Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chasing the Wind Lions

...such a sappy title but I couldn't help myself!


Anyway, as I've mentioned several times but haven't yet posted, over the summer Brendan and I went to Jinmen (Kinmen, Quemoy, whatever) just before I left for yet another trip to the US for yet another family issue (this one less serious). I decided I'd better post about it before I forget all of the particulars!

Two notable things about flying to Jinmen from Taipei: the first is that you pass right over Penghu, so you get a bird's eye few of Magong Island. It's quite something, and is a good reminder of how small Magong really is. Secondly, I didn't think anything of it when I took a few photos of the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan from the airplane as we flew down the coast - only to find it's actually illegal, at least according to Taiwanese law, to take photos of Taiwan from airplanes! Obviously it's a national defense thing, I just hadn't heard of such a law before.


We stayed at ㄚ樂的家, a small "foreign style house" (洋樓) a short drive from Jincheng city - you definitely need to rent a car on Jinmen, though buses do exist - to stay here a car is crucial as it's down several country roads at a tiny hamlet on the waterfront. Worth it! IMG_7215

The inside is also preserved in a traditional look, and there is a kitchen and dining area for your use (breakfast is provided - generous portions and very local-style).

A couple of things struck me about Jinmen - not just the sheer number of old houses and traditional architecture, but also the number of abandoned buildings, most of them old, some of them not. Some of these were foreign-style houses, others were more traditionally Chinese buildings, still others seemed to be from the 20th century.






Second, how many buildings still in use retained their traditional flavor:


Third, the extent to which a lot of iconography - old, but also at times new - conflates the KMT with the Republic of China, in a way you just don't often see in Taiwan proper these days (I'm not sure I've ever seen it).


Rui You School (not functional as far as I know) on the eastern side of the island

Check out the top of that building's arch - it's hard to see in the photo, but it's a KMT flag crossed with an ROC flag. Not something I can recall seeing in on the Taiwan mainland, although I am sure it must have at one time been quite common.

On our first day in Jinmen, we took a nap (our flight left at some crazy early time) before driving first into Jincheng city and then over to Shuitou as the sun set. I won't bore you with too many details, as Jinmen is a well-documented destination, and I primarily want to show off photos! We walked down Mofan Street, passed the maternal chastity arch, and checked out the Qing dynasty military headquarters before heading a bit downwind to the Kui pavilion - interesting in its own right but we had more fun wandering the narrow alleys and warrens between mostly abandoned buildings, which were alive with lots of scurrying cats - some well-fed, others not so much.

One quick thing worth noting before we get into photos - the Qing military headquarters' side rooms are used for storage for much of the year, leading to peeks in windows that reveal scenes such as this:


I was so intrigued by this creepy room of bridal mannequins in retro dresses that I went to some effort to ask about it - not really sure how Qing dynasty military operations and mid-century Western brides were related. Turns out they're not, this room is just given over to a local business for storage.

Ruined buildings around Kui pavilion

Mofan street - nice to walk down but not a lot going on

Another interesting old building near the Qing military headquarters

The largest surviving memorial arch in Taiwan (Qiu Liang-gong's maternal chastity arch)
Just a pretty window casement

Creepy, cool Frankensteiny abandoned "Western style house" near Kui pavilion

By the way, the Rough Guide recommended oyster thin noodle place near the arch, and the scallion-oyster bun place just under it? Both excellent. Worth it, even though they're in a guidebook. On Minzu Road just near the turn-off to the memorial arch are a few shaved ice places. The one we went to was also excellent, and I have it on good authority the others are too.

For those who need a place to relax, get some air conditioned cooling-off time or just have a decent cup of coffee, near the end of Mofan Street there are two cafes, and the one we went to was pretty good.

Special water glasses are designed to sit at an angle at this cafe, which also serves coffee grown in Taiwan among other things.

In Shuitou, which is very popular with tourists (and justifiably so), we wandered a bit until it got dark. There is a pretty good restaurant here that serves "Jinmen local food" at a set price per person - no menu, they just bring you a set number of dishes according to the size of your party. It's set in an old foreign-style house (just ask around). The inside looks like this:


One of the more ostentatious old houses is also a cafe, which is worth a stop (just to get the chance to go in), and is open until 5pm. They don't have food per se, except cafe style snacks like waffles, which are okay but nothing to write home about. Chinese tour groups sometimes come here, which may account for the Mao signs.


