Archive for the ‘culture’ Category


The New Year and Luzhou’s Great Outdoors

February 7, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai! I hope the Year of the Rat is good to you all.

On this special holiday when everyone else in the country is spending quality time at home with their families, I celebrated by running 4 miles in the cold rain. It was not as miserable as it sounds, I promise.

Actually, it was quite lovely. Growing up in the thriving jungle-like ecosystem of the Minneapolis suburbs, I took many things for granted, like seeing the occasional small animal. Or… tree. And being alone on a hiking trail or bike path. That is why this is my favorite little corner of Luzhou, and why I am grateful that the rain kept the sane people inside so I could enjoy the solitude today. It’s not Taroko Gorge and it’s not the North Shore, but Luzhou has its charms now and then.

Yeah… don’t ask me about the last one.



April 25, 2007

I know, I know, I’m a terrible blogger. When things are actually happening I don’t have time to write, and when I have a free moment I can’t remember what it is I do besides work.

Early this month my mom was here visiting. We had a trip planned to Penghu, which is a group of small islands off of Taiwan’s coast. “The Pescadores”, I believe we say in English.

Our hotel in Magong, Penghu’s biggest city, had the hardest beds known to man. You think you understand what I mean when I say the beds were hard, but unless you have been to this particular hotel you can’t truly comprehend it. Other than that, the hotel was nice. Penghu may have been nice too if I had been able to see it through the sheet of pouring rain. We got to see the oldest Matsu temple in Taiwan and a few other things, but the weather was so awful that we quickly got our poor aching bodies (I’m not kidding about those beds!) on a plane back to Taipei.

The rainy weather never really let up for the rest of my mom’s visit, so there was a limit on what we could do. We went to some night markets though, and a couple museums.

Speaking of museums, last week I went to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum to see an exhibit on theatre design. Naturally, I was eager to see it, since I am always hungry for a little taste of my old life in the thea-tah. The part which was most intriguing to me was the display of designs done by Taiwanese students including their research, sketches, models, etc. Unfortunately, when these students were told to put English on their displays they must have just played “eenie meenie miny moe” with an English dictionary and written down whatever random words they came up with. It was almost all totally incomprehensible. I’m not trying to be critical of their English skills, I just had to think that if I were writing something in a foreign language that thousands of people could see, I might find someone who could proof read it… In any case, it was disappointing not to be able to really understand a lot of the exhibit.

I don’t know what else I have to say about my own life right now, so I’ll leave you with an article that my friend Gretchen sent me. I often enjoy reading Johnny Neihu in the Taipei Times, even when I don’t entirely understand the issue he’s talking about. This one is particularily amusing. I don’t actually have anything against missionaries, but to me this seemed like a funny commentary on Americans’ views of Asia (and most of the rest of the world outside of America and Western Europe) in general.

Guide For Missionaries

In 19 days I’m going to Malaysia!


How I Learned My Lesson

October 10, 2006

In Taiwan it is the custom to never wear shoes in the house.  Most people leave their shoes outside their door and have slippers that they wear inside.   I usually remove my shoes when I go into my apartment as well, after all things  stay cleaner and it’s more comfortable that way, but it’s not that important to me so now and then, for example if I’m just home to grab a quick bite to eat between classes, I don’t bother.

Such was the case on Saturday afternoon.  I had just sat down for lunch when I heard my doorbell ring.  It was the first time I had ever heard my doorbell, actually, so it was a bit startling.  I opened the front door to see a tiny little old Taiwanese woman shuffling towards me.  “um… Ni Hao…” I said uncertainly to the stranger.  She launched into a angry sounding tirade in Chinese, gesturing wildly and incomprehensibly.  I gave her my best helplessly confused foreigner look. “Wo ting bu dong,” I insisted “I don’t understand.”  She stopped for a second and stared at me, then started the scolding again. 

A younger woman, maybe her daughter, came tentatively up the stairs.  “I don’t understand,” I told her, hoping she spoke English.  Apparently not, because she just stood there looking embarrassed while the old lady tried to push her way past me to my apartment. “uh.. excuse me…” I said, stepping in front of her.  Who was this person?

I noticed that she seemed to be pointing to my feet frequently.  “Xiezi”, I heard her say a couple times.  OK, I know that one, she’s talking about shoes.  Maybe she wants me to take off mine?  But why should she care?  She pointed at my neighbors line of shoes outside their door and nodded vigorously.

Eventually, the situation became clear to me. How, I do not know.  But as it turns out (I think…) these people live below me and do not appreciate the sound of me walking around in my shoes.  Probably the grand total of walking in shoes that day had been to go from my main room to the kitchen and back again, but whatever.  I quickly pulled my shoes off and set them neatly beside my door to demonstrate my willingness to comply. “Ok, Ok, Hao, Hao” I said agreeably.  She nodded and the women turned to leave, the younger one throwing me one last embarrassed look over her shoulder.

That will teach me to ignore local customs.