2019年1月15日 星期二

長濱鄉的太子宮 Tai Dze Temple, Chang Bin Township

"Tai Dze" 太子 or "San Tai Dze" 三太子 are other names for the deity known as Nezha 哪吒.  The article on Wikipedia states that he's popular with drivers and gamblers, and he's usually depicted as a young man riding "wind-fire wheels" 風火輪, holding a ring in one hand and a spear in the other.

Taiwan has a few Tai Dze temples, but as an object of worship he's not nearly as popular Tu Di Gong 土地公, Guan Wu 關羽, or Matsu 媽祖.

The temple in the pictures below is just north of Shiao Gang 小港, in Chang Bin Township 長濱鄉.  The location on Google Maps is here.  The rock in the first picture is known as "Man's Rock 男人石," and is also a location in itself.

It's worth noting that the more famous Ba Shian Caves 八仙洞, also in Chang Bin Township, are often described as resembling a vagina.  Both places are considered auspicious in terms of fertility, and both have been host to temples for a very long time.

This is Man's Rock.  It's supposed to look like a penis, but I'm really not seeing that.  Maybe it looks more like a penis from the other side?

Plaque explaining the beneficial aspects of the rock/site.  Since this plaque seems to be referring to Tu Di Gong (大福公), I'm assuming the beneficial aspects listed on the plaque can be attributed to him.*

The trees growing out of Man's Rock looked kind of nightmarish to me, but maybe they're prettier when the sun is out.

Another plaque describing how to perform ritual observances at the site.

And yes, there are a lot of stone penises set around Man's Rock.  This is where the fertility aspect of the place becomes more obvious.

View of the two temples adjacent to Man's Rock.  The one on the right with the red roof is dedicated to (San) Tai Dze.

Smaller shrine set into Man's Rock.  There's a small statue of the goddess Guanyin 觀音 below it.

In case you're unfamiliar with Chang Bin Township, there's really not a lot there.  The biggest town is probably "Downtown Chang Bin 長濱市區," and the only thing that place can boast of is a 7-11.  This is a view toward the ocean, which you can't see because of the clouds.

I'd give anyone brave enough to put their arm into one of these holes 100 NT.  Excellent place for snakes to spend the winter.

Aside from the big stone penis above, there are many smaller stone penises set in a circle around Man's Rock.  They were made out of different kinds of rock, so they come in different colors.

"All things emanate from the Source."  Deep thoughts from a former magistrate.

Inside the green-roofed temple.  It's easy to get gods confused, but I'm pretty sure that's (San) Tai Dze sitting on the throne in the middle.

The older, red-roofed temple.  This one is obviously dedicated to (San) Tai Dze, though of course other gods can be found in his temple.  

Understanding Taoism can be hard for Westerners like me.  I'm used to separating things into categories and defining terms, while Taoism is more about mixing things up and leaving things open to interpretation.

Like all temples, there are lions guarding the entrance.  This particular temple also had a one-legged dog helping the lions stand guard.

Gotta be (San) Tai Dze seated in front of the incense.  I'm guessing the god seated beneath the dragon is the Jade Emperor 玉皇大帝, king of the gods.  The red-faced guy next to him is probably Guan Yu, and I'm thinking that's Tu Di Gong to the right of the Jade Emperor.

This is a door god (or spirit) 門神.  You see them in many temples.  I have no idea who this one is supposed to represent.

Dragons, lots of dragons.  There's a real art to creating these kind of sculptures, and this art is being lost.  In modern times a lot of younger people don't visit temples, and the number of people able to restore/maintain these sculptures is shrinking.

Not sure who these three are, but I'm guessing they're the "Lords of the Three Realms 三界公."  They figure prominently in many Taoist rituals.  I like this dragon most of all.

Related Entries:

Views From the Top of Liyu Mountain 鯉魚山
The "Chinese New Year Tent" at Taitung's Central Market
The Three-Character Poem 三字經 4
Another Day in "Scenic Kaohsiung" 在風景美好高雄的一日

*I got pretty heavily into Chinese folk beliefs/Taoism a year or so ago, though I am NOT an expert on the topic.  For a broad overview of this topic you're welcome to look here.

2019年1月14日 星期一

Views From the Top of Liyu Mountain 鯉魚山

Li Yu Mountain is in the middle of Taitung City.  I walked around up there last weekend, and these are the pictures I took.

This pagoda is for dead people.  Tourists get their hopes up when they see it, but no, you can't go up to the top.

The green building is the new Gaya Hotel.

The building with the red roof is the old stadium.  The green space around it is where Taitung University used to be.  It's since moved south to Jer Ben 知本.

This mountain was a military base long ago.  There are still many tunnels leading into the mountain, but the government has blocked them all up.

That's Dulan Mountain 都蘭山 in the background.

Nanjing Road 南京路.  The smaller hill in the distance is Monkey Mountain 猴子山.  It's still a military base, so civilians aren't allowed up there.

The pagoda from above.  The Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Still higher up, but also looking toward Dulan Mountain.

On the other side of the mountain, looking southwest.  The valley in the background to the left is where the Jer Ben Hot Springs are.

Still looking toward Jer Ben.  The swath of green in the middle is the Tai Ping River 太平溪.

Looking north again, from the other side of the pagoda.

South.  The bigger building with the red roof in the foreground is the school where I am now typing this.

Looking southeast, toward the Pacific.  The big building in the middle is Mackay Hospital 馬偕醫院.  You can see my school's athletic field next to it.

Looking toward the mouth of the Taiping River.  The clouds were coming in fast and we had to go!

Related Entries:

Another Day in "Scenic Kaohsiung" 在風景美好高雄的一日
10 Weirder Destinations in Taiwan 十個比較特別的台灣景點
Mei He / San He 美和 / 三和
Shiao Ye Liou 小野柳 / Jia Lu Lan 加路蘭

Jo Jo Lion, Comic Books, and Comic Book Rental Shops

Page from "Jo Jo Lion."

