We timed our visit well this afternoon as we had the chance to see the turntable being used to guide a couple of trains in and out of the large maintenance shed:
Unless you're a trainspotter, the Fan-Shaped Train Garage is probably not worth a special trip (in our case, Amber likes trains, and Changhua isn't that far from where we live). However, it's free, fun for kids (especially if the turntable is in operation) and can be combined with the city's more well-known sites (such as the large Buddha statue 八卦山大佛像) to make Changhua an interesting daylong outing. All aboard!
You can read a summary of Game 2 on the Major League Baseball homepage (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=2
A few photos from last night:
My daughter this morning in her devil costume for Halloween, the same one she wore last year. Amber likes this outfit so much she even kept it on when her mother took her to the clinic this evening to get somemedicine for a small cold she has recently come down with. Happy
Halloween to one and all!
And speaking of which, the following comment appeared on Facebook the other day:
"With all the party signs, decorations and costumes I've seen today, I think Halloween must be celebrated more in Taiwan than anywhere."
The person who wrote the above isn't American or Canadian, so it's likely that he/she has never experienced a genuine Halloween. But the
What I forgot to point out back in that August diatribe is that there exists a sub-species of the Bubble People who reside in T'aipei, the
On social websites such as Facebook, or in discussion forums such as Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree or Forumosa, one can read countless comments and postings describing a cosmopolitan, fashionable and thoroughly modern land known as "Taiwan" that sounds almost completely alien to the provincialism and sheer ugliness that I encounter on an almost daily basis out in the Taiwan where I reside (which happens to be in the suburbs of the third-largest city on this island). Replace the word "Taiwan" in these descriptions with "T'aipei", and things immediately become clear. Yes, T'aipei can be a very appealing city, and certainly a very comfortable one for Western ex-pats, with all mod cons and many of the familiar trappings of home, but with just enough exoticism to impress the folks and friends back home (or when they come to visit). And it should be, for T'aipei:
- receives a disproportionate share of cash from the central government in comparison with other cities, resulting in plenty of funds to be spent on parks, bike-ways, mass transportation and urban beautification projects;
- and by hosting the best schools, and benefiting from its location as the headquarters for many domestic as well as international companies, attracts the best and the brightest - people who have had more dealings with non-Taiwanese and are thus more open to different things, as well as being more likely to have spent time abroad and therefore more demanding in their expectations of what a capital city should (or shouldn't) be.
in origin can be a major undertaking.
T'aipei is T'aipei, and Taiwan is Taiwan, and quite often the twain doesn't meet. I just wish some of my fellow ex-pats can remember that
Some good news for those folks in Taiwan who are obsessed with beating the Koreans: according to this Kyōdō News 共同通信社 article, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nb20111
"Sony Corp. ソニー株式会社 is in talks to terminate its joint venture with South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. for the production of liquid crystal displays for televisions...Sony has decided to increase procurement of cheap displays from Taiwanese and other manufacturers rather than focusing on the joint venture."
In the zero sum game of relations between the southern half of the divided Korean peninsula and the renegade province of China, South
A small temple located just outside the museum grounds. If you look closely on the far-left side of the photo, you will see a zebra standing there. Zebras play a very important role in the traditional folk religions of Tai...OK, actually I haven't a clue as to why the model was placed there:
Texas Rangers won't be saying after tomorrow's Game 7.
I came across an article http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/a
"Local non-governmental organizations (NGO) were lobbying yesterday for the public to vote for Yushan to become one of the world’s 'New 7 Wonders of Nature.'
more seriously than the upcoming presidential election."
Jeju Island, a Natural World Heritage Site that has the gall to be under Korean administration. Many Taiwanese are obsessed with South Korea. As with many Japanese, South Korean TV dramas, pop stars and fashion are popular, but for people here, South Korea is a hated rival, one that has to bested in any and all competitions, whether it be sports, economics or, as in this case, a pointless public relations contest. And if it takes overly emotive appeals to pan-Chinese nationalism to put those former vassals back in their rightful places, then so be it.
box-stuffing that will inevitably result), why not just appoint an international committee of experts to settle the issue? Fill it up with
scientists who can analyze the geologic and physical facets, and artists, poets and writers who can provide an emotional perspective on
the different sites, and let them come to a consensus.