The next day, I realized that I had not seen any wind lion statues at all - and with wind lions being, well, THE famous thing from Jinmen (other than that historic battle, and Kaoliang liquor), so rather than hit sights in the guidebook, we just circled wind lions on a local map (they are all labeled) and took off driving to see how many we could find, with the idea that we'd see interesting stuff along the way. This is where the whole "chasing the wind lions" title comes from - we literally did that, basically for an entire day!

We drove out to the far east of the island, passing through Jinsha, Shamei, Shanwai and Shanhou. Here's the thing about posting in December about a trip you took over the summer, for which the map you'd used, on which you'd circled your various planned destinations, was so tattered by the end of the trip that you threw it out: we stopped in a whole bunch of interesting places not in any guidebook (well, not in our edition of Rough Guide anyhow), but I can't remember exactly where those places are.

I'll do my best - here are some of the wind lions we found, and things we saw along the way. First stop, Huishan Temple (會山寺), just off Huandao E. Road.



These two lions are a short walk behind (the former) and just out front (the latter) of the temple.

This is not the temple, this is an example of an old house in this area, which is well worth stopping and walking around in despite a few angry dogs, that is still very much in use and beautifully preserved.





A short drive - also walking distance - from here is a small village, notable (and most easily found) for its old movie theater (closed), which was spruced up and used as the set for the movie Paradise in Service, which I have never seen (but would like to). You can wander in and out of the old shops, which are outfitted with period furniture and even products, at least insofar as they needed to be to function as a movie set. The whole thing is now maintained as a tourist attraction and is genuinely worth a stop, even if none of the old shopfronts are authentic (and I'm not sure they are).

There's a decent cafe here called 心情咖啡 that has good stuff and is a nice place to take a break.




The old movie theater was almost certainly a part of the movie set, and features a few old-style hand-painted movie posters (which are probably too good quality to have just been the background for a movie shoot).



A big, muscled ROC soldier takes out a Voldemort-like Communist

A little further along Yangsha Road, where it meets Dashan Road, you'll come to another set of long-neglected foreign-style houses (at least one has a population of geese in its front yard) and the Rui You school, pictured near the top of this post. There are a few more wind lions around there (I think I've got the correct wind lions matched to their locations:


After the "Paradise in Service" movie set, I have to say, I was more intrigued by old-style buildings with old-style signs that are still in use, and not refurbished for a movie.










At some point we passed through Shamei and got some of the famous shaobing there (tasty - worth it - check your guidebook) though my favorite part of this section of the drive was stopping to wander some of the quiet backstreets. It is easy to get very hot and very tired in Jinmen, so we took a rest on a stoop in one of the older, more shambling back lanes and chatted with locals while local cats lazed about.







I'm not sure when this happened, though, because after we left the neighborhood with the Rui You School, we followed the road out of town right to the coast (past some interesting-ish views of windfarms), turning at a small reservoir-like lake that is either man-made or man-contained, before heading up a road that led to a turn-off (forgive my vagueness, I really don't remember well) where, completely by accident we came across a tiny little parking area with a stone staircase leading up a hill, which looked like it'd have an ocean view. Why not, right?

Turns out at the top there was some old gate - I actually don't know how old although we checked at the time, but old (like 14th century) and fairly recently restored. Checking the name online after a deft Street View search, it was 觀日門, near Tianpu (田浦) village. Of course then I upload my photo and realize the name is right there. Doof.


Then we drove along Buhua Road, which is not that interesting in and of itself but is dotted with a fairly high density of wind lions. Here are just a few:



...before heading into the Lake Tai recreation area looking for more wind lions. We missed the museum as it was getting late, but managed to get this lovely picture of the sign for the "amusement zone":



...and we only found one fairly unimpressive wind lion, but it was cool to ride around the back roads.

