Monthly Archives: April 2009

Day 6: Beyond Stereotypes

Admit it. We all have stereotypes to others, one way or the other. It’s not our voluntary fault, most of the time. They are created, strengthened and amplified by media, be it TV, movies, internet, and books, especially guidebooks. It has a far-reaching effects to tourists and others.

I am translating a GV post about stereotypes, and it talks about how media and create and break them. According to my 1.5 years of experiences working in a bookstore, Lonely Planet definitely stands top in the chart. It’s influential as so many people buy them as the sole reference for travelling around. Solana brings a Lonely Planet Taiwan with her this time (but she still has Global Voices as references). It’s the latest edition (published in November 2007, ISBN 9781741045482), but it still has some things that may need to be clarified.

The section “Don’t Leave Home Without” is on P. 23. It has a few lines sound interesting to me. It says you need to bring “Tampons – If you are travelling outside Taipei” and “A Towel – If you are staying at cheaper hotels and don’t like to dry with tea towels”. I don’t know why people have to be panic about that, since we have drug stores, wholesale stores and supermarkets, not to mention many of them are opening 24/7. By the way, we also have somthing you may be familiar: 7-ELEVEN. The total number of franchises of this convenient store is 4810 today on their website (at the lower left corner of the page). Relax, people.

In the same page, it also warns tourists to bring “Underwear – especially for women; you won’t like what’s here.” I am not sure why authors, Robert Kelly & Joshua Samuel Brown, are interested in women’s underwear in the first place, but we do sell Calvin Klein here, fortunately according to our field trip to department stores. Solana, as a female at least for this moment, says it looks totally the same as in the United States. I wonder what they saw and/or bought.

At the night of this day, Solana and I go clubbing for dancing and relax, which happens to be my first club experience, both locally and internationally. It shows that Taiwan does have quite a few tourists from Western countries. Maybe they just live like owls and all concentrate to clubs and bars at night. I suppose that is also a new thing to learn – beyond stereotypes.


Day 5: Who’s Who?

After having a talk with a group of translation students in the university, Solana and I have a lunch with Brigitte near campus. With the background from Malaysia and Canada, Brigitte is currently learning Mandarin in Taiwan. Thanks for introduction from a friend in Global Voices, we get to meet her and make a new friend. Luckily with a class of four (it’s normally up to ten), Brigitte’s Mandarin is impressive. With this speed, her friends in the United States may soon be surpassed.

As tourists, we visit National Palace Museum in the afternoon. Solana mentions a few times during this trip that she doesn’t see many foreigners, even tourists, on the street. It turns out that many of them are here in the museum. I tell her actually we have met quite a few travellers from Japan, Korea and Hong Kong during the past few days, but it would be difficult to recognize them from their appearances if not knowing their languages. After the museum, though, Solana can tell which tourists are from China: They are louder and in groups. Good eyes.

Night market is always a must for travelling around Taiwan & Taipei. It often reflects the energetic, diverse and vibrant side of local society. It provides cuisines, shopping, experiences, entertainment, memories and surprises. For example, an toilet theme restaurant.  Their seats, their menu and their food all represent the toilet environment. Too bad that I didn’t persuade Solana to taste poo-poo shape chocolate ice cream.

At the museum, seeing buses and buses of tourists leaving, we wonder where their next stop will be. It results in the same night market, and some of them are still louder and in groups.

Day 4: Meet the Students

Today is the first time Solana meets with a group of local students in Taiwan, mostly major in mass communication. We go to Fujen Catholic University for the event in this rainy afternoon. Good to see many students attend without any pressure from instructors. Normally attendance drops a lot in rainy days, but it doesn’t happen this time. Solana and GV are sexy, obviously.


It’s a great success. Students and professors offer relevant questions, and Solana provides eleborated answers. It’s an encouraging sign that students/audience come up with questions immediately after the speech, because normally in Taiwan, due to shyness or other reasons, audience remains silence for at least 30 seconds at the beginning of Q&A session. Several students come to us afterwards with an interest in contributing for Global Voices. Don’t know how much will really turn out, but we leave with best hopes.

Work and fun are always as important. Before heading home, Solana and I enjoy sushi at the main station. We talk about life and work, freelancing and lifeplan, customs and traditions. I always think beer is essential to all Japanese restaurants, but surprisingly not this one.  It was outside of the store, we prove again that Solana is stronger than dinosaurs, even when being sober …

Day 3: Social Activities Overload?

It’s always nice to find a cafe with free wireless, so we can kill our time between meetings. But I don’t understand why don’t they provide enough sockets besides every table. Since they have free wireless, they should assume customers will use laptops at every table, supposedly. No, however. Some tables are less welcomed because of that. It’s not fair to them.

