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 12.jpgPingtung  2-28 Memorial

28 February is Memorial Day, a national holiday in Taiwan.  To commemorate this day in Taiwan’s historical consciousness, many people choose to fast in remembrance of the cruelty of those times in Taiwan’s past. From midnight to midnight, drinking only water, why not join the people of Taiwan as they meditate so that we may find better ways to take action in this world. As we feel our hunger, let us be reminded to share the stories of Taiwan’s past on that day.

This is what unfolded on that fateful day.

After the end of World War II, the Allied Forces left the occupation of Taiwan to Chiang Kai -shek, who was still holding on to large parts of China with his Nationalist forces. The Taiwanese, who had been under Japanese rule from 1895 through 1945, initially welcomed the Chinese Nationalist forces. But their joy soon changed into sorrow and anger, when the new authorities turned out to be repressive and corrupt.

The 28 February 1947 arrest of a woman selling cigarettes without a license was the spark which led to large-scale public protests against repression and corruption. For some ten days, Chiang still on the mainland and his governor Chen Yi kept up the pretense of negotiations with leaders of the protest movement, but at the same time they sent troops from the mainland.

 As soon as the troops arrived, they started rounding up and executing people, in particular scholars, lawyers, doctors, students and local leaders of the protest movement. In total between 18,000 and 28,000 people were murdered. Thousands of others were arrested and imprisoned in the “White Terror” campaign which took place in the following decade. Many of these remained imprisoned until the early 1980s.

Until a few years ago, the events of 1947 were a taboo subject on the island. The authorities did not want to be reminded of their dark past, and the people did not dare to speak out for fear of retribution by the  secret police.

 The US press reported on the incidents in 1947 both in the New York Times and The Nation. Yet, despite the Cairo Declaration, the US did not act or Formosa’s behalf.  The regime from mainland China was able to establish itself on the island.

 When, after forty repressive years, the harsh martial law in Taiwan was lifted in 1987, the newly-formed Taiwanese democratic opposition started to push  authorities to stop covering up the facts, and to come to a full airing of the matter. It wasn’t until 1990 that the Kuomintang finally decided to open the records. In 1992 President Lee asked for reconciliation and decided that a monument would be built in Taipei. Other memorials had been built earlier in Chiayi and Pingtung.

 Scholars who want to conduct research about the February 28 incident complain that they cannot get access to a number of government archives. Although the Executive Yuan’s Ad Hoc Committee on 2-28 Incident has so far issued two volumes of findings from the archives, the Department of Defense continues to refuse to make public records in its archives covering the period from 1945 to 1950.





Rose and I decided to give up thoughts of a quiet weekend in our respective cities to check out the Lantern Festival in Kaouhsoing. Given that Kaouhsoing is a city with a population of 4.86 million and there are numerous nearby cities and towns from which people would travel for this event, we were somewhat concerned about crowds on the trains and busses we would use to go home.

This festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar new year, coinciding with the first full moon of the new year. Decorative lanterns are created to light the night sky and Rose and I saw many, many of these as we visited Kaouhsoing for its annual celebration which lasts for two weeks. According to the Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate.



I have found this to be one of the few holidays with a large public celebration. Most holidays, as much of life here, is celebrated within the family unit.


The Lantern Festival is seen as the second or Little New Year when in days gone by farmers would end their celebrations and return to the fields. People eat special dumplings, tang yuan, which symbolize family unity. There are lantern riddle parties and fireworks. Fireworks are a part of almost every holiday here because they scare away dragons and evil spirits.


In a very non-traditional move, we had dinner at the Outback. We spent our day exploring the banks of the Love River. This river is actually a canal built by the Japanese to irrigate rice fields further inland (care to guess who would have done all this work and under what conditions?) and over the years has been restored to become a main attraction area in Kaouhsoing. The harbor where the ‘river’ empties to the sea was the sight of a spectacular water show and there would have been fireworks, but it rained yesterday! The thick clouds were so low, we wouldn’t have seen anything. So, the show was canceled and we headed home. The wet weather kept the crowds no larger than those we usually face on our weekend excursions.

and I saw this in the station. Actually, it was inside a stall in the restroom. It is the worst translation I have seen yet in this country.

I wonder what the Mandarin says!

I started talking about the lotions and creams here back in August.  My friend, Les, has followed up with this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Although the article refers to China and India, know that the products would be the same in Japan, Taiwan and probably all other countries in this sphere that have been controlled by China or Japan.

Nothing much compares to being shaken awake by an earthquake at 4:30 in the morning!


Although I knew it is colder in the north, I was quite excited to head there this past weekend. I’d be staying in a hotel and that would mean soft western mattress and a room with a thermostat!! Rose decided to head up with me, so we hopped on the High Speed Rail and arrived in Taipei almost at jet speed! Thinking I was going up alone, I splurged a bit to stay in a convenient hotel so that I wouldn’t have to explore parts unknown by myself. O! It was well worth the splurge! While too many give the hotel poor reviews for being ‘too western’ and being located in an area void of any activities, we found The Grand Hyatt laden with comfort and located in the heart of the happenings! Outside our window? A full view of Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world!

