Sunday, June 24, 2007

More than just a ride, it's a social lubricant

There are a few interesting points to be made about scooter riding culture in Taiwan and perhaps beyond. Underlying the purely environmental experience is potentially intimate social contact by the passengers.

First the environmental case:
"Australian professor Kurt Brereton has published his 'Hyper Taiwan,' a handbook that uses Taiwan's scooter culture as a focal point for examining its social structure and identity.
Based on his own riding experiences, he senses the differences between car culture and scooter culture. He explained that scooter riders are closer to the environment. They take in the air pollution, the street sounds and see things from the street level." Hyper Taiwan

I would agree with his take. However, there are some deeper socio-cultural points to be made.

The owning of a scooter also gives the status of maturity:
"The acquisition of a motorscooter often marks the coming-of-age milestone. [....] However many young people also] look forward to nothing more than aquiring one so they can join in the mobile dating scene."

I'm not sure if this applies in Taiwan but it sounds like a crazy seventies mate swap idea:
"One of many anticipated experiences is that of "Key Mating." This takes place among a mixed group of teens whose male members place into a box their scooter keys which are then chosen at random by the female members. This leads to an interesting phenomenon in which randomly generated pairs speed off together toward some defined destination during which time they have an opportunity to communicate with each other through conversation, close physical proximity, and body language."

God knows shy Taiwanese (and many relatively bold foreigners) look forward to this kind of ice breaker in the Taiwan social scene.

With regard to budding scooter relationships, the writer has this to add:
"The motorscooter driver may be in control of the scooter, but the pillion rider is in charge of the relationship. If the boy can get over the desire to be driver, relinquish that task to her, and can content himself with the pillion seat, he will discover immense potential for physical intimacy. Particularly where the practice of wearing a jacket backward is common, sensuous tactile roving on all levels, from the seemingly accidental on up (and on down), can be undetectable to others on the road, deeply thrilling, ultimately very extensive, and potentially rather hazardous."

Hmm. This sounds more like a sex manual than motorcycle info but, for the sake of 'informing', we'll let it pass.

Finally, an interesting comment is read under one of the photos of a scooter couple on the site:
"A boy will never forget feeling for the first time those two gentle spots of pressure on his back. That is a lot of power. Use it wisely."

Yes master, we will.

For more info check out this great site for the case to be made for scooter and a lot more useful stuff too! Motorcycle Muse

Tattoo with a message

Another nice one!

I just wonder if she really understood the English before it was emblazoned on her butt.
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Religious tolerance for a change

The Museum of World Religions, Yonghe. This is a fantastic museum that will cost you NT$150 and take you about 2 hours. Located in YongHe, the museum is right next to the Sogo department store on ZhongShan Road.

Inside are great collections of items and information from major world religions: Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto, Maya, Hindu, Sikh, Egyptian. There is also a fine presentation of Taiwan folk religion as well.

I strongly recommend it.

Google Earth link

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Shower in the morning or at night? What's your preference?

Taiwanese are for the most part creatures of habit. One of the greatest habits that seems to be pretty standard is taking a shower at night. In some households it's almost a ritual.

When I was living in China and working at a college there, it was plainly apparent that showers were taken in the evening since students went to use public showers at the same time every day. These were the only times they would heat the water by shoveling coal into the school furnace.

Getting back to Taiwan, I think that shower time is really something that parents pass on to their children. As you know, parents here have a lot of power over their kids. This forces them to conform to events that happen in the house: getting up, eating meals and washing.

Also, there are notions of hygiene and health that are built in as well. Have you ever heard the old wives tale not to sleep with a fan blowing on you? Well, for the Chinese, it would be more like take a shower before bed but dry off before you do. The bed must stay clean at all costs! Besides, that's where sleepy Taiwanese do most of their living!

So what is the impact of conforming to showers at night? Well, one thing is there are lineups for the washroom in houses with only one. I was happy initially staying at my parents-in-laws house when I came back to Taiwan because I had the bathroom all to myself in the morning. My wife told me later that her mother had cut me some slack because I was a foreigner and I had strange ways. Huh!

