I received this message from an annoyed Twitter pal, responding to one of the signs of Taipei I had posted: "No, I can't handle the heat. Now leave me alone. Stupid adverts. Let me get to work!" I didn't realize I was causing so much grief with my iPhone Tweet-photos, nor do I intend to leave off with them. The signs of Taiwan bring joy, confusion and thought to many. Filled with the spirit of this knowledge, I grabbed the above sign coming out of the Longshan (龍山) Temple MRT today. It is language chaos at its finest. The character 艋舺 is the Taiwanese name for the neighborhood I live in -- 萬華 (Wanhua). The Romanization Bangka means canoe in one of Taiwan's aboriginal languages.
I showed the two shots directly above to a friend (I took them on the Yuan-shan MRT platform a while back) and he said I should follow up. You see, Taiwan is normally tolerant when it comes to religion. I didn't really know how to follow up though. If I were to go over and ask the security guard, my questions would surely vex him. Or, he would avoid getting in trouble and not tell me anything.
I am no expert on Taiwan's various religions. The main religion here is, from what I can make out, a combination of Taoism and Buddhism. Instead of being resistant, this religion seems to incorporate a range of possibilities. I've also heard that Taiwanese Catholics have special permission from the Vatican to worship their ancestors. The Catholic clergy has adjusted and gone from there.
Let me reiterate: Taiwanese people in general are tolerant. I'm married to a local and her Taiwanese family has definitely taken me in. They are the nicest people I know. I am now going to segue into a facet that probably doesn't reflect the population as a whole. Still, this blog does exist for the blog author, so I think I'll touch upon an incident that disturbs me. I'm going to write it down before I forget. Someday, I'll look back at this head-shaker to know where I was at this moment.
A couple of weeks ago, someone I know posted a picture of herself with an African-American friend of mine. The first comment was as follows (here is the rough translation): "Funny! The reason you put that picture up is to highlight your own pale skin!" The African-American friend was a.) tagged in the photo b.) able to read the Chinese quite easily. To her credit, she responded:
"I think his skin color is beautiful." It was clearly time to chime in and I directed my point of view at the first speaker:
"That is the most retarded [bad choice of diction, I admit] thing I've heard all week." To my surprise, I was informed I think too much. Huh? Think too much? It's not like I had written a paper on it. The line I wrote took me about 10 seconds.
I was also told the reason I didn't like the comment was I didn't know how to assimilate into Taiwanese culture. Is this actually Taiwanese culture though? I know lots of Taiwanese people who would find this line of labeling disturbing, starting with my wife. They would say: "No, it is not us." Ironically, what had started out as an attack on (aversion to) my friend's skin color had come around to focus on my skin color. The groundwork for the conversation became "I was white;" thus, I had no right to an opinion. Let's just say it came down to rights; more specifically, it was one person telling another they did not have rights.
My wife is adamant: That is them, just a small minority, not Taiwan. I am inclined to believe her. The optimist inside says most people are not like this. It's just a few giving everyone a bruised eye.