2011年3月1日 星期二

Blog Archive 10 很久很久以前的文章

Older entries from Taitung Style and Taiwan Style.  To minimize space, I've deleted the pictures.  Ready to time travel?  Let's go!

1. Taiwanese Food (Taiwan Style, March 三月 2011)

Maybe I am just writing this because I'm hungry. I had planned to write about the 2011 Indigenous Games, which Taitung just hosted, but since that athletic event was so uniformly uninteresting I have little to write about - at least as far as that is concerned.

So I'll write about food instead. I should make it known, at the outset - if you don't know already - that the term "Taiwanese food" can have two meanings. The first meaning encompasses all the different kinds of food eaten in Taiwan, from any ethnic group. The second meaning is limited to Taiwanese food as a property of the Taiwanese ethnic group, i.e. people who originally migrated to Taiwan from the part of Mainland south of the Min River.

The symbolic Taiwanese food - and in this sense I'm talking about the specific Taiwanese ethnic group - is the fried oyster cake, or in Taiwanese oajian 蚵仔煎. Oysters, tomatoes, and eggs are fried together, roughly forming a kind of cake, but more closely resembling a pile. A lot of Taiwanese people love this food, and it is a popular staple at many night markets. I myself can't stand it, simply because my stomach revolts against the idea of oysters and eggs cooked together - in any combination.

Beyond oajian, and with regard to Taiwanese food from any ethnic group, there is an endless variety of choices. Taiwanese people are nothing if not devoted to food. My wife and her relatives can talk about food for hours - from where to get it, to how to cook it, to how it should be eaten. Just turn on the TV at any hour in Taiwan, and you will probably see people discussing food, or cooking food, or eating food. It can all seem quite gluttonous from a Western perspective, though with my country's penchant for obesity I'm not about to point my finger.

Many of the Chinese holidays have foods associated with them. During Dragon Boat Festival, people eat "rice dumplings" 粽子. During Chinese New Year, people try to have fish at the table. There are many other traditions regarding holidays and food, in fact too many to list here.

Taiwanese food is almost always cooked in a wok, using gas as a source of heat, though there are notable exceptions. Ginger Duck 薑母鴨 is cooked in a pot, as is Stewed Goat 羊肉爐. Dumplings 餃子 can be fried in a wok as potstickers 鍋貼, but they are also commonly steamed in bamboo trays. Taiwanese people also love barbeques, and cooking over an open fire. Taiwanese people barbeque most of the same things that Westerners do, though I have never seen anyone in Taiwan barbeque a hamburger.

My favorite Taiwanese food is probably the tsong yo bing 蔥油餅, or fried onion cake. This is basically a tortilla, often friend with eggs and topped with chili sauce. I love them.

In fact, I love them so much I think I am going to eat one right now. If you happen to be in Taiwan while you are reading this, I would encourage you to do the same!

2.Dragon Boat Festival 端午節 (Taiwan Style, March 三月 2011)

I'm sure Wikipedia can offer a better explanation for Dragon Boat Festival than I can. Feel free to refer to the article here. I have read a lot of Chinese history, but often the historical origins of holidays are beside the point. Witness, for example, many Americans' confusion when you ask them why they celebrate Halloween. The point of any holiday is usually just the activities associated with it, and the chance to participate in a social event.

So to make a long, long story much shorter, Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the suicide of an exiled official in ancient China. After the government was reorganized, he was sent to live on a lake, where he wrote poems and felt very sorry for himself. After years of whining, he jumped into said lake, and local people attempted to retrieve his body. They were unsuccessful, even though (as one story has it) they threw rice dumplings into the lake, to distract the fish from his corpse.

Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. This means that the date on which it appears on the Western (non-lunar) calendar is different every year. This year it falls on June 6, and I am happy to say that we get the day off.

On Dragon Boat Festival, people race dragon boats. These are long boats that are paddled by a team of people, usually men. There are several dragon boat races throughout the island, some more interesting than others. The race in Taitung 台東, where I live, is in the middle of the Deep Forest Park 森林公園. It's worth seeing if you're around.

On Dragon Boat Festival, people usually barbecue, eat rice dumplings, and get drunk. There is a wine peculiar to the holiday, but I don't care for it. Dragon Boat Festival most closely resembles the Fourth of July in the States, given that no one is really thinking about the holiday's origins very hard, and they are just using the day off to have a good time.

Teachers such as myself have a special reason to like Dragon Boat Festival: it signifies the end of the second semester. Provided it falls on a weekday (it didn't last year!), it is the last holiday before the BIG holiday: summer vacation.

3.Hualien County 花蓮 (Taiwan Style, April 四月 2011)

Hualien County 花蓮縣 is on the east coast of Taiwan, between Taitung 台東 and Yilan Counties 宜蘭縣. Generally speaking, it's not as sunny as Taitung, but not as rainy as Yilan.

