Monday, August 30, 2004

I grew up reading science fiction. I wished I could travel beyond the reaches of the galaxy to see the wonders of the heavens.

Then I realized, what could be more beautiful than the mountains of earth? Than a tree? Search the ends of the universe to find any thing as beautiful as a white cloud billowing against a summer sky.

Friday I stood on the bridge waiting for the bus, watching the typhoon fed water of the stream swirl and twirl beneath me, endlessly whirling and spinning in thick grey brown patterns. A pure white egret flew downstream a few feet above the water, made a wide circle across the face of the stream, and continued its flight.

Saturday, August 28, 2004


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

It's one of those typhoon-a-week summers. I'm sitting here watching the trees slash back and forth like windshield wipers, admiring the sheets of rain, and happy that classes were canceled today, because I had a full schedule. I am dry and comfortable, and have a nice pot of hot tea.

This is not Florida, thank you. We have what would be to Floridians a very strange habit: we prepare for typhoons before they strike, to minimize damage. Yesterday I took my mountain knife and chopped some bamboo that might whip the gutter off my roof. In the middle of the night, I realized I had forgotten to clear the power line, but did not worry about it too much. Last year a typhoon knocked the giant bamboo right onto the power line and it was okay, and this year there is nothing nearly as heavy. However, after I got up this morning, I took my mountain knife, a saw, and a length of nylon webbing to go clear the power line. In this weather, it's simplest just to go barefoot, because if you don't want your rainboots to fill – slosh, slosh, slosh – you have to wear rainpants, which are hot and cumbersome, so for me, it's barefoot, shorts, tanktop, raincoat, and I'm ready to go.

There was a branch brushing the line, but I couldn't reach it, so I prepared to throw the webbing over it to pull it in. Problem was, what to use for a weight? Aha! I tied it through the eye on the handle of the saw, tossed that, and after four or five tries, snagged the branch and pulled it in. It was then that I realized that a sharp saw might not have been the best choice of weights. However, I succeeded, with all my fingers intact, and spent the next hour or so hacking branches and vines. The dogs did their best to get in the way.

Now we are all relaxed and dry. I put some cardboard on the back porch for them to lie on. They are lined up, three curls, tail to nose, waiting out the typhoon. So far so good.

Friday, August 20, 2004

A Tayal married a lady from the Vunun, a neighboring tribe, mostly in Taiwan's central mountains. She knew enough Tayal to get along when she moved in with her husband, so her yaki (mother-in-law) could communicate with her new ina' (daughter-in-law).

The mother-in-law called out to her, "Ina'! Time to eat!" The family was astonished to see the bride burst into tears and rush out of the house. By the time her husband caught up with her, she was halfway down the road.

Explanation: In Vunun, Ina' means "Get out of here!"

Saturday, August 14, 2004


福臨門餐廳大做婚晏廣告,附加英文標語,大寫白字:Would you merry me?
Marry, merry, 差不多嘛。再過幾個月就會出現很多Marry Christmas,祝你與聖誕節結婚。

福臨門餐廳的英譯Fu Lin Men縱使準確,卻不貼切。畢竟做婚晏生意,應該譯Fooling Men。

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The day is so beautiful that I ate lunch sitting in the hammock-chair on the second floor porch.

My eye was attracted by an eagle rising above a distant ridge, a black mite against the white summer clouds, only about half the size of a period on this screen. It towered until it caught the higher winds, and sailed off in back of Wulai Peak.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Wulai's hot springs bubble up on the bank at Punko and at Tbaqsiso. Spa entrepreneurs – almost exclusively outside investors – suck so much water from Tbabsiso that the bank threatened to collapse, so the local government had to spend a considerable amount of tax money to shore up the road that goes by there. This has cut off the old path from the road down to the stream, a pretty steep drop of over twenty meters.

Democracy in action: a new path has been put in, by person or persons unknown. Somehow large hunks of cement curb were hauled in and stacked on both sides of the safety wall by the road, providing a stile of sorts. Then the path zigzags down. The slope is too steep for anything but the narrowest steps, so a safety rope has been rigged up on the in-side. Your outer side is exposed. Clutch the manila rope as you descend, but watch your step. The steps were made by banging in segments of rebar, against which were set old tiles; then the backside was filled with earth. The tiles stick up an inch or two over the 'step,' so lift your feet high. Don't trip. It’s almost straight down, especially in the part where the outer side has caved in and been shored up with sandbags. Of course, if you trip over the tile there and go down the sandbags, you'll probably bounce off the metal stairs just by the stream and land in the water. Maybe. Parts of you might.

