1. Saving the Earth 救地球 (October 十月 2009)
"Saving the Earth." This is what my daughters told me we were doing last Saturday. I played along, happy that "saving the Earth" could be accomplished in a single morning. "救地球"是我兩個女兒在上星期六喊的口號. 我也高興地參加他們的活動.
The Taitung County Government was staging an "environmental clean-up activity" at the Seaside Park. We were each given a pair of tongs and a bucket, and then sent to pick up as much garbage as we could find. If you know the Seaside Park, you know that there is no shortage of garbage to be found there.臺東縣政府在海濱公園舉辦一場淨灘活動,每個到場的人可以從工作人員手中領取一支夾子跟一個桶子幫忙撿拾公園的垃圾,如果你到過那裡的話,你應該就知道那裡多麼需要這樣的活動了.
Members of the navy and coast guard were also on hand to help out. I was the only foreigner there. When it was over we received gift certificates for the local McDonald's, worth 50 NT apiece. Sure, many of us showed up just for the gift certificates, but I must say that I was gratified to see so many people working to clean up this part of Taitung City.除了居民外,還有海巡屬的人員到場,每個參加的人在活動結束後可以領取一張五十元的麥當勞的折價卷,當然這也是我女兒參加這活動的主要原因之一,但是能看到這麼多人一起為這個地方的環境清潔盡一分力讓我很感動.
I just hope that some of the students came away from this activity with more than a desire for a Big Mac or french fries. Instead of just learning not to litter, hopefully they learned WHY they shouldn't litter. After all, most people don't think of where the garbage really goes after they throw it in the local river, discard it on the road, or even dump it into the garbage truck.我希望學生參加完這個活動後,除了感受到活動的樂趣外也能學習到為什麼要愛護我們的居住環境.因為很多人常常忽略了垃圾最後對人類與環境的影響.
I'm sure that if we all thought about this more, it wouldn't have been necessary to spend so much time picking bits of glass and cigarettes out of the grass last Saturday. The environment can seem like a vague, unimportant topic to those focused on more "everyday" concerns, but in the end it is the ultimate concern, overshadowing all others. Perhaps those picking up garbage last Saturday wouldn't have put it this way, but I'm sure they were a lot closer than many others to doing so.我相信如果大家對環境的清潔有更多的認識與重視,就不需要政府舉辦這樣的活動了.環境問題可能不是大家每天會掛在嘴邊的話題,可是最終卻是每個人都要面對的問題,上個星期六來參加活動的人對保護環境的想法應該跟我的很相近.
I thank those who came down to the ocean to pick up garbage. What you were doing was important, even if it didn't seem so at the time.我很感謝一起來參加活動的朋友,因為你們正在做一件非常重要的事.
2. Bicycling in Taitung 臺東腳踏車之旅 (October 十月 2009)
During most of my time in Taitung I've gotten around by bike. When I first moved here, this was the only option available to me, since at that time I was too poor to buy any other form of transportation. After a few weeks I got used to getting around this way, and even though we now have a scooter I only ride it once a week.在臺東的大部分時間我都是以腳踏車代步,剛開始是因為這是我們唯一買得起的交通工具,幾個禮拜後就習慣了,就算現在我們有一輛摩托車,我一個星期只用一次接小孩.
We'll probably be buying a car soon. That is if we can find one that's reasonably priced and not a total wreck. This car will be purchased in anticipation of Chinese New Year, and the trips we hope to take to the other side of the island. In the interim, between now and January; there will be only my bike and I, and I cannot feel too much regret at not having a car right now.我們可能近期買輛二手車,但這取決於價錢及車況,因為我們希望可以在過年期間到西部去拜訪親友,所以從現在起到一月這段期間,應該還是我與我的腳踏車為伍.