The second is that some people's hair is downright greasy at the end of a day of a work day and sometimes even earlier. Check out the grease smears on the MRT windows after someone has fallen asleep after a long ride. My wife always uses a cloth between her head and the window to prevent contact with it.

The third is there are many cases of bad cases of dandruff 頭皮屑, with both men and women. Lots of people evidently do not dry their hair well enough or obviously haven't heard of Head and Shoulders.

Western people certainly do have a different way of thinking about taking showers. This is evidenced in a rough survey like one carried out by another blogger. He asked people to tell him if they took their showers in the morning or evening or both. Here were the results:

"54% of you shower in the morning
24% of you shower in both the morning and evening
22% of you shower only in the evening"

I wonder what the results would be like if it were to be done in Taiwan (or maybe just in Taipei as it seems to follow the beat of a different drummer than the rest of Taiwan).

One final note. I'm glad I finally had an excuse to use this photo for a posting!

Is it your cup of tea?

While we're on the topic of Taipei a lot of late, let's take a look at what Taipei is famous for.

When I told my friend that hot tea b.j.'s were apparently one of the things, he just stared at me.

Where had I gotten this information? Well, a quick hunt of Taipei links had turned up this Penthouse-letters-esque write up by some guy who may or may not be called Eddie.

Eddie's story

Of course, I don't condone this kind of behavior but hell, it's Taipei nightlife we're talking about here! This is hardly as sleazy as it gets! Don't knock it if it's not your cup of tea!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cost of Living in Taipei Down ... WAY DOWN!

A new survey of the costliest cities to live in Moscow has topped again for the second year in a row.

What was remarkable was that,
"Eight Asian cities made the top 50, though Taipei, Taiwan, plunged 20 places to No. 48."

So what does this mean? Well it's cheap to buy the necessities of life in Taipei. Would anyone really argue with this? I mean, fast food is dirt cheap at between NT$50 and NT$120. Taxi rides are a song, the meter starting at NT$70. The minimum fare for a bus ride is NT$16.

Having fun here is super cheap too. The Palace Museum is a paltry NT$160. NT$60 for Taipei Zoo! Imagine that!

I can also remember telling my parents about our house loan that currently hovers around a rate of 2%. Canada's mortgage rates is hovering around 7%!!!

Is there some deeper meaning to Taipei's drop in costliness? Well, you might be able to argue that it has something to do with current currency exchange rates making goods cheaper. However, it could be due to Taipei losing its edge in desirability amongst the other cities.

People living here in Taipei of course know better. The city services and feel have improved a lot since the 1990s. Locals like to throw around the word 'convenient'. Convenient and cheap, fun, easy and affordable, all these come to mind. We love Taipei for all these reasons!

I include the results of the survey for your perusal...

The 50 priciest cities in the world, according to the cost of items including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment:
1. Moscow
2. London
3. Seoul, South Korea
4. Tokyo
5. Hong Kong
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
7. Geneva
8. Osaka, Japan
9. Zurich, Switzerland
10. Oslo, Norway
11. Milan, Italy
12. St. Petersburg, Russia
13. Paris
14. Singapore
15. New York
16. Dublin, Ireland
17. Tel Aviv, Israel
18. Rome
19. Vienna, Austria
20. Beijing
21. Sydney, Australia
22. Helsinki, Finland
23. Stockholm, Sweden
24. Douala, Cameroon
25. Amsterdam, Netherlands
26. Madrid, Spain and Shanghai, China
28. Kiev, Ukraine
29. Athens, Greece
30. Almaty, Kazakhstan
31. (tie) Barcelona, Spain
31. (tie) Bratislava, Slovak Republic
33. Dakar, Senegal
34. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
35. Abidjan, Ivory Coast
36. Glasgow, United Kingdom
37. Lagos, Nigeria
38. Istanbul, Turkey
39. Munich, Germany
40. Frankfurt, Germany
41. Birmingham, United Kingdom
42. Los Angeles
43. Luxembourg
44. Brussels, Belgium
45. (tie) Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
45. (tie) Berlin
45. (tie) Dusseldorf, Germany
48. Taipei, Taiwan
49. Prague, Czech Republic
50. Algiers, Algeria
Source: Mercer Human Resource Consulting