One thing you can be sure of about Taiwan is that when it comes to its relationships with the outside world, this society often manages to squander the few opportunities that come its way (and I should know - missed chances have always been the dominant storyline of my life). In this case, I'm referring to the upcoming visit to this island by a team of Major League Baseball players who will play a series of exhibition games next week against the Chinese T'aipei 中華台北 national team http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/natio
So what's the problem? Among the players from the American and National Leagues who will be taking part in the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series are none other than Chien-Ming Wang 王建民 of the Washington Nationals, and his fellow countryman on the Detroit Tigers, Fu-Te Ni 倪福德. The catch is that Wang and Ni, despite honing their professions in the baseball world's equivalent of the Premier League, will not be playing with their peers from North America. Instead, Wang and Ni will be throwing the ball for Taiwan...I mean Chinese T'aipei. And what's wrong with that, you might ask? Where do I begin...
Let's start by making a comparison with what happened on recent MLB all-star tours of Japan. During the past decade, both Ichirō Suzuki 鈴木一朗 of the Seattle Mariners and Hideki Matsui 松井秀喜 (then of the New York Yankees) played in Japan, in front of their countrymen, as members of the MLB squad, and not on the team made of up of stars from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) プロ野球. The tours were promoted as contests pitting a team of MLB players against a squad made up of local heroes, and very few Japanese seemed to mind that Ichirō and Godzilla were playing with Americans (of both the North and Latin persuasions) and not against them. In fact, most fans looked forward to seeing the local boys who had made good overseas sharing the field as equals...teammates...with some of the best baseball players in the world. The fact that they were on the winning sides (the MLB teams won most of the games against the Japanese all-stars) seemed to please the Japanese specatators all the more.
Cue Taiwan. Wang, and to a lesser extent Ni, have shown that they belong on a Major League playing field. Wang, especially, had a couple of stellar seasons with the (hated) Yankees, and this year he made a successful return from the disabled list with the Nats. Ni has struggled in recent years, spending the past couple of season with the Triple A Toledo Mud Hens, but he still has the potential to return to the big leagues. These two players (a third Taiwanese from MLB, Hong-Chih Kuo 郭泓志, seems to have given up on the game) deserve to be on the same team as their peers from the AL and NL, and not reduced to serving as ringers for the local side, which unfortunately seems to be the case here. It's as if the San Francisco Giants were to play the University of Washington in an exhibition game, with Giants standout pitcher (and Cy Young Award winner) Tim Lincecum suiting up for the Huskies, his alma mater.
I'm left to wonder if Taiwanese fans are not ready to allow Wang to have his moment, basking in the adulation of the hometown (home country?) crowd in the presence of his fellow teammates from the majors. No, Wang and Ni have to switch sides, and carry the banner for the natives against the foreign horde. For in all likelihood, this series won't be viewed here as a contest between a group of baseball players who ply their trade in the American and National Leagues (made up of 30 teams based in the USA and Canada), vs. a team of players representing the local Chinese Professional Baseball League 中華職業棒球大聯盟 (with perhaps a couple of players who are based in Japan). Rather, I have the feeling Taiwanese fans will think of these exhibition contests as battles between Americans and Taiwanese, despite the fact that in any given baseball season, between 25-30% of players on Major League rosters were born outside of the United States, with Taiwan included on that list (and a quick perusal of the lineup for the MLB team coming to Taiwan reveals several players from the Dominican Republic, along with a couple of Venezuelans). And you can't have the Pride of Taiwan siding with the barbarians now, can you?
沒關係. Parochialism may rule, and chances to broaden the international outlook of the local populace are in danger of being squandered, but I'm still looking forward to next week's game. Play ball!
Beef noodles are one of the more popular dishes in Taiwan, and when you think of this island, one of the things that comes to mind...well, it probably isn't beef noodles, let alone any of the other so-called "famous" things of Taiwan. But I digress. I'm not a big fan of anything Taiwanese beef noodles, as the beef is often too fatty for my liking, and the noodles frequently leave a peculiar aftertaste. But as my wife explained, the noodles at Peifang Hand-Cut Noodles are sliced by knife and hand (as opposed to a machine in many establishments), resulting in a thicker version than you would normally find. The meat was also chunkier, with very little fat. All in all, well worth the NT100 ($3.30/¥250) cost for one bowl:
Also worth the investment, in this case NT219 (/$7.20¥550), was this box of Cap'N Crunch cereal, which Amber and I discovered at Jasons Market Place http://www.jasons.com.tw/jasons/jas
Anticipating future sugar rushes, Amber strikes a pose outside Chungshan Hall (Zhōngshān táng) 中山堂. We're going there this coming Tuesday to see the Moscow City Ballet perform "Swan Lake" because this family is really into all that culture and stuff:
At Pamela's strong urging, I volunteered to donate blood this afternoon. I felt really good about myself for doing so, and I look forward to doing it again. As for my wife, she'll do anything for an hour's worth of free parking, especially if it means having her husband drained of some of his vital life essence. My daughter, meanwhile, managed to capture the exact moment the needle was stuck into my arm:
Chungcheng Park appears to have a serious rodent problem. As the afternoon sunlight began to fade, the park's resident rats started to appear, emerging from their well-placed hiding spots:
波ちゃん and the Asian urban park experience:
THINGS I TEND TO NOTICE (Thursday, October 13)
...because other people have more important things to do with their lives.
