2013年3月1日 星期五

Blog Archive 24 很久很久以前的文章

1. Keelung 基隆 and Endless Rain (February 2013)

Keelung City (which I would much rather spell "Ji Loong City") is at the northern tip of Taiwan, north of Taipei.  My brother-in-law lives in Chi Du 七賭, just south of it, and I spent several days at his house this Chinese New Year.

Not being very familiar with Keelung, I was looking forward to exploring this part of Taiwan.  I had planned to visit several temples in the area, and also take in the scenery in and around Keelung City.  We had three days to spend in north Taiwan, so I figured it wouldn't be a problem.

Unfortunately for me, it rained the whole time we were there.  It rained and it rained and it rained.  It came down in buckets, and it refused to stop.  Our clothes were almost always wet, and even when we were indoors it still felt damp, and gray, and unpleasant.

For this reason, I can't say that I saw much of Keelung.  We ventured up to the famous Keelung Night Market 基隆廟口夜市 on the second day of Chinese New Year, but that was the only time I saw anything of interest.  Even during our trip to the night market, it rained and it rained and it rained.  The food was delicious, but walking through a crowd of over 10,000 people, all wielding umbrellas, can be a bit daunting.

Instead of exploring Keelung, we ventured south into Taipei for the usual round of expensive restaurants and department stores.  Even in Taipei the weather was much better.  It wasn't raining there, and it wasn't so cold.

If I could offer one bit of advice about Keelung it is this: go in the summer, when it's not raining.  Going in the winter and avoiding the heat might seem like a pleasant alternative, but Keelung is really no place to be in the winter.  Honestly, I don't know how the people there can stand it.

2. Living Well in Taiwan 4: Money (February 2013)

Money: does it make the world go round, or is it the root of all evil?  Or is it both?  Or neither?  Money is, perhaps, what you make of it.

I bring up this topic because I was sitting in front of a coffee shop the other day, listening to a Canadian talk about how all Foreign English Teachers (hereafter referred to as FETs) should make more money.  "We don't make enough money," ran his argument, "Not when you compare the salaries here to what we'd be making back home."

He went on to say that every FET employed by a public school should be paid at least 90,000 a month.  He pointed to the fact that FETs in Taiwan have no retirement plan, and that this 90,000 would allow teachers to save enough to make up the difference.  He then went on to highlight the advantages of working as a public school teacher in Canada, and how inadequate the pay/benefits in Taiwan are by comparison.

Now I don't know what YOU make, but 90,000 after deductions sounds like a lot of money to me.  When you think about how much someone at 7-11 makes (20-30 thousand), and how much most Taiwanese public school teachers make (40-50 thousand), you're talking about DOUBLE what most Taiwanese people would consider "good pay."

And yes, they get retirement, so there's that, but if you've been watching the news you'll have heard about recent revisions of Taiwan's retirement system.  Retirement pay can be good if the Taiwanese person in question has the right job, or if he/she has been careful, but many Taiwanese people are now discovering that those golden retirement benefits aren't so golden after all.

On the other side of this, there is the economic situation "back home."  Can most FETs magically return "home," find a full-time teaching job that pays well, offers retirement, and keep this job indefinitely?  I can't comment on Canada, but I know that in my hometown, Seattle, this is definitely not the case.  I would imagine that it's not the case for many other FETs as well.  Otherwise, why would they be in Taiwan?  The cultural attractions can't be THAT compelling.

I notice a lot of other foreigners obsessing over this issue, comparing themselves to other foreigners, in other schools, and comparing themselves to those who make more money.  I have been the object of such attention myself.  I have received comments such as, "Well, I'm not making as much money as you are, so..."  And after they say these kind of things they give me a little grimace, and look at me like I'm the asshole for having a higher-paying job.

All I can say to that is hey, I worked hard for what I have.  I sacrificed.  I took risks.  Yes, I was lucky at times, but that didn't mean that I wasn't working hard, and waiting for the right job to come along.

