Thursday, August 28, 2008

Radio Taiwan International Chatroom

This is a resource link for anyone looking for English news sources in Taiwan. Radio Taiwan International has resources that are often only found in Chinese, and this blog has links to listening to RTI's Chatroom program, as well as major happenings around Taiwan.

For example, be sure to check out the RTI Chatroom Art Taipei 2008 post for information on the exhibit at the Taipei World Trade Center this weekend.

Thanks to the crew over at RTI for their efforts on this useful resource!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Taoist Dance

I have lots of photographs from Taoist dance performances from the troupe at the temple (松山慈惠堂) we attend regularly. The group of women perform all over Taiwan (and internationally), and so we often have karaoke bus rides down South with stops at large vegetarian mess halls and host temples on the weekends.

There should be a real post to do it justice, but here's a shot from a recent performance.

Hover Tool

I'm testing out a tool (stolen from an incoming Kaohsiung Fulbright English teacher's blog) that allows you to hover over certain text for a more in depth explanation. This is useful for Chinese characters or editorial comments without footnotes.

Let's try it: 試試看

So the above should read: 試試看, and then you hover over it to see "give it a try it".

Does it work?

Brilliant! All the computer whizzes out there will never know the joys of the computer un-savvy discovering primitive tools like "hover". I suppose I'm a far cry ahead of the must be daft about the average American's lifestyle Republican nominee, only just now starting to read staff-provided emails.

“We’re not asking for a president to answer his own e-mail,” said Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley futurist who teaches at Stanford. “We’re asking for a president who understands the context of what e-mail means.”

The “user experience,” Mr. Saffo said, brings with it an implicit understanding of how the country lives, and where it might be heading. As Mr. McCain would lack this, he would also be deficient in this broader appreciation for how technology affects lives.

And this is the defense:
“You don’t actually have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country,” said Mark Soohoo, a McCain aide for online matters, at a conference on politics and technology. “You actually do,” interrupted Tracy Russo, a former blogger for John Edwards.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Stormy Weather

At least in Northeastern Taiwan, most mornings are hot, sweaty and sticky by 8am, and run so until just after lunch, where a breeze tends to kick in and the static in the air feels like storm. If it doesn't rain for a few hours (or at all that evening), there tend to at least be heavy clouds, and hopefully an accompanied cool-down.

Here are two shots of some weather.
****Taipei Gongguan MRT stop, 3pm 下午三點台北捷運公館站****
****View of Turtle Island and Yilan while getting on Provincial Highway 9, the mountain road to Taipei 從往台北九號省道看龜山島****

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ain't Shy

These first graders from Dong-Ao Elementary are all about the camera. That's Ricky flexing up front; he was toothless little monster who did a great "H-huh-Horse" impression, jumping up for a full-fledged "neeeeeeeigh"

That's Brian, my wonderful co-teacher from the two aboriginal schools (Dong-Ao and Ao-Hua). He really knew how to get these active kids to at least direct some attention; everything was done in sing-song, with chanting and rhythmic sentence patterns, and there were frequent breaks for chasing kids around the room, eventually corralling them into a London Bridge's circle, collapse, and "5,4,3,2,1 back to your seats!" Needless to say, it was tiring. Brian's energy: endless.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This Kid Was Trouble

Second Grader at Dong-Ao Elementary.
He didn't like to wear clothes.
He didn't listen.
He wasn't quiet.
He did like breaking things.
He did like making a mess.
He was still adorable.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Turtle Begging

I was recently invited by a friend to a high-end temple in Linkou for their "Turtle Begging" event.

Turtle Begging is Taoist tradition in Taiwan that takes place in the Spring. During this time people can come and "beg" for peace, luck, or fortune (monetary) in the following year. If they win turtles, they bring them home along with the implied fortunes.

The day has a typical prayer/chanting session as held every two weeks (1st and 15th of the Lunar Month). As typical, you can bring fruit and other food (at least 3 different types of food for each tray) for blessing. Atypically, today you are supposed to bring new clothing for blessing.
****Food for Blessing****

This is followed by an afternoon of gambling. Catholics and their Bingo can rest their hearts a little.