The above chicken restaurant in K'enting (Kěndīng) 墾丁 has a Japanese name. This in itself isn't all that unusual in Taiwan, as anyone who has read my other blog, Sponge Bear could wearily tell you. What's different here is that the name isn't really Japanese. Kamban かんばん is merely the phonetic rendering of the establishment's Mandarin Chinese moniker K'angpang (kángbàng) 扛棒, which means "Carry the stick" (at least according to Google Translate). The actual Japanese rendering of the characters doesn't compute, as my main reference sources can't recognize the first one, 扛.
I was walking down the street somewhere in the northern area of T'aichung (Táizhōng) 台中 this evening when I came upon this site. Is there anyone who could explain to me why a piece of heavy construction equipment in a central Taiwanese city would be emblazoned (boldly, proudly) with the name of a Japanese professional baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers 阪神タイガーズ?
RINKY DINK (Saturday, October 15)
Shopping for something as mundane as milk at a hypermarket in Taiwan like Carrefour or A-Mart 愛買 can be an ordeal that brings out some of the worst traits in the Taiwanese national character. As soon as you approach the dairy section, a horde of middle-aged female milk touts will descend upon you. Small plastic cups filled with samples of milk or a yogurt drink will be shoved in your face and/or hands, and the women will aggressively vie with one another to deliver their sales pitches in an attempt to get you to purchase their particular product. Some of the more annoying aspects of this competition include placing milk jugs in the hands of young children, knowing that the kids won’t refuse an adult, and rudely interrupting the conversation I’m trying to have with my daughter. But, hey, it’s English, after all, and not Mandarin or Taiwanese, so it’s perfectly acceptable to butt in.
Which brings me to the subject of English, for the most annoying thing about the above dairy shills is the tendency of some of them to speak in broken, horrible English to Amber. I’m probably overly sensitive on this subject, but I’m careful to ensure that my daughter is exposed to correct, natural English while she’s living in Taiwan, and I don’t appreciate less-than-fluent natives trying to undo all my hard work. This afternoon at the local A-Mart I actually had to tell one saleswoman to speak in Mandarin to Amber because her English was too poor.
My daughter is a citizen of the Republic of China (Zhōnghuá Mínguó) 中華民國, and a holder of an R.O.C. passport. She speaks Mandarin as fluently as any 5½ year-old child can. But she looks a lot more like me than she does her mother (sorry, Amber), and when the two of us are outside, many people will insist on using English to talk to her (or at her, in some cases). Unfortunately, the English language skills of many of these folks are worse than my Mandarin ability. Funnily enough, though, when Amber is out with just her mother, almost everyone will speak to my daughter in Mandarin, despite the fact her appearance hasn’t changed one bit just by being with the other parent.
What really irritates me are those parents who try speaking to their children in English when they are in our presence. They’re not talking to us, but the fact that we are close by triggers an urge in some Moms and Dads to get their kids using the international lingua franca. Of course, in most of these situations, the sentences the parents are using are riddled with strange constructions and poor usage of grammar, and spoken in peculiar accents and intonations. If the intent is to impress me with how cosmopolitan their offspring are, the results are usually mediocre at best. You can color me unimpressed.
Finally, there are the weird hybrid sentences, such as this one I heard today on the streets of downtown Fengyuan (Fēngyuán) 豐原: as Amber and I were getting ready to go into a bookseller’s, we passed by a mother and her young son. Mom saw us, then asked her boy:
“你要去 bookstore 嗎?”
Amber and I might have some fun in the event we encounter some Taiwanese tourists on our next visit back to the States.
