Showing posts with label southeast_asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label southeast_asia. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Bad reporting, Han Kuo-yu, and racism against Filipinos in Taiwanese society

Screen Shot 2019-03-11 at 12.02.45 PM
This meme - not established Taiwanese media -  is the most accurate translation of Han's actual remarks that I've found. 

So, I'm sure you've all heard by now that Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu is a racist crapsack, but you might not be entirely clear on exactly how much of a racist crapsack he actually is, because it's impossible to figure out what his exact words were from print media. 

In looking for Han's direct quote, I found three different versions in United Daily News, Liberty Times and Storm Media, and decided none of them could be fully trusted. So, I found a video. Here's exactly what he said, with video evidence:


我想高雄市民跟台灣人民的心理狀態一定很大衝擊,怎麼瑪麗亞一下變成我們老師了?

My translation:


I think the hearts of Kaohsiung residents and Taiwanese would be greatly shocked, how can a Maria become our teacher?

'Maria' is a pejorative for a Filipina woman, connoting a woman of humble means who performs domestic labor. It's equivalent to calling them maids - referring to every woman in the Philippines as 'the help'. This particular insult is well-known in Taiwan, where many workers from the Philippines perform blue-collar labor in Taiwan. It's not just a racist word, it's a sexist one too as it specifically denigrates the domestic labor done by foreign women.

That word, "shock" (衝擊) can also mean an assault or lashing - it could just as easily be translated as "would assault the hearts of Kaohsiungers and Taiwanese".

The "...because how can a 'Maria' become our English teacher" is also important to understanding Han's meaning, it implies unlikeliness, impossibility, or mockery. How could The Help possibly teach us?

This is what he means and an accurate translation of his remark makes that clear.

Han goes on to say (from the video linked above, translation mine):


往菲律賓取才我覺得這個在一個克服的過程。... 如果我們從菲律賓引進教英文的師資,高雄的家長能不能接受? 所以我才會用瑪麗亞三個字,來做一個表述,所以我用瑪麗亞三個字不是有其他的意思在。...你為什麼不找美國,澳大利亞,英國的,你為什麼找隔壁菲律賓的?我的意思是說,家長心裡會有一個障礙。可是呢?菲律賓外語人才的輸出,已經很成熟,這個兩個這間,怎麼樣說服高雄的家長? 
Filipino talent, I think this is a process of overcoming....if we introduce qualified English teachers from the Philippines, would Kaohsiung patriarchs/heads of household/old-timers be able to accept it [with the implication that they would not]. So, I can only say 'Maria' it's just an expression, so when I say 'Maria', there's no other meaning....Why don't you find American, Australian, English ones, why do you find people from the nearby Philippines? My meaning is, that's a mental obstacle for these 'patriarchs'/old timers. But? The Philippines sending out foreign language speakers is already very common. Between these two [extremes], how can we convince those old-timers?

This sounds like a reasonable position to take, because it's surely true that there are many racist people in Kaohsiung and Taiwan who would be bothered by or opposed to having teachers from the Philippines in positions of authority and respect in Taiwan, because to them, they are just "Marias".

That doesn't absolve Han of his initial comments, though. First, to say "I didn't mean anything other than that by the word 'Maria'" is about as tired an excuse as "I only used the N-word because I heard it in a rap song, not because I meant something racist."

And it doesn't hold up to even the barest scrutiny as an explanation: he's not quoting anyone in particular when he calls Filipinas 'Marias'. The word came out of his own mouth. He used it offhandedly, like a normal word anyone would use. He didn't adequately signpost his remarks as a quote or description of an attitude, because that's not actually what they were despite his "clarifications" later.

If Han had really meant to describe what Taiwanese think, and make it clear that he disagrees, he wouldn't have said 'Maria' so casually in the first place. This marks him not as an ally, but a concern troll: defending his words as describing what the other side thinks, but showing through his unconsidered language choices that, on some level, he is a part of that 'other side'. Someone who truly wants to change racism against Southeast Asians in Taiwanese society would simply not say "...how can a Maria become our teacher?"

It boils down to his meaning being, "I don't hate Marias, I'm just worried about racism in Taiwan, what with everyone used to them being so poor and being maids and all, it's sad to me that nobody wants those Marias to be their English teachers. I'm just concerned!" 


He didn't say "many Taiwanese unfortunately have an obstacle in their thinking to accepting the idea that teachers from the Philippines could teach them, and that is wrong. We need to persuade them and overcome this obstacle, because there are many qualified professionals, including teachers, from the Philippines." He didn't even say "many Taiwanese think of workers from the Philippines as 'Marias' and that is a problem", which, while a bit gasp-worthy, is at least kind of an accurate description of what some Taiwanese people think.

He said, and I repeat, "how can a Maria become an English teacher?" as casually as an American racist might say "How'd a ________ like her get a nice car like that?" 

(And see how I made it quite clear that such horrid language describes views that exist in the world, but does not reflect my own views? It's not hard.)

At the very least it didn't occur to him that unthinkingly tossing off the 'Maria' epithet might be a problem. That only happens when someone already thinks of a group of people that way, not when they are signaling disagreement or condemnation of an opinion others hold.

And if a leader is caught in such a gaffe and tries to insist that they don't personally feel that way about a particular group, but they're just worried that everyone else does, that's simply unacceptable. Leaders should not inflame societal prejudices, even if they are common; they should be examples of a higher, more forward-thinking standard. 


Let's keep in mind as well that he tows the same 'concern troll' line with marriage equality, saying his real concern is "the next generation" (won't someone think of the children?), not that he is anti-gay, while fraternizing with anti-gay groups


And he didn't even bother to defend his remark until later in the meeting when directly asked about it, or show awareness that 'Maria' is more than 'just an expression'.

If you look at reporting of Han's comments, you get distortions of what he said all over the place (all translations are mine). Some make his wording look a lot worse - from UDN:


引進菲律賓人才,這恐怕對高雄人、台灣人心理衝擊大,因為瑪麗亞怎麼變老師了?
Introducing Filipino talent, I'm afraid (as in, scared - not regretful) that this will be a shock to Taiwanese and Kaohsiung residents, because how can a Maria become a teacher? 

From Liberty Times:


這恐怕對台灣人心理衝擊大,因為瑪麗亞怎麼變老師了?
I'm afraid that this would be a shock to the Taiwanese, because how can a Maria become a teacher?

