Taiwan Hospice Headline: Nurse Makes a Difference

I've been serving as the editor for the Taiwan Hospice Headline for the last couple of years. I just asked the Chinese editor-in-chief, Yi-rung Chen 陳怡蓉, if we were posting the articles online (I wanted to provide a link to my blog). She answered: "We didn't set up these hospice issues online. But we will be post it on our foundation's Web site in the future." She encouraged me to put up some of the articles on my blog, which I think I will do, as they are meaningful. The address of the Taiwan Hospice Headline is: No. 45, Min-sheng Rd., Tamsui, Taipei, 251, Taiwan. The Web site is www.hospice.org.tw. The phone number is 886-2-2808-1130. The fax is 886-2-2808-1137. Their Email is hospice@ms1.mmh.org.tw


The Story of Cancer Fighter - Chien-hao
Jia-Rung Wu, Nurse, Liou-ying Branch of Chi Mei Medical Center

Preface: The Beginning of the Story
I had known Chien-hao for almost a year. As his nurse, I took care of his wounds and watched his young body ravaged by cancer. He had a strong spirit and the will to keep going, and I admired him. In the beginning, Chien-hao refused to go to the hospice ward, even though he knew his body could not stand additional rounds of progressive chemotherapy. His reluctance to be transferred to the hospice ward meant he needed to accept the fact he was in a hopeless situation, that he was waiting to die. But he seemed to prefer it that way.

The hospice team of the hospital continued to reach out to him, trying to clarify the meaning of hospice care. After a while, his outlook seemed to change. He chose to be transferred, and to receive hospice care in the hospice ward. When he arrived, the nurses could spend more time addressing his wounds according to his needs. No matter whether he was enjoying a comfortable bath or looking at scenery outside the window from his bed, he seemed satisfied with the hospice care he was receiving.

When I saw the general call “The first cancer fighter selection”, the name “Chien-hao” jumped to mind. Now, he would have a chance to tell his story. When I handed him the regulations, however, he hesitated, worrying about his writing style. With the encouragement of both Huis-hsia, an attendant auntie, and myself, he finally agreed to give it a try. Huis-hsia recorded all of the interviews conducted by Wei-chun Lin, the psychologist of hospice ward, putting down his words in the following report: “The Story of Chien-hao”.

Content: The Story of Chien-hao
As far as I can remember, perhaps from the age of four, I have had a strange disease called “hand dermatitis keratodermia tylodes palmaris progressiva”. My four limbs looked different. The keratin on my hands and feet kept on growing, forming a callus. As a result, my nails could not grow normally. My fingers looked like they could be ET’s. Being just a child, I could not understand why this was happening. When I entered elementary school, many of my classmates treated me disdainfully. A feeling of inferiority was firmly implanted in my mind.

Though I was looked down on at school, my mother and brother always treated me well at home. My father, on the other hand, wondered what he had done to be stuck with a disabled child. He held me in contempt and often scolded me. When relatives and friends came to my home, I had to stay upstairs, so the guests wouldn’t see me. In a normal family, members have meals together, but that was not the case in mine. My father detested me so much that I was only allowed to eat the leftovers after the family was finished. My parents earned a living by farming. They had an orchard. When it came to work, my father suddenly disregarded my disability. He insisted that I go up the hill and harvest mangos with him. I could only hang the basket on my arm and slowly pick the mangos. The baskets that I harvested were usually too heavy for me carry. 

Physical inconvenience was a bitter pill to swallow, but I gritted my teeth and endured the pain. I didn’t hate my father. I just wanted to show him I was trying. I longed for his approval and love.
To me, the most terrible pain was not the contempt I received from others. Depreciations were a common occurrence in my life. It was the burning pain that resulted from keratodermia. The itching was more unbearable than the pain. It itched so much that I couldn’t help but chafe my limbs against the cement floor or the edge of the stairs. Even when I was bleeding, the itching still wouldn’t subside. I rubbed up against things so often that the legs of tables and chairs in my home became worn. Thick calluses formed on my hands and feet. I tried to cut them off with a knife, but had trouble with this as I had couldn’t hold it in my stiff deformed hands. Bleeding was routine in my life. Nights were what I dreaded the most. The pain, itchiness and loneliness corroded both my mind and body. It was too painful to sleep. The only thing I could do was to hit my head on the wall. And I would literally do this, until I reached a state of dizziness that allowed me to fall asleep. If I woke up late in the night, I simply chafed my suffering limbs and hit my head on the wall, until I fell asleep again.

