2016年6月18日 星期六

Me, Ten Years Ago 十年前的我

In 2006 I was 32, and I had been living in Taiwan (off and on) for seven years.  My older daughter was six years old, my younger daughter was one year old, and I can't tell you how old my wife was because later she'll read this and be angry.  2006年, 我32歲.  已經在台灣來回住了七年.  當時我的大女兒六歲, 小女兒一歲.  我不能告訴你那時候我太太幾歲, 因為她看到這裡時會生氣.

By 2006 we were tired of living in Taichung.  The air was making our older daughter sick, we'd had enough of driving through heavy traffic, and my job seemed like a dead end.  I started looking around for other jobs, in other parts of Taiwan, and after a great deal of searching I found a job in Taitung, on the east coast of the island.  西元2006年, 我們不想住台中了.  那邊的空氣汙染影響到我大女兒的健康, 每天塞車也讓我們感覺很累, 當時的工作似乎沒有什麼發展性.  所以我開始找其他縣市的工作.  找了一段時間後, 我發現了台灣東部的台東有工作機會.

Moving to Taitung seemed like a good idea.  We were looking for somewhere more rural, somewhere with better air, and the job here was better suited to my qualifications.  We were never 100% sure that moving to Taitung was the right thing to do, but after many long discussions we decided to give it a try.  我們那時候覺得搬到台東應該是最好的選擇.  我們要住鄉下點的地方, 空氣比較新鮮, 而且我的專業能力符合這裡的工作.  我們不確定搬到臺東是不是最好的選擇, 可是經過多次的討論以後, 我們決定試試看.

So one day in June we loaded the contents of our apartment into a moving van, and the driver set out to meet us in Taitung.  My wife drove our two daughters in a car over first, and I followed them by train a week later.  By that time we had already found a house on Luo Yang Street, not far from Shin Sheng Elementary.  所以在六月的某一天, 我們把公寓裡的東西裝進一輛搬家卡車裡.  由司機先生開到台東來與我們會合.  我太太跟我們的孩子先和我丈母娘開車過去, 我一個禮拜後才自己坐車到台東.  搬家前我們已經先找到洛陽街上且靠近新生國小的房子了.

東海國中 Tung Hai Junior High School

I started a job at Tung Hai Junior High School, where I would teach for two years.  It turned out to be a fairly easy (if repetitive) job, and I made a lot of friends in that school.  I am still in touch with many of these friends, and I have many fond memories of that time.  我剛開始在東海國中上班.  我在那裡上班兩年.  那份工作很簡單, 只是有點無聊.  我在那所學校交到很多新朋友.  我目前還會跟當時的朋友聯絡, 那段時間也留下許多美好的回憶.

When I wasn't working, we explored the county by scooter.  I remember feeling astonished at how quiet most of Taitung was, and how little traffic we encountered.  The first place I remember driving to was Jer Ben, which seemed miraculously beautiful at the time.  Later on we ventured up to Luye, and slowly worked our way up the coast.  Sometimes we rented a car, and other times we took the train farther north.  It was a very rewarding time for me, and after a few months I knew that moving here had been the right decision.  我們會在我下班時間騎摩托車探索台東縣.  我那時候覺得台東安靜的不可思議, 也不敢相信路上的車那麼少.  我記得我們最先騎車到當時覺得非常美麗的知本.  之後我們騎車去鹿野, 慢慢的我們騎去東海岸.  我們有時候租車, 有時候坐火車往北部.  那段時間對我來說很值得, 住了幾個月之後, 我知道搬到台東是最好的選擇.

Ten years later, and I'm still here.  I live in a different part of the city now, and I work at a different school, but I still visit many of the same places, eat a lot of the same food, and do many of the same things.  Taitung has been good to me.  I can't say that I've never considered leaving it, but for the most part I've been happy here.  十年之後我還在這裡.  我住在城市的另外一區, 在別的學校上班, 可是我還是會重複去一些景點玩, 還是吃一樣的食物, 做同樣的事.  台東對我很好.  我考慮過搬到外縣市, 可是我在台東的生活過得很快樂.

