Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Traditionally, women of the Tsou (Cou) tribe in central Taiwan wear blue blouses. This is because eons ago, when the waters of the great flood receded, the Tsou were left without houses or clothes, and they were really cold. The bisu (sibekay in Tayal, Blue Magpie in English) was originally all blue. It took pity on the freezing people, so it went and brought them fire. From then on, its beak has been fiery red, its head scorched black, and only its body blue. To commemorate this great deed, Tsou women have worn blue blouses ever since.

told by Apu’u Peongsi/汪朝麗

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


We had some real excitement this morning: clearly defined shadows! It was still raining, but some sunlight made its way through the clouds.
By afternoon, it had stopped raining, and by nightfall, we could see Orion, the first stars we have seen for weeks.
Such are the joys of living in the jungle.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It’s been raining so much that I saw a frog carrying an umbrella.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Long, long ago, when the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened, the waters prevailed so mightily that all the high mountains were covered with water, all except the highest peaks, the home of the Bunun tribe, and on the highest Patungkuonʉ, fire burned brightly. The Bunun huddled cold and miserable, and when the mighty winds blew, the Bunun were even colder and more miserable. They needed the fire that burned so brightly, but how could they cross the mighty waters?
The animals should have let well enough alone, but, apparently forgetting that the Bunun are avid hunters, decided to help the poor, shivering people.
The first was a frog, which jumped into the water and swam and swam all the way to Patungkuonʉ, fetched fire, and hey! wow! ouch! that's hot! Before the frog could return to the Bunun with its precious gift of fire, it had been scalded and scorched and bumps and lumps rose all over its fine skin, making it the world's first toad. Even to this day, the Bunun consider the toad to be their friend and helper.
The animals looked next to the white crested Chinese bulbul. The bulbul said, "I would really like to help, but don't you see my head, covered with white feathers? I am too old to go, so don't look at me!" Even to this day, the Bunun chase the bulbul away and throw things at it.
Finally, a little bird piped up and said, "I'll go get the fire!" It flew all the way to Patungkuonu and captured some fire in its beak, and flew all the way back. But by the time it reached the Bunun, its beak was stained bright red by the fire, and its whole body was scorched black. This was the first Black Bulbul. Even to this day, the Bunun respect the Black Bulbul as their benefactor.

told by 巴代 Badai, November 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Thursday, December 15, 2011

I have taken a giant step forward in my determined effort to make life difficult for myself: I have bought a feather file.
What? you may ask, Is this a new documenting program for ornithologists?
No, not that kind of file, I refer to a long, narrow metal tool with a series of ridges for reducing or smoothing surfaces of metal or wood (okay, I peeked into the dictionary for that one).
Now you ask, Why do you want to file feathers?
No, no, a feather file is a file specifically designed for sharpening saws.
So why do you need to sharpen saws?
Because people nowadays just buy a new saw when the old one gets dull. A new folding saw costs about NT$100, and a big one, like my log saw, costs NT$340, so with prices so low, people just buy new saws rather than get the old ones sharpened. Since the saw sharpeners are out of business, I do it myself. The feather file cost NT$350, so it very quickly paid for itself.
Why bother? Who saws so much?
Last winter we bought a wood burning water heater. When we don't have time, we use the propane gas water heater, but when I have time to make the fire, we prefer the wood burning water heater. The water is a lot nicer. You can feel the difference.
So why not use a chain saw?
A chain saw is noisy, smelly, and uses gasoline. I try to depend on myself when I don't have to use machines.
Modern life is so convenient that convenience has become a goal in itself. We forget what we are losing.
When you sharpen a saw, you learn about the saw. Otherwise, tools are just things we use without paying much attention to them.
When you saw by hand, you spend time with the wood and your thoughts. A chain saw is quicker, but it's so convenient that you have to go to a gym to get any exercise, and let me tell you, sawing wood is exercise.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

If it keeps raining, even the water is going to get moldy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I swear, Yumin must have pockets in his mouth. It has been raining steadily, so the wounds from his recent adventure with the snare have been healing too slowly. Denise the Vet gave us some m3dcn3 (can't say that word out loud!) to give Yumin, but of course Yumin won't cooperate with that! So we break up a doggie treat, and with every pill, stuff a little bit of treat into his mouth. First down the hatch is the capsule, chew chew chew! Swallow! Then the blue pill, chew chew chew! Swallow! Then the third pill, chew chew chew! Swallow! Then very casually, Yumin spits out the capsule, whole and unscathed….

