Monday, November 16, 2009

Mondays in Taipei

On Monday morning we had a lecture at NCCU by professor Chen-shen Yen entitled Taiwan Religion and Culture. It turned out to be really interesting, but I do wish it had more to do with religion. Professor Yen’s lecture was an excellent introduction to our trip as he gave a good overview of he ethnic, linguistic and religious makeup of the island before delving further into his topic. Professor Yen also covered identity issues faced by Taiwanese populations: Zhangzhou versus Quanzhou, Minnan versus Hakka, Han versus Indigenous, Ming (Han) versus Qing (Manchu), Chinese versus Japanese, Taiwanese versus Mainland, Taiwanese versus Chinese, and Taiwanese Chinese versus Chinese Taiwanese. Next, the professor discussed the various theories of Taiwan’s origin. These theories fall into three camps: Southern (Taiwan), Northern (China) and Austronesian (Australia and Indonesia).

Aside from the ethnic population divides discussed earlier, Professor Yen also went over cultural and religious cleavages including: ethnic versus sub-ethnic, linguistic cleavages, regional cleavages (East versus West), religious identity, and vertical versus horizontal class cleavages. Finally, Professor Yen ended his lecture with a discussion on Taiwan’s relationship with Mainland China, and the possibility of reunification, with an emphasis on the ramifications on Taiwanese identity.

Then we had a quick tour of campus. The capus was really nice and the weather was gorgeous. They had a ton of fabulous amenities and a bunch of the buildings are built into the surrounding hills. It's metro accessible, but it's way on the edge of town so you can go for hikes and walk along the river, and from several academic buildings there's a wonderful view of the city.

On Monday afternoon we had a lecture at NCCU by professor Yih-Chyi Chuang on The Economic Development of Taiwan, which was intersting and the professor was great, but I will never be totally fascinated by a subject that always leaves me feeling so lost. The lecture began with some data on population, imports and exports, land use and industrialization of the island. Professor Chuang touched on the narrowing wealth divide between rural and urban incomes, the structural change brought on by rapid industrialization, and the recently growing unemployment rate.

Next, professor Chuang discussed some important historical economic policies. These included: the 1953 Land to the Tiller program, the 1949 Compulsory Rent Reduction act, the 1951 movement to sell public land to tenants, the 1960s outward oriented development policies, the 1968 implementation of Export Processing Zones (EPZs), the 1979 development of research and development institutes and industrial and science parks, and the 10 major infrastructure construction projects of the 1970s.

After a discussion on Taiwan’s export partners and markets, including its largest – China – Professor Chuang ended his lecture with a set of goals he felt the Taiwanese economy was now faced with. The first is to normalize relations with China, and the second to expand Taiwan’s economic cooperation with other countries.

I did have an opportunity to duck out in the middle of the lecutre for a bit to meet with the head of GW's study abroad office who coincidentally happened to be in town checking out the school for a future exchange program on the same day that I was there.

On Monday I also asked out host at NCCU - the dean of the OIC International Affairs School - about graduate school. They offer a few programs in English that really interest me - various Asian studies degrees, cross strait relations, Masters in IA, etc. Also, a masters here is extremely cheap, and the government is offering substantial scholarships to foreigners for next fall/academic year. If I can figure out if the program is internationally recognized, I'll be looking into it further.

Monday night, Darci, Ann, Anna, Isabelle and myself, along with some NCCU students, went out to the night markets. It was raining, which blew, but we saw a bunch of shops and got to try a bunch of interesting snacks. We visited Shida and Taida, and tested noodles, tire cookies, brown sugar bubble tea (omg so good) and began out ongoing addiction with a spectacular store called Sassy.

After we got back, Anna and I went out again in search of a mysterious night market that was apparently all delicious food. We walked for about 500 hours, epically failed and got wet feet, but did come out successful re: deep fried taro balls. Picked up some beer and watched what became out new favorite show: Role Play Queen. After dark, or maybe all day - we've only watched TV at night, channel 85 and 88 became softcore porn. From midnight to 1 AM is Dancing Queen - an upskirt camera dancing show. It's as awkward as it sounds. Then, at 1:30, Role Playing Queen comes on. I think the two shows are linked as some sort of variety show. Role Playing Queen begins with the host dressed as a nazi marching girls dressed as sexy soldiers around. Then he dances and juggles a blow up doll, then we cut to the store. Each night the girls don a different costume which progressively comes off during the show as they complete various variety show tasks. Anna and I have become committed to the drama of teh show - you can call in and vote for your favorite girl - and we're rooting for "sexy cat."

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