Imagine what the MRT system will be like in the future

Here's a good map of the entire envisioned MRT system. We, of course, hope that the system will be built as quickly as possible but considering the cost and time overruns that the current system has had, don't hold your breath.

Taiwanese are starting to position their businesses and homes with respect to the new lines. Expect property prices anywhere near a station to rise dramatically.

The general expectation is that areas around stations will flourish with activity and generate neighborhood renewal. I'm not sure if that will be the case for all neighborhoods...
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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Teddy had a great holiday weekend...

... maybe too great!

I saw this just walking down Taipei's alleys. Okay, so I added the beer can for extra effect...

Taiwanese, due to lack of space, often put laundry out to dry on the street.

In this case, it looks like a few things from the car were washed and put out to dry. With a hot sunny day, things outside dry within a matter of minutes.

But teddy's hangover lingers...
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Beware of those swarthy foreign types

Here's an odd warning poster near an ATM machine in Taipei. It basically warns people using the machines to be careful of thieves.

However, click on the image and view the picture closer.

Look at those thieves standing around waiting for that poor girl.

"Hey dude, let's go rip off that chick's cash..."

They don't look Chinese, do they? They look... Hey! Wait a minute!
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Fatherly Love... Again

This statue stands behind the train station on the north side.

Just thought you'd like to get a few different views from the ones in my previous post...

And to answer the question from my former post: yes, it's still there for all to see!

former post

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I'm nursing my Wii Elbow

Got a Wii taste of the Wii over the weekend. My brother-in-law succumbed to buying a Japan model.

As you may know, Wii is currently only available in select markets. Therefore, for Taiwanese to own one they need to import the consoles from other markets. The practice is a little shady but people tend to turn a blind eye to it.

The only drawback is that most of the menus are in Japanese which is fine if you can get by. I had my brother-in-law to help. For most of the games you can muddle your way through.

I tried all of the Wii sports. Pretty fun except tennis and baseball will definitely give you a case of Wii elbow! We also got a chance to play Day of Defeat. Awesome game and hard to master. Great gameplay although the screen scrolling made me a little oozy (I had drank a couple cans of beer). There are some cool sequences where German soldiers butt you with their guns and then try and strangle you. To shake them off you have to do a punching action and then a butting action to hit them with your rifle. Exhausting!

Try it out! Any other Taiwan Wii experiences?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Rise of the Dragon Boat Races

Dragon boat racing is a tradition of this Dragon Boat Festival holiday. There are a few interesting points about this sport that you may not know.

"Today, dragon boat racing (sport and festival) is among the fastest growing of team water sports, with tens of thousands of participants in various organizations and clubs in around 60 countries[....] The sport is recognized for the camaraderie, strength and endurance fostered amongst participants, and it has also become a very popular corporate and charitable sport." (WIKI)

The thing about this sport that is interesting from a Taiwanese perspective is the use of 'flag catchers'. They usually sit at the tip of the boat in front of the drummer and are there to grab a flag at the finish line. The first boat to grab the flag is the winner. Not grabbing your flag results in a penalty.

For more information and for such useful information as what the difference is between a dragon boat and a canoe or rowboat, visit here.

Taipei's Dragon Boat races take place here: Google Earth marker

Happy Dragon Boat Festival everybody. Don't eat too many ZongZi!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Exotic Domain Names .CC .TO .TV : Cocos Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu etc.

I've written a little about and before but I have just recently discovered why a lot of sites are registering with exotic domain names.

