2016年2月27日 星期六

What's Going On 你最近怎麼樣?


So this week I was going to write about snakes (again).  But since that involves a lot of research, and I'm really tired, I think I'll wait until next week to write it.  Or maybe the week after.  Or maybe I won't do it at all.  Who knows?  原本這星期我還要再一次寫關於蛇的文章.  可是寫那種文章要參考很多本書和網站, 而我現在很累了, 所以我下星期再寫吧!.  還是下下星期!  也許我最後決定不再寫了.  誰知道?

And why am I tired?  Mostly because I had only one day - Sunday - off last week, and I was really busy.  The first week of every semester is always busier for me.  By June my job is usually VERY easy, but in February there's more to do.  我怎麼那麼累呢?  大部分是因為上星期只放一天假.  而且開學的第一周我都比較忙.  二月要做的事情比較多, 六月的時候我就比較輕鬆. 

Add to this the fact that I'm not quite (re)adjusted to our school schedule yet.  I spent most of winter vacation waking up after 9 or 10, and waking up at 6:30 has been brutal.  In a perfect world, everyone would be able to get out of bed whenever they feel like it.  In a perfect world, there would be no alarm clocks.  加上我還不習慣學校的作息.  寒假時我都是9, 10點以後起床, 所以現在早上6:30起床是很困難的事情.  在完美的世界裡, 人人可以隨意幾點起床.  在完美的世界裡不會有鬧鐘.


In other "news," I'll be joining the Tainan Old Capital Marathon next month.  This will be my third time.  I haven't quite gotten enough training in, but I think I should do alright.  I'm running 20 km a week now, and running it pretty fast besides.  其他的消息?  我下個月要參加台南的古都馬拉松.  這是我第三次參加.  我覺得我的訓練不夠, 但是應該可以表現得不錯.  我最近每周跑20公里, 也跑得比較快.

My only real obstacle is the number of people joining that race.  Last time I checked, 14,000 people were signed up for the marathon, half marathon, 10 km and 5 km, and some of the roads through Tainan are very narrow.  I'll probably spend a lot of that race waiting (impatiently) for other people to get out of my way.  我最大的問題就是參加比賽的選手人數.  我上次看的時候共有一萬四千個人要參加全馬, 半馬, 10公里, 跟5公里的比賽.  台南有些路很小.  很可能跑的時候會有很多人檔在我的前面.

Oh, and the half-marathon I'm joining also gives me the chance to enjoy that "PM2.5 air" that everyone's talking about.  Air quality on the west coast of Taiwan is very low.  我要參加的半馬拉松也會讓我有機會享受到大家講的PM2.5空氣.  台灣西部的空氣品質很差.

Aside from the above, there's not much to say.  The weather's getting warmer (thank God), I'm probably drinking too much coffee, and a three-day weekend is coming soon.  Oh yeah!  除了上面寫的那些事情之外, 好像也沒什麼要說的了.  天氣越來越暖和, 我大概喝太多咖啡了, 三天連假也快到了.  不錯喔!


Related Entries 相關的文章:

Bu Luo Wan 布洛灣 / Shan Yue Village 山月村
Happy Year of the Monkey!!  猴年快樂!!
Koxinga 鄭成功
If I was the President of Taiwan... 我如果當總統的話...

2016年2月25日 星期四

Studying Chinese

Mandarin phonetic characters, often referred to as "bo po mo fo" (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ)

Is it weird to get nostalgic about studying Chinese?  I really don't know.

And it's not like I'm through learning Chinese, either.  I learn new words all the time, and I'm always trying to improve my grammar.  My Mandarin might be good for a waiguoren*, but I'm always trying to speak, read, and write it better.

So I guess when I say "studying" what I really mean is taking a class, having a textbook, writing homework, and all that stuff.  I'm talking about being in school, and having a teacher.

When I started learning Chinese - more from desperation than any genuine desire to learn the language - my wife was my teacher.  We held class in our living room, and she had me reading children's books.  She taught me the sounds of the phonetic symbols next to each character, and I would do my best to imitate her pronunciation.  It was really slow going, and I lost patience easily.