But returning to the Canadian, and the idea of 90,000 a month, I think that if you can get pay like that great, but I wouldn't hinge my self-esteem upon it.  Most private schools would go broke if they paid you that much.  Really, they would.

I've also heard of many schools that seem to pay that much, but after all their "deductions" you find out that your pay is actually far less.  They deduct for arriving late, they don't pay for holidays, or (worst of all) they tie your pay to your (perceived) job performance.

Just because you're making less, doesn't mean that your school - or the individual paying you - values you less.  In fact, it might be just the opposite.  It also doesn't mean that your job is more "menial" than others.  Often (not always) those who earn more have to suffer more, and those who earn less have less stress to deal with.  I've had low-paying part-time jobs that I liked quite a bit, and high-paying full-time jobs that I despised.

And as far as retirement goes, I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.  The government is having enough trouble sorting out the retirement schemes for Taiwanese citizens - do you really think they're going to give foreigners retirement anytime soon?  I can't comment on what individuals are making, but I think most FETs are making enough money.  If they (or YOU) aren't, well, it's a big world out there, isn't it?  For the clever, there are always opportunities.

3. Buying English Books in Taiwan 2 (February 2013)

The last post on this topic was surprisingly popular. Apparently there are a lot of people hunting for English books in Taiwan.

Everything I said in the previous entry still stands, but since that time I have made some new discoveries.  They are:

1. Books Kinokuniya

This is the bookstore inside Taipei's Breeze Department Store 微風百貨 (the one near the Jung Shiao Fu Shing 忠孝復興 MRT stop, not the one above the Taipei Train Station).  They have a lot of English books, and an unusually large number of English comic books.  Between this place and Page One, you can find just about anything.

2. The Taoyuan 桃園 International Airport

I don't know why I didn't mention this last time.  The airport, as you might expect, has a lot of English books, though most of these are located past the Immigration area.  Mostly mass market paperbacks and magazines, but better than what you'd find in most Eslites 誠品.

3. Amazon.com (US version)

Amazon finally has an address field for Taiwan.  Don't bother typing your address in Chinese, however.  After you press "place order," all of those carefully typed Chinese characters turn into gibberish.

4. Universities

Many of the bigger universities like Tung Hai 東海 in Taichung 台中 have bookstores on campus.  These bookstores have more English books than you would find elsewhere.

And that's all I can think of at the moment.  What about you? Know anyplace that sells English books?  Somewhere worth the drive?  There must be other places, especially in Taipei!

4. English in Taiwanese (February 2013)

Some of the issues discussed here were also brought up in "Teaching English (III)".

As stated in "Elementary School in Taiwan," I am drawing from personal experience here, and this experience is sometimes exclusive to the school where I work.  Individual schools will vary, but probably not by much.

Students in Taiwanese public schools start learning English in Grade 3, though some will have already studied English in private schools long before this time.  There are a lot of private kindergartens on the island, and most of these kindergartens teach English.

My first job in Taiwan was at one of these private kindergartens.  I taught a class of 15-20 students, from about 8 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday.  The selling point behind my kindergarten was English immersion, and I was in charge of everything except meal times.  Most other kindergartens aren't half as intensive when it comes to English.

After graduating from kindergarten, many students continue on to a private cram school, where they learn English for a few hours a week.  On the west coast of Taiwan, in urban areas, almost all children do this.  On the east coast, and in more rural areas on the west coast, this practice is not so common.

These cram school classes often continue throughout the duration of their elementary school careers, so there is a fair amount of overlap between what students learn in their private classes and what they learn in the public elementary schools.  This fact often leads people to believe that most Taiwanese students are more proficient in English than is truly the case.  Given the nature of both public and private education in Taiwan, it is only a small minority of Taiwanese students who graduate elementary, junior high, or high school with a functional understanding of English.

There are many reasons for this.  The primary reason is probably the focus on memorization and mastering "rules" over learning to use the language for its intended purpose, i.e. communication.  This is a problem common to many Asian countries, and is not limited to Taiwan.  From what I've heard, this is an even bigger problem in Mainland China.