About 230,000 people live in Taitung City 台東市, and last time I checked, about three times that number lived in Hualien City 花蓮市. Hualien City, located at the northern end of Hualien County, has a much larger industrial base than Taitung City, and also welcomes a much larger number of tourists each year.

The most famous thing in Hualien County is undoubtedly Taroko Gorge 太魯閣. Taroko Gorge is roughly northwest of Hualien City, and lies along the Central Cross-Island Highway 中橫 that stretches all the way to Taichung 台中, on the other side of the island.

Hualien County is also where you'll find the Ruei Suei 瑞穗 Pasture and Hot Springs, one of the entrances to Jade Mountain National Park 玉山國家公園, and also Carp Lake 鯉魚潭. Besides these, there are many opportunities for outdoor recreation along Hualien's coastline, the most famous of these being the length of beaches north of Hualien City, along the Su-Hua Highway 蘇花公路.

For foreigners looking for work in East Taiwan, Hualien is probably the best place to start looking. There are many English schools in Hualien City, and a one or two-year apprenticeship in such schools would probably offer a chance to work in more rural areas.

I drive to Hualien quite a bit, and although I am no expert on it, I know it fairly well. Compared to Taitung, where I live, there are much more opportunities in Hualien. Compared to Yilan, the weather is less depressing, and the landscape more resembles the "tropical paradise" many people envision East Taiwan to be.

4. Nuclear-Powered 核能發電 (Taitung Style, April 四月 2011)

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident in Japan is all over the news these days.日本福島的核能意外仍是現今新聞的重點.

Even people in Taitung are worried about this accident. The most common concerns are "fallout rain" or "rainout," and also the wisdom of eating seafood, given the seepage of radioactive material into the waters off the coast of Japan.甚至住在臺東的人也很擔心可能的輻射雨,和日本海岸線附近的放射性物質對"吃的安全"的影響.

To some, all of the worry over something so far away might seem ridiculous. Taitung, after all, is a great distance from Fukushima. A trip to that part of Japan would involve at least two plane rides, and several hours of traveling.對某些人來說,擔心那些遠在天邊的禍事有些可笑,畢竟臺東與福島的距離那麼遠,搭飛機都還需要轉機和幾個小時的路程呢!

Still, when one thinks of that distance with respect to the weather, the distance between Fukushima and Taitung is not so great after all. It so happens that at this time of year, wind and currents are blowing most of the fallout from the accident northwards and out into the Pacific, sending a large percentage of radioactive isotopes towards North America. Were these winds and currents to change direction - as they will inevitably do with the change of seasons - more of this fallout will reach Taiwan. What this phenomenon points to is the fact that fallout from any nuclear event is liable to wind up anywhere, and the ultimate destination of all those isotopes is at the whim of global weather patterns.只是從天氣的影響來看,福島與臺東的距離就不是那麼遠了.這個季節的風向和洋流把大部分的輻射雨往北送到太平洋,將大比例的輻射物質送到北美洲.這些風和洋流會不會改變方向呢?不可避免地當季節變化時,這些輻射雨也會到達臺灣.這些現象都指向一個事實:任何核能事件所造成的輻射雨都隨風向轉移,最終都落在全球氣候的運轉模式軌道中.

I am against nuclear power for this reason. The technology is too unstable, and should accidents occur they are likely to affect anyone, in any part of the globe. I often wonder whether or not the residents of Orchid Island have pondered this fact, given that they live next door to several hundred tons of nuclear waste. Should such a tsunami strike Orchid Island, what would it mean for them? Or for those of us in Taitung? Or for the world?這也是我為什摩反對核能的原因.這一項技術太不穩定,當意外發生時,它的影響是全球性的.我常想住在蘭嶼的人是否思考過他們就住在核廢料的隔壁?如果哪一天蘭嶼也遭逢海嘯襲擊,那蘭嶼的人會怎麼樣?其他的臺灣人會怎樣?全世界的人呢?

This, and Taiwan has its own nuclear reactors to worry about. It is a fact that tsunamis such as that which struck Fukushima also strike Taiwan. Even though all of these reactors are on the other side of the island, on the Taiwan Strait, does that mean they are tsunami-proof? Or earthquake-proof? And what about all that waste they produce - left on Orchid Island?臺灣有自己的核能反應爐需要煩惱,事實上,福島發生了海嘯,表示臺灣也可能發生同樣的事件.雖然所有的反應爐都在臺灣西部,緊鄰臺灣海峽,卻不表示不會有海嘯或地震發生,那些核廢料該怎麼辦呢?存放在蘭嶼嗎?

I don't think people in Taitung need to worry about Fukushima in terms of immediate effects. We are very far from it, and our level of risk is probably about as low (or as high) as for the rest of the world. I just hope that Fukushima gets people thinking about the viability of nuclear power, and moreover gets them to take action. Nuclear power makes a kind of economic sense, but it is not worth the risks involved.我不認為臺東的人需要擔心福島事件對我們立即造成的影響,我們與它的距離遠,我們受到的影響程度可能和全世界的人們一樣低(或高),我只希望人們藉由這次的福島意外考慮核電的可行性,並且付諸行動.核能發電雖然符合經濟需求,但卻不值得冒這麼大的險.

