28 April, 2005


thejayfather believes in education. let me share some of mine with you, in the form of some of the Chinese i've been learning. below is a table that consists of some of the characters I have learned simply by their being commonly used or highly useful. in the left column is the character itself, the middle is the Pinyin, or Romanization of that character (not always done the standard way, many are my version of what the character should sound like) and the final column gives a rough translation. if your computer is having a hard time rendering the characters, and just gives little boxes or symbols, you will need to download Chinese text display support.

some Chinese characters i've learned to decipher
yuencurrency unit
funpoint (also minute--time)
lingforest (a common surname)
huhjoins things together

after these basics, i think we're ready for some more involved words, which are often composed of more than one character. most of the following are compounds of the above characters, though some are just for the sake of curiosity. the way that characters go together to form words has a bizarre sort of intuitiveness about it; it's quite interesting. behold:

some words made from more than one character
台湾Tai-wanTaiwan wanname of the country
台中Tai-zhongTaiwan middlecentral city of Taiwan
台北Tai-beiTaiwan NorthNorthern and capital city of Taiwan
台東Tai-dongTaiwan EastEastern city of Taiwan
台南Tai-nanTaiwan SouthSouthern city of Taiwan
台北市Tai-bei-suhTaiwan North cityNorthern city of Taiwan
中心zhong-shinmiddle heartcenter
台北市中心Tai-bei-suh-zhong-shinTaiwan North city middle heartTaipei city center
豐原Feng-Yuenfertile plainthe city in which i live
高雄Kao-Hsiunghigh (name)the major city of the South
中國Zhong-gwomiddle countryChina
中國人Zhong-gwo-renmiddle country peopleChinese person
美國Mei-gwobeautiful countryAmerica
美國人Mei-gwo-renbeautiful country peopleAmerican
英國Ing-gwoEngland countryEngland
英國人Ing-gwo-renEngland country peopleEnglish person
中文Zhong-wenmiddle languageChinese
英文Ing-wenEngland languageEnglish
入口roo-koto go in mouthentrance
出口tsuh-koto go out mouthexit
小時syao-hsiuhsmall timehour
公尺gong-tsuh(measurement word) (likewise)meter
公分gong-fun(measurement word) pointcentimeter
公司gong-hsuh(measurement word) (unknown)office
大小da-syaobig smallsize
東西dong-hsiEast Westthing
可口可樂cuh-ko-cuh-leallow mouth allow happyCoca-Cola (a transliteration)
摩門mor-munfriction gateMormon (a transliteration)

most of the Romanizations and translations here are mine, so please forgive any mistakes. also let me know if you have persistent trouble viewing the characters, and i'll see what i can recommend. the main thing is to download a Chinese character font and save it in your Windows font file. if the one i linked to doesn't work for you, see if Microsoft can help you figure it out, or go to the Fonts folder in your Windows Control Panel and choose "Install New Font" from the File menu.

25 April, 2005


around the time of thecircumnavigation thejayfather was a busy boy. the weekend after that journey was the school trip to, among other places, the geographical center of the island. so over the course of two weekends i really felt like i saw it all.

on Saturday the 9th we left the school and headed to a little town called either Chichi or Jiji, depending on which sign you were looking at. Chinese Romanizations never seem to work out quite right, but if you can cross these two names, you pretty much have the sound. it seemed as if the whole purpose of this town was to rent very small motorcycles, which we did, along with every Taiwanese person who was there. it's a very strange concept that they have: they figure it would be fun to have some of these little bikes for the tourists, and then instead of getting them in other tourist towns, everybody opens a mini-bike shop right in Jiji, and you can't find them anywhere else.

those westerners don't half ride funny...

at least we got some of the bikes, and we discovered how much fun they could be, finding an open area of blacktop on which to race and do all kinds of other stunts, as shown. the trouble was, we were riding them so hard on the blacktop that when we finally went out to see the mountain sights, the batteries on two of our machines died and we had to tow them all the way back to the shop in town. my arm still hurts.