We finished off with dinner in Shanwai, after finding a few lions there, too - including this sad-looking colorful one at the edge of a parking lot who is very definitely male:


Throughout Shanwai we kept seeing these flags, and although I am fairly knowledgeable about Taiwanese folk religion and culture, I have to admit I don't know what they signify:


If anybody does know, I'm all ears. I rather hope I didn't take a disrespectful picture (though that's pretty rare in Taiwan, other than perhaps funerals you can photograph nearly everything).

Jinmen is a KMT stronghold, which means that a lot of old statues of Generalissimo and general Mass-Murdering Jerkwad Chiang Kai-shek (ptooey!) are still kicking around, where they might've been taken down in other parts of Taiwan. However, both Brendan and I appreciated the context of the statue in this circle, flanked as he is by a massive election poster - for the DPP! Ha haaaaaa, sucks to be you, Chiang. I hope you choke on it in the afterlife.


We hiked up a hill past more friendly cats - Jinmen has a lot of cats - to a few more wind lions before having dinner and driving back to our hotel. Wind lions in older sections of towns, usually far from the modern center, tend to be older:


And we also passed this dalmatian-themed hotel with a pet dalmatian:


And found parts of Shanwai to be fairly attractive:


Another good thing about our hotel is you can hang out outside at night and drink Taiwan Beer (or whatever you like), and you can even have free Kaoliang, though I only had a tiny thimbleful. I'm not afraid of strong spirits - my whiskey of choice is Laphroaig after all - but I just don't care for Kaoliang.


But wait, there's more!

I also can't remember when we did this, but at some point we stopped at Shanhou culture village. Historically the home of the Wang family and their many, many, many extended cousins and various relatives, now it's mainly a tourist attraction, but worth a visit. The oyster omelets are actually delicious, and there's a wind lion not far away. You can buy Kinmen Wang Da-fu balm here - a green herbal balm not unlike Tiger Balm but milder and more vegetal - the third-most popular Kinmen export after knives made out of bomb casings and Kaoliang, possibly fourth after those cookies you see everywhere. I bought some because I love balms, and we already have a bomb knife (thanks Joseph!), and I don't like Kaoliang.

Anyway, some photos from Shanhou:






...and while we didn't make it to Maestro Wu's bomb knife shop (because we already have a bomb knife), or the Kaoliang distillery (because neither of us really likes Kaoliang), we did go to the Guningtou battle museum, with it's wonderfully/horribly propagandistic oil paintings of the ROC forces defeating the PRC on the nearby beach. Not a lot of photos from that, but here are some photos from the nearby town, with the famous bullet-ridden yanglou (foreign style house), after which we visited a temple erected for an ROC general, Li Guang-qian (李光前將軍廟), who died in the battle on Guningtou, which is a short drive south on Huandao Road:




We had no particular reason to visit the temple other than that we drove by it and it looked interestingly militaristic in a way that most temples, uh, don't. That's the great thing about just tooling around and not worrying if you hit every sight in the book.


Another benefit of tooling about is that you find things you didn't even think existed. Rough Guide mentions one old granite tower (also 14th century), but if you wander enough and stop where you see interesting signs, you'll come to a few more (no idea if they are authentic vintage or were built/rebuilt some time later).

This is the one in the guidebook.

And this is one of the random ones we found:

...and we found at least one more besides these two. They all look about the same though.

We also hiked up Taiwushan, which sounds impressive except it's not particularly high. Before going up we explored the old military cemetery near the car park. There are some nice views, and notably, more of Jinmen's many cats.


We stopped at the old inscribed stone (my photo wasn't very good) and Haiyin temple, which was a pretty good place to take a rest before heading back down (somewhere along the road up Taiwushan we found a pathway to another one of those granite towers).


On our last day we drove around a bit more and found a few more wind lion gods, including some way out in the countryside by the airport. These lions, it seems, are undeniably gendered:


Well hello there. Aren't you just a happy little fella?

...and a few photos that didn't really fit anywhere else but I basically just liked:












Thursday, December 17, 2015

I'll Actually Be Home For Christmas

 photo DSC02970.jpg
Stockings hanging on the fireplace at my parents' house

Several years on, a follow-up to an older post of mine about not feeling the holiday spirit in Taipei.