Today Solana visits Public Television Service (PTS) in Taiwan. It has several channels, including Taiwan Indigenous TV, which we find the most interesting. We meet a reporter there who is a big fan of Global Voices, partly because we provide news about indigenous people around the world, which is not easy to find in other media outlets. I think we see a potential GV new author. 🙂

At night we have dinner with others in a spicy hot pot restaurant. For people who loves spicy food like Solana, it seems to be a good choice. And we, of course, hear some stories about Sichuan pepper.

Taiwan is a good place for different kinds of food, IMHO. Any food preferences can find their place here, be it vegetarian or allergy. So far we have successfully avoided shrimps, shellfish and mushrooms that Solana can’t or don’t eat (take notes, people). It won’t be difficult for the rest of the week.

It’s the third day so far. I am not sure how Solana feels, but it’s a bit like social activities overload to me already, especially since I like to work alone. It will be a good idea to enjoy dinner for two tomorrow.

Day 2: The Zoo

Thunder, lightening, downpour. It is not a good morning for traveling. We have planned for a trip to Taipei Zoo on Solana’s birthday, but the huge rain puts out most of our passion at the beginning. But I know today is the best day for visiting giant pandas in Taipei. Each day the zoo has a quota for panda visitors. In a rainy day, we will definitely see them. Due to my repeated insistance, Solana and I take off with umbrellas when the rain is smaller.

It turns out to be a good day.

When we arrive at the zoo, rain stops and sun comes out. It becomes a warm day and just right for this birthday trip. Luckily, there’s no line in front of pandas’ house because of previous rain. Everything is so smooth. Giant pandas are cute.


After pandas, we walk around the zoo. I haven’t been here for many, many years, and it changes a lot. Pandas, koalas, penguins, elephants, and many others. I also surprisingly find lemurs from Madagascar!


Lemurs are good models and they always look curious and innocent with their big eyes.

At the end of the zoo trip, Solana notices there are few foreigners in the zoo, and wonders why they are not interested in pandas when they visit Taiwan. I guess it may because pandas only arrive recently (since this January), so it is not included in the last version of Lonely Planet Taiwan, the Book for many international travellers in Taiwan. By the way, the zoo is not very good in bilingual efforts. That’s probably another reason.

Oh, as to that Book and some of its silly words, we may need another post for that.

First Day: Daily Life Experience

Solana has arrived in Taiwan safely. We have an easy day, trying to immerse into daily life in Taiwan. I always like to bring my friends into my ordinary life. It may not as fancy as tourist spot, and obviously it won’t be completely bilingual, but it creates a sense of living. It makes you feel you can really and are going to live here.

Solana has a brunch with steamed dumplings, fried dumplings and rice milk. Rice milk is similar to soybean milk, but made from rice & peanut instead. That’s what locals have for breakfast or late night dinner. Don’t get me wrong. Sandwiches and bread are also popular options, but dumplings work for some people better. Good to know Solana likes it.

 Solana has a list of things she would like to try or taste according to the guidebook. Wonton is one of them. We encounter it at the night market in the evening, and also have a test on mango sweet tofu. It’s always crowded on Sunday night, but fortunately not as bad as I thought.

By the way, April 20th is Solana’s birthday, so I get her a present. Some friends in Global Voices know her “healthy” collection of dinosaurs, so I find one for her. It’s actually a USB! Who says dinosaurs only have tiny brains? This one has 2GB! 😛

Solana is arriving

011Invited by the association I am working with, Global Voices Managing Editor Solana Larsen is arriving in 5 hours. Yes, attracting all my friends to Taiwan in different ways is one of my goals. Yes, I think it is a good way to tell more people about GV.

And yes, I am thinking if we can hold a WordPress-related event in Taiwan, so I can have a reason to invite Jeremy, our GV tech expert, to Taiwan. Or an academic forum on citizen journalism, so Chris will be my guest next time. Hopefully it won’t be far away. 🙂

This time Solana is staying in Taiwan for one good week. I have arranged some speeches and some meetings for her, since we need an official reason for invitation. But the main purpose is having fun and a good time.

I’ll try to capture what we will do in the coming week by words and photos, and I’ll try to give a daily update here in the blog and my Flickr. I don’t have a smartphone, so it is not possible for me to give real time updates on Twitter. Sorry. It’s also a pity that I cannot get everyone in GV to visit Taiwan at the same time, but I’ll work hard to re-create the virtual experience.

But first of all, I need to go to bed now, and wake up four hours later to pick up Solana at the airport. It’s going to be a great week ahead, at least because I don’t need to stay in the office. hehe