During the first 20-odd years of my life, I had no friends. I had neither the courage to make friends nor the conditioning to keep up with other youngsters. So I spent all of my time with my mother, brother and a younger cousin, who was over ten years younger than me. Sometimes I wished I had a friend to talk to; I was sick of facing problems alone. I lived without dignity. I fought against the disease around the clock. 

My brother got married and had his kids of his own. I envied him so much. I remember I would sneak off on the family motorcycle to an Internet café. The Internet allowed me to mask my deformities, so that I was able to make “friends”. I could pretend to be a healthy and active person, even if I was really suffering.

Something changed two years ago. There was an ulcerated wound on my right ankle, exuding a foul odor. I put on socks and stayed in my room. I didn’t want my parents to know about it. One day, my brother came into my room. He smelled the foul odor and saw me resting, with my right foot set in an awkward position. He called mother, and she sent me to the Youn-kang branch of the Chi Mei Medical Center. When my socks were taken off, all doctors and nurses were stunned.

My right foot fell off my leg along with the sock, with only a few strands of flesh keeping it from being completely severed. Blood and pus flowed all over the floor. One doctor told my mother that I would have to undergo an amputation. It hurt so much that I had no choice but to accept. It had never occurred to me that the amputation would be made at the knee. Not long after that, my knee was also ulcerated. The wound was so deep that it made a hole, which the nurse could pour normal-saline-solution through when she helped me to change the dressing. I could see my bone in the hole, and the fungus that was infecting the bone. Soon, my other foot was also festering and in need of amputation. The doctors transferred me to the hematology department of the Liou-ying branch of the Chi Mei Medical Center. The hematologist told me that the biopsy read “malignancy melanoma” and that I would be receiving chemotherapy. My wound became infected during the treatment course, resulting in yet another amputation. My legs had been cut down in size three times. But the real pain was only beginning.

In February or March, an ulcerative hole emerged in my groin. It was three centimeters in depth and six to seven centimeters in width, and exhaled a foul smell. Every time the nurse changed the dressing, pus oozed out. I sometimes had a fever, and was covered in a cold sweat. I wondered why God wouldn’t just let me go, why He kept my agony instead.

The hole grew bigger and bigger, so that it stretched almost to the femoral artery. The nurse helped to clean the wound, again and again. She tried different ways to care for it, hoping to slow its growth. Nothing seemed to work. I was constantly in and out of the hospital. My mother was so exhausted that she called upon an attendant nurse to share in the burden. The attendant auntie helped to change my clothes several times a day, which was necessary as the thick gauze would become sopping wet after a few hours.

One day, I was eating dinner with the attendant auntie. I was leaning against the table on my bed when I felt something warm on my bottom. “Auntie,” I cried, “I’m bleeding!” When she removed the table, both of us were at a loss. Auntie rushed to the nurse station, shouting that I was bleeding heavily. Several nurses rushed into my room and pressed upon my wound. I was very weak and sweating, and my blood pressure had declined. I was immediately sent to the intensive care unit for emergent treatment. Auntie asked my mother and brother to come to the hospital. I didn’t know that I was about to die. I was still conscious, crying for them to stop the bleeding. I was then sent to the department of medical imaging to find the exact spot of the bleeding; and an artery embolism was performed to stop it. But the wound continued to grow. Soon, it was larger than an octavo, and my iliac (or loin) bone was eroded to the point of breaking. The surgeon removed my testicles because they were in a state of necrosis. No one could have imagined how terrible the wound was going to get. The skin was torn and the flesh was gaping open, filling the air with a heavy putrid odor. At the beginning of August, the tumor began to eat my intestines, and stool flooded out from the wound. “Oh God,” I protested, “what more can you do to me?” I had once been 180 centimeters tall. Now, after repeated amputations and ulcerations, I weighed only 30 kilograms. My stature was less than half a bed length.