A few weeks later, my wife decided that she'd had enough of my foolishness, and she signed me up for a Chinese class at a local university.  Tung Hai University was closest to where we lived, so that was the obvious choice.

Thus began a pleasant year of learning Chinese.  I quickly found that practice with the phonetic characters paid dividends - especially since my instructors had no knowledge of pinyin or any desire to teach it.  With their guidance I learned the phonetic characters much faster, and before long the children's books my wife had used began to seem easy.

I had Chinese class for (I think) two hours a day, and I studied at least two hours a night.  I did this five days a week, for two semesters.  As I learned more characters I was able to read things, and as I began to read things I wanted to learn more characters.  Suddenly I wasn't surrounded by meaningless scrawls - I was surrounded by words - and knowing the meaning of these words proved extremely useful.

Example of how phonetic characters (in blue) are used with tonal markers (in red).

That, and it was also fun sitting around deciphering Doraemon or Jojo's Bizarre Adventure.  It began to seem more like a game I was playing, this attempt to find out what I could understand and what I still needed to learn.  I finished the first semester's Chinese textbook before the semester was even over, and before Chinese New Year my wife was helping me learn (and memorize) many of the Tang Dynasty poems.**

The spoken part of Chinese, however, had its own frustrations.  While I was often complimented on my reading and never faulted for failures of comprehension, I found that spoken interactions were a lot more difficult and/or embarrassing.  My wife was constantly correcting my pronunciation.  Coworkers were constantly telling me that my grammar was weird, or altogether wrong.  People on the street talked too fast, and I easily lost their meaning.

But I caught on eventually.  And in the end, I was thankful for the way I was corrected.  I think that if certain people had been more "polite" with me, if they had been more complimentary, I wouldn't have improved as fast as I did.  As it was, the frustration of having to communicate clearly only added to my resolve, and it only made me want to get it right the next time.

Besides that, I enjoyed attending class at Tung Hai.  My instructors were funny, the campus was nice, and I made a lot of new friends.  I also gained a confidence that I didn't have before.  I knew that I could learn Chinese, and I knew that it could be fun.  Of course I realize that not everyone has had a similar experience - some of my classmates certainly didn't - but that's how it was for me.

As I sit here, writing about it now, I can remember so many other things from that time.  Hanging out in the campus bookstore.  Walking to class in the morning.  A new red scooter I used to park on Jung Gang Road.***  People I used to know.  Tests.  So many things were new to me then, and everything was fascinating.

Ah, that pleasant year in Tung Hai.  And now - so many years later - a coworker is telling me some of Taiwan's worst air pollution hovers directly above that stately campus.  Even so, I'm sure there are now some other waiguoren(s) there, learning things that I now take for granted. 

Page from Chinese textbook - (ideographic) characters,
phonetic characters, tonal markers, character classification,
and number of strokes per character.  The far left inset
 introduces how the character "water" developed over time.

Related Entries: 

台灣幸福百事 "100 Fortunate Things in Taiwan"
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"Conventional Industries" (3)
"Conventional Industries" (2)

*In case you are reading this outside of Taiwan or China, waiguoren 外國人 means "foreigner."

**This sounds more impressive to non-Chinese speakers than it actually is.  There are very definite levels of understanding with regard to these poems.  What a small child memorizes and what a university student studies are very different things.

***Jung Gang Road 中港路, or Taichung Gang Road 台中港路 (literally "Taichung Port Road") is the old name for that road/street.  It is now referred to as Taiwan Boulevard 台灣大道.
 

2016年2月21日 星期日

Bu Luo Wan 布洛灣 / Shan Yue Village 山月村


Bu Luo Wan is inside Taroko National Park.  It is located near the Central Cross-Island Highway, and it's about ten minutes from the Taroko Visitor's Center.  布洛灣在太魯閣國家公園裡面.  它靠近中橫公路.  從太魯閣遊客中心開車到布洛灣要10分鐘左右.

