Archive for May, 2013

Face off with a Chinese horde

This incident occured a while back, but re-surfaced in memory while having a conversation with some of my more advanced students.  We were talking about countries they wanted to visit.  Most of the students wanted to go to America, England, Canada, Australia etc. – the fascination with everything western is obvious.

When asked where they DON’T want to go, invariably the answer was China.  Obviously being Taiwanese, this is a knee jerk reaction – China is the accepted Public Enemy #1.  But I wanted them to try and examine their reasons for this and come up with coherent arguments to support their stand.  So I asked why?

On a side note, asking “why?” in a Taiwanese classroom sometimes leads to uncomfortable students and blank gazes.  They don’t like to question what they are told is true.  It is how it is – there is no “why?”.

Anyway, my students, now being used to my frequent “why?” questions furrowed their little brows in thought.  One of the brighter ones spouted, “Because they are not polite.”

“Really?  What do you mean?”

“They talk strong…never stand to wait…not polite.” she struggled.  It was obvious she was pursuing a line of argument, but didn’t know how to express it in English.  Wantng to encourage her thinking I said, “Ok, Chinese.”

She fired off a few sentences to the class, and one of the students who was better at English translated, “They don’t wait in line, they talk loudly and never act polite.”

And that’s when  I remembered the horde incident.  Here’s what happened. Continue reading ‘Face off with a Chinese horde’

The ultimate treehouse, Anping, Tainan

Remeber that time when you wanted a treehouse soooo bad?  Nothing would be better than tromping around 20 feet up in the air with wood and walls around you..right?  Well, I found the ultimate treehouse – one that all young kids would drool over and trade their mothers to own.  And it’s located in the Anping district of Tainan city in southern Taiwan. Continue reading ‘The ultimate treehouse, Anping, Tainan’

Sun Yat-sen Memorial hall, Taipei, Taiwan

Sun Yat-sen is a a revered figure in China as well as Taiwan – one of very few who can lay claim to this.  He was a remarkable personage who was in a very large part responsible for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty (last of the Chinese dynasties) and imperialism in China.  In the chaos of the aftermath, he was a unifiying figure.  He also founded the Kuomintang (KMT) party which currently holds power in Taiwan.  On this side of the Taiwan strait, he is known as the “Father of the Nation”.

To commemorate his memory, the Taiwanese government has erected the Sun Yat-sen memorial hall in Taipei.  In Chinese (國立國父紀念館) it says National Father of the Nation memorial hall.  A stone’s throw away from Taipei 101, this monument to the “Father of Taiwan” is pegged as a must see for all visitors. Continue reading ‘Sun Yat-sen Memorial hall, Taipei, Taiwan’

Taiwan – Philippines high seas-turned-diplomatic-kerfuffle

I was speaking to folks back home and mentioned the recent incident between Taiwan and the Philippines in conversation.  This failed to elicit any response, which is when I realized that the western media hasn’t reported much of what happened, and people back home are unaware of this potentially explosive situation.  It’s huge news in Asia right now with every armchair pundit and blog commenting on it, so here’s a synopsis of what’s going on. Continue reading ‘Taiwan – Philippines high seas-turned-diplomatic-kerfuffle’

Taiwan’s education system produces robots

A while back, I wrote about the stresses and intense academic life of a regular Taiwanese student.  This was largely based on my own observations and chats with students.  Basically, they begin their day early (6:30 – 7 am), and end late (11:30 pm – 12 am).  I’d imagine this is to prepare them for real working life in Taiwan, where 9 – 5, 5 days a week is actually a luxury, cushy job.  More often than not, it’s 7am – 7pm at the office, 6 or 7 days a week (depending on the job).

Taking away that this basically robs the children of any vestiges of childhood they may enjoy, and making them a serious, sour bunch, you would imagine that this intense training would put them at the forefront of being incredibly successful individuals – kind of like an academic version of the Spartans -when you put so much training time into something, the rewards should be nothing less than an intellectual version triumph of Thermopylae-ic proportions.