Which isn't to say that I wasn't happy in Taichung, too.  City life has its good side, and there are definitely things that I miss about the years I spent living in Taichung.  There was the excitement of the city at night, the crowds, and the feeling that something was always happening.  But for all of that there are the quiet nights in Taitung, the friends I've made here, and the slower pace of life.  When all is said and done I can always visit Taichung, while Taitung is where I'd rather live.   但這並不是說我不喜歡臺中.  住在大都市裡有它的好處.  我住台中那四年也有很多美好的回憶.  城市裡的夜晚很熱鬧, 感覺生機蓬勃.  台東則有寧靜的夜晚和我在這裡認識的朋友, 更有悠閒的生活步調. 整體來說, 我可以隨時去台中玩.  但我只想住台東.

Three Fairies Bridge 三仙台

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Me, Twenty-Five Years Ago 二十五年前的我
He or She, Saturday Morning
Me, Fifteen Years Ago 十五年前的我
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2016年6月15日 星期三

Nonsense That Fills My Head on a Monday

H. passed away two weeks ago.  Friends told me he had a seizure, and that he stopped breathing soon after.  Apparently he'd suffered from seizures for years, but he often avoided taking medication because of the way it made him feel.  H. was one of those guys that I always felt like I would see again, and news of his departure made me very sad.  Unlike V., who I never got to know that well, I felt like H. was a friend.

The above paragraph is, by the way, NOT nonsense.  H. will be missed, and my condolences to any of his family and friends who might be reading this. 

P. had his birthday party at Pete's pizza last Sunday.  Saw a lot of the usual suspects there.  Talked with J. for a while about real estate.  Talked with K. about the job he's going to start in Taipei.  No kind words for Hess.  I've never worked at Hess, but what J. and K. said about their "vacation days" sounded like a lot of bulls&*t.  Are the contracts at every Hess that deceptive?

It's a four-day weekend starting tomorrow.  No plans as yet, though we might be driving to Kaohsiung on one of the four days.  My mother-in-law made "a joke" about losing 2 million dollars on FB the other day, and she isn't the kind of person to make that kind of joke.  Various family members are agonizing over the fact that she may have actually lost the money, and how is that possible, and who did she give the money to, and so on.

And by the way, the "J." in one of the above paragraphs is not the "J." mentioned in a previous entry.  A lot of names start with J, and if anyone acquainted with the various Taiwanese and foreign "J.s" around town will just have to guess which "J" I was talking about.  To make matters worse, there were two "J.s" at that same birthday dinner. 

Miserable four-day weekend for me.  Drove to Kaohsiung (and also Tainan) on Thursday, fighting traffic all the way.  Later found out that the "joke" about the 2 million dollars wasn't a joke at all.  My wife responded by taking away her bank book.  Drove back from Kaohsiung on Friday, and the traffic was even worse - almost a standstill from Chao Jou 超州 to Fangshan 放山.  Then I got sick on Saturday, and spent most of Saturday and Sunday sweating, coughing, and sleeping.

Saw The Conjuring 2 last night.  Liked it a lot, and thought it was better than the first one.  It was a bit too drawn out for its own good, but definitely an improvement.

Mainland China is threatening yet again to reduce the number of tourists it allows into Taiwan.  This time they're claiming it was all a part of an established plan, and yet also a reaction to Taiwanese President Tsai Ying-wen's "incomplete answers" to questions about Cross-Strait relations.  I can't help but think about all the years I was here before Mainland Chinese tourism was "a thing," and if Taiwan could get along without it before, what's different about now? 

Speaking of the news, it's amazing how much traction certain facets of the Taiwanese media can get from Japanese porn stars.  The Apple Daily and Next Magazine regularly feature articles on these people, and the articles almost never have any journalistic worth whatsoever.  I get that such articles are an excuse to put up photos of the porn stars discussed, but why is the Taiwanese reading public so fascinated by them?  Why not just view the porn that inspired the articles?

In equally ridiculous news, the little bar across from the Old Taitung Train Station is now serving a beer called "Satan Gold."  A couple friends and I drank some of it last weekend.  Not bad, but not as good as the IPA they were selling before.

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Me, Twenty-Five Years Ago 二十五年前的我
He or She, Saturday Morning
Me, Fifteen Years Ago 十五年前的我
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2016年6月12日 星期日

Me, Twenty-Five Years Ago 二十五年前的我

25 years is a long time ago.  In 1991 I was still a high school student, still living with my parents, and still living in Seattle.  As years of my life go, 1991 was one of the worst.  二十五年前的事真是久遠.  1991年的時候我還在念高中, 跟父母一起住在西雅圖.  在我的生命中, 1991年是最差的幾年的其中之一.