5. Driving Around (Taiwan Style, April 四月 2011)

My wife keeps nagging me to get a Taiwanese driver's license. She thinks it would be better if I had one, just in case we get pulled over by the police.

The thing is that I once had a scooter license, and I never once needed it for anything. It remained in my wallet, unused, for the entire year it was valid. It is still in there, and I have never used it once.

I got my scooter license in Taichung 台中, about a year after first arriving in Taiwan. I think I was more "American" then, and more worried about rules and laws and things like that. I remember that I had purchased a new scooter, a 125 cc that cost me over 40,000 NT, and I was somehow convinced that my scooter would be impounded if I didn't have a license to drive it.

So I motored down to downtown Taichung, took a test on a computer, and then did a lap around this fun little course built just for driving tests. The course was indoors, and had little stoplights and intersections built in. It was very fun, though nothing like the hellish traffic one encounters along Jung Gang Road 中港路.

I cheated on the computer test. This wasn't because I am a dishonest person (I hope!), but just because the English used on the test was indecipherable to me. My wife sat next to me while I took the test, and cleared her throat every time I was about to enter the wrong answer.

After this I had my license, and I remember showing it to my coworkers the next day. Of course no one could really understand why I bothered to get it, and I grew very sullen at their amusement. "You guys just don't understand!" I said, "It's the law!" I probably sounded very "American" then - so worried over the authorities, and the rules, and what happens to transgressors.

This license expired after a year, and I haven't renewed it since. I even own a car now, and I am only licensed to drive in America, where the police actually bother someone like me. I have been pulled over on several occasions after my license expired, but not once did I need that license. Instead, I just pretended not to understand what they were saying, and they grew so flustered that they just waved me on - happy, free, and unlicensed to drive.

If my wife has her way, I'll be taking that driving test any day now. If I have my way, I'll avoid doing it. I suppose it would be essential in the event of an accident, but then again I've been driving here since 1999, and I haven't had a single accident. I attribute this fact to my driving defensively, and moreover driving only occasionally. I drive maybe twice a week, and only on the weekends.

Whatever happens, I'll be sure to let you know if I get that license. This battle of wills is ongoing, and isn't likely to end any time soon.

6. Good Times (Taiwan Style, April 四月 2011)

On my desk at work I have pictures of my family, pictures of places I've been, and pictures of friends I passed the time with. I like these pictures because they make me feel less lonely at work.

In my office, there are times when everyone else has class, and I am all by myself, either busy with work or wasting time on the computer. At such times, my pictures remind me that I am never really alone.

Some of these pictures are here. For me they all represent good memories.

This is my wife and my two daughters, at the aquarium in Ping Dong 屏東. This was taken about a year ago. It was very hot that day, but we had a lot of fun.

This is my younger daughter, Lulu, at the Seattle Center. My wife is behind her, and she is looking up at my parents. This was taken at one of the music festivals they have there every year. I think this was in 2006.

 This was taken many years ago. This is my older daughter, Penny, opening her Christmas presents in Seattle. This is one of three Christmases Penny spent with my parents in Seattle, the other six were in Taiwan. Behind her is my brother Jeff, of whom I have very few pictures. He is a musician, lives in California, and I only see him when we both happen to be in Seattle.

 This is my wife and I, on a boat going to Ba Li 八里 in Taipei 台北. We look very sweaty, but it was a good day. I remember walking around Danshui 淡水 and eating at the night market before getting on the boat. This was taken about two years ago, just after we returned from Seattle.

 This is my wife standing above a river just outside Spokane, Washington. This was not long after we were married, I think. Maybe 2000 or so. This is one of my favorite pictures of her.

 This is Penny and I in Seattle, Washington. This was taken during a school field trip for Beacon Hill Elementary, where I was then a kindergarten teacher. I remember it being very fun. My class was visiting Alki Beach, which is the most famous beach in West Seattle. 2004?

 Having dinner with my father-in-law in Shu-lin 樹林, Taipei County 台北縣. I like my father-in-law a great deal. He is a very kind man, and also a good musician. I believe he now works as a security guard, and also tours around Taipei County with his band. This was taken during 2009.

 My family outside the National Taiwan Museum of Prehistory 國立臺灣史前博物館 in Taitung 台東, Taiwan. Nothing so special about this day, but I'm sure we had our fun. I'm guessing that this was taken around 2007.

And that's it for me and my pictures. At least for today!

7.Yunlin County 雲林縣 (Taiwan Style, April 四月 2011)

Yunlin County 雲林縣 and I go back a ways. My wife is from there, and for this reason Yunlin was the first part of Taiwan (outside of Taichung 台中), that I had a chance to explore.

