12/22/2010

Taiwan Angler

My friend Chris has started a blog called Taiwan Angler. Chris is rediscovering his passion for this sport. He's already put in a lot of effort to come up with an interesting site. I think it might be the first in English on this topic too. In the future, look for lots of information on angling around the beautiful country of Taiwan. You'll find his Web site at this address: http://www.taiwanangler.com/

Chris is a smart guy, so expect insight on how concepts of marine biology can and have affected our economy, what tackle to get to attract the big ones or even what beer to chug whilst chasing a lazy Sunday away on one of Taiwan's streams, lakes or ponds.

12/20/2010

Do Consumers Need to Accept Mei Ban Fa (沒辦法)?

Pretty much nothing gets my back up like being told "mei ban fa (沒辦法)." If you translate mei ban fa, you'll come up with something like "this problem cannot be solved." Spend some time in Taiwan and see how mei ban fa (沒辦法) is used. Eventually, you'll discover mei ban fa  (沒辦法) is something closer to:

a. I don't feel like helping you
b. I won't help you because if I take initiative, I could get in trouble
c. Get lost, because you can't win this pissing contest

I've been mei ban fa-ed three times in the last 20 hours, two times when I went to pick up pizza at Pizza Hut last night and a third at Costco this morning. In all three cases, the individuals doing the mei ban fa-ing worked in customer service. Before I give a rundown, I'll offer a few suggestions for those out there facing a mei ban fa (沒辦法) of their own. First, explain to the customer non-service rep. there is no such thing as a problem too impossible to solve. Then offer to help them come up with a solution. If that doesn't do the trick, ask to speak to a manager. Remember that you could be getting screwed when being mei ban fa-ed.

My mei ban fa (沒辦法) grief began when I ordered Mexican and American double salami pizzas last night. The bill came to NT$720 (US$23), so I pulled out my wallet to pay. While doing so, I asked about my points (I have a VIP card, which I paid for, so I can get free side dishes from time to time). "The card is under my wife's name," I told the guy at the cash register, just like I have every time for the past couple of years. "Here's her phone number." 

"Ah. Ms. Cheng," the guy at the till smiled, after keying in the information. "Do you have your card on you?" 

"I don't think I have it anymore," I answered. "No worries. You can see her name on the screen. I normally just give the phone number," I said, starting to feel a bit weird. I hadn't paid yet for the pizza. My wallet was out though; the order had been placed. Who in their right mind would jeopardize a sale with this kind of pettiness?

"I'm sorry sir," said the clerk. "If you don't give me your VIP card, mei ban fa (沒辦法)!" he declared, like he had just uttered something decisive. 

"There's no such thing as mei ban fa [沒辦法]," I explained. "By the way, I can't accept this kind of service, so get it sorted. This street has lots of pizza places."

"Uh, okay. No, I mean mei ban fa."

A couple minutes later, the assistant manager, Mr. Hsieh, appeared. After filling him in, I said: "I want to complain about this clerk. He's providing poor customer service and wasting my time. I don't agree with this kind of attitude." 

"I'm so sorry about that," said the assistant manager, reviewing the computer screen and not listening at all to me. Then, still not listening, he picked up the phone and called my wife. 

"Give me that," I said, taking the phone. Then to my wife, "The pizza place is being silly. I'll be home in a while." All of this was over a few points on a VIP card. I mean I was ready to pay. What on earth was their problem? 

"Sir, sorry. You can place your order, but you can't accrue any points on your VIP card," said the assistant manager.

"Okay. Okay. Let me speak to your manager," I said. I knew it had crossed the line of "it's not worth it," but the pissing contest was now on. I pulled out my iPhone and hit the film button on the camera function.

I don't know if the manager was more reasonable or it was the camera. Or, it could have very well been that she's the only one with license to authorize anything, even when it's just a few crummy points on a VIP pizza card. "Do you know what these guys are putting me through?" I asked her. "My VIP card is recorded in your system. I have cash in my hand."

Here's the answer she gave me, before giving me some points and side order of bacon bread: "There has been a lot of pizza card fraud recently."

I'm not going to get too much into the Costco mei ban fa (沒辦法) tale because this is giving me a headache. I will say the nonsense was about the same. My time was wasted. I was offered silly excuses. Then I received the external drive that I had purchased earlier -- the external drive that already belonged to me.

I have worked in lots of customer service jobs. I tended bar in university. I have also worked the front desk at The Holiday Inn. When customers had a problem, I simply asked them what it was. Then I tried to make them feel less unhappy. I didn't bother to bother the manager. As a bartender, I usually refixed the drink if they didn't like it, adding more soda, an extra olive or lime, or what have. Sometimes I gave the customer a second drink for free. It never occurred to me to be stubborn or give them flak. At the hotel, I just upgraded their room. When that didn't work, I gave a discount. I didn't say things couldn't be done and problems couldn't get solved because that would have been disingenuous. 

12/11/2010

Monga Traffic


I took this picture today in front of the 85 Degree Cafe on Wanda (萬大) Road in Monga (艋舺), Taiwan. It looks like a right-turning bus or truck gave it a good scrape. I hope the district has some cameras in place so we'll know who to bill. 

The proposed Wanda MRT Line might help to alleviate some of the traffic in Monga; it'll also cut back on the buses we need.

11/28/2010

Taipei, Taiwan


Taipei, Taiwan, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.

Lots of urban farming going on right now in Taipei, Taiwan. I took this shot just east of Warner Village, in the Hsin-yi Distict (信義區). A friend told me today that it's the most expensive real estate in Taiwan. It's going for NT$6,000,000 a ping (meaning close to US$200,000 per tatami mat of space). 

I think I should follow up on urban farming, seeing that I've taken hundreds of shots of how it has occurred around Taipei over the years. One of the reasons that property in this district has shot up in price is related to the MRT line, going down its main vein, that is going in as I write. The MRT line'll be up within the next couple of years. This land was once zoned as "agricultural." It's value obviously went up once it was relabeled as residential. 

Taiwan Has Spoken?



Today the people of Taiwan voted. To me, it seemed like a referendum on our President, Ma Ing-jeou, and his China leaning policies (some have even called them appeasement). I am not very politically minded. I will say I'm glad it's over. The loudness of the extravaganza has been unbearable. Here in Monga, we've been putting up with loud speakers that intrude into our homes deep into the night, smarmy palm-pressing politicians at every MRT station (in the mornings, no less) and all kinds of annoying chest beating. Last week, I had to, get this, listen to how Taipei IS Hau Lung-pin (郝龍斌) and that Chen Shui-bien is still corrupt. The rally actually took place on the common grounds of my apartment building, and lasted until around eleven o'clock. (Hau Lung is the son of 郝柏村, Taiwan's premier 20 years ago who fought tooth and nail against democratic reform.) Later that night, when my wife sent me out on a beer run, I couldn't help but notice all the garbage left behind. This garbage was cleaned up by janitors employed on my, and other occupants of my apartment complex, dime the next morning. 