Taitung is a great place to own a bicycle, and I cannot understand why so many people insist on driving all the time. Given the population of Taitung City, you wouldn't think that traffic jams are possible here, and yet every weekday from 5 to 6 this is exactly what I see taking place. I cannot think of anywhere in Taitung City that is farther than thirty minutes away by bike, and yet people insist on driving their cars to work or school every day. In the summer you might use the heat as an excuse, but it's now the end of October and the weather is far from hot.臺東是最適合騎腳踏車的地方,我不明白為何大部分人還是堅持開車?從人口數來看,臺東不應該會塞車的,但它真的在每天下班時間發生了,臺東市區任何地方的距離騎腳踏車都不超過30分鐘,可是很多人還是每天開車上下班,在夏天你可能以天氣太熱為藉口,但是現在正是秋高氣爽的好時節.
Last weekend we rode our bikes to the Li Ji Badlands, just northwest of the Train Station. It was an enjoyable ride, with stops at parks along the way, and a lunch just before coming home. As we went, I could not help but think where we might have gone if we owned a car. Hualien I guess, but how often can you go to Hualien? There are nice places there, but there are also many nice places within Taitung City.上個星期我們騎腳踏車到新火車站西北邊的利吉惡地,一路上有許多的休息景點,沿途風景怡人,在我們的騎程中我忍不住想到如果有部車就可以到更遠的地方,可能是花蓮,但是另一方面,花蓮雖然有許多漂亮的地方,但是臺東美麗的景點也不少.
When you buy a car you are making your world much larger. Places that were previously too far become very near, and excursions that would have been very complicated suddenly become very simple. This is not always a good thing. By passing by those places near at hand, we can easily forget the places outside our own front doors. In longing for what lies in Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Hualien, it is so easy to forget all the good things right here, in Taitung.擁有車子是可以讓人的活動範圍增大許多,很多地方變得不再遙遠,可是那也不一定都是好的,因為你可能因此就錯失了近在咫尺的美好.
I've noticed more people riding bikes lately. This is a good thing. With recent improvements to the trail system, there are indeed a lot of places you can visit on a bicycle. Yes, it's hot sometimes, and yes, sometimes you get caught in the rain, but if you aren't the kind who normally pursues this kind of exercise you might give it a try. Weather permitting, we'll be riding to Fu Gang this weekend. Perhaps we'll see you there?有越來越多人加入騎腳踏車的行列,隨著腳踏車道的改善與完成,你可以到的景點更多了,是的,有時天氣太熱有時下雨,但是你真的該試試這項運動,如果天氣許可,我們這週末想騎腳踏車到富崗,也許你會在那裡看到我們.
3. The Royal Jer Ben and Other Hot Springs 知本溫泉 (October 十月 2009)
Not far from Taitung City lies Jer Ben Township. Aside from maybe San Shian Tai ("three fairies bridge"), the hot springs in Jer Ben are just about the most famous things in the entire county.知本是臺東市有名的景點,它的知名度和三仙台差不多,知本境內的溫泉是在臺東享有盛名的.
I think their reputation is justifiable. The hot springs in Jer Ben are definitely easier to reach than most other hot spring areas, and they are overall much cheaper than many other similar destinations. I lived on the west coast of Taiwan for five years, and I don't miss driving deep into the mountains - or spending far too much money - in places like Bei Tou or Gu Gwan on the west coast.我認為它有名是有道理的,知本溫泉比起其他溫泉區在交通上是很方便的而且收費也合理.我在臺灣西部住了五年,西部的北投或谷關的溫泉在地理位置的方便性上真的不及知本,而且收費上也相對高了許多.
This is also a great time to go to Jer Ben. Since the last big typhoon the place is practically deserted, and even though the roads there have been damaged, all of the big hot springs are still in operation. Those who venture there on any given weekday will probably find that they have an entire hot spring to themselves.上次的颱風雖然摧毀了許多知本的道路與建築,但是當地仍有許多溫泉業者營業,如果你在平日去泡湯,獨享溫泉美景的機會是很大的.