And from Storm Media, inexplicably making him look better:


韓國瑜認為,確實能夠借重,但必須先克服市民及台灣人民的心理障礙,讓「瑪莉亞變老師」,很多人內心會有衝擊。 
...「我覺得我想高雄市民跟台灣人民,心理一定有很大衝擊,瑪莉亞變成我們老師了,這要克服的過程,這可能心理衝擊很大。」 
Han Kuo-yu believes it is indeed possible to take advantage of /get benefits from [talent from the Philippines], but the psychological barriers of the people of Taiwan must first be overcome - to let "'Marias' become teachers", a lot of people will be shocked.  
"I think / I think that Kaohsiung residents and Taiwanese will be very shocked, Marias become our English teachers, we need to overcome this, this can be a huge shock." 

Storm tried to soften the impact of his words by mashing two quotes together - "Marias become our English teachers" and "we need to overcome this", making it seem as though he said these two things at the same time, when he didn't (which the video makes clear by his different positioning). It also erases the "because how can a Maria become our teacher?" by selectively cutting his quote and replacing "because how can..." (怎麼) with "let" (讓) outside the quote marks. 

In English the reporting isn't much higher quality.

From Focus Taiwan, which offers the most accurate translation:


Responding to a proposal that Taiwan could hire bilingual Filipino white-collar workers at a conference on Wednesday, the mayor said employing "Marias" as teachers would be a psychological shock for Taiwanese.

There's also this from Taiwan News, which is far worse but just translates the garbage from Storm Media above but does so in a way that make Han's comments sound erudite in English, when they weren't particularly eloquent in Mandarin:


In response to this, the Kaohsiung Mayor admitted the Philippines’ abundance of skilled labor could benefit the city, but said its residents would first need to overcome some “internal conflicts.”
“I believe witnessing ‘Marias’ become teachers would cause a clash in the hearts of the people of Kaohsiung, and Taiwan’s population at large. This is something that needs to be overcome; likely a huge internal conflict,” Storm quotes Han.

And the Taipei Times, with what I think is the most inaccurate translation:


Han on Wednesday told a meeting of the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce in Taipei that he feared that hiring educated employees from the Philippines as English teachers “would cause a psychological shock for Taiwanese, as people might wonder: How has our Maria become a teacher?” 


Focus Taiwan accurately placed the 'Maria' comment within the attitude of Han, which is the context in which he made it, and not as a description of what he thinks other Taiwanese think. The other two make him sound much better than he actually did, and situate the 'Maria' quip not as Han's own word (which it is) but as a description of something he disagrees with (which is not what he said until pushed - which outs him as a concern troll.) Some translations (like Taipei Times' work) add connotations to the translation - e.g. "wondering" - that are simply not there in his actual words. 

All of these seem so odd to me, because the video of his remarks is publicly available. I'm not even a native Mandarin speaker or a perfectly fluent one, and yet I found and translated it with little problem.

So why do some quotes - like Liberty Times and UDN - make Han's remark seem more shocking than it was (and to be clear, it was quite shocking on its own and did not need to be sexed up)? And why do others - like Storm Media - make it sound like not much at all? How is this unclear and inaccurate media reporting of Han's remarks affecting how Taiwanese think about the incident, and is it distorting public discourse?

In English at least, it is having a distorting effect. Several posts on social media have pointed out that Han's remarks should not be considered offensive, because that's what some Taiwanese really think, based on the Taipei Times and Taiwan News translations.

This makes me wonder how can we even have a real conversation about Han's remarks and racism in Taiwanese society if what we read isn't quoting him correctly.

I'm not sure why Storm Media - which I've found to be typically more reliable - made Han look better than he deserved, and why a pan-green and pan-blue rag each made him look worse. But because the inaccuracies are present across the entire media-political spectrum, it doesn't point to an attempt to polarize the Taiwanese political cleavage.

Rather, I think it's just plain old bad reporting.

I'll finish off with something bad, then something good.

Something bad:


Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) on Saturday apologized for a recent remark in which he referred to Filipinos as "Marias," saying the term, considered by many to be a racial slur, was a slip of the tongue.
Han was sorry for the misunderstanding caused by his misuse of the term and said he looks forward to future cooperation with the Philippines, it added. 

No, Focus Taiwan. NO NO NO NO NO.

"Maria" is not "considered by many" to be a racial slur. Jesus F. Christ. It is a racial slur. Period. Han Kuo-yu said it, and only tried to insist it was a description of what other people think after he was called to task for it, without ever explaining why he'd throw it out so casually (because there is no explanation that absolves him).

It was not a "misunderstanding". We all understood him perfectly. People in the Philippines understood him quite accurately. And he didn't misuse the term - he used it exactly as it's meant to be used in racist speech.

Just as when my (dearly departed) grandpa referred to "those people" and then insisted, when I pressed him, that he hadn't meant it as an insult but "they're just a different community", I knew perfectly well that that's not what he'd meant. 


But then there's the good thing: when I moved to Taiwan 12 years ago, I don't know that a comment like this would have caused this kind of uproar in Taiwan. I passed more than one "Foreign Labor Go Home" protest, with old men carrying signs. I don't even know if such language was common then, because my Mandarin was crap, and I never heard of anyone raising a fuss about it.

But in 2019, despite some attempts to justify Han's language, the overwhelming response of Taiwanese public discourse is that it is not acceptable to talk this way, and racist speech and actions should not be tolerated.

If Han is correct about how many Taiwanese might think of English teachers from the Philippines - and he is, for some people - the fact that the backlash has been so swift and damning proves that not all Taiwanese think this way.

That said, it doesn't seem to be hurting his approval ratings, although I have long suspected something is really weird about whatever force underlies those ratings which is propping up Han. 


Taiwan has a long way to go - we need to treat immigrants from Southeast Asia better, end discrimination and give them the same opportunities for permanent residency and citizenship that white collar workers (who are largely Western) have - but this is real progress. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Taiwan needs to figure out how to treat foreigners better

It pains me to say it, but Taiwan has some deep discrepancies between the human rights ideals it claims to espouse, and how it treats not only its own citizens, but also those who come to Taiwan to study or work.

Instances of Taiwanese universities using the New Southbound Policy as basically a vector for scamming Southeast Asian students are starting to feel not like horrifying exceptions, but the norm. It's happened now with not just Sri Lankan students (news of which broke just months ago) but Indonesian ones as well, at more than a handful of universities.

These universities take government subsidies meant to help them attract students from Southeast Asia, and then use them to pay brokers to bring students over. These students are then assigned jobs in factories, and attend class only a few days a week, if at all. These factory jobs are called "internships", but they aren't learning opportunities - they are basic blue-collar work - and they aren't even allowed for first-year students, and certainly shouldn't be taking up most of one's week, as work is limited to 20 hours/week for foreign students here.