Anyway, my wife was simmering tonight because Taipei, where she and her ancestors going back 300 years have lived, is still KMT-land. I rented "Formosa Betrayed," an interesting new film about how Taiwan and its inhabitants have been colonized and controlled by invaders from China the last 60 years. After watching "Formosa Betrayed," she was on low boil. She told me that she was once educated to revere the KMT, that she had been taught to see the Japanese, who built Taiwan into Asia's second most economically powerful place, as scoundrels. She had even gotten into arguments as a young girl with her grandma. According to Grandma, the KMT were not saviors but rather "beggars and thieves." Later, when my wife learned about the 2-28 Massacre, when the KMT murdered 30,000 Taiwanese intellectuals in an early power grab and the 38 years of martial law that ensued, she came around to a new way of thinking. 

I don't think all is lost. There are some interesting statistics emerging from tonight's election. The most telling is that the DPP, the pro-Taiwan party here, has actually won the popular vote. Here are the latest tallies: 


Taibei
中國國民黨:795,403 (55.65%)




民主進步黨:626,075 (43.81%)

Xin Taibei
中國國民黨:1,115,536 (52.61%)
民主進步黨:1,004,900 (47.39%)

Taichung
中國國民黨:730,284 (51.12%)
民主進步黨:698,358 (48.88%)

But, in Gaoxiong/Tainan DDP pulled ahead:

Gaoxiong
民主進步黨:821,089 (52.8%)
中國國民黨:319,171 (20.52%)

Tainan
民主進步黨:619,897 (60.41%)
中國國民黨:406,196 (39.59%)


I pulled these totals off Michael Turton's comment section. Michael also has some interesting insight into the KMT-related gangster shenanigans that led to the shooting in Yong-he last night of a KMT official's son: http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2010/11/sean-lien-shot.html

On a different note, David on Formosa is promoting blogs for a "Best Blog of Taiwan" contest. I think it's cool to promote Taiwan related blogs. I should probably read up more on this subject. If I were to vote, I think I'd give the nod to http://danshuihistory.blogspot.com/. Eyedoc, the curator, runs a terrific history-based site. David put up his mentions here; I'll give the link: http://blog.taiwan-guide.org/2010/11/some-great-taiwan-blogs-in-2010/

11/10/2010

Historical Cheng De (承德) Road


I took the above shot today on Cheng De (承德) Road in Taipei's historic Dadaocheng (大稻埕) District. I strolled the length of the street, from the Keelung River (基隆河) in the north down to Taipei Main Station, and this was the only place I saw that seemed to predate the 1960s. These days, Cheng De is lined with gaudy, glassy, grimy 1960 and 70-ish architecture. 

If you take the stroll, you will of course come across Cheng Yuan (成淵) High School. Established in 1898, just three years after the Japanese colonial possession of Taiwan began, Cheng Yuan was once a rustic double-story, A-frame schoolhouse, much like you might have seen in the American Mid-west at the turn of the 20th century. I think the school was in fact funded by an American Christian group from thereabouts, but I'll have to follow up. Cheng Yuan was blown up on May 31st, 1945 by the US Army (the Air Force didn't exist in those days) on probably the single most devastating day of bombing Taiwan saw during the Second World War, and that is saying something as 75 percent of her infrastructure was wrecked in around a year's time. For those of you that are familiar with Taiwanese history, you'll recognize this date. Both the Presidential Building and Lungshan Temple (龍山寺) were also hit on May 31st, 1945. 

As Cheng De used to be the eastern-most thoroughfare in Dadaocheng before, and after, the city was walled, it once was an energetic center of commerce and culture. In the 1860s, Formosa was internationally renowned for its tea. And Dadaocheng was her foremost packaging and shipping center. Hundreds of companies, many of them located on Cheng De, operated out of the neighborhood to serve this purpose. Times have changed. Technology and finance are now Taiwan's bread and butter. Most of its small, though still renowned tea industry, is based elsewhere. No shipping takes place from the wharf of Dadaocheng anymore, as it is now too silted up for ships to arrive anywhere in her vicinity. 


This is the mailbox of the place mentioned above, which I am guessing is the oldest remains of a store or business along Cheng De Road.  Notice how the mailbox is taped up.


When I dipped into an alley running off Cheng De (承德), near Ming Chuan (民權) MRT Station, I found lots of quaint buildings. In this structure, a tree had taken root in the roof.



An old building in an alley off Cheng De.

11/07/2010

Righteous Temple in Monga, Taiwan



A picture of Righteous (集義) Temple in Monga, Taiwan

I live in Monga, one of the three oldest neighborhoods in Taipei. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that we have many places of historical note in our midst. Having said that, I should point out that we really don't have much in the way of classical architecture. Until the 1990s, there was no emphasis on historical or heritage preservation in Taiwan. It was all development, with lots of speculation sprinkled on top. Thus a lot of Monga's, and Taiwan's for that matter, most precious streets and buildings were scraped off the landscape. I will say this though: there is no shortage of old and beautiful temples in Monga. Off the top of my head, I count half a dozen within walking distance of my home, like the Righteous Temple (pictured above), which my daughter and I pass almost every night on our way home from school and work respectively. Righteous Temple was built 110 years ago. 

Inside Righteous Temple, you'll find the statues of three Tao figures, the righteous men from which the temple draws its name: Messrs. 朱, 池 and 李, who lived during the Tang Dynasty (607-917) in China. According to my wife, our daughter likes to "make wishes" at the alter when she and my mother-in-law go by, something she doesn't do when she's with me. I don't really have a problem with this though. I do think it's an interesting way to describe praying. I'm pretty sure that Grandma is behind the "wishing," as she's tried to make me do it a time or two (which I don't as it makes me feel self-conscious). Nevertheless, if my daughter wants to "wish," I'm cool with it -- that is, if she enjoys doing so. My daughter can make up her mind own about religion, whether that happens to be now, 10 years from now or whenever. 

I'm afraid I digress: If you want to visit Righteous Temple, take the MRT to Longshan Temple. Leave the station from Exit Two. Go straight, passing the fire and police stations, for about a block. You'll see it at the first intersection. 

11/03/2010

Dan Jiang (淡江) Gym


Dan Jiang (淡江) Gym, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.

I put up another post at the Taiwan News' Web site, following the presence of Dan Jiang (淡江) High School here in Taiwan. I've been running out to Danshui (淡水) pretty regularly. A couple weeks ago, I took in a terrific re-enactment of the 1884-5 Sino-French War, which unfolded on Danshui's very banks. For more information, check out this blog: The Battle of Fisherman's Wharf. Eyedoc, the site's generous and informative curator, has posted on the goings-on of this conflict several times. Run over his posts and you'll be rewarded on this count, and other details of the community's development as well. Here's a sample, a post called The Execution of French POWs 1884: http://danshuihistory.blogspot.com/2010/08/execution-of-french-pows-1884.html

I've put up a picture of where the school's most famous alumus, Lee Tung-hui (李登輝), practiced martial arts in his youth. I promised it in the article; alas, it was not delivered.