Yunlin is also easy to write about. Why? Because there's not much there. Almost all of Yunlin is very flat, very rural, and there aren't many tourist attractions to speak of. The biggest city in Yunlin is Douliou 斗六, and this city is very, very small.

There are no department stores in Douliou, there are no fancy restaurants, and the most famous thing there is the "Douliou Old Street," which would only be interesting to those immersed in local history. The place is dead quiet at night, and you can easily walk around Douliou in an evening.

Most tourists visiting Yunlin go to one of two places: either the "Jian Hu Mountain Fancy World" 劍湖山世界 or the coffee-producing area in Gu Keng 古坑. I have never been to "Jian Hu Mountain Fancy World," though I have parked outside the entrance. We were scared off by the price of a ticket. Gu Keng is pretty enough, but most of the coffee production in that area takes place in factories, and results in the coffee powder preferred in offices throughout the island. I wanted to buy coffee beans there once - and couldn't find any for sale!

I like the coastline through Yunlin because it's strange. There is a string of forlorn fishing villages down the coast from Taichung to Jia Yi 嘉義, and not a single one of them features anything that would draw a single tourist from anywhere. The highlight of Yunlin's coastline is a huge petrochemical plant, with the shanty town outside of this plant hosting a slew of brothels and dangerous-looking KTVs.

My wife is from a place in Yunlin called Tsao Hu 草湖, which is in Luen Bei Township 崙背鄉. Tsao Hu consists of a few hundred houses huddled along a single highway, with the town of Luen Bei not far off. Tsao Hu is surrounded by fields on every side, and it is very dusty when the wind picks up.

My wife says that in a few years the entire western half of Yunlin will have sunk beneath sea level. This, she says, is because the farmers there have depleted both the soil and the water table to the point where nothing more can be done. I don't know how accurate her prediction is, but I would be sorry to see Yunlin disappear. I have a lot of memories of that place, and I have often thought of Yunlin as a home away from home. Yunlin is also special because it is so distinctly Taiwanese, and Taiwan would be a poorer place without it.

8. Rain and Radiation (Taiwan Style, April 四月 2011)

There are six nuclear reactors in Taiwan, divided between three plants. There is one plant in south Taiwan, not far from Kenting and its famous beaches, and two others in Taipei County. Taipower has plans to open another plant in the near future, this also in Taipei County.

Nuclear power accounts for about 17% of the electricity supply in Taiwan, though with slowing birthrates this number has fluctuated quite a bit in recent years. Taiwan imports about 98% of its energy supply in the form of oil, coal, and natural gas. Counties such as Kaohsiung, with its hazardous level of air pollution, have made great strides in the use of renewable forms of energy, though of course Taiwan still has a long way to go with respect to becoming "eco-friendly" in any sense of the term.

In the wake of recent events in Fukushima, Japan, there is a lot of worry in Taiwan over nuclear power. The Fukushima Nuclear Event resulted in the release of nuclear material into the ocean around Japan, and radioactive materials such as radioiodine and uranium have already found their way into the atmosphere. While present weather conditions are sending most of these contaminants in the direction of North America, there is no reason to believe that this will always be the case.

Recently we had a meeting at school, wherein one of my coworkers suggested that we have the children wear extra raincoats when it rains - as a means of blocking exposure to radiation. This coworker is not known for her deep knowledge of scientific matters, and needless to say there were many who questioned the effectiveness of her strategy. Even if raincoats could protect us from radiation, how are we going to avoid this "fallout rain" or "rainout" from entering the water we drink, or the food we eat? All of our water in Taitung comes from a reservoir in the mountains, and any contaminants passed into that reservoir are also going to pass into our bodies at some point.

Taitung shares another concern with those closer to Fukushima, and that is a proximity to toxic nuclear waste. A fairly high percentage of the nuclear waste generated within Taiwan has been disposed of on Orchid Island, which is much closer to Taiwan's main island than many people think. There are also plans to begin disposing of nuclear waste in Da Ren Township, which is on the main island. Were such plans to be followed through to completion, this would put Taiwan in a fairly perilous situation, given the occurrence of a tsunami such as that which struck Japan. Given such a situation, it is always hard to assess what is leaking, and where, and who it will ultimately affect.

Personally speaking, I can only hope that people start rethinking nuclear power. It's dangerous, and not worth the trouble. Yes, it is a fairly economical way to generate a lot of electricity, but all of that waste is just sitting there, and there's more of it every day. Taking into account the variability of climates and plate tectonics, I think it is likely that another accident, at least similar in scope to Fukushima, is likely to occur outside of Japan.

It is an unfortunate fact of human history that things often have to reach a crisis point before people start mending their ways. It is likely to happen with fossil fuels, and it will probably also happen with nuclear power - unless we somehow discover a way to properly dispose of that waste. Nuclear power might be a step forward to energy self-sufficiency for many nations, but it is a step backward for our health, our safety, and our piece of mind.

