department of Agriculture also has information on this topic, and, as always, there is Wikipedia. I regard this last source as less than reliable, however. Especially with regard to things Taiwanese.
Of the above four links, I found the most interesting bits on the EPA's site. In a discussion of a conference held last summer, mention is made of a strategy for "promoting land reclamation with a view towards zero waste in resource recycling." What follows below is a quote from that article, which can be found in English here.
"In order to solve the problem of insufficient landfill space and reduce the frequent incidents of illegal dumping, the EPA decides to draw on the experience of foreign countries and actively promotes the concept of using solid wastes to reclaim land and build landfill islands as a final strategy to dispose of waste materials that are unsuitable for incineration. At the same time, the EPA vehemently communicates with the Maritime and Port Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Taiwan International Ports Corporation to gain opportunities for cooperation and policy support, in an effort to solve the ultimate disposal problem of Taiwan's annual 3.8 to 7 million cubic meter[s] of wastes and construction and demolition waste that are unsuitable for incineration."
In other words, the EPA is planning on using excess garbage to create offshore islands. The garbage used will consist primarily of "construction and demolition" waste that can't be incinerated, and will help the government achieve its goal of "zero waste in resource recycling." The EPA claims that the impact of these new offshore islands on the coastline will be minimal, and goes on to cite similar projects undertaken in Japan and Singapore.
The EPA has already begun an "environmental impact assessment" (EIA) of this project, and has yet to reach a final decision. Meetings were conducted with citizen panels in August 2012, and the results of these panel discussions were submitted to the EPA for further review.
I'm intrigued by this project, and I'm also wondering where they might start building these landfill islands. I assume that it would be somewhere off the west coast, near a major port. I wonder how big they will be, and whether these islands will be used for purposes other than controlling erosion. It's odd to to think about one form of human waste (garbage) remediating another (erosion), but I suppose stranger things have happened.
Such islands might also be used to store nuclear waste, given the central government's current disposal problems. Citizens of Orchid Island no longer wish to receive this waste, and finding another suitable site on Taiwan's main island is proving difficult. I heard about plans to dispose of this waste in southern Taitung County, though I am unaware of whether they carried out these plans or not. Perhaps these landfill islands might prove to be a safer, less contentious alternative, though such an alternative would also carry a certain element of risk.
Whatever they end up doing, I'd be curious to see the final product. It's not every day that Taiwan gets a new island.
Bad times? I can't think of anything recent that was truly bad. Maybe unpleasant. Maybe not fun. But not really bad.
- Riding back from a field trip at Far Glory Amusement Park 遠雄海洋公園 in Hualien 花蓮, with the students singing KTV all the way to Taitung 台東. A three hour trip, with various sixth graders shrieking into microphones. You can imagine the headache I had when we got back.
- ...and the similar headache I have this morning, for completely different reasons. Went to a friend's barbecue last night, and drank too much tequila. My head is pounding, and I still have four classes to teach. When you find yourself playing a bongo, you know you've had too much tequila.
- The couple hours I spent riding my bike back from Tai Ma Li 太麻里 last week. The wind was blowing straight down the coast the whole way, and it felt like I wasn't moving.
- Getting mistaken for other foreigners who I don't even vaguely resemble. Every Caucasian looks alike? Is turnabout fair play?
- Unexpected cold weather on the days I wear shorts, and unexpected hot weather on the days I wear pants. There's just no telling with the weather.
- Reading about the economy in the States, and suddenly growing very, very depressed in the middle of the bookstore. I worry for my parents, who are growing older there. I worry for my friends, whose careers may be in danger.
And that's all I have to say about bad times. Not so bad, I will agree. Here's wishing you good times, wherever you are.
11. Yilan County 宜蘭縣 2 (Taiwan Style, October 十月 2012)
These pics of Yilan are a bit old. I took them about a year and a half ago. I don't get up to Yilan as often as I'd like.
This is Su Ao 蘇澳, at the sourthern end of Yilan County. It is a strange, empty place. Their fishing port is very lively, however, and there is a large naval base next to the city. Su Ao is one of the bigger cities in Yilan, but it's still very quiet.
This picture was taken right down the street from the Su Ao cold springs. These canals crisscross the center of town, and the water is surprisingly clear. I'm not claiming that Su Ao is some kind of ecological paradise, but it's clean as Taiwanese cities go.
This is a cookie museum, a cookie factory, and also a cookie store. The exhibit above details the history of their company, and also how their cookies are made. The "cow tongue" cookies 牛舌餅 produced at this factory are very famous.
