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Take your time

posted by Martin Rubli at 15:01

You've got to admire the relaxed attitude of Taiwanese in many respects, but this one may be pushing it:

With only eight seconds left to cross the road, shouldn't the man be walking instead of what he seems to be doing?

Accounting for taste

posted by Martin Rubli at 07:45

Several times per year Taiwan's furniture manifacturers come together in Taipei. Under such glamorous names as "Taipei International Exhibition of Furniture & Interior Decoration & Building Materials", "The 14th Imported Fine Furniture Show", or "13th Taipei Furniture Fair" they gather to show off the masterpieces of their design work.

The saying that there is no accounting for taste is probably as old as the first cave paintings. As for me you'll much rather see me carefully remove a 30,000 year-old painting from a cave wall than spend a single dollar on one of the exhibits at these events.

I have picked two examples to class up my blog. The first one is a traditional Taiwanese set of living room furniture:

The second one (and this is the part that really worries me - after all you can't argue with tradition), is fashioned after ancient European cultural periods (possibly Baroque?). It is considered European luxury style luxury.

Maybe it's time to send a few of these designers on a business trip across European living rooms.

What's funny is that, when you take pictures at these exhibitions, it usually doesn't take long until some worried sales person comes jumping across the hall telling you not to take pictures.

At first I didn't quite understand why. After all they are trying to make a sale. And nowadays people often shop with cameras. You take pictures, go home, take your time comparing, matching styles and colors. And at the end of the day you decide. So why stop people from taking pictures? Are they too embarrassed about their design? Do they fear to be ridiculed by the blogging community?

Not at all! The opposite is the case: They are proud of their design. So proud, in fact, that they fear that people take pictures at an exhibition, then bring these pictures to the next best furniture factory to have an exact replica built at a fraction of the price. It is sad but true that this is common practice among a large part of Taiwanese.

Be that is it may. My motto is that you can take pictures of anything as long as you're fast enough. And in that spirit you can find the rest of the pictures in my gallery. But I'm warning you: They are not for the faint of stomach!

Taiwanese humor

posted by Martin Rubli at 15:32

As I'm getting more and more acquainted with the Chinese language I also get more fascinated by it and humor is always a great way to learn. Therefore, this post is dedicated to the kind of humor that is (language aspects aside: unfortunately) quite popular these days.

Besides the typical 新年快樂 (Xin nian kuai le), which simply means Happy New Year, there are a number of idioms that Taiwanese normally like to use to bestow on others or the people living in their own house, such as:

萬事如意 (Wan shi ru yi) - May you have all your wishes
心想事成 (Xin xiang shi cheng) - May your wishes become true
財源滾滾 (Cai yuan gun gun) - Much wealth and richness

As it happens the Mandarin language only has about 400 syllables, which leads to an enormous number of homophones - and an equally large number of word plays.

For just that reason the idioms I mentioned above are not very popular this year because, without a change in sound, they can become the following less well-meaning yet rather applicable expressions:

萬市如憶 (Wan shi ru yi) - The Dow Jones at 10000 points is just a memory
薪餉四成 (Xin xiang shi cheng) - Salaries are cut by 60%
裁員滾滾 (Cai yuan gun gun) - The lay-off never stops (or: Laid off - get lost!)

On that note once again a Happy New Year 2009!

Happy New Year 2009

Happy New Year

posted by Martin Rubli at 16:13


For those of you who live in the Western hemisphere, coming Monday the Chinese New Year starts, which means all kinds of different things:

  • We'll have a week of vacation.

  • We'll be eating a lot.

  • We'll give or receive red envelopes with money in them. (I don't quite understand yet who gives them to whom but as a foreigner I'm allowed a few mistakes here.)

Then there are a few things that the New Year means just to me:

  • It's the year of the Ox (牛), which means that I'll be eating even more 牛肉麵 (Beef Noodle Soup). Last year was the year of the Mouse but I was unable to draw any culinary inspiration from that. Contrary to popular belief not all animals are eaten in Taiwan. Something that cannot be said for other countries, by the way.

  • I was extremely happy for the first 11.5 months of the last year. This year I'm gonna try going all the way, so if my company doesn't announce another layoff plan - How could they? There's no one left. - I'm confident I might just succeed.

  • I want to work harder on my Chinese. It's been almost two years since I've been here and my Chinese still - how do I put this? - well, it sucks. If you come visit me I'm able to be your food and tea guide without any problems but if you asked me to book a hotel room or get directions I'd do about as well as the aforementioned ox would.

I guess those would be my New Year's resolutions. I was going to put "blog more often" on the list but let's be realistic here. I don't want to be proven a failure before March. :-)

Happy New Year to everybody!


posted by Martin Rubli at 15:21

We extended last weekend by a day and took the High Speed Rail to Tainan, about 222 km or 1:09 train hours south from here. Tainan has much to offer: Good weather (it gets pretty cold these days in Hsinchu; around 23 °C at night!), lots of culture, and, most of all, good food and big night markets!

Our means of transportation was a scooter, without a doubt the most convenient way of getting around. We even brought our own helmets cause riding at 50 km/h with a 100 TWD helmet (about the price of two bowls of noodles), the kind that scooter rental places offer, is just half the fun.

The thing that personally impressed me the most was a Buddhist ceremony we saw at the beach. (It goes by the name of 海之祭 or, in full, 安平海祭淨安祈福消災冥陽法會. The translation is left to the reader - and the writer - as an exercise.) The preparations were huge since the whole beach was decorated not only with traditional items such as paper ships, statues, flags, swags, and fruit, but also with modern elements like fireworks, a laser show, and an ear-shattering loudspeaker system. The ceremony itself consisted of dance, praying, music, and an abundance of fire. All of this was to honor the gods, pray for luck, and hope the people who died in the ocean can find the way to heaven. Truly an impressive spectacle.

Apart from that there were different parks, temples, flowers, and nature. (I just noticed I forgot to take pictures of food again. Maybe I'll remember next time ...)

Check out my Tainan album for all the pictures!

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