When Taiwanese students learn Chinese, the majority of their Chinese study consists of learning and memorizing characters.  This works very well for Chinese, since it is a language that is more easily dissected into parts.  It doesn't work as well for English, because English (like German, French, and other European languages) is a language of relationships, where isolating each phoneme or word won't necessarily help you get the big picture.  Unfortunately, much of the way that Taiwanese students study English is a reflection of how they learn (or were taught) Chinese.  This problem is particularly acute when it comes to the subject of English verb tenses, where the form of words shifts, and time is expressed in ways that don't come naturally to Chinese speakers.

In Taiwan, recent years have seen more of a push towards composition by teachers of Chinese.  These teachers realize that many students are struggling to make themselves understood in written characters.  Whether this renewed emphasis on composition will have an effect on how English is taught remains to be seen.

Time is another factor.  Many students in Taiwan just don't spend enough time learning English.  Most elementary schools in Taiwan only teach English twice a week, during two forty minute class sessions.  This is not enough time to learn any language well, and certainly not enough time for English teachers to monitor their students' progress.  

Students whose parents want them to succeed in English invariably enroll the students in after school English classes, creating a disparity between the students who go to cram schools and the students who don't.  This disparity means that the cram school students are bored with their public school English classes, and these cram school students also tend to have a false sense of confidence in their English ability.  This disparity also means that students who don't attend cram school feel frustrated by their public school English classes, and these students struggle with feelings of inferiority.

The curriculum is another issue.  All English textbooks in Taiwan follow guidelines set by the central government, and these guidelines have some serious flaws.  One of the more obvious flaws is the lack of "carry over" between textbooks or even units in the same textbook.  In other words, what students learn during their first year of English is seldom applied to their second year of English.  Worse still, what students learn from month to month is often disregarded later.  The English tests in most public schools reflect this trend, and among many Taiwanese teachers there is the unspoken assumption that students have forgotten everything that has come before.  With students studying English in discrete, month-long units, it is no wonder that their English level is very low.

Schools in Taiwan also need to decide how important English is to their overall program.  Many public schools are teaching an excessive number of subjects, and English is often lost in the shuffle.  It is only ever possible for a school to teach four or five subjects well, yet many schools are attempting to teach ten or more subjects, and expecting students to master each of these subjects.  In my school, many students contend with Chinese, Taiwanese, English, and their aboriginal language - and these are just the languages.  They also have to study Math, Social Studies, Computers, Science, and whatever other subjects the school has tacked on.

Environment plays a role here too.  Taiwan is not a English-rich environment by any means, and classrooms reflect this fact.  Many students struggle with English because they never understand the underlying "why" of English: they never understand the reason they are studying it.  When they look around themselves, they see no purpose behind the English they are learning.  Even in the classroom, their homeroom teacher will often treat English as a subject that is well outside his or her expertise, almost as if it was being studied for purely aesthetic reasons.  Kids need to know why they are studying English, and they need to see palpable evidence of this reason in their environments.  Most of this evidence is reducible to the attitudes of those in the school faculty, but it should also be reflected in more physical, concrete things like signs, community resources, and other facets of their environment.

One of my biggest complaints about English instruction in Taiwan is the dual-language approach.  The government doesn't seem to be pushing this as hard lately, but it is still a prevalent point of view.  The dual-language approach essentially consists of teaching English in Chinese.  I think this approach is valid for very young children, or those just starting out, but it is completely counterproductive at higher levels.  People (not just children) need to learn English IN English, and without the agency of their native language.  This strategy is key to developing fluency and confidence.  Otherwise, one's native language becomes a crutch, and false confidence is the result.  Many Taiwanese English teachers amplify this problem by encouraging students to translate everything back into the students' native language.  Many of them recognize that this isn't the best way to teach English, but they fear the repercussions of making a change.  This anxiety among teachers needs to be addressed by the system, and it needs to be eliminated if English-language education is ever going to improve.