I suppose I've liked/loved comic books for most of my life.  For me the desire to read them comes and goes.

The oldest comic book rental place I know of.  Not far from Taitung's Seashore Park.

When I was little I was obsessed with American superheroes.  As soon as I was old enough to read (and maybe before) I was pouring over comic books.  My fascination with them only abated with high school and the advent of girls.

From the end of high school to my early college years I don't remember buying or reading comic books.  I think by that point music had kind of replaced them in my heart.  The early to late 90s comics are a mystery to me, which would seem to indicate that I wasn't reading them then.

After moving to Taiwan I read comic books on and off.  During my third year here, after I started studying Chinese, I remember renting copies of Doraemon, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, and other comics from the local comic book place.  I studied Chinese fairly intensively during that year, didn't read anything in English, and the Japanese comics I was reading (in Chinese translation) were a nice break from my textbooks.

Different comic rental shop.  This one is doing much better business.

In taste I'm pretty evenly divided between the American and Japanese comics.  I can remember owning copies of Shonen Jump when I was very little, though at that time they were all in Japanese and I could only gaze at the pictures.  Sometimes I prefer the allegory and relative seriousness of American comics.  Sometimes I prefer the art and more lighthearted nature of Japanese comics.  It depends on my mood.

One thing's for sure, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is one of my favorites.  No other comic in the history of comics - either Japanese or American - quite matches Jojo for sheer weirdness.  I recently started a campaign to read the issues of the newest Jojo, Jo Jo Lion, that I hadn't gotten to yet.  I'm on issue/book #10 at the time of writing, and I should be able to finish the last book, #18, by the end of next week.

Boys' comics.

By the way, if you're interested in this kind of thing - and if you've got a year or so of Chinese under your belt - I highly recommend checking out the local comic book rental shop.  With the popularity of online comics these shops are dying a slow death, but the people operating them will be overjoyed to see you.  These places rent novels too, so if you're looking for something more challenging/serious there's that too.  Just remember to bring your ID and some money.

Related Entries:

The "Chinese New Year Tent" at Taitung's Central Market
Assorted Thoughts at the End of the Semester 2
The Three-Character Poem 三字經 4
The Countries Next Door 鄰近的國家

2019年1月11日 星期五

Hello, Taitung Person 台東人你好 7

In the Hello, Taitung Person entries I'll be interviewing local residents.  They decide what kind of biographical information to include.  Some people are more private individuals, and I respect that.  Others are happy to make their presence known, and I respect that too.  在 "台東人你好" 這些文章中我會介紹當地的居民.  這些資訊是他們同意分享的.  有的人比較重視隱私,  有的人則開心地讓他人更認識自己.  我尊重這二者不同的做法.

All numbered questions were chosen randomly from a list of 45 questions.  下列編號的問題是隨機由五十個問題中選出來的. 

The thoughts and opinions expressed below belong to the person offering them, and may not be shared by the person writing this blog.  下列是被訪問者的想法與意見, 與寫這個blog的我不一定一樣.

First Name 名字: David
Last Name 姓: Hays
Chinese Name 中文名字: 海大衛....吧
Employment 工作地點: English Teacher 英語教師
Country of Origin 國家: USA 美國
Age 年齡: 36 歲
Length of Residence in Taiwan 居住在台灣的時間: 7.5 years 年
Place of Residence in Taitung 住在台東地區: Dong He Township 東河鄉
Favorite Colors 最喜歡的顏色: No favorite color!  不是特別喜歡什麼顏色!

1. Q: Have you ever had Tunnel 88?  What was your experience like?  你喝過八八坑道高粱酒嗎?  你的經驗如何?

A: Yes, I have had Tunnel 88 and my experience was... ah... drunken.  [Laughing]  I didn't necessarily like the taste too much.  It was probably the second year I was in Taiwan and I drank about a bottle - a small, medium size bottle of Tunnel 88 and... my memory got a little foggy and I don't recall feeling very well the next day.  對, 我喝過八八坑道高粱酒.  我的經驗是... 醉吧.  [在笑]  我不是很喜歡那種口味.  大概是我在台灣的第二年, 我喝了一瓶 ,中瓶大小的高粱酒...  之後我的記憶有點模糊, 隔天身體不舒服.

2. Q: What do you like to drink?  What do you not like to drink?  你喜歡喝什麼?  你不喜歡喝什麼?

A: Well currently I'm not drinking alcohol for the past 6 months.  So, prior to that I ah... enjoyed drinking Kirin beer.  A lot.  And now I'm kind of on the tea.  我最近六個月沒喝酒了.  所以, 以前很喜歡喝麒麟啤酒.  很喜歡.  我最近比較喜歡喝茶.

3. Q: What are your thoughts on Taitung's environmental situation?  你對台東的環境現況有意見嗎?

A: I'm not super educated on that environmental situation.  I do notice quite a bit of trash on the beaches.  I spend a lot of time on the beaches* where I see a lot of plastic and that type of thing.  But, that being said, I think it's getting better.  Um, from what I have witnessed, but I'm not sure what we're comparing it to.  I know, compared to home where I live in the States... here there's a lot more pollution, like trash on the ground, but uh... the environmental situation as a whole, I don't know if I'm really qualified to comment on that.  我不是很瞭解現在的環境議題.  但我在海灘上看到了很多垃圾.  我常常去海灘, 我在那裏看到很多塑膠類的垃圾.  但大致來說, 我覺得環境現況越來越好.  嗯, 就我的經驗來說, 我不知道我們現在是在跟哪裡做比較...  我知道, 跟我美國的家鄉比較來說, 這裡的環境汙染更嚴重, 例如地上的垃圾, 可是以台灣全國的環境來說, 我不知道我是否夠資格評斷.