These are scams aimed at getting free labor - or even labor that has paid to be there, as some of these students are paying tuition to do this. They are violations of human rights.

Taiwanese people would not accept this happening to their own citizens, so it disgusts me that it seems to happen so easily to foreigners.

The "university" system here isn't the only vector for abuse - how domestic workers (who are predominantly female) and fishing boat workers (predominantly male) are treated, not to mention regular factory workers, is obscene. 

Taiwan is trying to take a big step forward by reducing its economic dependence on China through re-invigorating ties with Southeast Asia through the New Southbound Policy. But the high-minded ideas of the central government just aren't trickling down to those meant to actually implement it through outreach (including businesses, employers and universities).

Attempting to take advantage of a government policy aimed at improving the country to line one's own pockets is not unique to foreign residents or the New Southbound Policy (certainly this happens in the domestic sphere as well - just ask how property developers circumvent the "green space" law by giving politicians reduced-price apartments they can flip and profit from, or how some local politicians take advantage of local charities). However, I can't help but think in this case, there's an element of racism at play.

If this were happening to Taiwanese, the outcry would be swift and condemning. Instead, the government "will conduct an investigation" (hardly decisive action they need to be taking). This after it's obvious that those in government who set up the programs with universities - if they can even be called that - knew how likely it was that they would try to take advantage of both the government and the foreign students. If they weren't aware of this possibility, they wouldn't have talked to the university presidents in person and warned them off doing exactly this. 


Initiatives like the New Southbound Policy aren't going to work if the people in charge of actually implementing various initiatives are using them merely to take advantage of Southeast Asian people. They're not stupid, guys. They know that there's a lot of racism against Southeast Asians here. They know that these scams exist. They know that they can't necessarily trust these programs. And neither the people nor the governments there are going to stand for it. They are already angry.

I'll say it again: if Taiwan continues to be known for treating Southeast Asians badly, and is seen as using the New Southbound Policy for their own enrichment with little concern for the effect on Southeast Asian people or economies, it's not going to work. The New Southbound Policy will fail, and we'll be stuck with a choice between China strangling our democracy or our economy - exactly the thing we seek to avoid. 


One of the things that has really impressed me about Taiwan is how this country consistently pushes itself to live up to its purported ideals: democracy, freedom, human rights. It's not that other countries don't do that, but Taiwan seems (to me anyway) to make more progress more quickly than other parts of Asia, and the struggle just seems more visible here (and more accessible in terms of being connected or understanding, on a personal level, the bleeding edge of the push for social change.)

But we have to admit that Taiwan, as much as it may be a place one can love deeply and make a commitment to, is far from perfect. That's true not just in terms of how it treats its own citizens, but how it treats foreigners here. It has ideals, but as things stand right now, it simply doesn't live up to them. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Tricked Into Divorce (no, not me)

A friend sent me this the other day: it's a document translated in Chinese, Japanese, English and several Southeast Asian languages asking foreign spouses at the registration office filling out divorce paperwork if they agree to get a divorce.



IMG_7454


Apparently, the police require this for all foreign divorces in Taiwan now, as it is too common for a Taiwanese spouse (usually male) who wants to divorce (usually a Southeast Asian woman who can't read Chinese) to take her to the local housing registration office saying they have to "fill out some paperwork", perhaps saying it's about some unrelated thing, and then divorcing her without her knowledge.

While it's not so easy in Taiwan for someone to divorce their spouse if that spouse doesn't agree, these 'trick' divorces made it look like the wife agreed - after all, she signed the paperwork without complaint. If both spouses agree, the process of legal divorce takes less than half an hour (in terms of splitting assets, I have no idea).

Once the divorce is final, the foreign spouse - again, usually a woman who doesn't speak or read Chinese - has 48 hours to leave the country. No time to demand access to assets or other support. Possibly no time to even go to the bank, if she has a bank account in her own name, which she likely doesn't. No realistic way to take any children with her. She's out, she gets nothing, quite possibly returning to a life of miserable poverty, and he gets a clean break and to keep everything. It is extremely difficult if not impossible to fight for a fair division of assets once out of the country, and as far as I know there is no legal way to apply to stay on such short notice (though I'm not sure about that, and if there were, it's not clear that someone who can't read Chinese and might not even have her own transport would be able to access it.)

This is absolutely evil, that goes without saying. It is wrong. It cannot be tolerated.

The good news is that the Taiwanese government got its act together (that happens sometimes!) and put together this form, which is now standard with foreign divorces. Unless the spouse is illiterate - in which case I suppose an interpreter would be necessary and locating one on short notice would pose other problems - it clarifies for the soon-to-be-erstwhile foreign spouse what is happening. 

If in fact she is being tricked, she can then refuse to sign the divorce papers, which buys her time and therefore better access to legal services to fight for assets and custody. She's not left penniless on a plane back to her country of birth without so much as the chance to give family there (if she has any) advance notification to expect her.

This doesn't solve every problem with the rules surrounding foreign spouses: if you knowingly divorce or your spouse dies and you were unable to obtain an APRC (or just had not done so) - keeping in mind that the men who marry Southeast Asian women may not meet the required income threshold for her to get an APRC, if she even knows that's an option - you also have few options for staying in Taiwan, and that's not right.  However, it deals with a massive issue many of us had no idea existed. It materially improves an issue facing foreigners - especially foreign women - in Taiwan.


One thing that helps with this is that the document itself is very simple - one easy-to-understand question and very simple choices of answer (so if there is some ability to read but overall literacy level is not high, it should still be comprehensible), which shows sensitivity to the situation of these women. It might seem to us that any foreigner who comes to Taiwan would be literate in their own language, but when it comes to women brokered through the marriage industry (and it is very much an industry) here, that's not guaranteed to be true. 


I don't often say this, but good job, Taiwanese government. You did the right thing.

Monday, September 25, 2017

My latest for Ketagalan Media: Taiwan needs to do a better job of protecting domestic workers

You may remember my post a few weeks ago about the proposed changes to regulations aimed at protecting foreign blue-collar labor, and my absolute fury over allowing employers in Taiwan who had previously sexually abused a foreign worker to hire one again after after a few years, with a lifetime ban only after repeated offenses.

A few things I've learned since then - Taiwanese women are not protected either (the vast majority of domestic workers in Taiwan are foreign women, however), and although Taiwan has a sex offender registry, it is not open to the public and therefore potential foreign employees at this time have no way of knowing if they are taking a job with a convicted sex offender.