A couple of weeks ago we went down to the Royal Jer Ben hot springs, which are definitely the most famous hot springs in that area. We went on a Sunday, and during our whole stay there I saw perhaps five other people. It was very peaceful.我們不久前去知本老爺飯店泡湯,我們去的時間是星期日下午,全區只有我們及大概其他五名遊客,真的是非常的悠閒.
Lately I like this particular hot spring even more, since I can get in there for free. One of my friends is a chef in their hotel, and he seems to have a superabundance of tickets to give away. This hot spring would normally cost around 200 NT a person, but all six of us paid nothing to get in!我有一位朋友在那裡上班,他有員工的福利卷所以我們上次是受他的招待,不然平時的票價最低每個人要兩百元.
At 200 NT, the Royal Jer Ben is the most expensive hot spring. There are many others, some much cheaper than the Royal Jer Ben. I would suggest A Ya Wang, just down the hill from there, if it happens to be the middle of summer and you happen to have children with you. Their swimming pool is great. I would suggest Ss Mien Fo ("four-faced Buddha") if you are bringing a girlfriend or boyfriend along. There are also many other hot springs in Jer Ben, ranging from OK to pretty nice. If you're not sure which one to pick, I would just take a look inside before paying.知本溫泉區裡的知本溫泉算是價位較高的,其他還有許多較便宜的地方.我建議有小孩的試試看ㄚ呀旺溫泉,他們有一個大泳池,夏天時很適合小朋友玩水;如果是帶男女朋友一起去,那四面佛是比較有情調的,除了它們之外還有許多選擇,如果你不確定要選那一個,那麼就先在外面看看再付錢進場較保險.
I should also say that there is a way to buy cheaper tickets for many of these hot springs. Across from the "Journey to the East" hot spring there is a small convenience store that sells at discounted rates. Just follow the signs into the hot spring area, and it's just opposite the gift store on the main road. It is also possible to buy cheaper tickets at the Farmer's Association Supermarket in Taitung City, though they tend to have a smaller selection than this one convenience store - don't ask me why!還有另一個較經濟的買票方法,沿途進溫泉區時有雜貨店賣各溫泉的門票,在這些地方買比到當場再買價錢差蠻多的,所以建議到東遊季溫泉對面的雜貨店購票或是到台東農會超市購買,但是農會超市的選擇性較低.
Here's wishing you a Happy Halloween. October might be chilly, but thankfully there are always places like Jer Ben where we can keep warm!最後祝你萬聖節快樂!天氣漸漸涼了,但是還好我們有知本溫泉溫暖我們.
4. Nostalgia 思鄉情懷 (November 十一月 2009)
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. It can lend a pleasure to past events that never existed in fact. It makes the past look better than it really was. It is, after all, so easy to look back and see how much better the past was in comparison to the present time. By the same token, it is just as easy to remember places I have lived before, and to see only their advantages over where I live now.緬懷過去有時是件不好的事,因為很多時候懷念的可能是自己添加的情感想像,過去不一定是你記憶中那麼美好的樣子,我有時會比較現在與之前住過的地方,但是發現會懷念只是因為我忘了當初為什麼會離開的理由.
I have overindulged this feeling, this sense of nostalgia, on many occasions. Perhaps I was at a party, and I started to think how much better the beer tasted back home. Perhaps I was driving through the country, and I started to miss the national parks near Seattle. Perhaps I was in a restaurant, and I began to miss foods that I cannot get in Taiwan, or friends I used to enjoy meals with.我想我是常犯這種事的人,有時在朋友聚會上開始想念家鄉的啤酒與朋友,有時開車時想念西雅圖附近的國家公園.