4. Q: What do you think about the Cross-Strait situation?  About Taiwan and China?  你對兩岸的現況有什麼看法?  台灣與中國間的關係?

A: Ooh, again,  I mean I'm not that involved politically.  I wish it would just go away, and that Taiwan could be its own country, without China constantly, like claiming that it's theirs - claiming that Taiwan is theirs - and I find it just to be a little redundant, after 8 years of living here.**  Still hearing the same bullshit about Taiwan and China.  And then I've heard that prior to me living here that same discussion - whether it's changed or not over the years I don't know - it's been an ongoing thing forever.  I haven't seen much difference between the constant... banter.  喔, 再說.  我也不是很瞭解最近的政治現況.  我希望這種問題能馬上消失, 中國不要再一直說台灣是他們的, 台灣可以是一獨立國家. 我只是覺得中國一直說台灣屬於中國的這個情況很煩 , 我住在這裡八年了.  還是一直聽到台灣與中國的這件煩人的事情.  我也聽說我住這裡之前已有人討論這個問題 - 我不知道這問題隨著時間有沒有改變 - 從開國到現在這個問題都一直存在.  我沒看到這個討論有任何變化.

5. Q: Which is better, Kaohsiung or Taipei?  Why?  高雄, 台北哪一個城市比較好?  為什麼?

A: I like Kaohsiung a little more, right?  Neither city have I explored that in-depth, but uh Kaohsiung I like the fact that it's on the water, and I've seen the university*** down there by the ocean.  It looks pretty cool, and the Love River's fun to walk along.  Whereas Taipei to me just seems like a big mall, both on top of land and under.  But, that being said, Taipei is very impressive with the MRT and the infrastructure.  So Taipei is an amazing city, but personally I think Kaohsiung has a little more, like, on offer.  But I don't really know!  我比較喜歡高雄.  我沒有留在這二個城市很久, 可是我喜歡高雄靠近海的這一點.  我去過靠近海的那所大學, 看起來很酷.  走在愛河邊也很好玩.  我覺得台北比較像一大棟購物中心, 地上地下都是.  可是, 話說回來, 台北的捷運跟基礎設施都是驚人的.  所以台北是個滿好的都市, 但是我自己認為高雄的優點比較多.  我才不是很確定!

6. Q: What has been your greatest moment in Taiwan so far?  你在台灣最棒的時刻是?

A: Um... "My greatest moment in Taiwan so far."  It would probably be ah I mean, there'd probably be three greatest moments, there'd be marrying my wife, and then... the moment my son was born, and then the moment my daughter was born.  嗯... "我在台灣最好的時刻."  那大概是, 我的意思是有三個最好的時刻: 跟我太太結婚, 我兒子的生日, 最後還有我女兒的生日.

7. Q: How has your time in Taiwan caused you to reassess your home country?  你在台灣之後, 你對美國的看法有什麼改變?

A: Um, it really has brought to light some of the things that I love about my home country, and some of the things that I don't like about my home country.  And it's the same for Taiwan.  It makes me realize some of the things I love about Taiwan and some of the things that I don't, so it really makes me realize the bonuses in America, and also some of the problems and some of the things I don't like.  I mean there are... the list is pretty long when you get into that type of stuff.  嗯, 我住這裡之後更瞭解我喜歡自己國家的哪些部分, 和不喜歡哪些部分.  對於台灣也一樣.  讓我發現我喜歡和不喜歡台灣的部分, 比較下看出美國的好還有那邊的缺點跟不喜歡的部分.  我的意思是... 這種事情可以講很久.

8. Q: Do you feel you are paid enough for the work you do?  Why or why not?  你覺得你的薪水夠了嗎?  為什麼?

A: Uh... yeah, I feel that I'm paid enough for the work I do.  Especially in comparison to the local teachers.  I... I feel like it's definitely enough to live comfortably in Taitung, I don't know what it would be like being paid this salary and living in Taipei.  I feel like it might be a little tougher.  And... one thing that makes it difficult is that the salary we make here makes it hard to save enough to move back to the USA and live comfortably, so if you... to live in Taiwan - if you plan on living in Taiwan the rest of your life - this salary's fine, but if you had desires to move back to the country of your origin and that country the cost of living here then the pay here is kind of insignificant.  嗯... 沒錯, 我覺得我的薪水夠了.  跟當地老師比一定夠了.  我... 我的薪水可以在台東舒服地生活, 不知道一樣的薪水住在台北如何.  那樣子比較困難吧.  還有, 比較麻煩的部分是這薪水要搬回去美國有點困難, 所以... 住在台灣 - 如果打算永遠住台灣 - 這種薪水是可以的, 可是想搬回原來國家的人沒辦法用這邊的薪水支付那裏比較高的生活費的.

9. Q: Is it useful for you to know Taiwanese?  Why or why not?  你覺得學會台語有用嗎?  為什麼?

A: [Laughing] Uh, you're talking to someone who's barely learned any Chinese, so yeah, it's probably useful to learn Taiwanese.  You could probably speak to some pretty interesting people with some pretty historical knowledge of Taiwan, but... I couldn't really tell you.  It hasn't been useful for me because I don't know it.  [在笑]  嗯, 你在跟一位中文很差的人講話, 所以呢?  學會台語大概很有用.  這樣子應該有機會跟一些有趣並比較懂本島歷史的人聊天.  可是我不是很確定.  我不會那個語言, 所以對自己來說沒有用.