So, I've written up a new piece for Ketagalan Media on this issue. As a foreign woman, albeit one of comparative privilege, it is important to me.

I hope you'll take a look.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The color line is the power line: the new pro-Taiwan generation and attitudes toward foreign blue-collar labor

1467402_10152137138991202_1481026427_n
From a foreign labor rights protest I attended before the Tsai administration took power


I want to start this post with a little story. Every Saturday morning I tutor one of two intelligent, thoughtful young women - sisters. Which one I teach changes periodically. They used to have a domestic worker from Indonesia, whom the whole family liked (she eventually returned). She would cook Indonesian dishes for them to try, bring them gifts from her visits home, and was generally a part of the family. I liked her a lot, too. The girls called her Auntie. They call me Jenna.

She seemed older. Her face was lightly lined, a few silver wires in her hair. I guessed that she was in her forties, both by her appearance and attitude.

One day, while the helper was in the next room, one of the girls let slip that she thought I was in my twenties. I laughed and encouraged them to guess my real age. We were sitting in the living room, and they guessed and guessed but just would not make it up to my actual age. It's not their fault: I really didn't look it. No wrinkles, no visible gray hairs, a youthful personality.

I finally spilled: I was 33.

They were both silent.

"33?" one of them finally said. "But that's Auntie's age!"

"It is?"

They called her over in Chinese and asked her age.

"33," she answered simply.

"Oh," I replied in Chinese.

"...I'm 33, too."

But the truth thumped gracelessly in the pause.

She smiled sadly. I don't know what my face did. The girls were merely surprised, and I can only think that someday in the future they will reflect on that moment.


* * *


I often hear that a sense of Hoklo nationalism (think "Taiwan for the Taiwanese") and anti-foreigner sentiment once marred past pro-Taiwan movements. And I've seen it: more than once, I've watched Southeast Asian laborers march in demonstrations demanding better worker protections, only to be ignored by the government and the Taiwanese population. I've watched demonstration, mostly by older people, holding signs saying things like "foreign workers (外勞) go home." I was worried they meant me, but was told (by way of "reassurance") that I was welcome, it was foreign blue collar (mostly Southeast Asian) labor they didn't want.

In one notorious case, the Liberty Times - that bastion of the older pan-green "left" - reported on the horrific traumas one foreign domestic worker had suffered as a rape victim who was repeatedly ignored by authorities, making it all about Taiwan's "loss of face" rather than the woman in question (link in Chinese).

I have had more than one conversation with older pro-Taiwan people who still say things like "Taiwan isn't racist, we treat you well" and "I don't think we should bar employers from holding foreign workers' passports, because those foreign workers can commit crimes in Taiwan and then just leave the country!"

In short, the Hoklo chauvinism that also deterred many non-Hoklo Taiwanese from supporting the DPP in the past, while writhing in what I can only hope are the throes of death, was a problematic attitude held by many which caused them to either view immigrants with suspicion, or only want 'certain kinds' of immigrants (i.e. Westerners).

While it's not fair to tarnish every pro-Taiwan supporter of past generations, or even most of them, the lack of regard for foreign labor was a real problem. This doesn't mean that Taiwanese activists shunned making international connections: they have worked hard to build networks around the world, lobby for support and garner high-profile allies. Rather, this attitude ran parallel to that sort of activism.

I'm here to tell you it is unfortunately still something of a problem.

Let's get a few things out of the way first: this is also a big issue in the pan-blue camp, too: the KMT not only doesn't care about foreigners, their chauvinism is Han chauvinism - just another type of prejudice. They are just as likely to welcome white Westerners but turn their noses up at Southeast Asians, and they are not off the hook.

What's more, the worst of the old-school chauvinism is on its way out. You will generally not hear young people trashing foreign workers in the same overtly racist ways that their predecessors may have: they'll speak out against communities that want them to leave simply because they are foreign, and they'll argue that they deserve fair treatment and a non-exploitative work environment in Taiwan. They won't take to the streets holding signs admonishing anyone to "go home". Certainly most would recoil at expressions of Hoklo chauvinism.

Many, if not most, support better pathways to dual nationality, with some of our staunchest allies in this regard being people like Freddy Lim and Hsiao Bhi-khim. Note, again, though, that the dual nationality they support is aimed at foreign white-collar workers, not labor.

And, with the DPP in power, we are seeing more movement on foreign workers' rights, although this is still a hotly-contested issue when, frankly, it shouldn't be. Unless I missed something, I don't recall ever seeing so much talk from the government end about foreign labor in Taiwan under the KMT. For example, it wasn't until 2016 that exit rules requiring foreign labor to leave every three years (often at great expense, often funneled through corrupt brokerage agencies) were changed to lift this requirement. There are DPP legislators working to protect foreign worker rights.

There is plenty of evidence showing that working conditions in Taiwan for foreign labor are poor, and you will find plenty of support in the pro-Taiwan camp for changing this.

So, I want to make it clear that this is not a hit piece. I don't want to make anyone look bad, nor do I want to take a swipe at the new generation of pro-Taiwan advocates. I don't even want to imply they all share these views.

However, we still have a problem when it comes to how people, even in this otherwise progressive camp, view foreign blue-collar and mostly Southeast Asian labor.

It is still strikingly common for someone agreeing one minute that working conditions for foreign labor in Taiwan should be better, and then the next express opposition to giving such workers a path even to permanent residency. Foreign professionals such as myself can obtain permanent residency fairly easily, although some of the rules seem a bit arbitrary. Foreign blue collar workers, however, cannot. Even if the visa allowed for it - and I am fairly sure it doesn't - they wouldn't meet the income requirements. It's fine to let them come here to work, apparently, but giving them the same opportunities as white-collar workers is apparently too much.

There are new laws, but some of these don't strengthen worker protections enough, and none of them expand worker rights to include the same opportunities I enjoy in Taiwan. It's a line drawn between types of foreigners, as though one type is better than the other. For example, it is simply not acceptable that being convicted of sexually abusing a foreign worker would bar you from employing another one after just 2-5 years, rather than being barred for life. Nor are the protections to stop employers from holding workers' essential documents, including passports, strong enough. "Strong dissuasion from doing so without a good reason" is too weak.

So, essentially, the narrative seems to be that foreign labor deserves better working conditions, but not more rights.

