Thursday, July 28, 2022

The 2022 Updated Teacher Training Post


A few years ago, I wrote a long post detailing every teacher training opportunity in Taiwan, from short certification courses all the way to a discussion of whether or not to do a PhD. That post is still relevant (and I've updated some links as well), but I'd like to offer a narrower focus. Cut out the noise and just look at a few key options that might be the best fit for the person who asks this:

I'm a foreign English teacher in Taiwan and I want to get some accredited training to do my job better. How can I do that without leaving Taiwan?

Depending on your needs, prior experience and teaching credentials, any one of these programs might be right for you. You may even choose to do more than one -- I stacked a CELTA (which is like a CertTESOL) on top of a Delta (like a DipTESOL) and topped it off with a Master's. Or, you can take one course and call it good -- you'll still know more and improve more quickly than just about any teacher that doesn't invest in their professional development.

The Trinity CertTESOL and TYLEC

These are fundamental certifications -- the CertTESOL is similar to the CELTA (although it is slightly harder) and focuses on the basics of teaching. You can take this and go on to teach children/young learners, however, your teaching practice will generally be with adults. Both courses require some pretty intensive input sessions -- the CertTESOL usually meets every weekday morning for a semester. You'll have to teach quite a few assessed lessons, do observations and take exams, as well. While it's possible to do this while having an afternoon job, you will be extremely busy. However, people do it. (If a 4-week intensive option is ever offered, you'll want to take time off for that -- it is not possible to take that course and work at the same time.) 

The CertTESOL can be taken by pre-service teachers, that is, people with no teaching experience, but is also helpful to teachers with experience who have no prior training. It is hard work, and you'll want to be ready for that. The CertTESOL is accredited at Level 5 in Europe and the UK. It's a 130 hour course, not including significant self-study time.

The TYLEC is a little different. The acronym stands for the "Teaching Young Learners Extension Certificate" and is a level up from the CertTESOL. It's actually significantly more difficult, accredited at a Level 6, so applicants do need significant teaching experience or an initial teaching qualification (which doesn't have to be the CertTESOL, by the way). It focuses on teaching younger learners and, as with the CertTESOL, you'll have quite a bit of input. You'll also have to keep an observation journal as you observe other young learner classes, and teach your own assessed lessons for more than one level of learner. The 60 hours of guided learning do not include a similar amount of necessary self-study.

If you want an initial high-quality qualification that will help you teach any age and level of learner, and have no prior certification and not much experience, go for the CertTESOL. If you are committed to teaching young learners and do have significant experience or a qualification (better yet, if you have both), the TYLEC is probably a better fit for you.

Both of these courses can be taken at InspiredCPD

The Trinity DipTESOL

Similar to a Cambridge Delta, the DipTESOL is for committed teachers who have an initial qualification and significant post-qualification teaching experience (usually the rule is two years, though it might depend on the quality of that experience). It's equivalent to a Level 7 on the European accreditation system. It requires more of a time commitment (150 hours of input sessions, plus far more self-study), but is split into multiple sections. 

As such, it's also more expensive than a CertTESOL or TYLEC, but if you're committed to teaching as a career, I would say it's worth the money (I have a Delta and found it to be the most challenging and rewarding of my various qualifications).

The CertTESOL runs about NT$55,000, the TYLEC is $70,000 and the DipTESOL runs about NT$110,000. Payment terms are flexible, however. 

Why not CELTA and Delta, you ask? Because while there are online options for both -- I did a Delta from Taiwan -- the Trinity courses are now offered face-to-face in Taiwan.

The DipTESOL can also be taken at InspiredCPD

The International Teaching Master's from Framingham State University (Master of Education with a concentration in International Teaching)

Brendan is currently enrolled in this program and seems quite satisfied with it. So, rather than talking about a course I didn't take, I'll let him tell you about it:

The program I’m in is entirely online due to Covid-19 (though I don’t know if that will continue to be true for future cohorts). It consists of nine courses, each of which lasts for about five weeks and are designed to be doable while also working full-time. The courses are spaced so that we get a month-long break between them. Tuition fees are currently just over $650 per course.

The material is clearly designed first and foremost with K-12 education in mind, which is different from what I do in my own work (my students tend to be university age or older). But I personally see this as a positive: my formal education in the field so far consists of a CELTA and a DELTA, which are about language teaching for adults, so it’s nice to be able to get a broader perspective on teaching. The professors are aware that the students are from a variety of teaching contexts, and there’s been nothing so far in the material that I haven’t been able to make relevant to my own situation.

Of the material I have studied so far, I would say the most relevant has been the course dealing with special education and learning disabilities. Although much of it was focused on young learners with disabilities, much of it can also be applied to adult students, and it really got me thinking about how I can more actively work to make my teaching accessible to all.

I like this program because I feel it is making me more well-rounded as a teacher and is helping fill in a lot of the gaps in my professional knowledge. I don’t know what I’ll be doing professionally ten years from now, and I feel this program is helping to prepare me for multiple options.

It's worth noting that the Framingham program is not specifically about English teaching, and there's nothing in it that focuses on TESOL in itself. However, it's useful for a wide range of teaching beyond TESOL. Framingham does offer a program focused on English teaching, but it's not available as often due to lower demand.

The link in the header to this section will take you to the program's main page. You can also get on the mailing list here

A teaching certificate through TCNJ or Teach-Now (through Moreland University)

Both of these programs focus on general teaching, not TESOL specifically. Both require practicums. TCNJ (Teacher's College of New Jersey) hosts lectures in Hsinchu -- or at least they did pre-COVID -- there's a solid chance they've gone online in recent years. Contact them directly to learn about their post-COVID setup, to see if there have been any changes. The program requires no dissertation but does lead to a Master's. From my last post:

TCNJ also qualifies you to take the Praxis II (teaching qualification exams in the US), available on a very limited basis in Taiwan.

The program requires you to be teaching more than English as it's not specifically a TESOL course but rather one for general young learner education, and your practicums are done at your own work location. The program doesn't require a dissertation but it does require you to take the edTPA.


TeachNow costs $6,000 and runs for nine months, but is flexible. There are nine modules -- a friend describes it more as a BEd program than a Master's, but praises the training as practical and reflective. "Quite sweet" he called it. They have rolling admissions so you can join anytime. There are virtual practicums in the last few months -- you have to teach 5 classes and record them. You should have a mentor in your local setting and through the program, and you cover everything from technology in the classroom to classroom management, lesson planning and learning culture. 

There is of course self-study which can take a variable amount of time. One friend in the program says it takes less than they say, another says that a single practicum cycle including recording and editing the lesson for submission takes 6-8 hours. I don't know how easy it would be to do if you don't have access to a local mentor through work, but it may be a good option. 

A friend doing TeachNow through British Council in Vietnam says that the program has definitely made him a better teacher. You can't get a better endorsement than that! However, unlike TCNJ, you'd mostly be interfacing with the program online. TeachNow leads to a K-6 teaching license.

For both TCNJ and TeachNow, you have to do the teaching license exams. TeachNow gives you a teaching license in Washington, DC but it can be transferable. If you're not American there are some extra steps to follow, but theoretically it can be rolled into a UK qualification like QTS (Qualified Teacher Status).

