MOS Burger モスバーガー in Taiwan has hired "Cape No. 7" 海角七号 star Chie Tanaka 田中千絵 to be its celebrity spokesperson. Seeing as a Yahoo Taiwan poll named her as the third most visible person in the local news last year, it is no doubt a smart business move.
I met up with Michael Turton this morning, and the two of us rode out into the hills on the outskirts of Houli (Kōri) 后里. Our stops included the Pilu Temple 毘盧禅寺, originally built in 1928 during the Japanese era 日本統治時代; and the Funghuwangshan Leisure Path, which culminated at a pavilion 162 meters (531 feet) in elevation that provided a panoramic view of Houli and beyond. A few photos from today:
(L) The construction site for the new Houfeng Bridge. The old one partially collapsed in a typhoon last year, killing several people; (R) Micheal poses in front of a scenic paper mill.
(L) The Pilu Temple is set in scenic grounds; (R) A small garden area showing its Japanese influence.
Things have been quiet recently post-Lunar New Year holiday, and will continue to be so until next month when financial stability hopefully resumes in the Kaminoge household. One thing we did do this past week was to check out a local preschool. Now that Amber is three, the time may be right to broaden her horizons, and give her a chance to make some friends and playmates. The place we visited wasn't much to look at architecturally speaking, but the grounds did have a lot of plants, bushes and small trees to offset the concrete and corrugated metal.
More importantly, the program (for the youngest ones, anyway) seemed more like an American day care center and less like an Asian cram school. I want Amber to learn things, of course, but at the same time, I want her to have plenty of time to play outside and with other children her age, and to have fun. The last thing I want is to turn my daughter into a "super child", spending her all time at cram schools in preparation for getting into "good" schools, a "good" job and, eventually, finding a "good" husband. Whether or not Amber attends this (or any other) school until the age of compulsory education will depend on my wife finding a part-time job that would be able to pay for the registration and tuition costs.
While Pamela is enthusiastic about sending Amber to school, my feelings are mixed. I want her to have friends and learn about the outside world, but I wish it were someplace other than Taiwan. Should Amber start school, it would mean we would have less time together. As it is, I don't see her as often as I would like due to work, but at least we have almost all of our meals together, which is an important time to talk. It would also mean putting her more into a Chinese-language environment. Although the school we visited offers English lessons, Amber's language requirements are much different than those of her peers (though I have trouble getting my wife to understand this). I'm the only native English speaker she is exposed to, so I'm concerned as to what affect attending a school would have on her progress in English. Then there is the socialization factor. Once Amber starts on the Taiwanese education track, what would be the influence on her ways of thinking, and on her outlook on life? I would like my daughter to be an American who is proud of her Taiwanese heritage, but the longer we stay here, and the longer Amber goes to school here, raise the risk that she will develop into a Taiwanese who happens to have a foreign parent (of course, there is also the question of whether she will treated the same as any other kid or if she will be constantly reminded that is "different" from the others). Will I be "losing" my daughter in the long run?
Perhaps I'm worrying too much. I suppose once Amber starts school, we could do things to ensure the household is a mainly-English environment in order to maintain a language and cultural balance. And of course we could just leave Taiwan and move to the U.S. (though I'm afraid to do so without some idea of what I could do and where we would live there). Whatever happens, I don't want my child to go through the pressures and stresses that many Taiwanese parents place on their kids (whether or not my Taiwanese wife goes along with this will be another story!).
My little girl is, sniff, starting to grow up. Is it happening all too quickly?
TAIWAN GROUP PLANNING PROTEST VOYAGE TO SENKAKU ISLANDS
"A Taiwan-based group is planning a protest voyage to the disputed Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島 in May, the group’s leader said Tuesday, in an outing that could trigger a fresh row between Taipei (Taihoku) 台北 and Tōkyō 東京. The Chinese Association for Protection of the Tiaoyutai will charter ships, send them to the disputed islands in the East China Sea 東シナ海 and people on board the vessels will attempt to set foot on them, the association’s leader, Huang Hsi-li, a Taipei County 台北県 official, said by phone."