Here is my article on Danshui's historical Dan Jiang (淡江) High: http://www.culture.tw/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1938&Itemid=156

10/07/2010

Mid-Autumn in Danshui


Boats, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.

I wrote this for Culture Taiwan. As usual, I am mixing up Fort Santiago with Fort Domingo. For some reason, I can't get the two straight, a constant brain fart and I admit I still don't know the name. I'll have to google it once again: http://www.culture.tw/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1903&Itemid=156

10/03/2010

1911 Has Meant Little to Taiwan


I was surprised to come upon this bubble work today in Taipei, Taiwan. If you look inside, you'll see the words "90 days." There's also a collection of Taiwanese symbols, like Taipei 101 and some dolls. You might be asking yourself, "90 days to what?" Well, it's a countdown to 2011, to mark the 100th anniversary of the fall of the Ching Dynasty, and in Taiwan no less. So, does America or Canada, France or Denmark. have such bubbles? And, more to the point, why do we care here in Taiwan? Why are we counting down to another country's milestone? It doesn't make sense, especially if we look at the historical account. In 1911, or 100 years ago minus of course 90 days, Taiwan was a colony of Japan and her connection to China was finished. It would continue to be so for another 35 years in regards to Japan. We were liberated when the Japanese surrendered to the US August 14th, 1945. We've been on our own ever since. When 2011 rolls around, Taiwan will have been out of the Chinese yoke for 116 years.

Let's get back to 1911. To my mind, 1911 is a meaningless moment in time to the Taiwanese people. When the Ching Dynasty fell in 1911, Taiwan was already a colony of Japan, and had been so for 11 years (just to strongly reiterate the first paragraph and work the other way time-wise). Taiwan was handed to Japan on a platter by China as part of the terms of the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki. 

To get a better read on what our indifference would have had to have been, we ought to revisit 1895, the year Fortune smiled on Taiwan. In 1895, after 212 years of colonization and 159 rebellions, the Chinese washed their hands of Taiwan. The incoming Japanese obviously expected resistance, so they had to be surprised when the leaders of Taipei were on hand when they landed in Keelung, to show them the way to Taipei. At that time, Taiwan was kind of backward, thanks in large part to the incompetence of Chinese rule. We didn't have an infrastructure to speak of, rule of law was a joke, and the people were in rough shape due to a lack of food and medicine stemming from poor organization. The Taiwanese leaders, like pretty much anyone else, were looking for stability, something the Ching  proved incapable of providing. After learning the lay of the land, the Japanese colonizers set about to sort these problems out. In fact, they did such a good job of it that Taiwan became the second most prosperous place in Asia 50 years later, after Japan.

The Japanese started by offering an amnesty to all dissenters. If you didn't want to be here, they told the Taiwanese, go back to China, just get lost. Around a percent of the population, mostly wealthy and/or prominent, took them up on their offer. They came to be known as the "Half Mountain People," after a term in the Taiwanese (Hoklo) language. The other 99 percent settled in, and in many ways reaped the rewards. Not only did the Japanese build up Taiwan's monetary system, railroads, hospitals and education, but they also gradually included Taiwan in a nationalistic way. Taiwan's people would eventually become citizens in the Japanese empire, with a right to vote and place political representatives in Tokyo. The price we paid was being disconnected from China from the get-go.

A Taiwanese friend of mine once told my that his history teacher taught them the Taiwanese were indeed on the scene in 1911, that we sent a bands of people over to get involved. This is ludicrous, and this "teacher" should be ashamed. Why would the Japanese allow that? I wonder if the Taiwanese even knew if 1911 was going on, especially in terms of the Taiwan I have just described and as Taiwan was under martial law at the time. Where would have these people received the information? What would have the Japanese said when they gathered arms, procured arms and set sail? Etc.

This does not mean that Taiwan and China had no relations. They did, but under terms that would have not seen an intermingling. I've already mentioned the Half Mountain emigrants. They were able to hold on in China, and a few of them were even on the first boats back to Taiwan. They could speak Taiwanese (Hoklo), and are credited by some academics with being the authors of the 1947 2-28 kill sheets, when 30,000 Taiwanese people were murdered by KMT soldiers. They hardly saw themselves as Taiwanese.

Taiwanese and Chinese individuals mingled on other occasions too, but on seemingly the most superficial of grounds. According to the historian Bruce Jacobs, there were 8,223 Chinese people in Taiwan in 1905, mostly here as laborers, building bridges and roads, much like we have Thai or Filipinos here today to serve the same purpose. By 1936, the number was 59,015. This of course came to a head when Japan (and thus Taiwan) attacked China in 1937. The fate of these individuals was up in the air; if memory serves me, "foreign" ships returned them to China. This relationship was "us and them-ish," with the Taiwanese looking down on Chinese people. There were also 100,000 Taiwanese living in China. We were awarded a special status as Japanese colonists; that meant we were above Chinese authority. Enjoying privileges and immunity, we were said to have flaunted our non-Chinese status in China. 

As anyone can see by perusing history for even five minutes, 1911 means zip to Taiwan. It is a KMT wet dream, one that has been forced down our throats for too long. My wife and I were looking at the pic I took (above). I suggested that August 14th, 1945, when the US liberated Taiwan from Japan, as the actual point of celebration. It's also a nice round number: 65 years. But my wife was having no part of this. She says American liberation of Taiwan simply opened the door to KMT bandits, 38 years of martial law, pilfering of Taiwan's infrastructure and general mayhem. But we did agree on one point: 1911 is irrelevant to Taiwan. We could only wonder at why somebody might want to promote 1911 as meaningful here in Taiwan, and to what end. 

Erhu (二胡) on a Lazy Saturday in Taipei

video

9/24/2010

2010 Taipei International Flora Exhibition


I took this dark picture last Tuesday just outside of the Yuanshan MRT station in Taipei on my iPhone. This construction zone will be a part of the grounds for the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exhibition. People are complaining about this because of the price tag: I’ve heard it's NT$10 billion. These individuals are dissatisfied because they don’t know what they’ll get back from it and there have been scandals. I’m guessing it’s the same lot as those who whined about last year’s Deaflympics: NT$9.5 billion. And many others.

I wonder how much has to be spent or wasted before one of these kinds of extravaganzas gets labeled a failure. Some pretty cool infrastructure was left behind for the Deaflympics, like a stadium and an almost Olympic-sized swimming pool (see my previous post – I’ve put a pic up there). The Flora Exhibition is going to leave behind the Eco Ark, a three-story building made out of recycled plastic bottles. That's about it.

There are also some aspects of the Flora Exhibition that confuse me. Look at the picture at the top of this post. We’re building a park, but right on top of a park. As the old park was perfectly fine, nothing’s getting improved here. Furthermore, the Eco Ark is placed over another park, one that was built just 15 years ago. Why do we have to put it on top of a park and how is that an improvement to Taipei? Why not on a gas station, an old ugly building, etc.? And do you notice the blue-fence corridor for pedestrians to walk through? That used to be a street. I asked the guards who were keeping people out of the park that we could once use freely if the city was going to reinstate the street after the Flora Exhibition. They told me they’d heard that this was likely. I’m betting that this happens. Streets and places for traffic do not trump parks.