10. Q: Are there any leisure activities you would love to do but find too difficult here?  在你喜歡的休閒活動中, 有沒有是在台灣比較不方便的?

A: Yes.  Definitely.  I would like to play soccer in an adult league, along with other sports, but I... that's one of the things that I, that goes back to an earlier questions about the States, it seems like in the U.S. there are lots of sports teams you can join as an adult - or for that matter as a child -  I don't see that many recreational sports leagues in Taitung and that is something that I miss a lot.  So that's one thing that comes to mind, like being able to play in a soccer league for adults, or a softball league for adults, or something.  Maybe they have here but I just don't know about it.  有.  一定有.  我想加入成人足球隊踢足球和參加其他的運動, 可是...  那是一種, 那又回到之前與美國有關的問題, 好像在美國有很多成人的運動團隊可以加入 - 也有小孩子們的 - 但我在台東沒看過那麼多休閒運動團體, 也很想念這種活動.  所以, 那是我想到的一件事.  參加成人足球隊或是成人壘球這類的活動.  可能這裡也有, 只是我沒聽說罷了.

Related Entries 相關的文章:

What's Going on in Taitung 台東最近發生的事 9
The Countries Next Door 鄰近的國家
Hello Taitung Person 台東人你好 6
What's Going On the Seventh Floor of My Apartment Building  我大樓7樓發生了什麼事

*Dave surfs, and what's more he lives not far from the beach in Dong He.  He definitely knows the condition of local beaches way better than I do.

**So I've known this guy 8 years already?  Damn that's a long time!

***In case you're unfamiliar with Kaohsiung, he's talking about Sun Yat-sen University 中山大學.  It's right on the water, north of Kaohsiung Port.  Not a bad place to go for a walk, and it also has a beach where you can swim.

Assorted Thoughts at the End of the Semester 2

Hold on, this is going to be LONG.  My job is getting easier and easier as the semester winds down, so the nonsense you wade through below represents several days' worth of boredom.  Feel free to abandon this post before my weirdness infects your brain.

Tuesday, December 11

1. Facebook continues its slow death.  I usually log in when I'm at work just to avoid wearing my phone battery down when I use Messenger.  Granted the fact that I have far fewer FB friends since my old account got blocked, but almost none of my current friends have posted or liked anything.  One person keeps posting cat videos - the bane of many ex-Facebook users - but that's about it.

2. I've been trying to learn Python.  For those who don't know, Python is one of the two major programming languages in use today.  Most computer programmers learn either Python, which is newer, or Java, which is older and works better across different platforms.  I've got Python and Pycharm running on my home computer.  I've studied computers off and on throughout my life, and I'm finding Python fairly similar to Visual Basic.

3. It doesn't feel as cold as it should be.  The weather here's still warm.  Taitung never gets that cold, but for December it's pretty strange weather we're having.  The temperature at the time of writing is 27 degrees Celsius, or 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Deepika Padukone is so beautiful.  I was watching Chandni Chowk to China last night, and I couldn't help but feel a little lovesick every time she appeared onscreen.  Chandni Chowk to China is, by the way, one of the worst movies ever made.  Padukone was also in this year's Padmaavat, which is a much better film.

5. I had to renew my U.S. passport recently.  I can do this through the mail now so it's not so bad.  I just wish they'd hurry up and send me the new one.  After I get my new passport I also need to renew my ARC (Alien Resident Certificate), which expires next semester.  I'm eligible for the 10-year APRC (Alien Permanent Resident Certificate), but I think I might just renew for 3 years because it's less work.  The 10-year APRC is the same price per year, and would involve gathering extra documents.

6. I should also file back taxes with the U.S. soon.  I want to do this in case I should ever want to move back to the States (in the distant future).  If I ever do so my wife will need another green card, and that would require backfiling taxes.  I'm also tired of being paranoid about how much money I have in banks in either country.

7. I also need to re-register to vote.  My parents moved away (and sold) the house where I was born, and I believe I need to fill out the absentee voter application (again) for this reason.  I'll look into it, anyway.  I'm not sure if re-registering is really necessary.  With Trump up for reelection soon you can be damn sure I'm voting.

8. China.  My thoughts on China could take (and have taken) and entire blog entry by themselves, but let's just say that I'm thinking more and more about the reality of China, and how I might go about adjusting myself to that reality.  For me the first step will be applying for a 10-year tourist visa after I get my passport back, and provided I have enough time I want to visit Xiamen, the part of Fujian Province nearest Taiwan.  I feel the need to see more of China with my own eyes.  Like a lot of people in Taiwan, I've been relying on the opinions of others' on China for far too long, and I think I need to start experiencing whatever's over there for myself.  Provided I go, I'm sure I'll end up writing about it here at some point.*

9. Been watching a lot of Lars von Trier's movies lately.  I started with Antichrist, and from there moved on to Melancholia and Nymphomaniac.  I'd already seen Dogville not long after it appeared in theaters.  I don't know if I can call myself a "fan" of von Trier, and his more recent movies definitely aren't for the faint of heart, but there are a lot of interesting ideas in them.  Trier has a new movie, The House That Jack Built, which I've heard is his most disturbing yet.

Wednesday, December 12

10. The courier brought my new passport to my apartment building last night, but I wasn't there to pick it up and I'd forgotten to leave the delivery fee with our building's security guard.  I called the courier on the phone, and he said he'd be bringing it back tonight.  Hopefully the security guard remembers the money I left with him yesterday.

11. Going to see Aquaman at 7 pm.  I'm not super excited, but I'm expecting it to be good.  Anything's bound to be better than Justice League - which was terrible.  James Wan is a good director, and the movie looks colorful if nothing else.

12. Interviewed Jeff Pike at 85 Coffee after I got off work yesterday.  It didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would, and his answers to my questions were the most succinct so far.

13. There's a new duck restaurant near the corner of Geng Sheng Road 更生路 and Sse Wei Road 四維路.  Small portions, uncomfortable seating, and it's just not very good.  I doubt I'll ever go back there.

14. Shaved off my beard and got my hair cut last night.  The beard was too damn itchy in the (unseasonably) hot weather, and it would have been weird to shave off the beard and not cut my hair, too.  I feel much better now, even if my face is a little cold.

