Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Today it was windy. That's good and bad for
Taiwan. It's good because then you can see
the mountains, so you don't just feel like you're
living in a grimy Asian city. It breaks my heart
that the mountains are only about 10 miles away
from my house, but I can go weeks without seeing
them. On really clear days, after typhoons, you
can see them all, and it's stunning.

The bad part about the windy days is that they
bring earthquakes. I don't know that for a fact,
but my boyfriend Tim has a theory that they seem
to happen after windy days. He's even been right
a couple of times.

And on the SARS front: good and bad news from
a personal perspective. The SARS scare has
gotten me out of going in to work on Sunday morning
to make my students perform "The Three Little Pigs"
for their parents. The government has encouraged
people not to gather. (Of course, driving is still more
dangerous than SARS, but you don't see them telling
people to stay off the roads...)

But the bad news is that all field trips have been
cancelled until further notice. Which means that
I no longer have a super easy morning once every
2 weeks.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Today's Chinese Lesson:

Xing qi liu wo fang jia, suo yi wo bu yao gen ni de shao hai zi shuo hua.
"Saturday is a day off, so I don't want to talk to your child."

None of the Taiwanese teachers who work
at my school close the windows when they
turn on the air conditioners. Or, they'll close
all but one of the windows. I absolutely don't
get it.

Now all hell's broken loose.

The Taiwanese are trying to stop
SARS from being a problem, so they've
created new problems instead. They've
got a bunch of people quarantined inside
a hospital in Taipei, and the doctors are
trying to break out.

They had their first fatality, somewhere in
Taichung, my current home.

They're banning travel to Hong Kong, and
won't issue visas to people traveling to Taiwan
from Hong Kong, China, or Toronto. I'll bet
the Canadians never thought they'd be on
anyone's shit list.

One of my students had a fever and a cough,
and when she went home sick, I told all the
other kids to go wash their hands. I did, too.

But all is well so far...

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Oh Jesus.
Now there's a mess all over the place.
Comments everywhere, and I
can't figure out which one goes


Damn. I'm trying to get the comments
section working, but I'm too frigging
computer illiterate. I can take it apart,
but I can't program HTML. I stopped
programming when I stopped using
my Apple IIe to write programs to do my
math problems for me.

In Taiwan, people always pull out in
front of you without looking. Some
cars and scooters don't even have
mirrors. It used to irritate me, and then
I wondered why they never look.

The answer just came to me. I'm embarassed
I didn't think of it before:

If they don't see you, you don't exist.

That would explain a lot. It also explains why
people stare at foreigners, not with curiosity, but
like they're just watching a dog-food commercial.

Friday, April 25, 2003

I'm sorry if this pisses someone off, but I've
really got to get it out of my system. It's
not funny. It's irritating, and threatening.

George Bush is an idiot. He pisses off everyone
in the world except the hard-core Republicans
who will probably manage to get him re-elected.
He and his gang of thugs have rounded up
children and put them in a gulag-style jail with
no contact to the outside world (much less lawyers);
launched an illegal war for reasons no one else
quite understands yet; managed to convince
people that dissent or even disagreement is
treason; attempted to further bankrupt our country
by giving the rich people their money back;
embarrassed Americans worldwide by speaking
in incomplete sentences and malapropisms (the
king of Jordan is more fluent in English); threatened
most of the world that they're next on his shit list; and
made America seem more like a police state than
anyone could have dreamed 5 years ago.

I hate to say this, but I guess I can for now. All those
who would say, "If you don't like it, leave." I can answer:
"I did."

More nonsense from Taiwan later.

P.S. Don't think that America is holding back China
from Taiwan. The Chinese are just very patient people.
They waited 99 years to get Hong Kong back.

Monday, April 21, 2003

-Are you eating right over there?

Dear Mom,
I'm fine. A recent trip to Carrefour
(French superstore-Wal-Mart equivalent),
netted the following goodies:
1. Chips Ahoy cookies
2. Ocean Spray Cran-grape juice
3. Ruffles potato chips (Made in Taiwan, Chicken Flavor)
4. 6 pack Heiniken
5. Washington Fuji apples
6. Skippy peanut butter
7. Hunt's spaghetti sauce
8. Low fat milk, cheese slices
9. Sliced lunch meat (ham, Taiwan Futong brand)
10. Nescafe instant coffee.

I think only the vegetables and milk came from
Taiwan. So, you see, I'm fine. I steer clear of
the animal-intestines and tofu aisle.