9. The 2011 Taitung Flowing Lake International Triathlon 台東活水湖國際鐵人三項賽 (Taitung Style, May 五月 2011)

The 2011 Taitung Flowing Lake International Triathlon is the first triathlon I have ever participated in. It is also the most exhausting thing I have ever done. I have always liked running, but this is the first time I ever tried to throw swimming and bicycling into the equation.2011年台東活水湖鐵人三項比賽是我第一次參加的鐵人賽,也是我這輩子目前做過最累的一件事,雖然我喜歡跑步,但這是我第一次參加將游泳,騎腳踏車與跑步結合的比賽.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. for this thing, roughly two and a half hours before the triathlon started. I was a little bit nervous, but mostly just worried that I had forgotten something. I drank about a gallon of water, had breakfast, and went over my personal checklist for the hundredth time.我在五點半起床,比比賽時間早了兩個小時.我有點緊張,但大部分的原因是擔心忘了該帶的物品,在喝了大概一加侖的水和吃些早餐後,繼續進行"第一百次"的檢查動作.

Do I have....看看是否東西都齊全了.......

  • My bike? (check)腳踏車(有)
  • My clothes? (check)衣服(有)
  • My shoes and socks? (check)鞋子和襪子(有)
  • My water bottle? (check)水壺(有)
  • My energy packs? (check)能量包(有)
  • My race number and assorted race paraphernalia?(and... check)號碼布....等(有)
So, finally convinced that yes, I did have everything, I woke up the rest of the family and we rode our bikes over to the the Deep Forest Park. It was at this point that the morning began to take on a very surreal aspect, as I finally and completely realized that yes, I was about to do my first triathlon, and no, there was no way to back out of it.最後確認後,我將全家叫起床並且騎腳踏車往森林公公園出發.這時"參加鐵人三賽"這件事變得很不真實,是的,我是真的將參加這場賽事,而且不能反悔了.
An hour and a half later I'm standing among 200 or so other people, waiting for the swim portion of the triathlon to begin. I feel fairly confident at this point, because the swim course is actually smaller than I though it would be. Someone shoots off a starting gun, and we all jump into the water. It is at this point that I almost have a heart attack, because I finally realize how inept most of the other competitors are in the water, and I begin to to understand how truly dangerous it is to be in the water with so many people who don't really know how to swim. "What if one of them grabs on to me?" I wonder, "And how am I supposed to avoid getting kicked in the face?"一個半小時後,我與兩百多位的參賽者一同等著遊泳比賽開始,我對自己很有信心,因為遊泳的距離比我認為得還短,鳴槍後,兩百多位參賽者一起在水中的情景讓我差點得心臟病,大部分選手的泳技都不怎麼樣,我開始了解和這麼多泳技不佳的人一起在水中是多麼危險的一件事,我開始猜想:"如果他們抓著我怎麼辦?","我怎麼避免臉部被踢中獎?".

After fifteen or so minutes, I realize that swimming in the middle is probably the most dangerous place to be, so I work my way over to the right bank of the lake, and pick up a fair amount of speed. The only trouble is that my swim cap keeps coming off, and I have to stop FOUR TIMES just to screw it back on my head. Before starting, I thought of swimming as my weakest event, but as the swim progresses I realize that I am much better than I thought.大約十五分鐘後我意識到在中間區域遊泳是最危險的,所以我試著游到湖的右邊,這樣也讓我的速度快些.唯一的問題是泳帽,因為它一直掉下來,我必須停下來四次把它戴好,下水之前我以為遊泳應該是我最弱的項目,沒想到我在水中的表現比我以為得好多了.

Afterwards we are all running to the Transition Area, which has been set up on the other side of a hill that runs along the left side of the lake. It's quite a long run, I think, but I am so happy from the swim that I don't think about it much. I find my bike among the over 500 that are waiting there, put on my helmet, drink some water, eat an energy pack, slip on my shoes and socks, and walk my bike to the starting line for the bike segment. At this point my confidence is fairly high, but then again I am competing with a mountain bike, and I know that there's not much hope of beating guys riding road bikes that cost more than my car. I figure that if I do an average of 30 KM an hour, over the entire cycle leg, that I'll be OK, and not too far behind the other competitors.游泳結束後,我們要跑到湖左邊的小丘旁的轉換站,那距離真是有點長,只是我很高興自己能夠完成游泳的部分,所以對於距離也就沒想太多了.我的腳踏車停在五百多輛的腳踏車中等著我,戴上安全帽,喝些水和補充能量包,穿好鞋襪,牽著腳踏車走到下一階段的起點,開始腳踏車的比賽路程.這時我充滿了信心,只是我的腳踏車是登山車,不大有希望贏過騎著比我的車還貴的名貴公路車的人,我計算如果保持在時速30公里的狀態下, 我不會落後其他人太多.