Saturday morning began by meeting new friends. We met a young Canadian living in Japan, his wife and children and had very interesting conversations about a variety of topics. The most interesting to you will probably be the mention of the first all-Black prime time TV show in Canada which his sister co-created and co-stars in. I was able to view episodes online and yeah, I’m a sucker these days for anything I can see online, but “Da Kink in My Hair” really is a good show!

Any day that begins with new friends has to be a good day, right?!

We walked over to “NY Bagels Cafe” where I had PANCAKES!!!!!!! and steak and eggs and a close your eyes and savor the moment cup of coffee!

Our first stop for the Taipei International Book Exhibit was Hall #3, comics and manga.

And we were immediately separated in the crowded. We each lasted as long as we could stand being in the throbs of young people who were on a mission to get the latest books, see the characters and collect paraphenalia for their favorite manga and comics. I also made it to the other two halls where I was able to meet a few authors, learn about the features of Google Book, and see what books are popular in this corner of the world. This year’s exhibit featured Australian literature and I was really disappointed that I missed the opportunity to meet Mark Zusak, author of one of my favorite books, “I am the messenger“. Just a few observations I can make about books and literature here:

  • The fastest growing format is that of the comic (DUH). The comic format is moving into other genres.
  • Manga is growing in popularity with girls.
  • Reading for information is more popular here that reading for enjoyment. Exception: young people and manga.
  • Publication of western books in this region lags US publication by several months, if not longer.

Even after our long day surrounded by books, we still had the energy for a night on the town! Just down the street, was “Brown Sugar“, The Jazz Club in Taipei. There, we had a deliciouss supper, heard great stylings by their house band and had an enjoyable close to a very good day.

Yeah, this posting is full of superlatives, it was just that kind of weekend and it was just that much harder leaving the city thinking that I may never be back again. Never.  What a sad and final sound!  (There are not many months left in this gig!)! I’ve had so many wonderful memories in Taipei from Kris, Sean, Suzanne and I first venturing up there with Amanda while we were in training, to our field trip to Snake Alley, our Christmas get together and then, this incredible experience!

Yep, Taipei is world class!

“We’re an underground movement, we’re all eyes when planted in front of the TV, vegetation is an important part of our existence, and we’re Tubers. Get it?” ~source: wikipedia

It’s 63º here and has been that chilly all week. Nights are in the low 50s. It’s colder and wetter in Taipei. Kristen told me they’ve had 21 straight days of rain! 63º is cold when there’s no heating unit to knock that chill off! I could have been better prepared clothing wise, but I was told the temps in Pingtung are only hot and hotter. Knowing that, I couldn’t justify bringing more than a few outfits for cool weather. Thank goodness for the ones I did pack! Clothing is an issue for me because Taiwanese women are o! so small and I’m o! so not! Stores here carry items for these small Taiwanese women, not for me!

I’ve been told it will warm on Saturday which will be good because I’ll be in Taipei and it will be cold there. I’m going to the Taipei International Book Exhibit (TIBE), so look for a book related posting soon!

So, since the weather is cold, I get the idea to stay inside and watch some TV. Maybe you’d be interested in know what TV is like here? Well, its more interesting to write about than to watch.

I have cable tv and I believe I have 60-some odd channels. I get a plethora of Taiwanese channels, CNN Asian Edition (English), Discovery(English and Chinese), Travel and Living (English), Disney (mostly Chinese), Animal Planet (English and Chinese), a Christian station, HBO (English), ESPN (English),National Geographic (Englisna and Chinese), AXN (English and Chinese movies and TV shows), and 2 Star Movie stations (English, French, German). The only TV shows I pick up here are CSI, Vegas, CSI, Desperate Housewives, CSI, Sex in the City and CSI. There’s a lot of CSI. The networks focus on all things Asian.  I’ve not seen any shows on NG or Discovery about Africa, South America or Europe but then, I’ve given up watching them for the most part, too. Travel and Living shows “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and not many know what ‘queer’ means. There are a few newer movies that will run for 2-3 weeks but for the most part the movies are action and adventure or horror movies. What is really amazing is that HBO will show a movie with Harrison Ford and I’ll change to a Star station and there’s Harrison again! The same happens with many major actors as if movies are bout in packages based on who is in them.

I’ve gone through the Taiwanese stations a few times. There are a couple of movie stations that have sub-titles in English and Mandarin. ALL STATIONS, no matter what language has sub-titles in Mandarin. I do believe there are a couple of Japanese stations here, a couple of which show anime. The Taiwanese stations have a lot of dramas. I don’t see many game shows, though because I haven’t seen them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There are ‘qvc’ type networks. The Hakka, an aboriginal group, have a network to educate about their culture. There is even a channel with a camera directed at the gate to my apartment building to monitor comings and goings. There are music networks (there is an MTV) but I see more talking that singing. The last time I was channel surfing, I saw a commercial for McDonald’s delivery! Most McDonald’s are open 24 hrs.