To Beg for Peace and Luck:
1. Select the Kind of Turtle you wish to beg for:
-1斤, 2斤, 3斤, 5斤, 10斤
-These are made of different food items, such as pastries and jello-like packages
2. Nab two red crescent-moon shaped wooden blocks (don't remember the actual name for these items):
-These are used often in Taoist temples for asking advice. If you have a question, you pose the question and drop the blocks. 1 face down and 1 face up mean "yes, I can answer", 2 down or 2 up means "nope, not ready to answer". If yes, take a stick with a number on it. Repeat the first steps to make sure that the number you have is the right one, then take a slip of paper with words of wisdom intended to answer your question. Finally, see the temple interpreter who knows what the saying actually means.
3. Introduce yourself to the Deity, name and location.
4. Pose your request:
-"I wish for peace in x斤" and make a promise "
-and I'll return x斤 by giving double what I take next year at this same event, otherwise you'll punish me with un-peacelike thoughts."
-Note: Helps if done in Chinese.
5. Drop your Crescent-Moon Blocks like in item 2
6. Search for the Turtle that calls to you (tastes the best).

7. Tape on your name and turn it around away from the deity to symbolize it's movement towards your home.

6. Take your turtle and sign your name and address so they can track you down for next year's donation.

This I played.

To Beg for Fortune in Business:
1. Pay $1500NT ($45US) to get on the Gambling List
2. Wait for your name to be called.
3. Kneel in front of the Deity.

4. Drop the Crescent-Moon Blocks (with an audience)

5. Get the most 1 up, 1 down sets in each heat.
6. Be declared the Turtle King or Turtle Queen and take home the coin turtles!

7. Take a Golden Snake/Turtle for 2nd-7th places.

8. Promise to give the temple about 三萬 ($1000USD) next year at the same event.

This I didn't play.

The day is capped off with a big dinner, where orphans from a nearby children's home pigged out (strict vegetarians inside the home, they ate a variety of meats this evening, but could not take anything back).
****One shy, one "too-grown-up-for-her-age"****

I tried to do some quick math (haha!). The orphanage had about 50 kids there. About 25 people participated in the high-stakes gambling, and some returned for a second round buy-in after losing, some a third, so I figure about 35 buy-ins at $1500NT a pop. That's $52,500NT (with a sucky US Dollar value these days, that's about $1,750). The dinner (12 courses or so) fed easily 300 people, probably costing about $600NT each, so $180,000NT or $3,000. At least 50 people had trays with new clothing to be blessed, and the same with food. Clothing and food averaging $300NT combined, that's $15,000NT or about $500USD.

Bill for Turtle Begging: $5,250.

What did the orphans get (besides the occaisional scolding by temple go-ers for throwing rocks at dogs or smelling up the Gambling Ring/Temple Doorway)? A meal that conflicts with what organized value system the orphanage can hope to instill (here vegetarianism) and a sugar rush from unlimited cocktail juice (12% juice avg).

Sure some of the money from the day goes to the kids dinner, and I'm sure the temple does other charitable events. But a fraction of the busy people there that afternoon spending half of the time (I put in 7 hours total) one-on-one with some of those kids, what a world of difference it'd be.

I'll repay the "Peace Turtle" I took this year, as required by my promise to myself, the god, and the temple bookies, but next year, I'm begging for some peace through action, by spending my afternoon volunteering at the orphanage.

****Note: this post is not meant to be critical of this temple, Taoism, or Taiwan in particular. Intentions are good all around, I am sure, and there are discrepancies between intention and action and result in every country with every religion****

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dong-Ao Elementary Sport's Day 東澳國小運動會

****The children here are full of love and energy****

Dong-Ao (東澳) is located on the Eastern coast of Taiwan, between Hualien (花蓮) and Yilan (宜蘭). It is a beautiful, rainy little bay, backed by mountains. The main industry is fishing, however surrounding areas host factories which extract White Stone for drywall and housing, and a grey stone for cement.

