I am writing in response to Paul Greene’s letter (Letters, June 8, page 8), in which he laments “antipathy from other foreigners” in Taipei.
When I read his letter, I nodded my head, for I have encountered similar responses from foreigners in the seven years I have lived here (though I have also been the recipient of some friendly concord with foreigners).
Why is this? What is the source of what is at worst, ill will, or not much better, cool indifference, from people who we should be able to, and in fact desire to, connect with?
I really don’t have an answer to this quandary. But one thing may be that foreigners in Taipei are a very disparate lot, and our differences seem to divide us. At worst, many foreigners here are little more than transients, drifting through Taiwan without any particular purpose, picking up easy money teaching English, and just taking in sights here and there.
In short, their lives here are little more than exercises in self-indulgence, and before long they will be hieing their way to points distant. People like this generally have little interest in interacting with people like Mr Greene — permanent residents, with families, steady jobs and a commitment to improving life in Taiwan.
Another big group here is comprised of those studying Chinese. This group, while more committed than the transient English teachers, are often just like them, partying and roaming around Taiwan, and, outside the rigors of studying Chinese, with mostly selfish commitments. Many of these people too will be gone in a year or so too.
To be sure residents like Mr Greene are not like this, and they are putting together good lives here and making a difference for the better in Taiwan — but even they face obstacles, linguistic and cultural, that can limit the depth of their dealings.
Even some foreigners I have known that spoke Chinese well, and thus were somewhat more involved in life here, were still not fully plugged in, and were in some ways outsiders.
If we are to improve these conditions, residents like Mr Greene and myself may think about:
1) endeavoring to become more competent in the culture and language so that we can become better contributing citizens (which Mr Greene has done; my own Chinese is middling; note that more effort in Taiwan by way of professional, easy-to-use Chinese classes, particularly for newcomers and working professionals, could be helpful).
2) trying to reach out to more of our own kind (these could be foreigners or Taiwanese natives), and creating social and/or professional outlets to interact in.
3) being the best we can be — cooperative, enthusiastic, friendly, optimistic — in order to raise the bar, and show that we foreigners in Taiwan are okay, after all.
I would like to add more, but lack the space. To Mr Greene and those like him, I look forward to meeting you in Taiwan — and I hope we greet each other with a smile.
Politics, sports always mix
I am writing in response to the article “Taichung mayor says Jackie Chan welcome to visit” (June 11, page 1).
In the article, Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) stated that “Politics and entertainment should not be mixed.”
His statement, along with the many recent opinions that the Olympics not be mixed with politics, remind me of a quote by George Orwell. He said that “The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”
In theory, it would be ideal if politics not be intermingled with sports, entertainment, and the like.
However, in the reality of our globalizing world, everything is political.
I remember back in 2002 when the Olympics was back in my home state of Utah, a Caucasian American family had a Taiwanese flag outside their house in Park City, showing their support for Taiwanese athletes. The visiting Chinese officials got upset and demanded the flag be removed (obviously it didn’t work, because this was the US, not China!).
If the Olympics were not political, then this event would not have mattered.
If the Olympics weren’t political, then in 1980, when the US defeated the Soviet Union in the Olympic hockey final, it wouldn’t have meant more than a win.
That win was historically significant because of the Cold War, and if you ask me, the Cold War was pretty damn political.
If sport wasn’t political, then many US sports broadcasters would describe tennis players Chan Yung-jan (詹詠然) and Chuang Chia-jung (莊佳容) as from Taiwan and not Chinese Taipei (some even simply say Taipei).
Politicians, international organizations, the UN and so on need to forget the whole “politics shouldn’t be mixed with international events” line and face the fact that everything that they do is political, everything that is transnational is political.
Once they have reality in check, they should go back and tend to more important business.
By Jessie Lin
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