and don't we know it. this is much harder than it looks, by the way

we went up to some campsite seemingly in the middle of nowhere after that, but i assume it was somewhere in Nantou, or at least Nantou County. we were there for a disproportionate amount of time, mostly sitting around getting eaten by bugs after our barbecue, but our accommodations were nice. like little condos complete with TV and AC, and one of the most spacious bathrooms i've ever seen. actually bathrooms are one thing you have little cause to complain about here. apparently, according to the rules of geomancy, or Feng Shui, as it is more trendily known in the states, it is important to have a large bathroom and the smallest kitchen imaginable. if you can just about turn around once you get in the kitchen, that is admirable, but probably an indicator that the room is still too big. this is directly opposite to the Western way, where the kitchen is usually the most important room in the house, and rightly so, though i certainly like the big bathroom. but it does have its drawbacks. few are the bathrooms in this or any other Southeast Asian country that sport our common or garden variety commode; rather, the potty of choice is a squatty, and i'll leave the specifics of that to your imagination, and perhaps a picture. it's said that this variety of toilet is better for the bowels, but let me assure you it does nothing for the legs. add to this the need to place toilet paper in a trashcan, rather than flushing it, and you end up with a thoroughly miserable experience, which in turn makes all that extra space quite useless. why put a library somewhere you would never be able to enjoy it?

welcome to my world. you'll be sharing your most intimate moments with this contraption for the next six months

anyway the next day we headed out to Puli, the geographical center of Ilha Formosa, to go to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. sounds as if it's a bit like the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, right? wrong. it's like a second-rate Disneyland with some wax models of aboriginal Taiwanese. at the PCC you have real live Polynesian and Melanesian people walking around talking to you about their culture, and showing it to you with various performances. there were a few--a very few--performances at the FACV, but most of the time it was unclear what was going on. and, in the tribal villages, there really were just wax models of aboriginal people. most visitors seemed much more interested in the numerous food stands than they were in any kind of culture anyway, so i'm sure they didn't mind.

the entrance to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

anyway the rides were pretty okay, and i had another funny experience with a ride operator which further demonstrated the Taiwanese mindset. we were getting on the ride that has you sit in a chair which faces outward from a huge tower, the thrill being that the chair is hoisted to the top of the tower and then dropped. we put our bags and loose articles in the bins provided and climbed aboard, but as the attendant came to check our safety belts, she motioned for me to take off my glasses and give them to her. having cost more than her scooter, i was not about to hand over my high custom eyewear, so i smiled and made the "okay" symbol, and thought that she would respect my sovereignty over my own possessions. no such luck. she kept after it, trying to tell me they would fly off, me telling her they wouldn't. then she walked off and i thought for a fleeting moment that she would start the ride, but she just brought the other attendant over to try her hand at persuading me. i finally realized that they really wouldn't start the ride until i had capitulated, but i wasn't about to go up sightless, so i motioned that i would put them in my pocket, which seemed to satisfy them. when i put them on again, just after lifting from the ground, i knew i wouldn't be able to ride this ride again; indeed, both attendants were looking at me sternly when we came down. but they were looking at me because i had my glasses on, still, and enduring their silent wrath was worth being able to see the view from the top.

the view from the top. note the fun space needle at the bottom of the park (middle of the picture)

the views made the trip to the park worthwhile. it is set on a long hill overlooking some pretty spectacular countryside, and they have some aboriginal buildings at the top of the hill which go up about four stories and so give a good platform for pictures.

though this map is marked for some obscure Feng Shui purpose, it's the only map i could find that shows the relative locations of the places on this trip

the next place we went was pretty good for pictures as well. maybe too good. the Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Puli is one of the biggest buildings i have ever seen, certainly for religious purposes. some say it's the largest religious building in the world. it is home to who knows how many monks and nuns, but judging by the size, quite a lot. actually i know very little about this place, the website is all in Chinese. but most of the links on the left hand side seem to go to pictures, in case you want to get a better feel for the scale of this thing.

a handy schematic of the so-called Chung Tai Chan Monastery, and a view of the behemoth

Chung Tai Chan is a Buddhist monastery, this much i do know, and many of the Buddha statues are quite impressive. though i really can't understand the draw of Buddhism, there is a certain appeal to the notion of becoming a perfectly enlightened fat guy and sitting around all jolly-like forever.

who wouldn't want to be a Buddha, really?

