Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random Asianess: Random Thoughts

First of all, I'm sorry it has been so long between posts. It has been somewhat hectic. We moved to a new house. We started a new weekly outreach, "The Coffee House," and we're busy with all the regular stuff. But it's been exciting and I have several posts that I'm writing, so they may be coming fast and furious for a while. Today I want to post some random things that we have encountered along with some insights. I call it Random Asianess. I may do these things once in a while:

Random Thoughts:

1. The Funeral

The day we moved in there was a Buddhist funeral on our street. They erected a tent that covered both lanes of the road, completely blocked off the street. In there, they had the casket and the deceased neighbor. But outside they had these displays of beer cans. Two pyramids of probably 50 cans of beer. Apparently this neighbor was fond of beer and so this beer was for him to drink while he waited to be reincarnated.

This is part of ancestor worship. They buy special “blessed” money from the local temple and burn it, so the dead people will have money to spend.

At the end of the funeral, which can sometimes last 30 days, there was a procession. The hearse was followed by 4 flutists, playing traditional Chinese music, all of the dead neighbor’s friends and family, and a number of the temple’s vehicles. In the first a drummer, In the second were representation of the gods the third was more drummers and finally the last car blared “pop” music and had a pole dancer. This dancer was to entertain the gods and make them more accepting of the dead person. This guy probably had more fun at his funeral then he did in life.

2. Traffic

The traffic sometimes is ridiculous. You stop at a stoplight with maybe 25 scooters and a line of cars. All of the stoplights have a countdown of remaining seconds until the light changes. At 2 seconds before the light changes scooters start to accelerate from the stoplight. It sounds like the start of a motocross race. In So Cal we have to wait for three cars to run the red light before we pull away from the stop. Here, nobody waits. The intersection has cars going in all directions. It’s pretty intense. But everyone seems to know what every other driver is going to do. There are surprisingly few accidents. One of my friends commented, "Driving in Taiwan is complicated, you know, there's a lot of laws but nobody follows them."

3. Vehicle Accidents

The other day Emily and I saw some kid get hit on his scooter. He came through an intersection and some truck driver pulled out and T-boned him. The kid did a backward somersault off his bike. He didn’t seem to be too badly hurt. There’s so much traffic on streets that all accidents seem to be low speed. But it’s still dangerous for motorcycle riders. When the police came, I waited because I saw the whole thing. He was completely uninterested in what I saw. He didn’t even write it down.

I’m a foreigner and the police don’t want to deal with us. Rather than try to talk with us in English they just wave us off. One guy told me that a policeman stopped him on his bike and was angry about something, but when he saw he was a foreigner he just walked away. He still hasn’t figured out why he was stopped.

4. Being a Foreigner

Young people just want to talk to me. Not because I’m cool or they think I’m great, but I’m American and I’m a good chance to practice English. Me, I don’t mind because I like to talk to young people and I can steer the topic to what I want to talk about.

Often, though, they don’t have much to say after “hello.” They just stand and smile, so I start talking to them and they don’t get it. But it’s fun. Occasionally, I meet someone who can speak English well and they will talk to me for 20 minutes.

Teenage girls always want to talk to my daughters. And ask for cell phone numbers and Facebook page information. They always want to have their picture taken with a foreigner. It makes them seem more sophisticated. They also want to be friends, so the kids are tasting popularity.

5. Taiwanese People

Being from Southern California, I am amazed at how many people in Taiwan will go way out of their way to do something for you. There is none of the American reluctance to get involved. My landlord was visiting our house the other day. She got this perplexed look on her face. So when we asked her what she was looking for. She asked where the TV was. We told her we didn’t have one. She got a horrified look an her face and wanted to go immediately and buy a flat screen TV for us. We had to convince her that we didn’t have a TV because we didn’t want one. Another woman spoke to the landlord about some repairs that needed to be made in the house. The repairs were scheduled for the time we had to leave for Chinese class. So this woman offered to stay at the house until the repairs were made.

I think this is the way America used to be: A place where people were concerned for their neighbors. It’s one of the things that makes Taiwan such a great place to live. I hear a lot of ex-pats here who are critical of Taiwan for certain things; fist fights in the congress, the Asian way of doing things, the inefficiency of the police. All of that stuff exists. This definitely isn’t America. But for me it’s all about people.

6. The gods of hell

Today there was a politcical rally near the church. And they are like many political rallies, in that, they try to draw a big crowd and then convince the people to vote for their candidate. But this was different, because this politician, pulled out the big guns. No, not free beer or food. This guy took the three "gods of Hell" for a walk to his rally. The local Buddhist temple marched three 9 foot representations of the gods of hell right to the rally. Drums beating, dragons dancing, traditional music, fireworks and the gods of hell. Makes Obama rallies look tame by comparison. This guy will probably be elected

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