15. I'm starting to hate my English club, but there are only three more of them.  Today we'll be doing our textbook (Side by Side) for the last time.  Next week we'll be doing art, probably Christmas or Chinese New Year cards.  The last class will be a DVD, so that lesson will take care of itself.

I had to kick a kid out of my English club last week.  It was the first time I've had to do this.  He was leaving class, and as he was leaving he said, "Goodbye, stupid teacher!"  I immediately ran out behind him and told him he was not welcome in class anymore.  After that I told his homeroom teacher, who agreed with what I'd done.  I'm thinking this kid is only going to grow more annoying/rude as he approaches the sixth grade, but for now I'm happy that I don't have to see him on Wednesdays.

Thursday, December 13

1. Busy morning.  Spent the first period correcting papers, the second period doing a lesson on fruit, and the third and fourth periods making Christmas cards.  After that I went to the local Department of Immigration to ask whether or not I need to renew my ARC before going to China.

The answer to my question was yes, I need to renew it.  The reason was that I have a new passport - with a different passport number - and now my ARC and my passport don't match.  So tomorrow I have to go back there and apply for a new card.  It's a pain in the ass but I was kind of expecting it.

The guy behind the counter said the fastest I can get a new ARC is seven days.  This should be enough time, but we'll see...

2. Aquaman is terrible.  Don't bother.

3. After work I'm going to eat McDonald's.  I'm going running this evening, and I could use the calories.  I like McDonald's breakfast - in my opinion the best breakfast around - but their other menu items don't do much for me.  The thing about McDonald's is it's the only restaurant where I can load up on MEAT at 4 p.m.  Besides fast food my only other option is the vegetarian restaurant on Jeng Chi road 正氣路, and I'm pretty tired of that place.

Monday, December 17

1. Saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse yesterday.  That movie is awesome.  The battle inside the "singularity" at the end was one of the coolest-looking things I've ever seen.

2. Thinking about not swimming until next semester.  It's much colder today, and I doubt Friday will be much warmer.  I suppose I'll decide on Friday.

3. Spent Saturday trekking around Kaohsiung 高雄.  I've noticed that no matter what construction we encounter on Highway 9 or the Southern Cross-Island Highway 南迴公路 it always takes about 3.5 hours to get to Kaohsiung.  Why this is I cannot say.

We parked the car near the Martial Arts Stadium MRT Stop as usual.  From there we took the MRT to Shidzewan 西子灣, because in my mind the skies over Shidzewan were clear and everyone was having a good time.  After I arrived at Shidzewan I realized I was wrong about the clear skies and the everybody having a good time, but we walked around there a bit and I took some good pictures which followers of this blog would have seen already.

I was planning on taking the ferry across the harbor to Chi Jin 旗津, but one look at the smog dissuaded me.  Instead we found a place to eat lunch, found another weird abandoned place to walk around, and then headed back downtown for the usual round of department stores.

After we went to the department stores we wanted to go to this Japanese restaurant I found on Google.  We walked, and walked and walked, only to find that they didn't open for another hour.  So then we turned around and went to a Vietnamese restaurant that was almost all the way back where we started, and ate there.  Not awesome food, but I thought the chicken soup was good.

The MRT ride back from the San Duo Shopping District 三多商圈 was horrific by the way.  So many people.  Thankfully those people started to disperse after the Formosa Boulevard Stop 美麗島, and every stop between Formosa Boulevard and the Martial Arts Stadium had more people leaving than were getting on.

4. Still thinking about China, air tickets and other options.  The second person at the Department of Immigration said it would take two weeks, NOT seven days to get that ARC, but at this point it doesn't make a lot of difference.

Tuesday, December 19

1. They're renovating the school's activity center, so dodgeball is out.  Guess it's movie time.

2. Any visa for Mainland China is $140 U.S.  I'm asking myself how bad I really want to go there.  This, and the government of Emperor-elect Xi reserves the right to determine whether this visa is single entry, double entry, or multiple entry.  Who knows what the criteria is?  There's no such information on their consulate's website.

3. That double salmon burger at McDonald's is surprisingly good.  I think I'll be having another one for dinner.  I sure do like salmon.

4. So where else could I go?  Jinmen 金門?  Matsu 馬祖?  Thailand?  Japan?  Laos?  Myanmar?  Philippines?  I've already been to Thailand and Japan on multiple occasions, but I wouldn't mind revisiting them.  Just going to Jinmen and/or Matsu sounds kind of boring, but those places would be ok for a short trip.  Almost went to Laos last time we were in Thailand.  Myanmar has always interested me, and my brother-in-law and his wife might be there.  I'm a bit skeptical about the Philippines, and even though it's really close I've never found the idea of going there that interesting.

I suppose that in the end you have to decide what aspects of a place really interest you.  The culture?  The food?  The shopping?  The natural places?  The cost of going there?  I'd rate Thailand and Japan very high in terms of culture and food.  Japan wins easily in terms of shopping.  Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines would win in terms of outdoor recreation.  The Philippines probably wins in terms of cost, though Laos is pretty close.

Decisions, decisions.  But it's always nice to have that kind of decision to make.

5. One of the people I work with is so stupid I start to get a headache every time I talk to him/her.  I will not say who this person is in case they happen to read this.  You just never know!

6. The Seahawks lost to the 49ers.  Of all teams, the 49ers.  They're still in the running for that wildcard, but I'm not optimistic.  However things go they'll be playing the Rams again at some point, and the Rams have already beaten them twice this season.  The Steelers are playing better, but they're also inconsistent.  They beat the Patriots yesterday, and they're 4th seed in the AFC.  I have trouble imagining the Rams NOT winning the Superbowl, but as a friend says it's football and anything can happen.