But this doesn’t happen.  Insead of producing visionaries and world changing, iconic people, the education system in Taiwan seems to produce robots – at least according to this article in Taiwan Today. Continue reading ‘Taiwan’s education system produces robots’

Why do Taiwanese people want to be white?

I don’t mean white as in Caucasian, but as in not tanned.  Which, if you live on a tropical island, is pretty damn hard to do.  It leads to all sorts of uncomfortable clothing choices.  While myself, and most other westerners are running around in shorts, wife-beaters (sleeveless T-shirts) and sandals, lots of Taiwanese are plodding along in long sleeve shirts, wide brimmed hats and long trousers – during million degree days.

Just watching these people walk around in clothes hot enough to fry a phoenix gives me heat induced comas.

One could argue that this is a style thing, and Taiwanese put a lot of emphasis on looking professional and not “bummy”.  But there is clothing available that’s comfortable as well as stylish, so I don’t think it’s all style.

And then there is the curious sight of people (mostly Tawanese women, but sometimes also men) walking around with umbrellas on a perfectly sunny, rainless summer day: Continue reading ‘Why do Taiwanese people want to be white?’

Water-fire cave, Guanziling town, Baihe district, Tainan

I never really paid much attention in science class (or any other class for that matter) at school, but one thing I definitely learned from my poor, long suffering teachers (I know how it was for all of you now, and you may be pleased to know that I’m undergoing the pain I put you thorough!!!) is that  fire and water are incompatible elements – only one can rule in a given place at a given time.  Too much water – flames get snuffed out.  Too many flames – water evaporates.  They simply cannot co-exist.

So, when I discovered that Taiwan has a place where this seemingly solid law of nature is flouted and the impossible exists, I had to see it.  Which brought me to a small town called Guanziling, in Baihe district, Tainan county, southern Taiwan. Continue reading ‘Water-fire cave, Guanziling town, Baihe district, Tainan’

Nanzhuang (南庄), Miaoli county

Another small town, day-trip location, Nanzhuang in Nantou county is nestled in a cocoon of natural surroundings.   Once harbouring coal and forestry industries, Nanzhuang’s population shrunk when these declined and people left looking for work in the cities.  Now, because of the fact that it has been virtually untouched, it’s a popular tourist destination.

Nanzhuang is primarily peopled by Hakkas.  It also has a sprinkling of Atayal and Saisiyat peoples (Taiwanese aboriginals) up toward the mountains.  Besides the serene natural scenery, Nanzhuang boasts an “old street”.  Like so many others in Taiwan, it’s filled with all sorts of trinkets, food and relics from the past. Continue reading ‘Nanzhuang (南庄), Miaoli county’

Japanese City, Toufen, Maioli

A while back, I wrote about a weird “urban bubble” in otherwise rural Toufen township.  Recently, I went back there and it seems like the development gnomes have been hard at work.  The area has changed drastically.  There are a lot more stores, shops, restaurants and people!  Formerly, deserted enough to hear the leaves rustling, it’s now become an outing hotspot for the locals. Continue reading ‘Japanese City, Toufen, Maioli’

Taiwanese snacks (台灣 小吃)

Forget cleanliness.  In Taiwan, food and food preparation is much closer to godliness.  This island offers a massive variety of all sorts of delicious/disgusting treats for the foodie.  In addition to the millions of restaurants, there are small snack stalls and food stands peppered all over the island.  This makes it very difficult to stick to a square 3 meals a day because the options for snacking are so varied and so commonplace.  You can barely walk a block without seeing a street vendor hawking some sort of  edible product.  And that’s why I’m still getting fat.

To list all of the available snacks would be an impossible task, and probably take up all my storage space on WordPress.  In addition, you would probably have grandkids by the time you read to the end, so here are a FEW samplings of some of my favourite and not-so-favourite Taiwanese snacks or “small eats” (小吃 – xiao chi). Continue reading ‘Taiwanese snacks (台灣 小吃)’

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