Every time I go down those stairs, I imagine American lawyers looking and salivating.

Friday, August 06, 2004

On July 14, I posted a short sketch of Hozin's adventures with Apin's motorcycle. He hurt his right leg, but was otherwise unscathed after driving it into the stream.

The other day, Tokan borrowed Yagi's car to go get a bite to eat. Next door, Hozin was getting drunk, so to keep him from driving, Tasiy drove his (Hozin's) car away and hid it. Soon Hozin came out and couldn't find his car, but "Never mind, there is Yagi's car, and he certainly won't mind my borrowing it." So he got in and drove off before Tokan realized what was happening.

Now, Hozin had hurt his right leg, so he couldn't step on the gas pedal, but he managed both the gas pedal and the brake with his left foot. He discovered a problem just as he reached the curve at Tbaqsiso: Yagi's car is a stick shift. He immediately was faced with an urgent problem: choose between the clutch and the brake. He chose the clutch, and, as the car sailed off the road, he reflected that the brake would have been a better choice.

He swam to the bank, but someone had seen the car sink and phoned the police. This was obviously an outsider's doing. Someone from Wulai would have seen that it was Hozin swimming to the shore, and known not to worry. Not to worry too much.
Wulai police used to be mostly Tayal, but now they have Han Chinese policemen, because things were getting too cozy. A Han policeman it was who hauled the dripping Hozin into the police station and started shouting at him.

"Shout all you like," said Hozin, "Wait until my two big brothers get here. You know they are both policemen, and they both outrank you.”

In a moment the brothers arrived, and asked why their little brother was in handcuffs. The Han policeman explained, "He drove a car into the stream." Whereupon the brothers started beating Hozin: "You disgrace our ancestors!”

When they finished beating him, the Han police told Hozin, "If I see you driving again, I will beat you again."

So this story probably stops here.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Aborigines are still seething over Vice President Lu Hsiulien's racist remarks (posted on this blog July 17).

Outside the Aborigine community there has been no hue and cry for her removal – people in Taiwan have become inured to rudeness and arrogance from politicians nowadays. They are used to the Administration's noises and promises, which mean nothing.

Members of her party, the Democratic Progressive Party, have defended her remarks. President Chen Shuibian suggested that she apologize; she refuses to apologize. Apparently, insulting disadvantaged minorities struck by natural disasters does not seem improper to her. She is, after all, a rich, powerful politician, so she feels little to fear from the Aborigines, who she regards as a bunch of savages. (Fortunately, she has not gone as far as my acquaintance H, a hardline DPP Taiwan Independence backer, who advocates genocide: "The best thing we can do with the aborigines is wipe them all out, exterminate the race.") She has, however, retracted her statement about the negritoes, and is now trying to ignore the whole incident.

The aborigines have not been ignoring it. If you want to make instant friends with a Taiwan aborigine these days, any tribe, just say, “I hate the DPP, and I think Vice President Lu should be recalled.”

The aborigines are trying to institute dialogue with the Vice President. She told them to emigrate to South America if they don't like the DPP. Now the Aborigines say, “Okay, Vice President, first you find a husband in South America and move there. Then we will all follow you.” She has yet to respond to this proposal. (VP Lu has never been married.)

This proposal has also occasioned some discussion among the Tribes. “The Republic of China's diplomatic relations are few and tenuous. If Vice President Lu did manage to find someone in South America to marry her, wouldn't that spell the end of the ROC's good reputation throughout the region? They would hate us forever.”

Also, continued reflection has led to a tempering of certain rash statements the aborigines made in the heat of the moment. In a saber-rattling mood, some of the Tribes reminded people of the Aborigine tradition of headhunting, mostly among the Tayal tribe. However, the Tayal now say they will not remove Vice President Lu's head, because “it's too ugly.”

Monday, August 02, 2004

A Thought