I don't agree with the reasoning behind this. The first reason given seems to be that they will "swamp" Taiwan. I'm not sure about that. Of foreign workers already in Taiwan, it's like that only a fraction would be eligible for whatever sort of permanent residency requirements the government sets. Of those who are eligible, only a small fraction would ever obtain it. Perhaps they will do so at higher rates than professionals as there are more of them, but it wouldn't likely be a majority.

Most intend to only stay a few years, and the option is not on their radar. Although there are far more foreign laborers than professionals in Taiwan, it is safe to assume most do consider their native countries home and intend to make money for awhile, but eventually return.

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You can see from the photos of politicians at the back how old these pictures are, and yet the same issues remain


Remember, for many, they work here to earn money to send home. Home. They will stay as long as they need to earn that money, but they don't intend to live out their lives here. Just like us, they have family, friends and connections where they come from.

What's more, I'm not sure what "swamped" is supposed to mean here. Taiwan has a labor shortage, not a surplus (the fact that this has not translated into increased wages is all about fiddling at the top). The birthrate is going down, not up. The average age is going up, not down. The population is set to decline, not rise.

We talk about foreign talent being part of the solution to all of these problems, although I think the bigger solution is to stop the top-level cronyism that leads to artificially depressed wages for locals, and to improve working conditions (and pay) across the board so the brain drain gets plugged. But people seem to assume that including immigration as a solution to Taiwan's economic and labor woes means professional foreign labor - frankly, we also need foreign blue-collar labor. They are consumers too. They sometimes marry locally. Many have children locally. One in five marriages is to a foreigner.

This is good for an aging population, not bad. It's not swamping, it's replenishing. That is, unless you are worried about the racial makeup of your country changing. And why would you be worried about that if this wasn't about race?

In any case, the people who would be eligible are the people who are already here. Nothing would change, really.

I've heard the 'culture' argument too: as more Southeast Asians want to come here than people from other parts of the world, allowing that many (although I disagree it would be so many) of them in would change the cultural makeup of Taiwan. Would it, though? Let's take one cultural marker for example - Islam. Right now the Muslim population of Taiwan is about .03% of the population (Christians are about 4.5%, and I've also heard 5% as a figure). Even if that number grew exponentially, it's still a long way to even 1%. I honestly just don't think it would change that much, even taking into account the fact Taiwan is quite a bit smaller than the US.

Even if that were a legitimate fear, it strikes me as another form of discrimination based on national origin - ethnocentrism, perhaps. We learned in the 20th century that nation states based primarily on ethnicity were a bad idea (I'd double underscore that if I could), so I'm generally wary of this line of thinking.

Another reason seems to be that "more foreign labor hurts Taiwanese labor". I didn't believe this when Bernie Sanders said it about immigration in America (he eventually modulated his message to be anti-corporate exploitation, but his original platform was anti-foreign-labor as a defense of American workers) - and I don't believe it now.

Foreign labor has been coming to the US ever since we've had work for them, and it has never significantly slowed down the US economy. If anything, accepting scores of low-skill workers who eventually assimilate and move up so their children can do better and the whole country can grow more prosperous is what made us what we are.

What's more, we do need people to do that work. Anti-immigration Americans insist that Americans will do it, but I'm not so sure about that. I'm not so sure about it in Taiwan, either: there seems to be a real prejudice against 'black handed' work (that is, work that gets you dirty). As it stands now, in the US, foreign labor pretty much ensures that our agricultural and service sectors run. In Taiwan the industries are different (elder care and factory and fishing work) but the story is essentially the same.

I'm not happy with the exploitation I see in any of those industries, in either country, but the solution isn't to tell foreign labor to stay home, it's to improve the industries to be less exploitative. They want to come, and they do work we need done - don't punish them. Punish the people who victimize them.

Bernie still doesn't seem to have figured this out, and unfortunately Taiwanese who think similarly don't seem to, either.

The most persuasive argument is that foreign labor is so cheap that it undercuts Taiwanese wages.

As for domestic workers, however, I'm not sure this is persuasive enough. Salaries in Taiwan are stagnant, and the population is getting older. People can't afford to pay more to hire someone to care for their elderly family members, but it is difficult-to-impossible to hire a Taiwanese person to do this work at the same rate you would pay a foreign caretaker. If we had a shortage of domestic workers, the work would most likely fall to the women of the household: yet another family obligation that pushes women to scale back on their other goals and ambitions. I can't condone that.

Regarding factory and agriculture/fishing workers, research seems to indicate that the impact is small and short-term if it happens at all, but foreign blue-collar labor is overall a benefit. Remember, without them prices would go up, storefronts that now house shops and restaurants aimed at Southeast Asian immigrants would be empty, the population would drop, certain work would not get done and lower production, even in the short term, would harm the economy. It's not so simple as saying "they can just hire Taiwanese (and pay them more)".

And, frankly, wages in all of these sectors (and all other ones too) need to go up whether the workers are foreign or not. I don't want to see Taiwanese wages drop because of foreign labor. I want to see foreign labor wages increase to rival that of Taiwanese workers, so that industries hire the workers they need, not just the ones they can get at a cut-rate price.

I have tried to talk to friends about this issue, reminding them that I too am a foreign worker. The only thing that differentiates me from them is my skin color and, well, white Western privilege (and the education that comes with it). I remind them that by supporting expanded rights for me, but not for a class that is almost entirely Southeast Asian, that they are essentially rewarding born privilege. Rewarding me for being born Western, with means. At the same time, they are punishing other people for the less fortunate circumstances they were born into.

I know my friends and other pro-Taiwan advocates well enough to know that they aren't intending to be racist. They are just as happy to welcome foreign professionals of any race, including Southeast Asians, and are horrified to hear stories of racism in professional labor (which do exist - ask...well, any given one of my non-white foreign professional friends in Taiwan).

However, it can't help but be about race. The race divide is too clear: most foreign labor in Taiwan is Southeast Asian, most professionals are Western, and most (but not all) of those are white. Although the intention is not to discriminate based on race or skin color, that is essentially what they are doing. It's playing into that same old socioeconomic game: they see it as a line between what helps Taiwan and what they think doesn't, but it is also a color line, whether we like it or not. That color line is a power line: I have the power to gain certain rights and privileges in Taiwan simply because of the circumstances of my birth: the country and family I was born into. There is no universe in which I think this is fair.

Not wanting to consider that the line drawn is, in effect, a color line as much as everyone would like it not to be is a real problem. It's still discrimination. It's still saying "some people deserve more rights than others". It's still saying I deserve something better than a woman from Indonesia because I happen to have been born with more money and in the right country. And if you group people by who is on the 'preferred' side of that color line, of course it's the people who are mostly white. Who, again, is kept down? Non-whites.