The wound had to be cleaned every four hours. Unfortunately, stool continued to flow into it. The wound, a mixture of blood and flesh, became even worse due to an infection. Three days later, my doctor consulted a surgeon, Dr. Tsai, and it was determined that he would perform an enterostomy on my left abdomen. By this time, the stool could only be relieved via a plastic bag attached to my stomach. Beneath the ulcerated flesh on my right side was an artery that could burst at any moment. A 16-stitch suture separated the wound and the plastic bag. I wondered why God had provided me with such a fate. Why was it me that should pass through the crucible? Hadn’t I been through enough?

But I was still alive. Resting on my bed, staring at the clouds on the other side of the window, I wondered if I would ever see the sun rise again. The next day arrived, and I understood that I had once again met the challenge. Though physically handicapped, I felt my mind strong; and I knew I had the ability to be stronger than those around me.

Postscript: The End of Story
The day Chien-hao left, I was at his side. I saw a change in his breathing pattern, and that his body temperature had dropped. He waved both of his hands and looked unresponsive even though his eyes were open. The room was filled with a wired atmosphere and everything was quiet. In the final moments, Chien-hao’s mother held me and cried. She said “Thank you for taking care of him”. My heart pounded, and I tried to hold back the tears. She held on to his thin deformed hand: “You have now recovered from the sickness. At last you can rest in peace. Do not concern yourself with me. I was so sad about what you were going through. Thank God, I was able to be with you when you embarked on you final journey. You were not alone.”

Chien-hao’s story was late for the first cancer fighter selection. After discussing it with Wei-chun, we decided we needed to share it, and members of his family agreed. We hope other terminally ill cancer patients will be inspired by Chien-hao. The life ahead of us may not always follow a smooth path. Most of the patients we take care of are not in good shape. During the treatment process, they will feel pain and uneasiness, and face both obstacles and dismay. They will be forced to look at the frailty of the human condition close-up, and to realize there are things none of us can control.

Chien-hao has also inspired me – I have learned much from him. My job has also taught me to respect and cherish life. I hope that those who lead lives limited in time can find the maximum value. I am fortifying myself, so that I can do more to provide quality care to those that are suffering. I will do the best I can for their families as well.


Taiwan's Old Movie Houses

Kaohsiung Film Archive

One of Taiwan's oldest theaters, in Yunlin.

Taiwan's second movie theater, in Hsinchu. It has recently been converted into a restaurant.

I went down to Kaohsiung, Taiwan last Wednesday for something work-related. I had some time to kill, so I decided to check out the city a bit on my own. After walking along the Love River and watching rowing teams train for the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival, I wandered into the Kaohsiung Film Archive (above pic, top). The place has a good store of history on the film movement in Taiwan, one that has flourished spectacularly since the 1980s with New Taiwan Cinema directors such as Edward Yang (楊德昌) and Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢). While I was there, I received a tour of the place. My guides, two elderly Taiwanese women, took me through several of exhibits and their own experiences watching movies growing up in Kaohsiung, that included NT$10 movies, mostly Japanese and American as well as their favorite Taiwanese flicks. One of the women was wearing a vest signed by Mr. Hou. According to the ground-floor exhibit, Taiwan's oldest cinema opened in Keelung in 1908. Taiwan's longest-running theater is in Tainan.