maybe there's more to it than that, and i guess that many millions of people the world over derive some comfort from the promise of release from their miserable mortality. they certainly seem fervent in their prayers, often to quite beautiful effect. their shambalistic chantings inside the monastery made the perfect background to this impressive display of prayer ribbons:

prayer ribbons hanging outside the Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Puli

finally, after far too many hours on the chartered karaoke bus (oh yes, they really do have these, and people really do sing the entire time the bus is moving) they took us to Puli's wine making factory. they do other things there, and we did have some awfully good fruit popsicles, but the reason this place is an attraction, at least for the non-drinking Mormons, is that it showcases some of the devastation of the 9-21 earthquake of 1999. Puli was very close to the epicenter of Taiwan's most powerful quake of recent times, and so was greatly damaged. in a memorable visual demonstration of nature's power they showed a huge distilling vat that had been crushed like a tin can by an enormous concrete beam from the old factory. then, as if to demonstrate its caprice, they showed hundreds of the old-style ceramic storage vessels that had apparently gone unharmed by the quake.

twinkle twinkle little shoes. i thought i'd shed some light on this scene

of course, my take on the moral of the story may be way off the mark--it was all in Chinese after all.

23 April, 2005


last Sunday was a sad day in the life and Taiwan times of thejayfather. my good friends Mike and Chris Cammock left the country for greener pastures, in this case for Mike to continue study in his native New Zealand. they had been here for just over a year when they left, and were an invaluable source of information for such neophytes as myself. it helped that Mike had served his two-year LDS mission in the country, down in Kaohsiung, and so speaks the language, but far from being simply tour guides, they quickly became good friends. too good for some, maybe: Mike and i share the same penchant for debate and argumentation, so much so that Chris once remarked, only half in jest i suspect, "you guys are the same person."

a rare view inside the velvet ropes at the last hurrah of the nigge dongshi club

to my alter ego, and to his wife, you're missed already and thejayfather looks forward to seeing you again.

xie xie xie.

19 April, 2005


and so we come, finally, to the culmination of my round-island trip. this leg of the journey, though covering much more, was dominated by our visit to Taroko National Park. Taroko Gorge is rightly known as the crown jewel of Taiwan's natural treasures; hopefully you will get some idea of the gorge's splendor from the photos below.

an example of Taroko Gorge's stunning scenery

after we finally got our bus tickets (see thecircumnavigation) the trip from Taitung up the East coast was very smooth, at least for Taiwan, and our bus made the 170 km (100 mile) journey in a blistering four hours! honestly that's quite fast for this place. there's no such thing as a real highway on the East coast, so we went through every little burg imaginable, and were waved down at all kinds of random points along the way. i was actually stunned that their time projection for the trip was so accurate. anyway, the scenery on that drive was no less spectacular than the views in the gorge, blue water stretching forever on one side with impossibly green mountains towering in dramatic relief on the other.

though we didn't get any pictures of that scenery, you'll get some idea from the Taroko pictures, since it is set in the same mountain range. one thing to which i wish we could have got closer was the San Shian Tai--the Platform of the Three Immortals. it appears to be a small islet off the coast just North of Taitung, connected to the mainland by a rather spiffy looking bridge that is composed of eight distinctly arching sections. i assume it's supposed to be evocative of the archetypal Chinese dragon; either way, it's an effective visual statement. though the circumnavigation was quite a whirlwind affair, it has enabled me to focus in on the areas i would like to see in greater detail. since the San Shian Tai is one of these, i hope to have pictures at some future date, so stay tuned.

another Taroko view

the terminus of the bus journey was the fabled Hualien (or Wha-lien). though Taitung was endearing because it seemed like a normal city, Hualien was much more entertaining. they seemed to have better coast and more ways to enjoy it, and it seemed to be a slightly hipper city with more going on in general. Taitung felt a little too sleepy for our big adventures. and besides, Hualien is very convenient to Taroko, and we found someone to rent us a scooter. actually that's a lie. some hotelliers found us someone to rent us a scooter. as you exit the train station in Hualien, you are greeted with a stunning view of... dozens of hotels. on the way down to them we inquired after scooter rentals and were turned down at a couple of places, for not having Taiwanese driver's licenses. so we decided to ditch the bags at a hotel and keep looking. in the middle of a street we were accosted by a lady using very broken English to pitch her sleeping establishment to us, but a little quick thinking made her give us more than just the room she had been counting on. i told her that we were looking for a scooter first, and wouldn't be checking into anywhere until we had one, so as with the girls at the middle-of-nowhere gas station, our problem became hers, though more because of the almighty New Taiwan Dollar than for the joy of helping. it didn't matter to me though; in no time she had us hooked up with a new-looking 125cc scooter for NT$500. that's about US$15, so i guess the NT is not so mighty, and this is without any security and on an expired California driver's license. pretty good deal. actually, at one point before we'd found that place, it sounded like the hotel lady was going to make her husband lend us his scooter, just to get us to stay. maybe the NT is mightier than it seems.