Out of habit, I refer to the USA as "home" and Taiwan as...well, as the place I live, I guess. But I've realized recently that referring to these two places in such ways is disingenuous. I used to think that 'being home for Christmas' meant being in the USA, and staying in Taiwan meant 'not going home for Christmas'.

But as much as there are forces keeping me from fully embracing this country as "home", namely because this country in many ways doesn't necessarily want me to call it home, I've realized that too is incorrect.

This Christmas I'll be in our apartment, with my husband and my sister, opening gifts under our tree, and unstuffing my stocking. These things are mine. Brendan is my primary family. I don't live in a house in upstate New York, or even an apartment in Washington DC or anywhere else: I live in an apartment in Taipei, and we are a little family of two with a sibling close by and two cats.

How is that not 'home'? And therefore, how can I say I won't be going 'home for Christmas'? I already am home.

Granted, Taipei isn't the most Christmassy of cities, though I do feel there has been a bit more decoration and music (most of it bad, to be honest - "Joy to the World" was never meant to be a polka) than in previous years, and the cold snap means it really does feel something like winter. It is hard to get into the Christmas spirit still because despite all of those trappings, locals don't celebrate it and everyone else will be going to work as usual on the 25th (although I am not religious, I insist on keeping one little island of Western culture firmly set in the stream of my life - I do not work on Christmas), but regardless, I am spending Christmas at home.

It may not be my home forever - in fact it likely won't be for reasons I've posted about before. But it's my home now. I'm not traveling for Christmas, but I will be home.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Out of Range

This week seems to be my week for reacting to the ideas of others...I don't do it particularly often so I don't feel bad about doing it twice in a row.

In this case it's a Taiwanese woman who moved to Europe and writes about feeling stifled in Taiwan and not wanting to return (a country that, despite my rant a few days ago, I do call home and have found to be a good place to live, though we'll see how long that remains true).

And here's the song that underscored this post.

I was locked into being my mother's daughter
I was just eating bread and water
Thinking 'nothing ever changes'
and I was shocked
To see how the mistakes of each generation
Will just fade like a radio station
You just gotta drive out of range.

My thoughts on this, already written up on the Facebook thread where I found the article (and edited a bit for clarity on a blog format with no context):

I do think she's over-romanticizing life in the West (I have spent very little time in Europe but everything she says could have been said about the USA, if someone were over-romanticizing life there), but I get her point. She is likely shielded from the worst of Western culture, which shares a lot of the same problems stemming from over-conservatism as Taiwanese culture, simply because she is not a part of that culture. Just as I find life in Taiwan somewhat freeing, exactly because I am not Taiwanese, so I'm not beholden to their cultural expectations of people, or women specifically. 

I agree with her that expectations placed on 'your place' in society, with so much emphasis on your background, and expectations specifically placed on women, are stricter and more difficult to navigate in Taiwan if you don't fit the mold. Certainly I've felt the 'man must approach the woman, who is preferred to be
溫柔, and must be the breadwinner while the woman looks good and bears children' is a thing here.

But I'm not sure she's right that the West is soooo different. 

It's true people tend to care a bit less what you do or who your family is, and it's true that they are less likely - though not entirely unlikely - to openly judge women's looks or men's earning power (or differentiate the two expectations by gender), honestly, Western men DO judge women, sometimes openly! And there IS a big expectation to conform to 'pretty girl culture' - I felt it in college too and as an eternal 'not so pretty girl', I can absolutely tell you it affects your social life. Perhaps in Taiwan the guy makes a comment about your weight. NOT COOL, whether or not you are actually fat, but in the USA the guy doesn't make any comment at all...he just doesn't call you if you don't fit a culturally-expected mold of 'pretty and slim'. Even if he would have otherwise been eager to continue going out with you if you were just that much more attractive. Is that really much better? 

In Taiwan your mother criticizes your looks - in the USA your mother thinks you're beautiful but if you want to go out to a bar or club with your friends and aren't pretty, the guy at the door finds any excuse not to let you in.

In Taiwan perhaps your friends comment on your skin, hair etc. but in the US if you have both a vagina and an openly expressed opinion, you are fairly likely to be the subject of online harassment and trolling, or, not quite as threatening but also annoying, having men comment, in a seemingly 'well-intentioned' way, 'helpfully' explaining basic concepts to you that you have already referenced and clearly understand (yes, we call this 'mansplaining', and yes, it has happened to me. I just don't publish those comments). Or - and this has also happened to me - having guys try to tell you what you should write about, as though they have some sort of say in what you choose to publish online.