Thursday, April 17, 2003

You may not know this, but Chinese food in
Taiwan is not very good. A quick lesson on
institutional food in Taiwan.
1. It's fried in oil beforehand.
2. It sits on a counter waiting to be eaten
and getting cold.
3. They make up for this by serving hot rice
and hot soup. Not a fair trade, I think.

At my school, I go in to the kitchen in the
morning, to get water or something, and I
see lots of good stuff. The cook is chopping
up chicken breasts, grating carrots, slicing
garlic...Then at lunchtime there is this cold
bowl of soggy glop that the kids eat with about
as much enthusiasm as mourners at a post-
funeral party. No wonder they're still eating it
an hour later.

Also, Chunghwa Telecom's ADSL service is
absolute shit. I'd be better off with a modem.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I mailed my income tax return off to the
United States earlier this week. It's
ridiculous. Did you know if you work overseas,
you don't have to pay U.S. taxes? That's
generous of them, but you still have to file
a return. Wankers.

Actually, only part of your income is exempt.
Anything you earn over $80,000 US is subject
to taxation. I don't think I have anything to
worry about.

The forms I send them are just 4 pages of zeroes,
and then my salary, written as a loss. It's kind
of depressing. Most people I know here don't
even bother. But I find it simpler than the IRS coming
to me one day and asking me, "Hey where are your
returns for the last 5 years?"

Monday, April 14, 2003

I don't know what's wrong with this country.
Last summer, there wasn't enough rain, so
they were rationing water in parts of the
country. This spring, it has rained almost every
day for the last two weeks, and they've shut
off the water in parts of the city for 2 or 3 days.
So, too much water is also apparently a

Today is another gray day. I'm predicting
rain before noon, and after 5 pm, so that way,
I get wet 2 times in one day. They need to
invent a scooter with a roof.

Friday, April 11, 2003

I didn't think the Taiwanese were into
weird sex. But apparently, I'm wrong.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

So Iraq is entering a strange new era.
That's all well and good, I suppose. For
the record, I was opposed to the whole thing,
but more on the principle that, sadly, the
American president is a bit of an idiot.
Is that unpatriotic? I suppose so, as a
certified U.S. passport holder. Do you suppose
Bush has a passport? Does he get it stamped
when he visits Britain? Does he get to go through
the special line at the airport? Can he carry weapons
in his diplomatic pouch?

What I've really been wondering is what's under
Baghdad. A network of tunnels sounds exciting
to me. But this from the person who always tried
to peer over the barricades to see the new subway
lines being constructed in Daegu and Pusan, Korea.
Part of me thinks I went back to Pusan last year just
to ride the new subway line. Imagine if Baghdad had
a whole network of tunnels already dug, but no subway.
Or better yet, a secret subway. Just go in the door
marked "employees only" at the intersection, go down
the stairs, past the portrait of Saddam as a ticket-
jockey, and get on the one train.

Or maybe I can just sit here in Taichung and open
another beer on a Thursday.

Monday, April 07, 2003

I need a vacation. I think this thought
every morning at this time, about 8am,
before I have to go to work. The thought
of dealing with 17 noisy kids who like to
hit each other and cry just fills me with
dread. The best part about this day is
that it's Tuesday, so I finish at 3:30.
Then I get to spend the last hour and a
half at work smoking cigarettes (outside
the school grounds, of course), and
thinking of excuses not to go to the gym
after work.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Taiwan has not been too hard hit by the SARS
virus, but trust me when I say they've got it
under control. Thanks to the generous supply
of Doraemon face masks, everyone is now
safe from harm.

And I really know there's nothing to worry
about when the bus pulls over for 20 seconds
and an old lady sprays about 3 drops of
disinfectant around, and I can still smell it
on my clothes 5 hours later.

Friday, April 04, 2003

I know that when you're a tourist in a foreign
country, sometimes you stick out a little
bit. But nothing says "I'm not from around
here" more than being forced to wear a mask
during the first 2 weeks of your visit. See
what's new in Thailand.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

A couple of random TV images from Taiwan in the last few days:

1. Some of the newscasters on local news,
covering the war in Iraq, in addition to having
lots of charts and graphs, also wear military
fatigues. Of course, they're in a studio in
Taipei, but it heightens the drama. A couple
of them even put towels on their heads. Really.
2. A few days ago, Tim said, "Come out here
and see what this guy's wearing." On some
random non-news channel, a Taiwanese priest
was talking to some fat guy. The guy had on
a bright orange T-shirt with 2 words, in blue letters
4 inches high: "STAR FUCKER" I have no idea
what that was about.