Jill and i at the entrance to Taroko National Park, home of Taiwan's best sight--Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge is accessible through the Central Cross-Island Highway of Taiwan, much of which West of the gorge remains shut to anything larger than motorcycles since the 9/21 Earthquake of 1999. this epicenter of this earthquake was in Puli, the geographical center of Taiwan, but was strong enough as to level numerous parts of many cities and cause tremendous rock slides. it is said that the peak of Taiwan's highest mountain is now eight meters higher than it was prior to the earthquake (that's about 25 feet). Feng Yuan was quite devastated by the quake, and many of our students have friends or family members who were killed as a result. the highway is the main road running East-West in the center of the map below.

a map of the gorge area

what i really want to talk about is engineering. the following photos show some good examples, some bad examples, and some downright scary examples:

a rather fetching bridge in Taroko Gorge, along with another, though perhaps slightly less fetching example:

the problem is, when you are familiar with the ethos of Taiwanese engineering, all Taiwanese engineering becomes very scary, regardless of its elegance. what i would like to give a sense of is the stairs. the Taiwanese appear to be constitutionally incapable of constructing a uniform set of stairs--too many are the times i've skinned a shin on a too-high step. so when they undertake feats like building eight flights of totally unsupported stairs, as in this pagoda whose insides are pictured below, one is led to question one's own sanity when climbing those stairs.

looking up to the top of the pagoda, and looking down. note well the suspended stairs, low railing, and fully open center.
absolutely terrifying

but climb i certainly did, with the wind gusting and the doors on all sides of the building slamming open and closed; i even went out on the eighth floor balcony and we got a shot of the view. very scary but well worth it i think you'll agree.

the view from the top

and then we trusted ourselves to the various bridges of less stable-looking character. that's a good burst of adrenaline, at least, as if trusting yourself to a scooter on a windy mountain road wasn't doing it for you.

so what do you think we did next?

you guessed it

finally, before we went back to Hualien to head home via Taipei, we had to stop by the Chang Chun, or Eternal Spring Shrine, which looks very picturesque set way up there in those verdant hills, straddling a waterfall. look:

the Eternal Spring Shrine in Taroko Gorge, where i learned the secret of immortality

apparently this shrine was built in memoriam to the 400 or so workers who died while constructing the Central Cross-Island Highway, and their names are all inscribed on stone tablets inside the building at far left of the picture. its a bit of a walk through caves and such to get to the shrine, but the shrine itself acts as the head for one of the many supposedly spectacular trails in the park. supposedly because thejayfather can't comment on any of the trails, not having walked them himself. but we did see this curious little thing on the trek over to the shrine, hidden in one of the caves:

the awesome Buddhist "Staircase to Nowhere", where i learned why being short is a blessing

there appears to be some mystical power associated with stairs that lead nowhere. perhaps they lead to enlightenment, or a new state of mind and being, diverting your crass western mind from its compulsive drive to get somewhere. whatever the purpose, even the people here don't seem to know why their religions do what they do, so until i take the staircase next time, i won't be able to enlighten you.

17 April, 2005


listen to Bob Newhart. he knows how things work. before i move on to cover the rest of the round-island trip, let me go back to the first leg and tell you how i know. there are many buses that run the route between Kaohsiung and Kenting, with many different bus stations close to our Kaohsiung hotel, so we thought it would be no problem to find one after getting some breakfast. little did we know how easy it would be. i found a small hole in the wall "restaurant" where i got a baked potato with cheese goo and bacon bits--it was actually quite edible. the guy who served me spoke some English, which i warmly complimented, as is the politic thing to do. then i assumed he was just showing off when he asked me where we were headed, though he quickly proved me wrong. "Do you need a bus?" he asked. i told him we did, thinking he would tell us where to get one, but he did one better. in a moment that eerily reminded me of The Grace L Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company, my new friend produced a large stack of bus tickets and told me his breakfast store was also the station and stop. in a land where folks set up scooter repair shops in their living rooms, i should not have been remotely surprised, but i suppose that even thejayfather just wasn't ready for Sum Fat-gai's Breakfast Goo and Bus Shack. thanks for the heads up, Bob. i'll not doubt again.

the ever-insightful Mr Newhart

13 April, 2005


what's in a name? well i'l let you decide for yourself. here is mine in Chinese characters:

- bao - to protect

- hsiuh - time

- jie - fast

as i mentioned earlier, this name, which was given me, is the name under which Porsche cars are marketed in China, which makes the name quite appropriate, and it also sounds quite like Porsche.