Other local and online options

These training opportunities are not the only ones available for foreigners looking to improve their teaching qualifications and abilities. My earlier post outlines some online options including MATESOL, PGCE (a British qualification) and programs through Nile, Bell and The Distance Delta. It also covers local options through Taiwanese universities, the Teaching Knowledge Test and a local certification program which runs 35 hours and now includes online options. Have a look there for more details.

Monday, July 25, 2022

In quarantine, who can hear you scream?


My teeth are like these chairs

My teeth and I have a somewhat adversarial relationship. I just want teeth that work and don't disintegrate. If they stayed in my mouth and met that most basic criteria, they could be brushed twice a day with a sustainable toothbrush and fancy Italian toothpaste that gives one's breath a whiff of sweet jasmine. 

Sadly, it was not meant to be. I don't like my teeth, mostly because they don't like me. The devils just won't stop acting up. They develop problems at the worst possible times: in Singapore on vacation, while I have COVID, in the middle of proficiency test examining.

So, I just wanted to write a little about my experience in quarantine -- specifically, what happens if you develop a bit of a dental drama at a time when no one can help you.

It seems I've developed a severe toothache. This tooth has bothered me for awhile; I actually need an implant, but the dentist says to keep on keepin' on until there's no alternative. Implants are expensive and the procedure takes awhile to complete. That, and every time I think about a screw going into my jawbone I squirm and tear up and he sees it. I know it's not supposed to hurt, but tell my lizard brain that. 

This round of tooth pain is so unbearable that I am afraid to take more painkillers, as I've already reached the 24-hour hard limit. Ice helps but only briefly. I have numbing gel and clove oil and they do not work. I can barely eat and I'm sleeping poorly.

Knowing that they will let you out of quarantine for medical emergencies, I called 1922. They gave me the city government phone number, which I called this morning. 

The city government worker who answered said that the whole "emergency quarantine leave" thing is only for the actual emergency room. If there's one thing I know from my dental troubles, it's that emergency rooms do not include dental care unless you've been in, say, a major car accident and your face is messed up in a very urgent way. 

"Nobody's going to be able to treat you," she said, not unsympathetically. "The best they'll do is give you more pain medication."

You mean the pain medication I am quite literally in danger of overdosing on, which still doesn't work? 


Even though I tested myself this morning and at the 10-minute mark stated by the testing procedures, it came up negative? (After another 15 minutes a faint T-line appeared; perhaps I am not as COVID-free as I'd thought when the timer went off). 


I understood the minute she said permission to leave was only for emergency room services. Like in the US, the health system acts as though your teeth are somehow not part of your body -- any other pain might be an emergency but nobody will help you with your teeth. Taiwan's health insurance covers fillings and root canals, but not crowns or implants. Teeth, apparently, don't matter and tooth pain doesn't really count. 

I couldn't really be angry about this. Upset, unhappy and in pain? Sure. But "angry" isn't fair: if you were still under a government-mandated quarantine anywhere in the world, would a dentist see you? I mean, that's the kind of doctor you breathe on the most!

The only real differences between Taiwan and the US in this regard seem to be that Taiwan enforces quarantine a lot more strictly, and in Taiwan you can actually call someone to ask what your options are. If you're lucky, you might even get help in English -- I no longer need this, but there was a time when I did. I feel for newcomers who are now in the same position. I feel even more for the majority of foreigners whose native language isn't English, who may have even more difficulty accessing information and help. 

An American friend said it seemed unfair: if I wanted treatment it should be my right to break quarantine and seek it. I understand that perspective, but the Taiwanese perspective that I could cause the dentist to fall ill and potentially create an outbreak in a medical office made sense. Taiwan wasn't going to let me die of a brain infection, but I would potentially have to endure some pain for a few days longer than I'd like. 

I did not want that pain, but I understood the general principle. I'd also learned that naproxen, or a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, were more effective than either ibuprofen or acetaminophen alone, that sucking on whole cloves worked better than the oil, and that if I iced it for longer I could calm the pain somewhat. It wouldn't be fun but it would be survivable. 

I made an appointment at a hospital for Wednesday morning, the minute I am out of quarantine. No private clinic would see me until 14 days after a positive test. I could make it until Wednesday, but not the week after. 

And then...a miracle. 

When I reported to Ren'ai Hospital that my tooth pain was severe enough that I wanted to see a specialist and could not easily wait, I thought the phone number they gave me was a dead end unless I actually developed sepsis. 

But no! A hospital staffer unexpectedly called me today to say they'd gotten a report of my situation and asked if I wanted to go to the emergency room. I said I would be willing to, but if a dentist wouldn't see me, what would be the point? 

So she looked around and found a dentist willing to do online consultation. It's not perfect -- dentistry really requires a better examination of one's teeth than a phone can provide -- but it's someone, willing to do something. She even added me on her own Line to help me set up the consultation with the dentist.

That all worked out (though the process was a little confusing). I still haven't figured out how to get pharmacies to deliver to my home, so a friend came by, picked up my NHI card and some money, ran it up to the dentist, got my drugs and ran them back, all without coming face-to-face with anyone in the House of Plague.

I don't know if it would have rolled out differently if I'd been anything other than a white woman. Would a local have gotten such help? (Would they have needed it, knowing the language and having better connections than I ever could?) How about a foreigner who wasn't obviously Western? I have no way of knowing, I can only relate the experience I had. 

Perhaps I was helped because I happened to go through Ren'ai Hospital, and someone there happened to take my issue seriously enough to step in. Would I have gotten care if I'd reported another way? I have no way of knowing. 

Honestly, this was better than anything I could have pulled off in the US (without lying about my COVID status there). I understand worry about putting your health in the hands of a big government system -- what if they prohibit the path that's best for you? Yet, I can't say that's what happened. Yes, Taiwan can force you to stay in quarantine and the US can't. But would anyone in the US have thought to call me up and get me what I need like that? Doubt it. I'd have been on my own.

This isn't to say I prefer all-powerful, paternalistic or authoritarian governments. I don't. I would not have gotten what I needed in most such governments. Could you imagine things working out this way in China? I can't. 

Rather, I prefer governments that at least make an effort, even two years into a pandemic. I know that's hard to do in larger countries like the US, but the US also has more resources. They could try to meet residents' needs while having stronger policies to fight COVID. They just...don't. Maybe it's a cultural thing -- I feel like in the US the service you'd get would be very much dependent on your ZIP code. But from here, it looks like giving up.

My experience didn't deliver a perfect solution, but now I have what I need to make it to an appointment. I'm still in pain but I hope it will start subsiding. I feel pressure in my tooth from swelling or (not to get too gross about it) pus. But I got necessary drugs, and I won't be putting any doctors at risk.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

What to do if you get COVID as a foreigner in Taiwan


I don't have a relevant cover photo, so enjoy this pretty tile from Portugal.

Other than having "I've finally bagged me the 'rona!" stuck in my head for the past few days, I've been thinking about how to help other foreigners in Taiwan with the whole process of it all, once you've tested positive.