I’m still going to say that I think if Taipei does tear up the west end of the park for cars after the Flora Exhibition, it’s a huge waste of time and money. Plus it’s kind of dishonest; we’ll be giving visitors an untrue picture of our city. My final points are for the mayor. You say we’ll make NT$16.8 billion in tourism off this NT$10 billion flower show? Where are you getting this amount? Are you simply counting any visitor that buys a ticket? If so, remember this: There are better reasons to visit Taiwan than to see some flowers, see Toroko Gorge, Hualien, the Pescadores, the National Palace Museum and Monga. See the night markets, shopping, Taipei 101. If you’re counting tickets bought by “foreigners,” you should remember that if they weren’t spending NT$3,000 on your flower show, they probably would’ve been dropping it eating in restaurants, getting out to see the country and putting that money somewhere else.  

Infastructure Left Over from the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics


Deaflympic 400 m Mens', originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.
Taipei built this stadium for the 2009 Deaflympics. The city and the country wrangled over who would pick up the tab, with, I think, the city losing. I took this shot from the roof of the building I work in. There is an almost Olympic-sized pool next to the stadium that was also built for the show.

BTW, this was the semis for one event, either the hurdles or 400 meter dash. I can't remember.

9/16/2010

Chinatrust Commercial Bank Continues to Screw with Out-groups

I've already written about the shenanigans I faced in getting a credit card from the Chinatrust Commercial Bank in Taiwan (中國信託商業銀行). I was told I couldn't apply because I was a "foreigner." As this happened just inside the doors of the Chung Ho (中和) Costco, the company Chinatrust was cooperating with on a particular credit card I wanted, I simply wrote to them in the US and asked them if they really wanted to have their brand associated with a bank that discriminates against out-groups. The full story is here: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2009/11/foreigners-getting-credit-card-in.html. Obviously, Costco did not like the fact that the Chinatrust Commercial Bank was discriminating against out-groups in Taiwan and, a couple weeks later, I had a Chinatrust Commercial Bank / Costco credit card in hand.

Today, I experienced another hurdle with this silly bank. When I tried to purchase a Taiwan High Speed Rail ticket online, using my Chinatrust credit card, my transaction failed because I did not have a Chinese name on my credit card. Here's how it went down: After loading up the English Web site for the Taiwan High Speed, I input the required information: date, time, destination, name, ID and agreed to the terms. When I keyed in my credit card number and its expiration date however a Chinatrust verification box automatically sprung up, in Chinese. I found this a bit strange, especially since I was working on the English Web site for the Taiwan High Speed Rail, but I started to fill it out. The box called for my birthday, the expiration date of my card and my name, which I could not input. Why? Well, it told me to type in "all three characters of my name." This was impossible as the name on my credit card is in English. So, basically, this is it: the only Chinatrust cardholders allowed to purchase HSR tickets online are the ones with Chinese names on their cards.

I have already complained to Taiwan High Speed Rail about this. But the incident gets me thinking. After Costco forced Chinatrust to give me a credit card, the bank told me that it didn't discriminate against "foreigners." When I told them I could name lots of friends that had been turned down at their bank simply because they were "foreigners," the rep. handling my case informed me that I was imagining things. I'm still waiting for the statistics I requested on "foreign" credit card holders at Chinatrust Bank because I don't think I am. I don't understand this either: Chinatrust Commercial Bank says that it does not discriminate against "foreigners." If so, why doesn't their box, which automatically pops up on the Taiwan High Speed Rail's English Web site, allow for "foreigners" to input their "foreign" names? Why is it just in Chinese? Hint: it hasn't occurred to Chinatrust Commercial Bank in Taiwan (中國信託商業銀行) to have an English pop up because they do not have "foreign" customers. Cross out folks like me because we just don't count. We slipped through the cracks and are infinitesimal quirks in how they are rounding things out.  

I'm going to check back with the Taiwan High Speed in a week to get this sorted out. The reason I don't bother complaining to Chinatrust is because I do not trust them. If you want results with this bank, you have to appeal to their partners, like I did when I wrote to Costco in the US. I'll just close by saying I've observed a trend:

1. If I point out that it is hard for "foreigners" to get credit cards in Taiwan to a "foreigner," the explanation I'll normally get is "that's because Taiwan's banks are racist, xenophobic, etc."

2.If I point out that it is hard for "foreigners" to get credit cards in Taiwan to a "Taiwanese person," the explanation I'll normally get is that the banks are absolutely not racist or xenophobic, but rather because "'foreigners' are a flight risk." I find this kind of reasoning disingenuous. Every single person who applies for a credit card is a flight risk. If you don't believe that Taiwanese people go bankrupt, run away from their debts, etc., then read the news. Or, talk to a local. Debt collection in Taiwan is just as big a headache as it is anywhere.

I also believe the flight risk explanation to be disingenuous for another reason. I think it's offered up because a majority of Taiwanese people want to categorically deny that racism exists in Taiwan.

9/13/2010

Travel Grove's Cheap Airplane Tickets

This will be a paid post is for the travel site Travel Grove and it's Cheap AirfaresTheir Web site works as a meta-search engine to bring users offers on cheap offers. This is how they work: they save the best prices found by users and then display it for those searching for the same thing, so though. You will find offers like cheap flights to Chicago, Asia, cheap flights to Hong Kong and so forth If you want to read about these destinations, you can also do that. Travel Grove also provides travel guides in the top menu of their homepage.

You could see some more of these posts from time to time. I'm not against advertising something when it suits me. Once again, I don't have any issues with people seeing the world as inexpensively as they can. I have been providing content for Patrick Cowsill Wanhua Taiwan for three-plus years. If I can put away a few dollars every now and then, what's the problem with that? Do you have an issue with me supplementing my efforts like this? Let me know your thoughts below. I would never put an ad up that I found troublesome, and would kill this program if someone were to make a reasonable argument for doing so. Travel away, my friends.

8/24/2010

村子口 = Entrance to the Village Restaurant


This is actually a restaurant, an extremely popular lu-wei (滷味) restaurant near my office in the Songshan District of Taipei. Inside that door there are eight to ten tables, and they'll all be full any lunch hour of the week. For any of you that haven't had lu-wei (滷味), its tofu and other simple dishes marinated in soy sauce and spices. I met up with my friend today, Markus, for a lunch of dumplings, leeks, spiced seaweed, spicy shredded tofu over tea eggs and spicy dried noodles. Lunch cost NT$280 (US$8). 

Markus and I have been meeting up for lunches going way back. We met in nineties at Anya Gym, a basement gym near Shita University. We used to shoot the breeze as we ran the treadmills and that's how we became friends. Since then, we've been taking turns choosing restaurants around Taipei and treating each other. We usually hook up every one to two months. This time, it was Markus' turn to choose / pay, and he did a mighty fine job. He found 村子口, or the Entrance to the Village Restaurant.