Last I wrote, I speculated that sites register in these exotic domains to avoid laws that limit what can be shown in any given country. It turns out to be a little more complicated...

First, some domains like this like .to "[do] not maintain a whois database that provides registrant information, as many of our customers consider the public display of this information invasive of their privacy" Interesting, anonymous...

Second, "
There's .tv from the Pacific island of Tuvalu, .to from Tonga, and .cc from the Cocos Islands. Or how about .md from the former Soviet republic of Moldova or .tm from Turkmenistan?

[...] some small nations have already cashed in on their digital assets.

They are selling their surplus addresses in deals that have netted them millions of dollars enough to pay for schools, medical care, even free or subsidized Internet access via satellite to islands that cables cannot reach.

For some countries, Internet domain names have proved more lucrative than coconuts or vanilla."

It seems that although "the two-letter country suffixes are meant for residents and businesses in a particular country [...] [,] no one has stopped governments from allowing them to become unofficial global suffixes."

Take some examples. "The .tv suffix is being targeted at TV stations and video-heavy Web sites major league baseball and Columbia TriStar are among clients. Moldova is limiting foreign registrations of .md to health-related names and sites. And .to is being marketed as a jumping-off point to another site with a name more difficult to remember.

For Tuvalu, with 10,500 people and a land mass of 26 square miles, the marketing deal gave it money to join the United Nations."

And for the Cocos Islands, "[Brian] Cartmell, a Seattleite, has secured exclusive rights to manage the domain name registry for the Cocos Islands, a 5.4-square-mile territory of Australia, population: 650, domain name: .cc."

"He claims to have sold more than 60,000 .cc addresses so far through his Web site,, and says he expects to reach a half-million this year." [2000]

"Cartmell says he has never visited the Indian Ocean islands that are his domain's namesake—they're reachable only by once-a-week flights from Perth, Australia. He has a contact in New Zealand who serves as his go-between. The Islands, whose main export is coconut meat, do not receive a cut from the .cc registration fees; but Cartmell says the country has received other benefits from its partnership with his firm, such as being wired with satellite-linked Internet service."

In the end it truly is a marketing strategy linking the suffixes to real world domains:
"Another private company is hoping to make .md (Moldova) a destination domain for medical-related sites. A San Diego firm is about to launch, on behalf of Western Samoa. Perhaps the lamest effort to date has been the repeated attempts to market Web addresses from Christmas Island (.cx) as a holiday gift item.

These new domain sales efforts are not only intended to open up new Web real estate, as the marketing materials suggest, but also to give obscure domain names sufficient prominence so that thousands of established Web businesses feel obliged to buy them."

It makes me wonder if Taiwan could successfully market .tw since it is also an island nation. God knows it could use a little more recognition. But since, a taiwanese outfit, has already set up in .cc, what does that tell you about the internet domain business in Taiwan?

Read more:

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Umbrella: Easy Come, Easy Go

With the army of umbrellas out there these days, make sure you know the rules.

Those umbrella stands that are outside every store or resto are no guarantee that you'll see your prized umbrella ever again. Taiwanese have a nasty habit of swiping others umbrellas.

A lot of long time foreigners here have just given up. In fact, I suggest using and re-using one of the plastic bags people put over umbrellas that you can find at the door of more reputable establishments.

Umbrellas are on sale everywhere but generally you can buy one for less than NT$100. Fancy ones are more but don't let them out of your sight! If you do you'll be doing more bargaining with these ladies!!!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Made in Taiwan Store

There are a few stores in Taipei that offer brand name clothes at a fraction of the price.

Several are located near my home in YongHe. One of the stores here is called, appropriately, Made in Taiwan.

Made in Taiwan: Google Earth marker

In these kinds of stores you will find a mixture of real brand name clothes, Tommy, Polo, Nike, Levi's, Fila, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, American Eagle, CK, Columbia (and many more) AND some obvious knock offs too (notice that terrible English on the labels).

