Saturday, March 29, 2014

Indigenous Peoples Culture Park/先住民の文化公園/原住民族文化園

REMINDER: Taiwan's Legislature is still occupied by students.

A couple months back I went on a group trip to the Indigenous Peoples Culture Park in Pingdong.  The indigenous people of Taiwan speak Austronesian languages.  The Austronesian language family is one of the most wide-spread in the world.  Austronesian languages are spoken in South East Asia (mostly on the islands, but there are some mainland ones as well, like Malay) throughout the islands of the Pacific, and even in Madagascar!  Funny enough, despite the name "Austronesian", this language family is unrelated to the languages spoken by Australian aboriginal peoples.  (The "Austro" in "Austronesian" apparently comes from the word for "south wind".)  Most evidence seems to indicate that Austronesian speakers branched out from Taiwan at some point in the past, making the island of Taiwan the point of origin for this huge language family.

In modern Taiwan, people who identify as one of the aboriginal people of Taiwan are only a small percentage of the population.  They've been outnumbered by the immigrant Chinese population, much like the native people of countries like the USA, New Zealand, or Canada.  Also, during the Japanese period and afterwards, aboriginal languages and culture have been disfavored by the governments in favor of Japanese, then Chinese language/culture.  It's only been in recent years, after Taiwan democratized, that the government has made any effort to preserve or encourage aboriginal culture.  This park is one of those efforts, and the idea is that they showcase the culture of the 14 (officially recognized by the government) aboriginal groups that live in Taiwan all in one place.  The park is kind of hokey--as is to be expected of a park that tries to mash all of the cultures of Taiwan together into one place--but I enjoyed watching the dancing performances.




The first thing we saw upon arriving was a show of various traditional dances done in traditional clothes.  The whole thing was arranged into one big continuous dance where the dancers kept changing costume throughout.



Goat statue
Some sort of adorable bird was hopping around.



I think this is a breadfruit tree.
We tried out bow shooting.  Most people's results were hilariously awful.

A top

Design on a bench.
Abandoned toilet?

Some cool, red bug

Watching the sunset on the bus ride home.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tainan at Night Selection/台南の夜

Reminder: Taiwan's Legislative Yuan is still occupied by student protestors.  It's been about a week now.  Once again, I'm going to link to Michael Turton's excellent blog, where he has already collected a lot of links to recent news and commentary on the situation.


Here are some photos I took a while back of different places in Tainan.  The only uniting feature of the photos is that they were all taken at night.


Tainan is filled with little food stands run by some guy and maybe his wife helping.  This stand was one of them.  They specialized in beef dishes.

Yeah, I took these photos quite a while back...


Dinner.  This was taken at a restaurant specializing in turkey dishes.


A bridge over the Yanshui River in Tainan.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happy Spring Equinox!/春分おめでとう!/祝你春分快樂!

REMINDER: Taiwan's Legislative Yuan is still occupied by students.

By Taiwan time, I'm actually late in saying this (it was yesterday) but we've reached the Spring Equinox!  In NYC, this was always one of my favorite days of the year, but in Tainan, it comes along and I almost don't notice it because the seasons and the changes in the sun are so much less extreme.  I have noticed though, that recently, the sunlight is starting to hit my north-facing balcony a little bit during mid-day.  Summer is on its way!


Here's a photo of spilled coffee and a too-dusty table.  I should be embarrassed to be posting this, but I actually think it's rather pretty.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Legislative Yuan Occupation/立法院の占拠

There's nothing in my personal life that I could post that is important as this right now, so today I'm forgoing my usual photos of bugs and flowers to remind you:  The occupation of the Legislative Yuan (Taiwan's top legislative body) continues today.  I recommend checking out Michael Turton's blog for a collection of links to English news on the situation, as well as for his own commentary.  (In case you couldn't tell, he rather supports the students' arguments.)