And here are some workers making the famous "cow tongue" cookies. It looks like an exhausting job. This place makes several other kinds of treats, but I'm sure that the "cow tongue" cookies outsell everything else.
This is the Dong Shan River (Water) Park 冬山河親水公園 in Yilan City. In the spring the weather there can be very pleasant, and in the summer the water can be a welcome respite from the heat. This place is very popular, so it might be better to avoid it on certain holidays.
Another shot of the River Park. Quite a good place for picture-taking.
This is the Traditional Arts Center 傳藝館, just down the river from the Dong Shan River Park. The easiest way to get here is to take a boat/ferry from the park. It's a nice place to visit if you have kids.
And this is the Monkey King, saying goodbye. Have a happy Halloween next Thursday. Look both ways before you cross the street. Avoid breaking mirrors, and have fun exploring this big, beautiful world in which we (try) to coexist.
12. Ice Cream in Taitung 台東的冰淇淋 (Taitung Style, November 十一月 2012)
I know of two places in Taitung that make their own ice cream. I will NOT say which one I like better. Everytime I express a preference for food on this blog, I get into trouble! 台東有兩個地方自做冰淇淋. 我不想說哪個地方的冰淇淋比較好吃. 因為每次我說出自己的偏好, 都有人罵我.
Mei Nong Frozen Goods (美濃冰品) is just off Highway 9, in Beinan Township. After exiting the "green tunnel" outside Taitung City, you will see a sign pointing you toward the Mei Nong Terrace (美農高台). Just follow the road up the hill, and you will see Mei Nong Frozen Goods on your right side just after the bridge. 美濃冰品在卑南鄉, 靠近台9線. 從台東市走綠隧道之後, 你就會看到美濃高台的路牌. 右轉之後, 經過一座橋. 美濃冰品就在橋的右邊.
Mei Nong Frozen Goods has been around for quite a while. They moved to their present location this year, and before that they were further up the hill, in the village of Mei Nong. 美濃冰品已經開很久了. 他們現在的店是今年剛開的. 以前的店在山坡上的美農村.
The Dulan Indian Cuisine and Ice-Cream Cafe is in Dulan Village, Dong He Township. This place is much newer than Mei Nong Frozen Goods, and has a much better view. I say this with all apologies to the people at Mei Nong - but really, on a clear day you can see all the way over to Green Island from the Dulan Cafe. It's a hard view to beat. 東河鄉都蘭村也有Dulan Indian Cuisine and Ice-Cream Cafe. 這個地方比較新, 風景也比較好. 我很不好意思說出這種話, 我也想對美濃冰品的人道歉, 可是Dulan的風景真的好多了. 晴天的時候, 可以從Dulan Cafe看到綠島. 真是好美的風景.
But where the Dulan Cafe has a better view, Mei Nong has (at the time of writing, at least) more flavors. Again, I will NOT say which one I like better. I will not, I will not... even though I want to... really bad. 可惜美濃的風景沒那麼好. 但是他們的冰淇淋口味比較多. 我不說我比較喜歡哪個地方的冰淇淋. 不想說... 不想說... 很想說可是... 不想說...
Finding the Dulan Cafe can be a challenge. At the time of writing, there are no English signs directing you to this place. It is reached via Highway 11. After you cross the bridge north of Dulan, take a left past Marino's Kitchen. From there, follow the "Indian curry" (印度咖哩) signs to the Dulan Cafe. A warning here: it's easy to get lost. 找那個Dulan Cafe有一點難, 也沒有什麼英文牌子指向這個地方. 從台11線, 經過都蘭村之後你會經過一座橋. 在Marino's Kitchen左轉. 從那邊要順著"印度咖哩"的牌子. 小心! 在這裡很容易迷路!
Check them out if you have the time. Both of these places would welcome your business, and the owners of both are very friendly! 有空的時候來吃吃這兩個地方的冰淇淋. 他們親切的老闆會很歡迎你的光臨.
13. America 美國 (Taitung Style, November 十一月 2012)
I haven't written about America for a long time. I guess I've just been thinking about other things. 我很久沒有寫有關美國的事情. 應該是其他的事讓我忙忘了.
The local, state, and federal elections have recently concluded in the States, and President Obama has been reelected. I myself did not vote in this election, because I feel that expats like myself should not vote. I've been in Taiwan for 13 years now, and my voting would be like playing a game I have no stake in. Had I been living in the States a week ago, I would have voted for Obama. 美國的地方都市, 洲, 和中央政府的選舉已經結束了. Obama再一次當選了. 我自己沒有投票, 因為我覺得住在國外的美國人不應該投票. 我在台灣已經十三年的時間. 如果我投票的話, 對我個人沒有影響, 可是對住在當地的人有影響. 這樣子不公平. 如果我當時住在美國, 那我就會投Obama的票.