It's not particularly straightforward, even if your Mandarin is pretty strong, and most of the guidance online is inadequate. "Find a clinic or hospital near you for a telehealth appointment!" is not useful if you feel terrible and are not up to searching online to find one. "You can get medication delivered to your home!" is similarly unhelpful without clear directions as to how, especially if you're not feeling well and don't have the energy to figure it out on your own. 1922 varies depending on who's available to talk to you at any given time: one friend got immediate help, the other got asked her name and phone number in Mandarin and was told someone would call her (fine if your Mandarin is okay, not great if you don't speak it.) 

So, I thought I'd do my best to write a guide. This is specifically aimed at people whose Mandarin is worse than mine, who don't have, say, a local significant other to help. Mine's not perfect, but it exists -- if yours is better, you probably don't need my help! 

Before you test

I strongly recommend, before you even feel sick, to have a plan in place. I didn't -- unwisely kept putting it off as non-urgent -- and had to figure all this out while sick. Learn from my mistake! What sort of plan? Well, you'll want to: 

1.) Download the EUCare app and register, if you have National Health Insurance (you can't use it if you don't). The registration is offered in English, and it doesn't obligate you to make an appointment. You'll need to verify your phone number and possibly e-mail.

Be sure to enjoy the "Congratulations, you are now part of us!" message you get when your registration is successful! I had a little trouble registering, but when I swiped the app closed then re-opened it, it worked.

2.) Figure out where you'll do your telemedicine appointment in advance (which may or may not be through EUCare). If you plan to use the Taipei City Hospital system and don't have anyone to pay the registration fee for you, then you may want to download a relevant app such as Taipei Pass in advance, as they have to review your account before you can use it. 

3.) Have a plan in place for paying the registration fee and picking up any medicine -- this can be done through online payment and home delivery, or having a trusted person be able to take your health insurance card to the hospital or clinic and pick it up for you. I strongly recommend discussing/agreeing in advance with those close to you regarding who will help whom if you suddenly can't leave the house. Even if you have a partner, they may get sick too. It is so much easier to have someone you can call at the ready to go pick up what you need.

4.) Keep a supply of painkillers, cough medicine and diarrhea medicine at home (just trust me on that last one). Some of those flu drink packets don't hurt, either. I also recommend having some citrus or sour candy or lemon drink mix on hand if you think you might be taking Paxlovid. 

Other items my friends or I have felt useful to already have at home:

Extra pet food, if you have pets (have a plan if you have a dog who needs to go out); extra garbage bags; sufficient toilet paper; lip balm, toothpaste and lotion; seasonings to make your food appetizing; and a stash of something you like that's not perishable so you don't need to immediately order grocery delivery -- for me that's frozen dumplings but it can be anything you can survive on for a day or two. 

5.) Figure out in advance if you qualify for Paxlovid (here's an FDA guide from the US and another guide regarding what Paxlovid is and who should take it). In Taiwan, I don't know every regulation, but chronic issues such as asthma or high BI qualify you, among others. There are also risk factors (such as liver or kidney issues and certain contraindicated drugs). I'm not a doctor; if you think you qualify, be ready to ask at your appointment. They may not ask you; you'll need to bring it up. 

Not everyone needs Paxlovid, so don't ask for doses you don't actually need. I qualified and received it, Brendan didn't, and he's doing fine. If you do need it, however, be prepared.

6.) Have some idea how you will get food delivery, especially if you have, say, a fobbed elevator and delivery people cannot get to your door. This may mean talking to your doorperson, making arrangements with friends or stocking up in advance on non-perishables.

Testing positive

You no longer need a PCR confirmation; an at-home rapid test is sufficient. You will need your health insurance card, positive test result, and a pen/marker

Now you'll need a confirmation appointment. You can do this in person, but you can't take public transportation, so if you don't have a vehicle (or are too sick to drive) and there's no one to take you, you'll have to walk. 

I strongly recommend that you do this online instead. 

Using EUCare

You can do so through the EUCare app. I'll link to some other resources after the screenshots below.

Once you register, there is a button for making an online appointment -- it's the "Rapid Test Positive Confirmation" button with the bell. 

They only have one clinic (located in Tainan) that does confirmations all day, so if you can't find anything near you, select "Tainan": 

The other options to the right are, in order: Taipei City, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, Yilan, Hualien and Taitung. 

I don't know why it doesn't include every county, but this is an online confirmation, so it doesn't really matter. 

If you've selected Tainan because it's the only one open, choose Chimei, the first option:

I can't promise you'll only be given this option, so if there are several, choose this one: 

Choose a doctor and time (this is just one option, from what was available when a friend tested positive):

You may be asked to upload a picture of your health insurance card and positive result, and you may also be asked if there's anything else the doctor should know. You can type this in English. 

If the system acts up, just close the app and try again. It's a little buggy but it usually works at least on the second try. If you choose an option other than Tainan Chimei, and can't read what the choices are, I recommend getting Google's Translate app, which allows you to upload photos, including screenshots, to tell you what they say. 

If you don't get those options when you register, contact them via Line (the Help icon at the bottom -- make sure you have Line installed as it will take you over there.)  

Or just sign out and in again: pink button to sign out, yellow to get back in, and the circled option once you do that.

You can also use the Help function other issues with the app, and if you tell them in the beginning you prefer English they'll do their best (I didn't use EUCare but a friend did, and this is what he told me.) When you add their Line you'll get a bunch of messages -- these just tell you that the Help service is for using the EUCare platform, not actual medical attention, a rapid test confirmation or a COVID taxi, and that it's illegal to insult or abuse them or send pornography. 

You'll get a notification when it's time to join. Just open the app and press the button.

The doctor you get should be able to speak English (most doctors in Taiwan do, even if service or support staff do not). If you have any concerns such as picking up medicine you can ask at this time. Have your address ready -- if your confirmation appointment is not close to you, they can send any medicine to a nearby pharmacy.

According to another friend this can get difficult if you don't speak Mandarin -- if you don't, it's best to have someone who does on hand to help you. You'll have to choose the pharmacy and then have someone pick it up for you, or call to have it delivered. 

However, there doesn't appear to be a charge to use EUCare -- at least, my friend wasn't asked for any money.

Taipei City Hospital (for Taipei residents)

If you live in Taipei City, you can make an appointment through the city hospital system. This is what I used. The page tells you about how to do this -- I checked it in Translate mode for you all, and I can confirm it's pretty readable. You'll need the same items as above: National Health Insurance card (if you have one -- if you don't, have a photo ID ready), positive test and a marker. Click on one of the options in green: 

The options, in order are:

Chunghsiao/Zhongxiao (near MRT Houshanpi)
Ren'ai (at Ren'ai-Da'an intersection, near Zhongxiao Fuxing)
Chunghsing/Zhongxing (near Dihua Street)
Heping (near Longshan Temple)
Women's and Children's (on Nanhai Road near Freedom Square)

Choose whatever is most convenient for you and -- hopefully -- the person you have lined up to pick up your medicine and pay your fee. Actually inputting the information is not very hard: 

Choose a date (usually the same day or next day). 上午 is the morning clinic, 下午 is afternoon. It asks for your full name, date of birth, ARC number, phone number and address as well as a captcha. I put in my address in Mandarin, so I don't know if it will accept English. If you're worried about this, have your address in Mandarin ready to copy and paste. These are just examples of choices if you click "Ren'ai".