Also, check out this link, or this link to see a live stream of the events in the building.  Nothing is happening per say, but you can experience what it's like to watch history happening with your own two eyes.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Setting Sun and Some Taiwan Political News/夕日と台湾の政治ニュース

All the news today is about the occupation of the National Legislative Yuan (Taiwan's top legislative body).  This is a really big deal.  Imagine if a group of mostly college students occupied the US Congress building.  That's what's happening here, for context.  I don't have much to say about this except that:
1)  This trade deal appears to be a boon for the rich and well-connected in China and Taiwan, and a big screw for everyone else
2)  It's also a backdoor method to allowing Chinese companies (and by proxy, the Chinese government) more access to Taiwan, thereby eroding Taiwan's independence, bit by bit
I wish the protesters success, and I just hope we don't end up with a situation where the government gets impatient and the police start busting skulls.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Shogun Noodles/天下統一の麺/三大大名的麵

I saw these noodles in a supermarket a little while back.  It's a Japanese brand, actually.  They have three kinds of noodles: Nobunaga Somen, Hideyoshi Udon, and Ieyasu Soba.  These are the three major warlords who unified Japan at the end of the 16th century.  The last of them, Ieyasu, set up a Shogunate government that would last for another 250 years.
This has nothing to do with Tainan, but I thought the idea was kind of cute.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Creative Romanizations/変わったローマ字/有創意的拼法

Mandarin Chinese nowadays is typically romanized using the "Hanyu Pinyin" system, developed in China.  However, until the late 20th century, the Wade-Giles system was actually the most commonly used system.  As a result, a lot of place names in Taiwan still use the "traditional" Wade-Giles spelling of their name.  This includes the two biggest cities in the country; Taipei and Kaohsiung, which would be "Taibei" and "Gaoxiong" respectively under the Hanyu Pinyin system.

Taiwan currently has made China's Hanyu Pinyin system their official system, but after they abandoned Wade-Giles and before they started using Hanyu Pinyin, they used a couple of home-grown systems.  Two of these systems I had never even heard of until I started writing this post and looked up information, but the most recent of the bunch, "Tongyong Pinyin", can still be seen on a lot of street signs here in southern Taiwan.  Put simply, in the course of the less than 70 years since Taiwan stopped being a Japanese colony, they've gone through like five different official systems of romanization for Mandarin.

Additionally, none of these systems has ever been enforced in any way, and Taiwanese people are perfectly free to pick and choose, or totally ignore all of the rules when they, say, romanize their names, or put up signs on their businesses.  In fact, a lot of Taiwanese people are surprisingly unfamiliar with any romanization system at all, and even a lot of young, well-educated people don't know how to write Chinese in Roman letters in a consistent way.  This is because in elementary school, kids learn Chinese characters' readings through the use of a set of phonetic characters created specifically for Mandarin.  (They look like this: ㄅ,ㄑ,ㄜ,etc.)  Taiwanese people also use these characters when they type Chinese.  I've been told by Chinese teachers here that the first thing they teach college students in "Mandarin as a Second-Language" courses is how to write Chinese in Hanyu Pinyin, since this is what people in foreign countries use to learn Chinese, but the Taiwanese college students are mostly unfamiliar with the system.

Finally, one last note: Historically the most commonly spoken language in Taiwan has been not Mandarin, but Taiwanese Hokkien, so it's also not uncommon to see signs with Roman letters that are supposed to represent Taiwanese instead of Mandarin.  You know, just to make things more confusing.

As a result of all of these factors, romanization is pretty inconsistent in Taiwan, and you often see interesting names on signs, such as the bank above which has chosen to romanize their name as "EnTie".  I have no idea if this is based on any sort of systemized romanization at all, or if they just made it up themselves, but actually, based on English spelling rules, this is a very good approximation of how to say the name.  An English speaker who knew no Chinese would probably get closer to the Chinese pronunciation from reading this than they would from reading "Antai", which is what it would be according to Hanyu Pinyin rules.