Thursday, December 20

1. Got invited to two Christmas parties and one New Year's party.  When did I become so popular?  Why would anyone want to waste their time hanging around me?

I can't go to either of the Christmas parties because we already reserved a table at the Sheraton 桂田飯店 for Christmas.  We figured treating ourselves to Peking duck was the right thing to do.  Maybe not the most Western thing to do, but of course it's Christmas in Taiwan and - even worse - Christmas in Taitung.  There's just not that much Western stuff to go around.

2. I'm really f*%king tired of cutting up sheets of construction paper.  Last week, this week and next week we're making Christmas and Chinese New Year cards, and the making of these cards requires that I spend a lot of time cutting red, green and yellow paper into small card-sized sheets.  The actual Christmas card lesson takes care of itself, but I'm getting real tired of cutting the paper for it.

3. I don't like to think about what the powdered Starbucks coffee is doing to my insides.  I drink it anyway.

Saturday, December 22

1. This whole day is an extended journey into boredom.  We have to work today to make up for December 31, a day that turns next weekend into a four-day weekend.  I despise working Saturdays, and I'd rather just go to work on December 31.

To make things worse, the fourth graders are on their field trip to Jer Ben Forest Recreation Area 知本森林遊樂區 today, so I only have one class, in the afternoon.  Until then I'm jockeying the 'ol computer with little else to do.  I'm not alone in this situation, but it doesn't make it any less boring.

I spent a lot of this morning writing about the von Trier movies I watched.  I also took a couple walks around campus.  We're at work but many of us have very little to do, so we're all suffering together.

2. When I get off work today I need BEER.  Yes, that's what I need.

3. Oh, and today is the winter solstice.  This means that most Taiwanese people will make an effort to have "glutinous sweet soup balls" or 湯圓 at some point today.

Monday, December 24 (Christmas Eve)

1. Decided on a trip to Japan.  Our visas for China would be too expensive (up around 10,000 NT for the three of us), and with my wife's ambivalence toward that country it seemed best to rule it out for now.  We've been to Malaysia, and Myanmar just looked to undeveloped for the four of us.  Other options were quickly ignored for one reason or another.

So at the end of January we're flying to Osaka, and from there taking a train to Kyoto.  We already have a hotel room reserved in Kyoto for the first half of our trip, and later on tonight we'll probably be looking at a hotel room in Osaka for the second half.

Kyoto has "ancient stuff," so of course we'll be seeing that.  There's also a place in Kyoto called the Kyoto Ninja Experience that I'm morally obligated to go to on account of being obsessed with ninjas when I was little.  Kyoto will be cold, but it should be fun.

I'm a lot hazier about what we'll do in Osaka.  There's an aquarium there we'll probably visit.  I'm not interested in Universal Studios Japan.  I'd like to check out the Asahi Brewery in that area, and also this shopping/food area by the name of Dotonbori.  I envision myself eating a lot of sushi in the near future.

2. Time for class.  I'll get back to this later.

3. It's later.  Having bacon sandwiches for dinner after work.  I sure do like bacon.  Speaking of bacon, have you heard about the pork sickness in China?  Someone sent me a video of some place in Fujian where they'd slaughtered all their pigs.  Looked like something out of a nightmare.

4. Before the bacon sandwiches, and after teaching another class I'll be watching the Seahawks/Chiefs game.  Also the rest of the Steelers/Saints game.  If either the Seahawks or the Steelers win their game I'd say they have a fair shot at the Superbowl.  If not, I'm guessing they don't make it past their respective wildcard games.

5. Watched The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford yesterday.  Surprisingly good movie.  Casey Affleck is awesome in a lot of films.

Tuesday, December 25 (Christmas)

1. Today I downloaded the "Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad."  It's FASCINATING reading, I can tell you.  My plan is to file for this year and the two years previous.

2. We're going to have duck (an entire duck) at the local Sheraton for our Christmas dinner.  After that our daughters will probably tell us what store they want to go to, and we'll buy whatever Christmas gifts they select.  Buying gifts for ANY of my family members ahead of time just isn't working.  This year all we sent my family in the States were Christmas cards.

3. The Seahawks won their game, the Steelers didn't.  The Seahawks play the Cardinals next week, and after that they'll face the Cowboys in the Wildcard game.  The Steelers are still in the running, but I doubt they'll make it to the playoffs at this point.

4. I keep thinking I should sign up for a half marathon or triathlon next semester, but then I start to feel lazy and don't do it.  The thing is I'm in pretty good shape right now - exercising hasn't been a problem - but when it comes down to picking an event, signing up, and paying the money at the local 7-11 I just can't get motivated.  Is it wrong to enjoy exercise for its own sake?

5. When I look back on my younger self I think I was an arrogant prick some of the time, and that my ego got in the way of many things I might have otherwise enjoyed doing.  I've noticed that those in love with their own talent or their own intelligence are often just shrinking the world down to make their perceived talent or intelligence seem bigger, rather than scaling up their talent or intelligence to fit the world around them.  Is that my deep thought for today?  Yes, I believe it is.

Wednesday, December 26

1. Ongoing argument on Reddit over Taiwanese independence, and the feasibility thereof.  Some KMT types insist that "one day" China will magically become democratic, and on that day Taiwanese people will join hands with their Mainland brethren in a rousing rendition of "It's One Nation After All."  Other KMT types think that Mainland China will somehow collapse in the near future, and that Taiwan will be able to take advantage of the situation.  I think waiting around for Mainland China to become (more) democratic is just as ridiculous as waiting for Mainland China to collapse.  While all of these people are sitting around waiting, Taiwan's room to maneuver is getting smaller and smaller, and the time in which the government here can effectively act to preserve itself is getting shorter and shorter.  They seem strangely unworried about the time factor, almost as if the righteousness of their opinions will forestall any disaster.