Click the blue button at the bottom to get your number. Then add the relevant Line ID and change your account display name.

You'll also need a method of payment for the NT50 registration fee if nobody can go to the relevant hospital for you. You'll need to download one of the the relevant apps such as Taipei Pass or the city hospital app (the latter in Chinese, for you to copy and paste: 臺北市立聯合醫院行動掛號). 

Taipei Pass takes awhile to activate as they have to review your registration. The city hospital app is only in Mandarin, and even though I can read everything on it, I can't figure out how to register. So, I strongly recommend you have an agreement with someone in advance. 

I used Ren'ai. I was asked to add the relevant Line ID and change my display name to my name and appointment number (an example is given on the information page.) They sent a message a few minutes before with a link, which I clicked on. A button appeared to enter the conference room and I did. The appointment was efficient, professional and in English. I didn't see that they actually used Line at all!

My husband was asked to add a different Line account when he tested positive (yes, we are a COVID House now) -- mine was tpechra9, his was tpechra8. His appointment actually was through Line, so just stay by your phone and wait for a notification. Have a picture of your ID/NHI card and positive test ready. I was asked to show mine -- all the appointments are recorded -- but he was asked for a photo upload. 

There are specific pickup windows for medicine, which is handled outside the main hospital. Ask your doctor which window your pickup buddy will need. If you need it delivered, ask at this time. I am not sure how to actually do this, as we had someone pick it up for us both times (Brendan did mine, and a friend did Brendan's). 

If you think you qualify for Paxlovid, be sure to proactively ask about it. It does not cost extra.

Local Clinics

You can also confirm your positive result through a local clinic. However, when I attempted to find one, I found that feeling like absolute garbage did not improve my ability to find that information and make phone calls in Mandarin. Turns out, being barely able to sit upright makes it difficult to do something in a foreign language. Who would've thought!

If you do want to go this route, here is a page listing all clinics which do positive result confirmation so you don't have to root around on Google Maps, like I tried to do. Again, learn from my mistakes!

Each link will take you to a city government page with some PDF links. These are all in Chinese but they translate to English fairly well (again, I checked for you). The PDFs are what contain the actual clinic and hospital contact information; you have to call yourself. 

In Taipei, the city hospital system is certainly easier to deal with, but this may be of help if you are outside Taipei. It doesn't translate well, as the links disappear. If you don't have even a little Mandarin, I recommend you at least be able to recognize the characters for where you live if you want to use this method.

Lienchiang (Matsu) and Kinmen just list the clinics with no links -- it's up to you to look them up and call them. No, they probably don't speak English, so if that's a problem you'll want to stick with EUCare.

Keep in mind that while the doctors usually speak English, the staff often don't. If you feel comfortable calling around while you are sick, then you probably didn't need my help in the first place! However, I wanted to include this option.

After confirmation

The confirmed case form

Soon after you are a confirmed case, you'll receive a text message with a link to a form which is helpfully all in Mandarin. Unfortunately, I had not thought to write this post when I received it, so I filled it out and sent it off without taking screenshots. 

If you can read Mandarin, it won't be that hard (though the information for close contacts -- that's family and workplaces only -- can get a bit lengthy. It's not required, but if you do have close contacts who aren't aware that you're positive you do need to fill it out.) 

If you don't, my best recommendation is to take screenshots and open them in the Translate app. Some difficult sections, such as asking you your neighborhood or 里, are actually optional. I happen to know my li but not every foreigner does, and it's a pain to look up.

Soon after, you'll receive a bilingual notification of quarantine, which will tell you what day you can leave home. This should be sent to you by text, with the last six numbers of your ID as the password. The link does expire after a few days, so I suggest you download this. I had to email it to myself and open it on my desktop to do so. 

The phone calls

You should receive two phone calls on your first official day: one from your district health office and one from whoever is designated with checking on you for the national government (for me, someone from Ren'ai Hospital calls daily). At least, that's true for me -- Brendan says he didn't get a call today, but I did. 

The district health office is your friend -- if you need help with something like garbage service, tell them so. If you're unsure, take down their number. You can always call them later to ask for help, as they'll only call you once. 

Depending on where you are, the district health office may not speak English. I don't know what to tell you except to be ready for this. 

The daily call checks on your symptoms for the national database. I usually talk to them in Mandarin, and you get all types. The first one confidently spoke English before I even tried to break out my language skills. The next day, the caller offered, but seemed happy she didn't need to. The third caller was clearly terrified of talking to a foreigner at all, even though I assured her she didn't need to use English. So, you know, you get all kinds.

If you don't speak Mandarin and make it clear in the beginning that you need English, they may make sure someone who speaks it will call you daily, or transfer you. I can't promise that, but that's how these things usually shake out. 

I'm quarantined but need to see a doctor for something else!

If you get sick with some other thing while in quarantine, you can make an appointment through EUCare (go to the button that says "Specialist" and choose from the options (it will again be a list of hospitals and clinics by location in the same order as above). In Taipei your best option is Mackay (台北馬偕紀念醫院), which is second on the list if you click "臺北". Choose your preferred clinic by the photos -- for example, for persistent cough, click on the lungs. Choose the last one, Family Medicine, if you're unsure what you need.  Input your information and a photo of your NHI card, and specify what you need in the box. You can do this in English. Then book the appointment and wait for the notification. 

The only part that may be confusing is the "Unified ID" (統一編號). That's usually a term for a business ID, but it's used here. Input your regular ARC/APRC ID number. 

You can also call 1922 for help, though their ability to do much will depend on who's staffing it at that time. Some people I know have gotten excellent service, some have gotten a gruff request for a phone number in Mandarin, so someone could call them back in English. 

I personally have developed a toothache in quarantine, and will probably call 1922 about it tomorrow, so I'll update with any useful information (there is no dental icon on EUCare). 

Other advice

These are just some tips I have from being in quarantine. 

First, I cannot stress enough to prepare in advance. I had done some of the not-yet-positive things I suggested above, but not all of them. Be smarter than me. Agreeing in advance with multiple friends that you'll all help each other will especially make everything so much easier. 

Secondly, if you do get Paxlovid and develop Paxlovid Mouth, the secret to killing that awful taste long enough to eat is citrus. It could be lemonade, lemon water, sour candies, Vitamin C tablets (the kind that come in the yellow and green tube, or the Korean ones in the moon-shaped plastic dispenser work great.) It could even be Pocari Sweat, which is mildly citrusy. But you'll want something -- eat a sour candy or drink lemon water if the taste becomes unbearable or you want to eat a meal that doesn't remind you of battery acid upchuck. It kind of tastes like a bitter chemical sewage; I really cannot emphasize enough how awful it is. 

But lemon and citrus kill it! It's kind of the big secret to surviving those five days while eating somewhat normally. Stock up. 

Drink massive amounts of water. We're talking as much as you can take. Be ready to pee it all out, but just keep drinking. 

Brendan says coffee every morning helps his symptoms. I drink it too, but haven't noticed that it makes them much better. It's worth trying, however. 

Rest even if you feel okay, at least for the first few days. Use this as an excuse to do nothing. 