So we all ride up to the other side of Du Lan and back. The sun is coming out big time, and it's HOT. Fortunately the sun slips back behind the clouds after I reach the turnaround, and even though a lot of guys are passing me, I still feel like I'm doing alright - for a guy on a mountain bike, anyway.我們都騎到都蘭再折返回來,這時太陽已經很大了,幸運的是回程時太陽又躲回雲層去了,雖然很多人越過我,但是我覺得對騎登山車的我來說,我的成績已經很不錯了,

After 40 KM of cycling we race back to Taitung City, and back to the Transition Area in the Forest Park. I know I'm not anywhere near the front of the pack, but I think I've done fairly well for a guy with such a heavy bike. I walk the bike back in, have some more water, eat another energy pack, and begin walking to the start of the running segment.經過了四十公里的腳踏車賽程,我們又回到台東森林公園的鐵人比賽場地,雖然我不是屬於領先的那羣參賽者,但是騎著笨重腳踏車的我有這樣的成績已經很好了.我將車子牽回車棚放好,喝些水再補充些能量,開始走向跑步賽程的起點.

And here was where I really got into trouble, because by the time the run started I... just... had... nothing... left. Really. I couldn't have run that last 10K if you had put a gun to my head. I managed to run about a fourth of it, and then run/walk the rest of the way to Li Ji and back.這一部分是我有麻煩的地方,跑步時,我...沒...有...任何...精力了,我只能跑四分之一,然後就是一邊跑一邊走地到利吉和回來.

As I am (mostly) walking back past the Forest Park, I manage a final run towards the finish line, and find out that I completed the triathlon in almost exactly three and a half hours. By this time I'm so tired that I feel kind of "floaty," and all I can think about is a) having a really, really huge milk tea, and b) jumping right back into that lake, and sitting there for a very long time.我幾乎走回來,最後終點前我是跑步通過的,而且整個賽程我花了大概三個半小時完成,這時我已經累到覺得自己有點飄浮感了,我唯一能想到的只有(a)喝杯超級大奶茶或是(b)跳進湖裡,並且久久地坐著.

For those unfamiliar with triathlons, three and a half hours really isn't a very good time. I hope I can do better next time. I am already signed up for two triathlons in Seattle (in July), and I'll probably sign up for a third, in Taitung, in October. I'm thinking that it would be best for me to finally spend the money and buy a more expensive bike. I also want to train harder, which I plan to do in the following two months.三個半小時的成績並不是很好,我希望下次我有更好的成績.我已經報名西雅圖七月份的兩場鐵人賽,我可能會繼續參加台東十月的另一場比賽,我最好還是花錢買輛貴一點的腳踏車,而且更努力於往後兩個月的練習.

Man, I am really, really tired as I write this. My respect to everyone who came out today and gave their all. My congratulations to those who finished first, but especially to those who had the heart to finish last. You are all heroes in my book, and I hope to see some of you next year!喔!j我真的,真的很累,我很佩服今天來參加的選手們,也恭喜那些比較早完賽的選手和那些終不放棄的選手,你們都是我心目中的英雄,希望明年還可以再見到你們!

10. Betel Nut 檳榔 Girls (Taiwan Style, May 五月 2011)

Photo courtesy of Tobie Openshaw's Betelnut Beauties

I find it strange that I can only think of ONE betel nut girl in all of Taitung County 台東縣. I can't tell if they're just not popular here, or if the authorities are suppressing that practice in some subtle way. It could be that Taitung is just too "rural" for that. I don't know. All I do know is that the only betel nut girl I have ever seen in Taitung is WAY up in Guanshan 關山, at the other end of Taitung County.

In case you're reading this outside of Asia, betel nut (檳榔) is the fruit of a palm tree found throughout Taiwan. People here wrap it in leaves, and usually add a kind of paste to it. They chew it in this form, and the resulting "high" is similar to what you might get from a strong cup of coffee. After a few years of eating it your teeth start to turn red/purple, and if you are especially lucky you will develop mouth cancer.

I've eaten betel nut from the tree, though I have never purchased it from one of the many, many stands where they sell it. I just can't abide the smell of that stuff. Some of my wife's relatives chew it, but when I talk to them I try to sit on the other side of the room.

Photo courtesy of Tobie Openshaw's Betelnut Beauties

On the west side of the island they often hire scantily-clad girls to sell betel nut. Usually these "girls" aren't girls at all, but rather heavily made-up women. Some of them wear swimsuits, some of them wear schoolgirl uniforms, and some of them wear almost nothing at all. I remember a particular "girl" in Hsinchu 新竹, who spent winters working in a see-through bra and thong. She made her stand a lot of money, and I can only hope that she didn't die of pneumonia.

I used to think that betel nut girls were very sexy, but they don't do much for me anymore. Perhaps I am just used to them. Perhaps I am getting older. I think I generally prefer women who leave more to the imagination.

Photo courtesy of Tobie Openshaw's Betelnut Beauties

11. History in the Making (Taiwan Style, May 五月 2011)

Does anyone out there remember Taipei 台北 before the 101 or the MRT? Or even Kaohsiung 高雄 before their MRT? Does anyone remember when Lee Tung-Hui 李董輝 was President? Or a time when there was only ONE freeway in Taiwan?