日本語と同じく、中国語は本来アルファベットが存在しない。中国語は20世紀前半はウェード式(Wade-Giles Pinyin)が一般だったが、20世紀終わり頃には中国が発明した「漢語ピン音」式に替わった。しかし、台湾の政府は中国より長くウェード式を使用して、しかも自分の国で創作した綴り方(通用ピン音など)を使用して、最近やっと漢語ピン音を正式な綴り方にした。だから台湾が日本から独立して以来、まだ70年も経っていないのに、五つのアルファベットの綴り方を使用してきた。しかも、どれも義務ではない。学校では中国語専用の「ボポモフォ」(日本語の仮名みたいな字。こういう字だ:ㄊ,ㄔ,ㄡ,など)を使って子供に漢字の読み方を教えるので、まずは義務教育にアルファベットが入っていない。日常生活の中には、店の看板から人の名前に至っても、アルファベットで物事を書く時、台湾人は別に正式的な「漢語ピン音」式の決まりに従わなければいけないというわけではない。だから意外と大学生でもアルファベットの使い方が曖昧という人は多い。中国語の先生から聞いたけど、「第二言語として中国語を教える」という授業では、最初に大学生に教えるのは漢語ピン音のやりかたらしい。中国語を勉強している外国人は皆使うけど、台湾人にはあまり馴染みがないのだから。






Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tainan Immigration Office Revisited/再び台南移民署へ/又去了臺南移民署

Ah, the Tainan Immigration Office!  I've written about it in the past, but it is truly an unusual building, and worth a second look.  I passed by it a month or so ago when my friend from Taipei was visiting, so we had to stop and take a look.  (I repeat: God, it's a weird building...)


The Tainan government is evidently aware that lots of people stop and take photos in front of the building (tourists taking trip photos, couples doing wedding photos, etc.) so they put out this "love bench" in front of the building, adding to its already garish splendor.


Remember: This is where I go to get my visa extended!  I literally deal with actual government agents in this building!
The back needs a little work.
The statues all around the building are kind of creepy when viewed up close actually.

Why is the lamb buried in the dirt up to its neck?!  What's going on!?



What it says on this sign is unimportant; I took the photo because of the little bit right at the bottom, "Since 2013".  This is something I've seen a lot in both Japan and Taiwan.  Businesses and whatnot will throw "Since _____" on their storefronts and products (and always in English too, mind you), even if the year is laughably close to the present.  Is it just me?  I feel like you shouldn't be bragging "Since _____" unless you've been in business for at least 40 years or so.  I think they do it because of English's status as a "prestige language" in both countries, but it just looks silly to me.  In the case of this sign, it's not a business's storefront, but I still think it looks ridiculous to put up "Since ____" when the year written there is, you know, last year.

この写真を撮ったのは、一番下の「Since 2013」のことを話したかったのだから。台湾でも日本でもこの英語をよく見掛けるけど、皆に教えたいことがある。これはもしかして私の個人的な意見に過ぎないかもしれないけど、自分が言っていることは正しいという自信があるので、言ってしまうぞ。使い方は間違っている。日本でも台湾でもしょっちゅう「Since 2005」など書いている店を見掛けるけど、今は2014年だろう?2005年って10年前でもない。大したもんじゃない。私の感覚では、この「Sinceなんとか」は歴史が深いという意味も入っているので、最低40年以上の歴史がないと、逆にしょぼく見えて、恥ずかしい。「お前たった10年の営業で何を自慢にしてるのか」って感じがする。台湾と日本の使い方を見たら、単に英語で創立の年を述べたかっただけの様に見える。やめましょうね。

上面的照片,因為下面有「Since 2013」所以我拍了。我常常在日本或臺灣看到這個英文。但是我覺得用法是錯的。對我來說,這個句子是為了主張自己的商店,還是產品是古老的。如果我看到一座店寫,比方說「Since 1904」我就知道「他們已經超過一百年營業繼續了!很厲害!」不過,要是我看到商店寫,比如說「Since 2009」,我就覺得很丟臉。只是五年而已!你怎麼可以那麼吹噓?我看得出來在臺灣(也在日本)這個句子的意思只不過「創立__年」而已。好像沒有包括「古老」這個感覺。