One of the things that made that year so bad was the prospect of death.  Yes, that's right, death.  At only 16 years of age, I was thinking about death a lot.  One reason for this was a friend's attempted suicide during that year.  Another reason was my grandmother's passing, not long before.  Thinking too much about death doesn't give you the best perspective on life, you know?  讓那一年難過的事情是 "人會死" 這件事.  你沒看錯.  就是"死亡".  十六歲的我一直想著這件事情.  會這麼想的理由有二.  一是那一年我一個朋友自殺, 二是我外婆那一年過世.  思考太多關於死亡的事當然會讓我的觀念越來越灰暗.

Add to this the fact that I was just another awkward teenager, dealing with both feelings of inferiority and pressure from peers.  During my first year of high school I was bullied a lot, and in my second year I was still sensitive about it.  A lot of my sensitivity stemmed from an incident in which I was thrown from a second story window by several classmates.  After falling two floors to the (hard) ground below, I didn't have the best feeling about kids my own age.  當然還因為是處於青少年時期的關係.  我那時候不是很喜歡自己, 也感受到同儕的壓力.  我高中一年級的時候常被欺負, 到二年級時我還是很在意這件事.  我會這麼在意是從同學們把我從二樓的窗戶丟出去開始.  被這樣對待之後, 我對同學的感覺當然不太好.

The thing was, most of it was in my mind.  I realize that now.  But at the time I was very standoffish, and very defensive.  In some ways I was spoiling for a fight.  I wanted people to start up trouble, just so I had a reason to exact "revenge" for what I'd endured the year before.  Fortunately for me, my antagonism towards would-be bullies was enough of a warning, and no one ever bothered me again. 當時的我很冷淡, 防禦心很重. 我在很多方面都很挑釁, 我希望有人找我麻煩, 這樣我就有理由報復之前受到的對待, 幸運的是, 我表現出來對抗霸凌的態度讓人不敢再來煩我了.

And this, unfortunately, included girls.  Chief among these girls was a girl named Emily in my English class.  I was SO in love with her, but that was SO never going to happen.  I agonized over ways to talk to her, and I sought out opportunities to be in her presence.  But it was never going to be.  I realize that now, too.  Looking back at it now, I realize that I still had a lot of growing up to do, and Emily - and girls like Emily - weren't going to wait for me to do it. 不幸的是這也包含女生在內. 我的英文課上有一個女孩Emily, 我當時非常地喜歡她, 我想方設法跟她講話也找機會出現在她面前, 只是都沒效果罷了. 我現在回想起來也了解了, 當時的我還有許多成長中需要做的事要做, 而Emily, 或像她這樣的女孩, 是不會為當時的我等待的.

But hey, there was a good side to all of it.  I wasn't bullied.  I was left alone to read my strange books, to listen to my strange music, and to obsess over my strange movies.  It was a year of H.P. Lovecraft and J.R.R. Tolkien, a year of Megadeth and Anthrax, and a year of From Beyond, Prince of Darkness, and Police Story. 但好的事還是有的, 我沒再被霸凌, 被冷落時我讀了許多奇怪的書: 一年的霍華德·菲利普斯·洛夫克拉夫J·R·R·托爾金. 聽奇怪的音樂: 一年的麥加帝斯炭疽樂團. 看了許多奇怪的電影: 一年的"靈異殺陣", "天魔回魂"和"警察故事". 

I spent most lunches in the library, talking to almost no one and reading my books.  I walked a mile back and forth to school every day, alone.  I did OK in my classes, but never tried very hard.  I had no plans for the future, nor any idea what I wanted to do with my life.  Instead of plans I had an intense devotion to books, music, movies, and the idea (only the idea) of sex.我大部分的午餐時間都在圖書館讀書, 也幾乎不跟任何人說話, 我每天一個人走一英哩的路上下學, 我的成績還好, 不是很用功, 對未來沒有什麼計畫,也不知道自己想做什麼. 但我對書本, 音樂, 電影和性有很強烈的熱情.

