12/24/2006

Put My Fingers in My Criminal Ass

I received this very amusing, candid and thoughtful response to a letter I sent to the Taipei Times (editorial Dec. 17, "Foreigners not Welcome" or something like that). I took the guy's name out and replaced it using an XX. With Taiwan's low birthrate (second lowest in the world, I think) and one in six kids now being born to biracial or bicultural families, I wonder who's going to be welcoming whom in the future?

"Hello Patrick,
I read your article about citizenship in the Taipei Times. I truly appreciate your points of view. As a matter of fact, I am a Taiwanese, but raised elsewhere since a baby and I happen to have two wives: one Latin american wife and another Taiwanese wife. I do not have problems with both known each other since I spend 1/2 of the year in Central America andthe other half back in Taiwan. My kids were born overseas and in Taiwan. My Latin's wives kids are not Taiwanese even [though] they happened to be born in Taiwan, while my Taiwan's wife kids were born in Costa Rica and they are "Taiwanese." Then, I studied myself and I realized that I have been three people inside myself when we grow up overseas: Taiwanese – Costa Rican – American (where I studied for many years and got my PHD. In Nuclear Physics ). My American me tells me that you are definitely right and laws regarding immigration should change. My Costa Rican me tells me that Costa Rica is the best country in the world, why would we care about citizenship is Taiguan? Where's Taiguan?”My Taiwanese me tells me to shove your criminal fingers in your ass and get out of Taiwan since you are no really welcomed. Greetings, XX"

Actually, I don't give a crap whether I am welcomed or not (I think for the most part, once I get past bureaucrats, that I am). I never said I expected naked women to put grapes in my mouth either. I'm staying here because I like it here and because I want to.

WW II - Home for Xmas


Taiwan paid dearly for WW II: 75% of its infrastructure was destroyed and thousands of people died. I have never seen an exact number but I know some 200,000 Taiwanese served in the Japanese Imperial Army (including 30,000 Aborigines). Many of these individuals were left stranded in Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand as Chiang Kai-shek would have no part in their repatriation. My wife's great-aunt was among the victims here in Taiwan. She was killed by bombers in Taipei's Dong Yuan Market at the age of 19.
My grandpa, who flew on one mission to Taiwan (he always called it Formosa), didn't like to talk about the war at all. These letters are what I know about his experiences. I once asked him why he didn't attend veterans' functions as he was a pretty sociable person. He told me: "I don't want to remember that stuff."
There are some interesting accounts of the bombing raids by Jack Edwards, who was interned in Taiwan during the war for 3.5 years, in Banzai You Bastards. He watched them from the ground in a P.O.W. camp in Jiufen (九份), Taiwan:
"This ringing of the bells, sirens and guards cursing gave us the utmost joy. We rushed straight to our vantage points, yelling and shouting, 'They're off'. As we spotted the swooping, diving planes, this time the sun clearly catching their silver bodies and white stars, we cheered and shouted. Then, as we heard the bombs exploding, we shouted, 'How do you like that with your rice, you fucking bastards? Go on, lads, give it to them!' To know at last someone was hitting back for us gave us our best feeling since we had been taken prisoner. We felt that every bomb dropped was a blow in retaliation for our persecution. Then, as we heard the planes turning back for the sea, up went the cry, 'There they go, only a few thousand feet up. Free men, back to good grub and liberty (permission to quote Mr. Edwards on this blog granted by Banzai You Bastards publisher)!"

12/17/2006

WWII- Bombing Raid on Kaohsiung



(Double-click on the text and it should enlarge automatically.)
My grandfather flew in the 90th Bombardment Squad (the Jolly Rogers) during the Second World War. On one mission, they hit the airport outside Kaohsiung. Originally, they were meant to go for Taoyuan, but they were unable to see it due to heavy cloud cover. My grandfather wrote to my grandmother pretty regularly. She re-typed his letters (above) as, I am assuming, she wasn't impressed with his handwriting. My Uncle Vincent Cowsill sent me these scans. He explained how one went about getting out of the airforce:
The points determined your eligibility to be discharged. Those with the greatest number of points were discharged first. In May 1945 the point system was one point for each month in the army; two points for each month overseas; five points for each decoration or campaign; and 12 points for each child. [My grandpa] was unhappy because he only had 38 points in May and needed 80 points to be discharged. It looks like he also earned one point for each five hours on bombing missions; and one additional point for each of the three he flew in July. By November 1945 he had 64 points and, with the war over, was eligible for discharge, which occurred after he arrived in California from Japan on December 26, 1945.
My grandpa once told me that the only time he ever supported a Democratic President was after Truman promised the troops they would be discharged within six months of the end of the war.
(Note: My grandmother retyped the date for the attack on Kaohsiung as July 7, 1945. According to airforce records I've looked at, it was July 9, 1945.)

12/04/2006

Ta Hsin (大興) Village, Taiwan


The view outside Nainai's home in Ta Hsin (大興) Village. Nainai is one of six Atayal women left with facial tattoos. She was born in 1915 in Hsiang Bi Village (象鼻村), Taiwan. She lives with the husband of her deceased daughter-in-law, her grandson and his wife. She has outlived her husband and six of her eleven offspring.

Atayal Facial Tattoo




Ching Dynasty officials classified them as "the Branded-Face Barbarians." Not to be outdone, the Japanese colonialists would sever sections of their faces with tattoos clean off. In doing research for a paper I was writing for university, I came across Nainai (pictured above), a 90-year-old Atayal (泰雅) aborigine and one of six women still living in Taiwan with traditional facial tattooing. Actually, I had tried to find Nainai for a long time. In doing so, I met several friendly Atayal who showed me terrific pictures of grandmas or great aunts with facial tatooing, but I had yet to meet anyone who had one. Luckily, I happened to mention this to my friend Gloria, a sixty-year-old Hakka woman originally from near Miaoli. She immediately rang her mom in Hsishui Kun (洗水坑) Village.
Gloria's mother, as she would later explain, had been a mid-wife in the area for 70 years. Over time, she had delivered many Atayal babies. As the Atayal had lived in poverty, Gloria's mom had often done so free of charge. Her standing in the community was excellent as a result.
We didn't actually get out to Hsishui Kun (洗水坑) Village which is at the base of Nanshih Chiao (南勢角) Mountain for a couple of weeks on account of bad weather. When we did, it was pouring rain. The road up to the top of Nanshih Chiao and Nainai's home in Ta Hsin (大興) Village was just awful. Besides being steep, narrow and wet, it was covered with the debris of falling rock and broken trees. Our driver had a creeky 1974 Toyota. It stalled again and again, and when he fired it back up, or attempted to, it would roll back towards the edge of the mountain before first gear kicked in. Sometimes, he'd park the five of us - Gloria, Gloria's mom, myself, himself and Alex (Gloria's nephew along for the ride and a spot of English conversation) - at a seventy degree angle, hop out in the rain and press up the mountain on foot to get directions. Meanwhile, I was thinking that my stupid little obsession about getting some info firsthand was about to get four really nice people killed in a mudslide.