And we DO have social expectations - I felt some members of my family didn't treat me like an adult until I married - it showed in little things like being included in Christmas cards to my parents even though I was in my late 20s and lived on another continent, which abruptly stopped being a problem after my wedding. So far people have been basically OK about our decision not to have kids (though I do occasionally hear a stray judgmental comment about people like us), but I can't even express the social pressure I feel in the US because I'm openly atheist. It's like I murdered everyone's children, just because my (lack of) religious beliefs differ! The snarky comments from family etc...they wouldn't make such comments about being from a single-parent family but they absolutely will if they don't like your belief system. 

It's true that US few will comment on a man's earning power (some will - I just don't talk to those people), but there is this weird expectation that you just always have money, and if you don't, it's somehow your fault...even when it's completely not your fault. You may meet a few retrograde thinkers who expect the man to be the breadwinner, but more often than not it's a simple blanket judgment that if you're scraping by, it can't possibly be the fault of a problematic system that now elevates the wealthy while pushing down the middle class and poor by denying them key opportunities. It's because something is somehow wrong with you. And if the profession you love pays well that's fine, but if it doesn't, that is also somehow your fault and you're a failure no matter how good you are at it, just because you don't earn enough money. And gods help you if you are in a job people are expected to do cheaply or for free because they 'love' it (like, oh, teaching, where "teachers aren't in it for the money" is a ridiculous excuse to not pay teachers enough money).

And it's true that while gender discrimination in the workplace is as illegal in Taiwan as it is in the US, it's much more common in Taiwan (at least that's what Taiwanese women tell me, and I believe them), even as women have made greater inroads here in industries such as finance than they have in the USA. I also seem to be on a roll this week in talking about my former employer, but I have to say sexism was something of a problem there, too, with inappropriate comments about personal relationships and teacher-student interaction made more than once by the owner to various coworkers of mine.

But...that doesn't mean there is no gender discrimination in the US. Although I know this was not intentionally orchestrated (yes, I do know, as well as anyone can), I couldn't help but notice at my employer in the US from 2004-2006, that all of the back-office 'support', secretarial and administrative work was done by women.
So, yeah, I absolutely get her point. And it does bother me that even the really good, nice, educated local guys I know in Taiwan occasionally come out with a sexist humdinger (but then in the USA that happens too). It does bother me that more than one of the more progressive guys I know in Taiwan say it would actually bother them if their wives earned more than they did. It bothers me that one declined to support his wife in her argument with his mother over the 'cry it out' vs. 'hold and nurture' styles of caring for babies, because "it's not my business, that's between them and for the women to figure out."

And also meet seemingly 'nice' guys with these views in the USA. I have real-world experience with loving, progressively-minded married men with children who, despite supporting equality, still let their wives do most of the housework (and not because the wives 'want to', though they'll claim that's the case). 

Considering all that, I'm not sure the author would feel that much different if she were actually from a Western country. The idea that people who move abroad and like it don't like it because the culture suits them better, but because their 'outsider'-ness allows them an element of freedom that being a part of neither culture would.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ready, Set, Go

Edited to add: I forgot to include a link to the song that underscored this post. Here you go.

They keep us at sea level so I'm stayin' on my A-game
They're local like the C when I'm express like the A Train.

I had wanted to get back into blogging smoothly, with a few softball posts about traveling in Kinmen and the East Rift Valley before yet another family emergency (this one turned out OK though) sent me back to the US for a good portion of the summer and Delta Module 2 began.

But this article in the Straits Times caught my eye - I do think it's worth a quick reaction post with some thoughts on racism and the ghettoization of foreigners in Taiwan.