The Entrance to the Village Restaurant is second KMT restaurant Markus has taken me to in the Songshan area. When I say KMT, I mean places set up by 1949 refugees from China. 1.5 million Chinese people escaped to Taiwan after Chiang Kai-shek, in all of his incompetence and corruption, lost China to Mao Zedong. If you go inside, you'll immediately know what I'm talking about. There's KMT memorabilia on the walls and slogans as well. I've heard they sometimes play old "patriotic" songs, though notice the scare quotes. Those songs must have been a bitter pill for the local people to swallow, especially after how cruelly they were colonized by the 1949 refugees from China. 

One thing I didn't care for at the Entrance to the Village Restaurant was the waitress' attitude when she  greeted us. Instead of asking us what we would like to eat, she simply pointed at a menu and grunted. Now you might think this is just her way, but she didn't seem to have a problem speaking in full and polite sentences with the other customers. The reason I'm bringing this up is I am afraid that we were being singled out because of our skin color. You see, both Markus and myself are white. I think she must have judged that we couldn't speak Chinese, which is not the case. This is how long it took for us to get through to her. We had the following conversation, and it was in Chinese:

Me: Could we have some menus please?

Waitress: (holding menu and pointing) Grunt!

Me: Could we have a pen please?

Waitress: Grunt!

Me: You don't want to talk, right?

Waitress: Huh?

Me: My friend can speak Chinese. I can speak Chinese. You don't need to be so nervous. We don't feel good.

Waitress: Well, er... um... What would you like to eat?

Markus: Spicy noodles. 10 dumplings, and some tea eggs.

(Later)

Me: Could I please have some white vinegar?

Waitress: (chilling a fraction) Okay. Wait a minute.

(Later)

Me: Could we have some soy sauce?

Waitress: (still trying to relax) I'll bring some to your table.

(Seconds later, and yelling at us)

Waitress: HEY! GIVE ME THAT SOY SAUCE BACK! ANOTHER TABLE NEEDS IT!

Markus: Miss, you can have the soy sauce when you ask politely. How does that sound?

Waitress: (finally, a smile) Sir, could I please have the soy sauce?

Me: And I want some glasses.

Waitress: (taking me by the arm - Wow!) Here they are. 

I think next time I go to the Entrance to the Village Restaurant, the service is going to be better. The food is already great. There's also a big cheery guy with betel-nut stained teeth at the door, wishing everyone well when they leave. He shouted "thank you" in English at us as we were leaving. Markus is actually German and Spanish. I'm a new Taiwanese, but the intent was right. 

8/21/2010

The MRT Will Be Joining Us for Dinner Tonight, Dear


The Taipei MRT used to have a competition. If you could find three grammar mistakes or examples of Chinglish in their signage, they'd pay you NT$1500 (around US$50). I thought it would be easier to figure out who was responsible for the mistakes and then fire that person for incompetence. But who listens to me?

I took the above shot at the Chungshiao-Dunhua (忠孝-敦化) MRT Station yesterday. I think I know what's going on here. Someone with high-level position either signed off on the "It's so wonderful having Taipei Metro with us" slogan or coined it her/himself and the people working under her/him were too afraid or embarrassed to say it was Chinglish. You might be wondering how someone who doesn't speak English could be managing an advertising or PR company or department that makes English signs. Well, in Taiwan, there's a saying: "The dead wood floats to the top." Simply put, you get promoted for staying in a company for a long time, not because you're any good. Loyalty is valued over competence. In all my time in Taiwan, I can't remember seeing a single Taiwanese person fired for incompetence from a Taiwanese-run company. I have seen "foreigners" fired for sucking, but that's another topic. Taiwanese people get fired for the following: a.) Arguing with a superior b.) Making unwanted passes at a colleague c.) Being a good scapegoat when one is needed.

Getting back to the sign. I think what the ad or PR company or department is trying to express with the "it's so wonderful having Taipei Metro with us" is that the MRT has improved the quality of life in Taipei. I agree with that. If you think Taipei's streets are clogged with traffic, you should have seen them in the 1990s. A friend who lives out in Hsin Tien told me it used to take her up to two hours (on a bad day) to get to work. Now, thanks to the MRT, she can get there in 25 minutes. I remember walking to Chinese class when I lived in Yonghe (永和). It took around 45 minutes as I had to cross Zhong Cheng (中正) Bridge. The reason I walked was I knew how long it was going to take me. With the bus, it could be 20 minutes or it could be an hour and 20 minutes. The MRT allows us to time our commute. And it's cheap; riding to work costs me NT$20 (US$0.60).


BTW, there are some interesting stats for ridership at the Taipei Metro Web site. Ridership is up around 50 percent in the past five years: http://english.trtc.com.tw/ct.asp?xItem=1056489&ctNode=11767&mp=122032

7/27/2010

Cycling in Taipei

I took the following pictures on my iPhone walking to work up Dunhua North Road (敦化北路) today in Taipei. I grabbed my iPhone camera out of my satchel and two minutes later, I had them - pretty simple. The green lane that these cars are blocking is strictly for bikes. Unfortunately, the police in Taipei are not enforcing this point. For cyclists, it's uneasy going as usual. They might want to ride down or up this green lane that is reserved for them; alas they'll be forced out into Taipei traffic. Sad, very sad:












7/25/2010

How Many People Can I Squeeze on a Scooter?

Scooterists in Monga (艋舺), Taiwan. Note the driver of the one deeper in the pic has three kids on her scooter. They all have helmets on and she also has her chin strap fastened.

A long time ago I witnessed an accident in Yonghe (永和), Taiwan. A teenaged girl on a scooter mindlessly drifted across the lane and took out another driver. The driver and his passengers crashed to the street. Luckily, there weren't any cars behind them. The driver of the cut-off bike was naturally pissed off. He got up and, taking his helmet off and slamming it down on the pavement, let off a string of curses over top of the sound of his wife and two crying children. He was right. The girl was an idiot. But he was also wrong. Why? Well, he had had three passengers on his bike, making it extremely hard to maneuver. Had he only a single passenger, I think he would have been able to balance the bike. If it were just him, nothing would have happened.

One of the things that disturbs me the most living in Taiwan is seeing parents hauling around kids on scooters and motorcycles, like in the picture above. And that picture is a better-case scenario; I would have to say that more than 50 percent of the time, the children don't have helmets. When I look at their parents, who do have helmets, I don't think they are selfish, that they care only about their own safety. Instead, I believe they view the helmet law as something that has been designed to be a pain in the ass or a way for the government to gather money (there's an NT$500 fine) rather than to save lives. Often, these parents don't even bother to do up the chin straps on their own helmets. Then there's the problem of them taking babies along for the ride, like the one I saw strapped to a woman's back as she drove over Huazhong Bridge (華中橋) doing at least 50 kilometers an hour the other day. His wee arms and legs were flapping in the wind. If you fall off your bike, lady, what do you think is going to happen to the baby? Just a few bumps or a scrape on the shin? Or you don't think it'll happen to you, right? But there are thousands of traffic fatalities in Taiwan each year; in fact, Taiwan has had the highest traffic fatality rate in the world, with 60 percent of the deaths happening to motorcyclists or scooterists.

