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The government just announced an increase in fuel prices.  Read the full story


Another fruit comes in season:  lychees!! and they are delicous!!!  There’s a yummy lychee liqueur that makes a mean martini!

I’ve mentioned to a few people that I’m not looking forward to going home to a cost of living that is not only higher than here, but also higher than what I left in the US. I hear about the rising prices there continually on CNN. I hear the presidential candidates talk about an energy policy and whether or not to charge federal taxes on gas purchases over the summer. I see that SUVs are no long selling. So, I’m wondering if Indianapolis might maybe consider creating a few more bus lines??? I mean how can a major (yes, Indianapolis is a major city) in the US exist without viable public transportation?? How can the US continue to not have regional or national transportation systems that working people can afford??

We have it here. Pingtung may not have buses but Kaohsiung just got a metro system. In fact, this entire country has a network of buses and trains that make transportation extremely affordable. Competition between the new high speed rail system and the airlines has even brought down prices of rapid travel.  And there are scooters!!

As of 2007, Taiwan’s energy mix was primarily comprised of oil (50.9 percent) and coal (32.3 percent), followed by natural gas (8.1 percent), nuclear power (7.3 percent) and hydroelectric power (1.4 percent). Since 2007, Taiwan has been diversifying to reduce its dependency on oil. Its exploring reusable energy sources, primarily wind and solar. Developing a stronger reliance on these sources is important to this country that has very produces little of its own energy resources.

Oil is refined by three refineries belonging to the state-run China Petroleum Corporation and the privately operated Formosa Petroleum Corporation (FPC), a subsidiary of the Formosa Plastics Group. The state run Petroleum companies have been able to subsidize the oil industry to keep prices low, but as the cost of each barrel continues to rise the new government will have to either increase taxes to continue subsidies or let the market prices continue to rise. At present, gas costs about $4.50.

The value of the Taiwan dollar has not been too strong lately. In fact, its exchange rate has decrease against the dollar since I have been here. The growing economy had been supported mainly by the growth of mom and pop business throughout the island. Families one or two generations removed from the farms move to the cities and open breakfast shops, tea shops, clothing stores, 10 dollar stores, repair stores or any variety of business to support the family. They save fiercely and make sure the children go to college. Increasing fuel costs, food costs… costs of living are slowing growth in this sector. The people are waiting for the new government to develop and implement economic programs to keep them on track for growth.

If I were still in the US, if I had never come here, I would not realize how much the entire globe is suffering at the hands of petroleum companies who are able to pass their increases on to the consumer. The US gets more coverage for their higher costs, but no one is hurting any more or less. On this issue, we’re all pretty much in the same boat.

Friday, the foreign teachers headed north for a meeting with the MOE (Ministry of Education). It was a much anticipated meeting because we didn’t know that we’d get a chance to see each other again before leaving! It didn’t seem right not having Eugene and Kristen here since they started this with us, but I’m sure they were with us in spirit!

Most of us took the opportunity to have one last fling in Taipei and for some of us, this meant an evening of jazz and delicious Italian food at Capones, a shopping trip to 101 and New York, night markets, movies, a visit to the National Taiwan Democracy Hall Memorial (AKA Chiang Kai Shek Memorial) and other enjoyable stops along the way, like Cold Stone Creamery, Macaroni Grill and Barista Coffee.

Sounds more and more like we’re ready to be at home, huh?

The weather up there is quite a bit different from here. The rains have almost always been up there. It is hot and very, very humid! It rains just about every evening in Taipei now. Pingtung had rain 3 or 4 evenings last week and it was always in the evening. Typically, it clouds up in the evening here and looks like it’s going to rain, but it doesn’t. The rain passes us over, making this a very hot part of the country. It’s interesting because the same weather patterns that keep the rain away from here also trap in the pollution from this region making us about the most heavily polluted part of the country.

While we were in Taipei walking the streets trying to find NY Bagel, Carolyn wanted to stop and take a photo of the Statue of Liberty look alike. A lady walked up to me and asked me where I was from. I am quite often asked that question when I go to visit other cities and given that I live here in Pingtung, I tell them that I’m from Pingtung. That’s my home for now and that’s where I live! Yea, if you know me you think I’m being my typical smart azz self, but I don’t think so. I’m not a tourist and I don’t want to give that impression! If they continue to ask what country I’m from, I will tell them I’m an American. Obviously they know I’m not Taiwanese, but there are folks here from all over the world! Someone who is a white westerner could be from North America, Europe, Australia. A black person could be from North or South America, Canada, Africa and Asians could be from Vietnam, America, Philippines, Thailand, China….anywhere! and if you don’t ask you won’t know!