It's hard to read the words in the above photograph, but I found them to be of interest. Not the name of the business, although it's kind of cute: Taiwan Boo-Boo. No, I'm referring to the descriptive sentence underneath: Taiwan Dinkey Railway Bento. I have no idea what "dinkey" means, but my attention was drawn to the word "bentō" 弁当 (I've anally retentively added the macron), which is Japanese for "single-portion takeout or home-packed meal(s) common in Japanese cuisine" (according to the Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bento). Bentos were introduced in Taiwan during the Japanese period 台灣日治時期『日本統治時代』, and have been popular ever since. In Mandarin they are called "Pientang" (biàndāng) 便當, while the Taiwanese word for them, Bendong, was derived directly from the Japanese. Boo-Boo specializes in a popular variant known in Japanese as ekiben 駅弁 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekiben), which can be found in train stations all over Japan. In Taiwan, the most well-known ekiben are those which are sold in Fench'ihu (Fènqǐhú) 奮起湖, a midpoint outpost along the Alishan Forest Railway 阿里山森林鐵路.
EATING IN TAICHUNG: A CLOSE SHAVE (Sunday, October 16)
Tired of never having an answer when my wife asks what I would like to eat, I've decided I'm going to try and broaden my limited culinary horizons by checking out some recommended eateries here in T'aichung (Táizhōng) 台中. Which is why early this afternoon the three of us rode the train to T'aichung Station 台中車站, exited the building and began walking up Chungcheng Road (Zhōngzhènglù) 中正路. Following lunch at an unremarkable steak restaurant, we made our way to Malulien (Mǎlùlián) 瑪露連:
The specialty here is shaved ice - we ordered the "three toppings bowl" 三種冰:
Pamela chose pineapple as one topping, Amber went for some kind of jelly concoction and I opted for sweet red beans (aka azuki beans, from the Japanese アズキ). The verdict: not too shabby, and the covered outdoor eating area was surprisingly comfortable (though I think in the midst of a hot, sticky summer I would probably appreciate an indoor, air-conditioned room).
My wife, however, didn't think Malulien's chua bing (a Taiwanese word) was anything out of the ordinary. She's like that.
The view of Chungcheng Road from the steak restaurant. On Sunday afternoons, the streets are filled with Taiwanese teenagers and Southeast Asian workers, the latter enjoying their day off.
THINGS TO DO IN WUFENG WHEN YOU'RE DEAD (Tuesday, October 18)
Like hiking. A few weeks, Amber, Pamela and I visited the Wufeng Ch'ingt'ung Lin Hiking Trail (Wùfēng qīngtóng lín bùdào) 霧峰青桐林步道, located in the former township of Wufeng (Wùfēng) 霧峰, of course. I posted about our trip here http://kaminoge.livejournal.com/213
What was on offer were some clearly laid out and well-maintained paths that didn't offer much of a challenge...until I wandered off-track, not once, but twice. Though the trail was well-signposted in most places, the maps were difficult to figure out (with north pointing somewhere other than north, as is often the case with trail maps in Taiwan) and...oh, did I mention something just now about the route being well-marked? It was until I reached one key junction, where I followed the arrow leading downhill, expecting it to close the loop I was planning to walk. Instead, I found myself following a path that grew narrower and steeper until the use of ropes was required. At that point, it became obvious that I had gone the wrong way, so I turned around and headed back uphill to the junction. There, I followed another arrow pointing in a different direction. This trail took me up one ridge to a large rest area, then down and up another ridge, before continuing along a rapidly shrinking path. There were some pretty good views of the surrounding hillsides, but it was obvious I was heading the wrong way again. Returning to the original junction, I finally found the path I needed, which was unmarked, of course.
If all this sounds like an exercise in frustration, it wasn't. The errant paths described above were fun to walk, and beg further exploration, which I intend on doing. In all, I spent nearly 2½ hours traversing the trails in this part of Wufeng, working up a decent sweat and relishing the fact that most of the time I had the mountain to myself. I'll be back.
My apologies for the quality of some of the following photos. Lighting conditions were less-than-ideal in many places on the trails:
Check here http://www.taiwanfun.com/central/taichu
I've now started another blog over on Blogger. Called A Curmudgeon Abroad, it's very similar in vein to this one. The address is http://kaminoge.blogspot.com/, and if you could take a moment to check it out and make any suggestions or comments, I would be most appreciative.
In the meantime, I'm going to play around the new blog and see if I prefer it to Sponge Bear. If possible, I'll try to move some of my entries from here over to there. Hopefully Blogger won't give me the same headaches as LiveJournal, but we'll just have to wait and see.
I went for a hike on the No. 1 Trail in the Tak'eng (Dàkēng) 大坑 area on Tuesday, and had the pleasure of seeing at least three Formosan Rock Macaques (Táiwān míhóu) 台灣獼猴 cavorting among the treetops. They were too far away for me to get any decent photos or videos, but I did give it a try:
I also came across a couple of magnificent snakes. One was a very long brown beauty that was slithering off into the underbrush as I was making my way up the mountain. Unfortunately, it moved too quickly for me to get a picture. The other one wasn't as impressive physically, but was more cooperative when it came to photographing and filming:
"The yammerhead who got in a pissing contest over a 25 NT towel (for pete's sake) may end up causing trouble for other foreigners. Foreigners need to remember: you might not think you're part of a community, but the Taiwanese will treat you that way."