I don't feel, up to now, that I have been limited in my career by living in Taiwan - if anything Taiwan helped me launch my career. But, I say that as a career English teacher: of course it would be easier for me than for a foreigner in literally any other field. With the exception of a few really bad years toward the end of my time at my former employer, after they treated my husband like dirt but I stuck around just to get an APRC (and had to pretend just to get through each day that I didn't think what they did was so heinous - when it was heinous, and unforgivable), I've generally had positive working experiences. I have been able to move on to freelance with two very good schools that, while they may technically be buxibans, are places that actually prioritize education and look after their people. I've been able to get a Delta - at least I am basically sure I passed and will have that baby in my hands soon. English teachers can do that. Nobody else, save perhaps an editor or journalist, can.

However, I have to basically agree with this:

The challenges that Caucasians face are more in the form of being "ghettoised", said Mr Michael Turton, 52, an American who has lived in Taiwan for two decades.
"Everyone is very polite to us, but try finding a permanent position in a university or business in one's own skill," said Mr Turton, who teaches English at a local university and said he knows of only two Caucasian deans among Taiwan's numerous universities. "Tension is ameliorated because everyone knows foreigners have no power."
One reason is, unlike Singapore or Hong Kong, Taiwan is not a regional financial hub that would have as many job opportunities.
Language is another barrier.
That said, Taiwanese women do tend to find Caucasians to be desirable matches, said Mr Turton, who is married to a Taiwanese woman. They have two children.
"How many local girls want to marry foreigners? Lots. That is because foreigners are an escape fantasy," Mr Turton said, referring to familial obligations women married to local men have to fulfil, and a perception of a better life in a Western country.
First of all, I feel that Taiwan has been a really great place to live this past decade. Up through getting my Delta it's also a nearly ideal place to work. While salaries are stagnant, generally speaking the pay is better than in much of the rest of the world and the lifestyle makes up for the fact that we really all should be earning more. Locals included. Flexible work allowed me to get that Delta while doing three modular courses. Taiwan is relatively well-connected to the outside world so I was able to access books I needed for my coursework. I've been able to travel a lot because of affordable airfares to the rest of Asia.

However, I have to say I've started noticing cracks in the facade of our great lifestyle here.

First, I know someday I will get a Master's - the issue is paying for it, not the actual work. I was born in a country where higher education is prohibitively expensive, I can't just say "Imma go to grad school!" the way Canadians, Australians and Europeans (and many Taiwanese) do. Once I do, I have to admit that I see the end of the line. At that point will I really want to be working in private language schools, as good as my two current employers are? Probably not, to be honest. But what else can I do? International schools aren't ideal (plus I'd also have to get a teaching license most likely) as I don't particularly want to teach teenagers full-time. Universities simply don't pay well enough (salaries are in the range of NT$60,000/month I've been told, and frankly, that's not enough even with paid vacation). But we foreigners really are limited in terms of moving up if we actually want to teach. There are a handful of schools that hire foreigners as academic managers or teacher trainers, and those positions don't always pay particularly well either (plus your job is often to be the 'bearer of bad news' between the teaching staff and Taiwanese upper management if it's a locally-owned school, which sounds like my idea of hell). The schools I work for don't do this, but a LOT of schools see foreigners as foreign monkeys to put in classrooms to get students in, and just take for granted that they should never be anything more. So, when that time comes and I'm ready to move up in my career...where exactly is there in Taiwan for me to go, when the only 'better' jobs are not actually better?

In short, Taiwan has been great for my career up to now, but I can see clearly down the road where it won't be forever. Someday that's a problem I'm going to have to grapple with, and it would be a lie to say it's not causing me stress now.

Secondly, I (well, we, but this is me writing) feel absolutely ready, once I rescue my finances from the clusterfuck that was late 2014-2015, to do adult things like, oh, actually own the place where we live so we can modify it to our liking. Have a credit rating in the country where I actually live! Have a job with benefits! Good luck doing any of those things - getting a credit card without a big fight, getting a mortgage (if you're not married to a local, forget it), finding that higher-level job without running into a pervasive feeling that foreigners shouldn't be considered for such positions (again I'd like to point out that neither of my current schools have that attitude, but they are the exceptions, not the rule).