Which brings me to my last point, that many of those teaching English in Taiwan are also products of the system.  They learned English largely through memorization, they learned English for short spans of time (at least before high school), they learned English bit by bit, they grew up in an English-poor environment, and they grew up learning English in Chinese.  None of these aspects of their own English education are their fault.  What is important is that they recognize these faults in the system, and work towards better methodology in the future.

All in all, I wouldn't say that Taiwan is a bad place to learn English, though there are obvious flaws in the system.  Like many Asian nations, Taiwan is continually working to define what role English plays in school life, and what role it plays in the lives of all citizens.  Economics certainly influences this process, and fluctuating trade relationships with the United States and China often have a dramatic effect on Taiwan's approach to learning and teaching English.

English-language education in Taiwan is improving, even if it has a long way to go.  There are many good English teachers in Taiwan, and many parents are concerned about this issue.  Yes, there are also bad teachers, and parents who couldn't care less, and people who are just using this system to make money, but I like to think that in the end the better informed, more responsible sort of people will have their say.  This is one of the reasons I teach English in Taiwan, and this is one of the things I look forward to.

5. Sex in Taiwan 4: Foreign Women (March 2013)

can't presume to tell you what it's like to be a foreign (Caucasian) woman in Taiwan.  I lack the equipment, I lack the experience, and I lack the understanding.  I can tell you what I THINK about it, but I know very little.

I know a fair number of foreign dudes, but the two foreign women I know are both religious and non-drinkers, which (judgment aside) puts them squarely outside my usual theater of operations.  I see them occasionally, but never more than once or twice a semester.

This was not always the case.  When I lived on the west coast, I counted many women among my foreign friends, though I have lost touch with all of them since that time. 

I often wonder what it's like to be a foreign woman in Taiwan.  I often want to ask the foreign women I know about their lives, and what they enjoy (or don't enjoy) about living here.  This is a tricky business, especially when it comes to sex and dating.

The first foreign woman I met in Taiwan was a coworker.  She was from Canada, and she was much older than I was.  She never had a relationship in Taiwan, and she was very lonely.  Once she told me (and an entire office full of Taiwanese women) that foreign men only liked Taiwanese women because they were "built like children," and thus potential child molesters.  Needless to say, she wasn't too popular around the office after that.

But she is perhaps a bad example.  I knew many other foreign women while I lived in Taichung, and they weren't all as racist, sexist, or as frustrated as that one Canadian.  Some of them were good friends to me.  Some of them I miss very much.

Many of them were older, and had all but given up on sex.  They were all teachers, and they weren't looking for love, romance, or a solid relationship.  This situation was not something they chose to brood over.  Instead, they spent most of their time thinking about their jobs, and developing friendships.

I also knew a few younger foreign women on the west coast.  Some of them brought boyfriends along from Canada, South Africa, or England, but they invariably lost these boyfriends to local girls.  Many of these younger women were quite beautiful, but the temptation was too hard for their boyfriends to resist.  The more flexible among them found better boyfriends, or else found other uses for their time.  The less flexible grew sullen.

It must be hard to live in a place where getting laid is so difficult.  If it was me, I'd be on the next plane to a country where I had better prospects.  I'm not trying to say that foreign women can't be happy or sexually active in Taiwan.  It's just hard for me to imagine having to work so much harder for something that should come naturally.  I'm sure they develop coping strategies.  One would have to.

I wonder if any foreign women will read this post.  If you are a foreign woman in Taiwan, I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this issue.  What is dating and sexuality to you?  Do you feel that you have to sacrifice that part of yourself to live here, and if so, is the sacrifice worth it?  As said above, I am no expert on this topic, and thoughts and opinions presented above are just that: thoughts and opinions.

6. 布農族的百步蛇朋友 The Bunun Tribe's Friend: the Hundred Pacer (March 2013)

The article below was translated from the February 2013 "Newtonkids" (新小牛頓) magazine.  Other tribes also have stories about the hundred pacer.  For the Paiwan 排灣 version, readers of Chinese might consult 台灣開發故事 - 南區 ("Stories of the Opening of Taiwan - Southern Area").  The Chinese was written by 陳毓倫, and the English was written by me.  