2. My friend's having a party at his house on New Year's Eve.  I guess I'm going.  Given the number of children/infants at that party I doubt it will be the kind of event you don't really remember, but it should be alright.  I just need to remember to go easy on my bottle of Monkey Shoulder (if I bring it).  Once I start into the whiskey I have trouble stopping.

3. Bought a book about the Osaka/Kyoto area yesterday.  It's fun to flip through.  Did you know they have an entire store dedicated to Ultraman in Osaka?  Gotta go.

4. Besides the Osaka/Kyoto book, I've almost finished Kevin Kwan's "China Rich Girlfriend."  This is the sequel to his "Crazy Rich Asians."  It's a lot more uneven than the first book (and the third, which I've already read), but it does have its moments.  There's a particularly funny scene where a woman attends church in Hong Kong for the first time, and a congregation full of women is yelling: "Jesus!  Come inside me!  Jesus!  Fill me up!"

5. I'm still hungry.  Lunch today was terrible and I didn't eat much.

6. They remodeled RT Mart to look more like an American supermarket.  I find the change disorienting.  I go through RT Mart as usual, buying the same stuff, and then at the end there's this little bit of an American supermarket sitting there, as if I'd been in a Seattle Fred Meyer the whole time.  They even have a self-service checkout, staffed by people wearing similar uniforms.

Thursday December 27

1. I'm glad tomorrow is Friday.  I was in class just now and I got that feeling of "How many times have I done this before?  How many times have I done Powerpoints like this?  How many times have I passed out papers this way?  How much time have I spent waiting for students to finish their assignment?"  When I start thinking about "how many" I know I need a break, and thankfully a four-day weekend is coming.

2. Trying to chill on the coffee.  It's not easy.

3. They installed two more air conditioners in our office just now.  You know the thing about the air conditioners?  We'll probably never turn them on.  The County has enough money to buy them for the schools, but the schools don't have enough money to pay the electricity to keep them on.  I'm sure that seeing the two new air conditioners in the summer will depress me.  Cool air just a few steps away, but we can't turn them on.

Wednesday, January 2

1. Coming off a four-day weekend.  The word for the day is CHILL.  I was testing students this morning and that's super easy.

2. Drank a fair amount of beer, wine, and whiskey this weekend.  Didn't get sloppy drunk, but I did spend Monday night lightly toasted.

3. The traffic during the four-day weekend was easily double what it usually is.  A lot of out-of-towners.  Many of them got dangerously drunk and used this as an excuse to drive even more dangerously, but perhaps more on this later.

4. On Saturday we went up to that pizza place in Dulan 都蘭.  I can't remember doing anything else on Saturday.  I must have watched my share of movies.

5. On Saturday I hung out with R, M, and P for a bit at Pete's Pizza.  A traffic accident took place just down the street from there, earlier in the day, and a guy driving a scooter was killed.  It was a good weekend to be careful on the road - or to not drive at all.

6. On Monday R had his New Year's party.  I had dinner (hot pot) at home and went there after.  It was a strange event.  The living room was full of foreign guys nursing beers and talking about surfing.  The bedroom between the living room and the kitchen was full of screaming children.  And the kitchen was full of wives and girlfriends having conversations about whatever it is that wives and girlfriends talk about.

I stayed until midnight, but I have to admit that some of the conversation was getting by me.  It felt like some of us were moving at the wrong speed.  Or perhaps we were just dealing with different levels of intoxication.

Nothing against anyone there, but I think I should have left earlier.  I had something I wanted to say to someone not in that living room, and I should have gone and done that.

7. Yesterday was Tuesday and I was recovering from a slight hangover.  I also rode my bike up to Dong He 東河.  We had lunch at this place I'd never been to near the ginger duck restaurants on Geng Sheng Road 更生路.  NOT a good lunch.

8. Bringing me to today, of which I have already spoken.  And yet!  And yet, and yet...

I found my old copies of Jo Jo Lion, the Japanese manga (comic book) in a plastic bin after we cleaned out our bedroom.  Did you know the hero of that manga has four balls?  I'm not sure what you would do with four balls, but there you go.  I should catch up with this comic before I go to Japan.

Our coffee machine also broke, right at the time I was reading Jo Jo Lion.  I used another coffee machine, a gift, for the first time, and the coffee thus produced made me HIGH.  Seriously.  I feel like I could put my face through a pane of glass right now and not feel anything.  High, I tell you.  High!

Thursday, January 3

1. So today the guy with amnesia in Jo Jo Lion discovered that he's not really "Ji Liang Ji Ying" 吉良吉影, but that he's really someone else.  He managed to catch the guy lurking in the apartment above him after finding out how the guy's "stand" worked.  I believe the stand's name was "Fun Fun Fun."  You might think I'm making that up but I'm not.

I could explain what a stand is but I'd rather refer you to the Jojo's Bizarre Adventure page on Wikipedia.

2. Feeling a little sick today.  I'm hoping I feel better later so I can go running.  I want to keep my exercise schedule going to at least the 17th.

3. My older daughter got a seasonal job at Carrefour yesterday.  I'm hoping she likes it and she gets hired there permanently.  With us going to Japan at the end of this month it's hard to say.  Whatever happens I'm proud of her.

4. Tried watching "I'm Not There," a movie about Bob Dylan last night.  It didn't help that I've never liked Bob Dylan.  I got about halfway through and had to tap out.  Seemed like a lot of pretentious nonsense.

Friday, January 4

1. It's Friday!  I'm done with my classes!  Time to go!

Monday, January 7

1. Didn't do much this weekend.  Went bicycling twice, watched the Seahawks lose their playoff game, read some more Jo Jo Lion, had terrible food at this new restaurant near my school.  On Saturday night we went to the Dong You Ji (Journey to the East) hot spring 東遊季溫泉渡假村, and that turned out to be a pleasant evening.