I'm sure somebody does, but it seems that the longer I'm in Taiwan, the fewer people remember these events. It's not even that I'm so old (36 and counting), or that I've been in Taiwan that long (since 1999), but I feel like the longer I'm here, the younger everyone else gets.

The girl/woman sitting next to me, for example, remembers only ONE of the events described above. She is from Kaohsiung, and vividly remembers the completion of the Kaohsiung MRT. As for the others, she was "in middle school then," and they are not worth her attention. She probably thinks I am ANCIENT when I talk about Lee Tung-Hui being President, or the 9-21 Earthquake, or other irrelevant things like that.

So yes, I'm starting to feel a little "dated" in relation to my memories of Taiwan. It's not that the island has changed so much - at least not for me - but I am finding that the younger folks often have different frames of reference. They are using a different ruler to measure the past, and they have their own memorable events to measure the distance between years.

I suppose the same difference could be observed between myself and my parents, or my parents and their parents. Each generation decides what the "big moments" are, and we start counting from there. My parents had the Vietnam War, Watergate, and an energy crisis, just as my grandparents had World War II, the Korean Conflict, and maybe the Great Depression. My wife's parents had Taiwan's expulsion from the UN, and her grandparents could look back to years of Japanese occupation, and a much "simpler" kind of life under Chiang Kai-Shek 蔣介石.

All in all, when I think about the changes I have witnessed in Taiwan, I feel happy. I feel like things are getting better. Taipei is more interesting for the 101 building, and also much easier to get around for its MRT. The same could be said for Kaohsiung's MRT. Taiwan is also much better for having switched to a multiparty form of government, even if Chen Shui-bien 陳水扁 was a big disappointment. Anyone who remembers the MASSIVE traffic jams on the old freeway would also agree that the newer, Jung Shan 中山 freeway is a definite improvement.

So here's looking forward to some more changes, and some more improvements. These changes might not be noticed by our younger members, but they are significant just the same. Whatever we think of these changes, and whether we notice them or not, we are all marching into the same future, and I think that it will be a better future for most.

12. Thoughts (II) (Taiwan Style, May 五月 2011)

So it's Wednesday, May 11, and here I am again in front of the computer. I don't have any classes on Wednesday morning, and the usual afternoon meeting has been called off on account of our school test. This leaves me with an entire day free, even if I am still required to remain in the office, gathering dust, until the moment when some coworker should desire my presence elsewhere.

Wednesdays, in other words, often get boring. I find that I have to plan ahead for Wednesdays, since I am not someone who deals well with either isolation or too much free time. During Wednesdays I am often alone in the office, and the silence tends to drive me crazy after an hour or so.

Right now, I am of course writing this blog. After this I will help the other English teacher correct some of her tests, and after that I will really have to start thinking of something to do. Wikipedia is good for half an hour or so, Facebook is good for about twenty minutes, and maybe after that I write a lesson or two - it's hard to say.

But whatever I end up doing, nothing in May is so unbearable. Why? Because summer vacation is on the way, and during this particular summer vacation I will be going back to Seattle for two months. This gives me only five weeks or so of work, and then I will be blissfully unoccupied for two... whole... months. Given what I said above, you might think that this would also be a problem, but being unoccupied at work and being unoccupied during vacation are two different things altogether.

The only downside to summer vacation is that my wife couldn't go back with us this time. Not long ago we bought an apartment, and the cost of tickets for four back to the States was shockingly high this year. I'm sure I will miss her very much while I am in Seattle, but it will also be good to see my parents again, and revisit some of our favorite haunts in and around Sea-town.

All in all, I guess this Wednesday business in not so bad. I have things to look forward to, and I'll find something to busy myself with. I only hope that you can say the same, wherever you are!

13. Superhero Movies! 超人電影 (Taitung Style, May 五月 2011)

Like many American men, I am obsessed with the idea of superhero movies. There is something indescribably cool about seeing characters like Thor, Green Lantern, and Iron Man appear on the big screen, even if the movie versions of these characters are sometimes disappointing. 我超愛超人電影,就跟許多美國男人一樣. 電影中的雷神索爾, 綠燈俠和鋼鐵人的酷,讓我無法以言語形容. 雖然不一定每部超人電影都很精彩, 可是我還是喜歡超人電影.

I grew up reading comic books, so the process of translating superheroes into a movie context fascinates me. Movies can do so much now, and characters that would have once been unthinkable in a movie context - for example, Green Lantern - are now making their way to a movie theater near you. 我小時候最喜歡看漫畫書, 所以我對每個電影中的超人都很好奇. 現代的電影特效很厲害, 讓漫畫書中的角色活生生出現在觀眾面前. 所以現在任何超人電影都有可能出現在螢幕上了.