A winding road connects Bu Luo Wan to the highway below.  This road is very steep, and tour buses make it a little dangerous.  Fortunately there's not as much traffic on this road, and despite recent adverse weather it's still in good condition.  連接中橫和布洛灣的是一條彎曲的路.  這條路很陡, 遊覽車開在它上面顯得危險.  還好這條路上的車沒那麼多.  最近的天氣也沒有影響到這一段的路況.


There's a big parking lot at the top of the hill, and a another visitor's center lies next to the parking lot.  Near the visitor's center is a small room with some exhibits, a theater which - when we visited - was not in use, and an unfinished concession area.  那條路的終點是停車場, 停車場旁邊還有一個遊客中心.  遊客中心旁邊有一個小展覽館, 一棟最近沒有使用的電影院, 還有一個還沒完成的餐廳跟紀念品店.

On the north side of the parking lot there's a short trail with a great view of the gorge below, and also another trail behind the unused theater.  When we visited, this second trail was under repair, and judging by the weeds it's been out of use for a long time.  停車場旁邊有一條短短的步道.  那條步道的風景很棒.  電影院後面還有另一條步道, 可是我們在那裡的時候那條步道在整修.  好像很久沒用了.


Behind the visitor's center there is a long, straight driveway leading up to Shan Yue Village, the resort where we stayed.  This resort is staffed by members of the Taroko Tribe, and it looks a lot like a movie set.  It's not a cheap place to stay, but you won't find anywhere more scenic.  遊客中心後面有條又長又陡的路往山月村, 那是我們在那裡住的地方.  這個飯店的員工都是太魯閣族的, 那裡好像是電影裡的場景.  住這邊不便宜, 但是風景真是令人驚豔.

While we were there we slept a lot.  It would rain, and the rain would make us sleepy, and we'd sleep, and we'd wake up when the rain stopped.  ...and then it would start to rain again, and we'd get sleepy, and we'd go back to sleep.  There are also performances of aboriginal music and dance in the evenings, and a restaurant that serves aboriginal food.  我們在那裡睡很多.  因為那裡的雨讓我們想睡覺, 下雨時我們睡大頭覺, 雨停我們就起來活動.  ...然後又開始下雨, 我們就再睡一次.  晚上還有原住民的音樂會跟表演, 他們的餐廳提供原住民美食.

After our stay in Bu Luo Wan we drove out of the mountains, and back into Hualien City.  As we were eating lunch I couldn't help but reflect on how extremely AWAKE I was.  I can't say I did much in Bu Luo Wan, but it sure was restful.  我們離開山裡面的布洛灣後回去花蓮市.  在那邊吃午餐的時候, 我發現自己的精神非常好.  我在布洛灣時很優閒, 得到非常充分的休息.


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Road 199 to Hengchun 縣道199到恆春
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2016年2月19日 星期五

台灣幸福百事 "100 Fortunate Things in Taiwan"

The following list/timeline was taken from "100 Fortunate Things in Taiwan" 台灣幸福百事.  This book was written by Chen Rao-jin 陳柔縉, and was published by Jiou Jing 究竟 in 2011.

This book does not include an entry for every year of Taiwan's long history.  Even so, I think it offers a more fun and interesting take on how modern Taiwan came to be.*


 台灣幸福百事 "100 Fortunate Things in Taiwan"

1874 - Taiwan's first Western wedding.  The ceremony was performed by Reverend Mackay 馬偕牧師, for whom the hospitals are named.

1891 - Taiwan's first railway began operating.  At this time there were six stations, all in north Taiwan.

1895 - Taiwan's first court of law was established during the interim period between Ching 清 sovereignty and the Japanese occupation.

1896 - Taiwan's first billiards competition.  This game was brought to Taiwan by the Japanese.

1897 - Taiwan's first coffee shop opened in Taipei.

1898 - Taiwan's first phone network established.  The first assigned number, "1," was for the Taipei County Hall  台北縣廳.

1899 - Taiwan's first city park was created in Yuan Shan 圓山 in Taipei. 

1900 - The first four bicycles arrived in Taipei.