Of course when you're in high school it seems like everyone is having sex.  The football players, the girls smoking behind the gym, even the awkward guy who sometimes talks to you during lunch.  But in retrospect, it wasn't that way at all.  When I look at it now, very few of us were doing anything like that.  But then you probably know how it is.  You were probably once there yourself.在高中時, 覺得身邊的人好像都有過性行為了, 例如橄欖球員, 在體育場後面抽菸的女生, 甚至是有時候在午餐時交談的不怎麼受歡迎的人物. 但現在想起來卻不是那麼回事. 只有非常少數的人才是這樣, 但你大概可以知道那是什麼情形, 你應該也經歷過那些事.

High school.  Altogether a fairly miserable chapter of my life.  And on top of this there was going to the emergency room at Harborview, and seeing my friend's head swollen up to twice its normal size.  The .22 caliber bullet he'd shot himself with bounced around inside his skull, and even though he somehow survived it, he was a different guy after.高中生涯是我一段相當難熬的日子, 除此之外, 就是去醫院的急診室看我的朋友, 當時他的頭腫成正常的二倍大, 他用來自殺的那顆子彈在他的頭裡撞擊彈跳, 雖然如此, 他還是活下來了, 但他之後就不再是原來的他了.

Most American movies about high school make it seem more fun that it really is.  This is, at least, my experience.  In the movies it's a big, lighthearted adventure, and by the end of the film everyone's either lost their virginity or made a friend for life.  It wasn't that way for me, and in a way I'm glad it wasn't.  A lot of the stuff that happened in high school was fuel for things I did later, and I think that in the overall context of who I am now it made me a stronger person.  Maybe not always a happier person, but a stronger one regardless.  在美國電影裡, 讀高中看起來很好玩.  但我個人的經驗剛好相反.  電影裡的高中生都在冒險, 電影結尾不是終於做愛了, 就是找到生命中的至交.  這些都沒發生在我身上, 我也很高興沒有. 在高中時期發生的事都成為我之後的養分.  整體來說, 它讓我更堅強.  它不一定讓我成為比較快樂的人, 可是變堅強是一定的.

There's this, and also the fact that people whose "glory years" coincided with high school are among the most pathetic people I know.  Maybe high school isn't a time when you should be completely happy, and completely well-adjusted.  Maybe high school is a time when you're supposed to be pissed off, and waiting desperately for graduation.   我覺得認為高中是最美好時期的那種人很可憐.  我想高中不應該是人生最快樂的時候, 也不應該是最令人滿意的時候.  也許高中時期就是應該看什麼都不順眼, 也拼命地想著畢業吧!

1991?  Part of me would rather not remember that year.  But hey, it made me who I am today, right?  If it wasn't perfect, at least it was a year I learned from.  That, I suppose, is all that you can hope from any year, in any life, ever.  1991年?  我不是很想把那一年留在腦海裡.  可是那一年也讓我長大很多.  那一年不算美好, 可是那一年我學會很多生活能力.  這應該是人們希望的生命學習.

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2016年6月6日 星期一

He or She, Saturday Morning

He/she wakes up.

He/she brushes his/her teeth.  He/she takes off his/her clothes.  He/she retrieves the bicycle clothing from the bedroom shelf.

He/she puts on his/her bicycle shorts first.  Then he/she puts on his/her bicycle jersey.  Then the scarf which he/she wears upon his/her head.  Then the gloves, the socks, the helmet, and the sunglasses.

He/she goes into the other bathroom, and puts sunscreen on his/her face.

Then he/she goes downstairs, and he/she retrieves both his/her bicycle and his/her bicycle shoes.

He/she puts on his/her bicycle shoes.  He/she sets his/her bicycle computer.

He/she goes.

仁五 Street (or 人二 Street).  Left at 傳廣 Road (or 四維 Road).  Right in front of 寶桑 Junior High (or 新生 Elementary).  Other he/shes are eating breakfast.  Other he/shes are crowding into the 7-11.  Other he/shes are driving.

馬亨亨 Boulevard.  Left toward the train station.  Rice fields and 虎頭 Mountain.  A temple on the other side of the rice fields, on the other side of the river.

Right on 志航 Road.  Across the 臺東大 Bridge.  The 卑南 River.  The 中華 Bridge seen from far away.  The 利吉 Bridge in the other direction.

More trees.  Going up.

He/she passes through 石川.  He/she goes downhill.  Taxis pass by too fast.  Under the overpass.  Turning around onto Highway 11.