There is no need to test daily. You can't leave for a week anyway, so it's not worth testing until you're close to your quarantine end date. Save your tests!

If you've read this far, there's a fair chance you're sick. If not, stay healthy!

Friday, July 22, 2022

If you think "Taiwanese men are beta-male pansies" is insightful or funny, it's time to retire

There's a writer who's well-known and seemingly well-liked among expats in Taiwan and in defense analysis circles -- or at least by other white men. And I don't doubt this is all true. He probably is quite friendly in real life.

He writes colorfully; he's even been called the "Hunter S. Thompson" of Taiwan policy analysis. That's all fine. As readers surely know, I have no goddamn problem at all with some strong language. He's published some books and written for Jane's, which show real expertise. All fine.

His main deal seems to be that Taiwan is not prepared in terms of national defense, and needs both a better security environment and a more committed attitude to defending itself against China. I actually agree with this: at heart I'm a peacenik, but you just don't get to decide when the other guy starts a war with you. Especially if the other guy is the CCP, which lies, breaks promises and chooses to be angry when it suits them.

You can't play dove with that. You have to defend yourself, and Taiwan seems unprepared. I get it. 

He might even be right that Taiwanese don't care enough about national defense, but I'm far less sure. That conjecture is based almost entirely on military recruitment, but people who are willing to fight if China invades aren't necessarily going to join the military as their job. They may desire other careers, or maybe the military just isn't a good career choice generally. That doesn't mean they won't fight, though -- polls consistently say most are willing to. The polls may be wrong, but that's a matter of opinion, not fact. 

In any case, my issue isn't his actual take on Taiwan's national defense or security. Even if I disagreed, it's not my area of expertise. 

Here is what I have a problem with. From this post:

I won't comment on him as a person -- again, I am sure he's quite affable, at least if you have sufficiently proven your chudliness -- but these ideas, which I am free to comment on? Fucking yikes.

Where I do talk about a certain type of expat (generally older, white, cisgender and straight, though I've met other types), I want to be clear: There are a lot of foreign dudes walking around with these opinions, and some even write about it. This isn't about one guy.

So let's talk about the article, and this attitude in general.

First, it's just mean. It's not a discussion of Taiwan or its security situation as a nation, or interpretation of poll results (because, again, the polls contradict his opinion). It's insulting Taiwanese as human beings, with broad-stroke pronouncements about what they are like as people. It isn't relevant to why the military may not be an attractive career, or what bureaucratic and governmental issues may be holding Taiwan back.

It's also wrong. It tries to be funny, but isn't. I'm fine with being mean if someone has earned it. But mocking the entire population of Taiwan, or even just the male population? Come on.

That meanness lays bare no deeper truths: all it does is make Taiwan look like a place not worth the international community's time, which can't get its own act together, and may as well be left to be ravaged and subjugated by China, the people -- sorry, pansies -- slaughtered. All because they won't stand up for themselves (even though, again, polls say they will -- and "but they like strawberry bubble tea!" isn't funny, it's just poor argumentation.) 

It's racist, because it calls into question the virility and courage of 12 million or so Asian men. This just clobbers readers with old-timey caricaturing of Asian men as effeminate or unmanly. It was racist back when some people thought it was funny, and it remains so.

There are multiple expats in Taiwan -- mostly white men -- who hold such opinions. Some even write similar drivel: it's not just him. Some of them defended this as "spot on". 

I wonder, have any of them participated in a decades-long but ultimately successful underground resistance, at risk of torture and execution, aimed at overthrowing a dictatorship and democratizing their country?  

Doubt it. 

So maybe sit the fuck down.

While some of them may have talked to Taiwanese men to say more than "another beer, please" or "再一瓶" if they've learned three words of Chinese -- I do wonder.

And here's how you can tell the whole logic of the piece is racist. Beyond the references to hentai and whatnot, there's a line in there (in a screenshot below) about how Ukrainians are tough, and Taiwanese aren't. The Taiwanese who, left without resources by the Qing, colonized over and over and given a pretty terrible hand historically, overthrew a dictatorship and built a modern nation? The ones who mounted rebellion after rebellion? I don't know that they "eat bark", but I don't see a "not tough" narrative there. 

The article dismisses all of this, saying there's no narrative to replace the (hole-ridden and dictator-driven) one, which is ultimately not particularly inspiring because the KMT lost. In fact, every "red in tooth and claw" story he says Taiwan lacks (the Alamo, the 300 Spartans) is a story of losing. That's supposed to be the kind of inspiring story Taiwan reaches for? Why? 

The article doesn't give any reasons for praising stories of losers and dismissing Taiwan's actual story other than...what? 7-11 has effeminate decorations? That's not a reason. It boils down to "because I don't like it and it doesn't make Taiwanese seem wimpy enough". 

As for Ukrainians, it's not as though they were all boar-hunting buff strongmen before the war. There's a lot of gender role crap in Ukraine, but I promise you, some of the bravest Ukrainians are willing to dance around in heels. Besides, Russia expected Ukraine to surrender quickly. As Zelenskyy put it, they were banking on cowardice. That doesn't sound like a story about how Ukrainians have always been Fighter Dudes to me. 

It's literally no more than Eastern European Men = Chads; Asian Men = Virgins. That's not analysis or even thoughtful opinion. It's a meme, and a half-assed one at that.

The article is also misogynist, because it codes all behavior considered female as 'bad'. It assumes that cute stores, or adorable cats is sufficient evidence that the people of Taiwan won't fight because...Hello Kitty, or something. Like you need to look a certain way to fight. Specifically, a male way. Specifically, a straight male chud way. 

As a middle-aged frizzy-haired chubby lady who Instagrams her cats, but would rather die than let China take Taiwan without a fight, I suggest anyone reading this who thinks "Taiwanese are pansies because the stuff they like is girly" not only sit down, but also go ahead and lick my salty buttcrack.


Who Instagrams her cute fuzzers and would fight for Taiwan? That's right.

In other words, I may not be effeminate but I am a woman (or are we feeeeemales? I always forget). I prefer non-violence but I will Molotov a fucker if they threaten my home.

And you can tell it's misogynist because it mocks President Tsai in her role as head of the country and its military, calling it "LARPing", when she's doing her
fucking job.

I don't recall these guys jeering at Ma Ying-jeou when he was in charge of both the country and military. He might be called incompetent, but he wouldn't be mocked as though it were all an elaborate costume -- men in this position are taken seriously, even when undeserved.

This is even more galling as, however imperfect, she's done more for the military than Ma. I'm not even sure what "post-modern woke policies in the military" he's referring to, because that doesn't make any sense, and he gives no examples. It honestly feels like she's getting shit just because she's a woman, not because she's doing a worse job.

Anyway, all the chuds whining about Tsai -- because the writer here is not the only one -- are you guys the Commander in Chief of anything? No?

So again, maybe sit the fuck down and get right back in that ass for more crack-licking. We ain't done.

It's also misandrist. I mean, calling 12 million men "beta males" is just inherently anti-male, and pro-asshole.

It assumes that any person with a dick should behave in certain ways, coded as masculine, and anyone who strays from this awful binary is less-than. That's insulting to men too. Society needs all types, including swaggering pussy people and thoughtful dick people. It's part of what makes the world beautiful!