12 April, 2005


so finally we get to the circumnavigation of Ilha Formosa. below is a basic map of the country; won't you follow along with me as i outline our journey?

a very simple map of Taiwan.

we started, of course, in Feng Yuan, which is slightly less far north of Taichung than Chang-hua is South of it, and took the train to Taichung. from there we caught the luxury bus to Kaohsiung, a journey of about three hours. the distance is around 200 kilometers, or 120 miles. we had planned to head for Kenting, supposedly the most hip spot in the country, that night, Saturday the 2nd. Kenting lies at the very southern tip of the island, on the west coast. that weekend was a large music festival called Spring Scream, which basically turned out to be Hippie Fest, so even when we did get to Kenting we didn't hang around much. anyway, knowing it would be crowded, we stayed in Kaohsiung instead, which is Taiwan's second largest city, and the largest seaport in Asia. i'm told it's the third or fourth largest port by volume in the world. while there we visited a small island on the far side of their bay, which seemed very nice as we walked along the beach but became just another filthy Taiwanese town when we returned along the street.

when we finally got down to Kenting the next day by bus, another journey that took far longer than its mileage would suggest, i found it was indeed way less than the hype suggested. it's one of those little beach towns that has "quaint" shops with "character" all along one street--such character, in fact, that they have the same souvenirs as every other little shop in the country. and of course the town was filled with all kinds of hippies trying to get their fill of the "authentic" travel experience. only Kenting has become one of those homogenized places that looks just like every other beach town in the world, and largely due to the presence of those people, i suggest.

looking a bit hippie-ish myself (note the long hair and giant backpack) at the entrance to the Kenting National Forest Recreation Area.

so we left. and went to Taitung (say Taidong). or at least we tried to get to Taitung. as you may have gathered, Taiwan's highway system leaves something to be desired, so we had to go about halfway back to Kaohsiung before there was a road or train track to take us eastward. we were supposed to be let off the bus in a place called Fengliao (say Fongliao), but our bus driver had the radio up so loud that even if he had made the stop announcement, we wouldn't have heard him. when i started thinking we had passed our mark, i went up to talk to him, and through a combination of hand waving and head bobbing we came to the conclusion that we were indeed past the mark and we should be let off there. he wanted me to pay him for the extra distance we had traveled, and even had an English-speaking passenger explain that to us, but i argued about it, through this hapless intermediary, for long enough that he was worried about his schedule and just wanted us off the bus.

so that plan worked, but now we were on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. this part of the story is becoming much longer than i had intended it to be, but the next two events do a good job of explaining a couple of seemingly opposite Taiwanese attitudes. there was a convenience store nearby, so we went in there and tried to make contact with the sales clerk. we asked for Fengliao and pointed, hoping he could tell us in which direction to start walking. he did, but when we asked again just to be sure, he pointed the other way. which was very helpful. now we were confused, so we showed him the Chinese characters for train station in our handy little guidebook, hoping he would point in its direction. he had a hand on the book, and just kept staring at it and smiling. we could tell he didn't know what it was saying, but it was thoroughly bizarre that he wouldn't indicate that, other than with a sheepish grin and to keep holding onto our book. finally we were done with him and just said xie-xie (thank you, say shie-uh shie-uh) and set off along the road the way we had come.

more than once during that hike i thought about raising a thumb, and would have done so if i hadn't given it a last ditch effort at the gas station we came to. we tried the same routine with the three Chinese-only girls working there, and even though they didn't really get what we were trying to do, they decided that this was now their problem too. over the course of about ten minutes, they managed to instruct us to stand on the street under the lights from their signs and thumb any bus that came along and ask for Taitung. thumbing a bus on rural roads in Taiwan at night is rather a terrifying experience. along that stretch they were actually going quite fast, and you pretty much have to walk out in the middle of the road to ensure they see you. when they do of course, they have to lay on the brakes to avoid hitting you, so i was glad that the girl from the gas station volunteered to do most of the flagging for us, motioning for us to sit down all the time. about half an hour after our problem had become theirs, our helpful hosts, who had been running back and forth all that time to pump gas and then wave down buses, they had realized that there were no direct buses to Taitung on that road, and we would have to take one back to Fengliao and catch the train. we did this with no small thanksgiving to our new friends, and we did make it to Taitung without further ado, though the train was painfully slow.

