Try Minding Your Own Business

For some reason, this man was running the exhaust off his scooter down at Ma Chang Ting (馬場町) in Manka (艋舺), Taiwan this morning when I was taking off for my bike ride. I understand that I'm going to be labeled as a fusspot or gwei-mao (龜毛) by some for not minding my own business. Others will say as a "foreigner" I have no say in Taiwan's environment or anything other problem for that matter, but I'm going to post this anyway. I went over and asked the guy what he was hoping to achieve by polluting our country, to which I received a snappish "Gan ma? (幹嘛)?" or "What the f&^%?"

I'll be the first to admit I don't get mechanics. To me, running off your motor as a means of remedy when it has some serious exhaust problems does not fix it. Instead, it simply pollutes the neighborhood and makes everyone uncomfortable, "foreigners" and locals alike. The simple solution is to get the scooter fixed.


English Teachers in Taiwan

I get letters from people who want me to promote Taiwan or, more specifically, their Web sites, to prospective English teachers. I don't really know how to respond other than to say Taiwan really doesn't look like a good proposition. Here are the facts as I know them:

1. Taiwan has one of the lowest birthrates in the world. There aren't enough kids to go around.

2. The market is over-saturated. There's a struggling English cram school on every block.

3. Taiwan has some pretty tough visa policies. An English teacher will be asked to undergo a physical annually in order to obtain a work visa. This work visa is quite restrictive. You'll become more or less an indentured servant to whatever school signs for you. They will hold the work visa over your head, constantly threatening to revoke it if you do not agree to work split shifts (early mornings and evenings, plus Saturdays). To add injury to insult, you'll probably be asked to pay for the work visa and even the physical, which includes a blood test and X-ray, out of your own pocket. If you ever want to break free, and embark on the process of getting permanent residence, you'll undoubtedly find the process maddening. You'll be subjected to all kinds of strange behavior and, basically, the whims of the bureaucrat processing it. You should also keep in mind that the total of Westerners that have ever obtained citizenship is less than a hundred.  

4. Taiwan has a new tax law for "foreigners", namely, they must surrender 20 percent of their income (a very high tax bracket for Taiwan) for the first six months of every year. Considering they will only earn somewhere around US$30,000, this would probably be pretty tough to bear. They should keep these points in mind: Locals in the same financial situation will only be asked to fork over six to 13 percent. Also, this seems to be a violation of Taiwan's constitution, which states in Chapter I, General Provisions, Article 5: "There shall be equality among the various racial groups in the Republic of China (Taiwan)."

Today, I received a letter from a recruiter asking me to put my blog (they must be desperate) behind his efforts. In all sincerity, I am the last guy he should ask. First, I haven't worked in the cram school racket for some time, so any positive comments by me on the matter would be disingenuous. Second, I have my visa through my Taiwanese wife, which is sort of like a Taiwan green card. Therefore, I'm more or less exempt from the visa BS anyone else coming from overseas would surely encounter.

Please note that the mandate of this blog is personal amusement, meaning a bit of history, day-to-day anecdotes and whatever else pops into my mind. Recruiters stay away. I am not interested in "sharing the belief that living and working abroad is a unique and amazing opportunity to travel and see the rest of the world." I am not interested in being part of a "recruitment process [that] provides candidates with as much information about living abroad as we can". I am in Taiwan for the long haul. I love being here and I couldn't leave if I felt otherwise. I am not interested in people looking to get their rocks off on stints overseas while they find themselves. In fact, this kind of voyeurism disturbs me.


Multipurpose Playground

In my last post, I talked about 14-year-olds taking over the playground by my home. I'd never been to the park during the daytime as I have to work. On a day off, however, I took my daughter out for a stroll. As evident from the above the pictures, the local laundromat has also put the grounds to use.

That very same evening, we returned to the playground. This time, an old man was splayed across both slides smoking. We played around him for a while, until I asked him: "Why don't you get off the slides?" What gives with the Wenshan playgrounds? Really, I don't get it.