The town is small and composed mostly of aboriginal Atayal Taiwanese (1 of 12 groups). With a story not dissimilar to many aboriginal populations (Australia, the US), numbers are diminished and alcoholism is prevalent. Years before, this land all belonged to aboriginal peoples. After the Japanese Occupation (between 1895 and 1945) the land was given to the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang 國民黨), and the ruling governemnt party since has offered compensation packages involving satellite dishes (60 Channels) and monthly checks (enough for some beer and too many rounds of Mah Jhong, such that school fees are hard to come by).

However, there are more recent efforts to preserve the traditional elements of the culture (though heavily criticized as "exploitative and 'superficial'"), and many aborigines are taking personal steps to advance their voice in the community. In fact, the majority of Taiwanese have some degree of shared blood with aboriginal peoples.

The political and cultural image of the community aside, Dong-Ao is a beautiful town, with moss covered concrete, multi-colored tiles and flowerbeds, and ancient trees set between a backdrop of mountain and sea.

Spring is here and the school-year is nearing end.

It's time for annual aboriginal community Sport's Day Competitions!

Schools take (more than) a few class periods to rehearse and prepare for the weekend events, which take place on school grounds and draw most of the communities.

At Dong-Ao Elementary School (東澳國小) competitions range from silly relay races, 100m Dashes, and Archery Marksmanship while students also perform traditional aboriginal songs and dances.

Song and Dance are important parts of the aboriginal culture.

****The head of the curricular office at Dong-Ao leads students in a rhythmic and soulful tune****

The song tells the story of Atayal courtship and marriage.

****5th graders perform a courtship dance****
****This involves circling each other in time with the music****

****After a successful courtship, the couple are married. The boy does a protective dance while the girl mimics traditional female roles, such as weaving and preparing food****

****Races were the bulk of the competitions****
****Preschool Heat****

****Kindergarten Heat****

****1st Grade****

****4th Grade Girls Heat****

****4th Grade****
Smoking is still a prevalent habit here, even on school grounds and during a sporting event.

****A Healthy Onlooker****

***The whole community gets involved in the racing********Parents desperately try to convey the race concept to their toddlers****

****Some clearly would rather not participate****

****Grandpas get involved****
****As well as Grandmas****
****Future Participant On the Sideline****

****Able-bodied young men from the community chat and smoke on the sidelines after a race****
****Face of Determination****
****100m Dash Buddies****
****Full Support for all Members - Cheers on the sidelines and motivational words from the MC for this participant with a cane****
Archery is an important part of the culture, reflecting times not so long ago when targets weren't paper printouts.

****6th Grader Spears a Wild Boar****

****Some friendly competition amongst community members****

Monday, April 7, 2008


Here are a few glimpses of beach scenes in Yilan County:

NanFang Ao (南方澳)is a fishing port-town in Southern Yilan County (宜蘭縣). The town is known for the soft, black sand beaches, a temple housing enormous Jade and enormous Gold Mazu (媽祖) statues (which made it the religious center of the county a long number of years ago), and fresh seafood (one of the few places in Yilan County where restaurant workers stand on the streets and try to coax you from your car and into their restaurant (instead of the 50 others down the road).

****The Dogs of NanFang Ao 南方澳****
****They're Dirty****

****Frances (Mary Poppins?) Visits NanFang Ao 南方澳****
Yilan County is located on the Eastern side of Taiwan, so a scooter ride down good ol' National 2 will get you to a number of beaches and bays. This one is near Dafu (大副), just South of Yilan City.
****The aptly named Turtle Island (龜山島) is located just off the coast. Access to the Island is restricted to only a fortunate few who sign up with the right people****
****Turtle Island Head****
****Actually Has a Tail****

****The beach is definitely dirty in places****

****Josue and Julie walk out a ways on the breakers****
****These breakers are all over the coasts - efforts to thwart nature (Typhoons)****
****Good for Posing****