Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I have been teaching mama (uncle) Takyu the letters so he can write Tayal, his native language. When the letters come in order, he is doing okay, but he still has trouble when they are all mixed up. To solve this, I ask him how to spell words, or write words and ask him what they say. We were sitting in the living room working on this at the big table when his son, daughter-in-law, and a couple guests tromped through and stopped to view his progress, learning, like everything else, being a communal effort. I wrote down yutas (grandfather, respected elder) and asked him to read it. He traced the letters with his fingers, frowned, made a few attempts. I started coaching him: “yuh, ooo, duh, ah, ssss.” He squirmed in concentration. Everybody's breath was held. Maybe my dogs, waiting outside the door, felt the tension, because Tlahuy started whining. I turned my head towards the door and said, admonishingly, under my breath, “Tlahuy!” Mama Takyu's face lit up. He pointed at the word, and called out in a victorious shout: TLAHUY!

Monday, October 27, 2003

上禮拜六是烏來的大日子。 幾年前,村長紹也。達可佑的太太在一次車禍中身亡,現在續弦了。婚禮在部落停車場舉行,高朋滿座,熱鬧非凡。因為上課的關係,我沒參加。 等我下課回來,已經十一點半,最後的幾部車才剛走了。 過部落的時候,我發現小商店居然還沒打烊,並發現新郎、新娘在裡面,還穿著禮服。 我高呼,”紹也,你們怎麼還在這裡? 怎麼還沒帶新娘去渡蜜月呢?” 於是乎,他們倆臉上露出尷尬的笑容,給我看他們手上剛選購的泡麵,說,”肚子好餓,買一點泡麵回家吃…”

Sunday, October 26, 2003

My home is not by the road. There are about a hundred steps leading up a ravine from the Chief's lane to my place. It is pretty much jungle around there.

This morning Tasaw's parents came, to visit, to talk to Tasaw on my web camera, to have some tea, to bring great big bags of kibbles for the dogs. They phoned and said they were here, so I went down to meet them. The first thing they said was, You have four dogs now? There was a tiny little puppy by the mailbox which I have affixed by the foot of the steps. It was sheltered under the rain cover of my mailbox. Clever dog. It's been raining for days.

Recently a wild dog gave birth to some puppies in the jungle above that, so I figured this puppy must be hers. That explains why I heard her barking so much last night and this morning. This little puppy must have crawled away. Adventurous little fellow.

When Tasaw's parents left, I took a handful of kibbles and a towel. The puppy is too little to eat the kibbles. I think it's only about six weeks old. Eyes open, strong enough to get into mischief, not strong enough to get back to Mama. The litter seems to be in the grass under the camphor tree outside the ravine, so I suspect the puppy was exploring, slipped down over the edge, and couldn't get back up.

I wrapped it up in the towel (several reasons: it was cold, wet, and dirty; I didn't want to get my smell on it, in case the mother wouldn't accept it; I didn't want to get its smell on me, in case Tlahuy, Bengax, and Yumin wouldn't accept me!), and took it back to its mother. Of course she ran away when we came, but I put the pup there under the camphor tree and called my dogs home with me.

I think they are reunited by now. The mother has stopped barking. You don't want such a spunky little chap to die.

PS (November): several days later, the dog was taken by somebody who wanted him for a pet.

Monday, October 20, 2003

I took the subway, as usual, to the last stop, and walked to my bus stop at about 11 PM. There I found Agogo, a Tayal taxi driver, vaguely bargaining with some guy from the city who wanted to go some place half way to Wulai. I told Agogo, if you need a passenger, I'll go. (in Taiwan it is common for a taxi driver making a long drive to offer lower prices for four passengers, so they will wander around bus stops asking, “Calling for passengers: anybody want to go to XYX?” and offering their price. Or, “I have 3 for XYX, I need one more and we'll leave immediately.”) Agogo thought a bit and told the man, “Okay, I'll take you for one hundred NT since Yugan will go along.” He asked around, but there were only about three other people waiting for buses, and no takers, so we got into the taxi and left.

The guy was talkative. He kept going on and on about how he was going to a bar to sing karaoke, his friends were there already, waiting for him, and that he liked to get out of the city, and that going into the mountains was refreshing, blah blah blah. With slight condescension, he told us that “Wulai is a nice place, too.”

I told him, “If you come to Wulai, don't bring your karaoke. Leave your city pollution in the city.”

"Especially late at night,” Agogo chimed in.

“You get these people with a couple drinks in them, they start singing karaoke, it sounds like forsaken ghosts howling,” I told the guy. “You want to come to the mountains, enjoy the mountains. You can sing in the city.”

“Especially late at night,” Agogo chorused.

“You mean you don't have karaoke in Wulai?” the passenger asked, a bit sadly.