If you go, make sure you know how to swim. You wouldn't want to end up like David Chan, a Hong Kong idiot...er, activist/Chinese imbecile...I mean, patriot who, in September of 1996 (according to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senkaku_islands), "drown(ed) near the islets, after leaping off one of the protest vessels with several companions with the object of symbolizing Chinese claim(s) of sovereignty."
Unless you wish to be a Heroic Martyr in a Great And Noble Cause, that is. Oh, and be sure to bring along lots of plastic bottles to hurl at the Japan Coast Guard 海上保安庁 vessels that will no doubt be there to greet you.
I went for a long walk this morning up to, and in the hills behind, the Guan-yin 観音菩薩 Temple on Guanyin Mountain, in Taichung's (Taichū) 台中 Dakeng area. I'm out of shape after the trip back to the U.S. and the effects were apparent, but I quickly got my wind back, and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Below left is a photo of the Beitun (Hokuton) District 北屯区 of Taichung taken on the walk up to the hilltop temple:
"China is to lend 29 treasures to Taiwan for an exhibition - the first such cultural exchange in 60 years. The artifacts from Beijing's (Pekin) 北京 Palace Museum date from the Qing Dynasty , and will be shown for three months at the National Palace Museum 国立故宮博物館 in Taipei (Taihoku) 台北...It will be the first time treasures have been lent to Taiwan since the end of that conflict, when the Chinese Communist Party 中国共産党 took power on the mainland...The exchange is being seen as the latest sign of improvement in relations between Taiwan and...China. Nevertheless, Taiwan remains reluctant to send any of the treasures it holds to China for fear that they may be impounded, although it has lent them to other countries."
The story is well-known of how the KMT 中国国民党 shipped many of China's imperial art treasures to Taiwan at the end of the civil war 国共内戦 in 1949. The priceless works of art were used by the Nationalist government to promote the propaganda that Taiwan was the last bastion of traditional Chinese culture (and by extension that Taiwan was a part of a larger Chinese state), in the face of the threat from the destructive communist hordes. Considering the damage done to China's artistic heritage during the lunacy that was the Cultural Revolution 文化大革命, there is some truth to the KMT's assertions. No doubt many of the pieces currently stored in the mountains behind the National Palace Museum would not have survived the revolutionary fervor of the Red Guards 紅衛兵. But both Taiwan and China have changed a lot in the decades since. A sense of a separate Taiwanese identity has taken root in the post-martial law years, and the justification for keeping these works of art in Taiwan, and not in their rightful place in the Forbidden City 紫禁城 in Beijing, has gotten weaker during the same period. If Taiwan is a separate country from China, why should it continue to hold on to art works that have no little or no connection to the island? In order to solidify a separate Taiwanese identity, wouldn't it be best for all concerned to return the thousands of pieces of art to China? Otherwise, might a controversy arise similar to that of the Elgin Marbles エルギン・マーブル being kept in the British Museum 大英博物館?
The easy answer, unless you're a rabid Chinese nationalist, would be to send it all back to Beijing, and develop instead a museum devoted to Taiwanese art. However, seeing as the National Palace Museum is one of the few world-class tourist sights in Taiwan, that might not be such a wise choice. Protecting these treasures from destruction, and putting them on display for all to see, was one of the few accomplishments the KMT could be proud of during the dictatorial period. One China or an independent Taiwan, it could be said the National Palace Museum has earned the right to hold on to the collection, at least until a clearer picture emerges of the direction in which China is now headed (a more democratic society? a continuation of a one-party dictatorship? a breakup of the state?). Eventually, the question of what to do with the art will have to be answered, but in the meantime, Taiwan should be in no hurry to give up what it has been holding onto these past 60 years or so.