The sun is very big over his/her head.  He/she has water so he/she is not worried.  Slower going through 富岡, then past Little 野柳.







                              隆昌 then stop.  







加路蘭, then back under the overpass.  He/she is sweating now.  It is tired to come back up the hill.

The sun is even bigger over his/her head.  He/she has drunk all the water so he/she is a little worried.  Slower going through 石川, then up the steepest part.

He/she passes by the 197.  He/she goes downhill.  Blue trucks pass by too fast.  Under the green trees, headed down to the bottom of the hill.

More cars.  Going down.

Left after 志航 Road.  Having crossed the 臺東大 Bridge.  The 卑南 River.  The 利吉 Bridge seen from far away.  The 中華 Bridge in the other direction.

馬亨亨 Boulevard.  Right toward 寶桑 Junior High (or 東海 Elementary).  A field of dragon fruit and 貓 Mountain behind.  Houses on the other side of dragon fruit, on the other side of a road.

傳廣 Road (or 漢中 Street).  Right at 仁五 Street (or 仁七 Street).  Left into his/her apartment building.  Other he/shes are still eating breakfast.  Other he/shes are still crowding into the 7-11.  Other he/shes are still driving.

He/she comes back.

He/she looks at his/her bicycle computer.  He/she takes off his/her bicycle shoes.

He/she puts back his/her bicycle and his/her bicycle shoes, then he/she goes upstairs.

He/she goes into the other bathroom, and he/she closes the door.

He/she takes off his/her sunglasses first.   Then the helmet, the socks, and the gloves.  Then the scarf which he/she was wearing upon his/her head.  Then he/she takes off his/her bicycle jersey.  He/she takes of his/her bicycle shorts last.

He/she takes a shower.

And he/she goes back to bed.

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*The Chinese words/names in this entry are, in order: Ren Wu, Ren Er, Chuan Guang, Ss Wei, Bao Sang, Shin Sheng, Ma Heng Heng, Hu Tou (Tiger Head), Jr Hang, Taitung Da (Big), Beinan, Jung Hua, Li Ji, Shr Chuan, Fu Gang, Ye Liou, Jia Lu Lan, Fu Shan, Shan Yuan, Shiang Lan, Dulan, Shing Chang, Long Chang, and from Long Chang it all pretty much goes backward through the list.

2016年6月5日 星期日

Me, Fifteen Years Ago 十五年前的我

"International Street" 國際街

Fifteen years is a long time, but not as long ago as twenty.  I've also revisited some of my haunts from those days more recently, and I'm still in contact with many people from that part of my life.  Whereas remembering 1996 is an act requiring serious concentration, recalling 2001 is much easier.  十五年是一段很長的時間, 可是比不上二十年.  我最近再一次去當時喜歡去的地方, 也跟那時的朋友保持聯絡.  回想1996年發生過的事很困難, 但回想2001年就簡單多了.

In 2001 I was 26.  I had been in Taiwan for a year, I was fairly acclimated to the country (if not the language), and I was both married and the father of a baby girl.  This baby girl is - if you care to do the math - now almost 16 years old.  She's also on her way to senior high school very soon.  2001年的時候我二十六歲.  我那時候已經在台灣一年了, 也習慣在這邊的生活方式 (除了講中文之外).  我那時候已婚, 也有了個女兒.  當時的小女孩現在已經十六歲, 快要讀高中了.

By that time I'd been working in a private kindergarten for a year, and I'd revisited Seattle with my wife two times.  Our second trip back involved a massive car trip across six states, and many good times with family and friends.  I still enjoyed going back "home," but I was beginning to see myself as someone better suited to life in Taiwan.  那時我已經在一所私立幼稚園上班一年, 也跟我太太回去西雅圖兩次.  我們第二次回去的時候開車去了六個州, 也跟親戚朋友創造了許多美好的回憶.  我那時候還是很喜歡回"家", 可是我越來越習慣台灣的生活方式.