Gay marriage was also legalized in my home state, Washington, and both gay and lesbian couples residing there are now free to marry. I think this is great news, and I consider it a victory for people everywhere. The comittment that marriage signifies strengthens all societies, and I can't see how allowing homosexuals to make this comittment in any way weakens this age-old institution. 華盛頓州以後的同性婚姻是合法的. 那裡的同性戀者將有這個權利. 我覺得這個是一個很好的消息. 我認為這是所有人的勝利. 結婚是加強社會結構的一種方式. 我不認為同性結婚會削弱這個功能.
Marijuana was also legalized in Washington and Colorado. The legal status of this "legalization" is unclear. Possession of marijuana is still a federal crime in the United States, so we will see what kind of legal troubles ensue. If the various police deparments in Washington stop busting people for having less than an ounce, this problem might (I say again, might) resolve itself quietly. 大麻在華盛頓州跟拉多州也是合法的, 可是目前這項法令還不是很確定. 因為對美國中央律法來說, 持有大麻還是違法的. 因為這項原因, 可能美國的中央政府跟州政府會有衝突. 如果華盛頓州跟科羅拉多州的警察單位決定不抓持有大麻的人, 有可能這個問題會自動消失.
I have argued with many friends in Taitung over the above developments. I don't know anyone who would have voted for Romney, but then again I don't hang around with a lot of conservatives. There are many who regard Obama as the only reasonable option, even though they think of him as a bad President. 我最近跟我台東的朋友討論這些發展. 我沒有美國朋友投Romney的票, 但是我也沒有很多保守黨的朋友. 很多人覺得Obama不是什麼好總統, 但還是投他的票.
Everyone I know seems to agree with me on gay marriage. I have a couple gay friends around town, and even though I haven't asked them about this issue, I'm sure they would be pleased by the news. Maybe one day Taiwan can follow suit? 我的朋友都覺得同性結婚是好事情. 我在台東有兩個同志朋友. 雖然我沒有跟他們討論過這件事, 可是他們應該跟我一樣開心. 也許哪一天台灣人也可以同性結婚?
Opinions on legalized marijuana seem to be 50/50. Some regard it as a dangerous "gateway drug," and others see it as a harmless diversion. As for my own opinion, well, I can't be entirely honest about that here. Let's just say that I regard marijuana as less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, and maybe even coffee. 對大麻合法化的反對和贊成意見各占一半. 有的人覺得它是很危險的毒品, 有的人覺得它完全無害. 我沒辦法在這裡公開我的意見. 我只是覺得喝酒, 吸菸對人體的危害更大. 有可能喝咖啡也是.
In other news, a lot of people in Seattle are happy that Soundgarden finally released their new album. "King Animal," has been eagerly awaited by many. I wasn't floored by it, but it's good. 另外,很多西雅圖的人很高興Soundgarden樂團最近出新唱片了. 人們期待 "King Animal"這張CD已經很久了. 我不是超喜歡它, 但是它很不錯.
I'm hoping to see Soundgarden play if we return to Seattle next summer, though right now that prospect is looking highly doubtful. Ticket prices back to the States are likely to exceed 50,000 NT per person for a direct, round-trip flight, and I'm not sure if we'll have enough money. We are also thinking about allowing our 12 year old daughter to go back by herself this time. This would be a more affordable alternative. 如果我們暑假去西雅圖的話, 我很想去Soundgarden的演唱會. 可惜我們應該沒辦法回去. 從台北到西雅圖的機票有可能會超過五萬台幣一張. 可能我們的錢不夠. 現在我們開始考慮讓我們家老大自己回去. 她一個人回去的錢比較沒有問題.
Whatever we end up doing, I'll be sure to let you know. It might be on the other side of the Pacific, but America is never far from my thoughts. Those of us who live very far from our hometowns always remember: home is inside of us. It is what we do. It is who we are. This is true of foreigners everywhere, whether American or otherwise. 無論最後計畫如何, 你應該會從這裡得知. 雖然美國遠在太平洋的另一邊, 可是它天天在我心中. 住在國外的遊子都知道: 自己家鄉永遠存在心底. 我們做人做事都受到家鄉的影響, 每個外國人都了解這種感覺, 不論他們從什麼國家來.
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