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pearl Harbor plus 70 years. My mother told me that when they heard the news, in Colorado, Hawaii seemed so far away that it was like another world. She had never thought that anything happening so far away could have anything to do with her. The Japanese taught her different.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

今天下午花了幾個小時鋸薪劈柴,完成時很舒服。可是我穿的是寬鬆、舒適的衣服,不是名牌,不緊身,不貴、色彩不起眼;我用的器具都是手動的,不用電,而且更糟糕的是,沒有名牌也不貴(鋸子三百四,四公斤大斧一千五);身邊沒有聒噪刺耳的音樂、閃爍奪目的燈光,只有鳥鳴狗吠松鼠叫,僅見滲透雲層的陽光;身邊沒有教練、沒有機器測我的心跳、肉跳、呼吸率、膽固醇、尿酸、體溫、指甲厚度、 腳板硬度、骨質、髮長、連視力也沒有一個儀器隨時幫我測,可能最丟臉的是(寫得我很尷尬!)我沒有付出一毛錢的會員費(!)!!
I have a perturbing question.
This afternoon I spent several hours sawing and chopping firewood. I felt great when I finished. But I was wearing loose, comfortable clothing, nothing expensive, no famous brands, nothing tight fitting, no flashy colors; my tools are manual, not electric, and they aren't very expensive (NT$340 for the saw, NT$1500 for the four kilogram ax); there wasn't any loud, pounding music playing, or flashing, vexing lights, only birds, dogs, squirrels, and wind were audible, and the only light came from the sun, through the clouds; I was outdoors in fresh air, not in a closed, air conditioned room; I didn't drink any scientifically researched beverages; I didn't have a trainer watching over me; no electronic instruments monitored my pulse, breathing, capillary action, cholesterol, or endocrine system; and what's worst, although I barely dare to confess this in public, I didn't pay anything for this, I didn't join a club, I didn't fork out any hefty membership fees. So the distressing question is, under such unfavorable circumstances, did I exercise?

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Recently on this blog -(here)- I mentioned that, during the Occupation, the Japanese banned Tayal weaving. The art was almost lost, and few pieces of authentic weaving survived. When Ciwas Ali, a Tayal, first ran for the Legislature, she wanted to wear Tayal clothing, but the only traditional woven piece she could find was an old bed sheet, so she fixed that up and wore it.

When she appeared on television, a yaki (grandmother) was shocked and told her family, "Quick, turn off the television!" She thought that if the television was turned off, nobody would be able to see the mortifying scene.

told by Yuma Taru

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Recently we went to a talk by the Tayal poet Walis Nokan / 瓦歷斯‧諾幹. One of the many noteworthy parts of the talk was that he mentioned that the Tayal tribe has also been called the Atayal. Walis stumbled on the pronunciation; it is obviously an unfamiliar word. The reason this is noteworthy is that, in my decades of experience with the Tayal, this is only the second time I have actually heard a member of the tribe say "Atayal," but this is the name by which outsiders call the tribe.

The only other time I have heard an aborigine use the name Atayal was about ten years ago, when I asked someone if she had ever heard the name, and she said yes, she recalled hearing someone say Atayal, but she forgot who. But she was a Sediq; in those days Sediq were still considered Tayal, but have since split away.

I have asked many Tayal about this other name, and many have never even heard of the name Atayal ~~ I guess they should pay more attention to what the learned authorities have to say!

Due to the mysterious workings of official orthography, "Tayal" is actually pronounced dah-YEN, so now some people prefer to use Dayan, so we don't sound like bathroom tiles or something. For that matter, I suggest 達彥 for 泰雅.

Thursday, December 01, 2011



This evening before we started to cook dinner, I went to the back door to see if the dogs had finished their meal. When I opened the door, something fell on my head and right shoulder. I pulled back, and a little snake fell onto the floor::: inside the door. It wasn’t very long, only about two feet. It looked like a qimbahu, one of our poisonous neighbors, but I couldn’t tell for sure. It slipped in back of the washing machine, and I couldn’t get it out, so we had to call the fire department to help.

Two firemen came, wearing heavy, high boots, carrying a snake snatcher. They moved the washing machine and dryer out of the way, spotted the snake, and quick as a cricket, snatched the snake and put it in a cage. Many thanks!

I just love living in the mountains!