Wednesday, 21 November 2007

34th Birthday and a bath in Tainan.

I'm 34. 

Is this old? I don't feel old but I reckon I'm halfway through life since reaching 70 would be a success! I remember leaving school and joining the Royal Navy on 2/9/91 like it was yesterday - 16 years ago! To celebrate I had a bath at ZiTing's house in Cigu (pronounced Cheegoo) near Tainan. It was great lazing for hours in sun-heated water.

I've just had four days off work where I motorbiked into the mountains of Central Taiwan and visited local fishing villages sampling fresh seafood. ZiTing bought a small cake with some candles in it for my birthday - very nice - I like her so much.

I watched a Hong Kong movie in Maduo cinema while ZiTing worked at the local night market. These night markets are a great Asian tradition. Loads of cheap exotic food sold from makeshift stalls on warm tropical nights. I love them. Very popular with the locals. It's a great place to people watch. Old people with cynical faces mix with teenagers sporting ludicrous fashions. I'm loving Taiwanese hairdos! I think they follow the Japanese.

This time last year I was in Chengdu in Sichuan province, China. I'd just had my hair tipped with blond hi-lights. One year later I'm sitting in a Shulin Wanker. Shulin means forest in English but I haven't seen any trees here.

Foreign observation: As it's now winter and the temperatures are dropping to a freezing 20deg the locals look like they're going on Arctic expeditions when they go out. You would laugh in England if you saw it. Admittedly, it can get a little brisk if you're on a motorbike but..... haway man, walking around dressed like Captain Scott is insane.

I'm going to the Philippines next. There's just been an attempted coup in a posh Manila hotel. A government APC was sent crashing through the front doors to end the crisis - wow! How come I always narrowly miss these events? I missed the Thai coup last year by days and the recent Myanmar trouble by weeks. I've missed floods in Malaysia, massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, horrific typhoons in Vietnam and even the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia. There was a small earthquake in Taiwan again on Wednesday but I never felt it.

I've found a volunteering project in Mae Sot on the Thai side of the Thai/Burma border. This project provides carbon-neutral energy supplies to the Karen tribal villages and refugee camps. My MSc in "Renewable Energy Engineering" from Newcastle Uni seems appropriate for this kind of work. I can be an engineer again - woohoo! There's no pay but I think it would be a good thing to be involved with. See www.bget.org for details. I might turn up there next year and see if they'll have me.

Teaching English is stretching my patience to the limit. Could you teach "What do you like? - I like swimming" for one hour?  I'm essentially teaching baby English to kids who won't be quiet or sit still. I'm questioning the value of engineering degrees when all you're required to do is ask: "What's your name? How old are you? Do you like milk?" etc. Not exactly brain surgery eh? The biggest challenge is getting them to shut the f*ck up.

My initial enthusiasm for Taiwan seems to be fading. I read back through this blog where everything looked rosy, then small cracks appear and then the dam appears to burst and everything is crap. Always needing change.

One last question: Do you know why we say "I like dogs" as opposed to "I like dog"? A 16yo asked me this yesterday and I thought about it for a while and realised I don't know the answer. I said because "I like dog" sounds stupid - it sounds like you want to eat a dog".

I asked a train station man in Chinese: "Where is the ticket machine? Piao ji zai nali?". I actually said: "Where can I find a prostitute?".

Similarly, a kid asked me for his yellow book back. I said "Ni yao nide huang zi shu? You want your yellow book back?". This means: "Do you want your porn mag back?". I'm telling you - it's like walking a tight rope out here!

Ni neng zuo shenme? - What can you do?

Lan zi, huang zi, hong zi, bai zi - blue, yellow, red, white

toutong - headache

Ni jide ma? Do you remember?

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