For the best selection though, head to 金秋 or Gold Autumn near the main SOGO area. It's on DaAn road between ChungHsiao and Civil Blvd.. If you're in the market for some Western looking clothes with plenty of Western (for us fat guys) sizes, head over to this one. You will be amazed at the selection and prices.

Gold Autum: Google Earth marker

How do they keep the prices down? Well it's my guess that a lot of the clothes are factory rejects. You'd be hard pressed to discover why in most cases though.

For more of an explanation of what things really cost, click on the image and see a price break down...

The Cellphone Law

It's official. Taiwan is more progressive than the West. What in you say. Well, basically, no cellphones while driving.

Although this may be old news as the law passed in 2001, I think it merits being pointed out that this kind of ban on using hand-held cellphones when driving by and large does not exist in places like my very own Canada.

If you are interested to know where this kind of law applies, look no further. Looking at this chart of places that ban cellphones in hand while driving there are some remarkable stand outs:

The law in Taiwan, although on the books, is virtually unenforced (like a lot of laws here). The result is that most people get away with a call here and there. Even scooter drivers can be seen rising with one hand holding their phone or having it stuffed up into their helmets for a hands-free experience.

It seems that most motorists are not always convinced to change their ways (although something like the scooter helmet law can be seen as fairly successful, at least in big cities).

Shi Ba La Dice Game 史八豆

If you are wasted after going to a pub, this scene might be familiar to you: the sausage seller.

I'm personally not a big fan of the meat sausages which are quite sweet and definitely fatty. Locals, upon being told this, will most definitely say that their aroma on the BBQ is heavenly! However, I do recommend the rice sausages which BBQ quite nicely too.

It's funny why there only seems to be two kinds of sausages for the Taiwanese. My wife came to Canada and was delighted to find many different kinds sold by vendors along the street at lunch hour. Furthermore, I bought some German bratwurst for the inlaw BBQ last weekend and they really went for it!

So getting back to my original story, the sausage sellers position themselves outside of drinking establishments in order to take advantage of the drunk, munchie-wanting crowd. In order to liven up the experience, they play a dice game. You can see a bowl in the forefront of the picture with the dice inside. You roll the dice in the bowl. Basically you gamble for the price of your sausage. It's optional, don't worry, although the seller will be delighted if you play!

The game is called 史八豆 and it's often misspelled in Chinese characters. No idea how the game is played since I'm not much of a gambler. It's name is a little mystery too but I was told that 豆 'dou' or 'bean' is often used to describe a die (or dice).

Friday, June 8, 2007

Paul Chiasson develops 1421 in Canada

Canadian architect Paul Chiasson has used the 1421 theory as a basis for his book about the origins of an ancient abandoned structure in Cape Breton. He believes the design is Chinese!

Where Chinese already there when Columbus came to North America? An interesting theory. So far, not much evidence. However, Chiasson may just be the start of a whole load of new research into the possibility.

As with Gavin Menzies, a retired submarine captain, Chiasson the architect also has no historian background. Instead, both men rely on their expertise in their own fields and attempt interdisciplinary studies. As Menzies points out in his own book, a regular historian could not know what he knows about navigation at sea. Chiasson, no doubt, thinks the same about historians looking at architecture.

It seems that historians are a pretty territorial breed though. They study history. They don't necessarily have the expertise in other areas, the cross-discipline. Menzies is a submarine captain / navigator. Chiasson an architect. Can you really expect the average historian to be able to grasp the necessary skills to paint the picture accurately?

When I studied politics it became painfully clear that just studying politics was not enough. One has to study history and economics at the same time. Maybe even psychology and sociology too, thrown in for good measure.

Let's take another analogy. If someone who lived in Taiwan for a long time were to write a book about Taiwan then I think that's it would be worth a lot more in some respects than someone writing about Taiwan from a college office in another country with little or no experience on the ground here.