So when people ask me what I miss about "home", when people ask me about the place I come from; my first instinct is to guard against nostalgia. This is because I know how easily I am carried away by this feeling. There were times when I found myself on a plane back home, for no other reason than an overindulgence in nostalgia. Even as I arrived in the Seattle airport, I knew that many of the places I was searching for would be gone, and many of the people I missed would be different from how I remembered them.所以有時候朋友問我最想念家鄉的那一點,我會避免自己過度美化那個地方,有時我們回去只是想看看那裡,雖然我知道很多我熟悉的地方可能不像以前那樣,很多朋友也在我離開的這段時間有所改變了.
This said, usually what I miss most about Seattle is the beer. This is not a joke. There are so many kinds of beer there. There are so many kinds of beer in Seattle that you could never get to the end of them. Bars and brewpubs are very welcoming when the weather in Seattle turns cold, and I miss the impressions I retain of those places. Beer always reminds me of home. 我最想念的是西雅圖的啤酒,那裡啤酒種類之多,會讓人感到驚訝,天氣轉涼時,酒吧常常是人們愛去的地方,我喜歡偶爾到酒吧坐坐喝啤酒的那種氣氛.在這裡,啤酒總是提醒我西雅圖的感覺.
Next to beer, I also miss the wilderness. I love the natural scenery in Taiwan, but when I think of places such as Glacier National Park and Gold Beach, I cannot help but feel a sense of loss. Those great, big, wild places have set the stage for so many adventures, and I miss getting lost within them. Nature in Taiwan isn't always as friendly - it tends to sting and bite a bit more.我想念美國的自然景觀,雖然我也愛臺灣的自然風景,但是像冰河國家公園及黃金海岸這種地方在臺灣是少見的,而且在這裡常常需要擔心蟲咬.
I also miss my friends and family, but not as much as you might think. I have, after all, a family here as well, and if I miss anyone in Seattle too much I can always call them up. I can't call up beers on the phone, or have conversations with national parks, and so I find myself missing these inanimate things more. No phone line can put me at Fisherman's Terminal with a tray of fish and chips in my hand, and no internet connection can adequately describe the view from the tops of the Siskiyous. These are the things I really miss, because they are farthest away from where I am now.雖然我也想念我在那裡的家人和朋友,可是因為想念他們時我可以打電話,但是有很多是電話和郵件也幫不上忙的,例如食物與大自然景觀,也因為這樣我愈想念它們.
But as I said, this line of thinking can be a dangerous thing. I don't want to miss anything too much, because those things that I miss take away from what I have now. I also know that were I now in Seattle, it is Taiwan I would be missing. I could have Bridgeport, but for the present time I prefer Taiwan Beer. I could have Crater Lake, but for the present time I prefer Jade Mountain.知足常樂.我現在喜歡的啤酒是臺灣啤酒,最有興趣想去探險的是玉山.
I like where I am. There is no need to cloud this place with memories of people, places, and things I cannot have. The past is always there, within me, and there is no need to look elsewhere for it.我喜歡現在居住的地方與朋友,過去的回憶就把它封箱在我的心裡.
5. Can You Speak Chinese? 你說中文嗎? (November 2009)
It is not unusual to meet Taiwanese people who simply do not believe that foreigners can understand Chinese.很多臺灣人直覺地以為外國人都不懂中文.
This is not entirely their fault. For instance, most people in Taiwan grow up with adults telling them things like, "Oh, you must speak English to the foreigner," or "Don't speak Chinese to that foreigner, he/she can't understand you!" Hopefully most of them grow out of such assumptions, but it is easy to understand how these assumptions come to be in the first place.其實這應該和他們的成長環境有關,有時大人們會跟小朋友說:不要跟那個外國人說中文,因為他聽不懂.雖然可以了解他們為何有這樣的偏見,但還是希望他們能有機會知道事情並不是這麼一定的.