Whether you like it or not, that is what it is saying.

But that line is also a poverty line: these views advocate rewarding people who were born in the right place to the right people, and punishing those who weren't. People who want a better life, just like anyone else. People who just want to work hard and make money to better their circumstances. People who do contribute to the Taiwanese economy in invisible ways, whether one wants to admit that or not.

With these attitudes still in place, I'm not sure how the New Southbound Policy will remain on solid footing going forward: Taiwan already has a bad reputation in SE Asia as the worst of all the industrialized Asian countries to move to for work due to low wages, long hours and rampant exploitation. Are these same countries supposed to happily work more closely with Taiwan for mutual benefit in industry, tourism, trade and culture, when Taiwan still doesn't want to give immigrants from those countries in Taiwan more rights? This whole strategy can only work if both sides stand to benefit, not just Taiwan as it weans itself off reliance on China. That means extending rights and benefits to foreign labor from Southeast Asia in Taiwan, not more of the same.

No one is an island, whether you like it or not. 

It also bothers me that, as I've talked to so many friends recently about how to talk about Taiwan in a convincing way with American liberals, that I essentially have the same problem in Taiwan: I don't know how to talk to Taiwanese liberals about foreign labor, especially blue collar labor. They seem to have gotten the message regarding foreign professionals and dual nationality - not that that is moving any faster - but cross that color line and I feel like I hit a discursive brick wall. There is a lot of sympathy for ending abusive treatment, but none for giving foreign labor real opportunity in Taiwan.

It's also just a bad look: I know the intent isn't racial discrimination but as that's the practical effect, it's bad optics when it comes to getting foreign support. We are foreigners too. We are, essentially, foreign workers with more privilege and different skin. We do - especially the more liberal among us - feel solidarity with Southeast Asian workers. When a party isn't doing everything they can for some foreigners, all politically astute foreigners notice. If they want more 'New Taiwanese' to support them, loyalty is bred by treating all 'New Taiwanese' well, not just the comparatively privileged ones.

It is quite problematic, as well, that when these issues do finally get discussed, they feel filtered down through layers of acceptability. First, the NPP didn't support changes to regulations regarding foreign professionals. I'm not sure that ever changed, but they did start to support relaxing dual nationality requirements...again, for professionals. The DPP relaxed these requirements, but only for certain professionals. It might be extended to the rest of us plebes someday, but not laborers. Only once that happens does it feel like the conversation might open to include talk of increasing their rights, too. It's like ideas of inclusion in Taiwanese society have to drip down through a layer of white Westernness for them to finally be acceptable to think about also including people who are not as privileged.

The US also has a problem when it comes to how the majority of people view blue-collar immigrant labor, although the liberal landscape is changing enough that Sanders took some heat for his views. It was ultimately not enough for most to abandon him or even reconsider their support. For us, that labor tends to come from Mexico, Central and South America.

It's not much different in Taiwan, the only difference (beyond the origin of the majority of laborers) being that not even the liberal electorate is admonishing the progressives they support for their views on blue-collar immigrant labor.

In both countries there is a power and a poverty line, and in both it is difficult to get certain liberal thinkers to really consider how it is also a color line - but in Taiwan it feels so much harder these days.

I know the progressives of whom I speak, so I know the intention is not to keep certain people considered 'undesirable' based on their race. We cannot ignore that this is the practical effect, however, and if Taiwan doesn't provide better opportunities for Southeast Asians within its borders, then Southeast Asia has less incentive to grow the stronger links with Taiwan that this country needs to weaken China's grip. There are times when the effects of globalization are not positive, but this, I feel, is not one of them.

Let's end with this: not too long ago, one of the strains of Taiwanese public discourse was that it wasn't good enough to just seek independence. That Taiwan has two gauntlets before it - de jure recognition of the independence it already has, and deciding not that it is a country (it very obviously is) but what sort of country it wants to be. At the time this discussion was about marriage equality, and it later evolved to include aboriginal land rights.

I'd like to extend that and say that Taiwan also has to decide what sort of country it wants to be vis-a-vis how it treats its immigrants - all of its immigrants. Not the ones that most obviously benefit the country, but those who benefit the country in less visible ways. Not the ones it is easy to welcome, but the ones you may have to overcome prejudice to welcome. Not the ones who already have the benefits of privilege, but those who don't, so they have the opportunity to do better and, as they raise themselves up, help make your country better as well.

Does Taiwan want to be the sort of country that gives all immigrants rights, or does it want to be the sort that discriminates based on old prejudices about what sort of people are desirable, drawing a line that, as much as we wish it weren't, is a color line?

Monday, September 4, 2017

What is one rape worth?

A harsh question, but here's the problem.

According to Focus Taiwan, new laws meant to strengthen protections for foreign workers include provisions punishing labor agents and employers (such as the people who employ home aides to care for their elderly parents) who sexually assault, abuse or traffic foreign workers:


In addition, the official said, if a labor agent is found guilty of sexually abusing, sexually harassing or engaging in the trafficking of foreign workers, a fine of NT$300,000-NT$1.5 million will be handed down and the individual banned from working as a labor agent.



That's a start, though I'm not convinced the fine is high enough. The article doesn't make it clear, there are also laws that carry prison sentences already on the books. 

But then there's this: 

If employers or care recipients are found guilty of sexually abusing or engaging in the trafficking of foreign workers, they will be ineligible to employ such workers for 2-5 years, and repeat offenders will be ineligible for life.

Which, emphasis mine, because....

...excuse me? 

There are surely also sexual assault laws that would see any one of these employers go to prison if convicted which are not mentioned in this article, but how is it that someone convicted of sexually abusing or trafficking a foreign worker might be allowed to employ another one in the future?

How is it that one assault is not enough to see them not only pay their debt to society in terms of jail time, but also be banned for life from hiring foreign workers?

How about one rape? Is it somehow more acceptable to sexually abuse than to rape, or do they face the same weak penalty?

Remember, almost - but not all - of the foreign workers whom this law would specifically protect are women who work in homes as domestic helpers and home health aides. It is already a very personal situation, to live in someone's home as their employee. Do the people drafting these new protections really think that someone who has abused such a worker should be allowed to bring another into his (or her) home?

Is there really a calculus for this? One assault isn't enough, that was just one rape you guys, five whole years ago! We should totally trust this guy to hire another worker in the same situation because come on bro, statistics surely don't show that rapists are likely to be repeat offenders, right?

