A Conversation with an Elderly Taiwanese Man

A quiet afternoon.

An elderly gentleman walks very near me as I’m sitting at a green marble table on a green marble block stool in a nearly empty park. I had just sat down a few minutes before to journal, something I have not kept up with very much.

The marble is beautiful, but quite hard.

I didn’t know if the man was just scoping out this foreigner or if he was about to say something.

He shuffles along, leaning heavily on his cane when he needs to stand on his bad foot.

I look up and smile.

He says, “hello”. I say, “Nĭ hăo”.

I wasn’t quite where this would go, but if he did speak English, I was waiting for the usual “Where do you come from?” He didn’t ask that right away, but the question of origin did come up within a few moments…

“Ohhh! Canada! Do you speak French? You have one French part there.”

I was a little surprised. I’m finding more and more that when anyone knows something about Canada I get a little excited. Recently, someone I met knew that Ottawa was the capital. Impressive!

I wondered how this man knew this little tidbit about Canada. Perhaps he has children or grandchildren who had studied there. A doctor I recently talked with had a daughter who did her undergrad at Queens.

The man’s name is Sam Chung. Immediately, I thought of Gen’s brother – hehe. This (much senior) Sam has this knowledge of Canada due to first-hand experience, having been there more than a decade ago.

He talks about “Nygra,” which, after a puzzled moment, I realize is Niagara Falls. He talks about seeing The Falls from the American side and then the Canadian side, saying he drove from Chicago to Niagara Falls and through a few provinces, ending up in Halifax. He mentions about how big Canada is.

He tells me he is from “the mainland” – Canton province. It is somewhat unclear why he left, but it had to do with “young people joining the army”. He is quite old, so he pauses from time to time to call up words in English. But, overall his English is quite good.

I found it surprising he spoke English so well, as he was clearly quite old. It is usually people my age or younger who speak English here.

He is an ex-army man living in an apartment by the park provided by the Taiwanese government. In the 1950s he had trained in the US to use certain weapons to defend the Taiwan Strait against China. The Taiwan Strait Crises.

He also mentions the Korean War and the Vietnam War, but he doesn’t really say if he had a part in either of them. You might start to understand just how old this man is…

Sam also tells me that he didn’t see his family on the mainland for 40 years. He had no contact with them either because there simply was no contact between the two Chinas then.*

He mentions being part of a church in Taiwan that was connected with a church in the US. At one point, through this church in the US, he was able to find out that his parents were still alive. But by the time Cross-Strait relations had improved enough that people in Taiwan could go to China, both his parents had died.

Now, he visits China fairly often and sees his older brother. He tells me that his brother is rather poor, having only the essentials. But, he also speaks very well of China. Saying, unequivocally, “China is better than Taiwan.”

I wondered what he found to be “better”, especially knowing about his brother.

He likes, in my words, that China “gets shit done”. It is the efficiency in China that he is impressed by and not needing to ask the people for input or permission to do things. He gives the hypothetical of putting a highway through the park we are in. He says, “If the government wanted to do it, it would be done in a month”. He doesn’t seem to be concerned about what the people who lived around the park (himself included) might think.

– – –

Notes:

  • I seem to think that because Canada takes up so much space on the map, people should know something about the place. I am starting to lose this expectation. haha
  • “The two Chinas”:
    • The People’s Republic of China (PRC) – China
    • The Republic of China (ROC) – Taiwan

The Second Post (Yes, finally)

Dear friends,

Clearly, I have been dreadful at writing this blog.

Here is my problem. I have too many things I want to write about. So, when I sit down to write, I end up working on the draft posts I have, and I start new ones. However, I continuously fail to actually. complete. a. post.

*sigh*

Ok. Onwards.

I have noticed something lately. It is that I don’t notice things as much. I mean this in the context of living in a foreign country. It have been four months now, and, I am realizing that things don’t phase me as much as they used to. 