What I don't understand is this: is it illegal to put more than one passenger on a motorcycle or scooter? I saw this sign in the Ming Chuan MRT Station. It's good advice, but I'm afraid that's all it is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_cowsill/4826808634/
Does anyone know the law? I'd be curious to find out.   

7/23/2010

How to Go to Court in Taiwan

The distance from the curb, where the taxi dropped me off, to my front door in Monga (艋舺), Taiwan


It started a few months ago. I was coming home from a kiddie birthday party in Hongshulin (紅樹林) with my daughter. I got out of the cab at 11:00 p.m. and realized my wallet was still inside the car. So I did jumping jacks behind to get the driver to stop; alas, he drove on and away into the night. I immediately scurried up to my apartment and called the cab company. In Taiwan, you can phone for a cab instead of hailing one on the street. People prefer this for several reasons. First, it ensures safety. There's a record. If something happens, the taxi company and driver will be known, and held accountable. Cab companies advertise, stressing this point, constantly: "Just give us a call!" they claim. Strangely, the cab company I was involved with did not have the driver's cell number on hand: "We'll call you back in a few minutes," their operator promised. At 11:20, the cab company got back to me with a number.

When I called the driver, he sounded vexed: "I don't have your wallet. And your daughter left a candy wrapper on the floor. Shame on you!"

"Alright, sorry about that. I had my hands full," I explained. "Just bring my wallet back." It hadn't registered with me what was going on. "Start up your meter and then bring it back to me. I don't mind paying. It's only fair," I explained. I could hear the sound of traffic on the other end of the line; I concluded he was driving around now and was naturally worried he'd pick up another passenger while my wallet was still on the back seat or floor of his cab.

"I don't have your wallet!"

"Please have another look," I insisted. "I had it in your cab. I took it out to pay for the ride." It had been an NT$600 ride. I figured the taxi driver would have appreciated that.

"There's no wallet. And by the way, you're drunk." True. I had had some drinks at the party and was definitely over the legal limit. That's why I called for a cab - to avoid a long and tedious ride on the MRT. But I didn't figure I was drunk drunk. I was just tired. And, oh yeah, if I were truly drunk, I would not have been able to take care of this, in Chinese, which isn't my mother tongue. Or how would I have done what I did next, which was to go to the police station and spend three hours filing a report?

The police station was an experience. It didn't actually take them three hours to do the paper work. For the first hour, I sat in their lounge watching baseball, waiting my turn. Taiwan's Kuo was on the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers, so I discussed his merits with the policemen that were watching, carefully laying out why he with his 96 mph fastball, and not Wang, was the best Taiwanese pitcher in the majors. Finally, I was called to a computer and asked to take a seat. The officer was humorous and thorough. "Kuo's my favorite player," he said. "He's great!" The officer started to take down relevant information. He photocopied my ID and patiently walked me through Taiwan's law, stopping to explain every question I'd ever had about it, stuff I've been curious about for ages. Then, wrapping it up at around 3:30-ish, he warned: "Taiwan's police are not like America's police. We don't have any power," he said, dangling his pinkie to represent their lack of power and respect they often feel they face in Taiwanese society.

I slapped the officer on the back anyway. I appreciated his effort and was sure he would do a good job. I didn't think that I'd ever see my wallet again. The idea of him talking to the cab driver gave me some comfort. I figured the case would cause the driver, if nothing else, a degree of anxiety. After the cops talked to him, he'd think twice about ripping off future customers. In total, I lost NT$8,000. That's roughly how much cash I had on me. Plus there was the inconvenience process and annoying fees of replacing plastic. Pictures of my family were inside it too; I felt my privacy had been invaded. The wallet had been a birthday present from my wife a few years back. But the police vowed to put the dukes to him just for me. Like I said: what bunch of nice fellows. I sincerely mean that.

Case closed? I thought so. I promptly forgot it and got on with my life. Then last Thursday I received in the mail a summons to be in court the next morning at 10:15. My wife looked worried, but I assured her: "What are you talking about? Surely the police have found something. That's why we're going to court."

"What am I talking about?" she answered, lifting an eyebrow. "The police in Taiwan don't investigate stuff like this. It's not even considered a criminal issue. They simply pass the paperwork on to the court! LOL!" When I showed up at the court the next morning, I found out that she was right. The cops hadn't done any legwork whatsoever.

The courtroom was a tiny room, consisting of a judge, record taker, police officer, the taxi driver and myself. The judge asked me if I could speak Chinese. Then the taxi driver took the floor. After establishing that I had been drinking, he claimed to have dropped me off at Youth Park, a couple of blocks from my home. Why I would be going to the park at 11:00 p.m. with a toddler who was totally spent from a kiddie party should have raised some doubt, and I suppose it did. He continued: "He crossed the street and that's where I saw him drop his wallet."

"What are you talking about?" I interrupted. "You dropped me off at my house. I didn't cross a single street. Even if you had let me off at the park, I still would not have crossed a street. There's no need to do that." The judge warned me not to butt in. But what was I supposed to do? In Taiwan, we get 15 minutes in court. This guy had talked non-stop for eight of them and was getting ready to polish off the other seven. Another thing I found interesting was that he had turned into a deaf person. In the cab, he could hear everything crystal clear. We had argued about the best route home and his hearing had not been an issue. Now, every time the judge spoke, he shouted: "What?" and then leaned his ear toward the court police officer to get her words relayed into his ear.

I was just starting to make my case: namely, I did not cross a street and the taxi drop-off point was some 15 paces from my front door when he interrupted, taking the judge to task about being called "a thief." He said I was slandering him. Actually, it hadn't occurred to me to call him anything. But I was about to say if the shoe fits when the judge cut me off, warning me that I could actually be guilty of slander if I proceeded. Then she explained to the driver that "foreigners" don't understand Taiwan's law.

At the end of the day, I didn't get a word in edgewise. The judge told me to leave. She kept the driver in the court, however. This is where it got interesting and strange. She asked me if I could return. She wanted to question my three-year-old daughter on whether we crossed a street. "Can she speak Chinese?" I was asked. "And when will you be free?"

"She goes to preschool in the afternoon. Any morning will be fine." We made a date and I was excused, wondering what on earth a judge would call an infant as a witness for. I didn't like that I was leaving the court with the guy I was suing still inside, free to say whatever without me calling him on it.

This is a long post and I'm tired. I'll do a "Day Two" later on. I did go out to take pictures, so the judge would understand how close the taxi drop-off place is for my home. I've put one above. As you can see, there's no street crossing involved.

My friend Steve, whose daughter's party went to, has had this cab company banned from his building.

7/18/2010

Camping in Taiwan


I noticed this line of trailers as I was coming home from Panchiao (板橋), Taiwan today, crossing Huazhong Bridge (華中橋). I'd seen the sign before, but couldn't figure it out. There didn't seem to be any camping in the vicinity: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_cowsill/4240264842/

While my wife and daughter were busy fishing this afternoon in a place nearby, I strolled over to have a closer look. I was immediately greeted by Keven, the friendly fellow who is trying to get this off the ground. To rent a trailer, it'll run you NT$2,500 a night. Keven assures me that you can barbecue right there where they're parked. And there's a bicycle rental place nearby, just in case you want to ride the extensive river path-network that runs almost right by the front door.