“It's not permitted in the Tribe. Somebody opened one, and we closed it down. Say, Yugan, did you see where they paved that patch of road in front of the church?”

“Yes, they didn't do much.”

“Because they came to do it in the middle of the night! Can you imagine that?”

“In the middle of the night? What for? This is not a busy city street with cars on it during the daytime.”

“They were making a lot of noise, glung glung glung, the heavy trucks and machinery. I went out and asked them, ‘What do you think you are doing?’

“They said, 'We are paving the road.’

“’In the middle of the night?’

“’It's the only time we have.’

“’You have to stop it. Wulai children are not like city children, they need quiet at night, or else they can't sleep. You have to stop right now.’ I told them that, Yugan, but they ignored me. They kept working, with their big trucks and heavy machinery, glung glung glung.

“About fifteen minutes later, I came out and told them, ‘You are disturbing the children. Our children cannot sleep with all that noise. You have to stop right now.’ But they still ignored me.

“So I went back and got my shotgun. I didn't put pellets in, I just put in some gravel. I went back and told them, ‘You have to stop now.’ Then I shot my shotgun into the air. Bang! Then the workmen all ran away and called the police.”

“Called the police?” I asked. “What good will that do? They're all Tayal.”

“Right. Ivi came in his police car and said, ‘Agogo, why did you shoot at the workmen?’ I said, ‘Which workmen did I shoot? I didn't shoot anybody. They were making too much noise, and the children couldn't sleep. Tomorrow they will fall asleep in class, so I told them to stop.’'Agogo, you don't have any kids.' 'I don't have kids myself, but there are a lot of little children in the Tribe. We have to think about them.'"

That explains why only a short patch of road got paved. It also shut up the guy in the back seat. Maybe he was wondering if he would get out of the taxi alive. We delivered him safe and sound to his karaoke bar. I hope that maybe he turned the volume on his karaoke down.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Here's an ad for a book that makes you want to rush straight to the bookstore and ask, you mean somebody actually published this?

... leads to her first realization that there's more to life than boys and cheerleading ― it's an inspirational tale of personal awakenings.

for 288 pages!!

Sunday, October 12, 2003

On and on about my dogs.

Tlahuy is extremely loyal. He is also extremely powerful, but he is shy. A puppy can pick on him, but when he has had enough, the toughest dogs in Wulai, hunting dogs that attack wild boar, turn tail and run away from him.

Bengax is, I suspect, not really a dog. Too intelligent by half. She loves to prance just outside a fence or another dog's chain reach and bark at them: nya nya nya!

Sometimes when we pass somebody's house, and their dogs come out to see what's going on, Tlahuy will stand his ground and sniff and strut with them. Then suddenly you will see swift Bengax, who you also realize has been mysteriously absent, like a streak of lightning, racing off with the dogs' bone or some tidbit from their dinner. Tlahuy will then break and run, too. Ha ha ha, bye bye suckers!

Little Yumin is very much the alpha male. He knows he is little, so when the big dogs bark and chase some shadow around the house, Yumin stays behind and observes. But when we're out, he will race straight towards the biggest dogs and nonplus them. He is fearless. I was chopping down a tree that was damaged in that typhoon. When it fell, the top landed a foot from where Yumin was lying, but he just watched it fall with utter calm.

Then in the evening if I go outdoors to sit, he is sleepy, so he crawls into my lap, nuzzles his head in under my arm, and totally relaxes, hind legs dangling in midair.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

屈尺 lalu Tayal Qsyuh. 對岸 lalu Pyasamaray, 今移 Tampya.
Bongan yaba Tali Watan.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Something interesting. One of the elders in the Tribe, Takyu, about 65, several times said that he wished he knew how to write Tayal, so I have taken him up on that. Last week I taught him to first five letters ~~ a, b, c, e, g ~~ and Monday the next five ~~ h, i, k, l, m. He is delighted, working hard to get these down. He can write Chinese, but has never learned the western alphabet. Sometimes he will make a note in Chinese, and put down his pencil in wonderment: “I have written almost nothing in the last forty years.” His wife is also learning the alphabet, but quicker. With great pride, he tells me “She went to high school, so she is educated.”

Tonight we will do n, ng, o, p, and q. Now he is asking if maybe I could teach some of the other tribal elders. I told him, nothing would please me more. How often do you get a chance like this?

FYI: Tayal/泰雅語, or Atayal, is one of the oldest languages extant. It dates back at least six thousand years, compared to about a thousand for Russian or Spanish, 1500 for English, say 4000 for Chinese.

FYI: the first five letters are pronounced ah, then sort of a mixture of B + M + V, dj, eh, and a very guttural G. an example of Tayal writing: Lpgan ke’na Tayal (a Tayal Reader).

Technically, Yugan should be spelled Yukal, but I don't want to sound like some sort of diet soda.