And despite earning your university education, everything you learn in university may be fine, hidden in textbooks, but it's quite often not much of a substitute for the experience in the field, is it? I disagree when people say they have the caveats to be the only true holders of any official knowledge in any particular field.

This being said, I also don't accept Menzies and Chiasson outright. I do point out that their theories are intriguing and feel new in a field of history that is pretty stale AND that has been proven to be inaccurate in the past (remember Columbus being named the first person to 'discover' America, even before the Vikings?).

So who wins or who loses? The Chinese government has a lot to gain by promoting the 1421 theory (earning more national pride and feelings of superiority). Historians on the issue also have reputations at stake. Further, Western-centric historians may not be able to stomach the idea of an age of Chinese exploration. Publishing houses make money of the controversy. Readers of history potentially become deluded. The issue is clearly loaded.

However, both authors present several mysteries that are worth looking at. I think history is always worth a re-examination, even by outsiders of the field. Too many people have a historical agenda (remember 'history is written by the victors'?).

Obviously, for the sake of sales, the publishing houses thought the 1421 theory and the Island of Seven Cities sub-theory were too hard to pass up.

Ultimately the material is available for us the readers to judge reasonable or not... For me, it's far from perfect but it creates discussion and hopefully further work to prove or disprove the theories. And that's a win-win situation.
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Foreign Devils Get Unequal Treatment

Words in Chinese used to describe Western people:
鬼佬 ghost chap
白鬼 white ghost
洋鬼子 foreign ghost or devil
老外 old outsider

It seems Caucasians have garnered quite a few terms of 'endearment' over the years. Some of them well deserved considering the occupation of China.

But now, in Taiwan, we may be deserving of the titles for an entirely different reason: services and treatment.

People who will bend over backwards to please a foreigner might not lift a finger to help their fellow Taiwanese compatriots. There are numerous examples of this:

CASE 1: The Tax Office
Taiwanese have to fill out and calculate their tax forms by themselves. Foreigners, on the other hand, are assigned an official who will fill out the forms for them. Since I am a foreigner I qualify for this service but if my wife, a Taiwanese, were to go to file our taxes she would not.

CASE 2: Online Phone Service
Try calling one of the government phone cues. If a Taiwanese calls they usually get short, abrupt and sometimes annoyed officials on the line. A foreigner, struggling with a little Chinese gets the red carpet treatment with officials bending over backwards to accomodate.

CASE 3: The Police and the Law
I am going through a police check for drunk driving while going home on the scooter. I don't have my license or my scooter registration with me. The police officer just waves me through, presumably because he's embarrassed that he can't communicate in English. Not even a slap on the wrist. This is not to mention the time I protested a driving fine that was overdue and had thus tripled. I decided to protest this as unfair. At the transport department they told me to write on the back of the fine, in English, why I couldn't pay my fine on time. Bingo! My fine was back down to it's original paltry amount.

CASE 4: Taichung Nightclub
I remember going to a nightclub with my wife and finding out that foreigners get in free while locals had to pay. My wife was furious and incredulous. Presumably this was a way for the club to get more foreigners to come in which they assumed would attract more local clientele due to the novelty of foreigners in many people's eyes. "No Chinese or dogs allowed" in for free indeed.
(No Chinese Or Dogs Allowed)

I'm sure there are many other cases so you can see my point (please feel free to send in a few more).

There is a kind of 崇洋 or 'foreign fetish' going on here. That is, Western foreigners (and many foreign products and ideas) are perhaps a little exotic or are considered in higher regard by Taiwanese in general. This treatment is a little ridiculous and over the top though. Taiwanese treating their own as lower than foreigners? C'mon!

This, by the way, is the root of the God-complex that a lot of foreign devils get when they live in Taiwan. The "I am special" or "I'm a super star" feeling. The 崇洋 mindset and these experiences unintentionally fuel it!

As a foreigner I can say that I am appreciative that Taiwanese take the time with me, bend the rules for me and sometimes make me feel special (sure, like a VIP). I don't think I'd like to be treated in the disdainful and annoyed with way that lots of service people treat locals.