I asked him where the trailers came from. He says they're manufactured in Taiwan, in a factory just outside of Taipei. I was wondering if they were also being exported, but he wasn't sure. He let me look inside a few, which appeared comfortable, with a Taiwanese aesthetic. He asked me how they're different in the US, but I couldn't really think of something right off the bat to tell him, so I said, "some of the US models have a two floors." From what I remember, camping with my friend's family in the Rocky Mountains or going to Disneyland with my grandparents, the versions back home had a lot more fake wood paneling. The bathrooms in the Taiwan models are much bigger and more comfortable and, once again, are very local in their decor, from the cylindric door knobs to the frosted glass walls. I'll post a shot or two of the interiors later on with a link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_cowsill/4804184289/. On a side note, I've decided not to put more than one picture on a post from now on.

I don't know if Keven can speak English. If you're interested and you don't speak Mandarin or Hoklo, I can find out. He had a friendly, intelligent face, so I am guessing he might be able to hold his own. As I am always interested in promoting my Wanhua (萬華), also known as Monga (艋舺), I'll give him a plug right now. He says it's been hard going; they've only been in business for three months and don't have enough advertising or media on their case. They're finding customers hard to come by. You can locate him right to the east of Huazhong Bridge (華中橋), up toward the river. Or you could even email him: kevenandrain@yahoo.com.tw

6/24/2010

ERA TV (年代綜合台) Commentator Claims Everyone Hates America

Is it true that everyone, as ERA Taiwan's commentator 丁元凱 (Ting Yuan-kai) claims, 大家都討厭美國, hates America? At the 20th minute and change of the Algeria versus the United States World Cup soccer match, after the US had a goal disallowed (an off-side goal was the call even though replays showed it to be clearly on side), 丁元凱 (Ting Yuan-kai) shouted over Taiwan's air waves several times the reason for this was "Everyone hates America! Everyone hates America! 大家都討厭美國!" This, I'm afraid, was the same 丁元凱 (Ting Yuan-kai) that exuberantly cheered on the South Koreans, for reasons unknown, against the Greeks: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2010/06/era-taiwans-lousy-world-cup-soccer.html

Ting Yuan-kai (丁元凱), I take exception to your comments. First of all, I don't believe everyone in the world does indeed hate the US, like you claimed 20-plus minutes into the match, with 討厭美國! Why? Well, I (part of the "everyone" you claim) don't hate the American side at all. I think that instead of celebrating injustice, like an on-side goal being called off-side, you should take a less biased and more grave position.

I also know lots of people from a multitude of countries who do not 討厭美國, as you have expressed. There are even many people in Taiwan who like or even love the United States, or at least who wish there World Cup soccer players no such ill will. I believe they remember the 7th Fleet of the American Navy bailing out Taiwan in 1950 when it looked like China would attack this country. They also probably recognize that the US donated $44 billion in aid from 1949 to 1965, to help jump start the economy into a terrific recovery. Wasn't it American academics that came up with the successful land re-distribution policies of 1950, a comprehensive plan that saved this country from revolution? Even today, as we all know from looking at the Green Book, America donates around one million US dollars to Taiwan annually. There are many people of Taiwanese descent living in the United States. If they're 大家討厭美國, what are they doing there? I, for one, am not buying it. When will an honest accounting of history catch up with you?

丁元凱 (Ting Yuan-kai), it's time for you to step aside. The whole second half of the US versus Algeria game, you were gloating that Landon Donovan was nowhere to be seen, that you couldn't "realize his flavor." What say you to this, then? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XmRx-mMm94  We've had enough of your soccer, and political, humbuggery.

6/12/2010

ERA TV 年代綜合台 Taiwan's Lousy World Cup Soccer Coverage

Is it just me, or you also feeling that Taiwan's ERA TV's 年代綜合台 (Channel 45) coverage of the World Cup is a bit one sided? 

I've just been watching the first half the Greece versus South Korea game and I'm speechless. Whenever South Korea attacks, the two commentators practically climb over each other in their excitement. Even a play from 30 meters out is "extremely beautiful"! The first half closed with a nifty Greek strike with the South Korean goalkeeper barely knocking it down. But now the two commentators changed their tune: it wasn't a terrific chance 好厲害, but instead 哎呦那麼糟糕! meaning "What the fuck?! My God! We're lucky to escape that."

Why on earth are our Taiwanese commentators so biased? Why are we pulling for South Korea? My wife figures we are pulling for Koreans because we're Asian, but I figure that is just plain racism. 

What gives  年代綜合台? I pay my cable bills and watch your silly ads just as much as the next guy. Give us an honest account of the game. You can do better than this. 

As I close this post, the two Taiwanese commentators on ERA TV 年代綜合台 are shrieking with joy because South Korea has "scored again - how wonderful!" In fact, they are chanting "Very beautiful! Very beautiful. What a great ball!" 
 
LOL, I'm still here and the commentator on the right (the one, if you watched, wearing the pink polo shirt) keeps on bugging me. According to him, "South Korea is ranked 49th in the world. Greece is ranked 17th. It should be the opposite! Korea 好厲害!" Then the same commentator says this: "The Japanese have great energy! The Chinese have great energy! But why is it that the Koreans have such great energy?" 

5/19/2010

Sun Yat-sen and the Brothels He Visited

 An old,  fuzzy Taiwanese political cartoon (1899): "Rotten fish stored in a pretty jar: Even if covered up, it still stinks. It just won't shut up."


I passed by the 2-28 Museum in Taipei a few days ago on my way from the Taipei Train / MRT Station home and was disappointed to see it has been shut down. There's a yellow tape around it so you can't even look in the windows. This comes on the heels of a museum in Jingmei (景美) commemorating those who fought for democracy and human rights during the days of martial law in Taiwan, and who were jailed for it, being shuttered last year. Here's a link to that museum: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2008/08/li-aos-cell.html

The situation is as such: The KMT invaded Taiwan following WWII. After arriving, they removed Taiwanese individuals from places of power, including government positions and teaching posts in universities. They carted back pieces of Taiwan's infrastructure to China and took over Japanese companies operating in Taiwan. When the Taiwanese resisted, the KMT got rid of them. The situation came to a head on February 28, 1947, in what has came to be known as the 2-28 Massacre. Starting on that day, KMT soldiers went on a killing spree, killing some 30,000 Taiwanese people.