Oh, they actually are?

Oops. 

But hey bro, if he assaults two women we should totally ban him from hiring domestic helpers, yah?

One woman is not enough, but two...well, two rapes means something. Authorities apparently can't do anything to prevent that second woman from being raped, because to them it's not a real problem until it happens twice.

So rapists are like children who are put in the time-out chair for stealing cookies?

Seriously, though. We obviously can't repeatedly punish the same crime - you serve your sentence, and you get another chance. That's how it works - but that doesn't mean criminals should have a totally clean slate. I support giving ex-convicts work and allowing them to live more or less normally, but I would not give a convicted thief or embezzler a job in a bank or finance company. I would not give a rapist, child abuser, child pornographer or pedophile a job in a school. I would not give an arsonist a job at a gas station and I certainly would not let a murderer work in a gun store. I wouldn't even let a Taiwanese fishing boat operator convicted of forcing his foreign employees to work without pay - which does happen - hire them to work on a fishing boat again.

It follows that a convicted rapist, especially one who likely specifically raped a woman living in his home who was under his employ, should be barred from bringing another woman into his home, under his employ.

How is it that one rape is not enough to make that official?

It's not even as difficult as when to bar an ex-convict from a certain type of work: it's barring someone from employing someone else for in-home services. This shouldn't be difficult.

I have to ask. are the women these one-time-rapists allowed to hire going to be told of their new employer's history? Will they have any way of knowing they are being hired by someone who was once convicted of raping someone just like them, under the same circumstances? I doubt it.

If only this were surprising: this is the same country where an Indonesian domestic worker taped herself being raped after none of the authorities she spoke to took action - her brokerage firm even saying "do what you want" (as though it were consensual!), "just don't get pregnant." She later tried to commit suicide - she'd been raped so often that authorities could not determine how many times it was. That same story was picked up by Liberty Times who made it all about how this was such a loss of face for Taiwan, rather than about what the woman had suffered and bringing her rapist employer to justice. Reporting elsewhere on this incident was hardly better, with much of the focus of the story being on the woman's "emotional irritability" and "extreme instability", which apparently made it hard for police to get a full statement.

Of course she'd be extremely irritable and emotional after not only having been raped repeatedly, but also treated dismissively by the brokerage firm. How many rapes did it take for her to be able to make that video and finally, slowly, start to seek justice? How bad was it, that she tried to kill herself? And yet, the press makes it all about Taiwan, almost implying that her "emotional instability" was part of the problem when the case came to light.

What if she'd been raped once, and hadn't made that video, because nobody expects to be raped by their employer?

Would that have been enough, or would one rape not be worth the currency needed to get the attention of authorities.

Would her rapist be allowed to hire another Indonesian care worker after a few years, bringing them into the same situation, if he'd only raped her once?

How can anyone think such an attitude is acceptable?

As much as I tout Taiwan as being ahead of the curve when it comes to women's rights and women's equality in Asia, we still have a long way to go, including - perhaps especially - in the way society treats foreign female labor.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Indonesia: Baluran National Park

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I actually rather want to finish these Indonesia posts so I can get into some traveling I've done in Taiwan recently (two trips to Tainan, one to Kaohsiung and one to Yunlin) as well as put up a few photos from our weekend in Hong Kong, so here's the last one!

After hiring a driver to take us to the airport in Solo, we flew to Banyuwangi, which is not exactly the most hopping town, but the only way to get from Solo to Baluran is to do it this way (other options include train with transfer in Surabaya, or a very slow train service that takes a more direct route but is so exceedingly slow that it will take you a good day and a half to get there with a transfer in some no-name town about halfway. There is no bus that I know of). We wanted to get away from the usual "temple, temple, temple, shopping" tempo of the rest of our trip and thought a stop in a little-visited national park, especially one known for having a beach overrun with monkeys, would be just about right.

When we got to Banyuwangi's Blimbingsari airport, we realized two unfortunate things: first, that there is no public transit from the airport to anywhere; and second, that the airport is 9km south of town while the bus station with buses heading to the park is several km north of town. There was literally no other choice but to take a taxi, as expensive as that was (and it was - it came to over IDR400,000 which is quite a bit for Indonesia, though not that expensive by other standards).

So we took a taxi to the bus station, bus (which tried to cheat us) to the national park entrance, and scooters from the entrance 12km to the coast, past some gorgeous scenery. We started at 7am and got to the beach just after sunset.

We didn't do much at the beach - the weather was grim so we didn't even really swim (we did go wading). I have a thing about not liking to swim on very overcast days unless I'm indoors. We rented the wooden bungalow farther from the hotel and canteen and immediately wished we'd rented one of the concrete cabins just because the very first thing that happened was a mouse scurrying about. We saw two mice in total and scared them off, and got the park rangers to seal off the mouseholes and spray something to repel them...we didn't see them again but also didn't sleep particularly well. This was also the only accommodation we had with a mandi (local-style bathroom), but we knew that going in so it wasn't a big deal. I prefer Western bathrooms when I can get them but I'm not averse to using something like a mandi.

Oh yes, and the canteen was closed the day we were there, so the rangers were nice enough to pick us up some food when they went to the other cabins further inland with the mountain view (where there is a general store and small restaurant more likely to be open). So we got gado-gado with rice for breakfast and ramen and local potato-chip-like snacks for the rest of the day. We'd also brought some cookies, coffee and tea. It was not fun at all keeping the food where we didn't think mice would come after it.

Also, we couldn't eat outside even though we had a lovely little patio overlooking the beach, because the place really was overrun with monkeys (and you do not want a troupe of monkeys to see you eat). They were literally more of a herd, a force of nature, than a group. Locals who day-tripped to the beach and weren't prepared found motorcycle helmets stolen, bags grabbed, unzipped and rifled through, snacks seized and gobbled down. They would try to come on our porch when we were reading and we'd have to wave a broom around and talk to them sternly the way we'd talk to our cats. Once, one of them figured out we were eating inside and got up on the porch, perched himself in the window and watched us eat, his little macaque face pressed against the glass as we slurped instant noodles.

This is not to say we didn't like our very rustic stay. I loved hanging out on the porch reading books as the weather changed above us, walking to the mangrove estuary, walking in the other direction to a string of more secluded beaches where we found interesting seashells (which we did not keep) and played in the water, or just sat on the beach and talked, watching the monkeys play.