However, my point is this. The way foreigners are treated, with respect and admiration, proves that these service people are capable of a higher level of service. So why not give that level of help, respect and admiration to all people, foreigner or local? I rest my case.

Piracy on the Seven Seas

The pirates are now picking on the Taiwanese. Or do they just see easy pickings?

A Taiwanese vessel off the coast of Somalia was boarded by pirates. One Taiwanese sailor was killed and the rest held hostage. Even the US navy couldn't thwart this one...

CNN story

Pirates seem to be all around in the news these days with the Pirates of the Caribbean taking hogging all the press. If you have seen this movie, you will no doubt know how screwed up the plot is. Why on earth they decided to mix in a Chinese pirate into the story is anyone's guess but the smart money would guess that it was a ploy to sell more tickets in Asia, namely China.

That aside, there is a long tradition of piracy in Asia and one particular case that stands out when talking about Taiwan.

Koxinga, born of a Chinese father and Japanese mother (although some argue otherwise), landed in Taiwan in 1661. This led the Dutch to surrender Fort Zeelandia, effectively ending the 38 years of Dutch rule in Taiwan.

His legacy has been used by many parties to justify their ends:
a) a pirate turned Taiwan patriot (independence activists)
b) a link between Taiwan and Japan through his mother (Japan and Taiwanese japanophiles)
c) a liberator of Chinese territory from the Dutch imperialists (China)
d) a soldier retreating to Taiwan, waiting to liberate the mainland (Nationalists)

There's a little something for everyone here, depending on what kind of spin you want to put on history.
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The Asian Pecking Order

The other night my wife, a Taiwanese who studies at Tamkang University, told me about an interesting discussion she had in one of her classes.

The topic was foreign couples. The professor asked the students what they thought about things like foreign brides from South East Asia. The class was almost solidly against the idea of intermarriage. Various reasons came out of this such as inferior intelligence for the children of such a coupling and the social and economic problems that these newcomers living in Taiwan and their children would give to society.

My wife then spoke of her marriage to me, a Canadian, and the class sighed about how lucky she was. Obviously marrying a Canadian wasn't such a burden. She quickly burst their little dreamy bubble by adding "What if I had told you I was married to a Vietnamese?" As the students scratched their heads, what became quickly apparent was what the teacher wanted to point out from the beginning: Taiwanese have feelings of superiority over what they consider lower Asian nations.

Where does this come from? Well I think a lot of it can be attributed to education at home from the parents. A lot of parents have indoctrinated their children with feelings of superiority. Even some students who claim not to look down on people from other countries show their true colors in the end. Try a conversation like this with a Taiwanese:

A: Do you look down on people from other countries?
B: Of course not!
A: Would you marry someone from the Philippines or Vietnam or an African?
B: Euh... I don't think so...
A: Why not?

So this got me thinking that Taiwanese, and I think many Asians, have a pecking order in their heads. It goes something like this. Japan is at the top of the pecking order and then it goes down through Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and then the South East Asian countries. At the bottom is the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Taiwanese will wake up one day and realize that the South East Asian workers that they hire to build roads, construct buildings and work on the MRT are, in fact, are setting no better a precedent than the fact that Chinese were hired by North American railway companies to build our railroads. Hard, perilous work with low pay. What Taiwanese would want to lower themselves to do such menial jobs?

Far below this pyramid are black Africans which Taiwanese are irrationally afraid of. It's xenophobia for the most part as Taiwanese, coming from such a homogeneous society, are afraid of people they don't understand and people who have radically different skin color. Their feelings of superiority from their parents and what they see on the news about violence and poverty in Africa only reinforces their stereotypes about black Africans.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Although Taiwanese parents might be shocked to hear the different point of view brought up by some bold professors in university (my wife's professor admittedly thanked her for presenting a dissenting view and thus balancing the debate in class), students are gradually coming around to realize their ignorance about this issue due to their blind adherence to their parents' values. One step at a time...
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Former President Lee is a Japanophile and proud of it!