The snake described in the story, the 百步蛇, can be translated as "Hundred Pace Snake" or "Hundred Pacer."  It is a venomous pitviper.

Hundred Pacer

The Bunun Tribe's Friend: the Hundred Pacer

布農族是生活在台灣高山上的原住民, 他們對百步蛇非常尊敬和愛護, 即使碰到也不會傷害他們, 還把牠們當成好朋友.  為甚麼布農族對百步蛇這麼好呢?  和一段古老的傳說有關喔!  The Bunun are an aboriginal tribe living in Taiwan's high mountains.  They both respect and love the hundred pacer.  If they come across the hundred pacer they will not hurt it, and they consider it a good friend.  Why are the Bunun so nice to the hundred pacer?  It has to do with a very old folktale!

1. 很久以前, 有一對布農族夫婦生下一個可愛的男孩, 但是媽媽在生產完不久就生病, 去世了, 爸爸非常傷心.  A long time ago, a Bunun couple gave birth to a very cute boy.  But soon after giving birth the mother got sick and died.  The father was very sad.

媽媽 Mother: 你要好好照顧孩子喔!  You need to take good care of the boy!
爸爸 Father: 你放心!  Don't worry!

2.媽媽去世後, 爸爸只好請鄰近有嬰兒的婦人幫忙餵孩, 但是給男孩餵奶的人, 不久就會生病或死亡, 最後都沒有人敢接近他了.  After the mother died, the father had to ask many of the local women to feed the baby milk, but after feeding the baby many of these women got sick or died.  After a while none of the women wanted to be near the baby.

爸爸 Father: 請妳幫我的孩子餵奶.  Please feed my child milk.
婦人 Woman: 不要!  聽說這個孩子會害人生病!  No!  I have heard that this child makes people sick!

3. 大家都很害怕男孩, 覺得他會傷害族人, 所以部落的長老命令爸爸將男孩丟掉.  Everyone was very scared of the boy, and felt that he would harm the members of the tribe.  Therefore the old village chief commanded the father to abandon the boy.

長老命 Old Chief: 你要把這個男孩帶到山裡丟掉!  You must abandon this child in the mountains!

4. 雖然爸爸很捨不得, 但還是得服從長老的命令.  他用布農勇士的外套將男孩包好, 帶到山上, 藏在樹叢裡.  Although the father was heartbroken, he had to follow the village chief's orders.  He wrapped the boy in a Bunun warrior's jacket, and abandoned him in a thicket.

爸爸 Father: 孩子, 對不起!  Child, forgive me!

5. 爸爸非常想念孩子, 過了幾天, 偷偷去山上探望時, 發現男孩竟然變成一條蛇, 身上長滿像布農勇士外套一樣的三角型花紋, 牠就是百步蛇.  The father missed his child very much, and after a few days, while he was ranging through the mountains, he discovered that his child had transformed into a snake.  Upon the snake's body was a pattern resembling the triangle pattern of a Bunun warrior's jacket.  He was a hundred pacer.

6. 蛇告訴爸爸, 牠是男孩變成的, 身上懷有劇毒, 但是不會隨便攻擊布農族人, 也希望布農族人要愛護牠, 父親答應了.  The snake told his father that he was the boy, and that his body was poisonous, but he would not carelessly attack members of the Bunun tribe.  He hoped that the Bunun tribe would take care of him, and the father agreed to this.

百步蛇 Hundred Pacer: 以後我和布農族就是朋友了!  After today I will be a friend to the Bunun tribe!
爸爸: 真是太好了!  This is really great!

7. 後來布農族人將百步蛇取名為"卡飛阿", 就是朋友的意思.  他們知道百步蛇不會主動攻擊人, 遇見時只要讓牠先走, 牠就會自動離開.  Afterward the Bunun tribe began to call the hundred pacer "Kafeiya," which means "friend."  They know that the hundred pacer will not attack people without reason, and that if you come across it you should let it go first.  It will leave of its own accord.

布農族人 Bunun Tribesman: 朋友!  你先走吧!  Friend!  You go first!