I asked them about Taiwanese movies during the Japanese era, but they told me that they hadn't seen any. I'm always curious about this for, if no other reason, seeing old shots of Formosa, which seem to be limited in supply. The Kaohsiung Film Archive is quite stylish. Facing Kaohsiung's Love River, it has a geometric architecture, much like Taipei's Fine Arts Museum (very 80ish). Out front there is a row of glass benches which nobody, understandably, sits on. I wrote June Yip's comment on Taiwan film down in my journal, from Envisioning Taiwan: Fiction, Cinema, and the Nation in the Cultural Imagery: "In the imagery of colonialism, the dominant Western powers are most frequently represented as masculine warriors or explorers, while the territories and people of colonized non-Western countries are inevitably imagined as feminine: mysterious, passive, virginial, and implicitly available for conquest and domination" and have wanted to follow it up as it sounds about right to me; I'd love to see a film from the colonial period in Taiwan that backs it up.

I've been going to Kaohsiung for a decade. I can't believe how much the city has changed. They've now got Taiwan's second tallest building, 85 stories, the final link in the Taiwan High Speed Rail (one hour and 36 minutes from Taipei if you take the express train) and an MRT to meet it. Somebody down there has really been doing a good job. When I mentioned this to people in Taipei, however, they were skeptical. They pointed out a lack of attention to the law (people still don't stop for red lights or wear motorcycle helmets, they explained). They were even unimpressed by Kaohsiung's gorgeous new MRT stations, which are made of glass. "They reflect the sun and make the shops overheat. And the young women have trouble with their make-up now. It always melts," I was told.

New Neighbor

President Chen's new apartment

I went to visit my friends Celia and Jacquelyn yesterday. When I arrived at the building door, I noticed in the glass a security guard from across the street approaching. I'd seen him a few moments earlier and had guessed he was working for the mob. There's a new beautiful apartment across from Celia's in the Taipei Hsin-yi (信義路) area (above) and the mob is often connected to construction. But this guy looked different: he wasn't slouching around, he wasn't wearing a sloppy rayon shirt, he wasn't sporting a diamond-studded Rolex and he wasn't chewing betel nut. He had a neat crew cut, dark shades and a no-nonsense air about him. After checking me out, he went over and, shading his eyes, poked inside the window of a SUV, parked out front of Celia's. I thought: "This guy takes his job seriously."

When I mentioned it to Celia, she explained that former President Chen Shui-bien had just moved into the building across the street, on the 14th floor she figured.

"Well, that's going to take care of your security problem," I quipped. Residents in her building are robbed on a regular basis. Celia just had to have the lock on her Mercedes-Benz fixed after it was jammed up with a screwdriver. And her neighbor, a month back, had his own Benz stolen and held ransom.

"Maybe, but it creeps me out having them 24/7," she answered.

"Have you seen him?" I asked.

"No, but I've seen his car driving in there. You can't see him because the windows are tinted. But it's pretty obvious whose car it is," she said, pointing at the garage entrance (see top pic, with security guard wandering around) from her balcony.

I remember eating at an expensive seafood restaurant on Minsheng East Road, a favorite of Chen's wife, an abalone connoisseur. The boss told me the Chens lived in the vicinity. According to Celia, the Chen's are now collecting expensive homes. This one is really nice and costs a lot of dough. I've often fantasized about having the cash to move in. Celia figures it cost 1.3 NT million per ping.


Four Year Anniversary

Where were you four years ago, when President Chen was being sworn in for a second term of office? It suddenly occurs to me that I was in Ohio, piling stuff in the back of my Toyota for a honeymoon trip to New Orleans. On Monday, my wife and I took a day off from work to celebrate four years of marriage. We bundled our little daughter off to the babysitter's and then headed off for lunch at the Grand Fomosa Hotel followed by the afternoon matinee, where we saw Iron Man, based on a Marvel comic book I used to read as a kid. One thing that really struck me about our time off was all the other people taking a day off too. My wife kept asking: "Doesn't anyone have to work anymore?" The restaurant we ate in was packed (although with a little help from a lunch party hosted by the Belize government - I guess big wigs in town for the inauguration) and even the theater, at 3:05 p.m., was half full.

