Friday, 29 August 2008

Air Raid Drill 2008

Yesterday was air raid day in northern Taiwan. At two thirty pm air raid sirens sounded an attack wail in Taipei and north Taiwan, and for thirty minutes until the all clear was sounded, everybody (except the police and military) had to remain or go indoors, people driving had to pull over and sit in their cars, people on scooters had to pull into alleyways. It was eeirie to see deserted streets and freeways, and to not hear the rumble of the city, but within I would say about four seconds of the all clear being sounded, scooters were roaring again, horns were blasting and all was well in Taipei once more.....

Monday, 25 August 2008

This years United Nations application.

It's that time of year again, Taiwan has applied every year since 1993 to join the United Nations, and each year the application is opposed by China. Details on last years bid and some background can be seen here on a post from last september, but briefly, last years bid was unique in that Taiwan applied to join under the name "Taiwan", previous bids were under Taiwans official name "Republic of China". This year the island is trying something different again, asking the UN to consider the fundamental rights of the 23 million people of Taiwan to "Participate Meaningfully in the Activities of the U.N. Specialized Agencies", and is not a specific request for full UN membership. This is a far more moderate approach, and is partly due to the new KMT government coming to power, replacing the staunchly pro independence DPP party, whose former president of Taiwan and his family are under investigation for alledgedly sending some $US20 million of into private offshore bank accounts, as well as other alledged "wrong doings". Ex President Chen has already admitted falsifying past campaign expenses and sending campaign contributions into offshore bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, although he says that his wife sent the money without his knowledge.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

A birthday in class

One of my classmates here at Tamkang University is having her birthday today. Unlike in the west, here if it's your birthday you buy the cake and pay for all the celebrations yourself. So here I am with my classmates just before we tuck into a tasty cappuchino flavoured cake. The girl in front with the purple top giving the big V(as is the habit here when having your photo taken), is YenDee, an Indonesian Chinese, and it's her celebrating her twentieth birthday today. On her right is our teacher, whom we address as Lao Shi, which is "teacher" in mandarin.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Taiwan Beer Festival

On saturday I went to the Taiwan Beer festival, which was a celebration of Taiwan Beer, a product of the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation, formerly known as the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau. It had a monopoly on tobacco and alcohol products in Taiwan until the country joined the World Trade Organisation in 2002. It is still the most popular beer on the island, with the Chinese Qingdao in second place followed by a mixed bag of mostly Japanese and American beers. The festival was held at the old Jianguo Brewery in Taipei city, which was built in 1919 during the Japanese occupation. One wall of the factory is made from old beer kegs.

There were market stalls, games, music, and lots of Taiwan beer flowing. I planned to just have a couple of quiet ones and head off. I purhcased a cup of the Taiwan Draft beer, a freshly brewed unpasturised beer which is difficult to find outside Taipei, bought a couple of traditional chinese sausages with a few cloves of garlic thrown in the bag for good measure, and sat down with some locals. Within two minutes I had four new friends who kept filling my cup and toasting me, refusing to allow me to buy any beer. Two guys worked at a girly bar in Taipei, and another fellow was a stock trader, there with his prison guard fiancee.

This went on for some time, but finally we parted and I wandered about some more with a new perspective on things. I even had a go at the maze constructed entirely from beer crates.

All in all it was a great afternoon out.

Friday, 8 August 2008

At Street Level

And this is what it looks like from the outside. At the very centre of the shot of the house is my balcony, and you are right Captain Oddsocks it's be a grand spot for a few pots, in fact that could be this afternoons mission. Have just has a test in class which I think went well. This years teacher is very good but she piles on the homework and is fond of giving tests.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The new abode

My bedroom for the next three months or so, as I said, after looking at some real dumps, I stumbled onto this big, breezy place in Qilian district, with air-con and a private balcony, which sets me back $NT 6500 per month + utilities. It's two minutes walk from the Qilian MRT (mass rapid transport) station which gives me access to many of the dark alleyways and green parks of Taipei.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Back in Taiwan

Yes I am back for another blast of megolopis madness, and it only took five minutes for a couple of things to remind me where I was. Firstly, going through customs in Taipei was as effortless as it possibly could be, with nobody in the airport uttering a single word to me. While waiting to collect by bag I was reminded of the Taiwanese peoples love for expensive branded accessories, new hights being reached with one dapper fellow sporting a Louis Vuitton bum bag (that is to say fanny pack)! The bus which delivered me into the guts of the city was sporting a huge effigy of Hello Kitty, I should have known it wouldn't take long for her to track me down. I have been fortunate in finding some agreeable accommodation, living in Qilian area with a couple of Taiwanese people. This was after looking at a couple of real dives, one "studio" apartment which was completely windowless (and NT$9000 per month, extra for aircon use)! Today I began my Chinese language classes. My classmates are a mixed bag as usual, with three Indonesian Chinese, 2 French Chinese, a Belizian and a Mongolian.