To those of you who read our last blog, we made it through the typhoon safe and sound. We never lost power and we didn’t even get a day off from school! The next time a typhoon visits, I am going to see what I can do about having it arrive during the week instead of the weekend. We made up for last weekend’s quarantine by spending as much time as we could handle wandering around the city. Our morning was slightly interrupted by our third trip to the emergency room (the second was to take my stitch out). Chris apparently contracted pink eye from one of our darling students. However, about $10 and thirty minutes later, he was drugged up and we were on our way. After getting the medical OK from my dad the eye doctor, we decided to join some friends to go to the movies. Now, I wouldn’t have thought that a movie theater would be blog-worthy, but Taiwan really knows how to do the whole movie experience. I thought that I would let you know about it so that America could get on the ball. Your first question is an obvious one. Can you actually understand the movies? Thanks to Hollywood having an overwhelming monopoly on the entertainment of the entire planet, most of the movies that they play here are American. And, I guess that dubbing is more expensive than adding subtitles so they simply add a few characters at the bottom of the screen and Voila! The movie is ready to amuse Chinese speakers all over Asia. The score? America 1, Taiwan 1 So now that American and Taiwan are on an even playing field, let’s start comparing other aspects of the movie-viewing experience. When you buy your movie tickets in the States, you typically buy the ticket and go into the theater. If you decide to go to a movie on opening weekend, make sure to show up at least thirty minutes to an hour before show time to make sure to get good seats. Not so in Taiwan. Tickets are issued with assigned seats in the theater. I wasn’t sure if I would like this or not, but it turns out that I love it. There is no hunting for good seats, no searching for the rest of your group in a dark theater and best of all, no sitting watching ridiculous trivia for forty-five minutes to avoid watching the movie from the front row. Simply buy your tickets, choose your seats, go have dinner and show up to the theater at the time the movie starts. What a concept. Our score? American 1, Taiwan 2. Taiwan clearly has the upper hand at the snack counter as well. No, I am not going to regale you with tales of strange and exotic Asian cuisine fed to movie-goers. Instead, I am going to tell you that your wildest dreams have come true. Here, you are actually allowed to bring your own food and drink into the theater. Yes, my friends, there is no need for over-sized purses or coats here. No shoving candy bars and sodas in awkward places or sneezing as you crack open your Coke. Just buy your desired nibblies and walk right in with them in plain sight. Buying your own snacks also has an effect at the theater itself. Since the movie-goer can purchase their snacks anywhere they please, the prices at the movie theater for refreshments are actually quite reasonable. Hurray capitalism! The final thing that I really would like to see in the States is the choice between regular popcorn and caramel corn. I didn’t see any of the pour on “butter” to add to your salted popcorn but I still think that Taiwan wins this match as well. America 1, Taiwan 3. The thing that really convinced me that Taiwan was doing things right was when we walked in the theater to find our seats. As we shimmied down the row, I noticed that something was missing. What is this? I wondered. My feet are not sticking to the floor! I will admit that there is something strangely comforting about the sticky smacking noise that your feet make as you peel them from the mystery substance coating the floor. I will also admit that I really, really didn’t miss it. The Taiwanese don’t use a lot of carpet but the idea they had to carpet their movie theater floors, I definitely support. Final Score: America 1, Taiwan 4. Will someone please call AmStar?
