Friday, 28 September 2007

Thursday, 27 September 2007

On My Balcony

On my balcony is a special plant with a special flower. It's special because it's quite large, will only open at night, and will only open for one night before expiring. In Chinese it's called tanwha, but it's otherwise known as Broad-leaved Epiphyllum, or Epiphyllum oxypetalum. I checked last night while I was moongazing, but it wasn't ready to show off. Perhaps this evening............

After the Moon Festival

There were alot of barbeques, Taipei smelt like a barbeque, the weather was kind enough to give most people a good view of the moon, although one thing was odd, I discovered yesterday that the true full moon was the day after the observed moon festival. This has been explained a couple of times to me in Chinese, but I haven't quite grasped the meaning of these explanations. Oh well, I went out last night and gazed respecfully as well.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Moon Festival

This years moon festival is fast approaching. Moon festival, or Mid Autumn festival is one of the most important holidays on the Chinese calender. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calender, which typically equates to mid to late september on the gregorian calender. This year it falls on September 25. This is when the full moon is said to be at it's biggest and brightest of the year. Taiwanese typically celebrate by eating mooncakes, small pastry buns about 5 to 10 cm in daimeter with heavy fillings of things like lotus paste or red bean paste, the expensive ones having a centre of salted chicken or duck yolk, so that when the cake is sliced it looks like there is a "moon" inside. Mooncakes are considered a delicacy, and at this time of year many shops pop up selling moonkakes, some of them extremely expensive.
Another way people celebrate here is to cook barbeques outdoors, although that often means crouching on the footpath outside ones house or shop, around a small brazier cooking up a few morsals of meat. It's quite comical watching some peoples hopeless efforts at trying to get a bit of charcoal burning. I shouldn't laugh really. You are also supposed to gaze at the moon in a respectful manner.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Taiwan's Bid For UN Membership Fails

Well it's been a blow for Taiwan this morning, it's bid for membership of the United Nations was rejected by the general committee, so it will not be put up for discussion by the general assembly. Predictably, the application was blocked by China, as well as Egypt. It didn't bode well when a couple of days ago Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that the UN's position on Taiwan hasn't changed since 1971 therefore the bid was legally bound to fail.
It's very disapointing and another example of the world submitting to the demands China.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Taiwan's Bid For United Nations Membership

Today Taiwan's bid for UN membership comes up for discussion at the UN general comittee, which will decide whether or not it will be put before the general assembly. Why is Taiwan not in the UN (or a member of the World Health Organisation, WHO)? At the end of the Chinese civil war Mao's communists took over all of mainland China and Chiang Kai Shek's nationalists were left with only Taiwan and a few small islands. However, the Nationalist government retained the China seat at the UN under it's official name of "Republic of China", while Mao's "Peoples Republic of China" had no representation. This changed in 1971 when the UN gave the People Republic the China seat and expelled the Republic of China aka Taiwan. For the past fifteen years Taiwan has annually applied for membership under the name "Republic of China" and has been denied entry, mainly because nobody wants to upset mainland China, also many countries have a "one China" policy, and because China has a seat on the security council so can veto it anyway. This year is different, Taiwan is applying under the name "Taiwan" for the first time. It fulfils all the requirements needed to be considered a nation state. There is absolutely no reason for Taiwan not to be granted membership of the UN. Apart from geopolitics and Chinese pressure. The bid is bound to fail as China is sure to veto it if it even gets as far as the security council. China has also in the past few days increased it's vitriolic rhetoric threatening Taiwan with military action if it makes any move to formal independence. China still regards Taiwan as part of it's sovereign territory and repeatedly threatens to take Taiwan by force if Taiwan moves toward formal independence. Hopefully the bid will make it as far as the general assembly so as to gain some wider exposure. Taiwan is a nation of some 23 million people, but UN reports, figures, statistics do not include any information or data regarding Taiwan. It is a ridiculous stuation supported by Western governments afraid of upsetting an increasingly powerful China.

Taiphoon Wipha moves on to China

Wipha has left the Island, however the rain if forcast to continue for the rest of the week. The winds were not severe as the typhoon did not make landfall, however there is alot of flooding and there have been several landslides. The hills around Taipei have recieved around 450mm of rain so far, some areas over 700mm. It's amazing to think that I have lived in places that are lucky if they recieve that much rain in a whole year! Wipha has moved on to mainland China, where over 1 500 000 people have been evacuated from coastal areas south of Shanghai.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Typhoon Wipha

Still not much wind yet, so I've been able to come out to the internet cafe. Plenty of rain though, in the past 24 hours there has been 250mm in the Taipei area.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Another Typhoon

Another typhoon is set to brush by Taiwan tonight. It has been named Wipha, a girls name in Thailand. The Taipei city and county governments have declared tomorrow (Tuesday) a typhoon day, that is to say there is no work and no school tomorrow.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Signs part 3 - Chinglish

This little gem was spotted on a drink vending machine. It all sounded too good to be true, so I tasted once and got me deamy world.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Signs part 2

This is an actual toilet sign, at an arts market where Jenny and I had a stall on the weekend. Anyone interested can check the G&J Boutique link on the right hand side of the page.......

Friday, 7 September 2007


Last night at around 1:51am there was an earthquake measuring 6.6 off the coast of Taiwan. A 5.7 quake followed four minutes later. Taiwan has quite a lot of earthquakes, and I've experienced a few, when I've been in bed they've been the:
roll over and go back to sleep variety,
lie there with your eyes open wondering when it will stop variety, or
sit up with you heart beating wondering if will get stronger or just fade away variety.
Last night was a new kind, it was the wake up and "things shaking and rattling, no I'm not on the metro I'm in bed - leap out of bed in a flash put on your clothes in a flash realise you're on the eigth floor go stand under a doorway try and keep your beating heart inside your chest" variety.
It lasted for about 30 seconds and took a while to get back to sleep afterwards.
A three quarter length mirror in the bathroom fell over, luckely it landed on a bathmat and did't smash.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Back in Class

I started attending Chinese language classes again on monday. I studied for six months here in Taipei last lear, and will complete a three month semester this year. I've seven classmates. a German man, a Japanese woman, a Korean girl, two Indonesian Chinese girls and two Indonesian Chinese boys. I have classes from monday to friday. Learning Chinese is quite, that is to say, very difficult, as I mentioned in an earlier post, in fact alot of what my teacher is saying I don't understand too well, as classes are conducted entirely in Chinese. This doesn't seem to matter too much - when I was a complete beginner I understood very little of what was going on but still managed to learn a great deal. Thus far I am able to write around 350 traditional characters (as opposed to thier simplified forms introduced by Mao in mainland China), still a long way from the 2000 or so you need to be "fluent". I can also speak more that I can write, from where the real rewards for my efforts come from, being able to make myself understood out on the street puts a smile on my dial.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

At the supermarket part one

One think I like about the street market near my place is I don't see stuff like this, a single apple on a polystyrene tray. The Taiwanese love packaging, so much of it wasteful and unnessesary. A packet of biscuits might have each biscuit individually wrapped, a packet of lollies almost certainly would. Eggs individually wrapped in plastic. About three years ago the government passed a law banning the use of plastic bags at restaraunts and food stands. Everybody ignored the law and the government had no way to effectively enforce it, so they repealed the law! To be fair they are making efforts, supermarkets charge for plastic bags at the checkout, things are improving, but they still have a very long ay to go. Eating out is common, and daily produces mountains of paper trays, plastic cups, disposable chopsticks, and plastic bags. There is so much rubbish that rubbish trucks drive up almost every street every day, somtimes twice a day, playing music that to a westerner would likely mean that the ice cream van was here!