1901 - Taiwan's first public library opened in Danshui 淡水.

1902 - An X-ray machine was used for the first time in Taiwan.



1905 - Red bean bread was sold for the first time in Taiwan.  Prior to this it had become very popular in Japan.

1906 - Electric fans became available for the first time.

1908 - Taiwan's first Western-style hotel, the Taiwan Railway Hotel 台灣鐵道旅館 opened its doors.  This hotel sold its own brand of cola, and was equipped with one of Taiwan's first elevators.  It was located where the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi 新光三越 department store now stands, right across from the Taipei Main Station 台北車站.

1910 - Shortbread cakes 長崎蛋糕 were sold in Taiwan for the first time.

1911 - Some of Taiwan's first graduates from foreign (Japanese) universities returned from abroad.

1912 - The first automobile arrived in Taiwan.

1913 - The first switchboard was used in Taiwan.  At that time, there were only 999 phone numbers in all of Taipei.

1914 - A group of Hakka singers were taken to Tokyo, and several traditional songs were recorded.  This was the first time Taiwanese music was put on record.

1915 - Taiwan produced its first vending machine.

1916 - Two British doctors brought the sport of soccer into Taiwan for the first time, and thereafter several teams were established.



1918 - The first golf course was built in Danshui 淡水.

1921 - Taiwan got its first swimming pool, located in a Taipei Y.M.C.A.

1922 - Hospitals in Taiwan began using a new "car style" 汽車式 ambulance.

1923 - The first underground pedestrian tunnel was completed in Ba Du Station 八堵火車站.

1924 - The first driving school was opened in Taichung 台中.

1925 - The first motion picture (V8) cameras appeared on the market.

1926 - The first electric refrigerators were sold.

1927 - Taiwan's first horse racing track was opened in Taipei.

1929 - Mickey Mouse began appearing on Taiwanese products.  His likeness even appeared on a local beer!

1930 - The first neon signs began appearing on storefronts.


1931 - The first ballrooms were opened.

1932 - Taiwan's first department store opened in Taipei.

1933 - A building in Taipei was the first to use air-conditioning.

1935 - Taiwan held its first election, in which representatives of many cities, townships, and villages were elected.

1935 - The first televisions were sold.

1936 - The first airplane tickets were sold.

1946 - Automobiles were required by law to keep to the right side of the road.

1947 - The first I.D. card was issued.

1957 - The Taiwan Sugar Corporation 台糖 became the first Taiwanese company to buy a computer.  The computer purchased was an IBM 1400, which was the size of a (very) large refrigerator and had less computing power than your cell phone.

1958 - The first crosswalk appeared in Taipei.


1959 - The first escalator was installed in Da Shin Department Store 大新百貨 in Kaohsiung 高雄. 

1962 - The first cooking show appeared on Taiwanese television.

1964 - The Jung Shan Freeway 中山高速公路 was opened to traffic.

1967 - A cable car began operation in Wulai 烏來.

1968 - Taiwanese companies began producing instant noodles.  The Wei Li 維力 Company was the first on the market.

1969 - The first supermarket opened.

1973 - Taiwanese credit card companies began issuing credit cards.

1977 -  The Youth Convenience Store 青年商店, Taiwan's first convenience store, opened in Taipei.  Taiwan's first 7-11 would open not long after.  You can still visit this 7-11 on Chang An East Road 長安東路 First Section 一段 Lane 53 (53巷) in Taipei City.

1984 - McDonald's came to Taiwan.  You can still visit Taiwan's first McDonald's on Min Sheng East Road 民生東路 Section 3 三段 in Taipei.

1996 - Taipei's first MRT line began operation.

2007 - Taiwan's High Speed Rail (HSR) 高鐵 began operation.

2016 - I thumb my way through a copy of "100 Fortunate Things in Taiwan," and type all of the above.  Now it's history! 




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"Conventional Industries" (3)
"Conventional Industries" (2)
"Conventional Industries" (1)

*I didn't include ALL of the 100 "Fortunate Things" from this book.  What you see above is about half of them.