The next morning we got up, had a leisurely meal of nasi goreng and coffee, arranged scooter rides back to the main road and caught the bus to Surabaya. We had to change buses once to one that was decidedly worse, and we got caught in traffic and had to navigate the dodgiest bus terminal in perhaps the entire country, but on the bright side, I had a nice long friendly chat with a local guy who could speak English and had a refreshingly feminist worldview (and knew a lot about Taiwan as his job was gathering edible seaweed, and he sold it to a Taiwanese guy).

Unlike life in Taiwan, or my study abroad in India, or to some extent life in China, when you take these short excursions, you don't get the same chances to interact with locals and understand, a little more deeply (if not terribly deeply) the lives, experiences and perspectives of people with experiences very different from your own. So, when the chance does present itself I'm always pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, we landed up in Surabaya later than we'd have liked, had dinner at a fancy shopping mall and a few drinks at the Hotel Majapahit with our Hungarian friend in Surabaya, and flew out the next morning. We had half a day and an overnight in Singapore on the way back which I thought was great, because I'm always happy for a chance to enjoy some time there, and then it was back to Taipei and the daily grind. (Perhaps in a future post I'll throw up a few Singapore snaps).

As usual, here are the links to the other posts about this trip:

Surabaya
Borobudur
Prambanan
Solo (Surakarta)
Baluran National Park



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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Indonesia: Solo (Surakarta)

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Well hello there Mister Mister


So, I have to admit, we didn't see much in Solo proper. We arrived in the evening and stayed at the wonderful Roemakhoe Heritage Hotel, a hotel situated in an Art Deco house with close attention paid to decoration and detail and tons of original elements. Also we got a room for something like $45 US/night, because Indonesia is a country where you can get great deals on accommodation (our hotel in Borobudur was even cheaper and it came with a full bathtub and was also very nice). Included at Roemakhoe is afternoon tea, and one of the best things to do on a monsoon-pouring afternoon in the whole city is to just hang out in their Indonesian Art Deco (basically Dutch colonial) restaurant and drink tea and eat the free banana-based sweets that come with it while reading novels.

The next morning we arranged a car to take us to two temples on a nearby hillside, through gorgeous tea fields and up winding mountain roads; Candi Sukuh and Candi Cetho. These two temples are more indicative of a native Indonesian style rather than having the flavor of Indian or other Southeast Asian imports (though both are of Javanese Hindu origin from the 15th century). Other temples have stronger Buddhist or Hindu influences, these were devoid of such callbacks, having more of a Pacific Islander/Oceanic feel. Also, way more penises. WAY more. In the pictures below, Candi Cetho is the one that looks like a crazy alien dimensional portal, and Candi Sukuh is the one that looks like a pyramid imported from Mayan ruins. I don't know much more about these temples so I'll leave it there rather than try to disingenuously play the expert on Indonesian temple architecture and religion.
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We had then planned on seeing some sights in Solo proper (we decided to head for the mountain first as the monsoon rains tend to hit in the afternoon - rather like in Taiwan - and it's easier to get around a city than a mountainside in a downpour). But, well, by the time we got to the kraton (local ruler's palace), it was closed for the day due to low tourist turnout, probably thanks to the rain. We went to the other kraton, the smaller but more beautifully decorated Mangkunegaran Palace, to find it had been closed for days in preparation for the wedding of some younger son of the family. So, we were driven in driving rain to the Danar Hadi batik museum to find that the museum itself was closed: the rains had caused part of the roof to fall in. But the store was open, so we just went shopping! Kind of a shame, I know, but frankly it was all OK. We did our shopping then returned to Roemakhoe for tea and to read away the afternoon, and left the next morning.

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Hanging out at Roemakhoe


Note: we actually saw Candi Kalasan and Candi Sari, mentioned in the Prambanan post, on the way to the airport at some ridiculous time like 7am. They're right on the way, and we'd missed them due to rain on the way to Solo. So, our driver gamely stopped at both. I included them in the Prambanan post for ease of reading as they are geographically better categorized there, not in Solo.

Check out my other posts on Indonesia:

Surabaya
Borobudur
Prambanan
Surakarta (Solo)
Baluran National Park

Anyway, enjoy some photos!

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好吊喔!


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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Indonesia: Prambanan

So, the reason I've been a bit quiet this week is that I've been writing an article on a specific component of my teaching practice for an Australian journal. Nothing too scary academic, because I don't have research results to publish or anything like that (ha ha, like anybody pays me to do research, funny joke ha ha). When it's published in September I'll link it here, just as I did with my story about King Boat Festival in How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? which, if you haven't read, you really ought to.

Anyway, writing that article took a lot out of me, so I'm abdicating today and putting up a few more pictures from our trip to Indonesia in February. I also have posts about recent trips to Tainan, Kaohsiung and Yunlin and a weekender to Hong Kong to write about - I haven't just been hanging out in Taipei these past few weeks!

So, enjoy Prambanan in the rain.

This was a side trip between Borobudur and Surakarta (Solo), on a part of our trip that had us mostly visiting old temples. The easiest way to do this is to hire a car and driver - which you can do remarkably cheaply - and have them take you not only to Prambanan but a few of the other smaller temple complexes in the area, including the Plaosan group of temples, some more temples to the south and, near the town of Kalasan, the stand-alone temples of Candi Kalasan and Candi Sari. More than anywhere else these are influenced by the Hindu dynasties that once ruled in Java, meaning that if you've ever been to India and seen crumbling temple ruins there, these will look quite familiar. That said, the occasional Southeast Asian artistic flourish does become apparent if you look closely, especially on window and door lintels through the temples, even as the main gods the temples were built to worship are entirely of Indian origin.

All of these temples were built between the 8th-10th centuries AD.

Doing this properly, including time to stop and eat, and exploring temples beyond the Prambanan main complex before heading to Solo will take you most of the day, but unless you're slowed down by heavy monsoon rains or your driver gets a bit lost trying to find your final destination in Solo (as ours did), you can be sure to get from Borobudur to Solo before nightfall.

This was an interesting monsoon-y day to visit Prambanan, alternating between sunshine with fluffy white clouds and sheets of pouring rain - and the photos reflect this! We got caught out in the rain more than once, and Brendan ended up soaked. We also met and chatted with a nice Taiwanese guy and his wife, and ended up eating with them - it was great to be able to break out the Chinese that week and communicate clearly with someone other than Brendan and our friend Laszlo in Surabaya!



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Check out my other Indonesia posts:

Surabaya
Borobudur
Prambanan
Surakarta (Solo)
Baluran National Park

...and maybe someday I'll blog my 2008 Sumatra trip, which I took before even starting this blog!