And looking at it from the other direction, I am also struck by the fact that many foreign residents never really bother to learn Chinese. Most of them, in fact, never even try. They walk around with people translating everything for them, they frequent restaurants with English menus, and they are forever asking Taiwanese friends for assistance with everyday tasks. This would of course be understandable if they'd only been here for a few months, but I've met people who've lived for ten years or more in this fashion.從另一方面來看,我也很訝異很多外國人住在這塊土地上,卻從來沒想過要去學中文.他們靠朋友的翻譯處理事務與認識環境,吃飯時則上有英文菜單的餐廳.對於剛來臺灣的外國人士,處處需要朋友的幫忙是正常的,可是那些長久住在這裡的人還是這樣的生活態度,那就真是太不可思議了.
It's not like learning any language is easy. To learn Chinese, or any other language, is a lot of work. It is a lot of work for Chinese people too, hence the hours of study demanded of them in school. I think that anyone who plans to learn Chinese "the easy way" or by just "picking it up" is never going to learn Chinese that well. Even for those of us who've slogged it out through college Chinese courses, it can be a long, hard road to travel.學一門新的語言都是需要很多時間與精力的,就像這裡的人們學英語一樣.任何想要輕鬆地學中文的人的學習成果是不會好到那兒的,甚至是經由大學開辦的華語課程,學習中文也都是一條長遠及辛苦的路.
So I can understand why foreign residents give up on learning Chinese, choosing instead to plead ignorance, or pretend that they do not hear when people are speaking to them. Worst of all, there are some who actively ignore those around them. They've given up on understanding Mandarin, so they've decided to stop hearing it altogether. These are the saddest kind of people: the people who've chosen to be deaf and dumb.我可以了解為什麼很多外國人放棄學中文,但那卻是最可悲的一件事,因為那些放棄的人選擇了忽視周遭的人事物,並且寧願表現無知.
Chinese is a frustrating language, that is certain, but I think it is worth learning. I have studied it for many years already, and I can see no end to my studies in the near future. If it takes Taiwanese people 12 years of schooling (or more) to master their own language, what can I expect? Compared to them, I am only just starting.學習中文是一項很大的挑戰,但是值得.如果臺灣人需要花十二年甚至更久的時間在學校學習中文,那麼對我而言,就算我已經學了幾年,跟他們比較起來我仍只是剛起步而已.
I think, moreover, that the best attitude you can adopt is one of humility, and an understanding that however long you have been here, there will be things that you fail to understand, jokes that you don't get, and people whose accents confuse you. I've read Confucius in the original Mandarin, and still my father-in-law's very "Taiwanese" pronunciation often confuses me.我想最好的學習中文的態度是接受自己對中文的無知,因為無論你在這裡多久,有時你還是不明白為什麼有的笑話很好笑,或是聽不懂別人的口音.雖然我讀過些論語的篇章,但是很多時候我還是聽不懂我丈人的臺灣國語.
Which doesn't mean that foreigners are incapable of understanding Chinese. It just means that we're learning. If you don't speak Chinese now, maybe one day you will. It says nothing as to your ability as a person. You may be struggling against others' ignorance of your willpower and your desire to learn, but when is this ever not the case?這並不是說外國人沒辦法瞭解中文,這只是說我們正在學習.如果你現在不會說中文,也許那一天你會嘗試.在學習的路上會有很多的挫折,最讓人氣餒的應該就是別人不懂自己的努力與用心吧!
...and the next time you hear someone talking about how foreigners can't speak Chinese, tell them for me that they are wrong. Tell them in English. Tell them in Mandarin. Tell them in Taiwanese or Hakkanese.下次你聽到有人說外國人不會說中文之類的話,請替我糾正他,你可以用英文說或用中文,甚至是臺語或客語.
After all, if they are right, how could they expect to learn my language(s)? How could they expect to learn about my culture? Or even exist in the same world as me? In the end it's not really a language issue at all, but one of mutual understanding.最後,如果他們的說法是對的,那他們是如何學習其他的外語和文化?這應該已經不是單純的語言問題,而是對其他文化的認識了.
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