Today, when I returned to work, I was greeted by mayhem, as Ma was being sworn in as President across the street at Taipei Arena (see above cell phone pic). Although I'm happy to see Chen go (I'll work on this in later posts), I'm also a bit worried to see this American-educated president take the helm. Mainly, I'm concerned that he's in way over his head with the Chinese. As much as Chen's "us and them" attitude and constant picking on out-groups disturbed me, I think I could even be more uncomfortable with Ma's, or least his party's, insistence that we people here in Taiwan are Han Chinese. To me, that seems naive. Taiwan is made up of people from all over the place. At least one in five babies is now born to a "foreign" parent. And that's not even getting into the Aboriginal contribution to the Taiwanese blood-line. There also seems to be a bit of disingenuity going on here. I mean what are guys like James Soong, Lien Chan, Ma, and others, with their American degrees, houses, bank accounts, passports or green cards or what have you thinking when they're chatting it up with someone like Hu, Wen or one of these other odd-balls?

BTW, some people are now questioning the double-standard in aid, why the government here is willing to give so much of our tax dollars to China for earthquake relief, NT$2 billion, versus a piddly NT$6 million for the Burmese, who are probably even in worse shape: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2008/05/16/2003412099 It's nice to see all of the Tzu Chi volunteers now out raising money for Myanmar. Just in case you're wondering, they're the ones wearing blue polo shirts and white pants, out on every corner, at every MRT exit and even at today's inauguration, shaking donation boxes and looking pleasant. I just looked up their Website: http://www.tzuchi.org/global/index.html


Taiwan's Longest Escalator

I visited Fancyworld (劍湖山世界) in Douliu (斗六), Yunlin (雲林) County's largest city yesterday and this morning as part of a project I'm doing at work. Above is a shot of Taiwan's longest escalator. The amusement park is built on the side of a mountain, so this is supposed to provide a bit of respite for elderly visitors. But I thought it was as freaky as any of the rides in the park.

I took this shot of the nastiest roller coaster I have encountered in Taiwan thus far: the Flying Submarine. According to the rep. that showed us around the park, it'll hit speeds of 110 km/hr., with 5Gs to keep riders plastered to their seats. I took some shots of the drop, which starts at the top of Jianhushan (劍湖山) and ends disappearing into a hole at the base. I'm not able to realize vertical photos at Blogspot via my IMac, so I've posted them at flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_cowsill/2491495503/
and also with this one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_cowsill/2491492993/
The Ferris wheel in the background takes about 15 minutes to complete a loop. It's Taiwan's tallest, completely dwarfing the one at the Miramar Complex in Taipei. At 88 meters, it provides quite a view of the Yunlin plain. For our loop, we lucked out, encountering very little wind.

I also picked up a couple of bags of Taiwan's very own Gookun (古坑) Coffee for a pricey NT$800 (US$25). I've often wondered why Taiwan doesn't grow (more) beans. The conditions couldn't be that much different than those of Hawaii (Kona) or Jamaica (Blue Mountain), two little islands with high elevations and tropical climates.


Taiwan World War II

Images of Taipei during World War II

I received an informative letter today, from L.C. (I think he lives in Japan) via eyedoc, who runs an interesting blog on World War II http://shinseimaru.blogspot.com/

"Hi there,

It seems that at least there are three gentlemen out there want to know about the arrival of POWs in Hualien, aka Karenkou in Japanese. Among the three, Hong-Ming is from my native town, Tamsui and I know him pretty well, I guess. Pat is an American husband of a Taiwanese lady living in Taipei though I still can not figure out what he does for living after reading through his site. Michael is a complete stranger to me; I can only guess he has something to do with Society of POW in Taiwan. As far as arrival of POWs is concern, I am not the only one who has eye witnessed the event but I may be the only one who is still young in mind that dare to be on the internet today.