When the KMT fled en masse to Taiwan following their defeat to the communists in China, they instituted martial law. For the next 38 years, until 1987, to even talk about what happened in the final years of the 1940s could mean jailing and even summary execution. After Lee Tung-hui came to power, though, he apologized for the 2-28 Massacre (I think he did it in 1991). At this time, the lid came off a stinky pot and the Taiwanese started to recover their history, which was important in the gaining of a proper sense of identity. For the past 40 years, they had been taught they were Chinese, to get them geared up for a KMT war with China. Why? The KMT ruler in Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek, planned to retake China and in doing so, he understood he would need Taiwanese soldiers committed to the cause. By indoctrinating them in the schools, media and along all other avenues, he figured he could get the Taiwanese public on board and achieve this goal. Dwelling over mass murder in the 1940s seemed counterproductive.

Much of the progress made in the past 20 years in setting the record straight as well as finding out more details about what happened to all those who disappeared during the KMT regime is now being undercut by the children of the KMT invaders. They regained power in Taiwan in 2008 when the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) beat the DPP's Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) in the presidential election. Besides insulting Taiwan's Aboriginal peoples (to which most Taiwanese people are related), Ma has done a lot to undercut the Taiwanese people's identity. I'm not just talking about his servile attitude toward China, a country that has over 1,000 missiles pointed at Taiwan either. I blame Ma Ying-jeou and those of his political ilk for how Taiwan's history is now, once again, being revised. I mean, how are we going to know that KMT soldiers killed 30,000 Taiwanese people in a power grab two generations ago if we shut down museums underlining this point? How will we know that people were actually jailed in 1979 for asking for elections and an end to martial law if we, once again, shut down museums making this clear? It's almost as if the government now wants us to forget what happened over the last 60 years, instead of to understand the details clearly so we can learn from them.

Today, I saw a new museum that is also in the vicinity of the Taipei Train / MRT Station, some 200 meters from the recently closed 2-28 Museum. It's called the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Momorial House. I wanted to take some pictures but was told to put my camera away. The woman there pointed to a sign that read: "No pictures." Here's something I don't understand: If Taiwan's constitution were to state "The people shall have freedom of speech, teaching, writing and publication" (Chapter II, Rights and Duties of the People, Article 10), does not taking a picture of a supposedly historical building fall under the category of freedom of speech?

I snagged an English brochure, which I don't get either. And, simply put, I see it as being a pack of lies. Let me introduce the first two paragraphs just to give you a flavor of what I'm talking about. They're in single or coupled sentences in bold print. I'll make a few comments along the way:

"Dr. Sun Yat-sen initiated the Chinese National Revolution, wrote the Three Principles of the People, founded the Republic of China in 1912, and established the unique constitutional system of five-branch government, paving the way for democratic politics in Asia."
1. Chiang Kai-shek, who championed Sun Yat-sen as a way of legitimizing himself, I suppose, served as a dicator in Taiwan from 1949 to 1975. His son governed from 1975 to 1987. Two men ruling a country for 38 years doesn't smack of democratic principles.
2. Japan has been voting for Prime Ministers for 125 years. They started this in 1885, some 27 years before 1912.
3. I think this is the most important point here. In 1912, Taiwan was a colony of Japan. It would remain so for 33 years. The events that transpired leading up to 1912, and in the following decades, were irrelevant to Taiwan and its situation in that year; moreover, this is irrelevant to Taiwan's history.

"[Sun Yat-sen] dedicated himself to striving for an equal status for all nations in the international community and world harmony, thus making him a savior of the Chinese nation but also a great leader of the world."
1. Really? What did he achieve? Two years after 1912, WWI began. Is there a shred of evidence to back up his leading the world - conferences attended, peace treaties brought about in it, etc.?

"He had visited Taiwan three times during the 40 years when he led the national revolution, encouraging comrades and compatriots on the island to aspire after the recovery of Taiwan."
1. Sun Yat-sen died when he was 58 years old. Do you mean to tell me he led the national revolution since he was 18?
2. There is some evidence of the Taiwanese revolting from 1895 - 1900. After that time, all resistance, save that of the Aborigines which the KMT has repeatedly claimed not to be the same as the Taiwanese people, is basically a myth. The Japanese, upon taking Taiwan in 1895, allowed any Taiwanese people not happy with the situation to leave. A percent or two did make their way back to China. They were usually quite rich; they were labeled "Half Mountain People."
3. During the Japanese colonial period, Taiwan was also under martial law. Until 1919, it was governed (with, I think, one exception in 1898) by ex-military men. Had Sun Yat-sen preached a "recovery of Taiwan," something China obviously didn't care about (see how she abandoned the island at the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895), he would have either landed in jail or been deported, or both.

"After failing the Second Revolution, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, in the company of Mr. Hu Han-min and other revolutionary leaders, arrived in Mawei, Fukien Province on his way from Shanghai to Kwangtung Province, planning to launch another offensive to overthrow Yuan Shih-kai. Upon learning of the changed situation in Kwangtung, he came to Taipei in August 1913 for a second visit, instead of proceeding to Canton."
1. What was the changed situation in Kwangtung?
2. I thought you said he "founded the Republic of China in 1912." What's this about Yuan in 1913? Did someone else found it then?
3. Should you not, for the sake of getting the facts straight, also explain how Sun lived abroad and didn't even return to China until 1911, after hearing about the First Revolution from a hotel in, I think, London?

"Dr. Sun Yat-sen stayed at the Hotel Umeyashaki operated by a Japanese [individual] in the then Omari Machi (at the intersection of the now Chung Shan North Road, Sec. 1 and Peiping West Street. During his stay there, he wrote two Chinese characters, "Po Ai (Universal Love)," for Sogo Daiwa, the owner of the hotel "and another two characters, "Tung Jen (Fellowman)," for Daiwa's younger brother, Goichiro Fujii, as souvenirs."
1. Talk about being a gracious guest then. This brochure has him out in the streets, protesting an overthrow of the Japanese government. LOL.
2. And if they're "Fellowman," once again, why does he want the Taiwanese to turn their backs on them, especially after all Japan did for Taiwan (and China did not). Japan built the country's infrastructure, including the railroads, banks and bureaucracy. It also by establishing modern hospitals rid the island of tropical disease, something that had plagued the Taiwanese since they first arrived at the start of the 17th century. Entering WWII, Taiwan was probably the second richest place in Asia after Japan. China was third-world.
3. I'm getting tired of this. Did Sun Yat-sen also write the characters for "I'm horny. I want to get laid!"? History tells us that Sun Yat-sen was a notorious womanizer. In fact, his advisors beseeched him on more than one occasion to stay out of the brothels because it was tarnishing his reputation, especially in the West and with Christian groups, where he normally went hat in hand. Sun Yat-sen loved prostitutes. What are the chances he did business with a few while on one of his three trips to Taiwan? And where? On the corner of what street and what street?

At the end of the day, I'm not supporting one party over another. The KMT stunk, but it produced Lee Tung-hui, who people called Mr. Democracy. He showed courage and did many things for this country. The DPP's first leader to gain the president's office was Chen Shui-bien, a man who gave speeches to blame "foreigners" for stealing jobs from Taiwanese and stir up animosity. Xenophobia was his political bread and butter.

I am however greatly concerned about the historical revisionism that is going on right now. It doesn't feel like we're in 2010. The covering up and rewriting of history that is going on at the moment in Taiwan can not lead to any good.