Yup, it’s about time to go home. I’ve changed the desktop image on my work computer.

OK, it’s one of the most elegant French lines I know and since it finally rained today, I had to use it! Pingtung doesn’t get much rain. Up in Taipei, it can rain every evening. (Taiwan is about the size of Indiana.) Here, we expect a spring rainy season which is referred to as the Plum Rains. They typically come in April and May and consist of a gentle rain each evening. Well, so I’ve been told. Rains haven’t come here this year. Not yet! I was Pleasantly surprised to wake up to darker gray skies this morning and a rain shower. The sky is still gray, however I don’t know that their will be any more rain today, or tomorrow for that matter.

No new pictures on the Picture of the Week page. I just did quick trips to Tainan and Kaohsiung this past weekend and didn’t even take my camera with me. Went looking at jade at the jade market. I should have had the camera to show you all the varieties of jade and beads and stones that they have!

Selecting jade can be difficult. Each country has its own variety of jade and each is judged by its own unique standard. Selecting a piece from Burma is not the same as selecting something from Taiwan. I do know to look for cracks. I do know that jade is soft enough to be carved with a knife under running water. And I do know if you don’t know what you’re buying that you can end up with junk. But, if you really like the junk, does it matter? The best advice I’ve gotten from a couple of people on buying jade is don’t pay too much for it and find a piece you really like. If you like it, that’s all that matters.

At this moment, a student of my friend, Carolyn, is undergoing major surgery.  He was not feeling well and an observant substitute found major swelling in his head. He is at this moment having brain surgery.  Please put this little one and his family in your prayers!

No, I didn’t feel the Big One here in southern Taiwan. We’re on an island off the east coast of China, not part of the mainland. HOWEVER, last night about 2 a.m. southern Taiwan was rock’ and rollin’! I woke up just before a rather large tremor and it’s possible I was actually shaken awake by one before it. I checked the Internet this morning and found that the quake was centered near Taitung over on the east coast where my friends Ruthie and Irv live. This is what Ruthie had to say when I asked if they felt it:

Edi, we surely did. It was the strongest we’ve felt yet. There were also some smaller tremors before and after. (They say it was 5 in all). Irv is always wanting an earthquake, but even he got scared last night. I was getting ready to head out to the porch, to get away from possible falling masonry. However, the only damage we’ve seen this morning, is broken tiles.

I will not miss earthquakes when I leave here! From what I hear, though I may feel some when I return to Indiana!! (In fact, the first earthquake I ever felt was in Indy!) They feel so wrong. The earth is moving under your feet and you don’t know how bad it is going to be until it’s almost too late, unless it’s really bad and stuff is bouncing instead of shaking.

The blockbuster “Iron Man” opened in Taiwan this weekend and I was able to travel to Kaohsiung to see it. As with any movie theater I’ve been to in Taiwan, you’re able to select the seat of your choice when you purchase your ticket. You can also purchase a special package for popcorn and drinks. Tickets are sold separate from the concessions, sometimes even on different floors. Concessions always include popcorn and soda, and there can be a variety of other treats from popcorn to lattes to hotdogs. My friend Carolyn visits a theater in Putzih that has a MacDonalds inside the theater. You may not enter the theater more than 10 minutes prior to the show starting. If you are early, you will stand outside the ticket taker’s little kiosk and wait for him (and it’s always a ‘him’) to announce that the theater is open and you may enter. You will not be sold a ticket once the feature has begun!! If you’re late, you will have to wait for the next showing. I’m not sure what this accomplishes. Most certainly, it is not to avoid distractions because there is a steady stream of people walking about the theater to purchase snacks or visit the restroom during the entire movie. They just don’t sell you tickets if you are late! Watching an American movie here often leaves me laughing by myself at jokes no one else gets. It also makes me nostalgic for home, which is where I will be in 74 more days!!!

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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Chikky Soup Meets Stinky Tofu by Edi Campbell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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May 2008
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