Former President Lee has done it again. Showing his true colors, white with a red dot in the middle, he has visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Japan.

You could say that he is just intent on pissing off China by the visit but I think there are deeper underlying tones here. He is a Japanophile clear and simple.

And this begs an even more important question. If he is so in love with all things Japanese and sees himself as a Japanese, then is he really an appropriate father of 'Taiwanese' democracy or a figurehead for 'Taiwanese' independence.

You be the judge: Taiwan savior or sacrificing Taiwan on the altar of Japan?

Paris, Lindsay and now... Shino

Singer Shino 林曉培 was busted for manslaughter of an off-duty nurse. She was driving drunk in the early morning and hit the nurse.

Some reports have suggested that the nurse was breaking the law by crossing the road at the time so Shino is not so much at fault.

I totally disagree. It seems like a lot of the stars and models here in Taiwan drink and drive. Hopefully something will come out of this case and they will start to think soberly about what they are doing...

In recent times, we have had Paris Hilton going to jail for her drunk driving and Lindsay Lohan crashing her car and the cops finding cocaine in it. Shino's arrest has some interesting parallels that can be made with these celebrities misbehaving. Let's hope that they don't get off easy by being made an example to the public because of their higher profiles...
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Friday, June 1, 2007

Are Taxi Drivers WMDs?

A common thing you'll hear in Taiwan is that a large percentage of taxi drivers are reformed criminals. Is there really any truth to this? Can a guy who just got off Green Island (known notoriously for its prison) really become a taxi driver? What percentage are really reformed criminals?

Well it's difficult to say... According to the newspapers:

"Existing laws stipulate that people with criminal records of rape, homicide, robbery or kidnapping are not allowed to apply for taxi licenses."

I think there are probably few reformed criminals in fact. However, this does not rule out the budding criminals! Many taxi drivers have a history of mental instability and violent behavior. It is well known that these taxi groups are also infiltrated by gangsters. Just pick a fight or damage a driver's car and watch all his friends show up in no time with crowbars or machetes. This fact added to the often crazy driving skills is a potent powder keg of a mixture.

I personally have had no trouble with drivers in Taipei. They are quite chatty if you strike up a conversation. Politics is an ify topic though. Also, don't assume that most drivers can't speak English. I've ridden in quite a few cabs with quite fluent drivers.

I remember a story a friend once told me about taking a cab. She was a local woman. She hailed a cab and got in. She told the driver her destination. Not too long after, he complained that he was really hungry as he hadn't eaten. Being a passive woman, she said that he could stop to get something. Once he had something, he said something along the lines of "What am I going to do? I can't drive and eat at the same time. How about you drive?" The girl, not thinking twice, drove the cab to her destination and then remarkably paid the driver! Only in Taiwan I say!

Building the Necessary Spousal Skills?

From the Taipei Times:

"Women dance at a studio in Taipei on May 13 as part of the "How to Look ad Feel Sexy Workshop." Nina Chen, the creator of the nation's first strip dance workshop, teaches women how to sway to the music while slowly taking off their clothes in front of a wall of mirrors, aiming to help women appreciate their bodies and boost their self-confidence"

They have to pay someone to strip? Wait a minute. isn't it supposed to be the other way around?

Pet Peeve: Foot Dragging

Slipper culture in Taiwan is great! They come in all varieties and colors and a fundamental part of the TaiKe look.

People wear them around the house after having taken off their shoes. People wear them outside the house when taking out the trash.

One annoying thing that has resulted, however, is a foot dragging phenomena. Lots of Taiwanese drag their feet, even in regular shoes. When you're walking down the sidewalk, listen for that dragging sound.

I guess it really is no use explaining that our parents didn't want us to drag our feet as it gives people around you the wrong signal. That is, the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Oh what a burden!

Come on Taiwan! Stand up straight, take big strides and be proud!

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