Sat, Sep 02, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's Mailbag

Frazzled reader blasts CKS airport over its grisly immigration officers. Near-illiterate reader blasts Johnny for telling the truth. Both get the response they deserve.

How to survive CKS Airport

Dear Johnny,

Have you ever considered exactly why Taiwanese immigration officials are so dour?

There they sit, balefully glaring at those poor unfortunates who have dared to trespass upon their stamping grounds.

I have been through many countries and have encountered myriad examples of this sub-type of officialdom. I have been showered with waves of bored indifference (Egypt) and scrutinized with beady eyes (those wonderful people at Sydney airport) but those hardworking servants at CKS really take the biscuit.

As you wait in that ghastly line, squished between returning businessmen blathering into their cellphones, faced with your impending doom, you cannot help experiencing twinges of guilt: Did I pay my taxes? Is my visa really valid?

And these intensify as you move inexorably closer to that brooding menace trapped in its glass cage.

Imagine how that most rare of creatures -- genuine tourists -- must feel? This is their first encounter with Taiwan.

Given that Taiwan actually has almost no tourist attractions to speak of, you would think that a fleeting smile or -- Shock! Horror! -- an actual greeting wouldn't go amiss.

So I ask you, does Taiwan actually want people to visit? I seem to recall that last year was supposed to be the year of the tourist, or some such. Anyway, this year there have been numerous official platitudes about multiplying tourist numbers and boosting Taiwan as a long-term destination for retiring Japanese.

Suffice it to say, government officials should be less worried about elderly Nipponese weighed down with cameras and canes complaining about widespread dog leavings in central Taiwan, and more concerned about them having to brave passport control.

Benjamin Adams

Taipei

Johnny replies: Of course Taiwanese want people to visit. But immigration officials don't get a cut, and they're not paid enough to be proud of their country, so why would they care? And it's true: One of the last public faces of martial-law era Taiwan can be found among the steely, cold faces of our immigration inspectors.

But there's something you can do about it. Smile. Be nice. Use whatever Mandarin or Hoklo you know; that'll show you're not some punk looking for trouble (unless you're a multilingual punk looking for trouble). Wear a T-shirt that says in Chinese: "Go! Go! Go! Wang Chien-ming" (王建民加油!). And if it's suggested that you're working illegally because your passport is full of short-term visas, say: "I just can't get enough of Taroko Gorge. It touches my heart."

If none of this works, say that you have made the acquaintance of one Dr Johnny Neihu IV and he/she will very quietly usher you through. And don't forget my cut, Benjamin.

You've got `h8 m@il'

Dear Johnny,

Re: NewsWatch on Aug. 26: Why r u coming down so hard on the pro-opposition UDN? Do u think the rag u work for TT with its pan-green slant on every effin local article is any better? well, i'll tell ya for one, it ain't. In fact TT down right SUCKS!! Just because the UDN had the misfortune to hire Mr Ting doesn't make their whole org smell like s**t. Keerist, lighten up will ya n use ur bloody noggin b4 somebody SLAPS u like a girl.

Bob

Johnny replies: With your literacy, have you considered a career as a legislator? Carpe diem, baby. As far as me getting slapped, are you offering to try? Come on down: At my parties, everyone dances. But be ready for an intellectual, spiritual and physical beating so bad that you'll think the ghosts of Shakespeare and Lao Tzu had possessed Muhammad Ali just to kick your ass. And that, Bob, is a hit, a very palpable hit.

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