CNN is the only televised news source I have. Their coverage is much different than in the US. First, they employ British correspondence. I do get Larry King and sometimes I get Anderson Cooper (I miss that cute little face with its etched look of concern!). I get A LOT of sports on CNN. Did you know that Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions just lost the African Cup to Egypt? Many CNN produced shows are broadcast and rebroadcast throughout the month. The US debates are shown here live and are rebroadcast once. Hilary and Barack do get a lot of coverage, and McCain to a lesser degree. Something that kinda bothers me is that CNN broadcasts “The Daily Show“. In the US, there is much concern that people get their news from this show, so CNN decides to show it outside the US on a legitimate (?) news network??

Second semester has begun! Students are back and classes are underway. I now have third graders and that’s. . . interesting. . . They are so excited about being in English class! My 5-1 class presented me with Valentine Cards and that was so touching! Valentines Day isn’t a big deal here as romance and passion aren’t a big part of the culture. So, it was really nice of them to do that for me!

My fingers have gotten warm, time to go cook dinner. YES!!! I’M COOKING!!!!!!!

My friend, Jaci, just invited me to dinner in Chaiyi to celebrate the Year of the Rat.

I cannot believe it is already the third week of February. I am amazed that my journey here is about half over. When I think of how much I have (finally) learned, the opportunities here for teachers (but not librarians), the easiness of being here, I really think about giving it one more year. But, when I think about my mom, my Kris, Evan and Rod, libraries!!, students with whom I can communicate, the possibility of dating and so many of the little things to which I’ve grown accustom, there is no way I can stay here two consecutive years.

This year has been a whirlwind and winter break has been no exception. I, like many of the foreign teachers spent parts of the break at English camp. This gave us the opportunity to teach students English in a more relaxed atmosphere. I was able to continue traveling during my time off as well as to gather items to decorate my rather bare classroom.

And the other teachers? Rose (Michigan) in Fongshan went to Taichung and Haulien with families from her school; Gene was able to visit Carolyn (Arkansas) in Putzih, spending time with members of her school and traveling the country; Betty (Canada) and Marilyn (Arkansas) had an incredible trip to Cebu in the Philippines and Mama Leah was in Malaysia. Sandy just sent me photos of her incredible trip to Bali.  We keep in contact with each other, like touch stones filling the void. Sean (IN) and the Grandersons (Arkansas) came to visit Pingtung and Kaouhsoing. As big and as busy as Kaouhsoing is, many people never make it there to visit. They are convinced that the only happenings are in Taipei, so they miss out!

The true highlight of winter break is Chinese New Year. This holiday, stuffed with tradition, is quite unlike the New Year in America. Rather than revelers taking to the street to count down the minutes to the new year, those in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China go home to celebrate with family over a 5 day period. The calendar in Taiwan changed to the year ‘97’ in January, but this new year while mark the beginning of the year of the rat on the lunar calendar.

While huge dinners have traditionally been prepared in homes, more families are taking to reserving banquet facilities for the huge meals which take days to prepare. Traditional foods are prepared to insure prosperity in the upcoming year. The more food, the greater the anticipated prosperity. There is majjohng, and red envelopes—the giving of cash to children still living at home, or to parents of grown children. There are special offerings in the temple, fireworks to scare away evil spirits and special spring couplets put on the doors for much the same reason.

Everyone is home with family for 4-5 days. Stores and restaurants close and the trash man does not cometh. Those of us (ME!) who have never cooked stock up on food supplies from Carrefour and begin a new year tradition of one’s own (cooking!). The holiday also includes the Lantern Festival which is held on the first full moon of the new year in about 15 days.

I know there is a big celebration in Kaouhsoing, but I don’t know what happens in Pingtung, or if it is even a day off work.

It’s also still winter and the temps have dropped. The 50s and 60s are nothing to sneeze and when homes don’t have insulation (it would hold too much moisture), floors are made of tile and there is not enough reason to invest in central heating.

Monday is still a day off from the holiday and Tuesday it’s back to school. I get to see my students again!!

The first full moon of the year will happen about two weeks after the lunar New Year begins.  This day is marked by celebrating the Lantern Festival.  The round bright lanterns symbolize the new moon.  I just saw ad for  lanterns and I think it provides a satirical, contemporary perspective on this old practice.

These are traditional sky lanterns are 100% biodegradable. Tradition
calls for your wishes or prayers to be written on the lanterns. The
lanterns are then sent off floating up to the heavens. I think the
pollution levels are too thick for God to get a good look are the
The wax coated wicks are ignited and the super thin paper lanterns
float up into the air. The wax coated wicks burn out at about 1500
meters and the lanterns slowly float down to the earth.

In August, 2007 I will be leaving Indianapolis with my daughter, Kristen, to live and work in the Republic of China (Taiwan). This will be my fiftieth year on this planet and my first year living in another country. This blog will let you join us on the adventure!
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February 2008
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