We were living in Taichung City.  We had an apartment on Yuan Dong Street, not far from Taichung's famous International Street and close to Tung Hai University's north entrance.  The neighborhood was fairly quiet, and in the evenings it was a great place to go running.  Taichung's Municipal Park wasn't a popular destination back then (it had just opened), and they hadn't yet begun construction on the Science Park.  At that time, that part of the city was relatively undeveloped.  我們那時候住在台中市.  我們租了一間遠東街上的公寓.  那間公寓靠近台中有名的國際街, 離東海大學北邊的入口很近.  那個社區比較安靜, 晚上的時候在那裏跑步也很方便.  那時候台中的都會公園剛完成, 附近沒有那麼多人, 中科也還沒開始施工, 所以那邊大多沒有什麼發展跡象.

The school where I worked, Jump Start English School, was about ten minutes down the hill from where I lived.  This school has since closed forever, but back then it was doing very well.  They had several campuses throughout the city, and taught both kindergarten and elementary level students.  If the owners had managed their business better, they'd probably still be around.  我在博克徠美語學校上班.  從我家下山到學校要十分鐘.  這所學校現在已經結束營業了, 可是那時候他們的學生很多.  他們在台中市有幾個校區, 除了幼稚園學生外, 也教國小學生英文.  如果老闆管理的好的話, 他們的學校現在應該還在吧?

I got along well with my coworkers, and I genuinely liked my job.  This was when I really got into the swing of teaching small children, and this was also when I learned (or invented) a lot of the tricks I still use today.  Of all the years I've been teaching - and there have been many - this was probably my favorite year.  我跟大部分的同事都相處愉快, 也很喜歡我的工作.  在這裡我教小朋友的能力越來越好, 很多當時學會的教學技巧我目前還在用.  從我好幾年教書的經驗來說, 這是我最喜歡的一年.

Duck restaurants: a popular hang out for ducks.

Remembering what I ate back then is a little more difficult.  There was a buffet place near our house that I visited often, and also a duck restaurant near my school.  My favorite restaurant was probably a Thai restaurant on Jung Gong Third Road.  要記得我當時經常在什麼餐廳吃飯比較難.  我們常去住家附近的一家自助餐, 我學校附近也有一家燒臘餐廳.  我那時候最喜歡的餐廳應該是中工三路上的一家泰國餐廳.

Back then I had a weird habit of visiting a cemetery between my school and my apartment.  This cemetery now lies somewhere under the Science Park, and most people living and working there probably don't even know it was there.  It was the quietest place I knew of, and I liked going there to think.  我那時候有個奇怪的習慣.  我煩惱時會去位於我家跟我學校中間的公墓.  那個公墓已經在科學園區底下了.  在科學園區上班的人應該不知道之前的公墓.  那個地方真是我家附近最安靜的, 我喜歡在那裏想事情.

I was listening to a lot of early 70s progressive and hard rock at that time.  Bands like Yes, Deep Purple, and the occasional jazz album.  There was a cool CD store near Feng Jia Night Market that I frequented, and I have many fond memories of that place.  我那時候聽很多1970年代的前衛搖滾跟hard rock的音樂.  類似Yes或是Deep Purple那種樂團, 還有些是爵士唱片.  逢甲夜市附近有一家我很喜歡的唱片行.  我很懷念那個地方.

I think I was pretty happy with my life during that year.  I was a new father, I had been married for about a year, and I enjoyed my job.  I liked exploring Taichung by scooter, and also the area between the Science Museum and the Art Museum on foot.  It was a little weird to be a new father, new husband, and suddenly find myself slightly alienated from single friends, but that happens.  In time I learned how to adjust.  那一年我對自己的生活很滿意.  我結婚沒多久, 是個新爸爸, 也喜愛我的工作.  我喜歡騎機車在台中探險, 也喜歡在科學博物館跟美術館間散步.  當爸爸跟結婚會離單身的朋友們遠一點, 可是這是很自然的事情.  我之後習慣了新的生活方式.

I haven't been back to Taichung in at least a year, but there's always the possibility that I'll revisit it in the summer.  It's certainly a lot noisier and a lot more crowded than when I lived there, but certain areas haven't changed all that much.  我大概有一年沒去臺中了, 今年暑假我可能有機會去到那裡.  現在那裡比我當年住的時候多了很多人, 也比較吵鬧, 但有的地方並沒有什麼改變.

Really though.  Fifteen years isn't all that long.  If you think it is, you probably aren't as old as me!  真的!  十五年不算很長的時間.  你覺得不以為然的話, 那你的年紀一定比我還小!

San Min Road 三民路.  I used to walk around here a lot, too.