The war started when I was a third grader and Singapore was occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army less than three months later, February 15, 1942 to be exact. I still remember well the scene that General Yamashita, the Tiger of Malaya demanding the surrender from the British and forces Percival to say Yes or No in the spot without giving him a moment of consideration. The British POWs arrived in Karenkou when I was fourth grader, so it must be after April; as you know the school semester always started on the first day of April. We were lined up along the main street, which stretched from train station to the army barracks to watch the tall and skinny British soldiers walking through. One of the bystanders pointed to the first guy leading the troop and said “he is the commander”; it was the first time I heard of PA-SHI BARL (パーシバル), General Arthur Percival, however, I was not sure he was the right one since there was no name tag on him. The real Percival I saw for the first time was through the news picture of signing the Peace Treaty on U.S.S. Missouri together with Douglas McArthur on September 2, 1945.

The army barracks where these POWs were kept located just beyond the Guntai River from our Meiji elementary school. The levee at the riverbank from the school to Jinja, Japanese Sinto shrine was nice walking path but it was closed to traffic since the arrival of POWs. We, the adventurous kids always stretched our heads over the levee and peeked on the POWs who were planting vegetables on the other side of riverbank. The guarding Japanese solders would shout “Bakayaro!”, and throw stones to us at once upon finding our peeking.

When I published my story in my monthly newsletter, which is written in Japanese, some of the elder schoolmates challenged my writing by saying that they met the POWs at the harbor instead of the train station. The fact is that, I discovered later, there were more than one arrivals of POWs in Karenkou; some arrived by the ships and the others by the trains from south.


4. Hualien / Karenko Camp was never attacked or bombed by the allies. It was closed in June 1943 - long before the allies started bombing Taiwan. By the time the allies got around to bombing Hualien and Taitung it was the spring of 1945.

I still remembered vividly that the first Karenkou bombing was executed on the morning of October 12, 1944 around 9:00AM. It continued for three days, all by Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters from aircraft carriers. Our family runs to the country side the very first night by train; it was so over crowded that we have to stand on our feet all night long. As the result of the bombing, the Monopoly Bureau caught fire and that same fire eventually burned my brother’s lumber yard down to the ground."


It's true that I'm married to a Taiwanese lady and that I live in Taipei. I work for a publishing company and also study at National Chengchi University in the evenings. Both my wife and I are interested in World War II, and in learning more about the events that unfolded here on Taiwan, for personal reasons that go further than "proper history told for its own sake". My wife's great-aunt died in a bombing raid in Dong Yuan (東遠) Market in the spring of 1945 at the age of 19. And my grandpa, James A. Cowsill, flew missions all over Asia on B24 Liberators as part of the 90th Jolly Rogers Bombardment Unit. On July 9, 1945, they flew over Taiwan on a mission to hit Taichung. After radioing back that the clouds made impossible to see the ground, they were redirected to Japanese airstrips at Kungshan (崑山), just outside of Kaohsiung: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2006/12/wwii-bombing-raid-on-koahsiung.html
and there is also http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2006/12/ww-ii-draws-to-close.html

Actually, my grandpa hated the war; he rarely talked about it. I once asked him, when he showed me a sweatshirt with a B24 that he'd picked up at K-Mart for ten bucks, why he didn't go to vet meetings, as he'd probably be able to get something a bit more authentic. He asked me: "Why would I want to go see those guys and remember that stuff?" He did, however, leave a pretty vivid story behind. During his time in the air force, he wrote 900 letters home to my grandma and uncle, who was very little at the time. My grandma kept all of them (I've posted a few - see above links) and crunched them into a narrative, which starts:

"I was married in August of 1939, and in September, with the German invasion of Poland, the European War was on. Of course, it was common talk that it wouldn't be long before Americans would be fighting another war, but I didn't see how I could be much affected. Nevertheless, in 1940, Congress passed the draft law. Even the draft act didn't seem too serious, because it meant if I did get caught in that foolish thing, it would be only for a year. The draft act before it was revised stated that men would be subjected to military training for one year only, and that didn't seem too bad. It might be a good deal, I thought, a little vacation, out roughing it with the boys, away from the office. I had been to scout camp when a boy and had had a whale of a good time."