That's Asia for you. You're constantly being reminded of how different you are...until a problem arises, and then you're part of the team (of course, nobody remembered to inform you of the rules of the game beforehand).
However, there are several things about this story that bother me other than the fact that some idiot blew a gasket over something trivial as a towel, and forget the old adage about being an ambassador abroad. Namely, that:
1.) Why is this even a media story in the first place? Would any news outlets have covered this if a foreigner hadn't been involved? I once saw a (Taiwanese) woman going ballistic over NT20 at a bus station, yelling at the top of her lungs and threatening to sue the bus company, before finally getting her way, yet I never saw anything about it in the papers or on TV. Of course, she wasn't allegedly moonlighting as a stripper. At least, not that I know of. Good god, I hope she wasn't, judging from the way she looked;
2.) Why are local politicians getting involved? Elected officials in Taiwan are notorious for fighting and grandstanding, and it's clear in this case that Councilor Hung was relishing the opportunity to get some quality time in the media spotlight. There's a tendency in Taiwan for people to drag local politicians into the smallest of disputes, as I know from personal experience (more on that later);
3.) Hung's involvement in the matter highlights the darker side of the Democratic Progressive Party (Mínjìndǎng) 民進黨. The DPP may be the morally right party on the issue of Taiwan's identity, but it's also the political organization of choice for the betel-nut chewing, blue truck-driving yahoos of not-so-cosmopolitan Taiwan (every country has its Bubbas). Xenophobia goes down well with this voting bloc;
4.) In all the hubbub over Towelgate, where is "Mr. Eric's" side of the story? Certainly, Councilor Hung didn't bother ascertaining what "Mr. Eric" had to say, but that's understandable as foreigners can't vote (but "Mr. Wu" can). What's harder to digest is why the reporter, Mo Yan-chih, didn't attempt to track down "Mr. Eric" in order to find out what he had to say about the altercation. The Taipei Times may be superior to the China Post, but it has shown a serious lack of professionalism in this case. Assuming the local is right and going to print with the story isn't good journalism;
5.) Finally, there's that line about "not allow(ing)...any acts of disrespect toward Taiwanese". What exactly constitutes "disrespect"? Does that mean that we as foreigners are not supposed to get into any arguments or disputes with locals, lest we cause the latter to "lose face"? I guess we're just supposed to put up and shut up in these situations, otherwise the outraged native will contact his/her local politician, and the whole affair will risk turning into a media circus. It's "dance for me, monkey boy" as parents point out the foreigner to their children as if we were attractions in a zoo. "Disrespect" is a one-way street here.
A few months ago, I was riding on my scooter through a green light at an intersection, when a woman came flying through her red light and hit me. Neither of us was hurt, and both our bikes were undamaged, but I did lose my temper and let loose a few obscenities at the
stupid bitch traffic law violator. I thought that was that, but the next thing I knew, I was being summoned to the local police station, and watched helplessly as various relatives (mine and hers) argued over what had happened, while a (you guessed it) local politician tried to settle everyone down.
Things got worse. We ended up in court, as she tried to sue me for damages to her and her scooter, but not before the woman and her gangster-looking fiance tried to shake down my brother-in-law for cash (no dice). Before an arbitrator, the woman tried to claim that I was the one who went through a red light, and not her. Unbeknownst to our heroine, I had a copy of the police report stating that she was the one who had failed to stop at a red traffic signal, and the surveillance camera video footage clearly showing the woman riding past stopped scooters and through the red light, into the intersection and then into me (my light was clearly green in the video). She got nothing.
But here's the kicker. One of her complaints was that I needed to apologize to her for having "failed to respect Taiwanese women". I refused to agree to any settlement until that part of the complaint was removed. I pointed out to the arbitrator that this was a minor traffic accident between two individuals and not an international incident involving overbearing barbarians and helpless Taiwanese virgins. The arbitrator agreed with me and lectured the woman on this matter before she reluctantly agreed to withdraw that part of her complaint.
It was a long, needless hassle over a mere fender bender, but the look on that woman's face as she walked out of the courtroom with nothing to show for her stupidity was almost worth all the trouble.
And for those of you whose reading comprehension skills need polishing, I'm not denying that "Mr. Eric" was a total jerk.