Thursday, October 8, 2009

October in Kaohsiung

"I wonder if I'll end up like Bernie in his dream... a displaced person in some foreign border town? Waiting for a train, part hope, part myth, while the station changes hands... Or sitting at home, growing tenser with the times, like that guy in "the Seventh Seal" watching the newly dead dance across the hills..."
Bruce Cockburn, "How I Spent My Fall Vacation", album "Humans"...
(top of my playlist at the moment, along with Steve Vai "where the wild things are").

Well, it's early October in Kaohsiung. For the first time tonight I felt the hint of desire to wear a jacket while riding my scooter at night. I do wear rain gear at times, of course, but not to stay warm. Generally, so far, I haven't been able to sleep without the air conditioning on... It also is not possible to teach without air con, as I learned very clearly when the air con broke down in one of the classrooms where I work...

My Mandarin is getting much better. That feels good to me. I am very motivated to learn more at the moment, having moved out of my recent stagnation. It comes partly from a desire to increase my income, of course. I also want to be good at the services that I offer here. Part of my function is to be a bridge between cultures. If I can help Taiwanese people, young and old, to anchor concepts of English language and culture, or of music, by communicating the corresponding ideas in their native language(s), I am more than happy.

I also love the culture. It is affecting me in ways which I cannot describe very easily in English...

Many people here speak Taiwanese as much as Mandarin. 50 years of Japanese occupation has also left a huge impact on the culture. There are traces of Japanese in the language here and there, and certainly in the cuisine. Rice triangles (like sushi, wrapped in plastic) from 7/11 are a staple of my diet when I am in a hurry.

Of course, 7/11 in Taiwan (there are apparently about 7,000 of them in this country of 23 million people) is significantly different than it is in North America. It is actually possible to get real food at 7/11 here, not just junk food. They also offer a selection of good quality nutritional supplements, in handy zip locked doses... One of my closeted desires is to post an album on facebook of different
7/11s I have known. How weird is that??? David Byrne would love it, of course...

Indeed, sometimes there are two 7/11s a block apart from each other. It is a standing joke here to offer somebody 7/11 as a landmark when they are trying to get somewhere... "Yes, just go to the 7/11 and turn left..."

For a while it was very confusing trying to locate things here. The gradual increase in fluency of language, as well as familiarity with the city, has made a big difference. Of course, having a scooter has made an even bigger difference... :)
As soon as I got the scooter, I was free to navigate all over the place, experimenting with directions, and learning the city by getting lost in it.

Although the city is a maze, and there is a lot of it (2 million people live here), the parks are a great blessing. They are everywhere, beautiful oases of greenery. The feng shui (literally wind water, referring to the deliberate alignment of human constructs with natural forces) is very good in the parks here. In other words, they have good energy. And they are kept very clean. A pleasure to visit, and a great place to meet people.

Well, I am feeling motivated, so hopefully I will post again in a day or two.

Possible upcoming topics include:

Compare and Contrast English and Chinese languages and their effects on our thinking and learning processes.

Traffic in Taiwanese cities.

Chinese Medicine in Taiwan.

Martial Arts as a Path to Healing.

What would you like to hear about?

Amitabha, bye for now,

1 comment:

  1. Hey Seamas, wow I'm glad I found your blog! This is fascinating, I do wish you'd write more. My requested topic: the difference between the languages and how it affects your thought processes and perceptions. It's one of my fantasy wishes, to learn a new language and to experience the changes it brings in my synaptic connections. I believe the changes that result to be physical as much as perceptual, in the sense of brain pathways opening (as I imagine you do as well). I'd love to hear more about your experiences and perceptions with that!