Last week I stopped by our favorite local tea shop to pick up our customary supply of cheap drinks. The counter girl there and I have formed a little conspiracy to swap jokes -- like this one she fed me:
A pregnant woman gets on an incredibly crowded bus. She looks around but she can find no seat, and no one will give one up for her. Finally she glares at a young man sitting there. "Why don't you give up your seat?" she asks. "It's not my baby," he replies.I think there must be a pun there I missed because it just isn't funny to me....
...but anyway since she is comfortable with me, she asked me, sort of furtively, glancing around as if in fear of being overheard: "Are the Christians (I suspect she actually meant Mormons specifically) here just to get our money?" Being a militant atheist, I answered in the affirmative, hoping for a chance to elaborate on that simplistic response, but she nodded, firmly, as if I'd given the right answer. "That's what the other foreigner said too," she said after a moment. As I was making a mental note to buy this fellow a beer, she asked me what religion I was, and I told her I was an atheist. She thought about that for a minute, and then asked, her faced screwed up in confusion: "So how do you pray?"
My friend Drew poses for my favorite pic of him, far above Taroko Gorge. Despite a robust and raucous sense of humor, Drew always looks like he is about to ram his head through a brick wall in my pictures, but the truth is that brick walls part in fear before his energy and intelligence.
Talking about hobbies and status the other day in class with some older students. One observed that Taiwan kids can't participate in risky hobbies because their parents make them focus on studying. Several others offered some variant of the experience of having a grade school teacher explain to them that the adventurous hobbies of Americans are useless and should not be emulated since they bring no face to the family.
A concrete mixer on Hwy 8 testifies to the constant need for concrete to keep the road open.
Jonathon Adams recent article in the NY Times outlines the latest of the interminable scandals to hit Taiwan baseball, which saw eight players indicted for gambling. I dropped by the local high school tournament today because my son and I both enjoy watching local baseball. There I heard the sad tale of the local league's woes: with eight players from one team out, that team is essentially decimated, reducing the tiny four-team league to an unsustainable three, though officials are adamant the league won't fold. Time for a pan-Asian baseball league! The gambling ring was also described to me by a local fan -- the whole thing was run as a BBS/forum that required a personal visit to one of the ring's operators to obtain the password, after which one could join the forum, obtain odds, make bets, and so on.
Meanwhile in class today, there were only two stories: US beef and the baseball. The students were deeply upset about the baseball fiasco, since many players are local heroes. The constant association of Taiwan baseball with gambling appears to be something that each generation must discover anew....
Fruit processing machinery rests by the road above Lishan town.
The US beef issue appears to have hurt the Ma government pretty hard (AP report, Taipei Times editorial). AIT Director William Stanton's ill-advised remarks comparing eating beef to scooter deaths in Taiwan provoked much media discussion (for example) about the local traffic death rates, with the Ministry of Transportation out there attempting to rebut local newspaper claims. My students and I discussed the issue in and out of class, and while there was resentment at the US, the main focus of anger seemed to be what was perceived as the Taiwan government not looking out for the safety of its people. The DPP carried out a filibuster today in the legislature as a protest against the opening to US beef, saying its polls showed 80% of the public was against it. That's consistent with my experience.
Lots of Americans have discussed this issue with me, shelling me with stats or claiming that the beef oversight system is safe. Suspending all discussion of numbers for the moment, let's imagine you're a foreigner listening to these claims that the US has the best oversight system in the world or the beef supply is safe, etc. Against what background? Oh yeah -- the US claim that the financial system in the US was safe and well regulated. Given that background, why on earth should anyone believe anything that comes out of the Feds intended for overseas consumption? Maybe the US needs to get to work on that image problem...
- Colleges mull group to lobby for permission to bring students over from the PRC
- Canadian English teacher arrested with 136 kilograms of cocaine. Google coke's street value; that dude's got over a million bucks worth if that report is correct.
- The Mainland Affairs Council -- you know, the agency that's supposed to know what's what with China -- doesn't know why financial MOUs were delayed, and was surprised to learn that the FSC said they should have been signed in July. Left hand, meet right hand.
- Jerome Cohen says Taiwan's constitutional court could be a model for Beijing.
- Michael K and I go riding and encounter hordes of females. Taking pictures with the over-50 crowd was a blast, they all insisted on getting in the trike.
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