In coding insufficiently masculine behavior as "bad". It calls men "pansies" and makes jokes about Pride, as though being a more openminded society than its neighbors is a sign of weakness. Or as though gay people can't fight! 


The context given for this is that the men he knows didn't want to do mandatory military service. But frankly, the training they receive isn't very useful. Friends of mine say that you barely get time to practice shooting a gun, but you spend a lot of time cleaning. I'd be happy to do a program where I learned to shoot, but don't really want to clean toilets for no reason. Maybe they don't want to go because they know it's pointless, not because they're cowards?

While we're on the topic, why no screaming about the fact that national service is only for men? Women may be physically weaker on average (though not necessarily individually), but we can shoot, and do lots of other things, and we have a higher pain tolerance. I don't know that Taiwan needs national service at all, but if they do, it should be both useful and mandatory for every citizen. 

Regardless, all the jokes implying gay people can't fight are just inaccurate and sad. In a hint about a story for another time, if you'd like I can direct you to at least three (?) gay male strippers in Ximending who look like they could help take out a PLA soldier or twenty. Even if they don't want to fight, I cam promise any one of them could benchpress some of these expat beerguts.

In addition to mocking Pride, he also artlessly implies that Madame President Dr. Tsai Ing-wen is somehow inferior because she's a lesbian (you can see it in the "mysteriously never married" dogwhistle). She might be. I do not know, I do not care, and you shouldn't either.

Frankly, the whole passage clarifies how threatening a smart woman who doesn't need a man but can run a country is. How insecure it makes some men feel, and how cowardly that is.

Apparently, being (oh no!) a Possible Lesbian and A Woman is somehow worse qualification for running the country than shitting your pants because someone compared you to Winnie the Pooh? That sure sounds like Hysterical Male behavior to me. Christ, who wants a literal child in charge of the country, just because he has a squiggle-dick and a big baby temper? Not me. I'll take the (Oh No!) Possible Lesbian and A Woman who keeps her cool, thanks. 

If you prefer your opinions in meme format, well, would you rather have this woman in charge:

Or this Hysterical Male:

All this lays bare the deeper problem: this article would rather be a rant about post-modern gay woke beta whatever than actually make a real point, although it tries to be an opinion about defense. It claims to be "satire" in addition to "opinion", but satire should be funny.

What is it then? Chudswagger, as though Taiwan should be grateful to have guys like this around to tell them how much Taiwan sucks and they know better. Like the worst expat white guys at the worst bar you know, who seem friendly until they start ranting hysterically three beers in about WOKE SOY CUCK CULTURE COMING TO TAI-WAAAAN! 

I mean, maybe these guys are upset that Taiwan is no longer a place where they can act like Trump Uncles without getting the side-eye. Can't say I feel too bad about it, though.

This article flows the way of all hot garbage juice writing (this guy engaged in it too, and I wrote back) and ties all of it to Taiwan's declining birth rate. The Taipei Times guy linked above blamed it on insufficient slut punishment (not his words, but that's the gist). This post? Seems to think it's about being too feminine or gay or unable to fuck...or something.

Now, do I know if Taiwanese men can fuck? Well, I didn't date anyone seriously before Brendan moved here. But I know lots of people who have, and indeed they agree: Taiwanese men fuck. 

If you are one of these old white dudes, try not to faint from the shock that you might not be the hottest ticket in town. Honestly, it's better to just accept it.

So why is the birth rate declining? It's not "hentai" or a need to "ban porn" or gayness or an inability to fuck. As I wrote in the Taipei Times link above, most people want children. They aren't having them because most people also want some security before they do: an apartment they can call their own, enough money, time to spend with their offspring. This is true in Taiwan as everywhere else.

In other words, the problem is fundamentally economic. I do think it can be solved, though I'm not sure how. But, of course, some people think it's more fun to be insulting and hateful and say it's about something something beta male something porn something

I suppose writing like this is one's right. You can publish that if someone will give you a platform, or publish it yourself if they won't. You shouldn't go to jail for it. I have a blog and I say all sorts of things people don't like. It's fine.

But if you think mocking perceived gay or female behavior is insightful or funny, it's not -- and it's time to retire. 

If retirement is not desirable, then focus on your actual area of expertise, as colorfully as you like! Just leave out the anti-gay racist shit. Nobody needs it, nobody wants it, it's wholly unnecessary and it's not even amusing, let alone correct.

I love colorful writing. Colorful language is absolutely fine. 

But just shitting on people, calling them cowards by implying they're gay or "unmanly", and acting like that's amusing -- or trenchant and worthwhile -- analysis? 

Naw. This is old shit. This is like a comedian from the '90s who can't figure out why no one laughs at their schtick anymore. This is Trump Uncle at Thanksgiving who doesn't understand that he's the reason why nobody lingers over dessert. This is Grandpa who wonders why his grandkids never call. This is material for Conservative Stand-Up Night at Shady Pines.

I mean, it's just preposterous. I don't know what smegma-streaked helldream this version of Taiwan comes from, but it's not the Taiwan I live in. Gay men can fight. Women can fight. Lesbians can fight. People who like Hello Kitty can fight. People who like pornography and video games and strawberry bubble tea can fight. The country's internationally-famous black metal frontman posts cute cat videos, but I bet he can fight. I mean have you seen that man shirtless?

If not, here you are: 

Definitely hotter than you

Would you rather have this absolute beefcake fighting alongside you, or some white dudes who still think the Combat Zone is cool?

And if you're one of those people who makes themselves feel better about mocking any of these groups, as though you're such Big Swagger Dudes, well...I don't like to use the term "beta" because it's ridiculous, but that sure looks like beta behavior to me. So terrified of some girls & gays. Like insecure Trump Uncles who are afraid of a world they do not understand. It's sad, really. 

Maybe the Taiwanese won't win, and it's probably true that Taiwan needs to do more for its defense. But again, according to the polls, they say they are willing to fight. 

Even if you think they won't, that's just like, your opinion, man.

Another beer, please. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Restored Taipei Heritage Building Megapost


First, a quick life update: I have COVID! So, depending on how that turns out, you can either expect lots of posts as I don't have much to do, or nothing because I don't feel well (right now I'm doing alright). 

Now, on to the actual post.

In recent years, Taipei has been working practically in overdrive not just to preserve the heritage architecture that remains, but (for the most part) turn these old buildings into useful or interesting public spaces. 

You surely know some of these already -- Huashan and Songyan Creative Parks, Bopiliao, Dihua Street and -- well, so many that it'd be impossible to list them all. A few are privately owned: Leputing is housed in a Japanese-era dormitory for government officials, built in the 1920s and renovated with government subsidies. Fireweeds offers more traditionally Japanese fare, in a smaller-scale building. I used to frequent Cafe Monument when I had a reason to be in that area. Nobody who knows a thing about Taiwanese history is unaware of Wistaria House (though it can be hard to get a table). 

Others have been more recently renovated. As such, they're less well-known. 