So, I am going to take a wild guess and presume that none of you know that Taipei is about to get smacked straight on with a category 4/5 typhoon. For those of you who don't "speak Asian", a typhoon is what these folks call a hurricane. For the life of me, I can't figure out the difference. Massive amounts of rain? Check. Crazy strong winds? Check. Inability to find life's essentials of bread, water and Oreos at the local store? Check. Maybe one of you is a closet weather guru and can inform me on why we make a distinction. At any rate, this tempest is about to whack us dead-on. "How did I not know about this?" you might ask yourself. The answer is quite simple. As it turns out, the English-speaking world really doesn't care that much about Asia. Before you feel too guilty about the ol' stars and stripes, let me tell you that we don't get the cold shoulder from Americans alone but from all anglophones in general. Even here in Taiwan the only thing that CNN "International" is talking about is Ike. Don't get me wrong, I am very concerned for my countrymen even if they are Texans, but I would like to know a little about what is happening off of my balcony. We have been able to watch the Taiwanese news channel and watch the storm tracker from there but there is only so much information I can glean from a few numbers dispersed between Chinese characters. Despite not knowing when or how hard this typhoon is going to hit, we are trying to gear up the best we know how. I believe we've taken all the necessary precautions. We have made plans for games and movies with our friends and bought the 7-11 out of Pringles and Oreos. What else is there to do? Oh yeah, maybe take a few pictures! Now all there is to do for us is wait and see how we do. Wish us luck through our first major natural disaster! Here's a few preliminary pics from our balcony for you:
I have to preface this story with a Taiwanese cultural note. The Taiwanese are extremely protective and are very afraid of injury or sickness of any kind. At times, it can go a little overboard… Yesterday, Chris and I were chosen to be two of the teacher chaperones on a field trip for the high school students to go “river tracing.” If you haven’t heard of this event before, you are not alone. We had to ask around to figure out what it was and still didn’t know exactly what we were in for when we drove to the banks of the river with 40 students in tow. After donning the still-damp rental wetsuit vests and booties, we divided into four groups with one teacher per group and followed our guide into the water. It was a little odd being the “leader” of this group for two reasons: 1) I had never done anything like this before and had no idea what was going on and 2) our guide spoke only Chinese so the kids were having to translate all of the instructions for me which was a little discouraging when the guide went on for several minutes and my translation was, “He says we are going to walk up the river.” Despite this confusion, I eventually figured some things out and was able to contribute somewhat to the group. Basically, river tracing is exactly what they tell you not to do if you have ever been whitewater rafting. We hiked up a river and had object lessons on teamwork as we helped one another through rapids or to jump off things or anything else dangerous to do in a river. We were having a really fun time learning to work together until it happened. Our mission was to get all of the members of our team from one rock to another in a rapid without grabbing their hands or arms. Simple enough, right? Well, I happened to be the last one onto the second rock. The guide had gone to the bank of the river to help get lunch ready. We were all celebrating our victory when someone looked down and noticed that my shin was bleeding. The water had been cold enough that I didn’t feel the injury when it happened and I really didn’t think that it was that big of a deal. However, the kids clearly thought that I had severed my jugular and quickly moved into action. They had me sit down on the rock as one hollered to the guide about our dire situation. In a flash, he came rushing over to put pressure on the gaping ½ cm deep wound. Had he had a tourniquet, I am sure it would have been applied. Since the guide didn’t speak English and I still don’t speak Chinese, I had to depend on the students to communicate with the guide. I asked them to tell him that I was fine and that we could keep going up the river. This was clearly the wrong thing to say because they refused to translate that for me and insisted that it was a very serious injury! After applying pressure to my mutilated leg for a couple of minutes, our guide decided that I must be rushed to the emergency room for stitches. Keep in mind, though I was bleeding, this cut could not have been more than 1 cm long, but off I went, to the ER. So, when we get to the hospital, I am feeling totally lame. First of all, I really don’t think I need to be there. Secondly, because of this wimpy little “flesh wound”, the kids in my group had to quit river tracing early and play in rafts by the drop-off point in the river instead. The guide’s wife who spoke English came with me and helped me fill out paperwork. The doctor rushed me back to the operating table and, after analyzing my situation, proceeded to put one stitch (one!) in my leg. What kind of crappy story is that to tell? I went to the hospital and got a stitch? I thought about asking the doctor if he could squeeze a couple more in there just to make the story better, but I refrained. They then released me to the waiting room where our guide awaited me with ice cream in hand. He insisted on holding ice to my shin while I gobbled down the treat as quickly as I could to get him up off the ground. After handing me amoxicillin and a bunch of pain killers and paying my shockingly cheap bill, I was released and was able to meet up with the rest of the group.