the train station is at the heart of most Taiwanese towns, but Taitung has built a new one quite a way out of town. they have also built a lot of wide new roads to get to it, all of which were used to their greatest advantage by our taxi driver, who seemed to think he was in training for the Taiwanese Grand Prix. it was midnight though, and no cars around, and frankly it was nice to break the snail barrier for once.

not much to say about Taitung. it was nice and seemed the least Taiwanese of all the places i've seen, but was pretty unremarkable. it is apparently known for its fruit, so we got some wax apples and tried the famous custard apple, which i found less than spectacular. at least it was edible though. we tried to rent a scooter to drive up the coast, but all the places were so funny about us not having a Taiwanese license that we gave up and decided to head for Hualien by bus.

though that trip will have to wait for the next post, it is worth relating how we found the right bus station. there was a visitor bureau close to our hotel, and one lady there who spoke fairly good English, so I told her we were trying to get to Hualien, pronouncing it Wa-lien. She gave me this totally blank look like she'd never heard of the place, so i tried again. nothing. finally i caught a brainwave or a slice of inspiration or something, and tried Wha-lien. "Oh, Wha-lien. It's that bus right over there," she said, pointing. seriously nonplussed, we wandered off to buy our tickets, not for Wa-lien, for Wha-lien. i will not make that mistake again.

09 April, 2005


with all the technical difficulties of late and the endless travelling thejayfather has been doing lately, the blog has suffered. sorry. but that does mean there is a lot to catch up on in the next few days. first, themartyrs:

entrance to the Martyr's Shrine in Taichung.

i had heard there was to be an annual ceremony on March 29 at the Martyr's Shrine in Taichung. i reluctantly dragged my sorry rear out of bed at the crack of eight to make it down there for the published start time of nine, which was duly missed. no matter, the sights were entertaining enough. as you will see below, the rank military personnel involved in the ceremony were arrayed in the most fabulous uniforms--and i mean fabulous. unfortunately, you will probably not fully be able to appreciate the Department of Defense's uniform contracting skills: the exact pastel mint green hue of the shirts strongly suggests the Gap as their supplier. very trendy.

soldiers in pretty green pastel uniforms line the entryway during the ceremony.

so far as i've been able to gather, the 29th is the anniversary of a military massacre of several students back in 1978 or so, hence high school juniors and seniors have the day off school, and the dead are remembered as martyrs. the ceremony itself was predictably bizarre--it was Taiwanese after all. ten minutes past the appointed start time, a cadre of official-looking folks, including politicos and military brass, paraded into the shrine looking a bit vexed to be there. then a high school band hidden off to the side of the shrine started to play the worst dirge i've ever heard, and the emcee began yelling in his best Kermit the Frog voice. though i'm sure that what he said was very inspirational.

compounding the oddity of the spectacle was how seriously the people took their spectating. for a nation that doesn't seem to know how to line up, on this day they were awfully concerned about maintaining perfect columns facing the shrine. we were the only white people in attendance, and weren't too bothered about the lines; i think we only got away with our sloppy non-conformism because nobody wanted to deal with the "engerrish".

the best part though, and what transformed the strange into the absurd, was just what those snappily-dressed privates were doing. i had seen it before, during the changing of the guard at the Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial in Taipei, but the supposed solemnity of this occasion made it hard to bear without laughing. you see, the Taiwanese military, in its attempts to look ceremonial, usually ends up looking more like a high school drill team. one guy leads the way, pointing his toes all over and waving his hands around like a Bolshoi ballerina, and the rest of them follow his lead by stomping around and periodically freezing with their legs and arms in mid air.

i'm sure the experience could only be appreciated by being there, and i'm glad that i was. though it only lasted 15 minutes, it's nice they recognize their mistakes of the past. and what better way to say "i'm sorry we slaughtered your children" than to prance around in pretty green shirts while holding guns?