8. 擅長打獵的布農族人, 也不再捕蛇還是吃蛇肉, 還在傳統服飾和器具上以百步蛇的花紋作為主要圖案, 表示對百步蛇得愛護.  Even though the Bunun are hunters, they do not trap or eat snakes, and it is still their tradition to decorate their clothes and tools with the likeness of the hundred pacer.  This represents their love for the hundred pacer.

布農族人 Bunun Tribesman: 百步蛇是我們的好朋友喔!  The hundred pacer is our good friend!

百步蛇 Hundred Pacer:

百步蛇分步在中國南部,越南和台灣山區, 身上咖啡色的三角形紋路非常美麗, 是布農族傳統衣服上常見的圖案.  百步蛇遇到危險會把身體盤誠圓形, 抬起頭部保護自己, 遇到時小心繞過, 不要打擾牠, 就能避免被咬.  The hundred pacer can be found in southern China, Vietnam, and Taiwan.  The coffee-colored triangle pattern on their bodies is very beautiful, and it is a pattern commonly seen on Bunun clothing.  When the hundred pacer is threatened, it will coil itself up and raise its head.  When you see it you should keep your distance and not bother it.  Then you will not be bitten!

7. The Three-Character Poem 三字經 2

For the first section of this poem, the citation, and an introduction to it, see Three-Character Poem 三字經.

When [Huang] Shiang was nine years old,
He would warm the bed.
This respectful behavior towards family
Should be emulated by all.
When [Kong] Rong was four years old,
He would give pears
To his older brothers first.
This is one of the first things the young ought to know.
The young should respect their elders;
They should listen to them and watch them.
[And if] they want to understand numbers,
Their study should begin with these words.
[From] one to ten,
[From] ten to a hundred,
[From] a hundred to a thousand,
[From] a thousand to ten thousand.
[There are] three "things":
Heaven, earth, and Man.
[There are] three "phenomena":
The sun, the moon, and the stars.
[There are] three "relationships":
 [That between] a ruler and his subjects,
[That between] a father and son,
And acordiality between husband and wife.
It is said there is a spring and a summer,
It is said there is an autumn and a winter,
These four seasons,
Change ceaselessly.
It is said that there is south and north,
It is said that there is west and east,
These four directions
Face the center.

8. Photo Gallery 6 (March 2013)

Pictures taken between December 2012 and February 2013.

Outside the Hakka Museum 客家文化館 in Chr Shang Township 池上鄉, Taitung County 台東縣.  This was taken just before the Chr Shang Marathon.  It was brutally cold, and I was tired and suffering from food poisoning But hey, the mountains looked pretty in the fog!

My school's Sports Day in Taitung.  Can you guess which one of these is the American's daughter?

The recently completed structure in Taitung's Seashore Park 海濱公園.  It looks cool, even if there are many who doubt whether it was worth the money.

Lantern Festival 元宵節 in Taitung.  This year was the biggest yet, with hordes of tourists descending on the city from the other side of Taiwan.  The lanterns were much better this year, in part because prisoners in the Taitung County Jail made many of them.  No, I'm not making that up.

Shi Dze Bay 西子灣 in Kaohsiung City 高雄市.  We were here on Christmas Day.  If you want to visit this place, I would suggest going there early in the morning, before the smog hits.  It's quite nice around 7 AM, but by 10 AM it's not scenic anymore.

View from Wan-An Community 萬安社區 in Chr Shang Township, Taitung.  The land here is very flat, and good for bicycling.  That's Highway 11 and "downtown" Chr Shang in the background.  A pretty place when the sun is out, but there are few tourist attractions in this area.

The Taipei Train Station 台北車站.  Everyone in Taiwan has probably been here at least once.  It is a great place for people watching, and there are some good restaurants on the second floor.  A very confusing place to catch a train.

The gate across from the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial 中正紀念堂 in Taipei.  There was some kind of Buddhist activity going on that day.  I could be wrong, but I believe my brother-in-law used to work at that tall building behind the trees.  If you want to see A LOT of Mainland Chinese tourists, this is the place to go.