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2016年6月4日 星期六

Nonsense That Fills My Head on a Tuesday

If you live in Taiwan, you're undoubtedly aware of the fact that it's been f*&king hot this week.  A coworker just told me that it rained so much in north Taiwan that the Taoyuan airport flooded.  I'm sure the flooding was a problem, but they were probably glad about the rain.

Running in the evenings is much more difficult now.  At around 7 pm the air is still so humid and thick, and it's a lot more work for my lungs.  A month ago I was running 10, 15, and even 20k without much trouble, but now I'm struggling after 5.  I'm doing my best to adjust to the heat, but it's not easy. 

Work continues to wind down here.  June 30 is the last day of the semester, and I've written all my lessons up to that date.  There's still some preparation for an English summer camp yet to do, but I've finished the worst of it already.

Been reading Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb.  It makes for fairly boring reading, and abbreviated versions of Shakespeare make the inconsistencies and improbabilities present in most of his plays more obvious.  Fun Fact: One of the authors of this book stabbed her own mother to death.

I'll probably meet D. and R. at Sam's Burger for lunch today.  I would have invited others, but that seemed like a lot of work.  After a certain point one hopes that others will just take the initiative, and ask you if you're eating at Sam's this Friday.

D. was talking about goings-on in Dulan.  Seems a certain burger joint is in trouble.  Not surprising, considering how many people they're employing, and the cost of renting the place.  I think it might have done well in Kenting, but there's not enough tourist traffic through Dulan to sustain it.

D. was also talking about another foreigner that I've met a couple times up there.  I don't want to go into details, but apparently this foreigner has left Taiwan for the time being.  He's been in a fair amount of domestic distress, and burned his share of bridges before leaving the country.  If you hang out in Dulan you probably know who I'm talking about.  If not, I can only apologize for being deliberately vague.  Repeating too much hearsay would just damage people's reputations. 

Life in small town Taiwan can seem idyllic from afar (depending on the town, of course), but some people really suffer in those places.  Dulan is no exception.  Not too long ago a girl killed herself up there, and of course Dulan has all the usual alcoholics, fights, traffic accidents, drownings, and small-minded people that you'd find anywhere else.  Sometimes Dulan is even worse.

Talked to J. for a short while last night.  She was drinking German beer.  It made me think that there are probably a lot better beers available in Germany, and what we're getting here is probably the German version of Budweiser.  Taiwan beer is not bad, but there are times when I wish the Taiwanese drinking public appreciated other kinds of beer.

Easy day today.  Just testing the 4-2, 6-1, 6-2, and 6-4 classes.  It's an oral test, so I interview them in groups of three.  It can be very repetitive, but there is very little thought involved for me.  Tomorrow (Saturday), I will also have to work, but I'm only teaching a lesson to the 4-2 class.  I'll let the sixth graders watch a DVD.

Yesterday we were eating in a Japanese restaurant and a mentally ill woman came inside from the road, trying to sell vegetables there.  The owner was very kind and patient with her, and let her fill a plastic bag with the food that another customer had left behind.  Watching the owner do this, I began to think that I should try to be more compassionate.

Which leads me to that quote attributed to James Joyce - "non serviam."  If you have avoided all forms of servitude, haven't you isolated yourself from other human beings?  Why are we here, if not to serve one another? 

Anyone wondering why I don't have more to say on the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections?  It's because Hillary's all like blah blah blah blah, and Trump's all like blah blah blah blah, and somewhere in the middle this other guy who's sure NOT to get elected is making the most sense.  I get a very pre-WWII vibe from Trump, and Clinton is almost as worrying.  Beyond that, their recent debates seem very insubstantial.

Depressing dream last night, still vivid as I type this.  The world was dying, and all of the remaining animals had gathered together to say goodbye.  I was weeping over a patch of grass, and trying to say farewell to it all.  Then I had to go back inside my parents' house (we were in Seattle), and try to explain to my daughters what was happening, and how we had helped bring it about.  In the dream there was a tree full of the most beautiful owls I had ever seen, but the world was flooding, and there wasn't much time before the end.

But hey, it's not all gloom and doom here.  It's Saturday after all (not Tuesday, not really), and the work week finally comes to an end today.  Next week there are only three days before a four-day weekend, and I'm pretty happy about that.

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