Most recently, Thor appeared this May. I went to Kaohsiung last weekend specifically to see this movie, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. I was a bit skeptical when I heard that Kenneth Branagh was directing it, but he did a good job. The story has some serious plot holes, and Thor's costume could have been better, but the actors involved were fantastic. 雷神索爾在今年五月上映. 我們上禮拜為了看這部電影開車到高雄. 我覺得它不錯. 剛聽說Kenneth Branagh是這部片的導演的時候, 我想這部電影應該沒什麼好看的, 可是看過它以後,我發現這位導演進步了. 雖然雷神索爾的故事情節有點漏洞, 英雄的服裝造型也不太酷, 但是這部片的演員演技很棒.

And, as the poster above announces, Green Lantern comes out next month. Warner Bros. has pumped a lot of money into this picture, and I think with Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Edge of Darkness) at the helm, it should be a good film. I liked Thor, but I think Green Lantern will be even better.從上面的廣告應該看的出來綠燈俠快上映了. Warner Bros. 這間電影公司為了這部電影花了很多錢. 從它的導演Martin Campbell(皇家夜總會,驚爆萬惡城)來看,這部片應該很棒. 雖然雷神索爾不錯, 但是綠燈俠應該更好.

In July, Captain America: the First Avenger hits theaters. This movie also has a good director behind it, and the incomparable Hugo Weaving plays the Red Skull. I am a bit confused by Chris Evans as Captain America, since he also played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies. Yeah, he's got the build for it, but I think having the same guy play two different superheroes is kind of strange. 七月的時候還有美國隊長出場. 這部片有一個好導演, 還有我最喜歡的Hugo Weaving扮演 Red Skull. 只是我覺得Chris Evans當美國隊長很奇怪, 因為他以前飾演驚奇四超人的Human Torch. 雖然他有美國隊長的身材, 可是一個人飾演兩個超人很奇怪.

After Captain America, there isnt' much going on with respect to superhero movies for quite some time. A sequel to Ghost Rider is coming out, and another X-men film, which acts as prequel to the other films. I am not that excited about either movie. I thought the last Ghost Rider film was awful, and I have never been a big X-men fan. 繼美國隊長以後, 可能要等很久才會有很棒的超人電影. 雖然今年夏天還會有惡靈戰警2跟X戰警:第一戰. 但是我對這兩部電影不是很有興趣.因為惡靈戰警第一部不好看, 而且我原本對X戰警就沒什麼興趣.

For the next "big guns" in the superhero canon, we'll have to wait until next year. This is when The Dark Knight Rises comes out, as well as The Amazing Spider-man, Superman: Man of Steel, and The Avengers. The Amazing Spider-man is the underdog of the four, since neither Toby Maguire or Sam Raimi will be returning for this fourth Spider-man film. There will of course be a lot of hype surrounding the next Batman movie, given not only the star power involved, but also the fact that the Dark Knight was so commercially and critically successful. The Man of Steel might be good, especially with Zack Snyder directing and Christopher Nolan producing. 比較有名的超人電影明年才會上映. 明年有新的蝙蝠俠, 超人, 跟蜘蛛人,也有Avengers超人隊. 新的蜘蛛人是其中比較沒有希望的, 因為這一次沒有Sam Raimi當導演, 也沒有Toby Maguire當蜘蛛人. 很多人因為上一部的蝙蝠俠而等著看新的蝙蝠俠. 新的鋼鐵人應該不錯, 因為有Zack Snyder當導演還有蝙蝠俠的Christopher Nolan當制片人.

But the Avengers, now here's the movie to watch. The Avengers will either be the crowning achievement, or the death-knell of Marvel's "cinematic universe." In case you hadn't noticed, Marvel has been trying (since the first Iron Man), to tie all of its movies together into a single world, culminating in The Avengers, which will hit theaters May 2012. If this movie succeeds, we will probably see a host of new superheroes hit screens in its wake. If this movie bombs, I would imagine that Marvel will have to "scale back" its plans to a considerable degree." the Avengers"這部片的成績應該會對未來超人電影造成影響.它是Marvel Studios這間公司的計畫終點. 從"鋼鐵人"開始, Marvel Studios的電影裡的超人都住在同一個世界. 因為他們從以前就打算在2012年推出"Avengers超人隊". 如果這電影賺很多錢, 以後一定會有更多的超人電影. 如果這部電影不受歡迎, 以後的超人電影應該會減少.

Whatever happens with Marvel, I think in the near future we will see a movie version of The Flash. This is the thing that gets me really excited, since The Flash was always my favorite superhero. Warner Bros. has plans to develop The Flash, Wonder Woman, and other DC heroes into movies, and it will be interesting to see what they do with these characters. 無論Avengers的成績如何, 之後就應該有我最想看的閃電俠電影. 我從小就最喜歡閃電俠. Warner Bros. 打算拍閃電俠, 神力女超人和其他的DC超人的電影. 我想這些超人電影應該很有意思.

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