9. Thoughts 7 (March 2013)

  • Attended a protest against nuclear power last Saturday.  Similar protests took place all over Taiwan, and tens of thousands participated.  Taitung's protest began in front of the Old Train Station, and from there we marched in a big circle around the city.  I got interviewed by a guy from the China Times, and a picture of myself and a few foreign friends wound up in the paper.

  • Most of my coworkers seem to think that there is nothing they can do about the government's energy policy, and about the use of nuclear power in Taiwan.  Instead, many of them immerse themselves in baseball.  Taiwan's team lost to Cuba this weekend, and many of my coworkers were saddened by this upset.  Honestly, FUCK baseball.*  I'd rather people focused on things that really matter, and understood that they CAN change the world if we all take part.  When you think you are powerless, they win.

  • Signed up for Taitung's Puyuma Triathlon.  I'll be doing the 50.5 K.  I had the option of paying more money, and opting for the possibility of prize money/trophies, or paying less money, and just participating for the fun of it.  I chose the second option.  I have neither time nor interest in killing myself over triathlons.  Just to go is enough.

  • Speaking of athletic events, there's a road race in Guanshan this weekend.  I'll be joining the 14 K.  Realistically, this is probably the only race that I have a shot at placing in this semester.  I'm also joining a half marathon in Lu Ye next month, but that will be my first half marathon ever.  I'll be overjoyed if I can just complete the Lu Ye race.

  • Had some truly, terrifically bad coffee this morning.  My aunt sent over some freeze-dried stuff from Taipei, and I have had a stomachache since 7 AM.

  • I'm trying to teach myself not to worry so much.  I begin to realize that all my worrying is usually an attempt to control things that are beyond my control, and that I should learn to focus on more profitable matters.  I think that worrying over other peoples' opinion of me, other peoples' emotions, and still more general goings-on is just wasted energy.  I dislike false humility, but I do think it is better to keep your eyes on the ground.
10. The Large Inside the Small (And Vice Versa) (March 2013)

You can tell a lot about people from the objects they collect on their desks.  These objects also say a lot about the place a person inhabits.

I'm not entirely sure what the objects on my desk say about me - or about Taiwan.  I lack any definitive answers.  Even so, I offer this catalog of my desktop.

1. My thermos

This was a gift.  It was purchased by a coworker at the Taitung 台東 Starbuck's, and it has a "龍" (dragon) on the side because it was the Year of the Dragon.  My name in Chinese, 龍毅翔 (Lung Yi-Shiang), also starts with "dragon," so I am sometimes known as "Mr. Dragon" at school.  When I make coffee at home in the morning, I usually put it in this thermos and bring it to work with me. 

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s): According to the Chinese version of Wikipedia, the mythical Fuxi 伏羲 had the body and head of a dragon.

2. My drinking mug

This mug was purchased in Kaohsiung's KMRT store, and commemorates both improvements to Kaohsiung's infrastructure and the Open University of Kaohsiung 高雄市立空中大學.  On the side of the mug are listed the improvements.  They are: Dream Mall, integrated road lighting,  the KMRT Formosa Boulevard Station, the KMRT Central Park Station, the Love Pier, the 85 Skytower, and E-DA World.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):Kaohsiung's Dream Mall is often referred to as the largest shopping mall in East Asia.

3. My pencil mug

I bought this one in Taipei'r MRT store, a long time ago.  The design is a map of the Taipei MRT system.  I broke off the handle, so I can't use it as a coffee mug anymore, but I used to enjoy staring at the map during school meetings.  I liked to imagine myself on the MRT, and what I would see at each stop.  Some of the newer lines/stations are missing from this mug.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):Taipei's MRT system began operation in 1996, though it wasn't really useful until years later.

4. My "armband"

I got this last weekend, when I took part in a march against nuclear power.  It says "護台東 / 反核廢" (protect Taitung/fight nuclear waste).  I also have several stickers from this march, but I haven't done anything with them yet.  My daughter may have used them to wallpaper her room.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):There are 3 active plants and 6 reactors in Taiwan, and 8.1% of Taiwan's energy is supplied through nuclear power.  Taiwan's nuclear waste is stored on Orchid Island 蘭嶼, Taitung County 臺東縣.