It didn't take Grandpa long to realize that this wasn't scout camp. A few days after getting sucked in, he wrote:

"I decided that army life was lousy. I hated it already. We had reached Salt Lake at 1:00 a.m., about five hours late. Then we waited around until the truck came to pick us up. When we arrived at the field, we got some bedding and went to a barracks. There were no lights in the barracks. The bunks seemed already to be occupied. I had one heck of a time. I started to get into bed with some other fellow and he didn't take it too well. Finally I got settled in an upper bunk. It was then 3:00 a.m. I was so tired and sleepy but everybody kept talking. I knew we had to get up at 5:30. Later I found out that talking at bed time was quite common, and it wasn't supposed to keep one awake. A seasoned soldier could sleep through anything."

Many pages and years later, he concludes:

"October 15, 1988 - Bakersfield, California

Today, I opened an old trunk in the garage and took out my air force uniform which my wife had carefully stored in a plastic bag over all these 43 years. The insignia, the buttons, and the wings were all bright. The ribbons over the left pocket were like new and still in place.

However, upon careful inspection, I noticed for the first time that the patch over the right pocket of a flying American Eagle had been put on upside down, and NO ONE had ever noticed the mistake.

What irony, I thought! But perhaps this is a fitting way to end my story. My army life was a complete upside down experience."


Taiwanese Culinary Tour

When I visited Hualien (花蓮) last Friday, I had jien mien (煎麵), an old Taiwanese dish of noodles that are first boiled and then dry-fried. They're not bad, like hard hash browns with pork and green onions on top. I noticed that some of the other restaurant guests didn't take so well to them however and left practically untouched plates behind. I think they should have loaded their jien mien up with hot sauce, as the noodles were a bit bland and crunchie. Actually, I prefer them to beef noodles because they did't burn my mouth or steam up my face.

My wife ordered ten boiled leek pork dumplings at Overseas Dragon Fried Dumpling (四海遊龍) http://www.0800224466.com/# one of Taipei's most well-known fried dumpling and sour & spicy soup joints. Luckily, she noticed a bug encrusted in one of her dumplings before she ate it (see above pic, right). We had to wait around while the restaurant cooked a single replacement (above pic, left).

My wife enjoys the Mexican triple tower along with a fruity cocktail at Friday's a few weeks back. Incidentally, Friday's has recently introduced a non-smoking policy throughout its Ximending (西門町) branch, and hopefully others across the city. This means no more choking in the bar section while waiting for a table, or being able to eat the delicious deep-fried jalapenos with processed-cheese dip and smell the aroma at the same time.


No Seat Belt, No Excuse

In Taiwan, it's often considered rude to wear a seat belt, like we're insulting the driver's skill if we dare to put one on. When I first got here, I'd instinctively reach for my seat belt and other passengers would wag a finger at me, warning me not to commit a faux pas. Thankfully, Taiwan adopted a front-seat seat belt regulation in 2001 (with a fine of maybe NT$1500 or NT$2000 for those who don't buckle up), which was a good idea, considering that seat belts reduce the number of serious injuries sustained by 50 percent and fatalities by 30 to 40 percent. In an accident, they can keep you from plunging through a window or getting knocked out cold (you might need your wits about you to get out of a burning or submerged car). They can prevent all kinds of other terrible scenarios.

I pulled up these automobile stats on Taiwan. In 2005, there were 5,634,362 registered cars with 86,940 accidents and a fatality rate of .96. There were 13,195,265 registered motorcycles (meaning, I guess, mostly scooters) with 130,366 accidents and a 1.19 fatality rate. There were 26,967 registered buses with 1,191 crashes and a fatality rate of 4.82 (aren't these guys supposed to be the professionals and receive extra training?)! There were 953,470 trucks and trailers, with 25,499 accidents and a 1.71 fatality rate. In total, 203,087 people were injured in that year and 2,894 died. Automobile accidents have increased ten-fold in Taiwan over the past 20 years.

BTW, I noticed this seat belt ad on the Danish blog Silver Drizzle: http://silverdrizzle.blogspot.com/