Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Gasman Cometh

We've had our gas shut off for about a week now. Something about the gas line being too old, slow gas leak, something or other. I finally got around to calling a repairman to come and fix it (with a little help from Ariel.)

The repairman showed up this morning a full 30 minutes early, and started to speak to me in a rapid mix of Chinese and Taiwanese. I assume he was asking about the gas lines and such, but he could just as easily have been trying to discuss the best way to flip an omelet without it breaking. My comprehension of Chinese is okay, as long as the other person speaks slowly, and sticks to the script of questions that I know how to answer.

How long have you been in Taiwan?
Over one year.
Ah, your Chinese is really not bad!
Thank you, I don't go to class.
So, do you like Taiwan?
Yes, I like it here. The people are friendly.
What do you do for a living?
I am a buxiban teacher.
What do you think about our current political climate?
Err...what...umm...nice weather today.

Finally, after realizing that I was just smiling and saying "yes, okay" over and over, the guy got to work on my gas line. He was trying to wrench the sink from its anchor on our kitchen wall, and after a lot of effort, finally broke down and called a coworker for backup.

This gave him a break to come over and sit with me in the living room, where I had been reading a book. He produced a small plastic bag from his coveralls and offered me a piece of "Taiwan ko-shiang tang" or "Taiwan chewing gum." It was, of course, not chewing gum at all, but betel nut, a palm nut wrapped in palm leaf and chewed by working class Taiwanese as a stimulant.

photo from wikipedia

He was surprised to hear that I knew about bing lang, and that I knew to remove the cap before chewing on the pulpy seed. Normally, when chewing bing lang, one will spit the resulting red juice into a cup (or on the ground if one is truly uncouth.) This gentleman suggested that I swallow it, in order to gain the warming properties that betel nut chaw has on the body. I opted out of that, since I really only accepted it out of politeness in the first place.

We had a chat, and chewed our nuts, and then his coworker arrived. They fixed the gas line, he showed me the fancy new on/off valve, and he left. Working the same schedule every day leaves me little time, or maybe just little will, to change anything about my daily routine, so having something different happen in my pre-work hours was kind of nice.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Political Turmoil on the Island

There has been a lot going on in Taiwanese politics in the last couple of weeks. Former president Chen Shui-bian was arrested last week on money laundering and corruption charges. It's a big deal in the local media.

Also, a visit from Chen Yun-lin, a diplomat from mainland China, to Taipei sparked protests from thousands of students. They are upset not only about president Ma's strengthening ties to the communist mainland, but also about the unnecessarily large and hostile police presence in Taipei surrounding Chen Yun-lin's visit.

You can read more about it in the news, and Michael Turton does a good job chronicling the developments on his blog.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


My school. 21st Century, celebrated Halloween on Wednesday. We took an hour or so to walk around the neighborhood with the kids and trick-or-treat. It sounds like fun until you consider the differences between this and actual, American-style trick-or-treating.

We were going to pre-determined locations that we had spoken to in advance and supplied with candy. This was necessary, as it was the middle of the afternoon, it wasn't actually Halloween, and because the holiday gets very little attention here except for English schools and bars that throw parties on Halloween.

Our stops included two banks, a McDonald's, a Huyndai dealership, a 7-Eleven, and a store that sold essential oils (labelled 'chemical srtore' on our itineraries.)

The fact that we had to go to these businesses, in the middle of a business day, with a gaggle of candy-hyp[ed kids in costume was bad enough, but on top of that, the kids were supposed to perform a song to the employees at each stop. I will tell you, seeing the faces of the customers, especially at the banks, was both amusing and a bit embarassing. They were not amused.

Anyweay, on to the photos. I didn't get any during the actual outing, since my costume had no pockets for my camera, and since I was told that there would be another teacher taking photos for all of us.i'll upload those to the album when I get them.

You can see more photos of Halloween, and of my school on other days, in this album.

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