Speaking of marriage, Michael makes a good point that a lot of foreigners here do marry locals, but I didn't - and in fact that's a bit of a male-centric phenomenon. Some foreign women do marry Taiwanese men but the balance is squarely in favor of foreign men and Taiwanese women (marriage equality is not yet law here but one can hope it will be soon as most Taiwanese support the idea). Nothing wrong with that generally (though that does mean there is a problem in the expat community with the slimier kind of fetishizers, but that's for a post I don't think I'll ever write). There seems to be this blanket assumption - and I'm not saying Michael is guilty of it, just that it exists - that 'expat' means 'straight male expat', like Plato's ideal form of Expat definitely has a penis and definitely wants to put it in a vagina. What that ends up meaning is that male expats, if they marry locals, are more likely to stay because they get the local benefits of that union. They get the mortgages and credit cards because their wives can co-sign. They get the guanxi. They get the sense of permanence. Other than the few foreign women married to Taiwanese men, female expats are just that much more marginalized. And yes, that is a problem. I happened to marry a white guy, and as a result, we can't get a freakin' mortgage in the country where we live. That's not OK.

Which brings me to my next point - yes, I do feel increasingly ghettoized as a result of all of this. As a professional English teacher - yeah shut up I have a Delta now :) - I feel stereotyped with all of the Johnny McBackpackers who just got off the plane and think that teaching (good teaching that is) is an easy and fun way to make a few extra bucks and requires no special skills. I feel marginalized because I can't even consider becoming a homeowner in the country where I live. I feel limited because after I get a Master's there won't be many growth opportunities career-wise, and it will become increasingly hard to push my salary up (as it is for everyone: see stagnation, wage). It does create the feeling that 'you're a foreigner, we allowed you to do a lot, but this is all you are allowed to do. Know your place." 

This is not an attitude I can point to in anyone in particular, but a general sense I get. It's compounded by the fact that it is commonly believed that foreigners - at least English teachers, obviously this is not true for largely Southeast Asian laborers - are treated better than Taiwanese. And in many cases we are - pay for teachers who don't know TBL from TPRS, or scaffolding from subordination, and teach weird things like "I'm well" rather than "I'm good" because they don't know what a copula is let alone how it works - is higher than actual qualified teachers who happen to have Taiwanese passports (which brings in the other discussion of how good teacher training is in Taiwan - not something I want to get into here). We get away with not following work culture expectations because it's not our culture. We get to take longer vacations, generally speaking, as long as our employers aren't too terrible. We generally get a lot of leeway.

But I can't say wholeheartedly that we actually are treated better. We don't get annual bonuses, which most Taiwanese expect as a matter of course. We don't get paid vacation generally (although this is partly why we can take longer vacations so there is a trade-off). We can't get a pension even if we pay into the system. We don't get paid Chinese New Year, although technically by law we ought to. We have trouble asserting our basic rights - non-discrimination, labor insurance, even a contract not full of outrageous illegal clauses including very illegal fines for "quitting" even with proper notice (again I'm lucky in that regard but a lot of people aren't). We can't become citizens unless we give up our original citizenship - a rule not imposed on Taiwanese who get citizenship in other countries. My husband got screwed by our former employer because they had entirely too much control over his visa, for someone who had been here for nearly five years. They should have never been allowed to do that to him, and yet they were. And again, we are limited in the jobs we can take because a lot of locals don't consider foreigners as serious candidates for real, skilled, high-level work. We'll always be outsiders.

A final thing that bothers me is how many Taiwanese - rather like Americans in this way - deny that there is any racism at all in their country. Here is a near exact excerpt from a conversation I had with a neighbor (translated into English):

"Well, there's racism everywhere, so of course there's racism in Taiwan."
"No there isn't! We treat you well."
"Sure, you treat ME well, but that itself is a form of racism - in some ways you treat white people better than locals. But really the problem is that you don't treat EVERY foreigner well. Only the Westerners, and often only the white ones."
"No, I don't treat others badly."
"You personally don't, but do you think Southeast Asians in this country are discriminated against?"
"Well, yes, there's some racism there. But it's for a reason. They come from poor countries with a lot of crime, so we have to be careful!"


So, while I personally have never experienced the sort of racist rant that Christopher Hall did, and likely never will, I definitely feel it in big ways and small, and I have to say it's become more noticeable in the past few years, especially as someone not married to a local. I don't know what the end result will be, but I can't deny it's an issue.