I have always found living in Taiwan to be rather easy to live in (for reasons that will be expanded upon in a later post), but those things that I did find strange, amusing, different, etc. are not all that jarring anymore. I’m getting too used to people setting off fireworks on any given night, I’m getting too used to firecrackers popping off in the street (as people drive and walk by), and I’m actually getting used to seeing massive pyres in the street (more later about why this was especially scary in August).

Side note: Did you notice that everything in this list has to do with fire?

There are fewer and fewer things that I look at or hear that I just don’t understand. What is this apathy? Where is my curiosity? It’s not even as though I know the reasons for many of the things happening. (Which religion is celebrating this holiday?) I’m just used to much of it… already.

Realizing this has been the big push (I needed) to get some posts finished and some others started before I forget what was so surprising, so interesting, so amusing in my initial weeks. My perspective is already changing. As a consequence, I believe there won’t be as much value in some of these posts if I wait to write them.

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Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after a long night of driving.

Another issue I face is wanting to make sure the writing is “perfect”. But, of course, writing is never perfect. Writing is never finished. I must remind myself of this and. just. write. 

I think this is all for this post. This post is more or less an acknowledgment to myself  that there has been a lack of posts on this blog. This post also serves to remind myself of the importance of keeping up the writing. So, with this in (my) mind, you can expect more posts in the short-term.

More soon, (promise!)

Megan

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We set out at 11pm from Kaohsiung. After driving overnight, through the mountains in the dark(!), we were treated to this incredible sunrise.

An Introduction

Hello, everyone!

I’ve been wanting to begin a blog again for quite some time now. Now that I’m in Taiwan, this is the perfect opportunity. Starting a new chapter in life always makes for a good point in time to begin writing (again). I wanted to outline the purposes of this blog and to lay out the sort of topics I plan to write about. Perhaps the will not matter to you. But, then again, perhaps seeing my rationale and my planned topics will make you interested in what is to come.

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Initially, I thought I would focus on my adventures in this blog, but I didn’t know how I would deal with overlap from Facebook. I wanted to post photos on Facebook because I like how easy the interaction is between all friends and I think the photos can mostly speak for themselves when it comes to adventures. However, I didn’t want the blog to be repetitive and ultimately redundant.

I decided that the focus for the blog will not be on adventures. I may write about certain adventures, but the blog will be more for writing – introspective, planned writing. Thus, this blog will be used as a general sounding board for my musing and for the pondering that I tend to do.

I plan to explore ideas that pique my interest, occasionally veering into a more academic style of writing. While my aim is to write posts that are a tad more academic than a regular blog, I also plan to write posts that are easily “digestible” to the average reader. At this point, I think this balance may, at times, be tricky, but it is a challenge I would like to rise to meet.

In addition to exploring my interests, I plan to use this blog as a way to keep up my writing skills post-university, to further grow as a writer, and to be more cognizant of my use of the English language. This last point is particularly important seeing as I am currently teaching English. Due to this, I must (of course) have a better grasp on the language than the average native English speaker.

Here are some of the topics I plan to write about:

  • Clearing up misconceptions about Taiwan (Before coming here, I spoke to a number of people who have been to Taiwan. Oddly, quite a few things that I was told are completely false.)
  • Cultural Studies (Observations, Cross-cultural relations, etc.)
  • Linguistics (in general)
  • “How-To” posts discussing things that foreigners would find helpful for coming to Kaohsiung and living here (I didn’t find as many blogs as I expected/hoped when I was planning on coming here, so I hope to fill some of this void)
  • Politics (I hope to spark interest, not lose the average reader with this topic)
  • Second language acquisition (related to my teaching of English and my learning of Mandarin)
  • Urban Planning (Centralized on Kaohsiung’s transition from a heavy industry city to a this modern metropolis)

FYI: While these topics may be framed by my experiences in Taiwan, I will not only be writing about Taiwan.

This is all for now. More soon.

Be well,

Megan

PS Feel free to comment on posts or message me about anything.