Thursday, February 9, 2012
Mental forecast: cloudy, with a chance of resignation
Like the photographs below, my mood hasn't cleared much since returning to Taiwan last Monday.
It certainly didn't take long for the rut to set in again, now that I'm back to the daily routine of teaching mornings, afternoons and some evenings. My students are as friendly and interesting as ever, but I've been at this for far, far too long. Unfortunately, the ennui of life on Formosa hasn't been alleviated by any good news from back home. Worries over the health of one parent remain an ongoing concern, and I feel a strong sense of guilt for being so far from home when I could/should be making myself useful in some capacity back in the States. However, suddenly uprooting a family from one country and plopping them down in another without sufficient time to prepare for the uncertainties regarding income, education and cultural readjustment doesn't seem like the right thing to do just this moment.
I do prattle on...
Speaking of money, we've been relieved of NT30,000 ($1018) to fix an oil leak in our Nissan Cefiro 日産・セフィーロ. I've never been very good with matters of engineering and mechanics, which is another way of saying I'm hopeless when it comes to cars, and especially, the workings of their engines. Add to my general ignorance the fact that all the repair matters were handled in Mandarin Chinese by my wife, and I'm almost completely out of the loop here. All I know is this was the wrong time (as if there were ever a right one), financially speaking, for our automobile to fail on us. Having missed half the month of January in order to go back to the U.S. for our annual visit, our revenue stream for the next pay period is about to shrink considerably. The forecast for the next four weekends or so calls for lots of domesticity.
Finally, there's Amber. Not to worry, she's in good health and still her usual energetic self. However, this morning she asked if she could change kindergartens because "the other kids don't want to play with me". I'm sure this is only one of life's minor episodes, and just a normal part of growing up, but I'm understandably sensitive to my daughter's situation. She is, after all, the only bi-cultural child in her entire kindergarten - there may be other students whose mothers might be Vietnamese, for example, but they wouldn't be so obviously "different" as my little girl. As one of my Facebook friends pointed out, Amber will never be considered as "one of us" by her Taiwanese friends and classmates (though probably not in a hostile way), and as long as we stay here, she's just going to have to learn how to handle that. Or we could move back to the U.S. where people like my daughter are more commonplace and therefore more likely to be accepted for who they are.
Bi-cultural offspring have been having a hard time of it lately in Taiwan, as this AP article in Wednesday's Japan Today pointed out:
Prosecutors say Taiwanese-Japanese starlet Makiyo 川島茉樹代 has been barred from leaving Taiwan pending a probe into her alleged involvement in the beating of a taxi driver in Taipei.
The Taipei Prosecutors Office said Tuesday the 27-year-old singer is accused of kicking a taxi door after her companion, who allegedly was drunk, dragged the driver out and beat him.
Makiyo has apologized and pledged to stop drinking in the wake of the Thursday night incident.
Takateru Tomoyori of Japan was released on bail pending formal charges, possibly attempted homicide, according to prosecutors.
The driver suffered a brain hemorrhage and two fractured ribs.
News reports said the taxi driver asked Tomoyori and Makiyo to get out after they refused to wear seat belts.
This story has dominated the headlines here, which isn't surprising as celebrity-related scandals grab the attention of Taiwanese just as much as they do the citizens of other countries. For those of you who don't know, Makiyo is what the Japanese call a tarento タレント, an entertainer of minimal talent who nonetheless becomes a celebrity, and is constantly seen on vapid talk and variety shows. The product of a Japanese father and a Taiwanese mother, she became famous here because of a combination of having a nice body paired with a Japanese background (though she speaks Mandarin fluently). As to whether she has any actual singing abilities, you can do a YouTube search to listen and decide for yourself (or just watch this). What's disturbing here is the undercurrent of xenophobia that appears to be fueling the hype over this "scandal". Sure, entertainers in Asia do seem to have an exaggerated sense of themselves, and as a result, are constantly getting into scrapes with the common people, but the outrage in this case might well be amplified by the fact that Makiyo isn't "one of us" (her companion most certainly isn't). It's a strange situation when a reactionary rag like the China Post actually comes to her defense, sort of.
At least the weather cleared up enough earlier this week to allow for a bit of hiking. I'm getting flabby again after a long period of relative inactivity combined with a poor diet (plus my Taiwan-related insomnia has returned in the post-jet lag period), so it was with some sense of relief to be walking again along the trails in the Dàkēng 大坑 area. The photos below didn't turn out very well, but I really didn't want to post any pictures of Makiyo, so here you go:
Looking down from Trail 7 towards the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium 臺中市洲際棒球場
Trails 1-5 are shrouded in mist
Don't even get me started on how I missed what, by all appearances, was a very exciting Super Bowl XLVI. The last couple of years our trips back to the States coincided with the biggest sporting event on the American stage, but the calendar wasn't working in my favor this time. The Giants-Patriots clash was televised in a number of other countries, but Taiwan wasn't one of them. I certainly couldn't find the game on my local cable provider. Unlike in Japan, where the American game of football アメフト is popular at the university level (there's even a Rice Bowl to decide a champion!), the gridiron game is virtually unknown here. In fact, the only NFL game I've ever attended was a preseason clash between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams (before they moved to St. Louis) at the Tōkyō Dome 東京ドーム in August of 1989 (the American Bowl, which the Rams won 16-13 - thanks for the getting the tickets Jun!), while my Australian friend Josh and I once attended a college all-star game at the Yokkaichi Dome 四日市ドーム circa 2005. Yet here in Taiwan...
Enough whingeing already. I'm back, and I'm just going to have to deal with it.