I've been spending a lot of time these past few years writing about these places (among other topics) for Taipei Magazine. That's not a plug -- the point is, I spend a lot of time visiting these places because the city government wants to get the word out. It's been an enjoyable enough series of assignments that I thought I'd summarize some of my favorites, with a few picks of my own. 

Some of the links lead back to my own writing, some to other sites -- I wanted to offer a list of my favorites (including places I've visited on assignment) rather than just hawk my own work. Not every item comes with photographs: I simply can't find all of my own pictures. I'm not sure it matters much -- I'm not the best photographer.

This is by no means a definitive list. I'm giving the places above the short shrift, and leaving out Beitou and Shezi completely. Old favorites, like the Xiahai City God Temple, Bao'an Temple and Qingshan Temple didn't make it in. There are enough Japanese-era residences around NTU and Shi-da alone to create an entire post. I didn't include the 228 Museum because I wanted to add at least one picture to that, but I don't have any (it will feature in an upcoming post on all the museums you can visit if you don't want to go to the National Palace Museum again). 

That's okay -- I can't cover everything, so let's focus on what I can do! 

Kishu An


Also called the "Literature Forest", this renovated section of a 1917 Japanese riverside banquet hall -- much of which was destroyed in a fire decades ago -- offers a calm spot for relaxation, a shop, cafe and event space. The massive banyan trees lend themselves to the 'forest' part of the site's name, and novelist Wang Wen-hsing lived here for a time, hence the connection to literature. In fact, much of the Taiwanese novel Family Catastrophe was set here.

Taiwan Literature Base and surrounding neighborhood (same link as above)

Near Huashan Creative Park, the Taiwan Literature Base is housed in a series of dormitories once occupied by Japanese civil servants, first in the Japanese era and for a period, ROC government workers as well. It was left abandoned for some time before being designated as a historic site and renovated. Qidong (Chitung) Street is much older, however: it was used as a transit route for goods headed to the port of Keelung during the Qing Dynasty and Japanese colonial era. Now, the dormitories house exhibits, spots for reading -- including one filled with books in Taiwanese and Hakka -- or just places to hang out, in a quiet complex with plenty of outdoor seating. 

There's more to this neighborhood than just the dormitories, however. Other renovated Japanese era buildings house the Taipei Qin Hall (also called Taipei Calligraphy Academy) the residence of Li Gwoh-ting. Both of these host events, exhibits and activities.

Tip: for this and Kishu An, bring bug spray. It turns out that shady banyans attract mosquitoes.

Railway Department Park

This has gotten quite a bit of press since opening in 2020, but I wanted to include it as not only a recent renovation, but also one of my favorite visits. With an Art Deco entrance, cypress from Alishan, a Beaux Arts conference room, and exhibits on railway history, there's a lot to see here. Buildings outside have a lot of history to explore as well. It's become one of my top recommendations for very hot or rainy days, if you want to get out of the house, explore a historic site, and have enough to keep you engaged for the day. 

Futai Street Mansion

Walking down Yanping Street one day, I passed this smallish historical building and found, to my surprise, that it was open to the public. This simple European-style commercial building (it was built in 1910 to house the offices of a Japanese construction company) holds a place in my memory in part because I found it on my own; no guidebook or brochure mentioned it, and I wasn't asked to go there to write about it.  Constructed of stone from Qili'an in northern Taipei with a ceiling of Taiwanese cypress, it's the only commercial building left on Yanping Road, which was once lined with them. It houses a gift shop and as of my last visit, a small cafe as well. Renovation and management was conducted by the same person who manages the Taipei Story House near the Fine Arts Museum. I appreciate the warm cypress scent that wafts through the building; you'd hardly think that this was used as accommodations for high-level ROC officials -- it looks like it was always meant to be a commercial building on a commercial street.



Built in the early 1900s, was originally a Buddhist monastery and temple that served as a Taiwan-based chapter of a Japanese Shin (or Pure Land) Buddhist order. When I first moved to Taiwan in 2006, I remember coming across it in disrepair, but in the years since it's been renovated and turned into a popular attraction. The bell tower is especially nice, though I remember it most fondly as one of the first historic sites I came across in Taiwan that was later renovated. The architectural designs are eclectic, and the head priest's residence (the rinbansho or rinbansyo)

is now a teahouse called, predictably, Rinbansyo and is built and decorated in a thoroughly traditional Japanese style. I've been, and I recommend it

(On a personal note, Rinbansyo holds a lot of sad and nostalgic memory for me, as the one time I went, I was with a friend who later passed away of a heart condition. It was the last time I saw her. I should go back, but I haven't yet.) 

North Gate

In my first years in Taiwan, North Gate was that incongruous little square building with the traditional-style roof that few paid attention to. Why? Because it sat right next to a massive highway ramp. When I had a class in Wugu, a student would drive me back to Taipei Main Station and I'd always notice how pretty that old Minnan-style roof looked, silhouetted by the city lights beyond. It was hard to get close to the actual gate, though, and on the ground its surroundings drained its attractiveness.

Friends began pointing out the gate's significance. As one of the only relics of the Taipei city walls (constructed just before the Sino-Japanese war in the late 1900s, and demolished very soon after by the incoming Japanese), and as the only Taipei surviving city gate retaining its original southern Chinese form. The others were renovated (retconned) into the bright red-and orange northern Chinese style buildings the KMT plonked on Taiwan to make it seem not just 'Chinese' but the specific kind of "Chinese" aesthetics they preferred. That is, not simple, elegant Southern Min brick. 

Imagine my shock when one day I walked by that intersection to see the ramp gone, and pedestrian friendly walkways allowing one to truly admire this forgotten old gate in the shadow of an overpass. But of course people hadn't forgotten; it took awhile to do the right thing and give North Gate its due.It took breaking the KMT domination of the Taipei mayorship and showing that in fact, a simple, local-style gate can be more lovely than the most firecracker-red columns you can out up to push your view of history on the people.

It's small, and takes just a moment to walk through. But you can walk through it now, and that wasn't always the case. And that's what matters.

Taipei Info Hub


Not far from Futai Street Mansion (you can walk between the two by crossing under North Gate), Taipei Info Hub is a recently-renovated warehouse building housing various exhibits on the first floor, with a second floor event space. Built in 1913 for the erstwhile Mitsui & Co (no relation to the current company), Taipei Info Hub also houses a cafe with ample seating in an area where there were once very few food and drink options. Interestingly, the semicircular gable that graces the building now isn'r original; the original was deemed too vulnerable to be left in position and is now on display inside the building.

National Center of Photography and Images

In the same article linked above, I wrote about NCPI -- the National Center of Photography and Images. In the same neighborhood as the Railway Department Park, North Gate, Futai Street Mansion and Taipei Info Hub. 

You probably know this building; very near Taipei Main Station, it was designed by architect Setsu Watanabe and built in 1937. It's certainly got Japanese influences in the roof design -- note the distinctive turret -- but was also designed to be simple and modern. Originally an office for the Osaka Mercantile Co., the turret was eventually lopped off in order to build a fourth story, during the period when it housed the Provincial Highway Bureau. During renovations, Watanabe's original intent was coaxed back into existence, with the turret replaced. 