It's been a week now since we got back from the USA, and virtually nothing of interest has happened in that span. I'm over the jet lag and back to work, the weather is already beginning to warm up and our visit back home is starting to blur into a distant, though pleasant, memory. One of the many nice things about being out of Taiwan for two weeks was getting away from the myopic local news reporting. Now that I'm back there's no escape from the ongoing media obsession with all things Chen Shui-bian (Chin Suihen) 陳水扁. Other events going on in the world - the stimulus package proposed by President Obama オバマ大統領 (I love the way that looks and sounds!), the deadly bushfires in Australia, the Israeli general election - all get little or no attention paid to them, while Chen and his extended family are reported on virtually 24/7. Once in a while, the international media takes notice, as the BBC did the other day when it reported on the guilty plea entered by the ex-president's wife ("Taiwan's ex-first lady in court" http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7880656.stm):
"A former Taiwanese first lady has pleaded guilty to money-laundering and forgery but denied embezzlement charges in a high-profile corruption case. Wu Shu-chen said she had accepted a $2.2m (￥200 million) political donation in connection with a land purchase deal - not a bribe as alleged by prosecutors. She admitted charges of forging documents in a separate case but denied using the money for personal gain...Mr Chen, her husband, is currently in jail awaiting trial on the same charges. He has denied the accusations, saying they are politically motivated. Last month Chen Chih-chung, the Chens' son, pleaded guilty to money laundering as did several other family members."
Are the Chens guilty? I don't know all the details of the charges, but I wouldn't be surprised if many of them are true. Will they receive fair trials? Probably not. Even though the likelihood of convictions is very high, the KMT 中国国民党 is so determined to crush the opposition that is has run roughshod over the principle of an impartial judicial process in order to increase the likelihood that Chen, and those closest to him, will spend many years behind bars. Have these cases tarnished the image of the opposition DPP 民主進歩党? Definitely. The party is finding it very difficult to shake off its association with Chen, and is thus being hamstrung in its efforts to create a viable alternative to the KMT, and the latter's increasing steps towards linking Taiwan with China. Does any of this come as a surprise? It shouldn't. While it can't be described as being as at Third World-levels, corruption is rife here, especially in political circles, and touches politicians of all political stripes.
Do I want to stick around to see what eventually happens? Um...Hello? AIT 米国在台湾協会? How do I go about applying for a green card グリーンカード for my Taiwanese wife?
We're back in Taiwan after a two-week visit to the United States to see my family. I'm feeling the effects of the jet lag (we got home from the airport last night/this morning at 1:30, and I didn't get to bed until around 3:30), which makes coherent writing a challenge at this moment. However, I can say that it was great to see and spend time with my family again. For my daughter, it was a chance to enjoy time with her grandparents after more than a year apart, as well as a chance to get herself immersed in an English-speaking environment. It was also nice to get away from the noise, dirt and all-around ugliness that characterizes daily life in Taiwan, but all good things must come to an end, and so I'm back, and not looking forward to returning to a life of cram schools and scooter trips. Sigh...
A few photographs of our time in Washington:
The day we landed at Sea-Tac Airport シアトル・タコマ国際空港 was also the date of Amber's third birthday. The following day, we had a little party to celebrate the event. What's the point of having grandparents if they can't spoil you with lots of presents?
Despite the generally chilly weather in the Seattle シアトル area, we tried to get Amber outside as much as possible. The cold didn't seem to bother her much (Amber's first question after we arrived in the US was "What happened to the trees?", referring to the lack of leaves).
In addition to her grandparents, there were other members of the family for Amber to catch up with, such as her cousin James, uncle Joe, aunt Karen, cousin Jamie and Jamie's husband Tyler.
On one brilliant day, the three of us plus my dad took the car ferry from Bremerton to Seattle, then drove up to the Snoqualmie Pass (3022 ft./921 m). The temperature there may have been only 19F (-7C), but it didn't feel very cold, and Amber got to experience snow for the first time.
There was also some snow in Bremerton ブレマートン on a couple of occasions, though that didn't stop the birds from searching for food in the backyard.
On another day, Pamela, Amber and I rode the ferry again to Seattle, where we visited Pike Place Market and the Uwajimaya supermarket and Kinokuniya Bookstore 紀伊国屋書店 in the International District.
One particularly chilly afternoon was spent at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma タコマ. Amber, nonetheless, got a kick out of seeing all the different animals (the puffins ツノメドリ属 were her favorite), while her parents enjoyed the clear view of Mount Rainier レーニア山 off in the distance.
I took Amber out for a walk on a local trail...
...while Pamela joined us the next morning for a stroll along another trail in the area.