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Posts Tagged ‘Taiwan’

Level of discourse

Spam comments are getting more confrontational these days!  Check out this little gem from today’s garbage can:

The next time I learn a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I do know it was my choice to read, however I truly thought youd have something attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you might fix should you werent too busy in search of attention.

I had thought my neighborhood was pretty green, but I guess there must be some blue folks around...

I also noticed something on the way to work that supports my argument.  There’s been a DPP poster up for a good long time, but yesterday morning, I saw that someone had blacked out the candidate’s tooth.  As I walked past later that same day, a group of schoolkids was going the other direction.  One boy almost fell over when he spotted it, he was so excited to tell his classmates!  All he could say was “Her tooth!  Hey, you guys, look at her tooth!”  No one cared but him.

It’s okay, kid, I’m with you.  It may not be mature or even very effective, but it’s funny.  Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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“Can you sing?”

Last time the read-a-thon rolled around, I was powering through The Return of the King, but as I read this conversation between Denethor and Pippin, I had to stop and ponder for a few minutes.

‘What would you do in my service?’
‘I thought, sir, that you would tell me my duties.’
‘I will, when I learn what you are fit for,’ said Denethor. ‘But that I shall learn soonest, maybe, if I keep you beside me. The esquire of my chamber has begged leave to go to the out-garrison, so you shall take his place for a while. You shall wait on me, bear errands, and talk to me, if war and council leave me any leisure. Can you sing?
‘Yes,’ said Pippin. ‘Well, yes, well enough for my own people. But we have no songs fit for great halls and evil times, lord. We seldom sing of anything more terrible than wind or rain. And most of my songs are about things that make us laugh; or about food and drink, of course.’
‘And why should such songs be unfit for my halls, or for such hours as these? We who have lived long under the Shadow may surely listen to echoes from a land untroubled by it? Then we may feel that our vigil was not fruitless, though it may have been thankless.’

I perhaps didn’t think about it as much as I should have, and in July I was surprised by my Chinese teacher pulling a movie-Denethor!  We had no warning, but were told to sing a folk song for our classmates.  I foolishly chose “Little Sadie,” a gruesome and kind of hard to sing ballad, which was awkward to explain after I finished.  I feel I could defend it now, but off-the-cuff and in Chinese?  It was tough.

We don’t really have bards, troubadours, or song-of-greeting traditions any more, but I’m bringing it back for a day.  Here’s the challenge: represent yourself, your country, or your people (whoever they may be) with one song.  You don’t need to sing it yourself, but I’d still like to hear the tune, so provide a link or video and tiny explanation in the comments or on your own blog, and I will choose the winner after 3 hours.  That means time is up at 0700 UTC.

For prizes, see this post, but know that there will be a book for first place, and postcards for 2nd and 3rd.  It’s international, my friends!  Now, can you sing?

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Life news round-up

Last Friday I was walking home from the bus stop when I saw three boys practicing weapons in my neighborhood park.  When I asked what they were doing, the boy with the rattling spear said it was for a temple fair in Luzhou.  Tragically, as it was the end of the night, my brain and my Chinese were shot and I couldn’t really formulate any good questions before he lost patience or interest and turned away.  I do have some video of a temple’s fighting group somewhere; I’ll have to find it!

I’m going to Malaysia on Friday, basically right after I take the foreign service test (and bomb, presumably).  It’ll be a lovely distraction, since I also had a big ol’ final today for Chinese.

Speaking of Chinese, I have been having a grand time with my language exchange buddy, who I feel really gets the short end of the stick.  His English is already so good that he focuses more on me.  Last time, he brought a comic book version of The Art of War (which rocked!) and this collection of Chinese ghost stories which I have in mind as a gift for a certain middle school bff.

My other personal time one-on-one is a lawyer who just wants to discuss news, which is fine by me!  He’s quite articulate and challenging; I really only work hard to keep up, not to help his English.  Last Sunday we talked about Taiwan and China, and what he thinks could happen if China were provoked.  It was a little bit chilling.  We almost got into their one child policy, but I told him to hold off until our next meeting; I want to take info about the gender imbalances in India and China.  Contrast their policy differences that have done nothing to fix this problem and such.

The last piece of news relates to a wonderful hash I attended that same Sunday.  The weather has been rainy and gray this past week and half or so, but that day it was perfect for a mountain run.  The cloudy sky kept the temperature comfortably low but never let fall any significant rain, and the hares led us through some crazy trails including a piss-scented valley, an illegal canyon (man-made), and about 3 hours of 87° uphill slopes.  I exaggerate, but only a little.  For me, though, the best part was my Chinese fluency that day.  It recovered fully from the incident with the weapons boys and–my favorite part about the Taiwanese hashers–got few criticisms and even fewer compliments.  As it should be!

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A strange education

On Tuesdays, I am scheduled to teach a 2-hour advanced class with 7 registered students. However, every week I have fewer and fewer people, and I had only one woman to teach tonight. Fortunately, she was fine to just chat for most of the session and based on the material we covered in the book, I was able to get answers to some questions that have plagued me since I arrived.

In a recent post, I asked my sister for some answers about Buddhist ceremonies and services, but she didn’t have much information.  I asked Gan and she wasn’t entirely sure how to explain what I witnessed at the gym.  Her first guess was a funeral, but I saw no portraits.  Her second suggestion was a birthday celebration for the Buddha, or some specific incarnation’s celebration, but when I told her about the banner, she downgraded the likeliness.

These questions led to her describing the scheduled observances of traditional Taiwanese religion.  Now, coming from a Western religion that has a history of weekly, daily, and hourly observances in public groups, I am deeply confused by other religions that don’t have these kinds of frequent and formulaic ceremonies.  The only thing I’d seen in my time in Taiwan was tables of offerings and the burning of ritual money on seemingly random days (and the occasional parade, which is easier to understand).  After nearly a year and a half, I now know that these take place on the first and fifteenth of each lunar month!  The gods worshipped on these days can be any or all of the wide selection of gods, ancestors, and deities, including Buddha.  However, the following days (the 2nd and 16th) are for businesses to honor the god of fortune, 財神爺. I am so happy to have answers.

As for the title of the post, among our topics of discussion were American geography and the (un-)importance of state capitals, Taiwanese politics and history, two-party systems, and Taipei’s progress in the last ten years.  We also touched on language and language education, especially in Taiwan.  Gan called languages other than Mandarin 鄉土語, which is something I’d like to address later.  A strange education indeed!

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