5. My "superfriends"

I have a 7-11 Spider-man and a 7-11 Captain America hanging from my cubicle wall.  These heroes were given to me by coworkers.  If you press on their feet, a marker comes out of their heads.  A lot of people went crazy for these when they first came out, but after a few weeks people had more of them than they knew what to do with.  I have the Iron Man and the Hulk at home.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s): In Marvel's "Civil War" comic book series, Spider-man entered the conflict on the pro-registration side, alongside Tony Stark/Iron Man.  He later switched his allegiance to Captain America's anti-registration clique.  The Hulk was off in space somewhere, probably smashing something.

6. My handkerchief

This was also purchased at the Taipei MRT shop.  It is also a map of Taipei's MRT system, but to this map they have added cute pictures of tourist attractions.  According to this handkerchief, Taipei is nearly overrun by pandas, Formosan black bears, and monkeys.  I can only pray that the denizens of Taipei will soon find relief from this animal plague.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):  The Formosan black bear is also known as the white-throated bear.  They are super cute!

7. My magnetic fish

Someone gave me these fish, but I can't remember who.  I also can't remember where they are from.  I don't think they are from Taiwan, and their design doesn't bring any part of the world to mind.  They remind me of the fish ladder in Seattle's Shilshole Park, though I am certain that they aren't from the States.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):Magneto, the Master of Magnetism, first appeared in X-men #1, way back in 1963.  To my knowledge he never visited the ATLAS-1 facility, which was an electromagnetic pulse generation and testing apparatus in New Mexico (thanks, Wikipedia!).

8. My ruler

Some kid just ran into the office and handed me this Superman ruler.  Kids will just do nice things like that.  I often use it to make worksheets.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):  The "Man of Steel" movie will be released on June 14, 2013.  I'll be seeing it in either Taipei or Seattle.  Hope it's good?

9. My pens

All of my pens save one are generic.  The one that isn't is from a local election.  Huang Jian-Ting 黃健庭 was running for Taitung County Magistrate 台東縣長, and he won this election by a landslide.  He continues to be a popular figure around town.  Many people credit him with bringing a lot of business to the area.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):  Mr. Huang Jian-Ting represents the KMT 國民黨.  The KMT is one of Asia's oldest and richest political parties.  It can trace its origins back to the founding of the Republic of China in 1911.

10. My race number

This is from the Chr Shang 池上 Marathon last semester.  This race number/bib states that I ran the 10K, and that I received both my medal and my lunchbox.  The race was sponsored by the Taitung Urban and Rural Athletic Association 台東城鄉運動協會, the same association that will sponsor the Puyuma Triathlon in May.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):  Chr Shang is at the northern end of Taitung County, just over the county line from Hualien 花蓮.  It is known throughout Taiwan for the rice it produces.  The Chr Shang lunchbox is also very famous.

11. My pictures

I have several pictures of Seattle, my hometown, on my desk.  I will be going back to Seattle on June 27, and staying until August 25.  One of the pictures is of Seattle's famous Space Needle/downtown skyline, and the others are of scenic areas around Seattle.  My favorite is the one of Gig Harbor, with Mt. Rainier in the background.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):  About 226,000 people live in Taitung City.  Approximately 620,000 people live in Seattle.  Seattle covers an area of 369.2 square kilometers, and Taitung City covers an area of 109.8 square kilometers.  One would think that the population of Seattle would be proportionately larger, but it has a much lower urban density.

12. Other stuff

The rest of the stuff on my desk is there for vocational purposes, and says little about Taiwan, my personality, or the intersection of the two.  There is a calendar, some books, and some DVDs.  They are there because I use them, and might be found on any teacher's desk, in any part of the world.

(Semi)Interesting Fact(s):  The most popular of my DVDs is "昆蟲Life秀" which is a series of European cartoons about bugs.

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