2. I have so little to do this week it's ridiculous.  I test three classes today, two classes tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday are the school test days, there are softball competitions for the fifth and sixth grade on Thursday and Friday, and on Friday there's also another activity for the sixth grade.  Aside from the classes I'm testing, I figure I have at most nine classes, probably less.

3. The recent political rhetoric between Taiwan's President and China is scary and... encouraging?  On the one hand hearing Xi Jin-ping 習近平 talk about "getting the PLA into a state of readiness" is scary, but on the other hand hearing Tsai Ying-wen 蔡英文talk about Taiwan's sovereignty in unequivocal terms is refreshing.  I'm never sure which side to believe in these discussions.  Would China really invade if pushed to it?  Or is it all bluster?

4. Yet this said, the other day I realized that all the political articles I was reading were making me depressed, and I decided to chill out on the news for a while.  I felt like keeping up to date on this discussion wasn't doing me any good.

5. After finding a comic book rental place that actually had the issues I was missing, my goal is to read the rest of Jo Jo Lion before the end of the semester.  My other goals is to finish reading the handbook for U.S. expat taxpayers.  A third goal might be not getting into any serious arguments with anyone.  

6. It's kind of fun to be in the Jung Yi Variety Store 正一百貨 on Chuan Guang Road 傳廣路 when the latest group of tourists from Mainland China arrive at their hotel.  After settling into their rooms they POUR into the Jeng Yi, speaking a mixture of Mandarin and who-knows-what dialect of Chinese.  It's interesting to hear them talk about the items on sale there.

Tuesday, January 8

1. What happened in the most recent issue of Jo Jo Lion?  Well, there was this street that was inexplicably alive, and the street had its own stand that could move people to other places without their remembering being moved.  Then Ding Jhu's brother (?) discovered that his stand had the ability to turn people into living Ikea furniture that fell apart.  I would like to expand upon all of that but I really can't.

And oh yeah, Ding Jhu's kind of, sort of girlfriend made a discovery about the lineage of the Joestar family.  It seems that after earning second place in the Steel Ball Run Johnny Joestar went to Japan to teach the Japanese about horsemanship, and while on the boat to Japan he met a Japanese girl and fell in love.  He was later killed under mysterious circumstances, and they erected a statue of him wearing a sailor hat (?) on a hill above town.

2. Only two classes today.  Was going to have lunch as Sam's Burger with D but he has a second grade class after the break.

3. Almost done reading the tax guide.  Nothing mysterious there.  I think whatever exemptions and/or deductions I claim, I don't owe anything.  I still want to go home and look over my old tax returns.  After that I'll have to decide whether I want to fill out the form myself or pay an accountant to do it.

4. I can't stand that term "straw man."  It's such a lazy way of arguing.  Instead of actually pointing out the flaw in someone's argument, someone just says "straw man" as if that explained anything.  It's a very juvenile way of sounding smart.

5. I could kill someone for a bacon burger right now.  I think it must be the running.

6. My sister's getting married on July 6.  She's getting married in Brookings, Oregon, which is not far from the California border.  In case you don't have a map handy, Brookings is far from just about everything.  My mission this summer, should I choose to accept it, is to get from Taitung, Taiwan to Brookings, Oregon in time for my sister's wedding.  This will involve:

     a) Getting a ride to the train station (5 minutes).
     b) Taking a train to Taipei (4 hours).
     c) Taking the plane to either Seattle, Washington (10.5 hours), or Portland, Oregon (13 hours).
     d) Either getting a ride to my parents' house in Port Angeles, Washington (two hours) or my brother's house in Vancouver, Washington (fifteen minutes).
     e) Either getting a ride from Port Angeles, Washington to Brookings, Oregon (ten hours) or from Vancouver, Washington (six hours)
     f) Managing to stay awake through said wedding with an extreme case of jet lag.

One can only see how it goes!

Wednesday, January 9

1. I think I'll wrap this LONG entry up today.  I'll look it over tomorrow, maybe add a couple things, and then click "Publish."  I have zero time to write on Friday, and I'll like to put this up before the next "Hello Foreigner" entry.

2. If you are somehow reading this, good job.  I'm not going to post it on any social media.  I'd rather that those who are going to find it find it, and those who aren't going to find it don't.  Can't be jumping up and down waving your hands all the time.

3. About ready to file my taxes.  I contacted three CPAs, one in the States and two in Taiwan, about preparing my tax return for me.  No response as yet.  If they ask for too much (which I think they will) I'm going to do it myself.  After looking over previous returns last night I'm pretty sure I can do it no problem.

4. In the most recently read installment of Jo Jo Lion an old man told the story of what happened to Johnny Joestar after the conclusion of Steel Ball Run, and how Johnny's Japanese wife contracted some horrible disease that turns your skin to paper and eventually kills you.  Overcome by grief, Johnny journeyed back to New York and stole the corpse of a saint (also from Steel Ball Run) with the power to drive out sickness.  Unfortunately the corpse drove the sickness from the body of Johnny's wife to Johnny's son.

Johnny then did the noble thing and used the corpse a second time to drive the sickness into his own body, and was thus killed (?).

5. Had lunch at Mos Burger with D.  It was kind of loud on the second floor, but it was good talking to him.

6. Work was easy today (no big surprise).  Watched two classes take their semester test, and taught a review lesson to a third.

7. About a week left until winter vacation.  Hallelujah.  Japan is not far away...

Friday, January 11

1. It's a sunny Friday and I have only two classes.  How about you?  What are you up to this weekend?

Related Entries:

Assorted Thoughts at the End of the Semester
Nonsense That Fills My Head on a Saturday
Nonsense That Fills My Head on a Monday
Nonsense That Fills My Head on a Tuesday

*I haven't entirely written off this idea.  Going to Japan was more practical, but after the winter break I might look into getting that visa.