Now, NCPI hosts rotating exhibits on photography in Taiwan's history. Not everything is subtitled in English, but enough is to enjoy yourself. While enjoying the exhibits, be sure to take in some of the other Art Deco details of the building, especially the stairway.

The first floor also houses a minimalist cafe and interesting gift shop. (I bought a Furoshiki Shiki miscellaneous goods bag, because I thought the design was cool.) 

New Culture Movement Museum

One thing I love about Taiwan: when dealing with the renovation of historic sites that evoke painful memories of colonialism and brutality, the current government has not shied away from re-imagining them as spaces to talk about Taiwan's history on its own terms, while reminding people of the original purpose of the sites. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Japanese-era police stations in Taipei and Tainan. Tainan uses its old police station as part of a fine arts museum complex, exhibiting fine artwork specifically from Taiwan which evokes the Taiwanese experience through history and today. 

In Taipei, this means using an old police building to house a New Culture Movement museum. When I went, the current COVID outbreak was just starting to become a concern, and the place was deserted. While that's probably due to the pandemic, I also worry that news of the museum's existence hasn't gotten around yet, either. That's a shame, because in addition to exhibits about the New Culture Movement (which was strongly tied to the Home Rule movement of the time), the building itself is of historic interest. From my article

Built in 1933, the station also served as a detention center. In the ensuing decades, the edifice was replaced with red tiles and a third story was added. Renovations began in 2014, and the choice of exhibit was intentional: Taiwan Cultural Association (台灣文化協會) founder Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) had been imprisoned at the station’s former site in the 1920s. The New Cultural Movement in Taiwan encouraged understanding of Taiwanese culture and history through performances, lectures, essays and a newspaper, the Taiwan People’s News (台灣民報).

POPOP Taipei

This is another one of those city government initiatives aiming to renovate Taipei's historic sites and re-make them into usable spaces for contemporary times. POPOP was once a bottle cap factory in Nangang, a part of the city that, to be honest, doesn't have a lot going on (though if you find yourself there, the Academia Historica museum is interesting, and there's an old family mansion near the Academia Sinica). 

Unlike, say, the creative parks at Huashan and Songshan, POPOP is a fairly new project, and hasn't quite taken off yet thanks to the pandemic -- but hopefully, it will. Instead of following the old 'creative and culture park' model, POPOP was conceived as a 'maker space', with the main part of the old factory buildings turned into a single long workspace with tables, counters, outlets -- you know, a space for makers. There's not a lot going on yet, but check back in a few years.

For the casual visitor, there's also a cafe, a sake bar and an antique shop in addition to some small but pleasant outdoor spaces. 



From the same article above, the Shintomicho Cultural Market (U-mkt) can be found at the other end of the MRT's blue line, near Longshan Temple and Bopiliao. Built in 1935, commercial operations ceased in the unique U-shaped building in the 1990s. Xinfu Market, however, still bustles around it, and is interesting both when open and closed (as the pull-down garage doors on the shops are covered in colorful graffiti). Today, U-mkt has exhibits on the building's past, kitchen and lecture spaces and two cafes, one in the curve of the "U" and the other in the Japanese-era office just outside. 

Neihu Assembly Hall


This Art Deco building caught my eye in a book of Taipei heritage buildings. Looking one weekend day for something to do, I suggested to Brendan that we head up to Neihu just to have a look. After all, we rarely get up that way; there just isn't that much to do in Neihu if you don't live there! We weren't able to enter the building, and frankly, the façade is probably the most interesting thing about it. Built in 1930, it's one of the few Japanese-era buildings that isn't done in the "baroque" style reminiscent of British colonialism, but straight-up Art Deco, complete with 'air defense' tiles which were probably more for decoration than actual camouflage.

It's worth coming up here, though, as you can combine it with a visit to visit the Kuo ancestral shrine (below). 

Kuo Family Shrine


This gem of a building is designed more in the Japanese Baroque style that is so common in Taiwan than the Neihu Assembly Hall, and is linked with it above. Hiking up the steps to get to this hilltop mansion, you'd never know that it's right next to an MRT station. Unlike the assembly hall, the family mansion is open most days, and is pleasant to wander around. It's also the headquarters of the World Kuo Family Association, has some Tang-dynasty tablet rubbings, and features a shrine to the most famous Kuo -- Kuo Ziyi. Though he's claimed as the ancestor to all people surnamed Kuo, that's likely not the actual case. 

Sun Yat-sen Memorial House / Yixian Park / Umeyashiki


Can you imagine someone living in Taiwan for almost 15 years, and not visiting this site? Well, that was me. Next to Taipei Main Station, this was a restaurant and guesthouse during the Japanese Era, where Sun Yat-sen apparently spent a night (also, it's apparently been relocated from its original site nearby). 

After so many years of seeing the walls keeping this small park and building from the noise and traffic outside, I finally popped in one day when I had nothing else going on, and had just had lunch with a friend nearby. I ended up spending much of the afternoon just sitting and relaxing. The Japanese-style building itself houses a small exhibition related to Dr. Sun, and the garden around it is landscaped in a Chinese style. A brochure describes it as a fusion of the two styles -- Japanese and Chinese -- with some sort of metaphorical link to Taiwan and fusion of the two cultures. 


I don't care much for the metaphor, but it is a pleasant spot. Perhaps sit and reflect on how the "father of modern China" (or something) visited Taiwan, stayed here, and never said a thing about Taiwan being Chinese. To Sun, Taiwan was very obviously Japanese. Now consider how China views its 'claim' to Taiwan as something historic -- the evidence is apparently 'antiquity' itself. 

Does that claim seem particularly legitimate in light of what you've just learned? I hope not! 

The Lin Antai Mansion


Competing with other old family mansions such as the Banqiao Lin Family Garden in New Taipei, the Li Family House in Xinzhuang and the Wufeng Lin Mansion just outside Taichung city, the Lin Antai house is probably the best-preserved old mansion in Taipei. It took me years to visit, simply because it's not close to anything else and not particularly close to an MRT (some bus lines run up to that corner of the city, but that's about it). I enjoyed it immensely when I did, however. Fun fact: the house used to be located on what is now Dunhua South Road. I saw the original site on an old map once, and it wasn't far from MRT Technology Building -- it's surreal to think the whole thing got moved up to the riverside.



Ciyun Temple (慈雲寺)

We found this temple so many years ago that the photos I took got lost somewhere in the shuffling of files from old computers to new. I remember it though, because in a district full of flashier and more famous temples, this simple brick structure felt like a throwback, or at least a very unpretentious example of its type. The old brick arcades certainly give the area the feel of a time long past. Built in 1924 with private funds, it was on newly reclaimed land behind what is now Ximenting when first constructed. Now, the temple lives on, but seems to be bookended with hip-looking cafes. I don't mind, that, really. 

If you make your way from some of the sites around Taipei Main to Ciyun Temple, you'll find yourself walking through Ximen, which is an interesting way to spend a day regardless of your destination. There's plenty to see in the area, and if you aim your walk in the direction of Zhongshan Hall and some of the other historical sites and temples I've skipped, you'll also pass one of my favorite old houses:


I don't think there's anything especially historic about it, I just think it looks cool. 

In fact, although it's often labeled an unattractive city, Taipei has lots of architecture that is in fact quite interesting: