Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 dominated the most read topics in Features over the past year. What made our COVID-19 coverage unique, especially in the early days, is that we explored it through first-person accounts of contracting the virus or being quarantined after returning from abroad.
Surprisingly, other most-read stories included the Black Lives Matters movement in the US and how it impacts the global discusson on race. Two stories here examine what impact the movement has for Taiwan.
Whimsical stories also had a strong showing. Two articles took deep dives into different aspects of local culture: how magic folk beliefs remain a powerful part of people’s lives and the proliferation of assholes hiking in the mountains of Taiwan. Read on to see what most interested our readers this year:
Photo courtesy of Bertholeen Ngo Penda
10. COVID-19 tips and reminders for non-Taiwanese (April 1)
It should be no surprise that this should appear on the Top 10 because many expats were confused about issues such as navigating the 14-day quarantine and what to expect if you contract COVID-19. The 10 tips given by contributor Douglas Habecker are as relevant today as they were eight months ago.
Photo: Noah Buchan, Taipei Times
This was the only wire story that made it. It lays bare China’s will to exert influence, not just over Chinese citizens in China, but also against permanent residents and citizens of other countries.
8. In Palau, no coronavirus — or tourists (April 15)
Contributor Katy Hui-wen Hung explores how COVID-19 impacts tourism in the Pacific island chain and how Taiwan, which has diplomatic ties with the country, helped test the first suspected case of COVID-19. She also quashes the myth that bat soup is responsible for spreading the virus.
7. Government unwilling to vouch for own rules (July 8)
While everyone at home and abroad were justifiably praising Taiwan for its handling of the global pandemic, contributor Steven Crook asks the government why permanent residents were not entitled to the first round of Triple Stimulus Voucher Program, NT$3,000 vouchers handed out to Taiwanese citizens and their spouses (after first paying NT$1,000). For many, it was much less about the money, which for the individual consumer wouldn’t amount to much, and more about the symbolism. But it seemed Steve’s message, and that of others who complained vocally, got through because permanent residents were eligible for the vouchers when the second round came out. If you see Steve, be sure to buy him a beer. Or three.
Photo: Noah Buchan, Taipei Times
6. Why Black Lives Matter in Taiwan (June 12)
It may seem strange that an issue, which on the surface doesn’t impact Taiwanese, would receive so much attention, but as staff reporter Han Cheung shows, the George Floyd killing at the hands of police became a space within which people could discuss the broader issue of racism and discrimination. It also showed that many in the expat community were united in their belief that racism remains an unresolved problem in the US.
5. COMPLAINT: A-holes on Taiwan’s mountains (Sept 3)
Photo: Douglas Habecker
Technology has brought with it incredible convenience, but also some annoyances. Taiwan has some of the best hiking anywhere is Asia — and you don’t have to leave Taipei to experience a taste of it. With COVID-19 essentially halting international travel, I spent a lot of time climbing local mountains — and learned that plenty of assholes do too. Drawing on the work of a US philosopher, I come to terms with these people polluting the mountains with their noise.
4. Blackface rears its ugly face in Taiwan (June 4)
From time to time, people being insensitive to minorities and history make headlines. Everybody remembers the Nazi cosplay at Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School in 2016 or the Long Live Nazi spaghetti (納粹萬歲麵) found on a restaurant menu in 2014. Blackface continues to be an issue, as Han Cheung writes in his story about how Super Entourage wanted to perform a rendition of the wildly popular “Ghana Coffin Dance,” a meme that took the world by storm. The group deleted the performance a few days later following a massive outcry from netizens.
3. Taiwan: the island retreat (April 21)
The headline pretty much says it all. Seeing that the number of cases in Taiwan remained low, contributor Laurence Marcout on March 15 ordered her son to return from Scotland, where he was doing a one-year exchange program. She then gives a personal account of the 14-day quarantine that he endured at home alone and the impact it had on their entire family and community.
2. How a snack protects Taiwan’s tech (Nov. 19)
This was a nice distraction from COVID-19, the protests in the US our increasingly dangerous neighbor across the Taiwan Strait and all the other problems facing the world this year. Taiwan managed to handle the pandemic better than most countries, with barely any disruptions to daily living. And yet, in such a technologically-advanced society, one that reveres doctors, lawyers and engineers, the folk belief in magic remains pervasive. In this story I explore how a savory snack, called Kuaikuai, is widely used by IT professionals as a talisman or amulet to protect their tech, tracing similar practices back to antiquity. Today, the snacks are also used as a kind of messaging: politicians cite them when campaigning for public office and police officers place them in their precincts to protect them from criminals. The fact that magic remains so prevalent makes living in Taiwan endlessly fascinating.
Long-term expat Douglas Habecker gives a first-hand account of his experience catching coronavirus and then spending two weeks at a hospital in Taichung. The moving account discussed his symptoms, the great care medical staff provided him and his experiences with his neighbors after he returned home.
As one Facebook user wrote: “Thank you for taking such care in describing your dance with the coronavirus. It is a testimony to the medical professionals, your friends and those who were behind the scenes that wanted you to recover.”
Last week BBC updated its backgrounder on China and Taiwan, entitled “What’s behind the China-Taiwan Divide?” BBC’s backgrounders on Taiwan have been (cough, cough) very creative, and this latest iteration, while an improvement over the earlier versions, is a proud torch-bearer for that tradition. The BBC begins by observing that “Austronesian tribal people” were the first people in Taiwan. What does the use of the word “tribal” suggest about those people, compared to the Chinese? After that, the Aborigines disappear from the story. Because they have the earliest and strongest claim to Taiwan? To keep them in view would of course
April 19 to April 25 Taipei’s Dalongdong Baoan Temple (大龍峒保安宮) was in a sorry state following the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) retreat to Taiwan in 1949. About 200 refugees and military dependents had taken over the 119-year-old structure and set up camp in makeshift dwellings. When writer Wu Chao-lun (吳朝綸) moved to Dalongdong in 1950, he saw “little incense burning; it was extremely crowded … and there was barely any space to sit. They washed their clothes with dirty water and hung them up still dripping. This is not only blasphemous, but unsanitary.” To save the temple, locals put together a restoration
For many teenagers, a trip to the night market might entail snapshots of tasty snacks and smiling selfies. But for Patti Chen (陳姵璇) and Angel Guo (郭恩加) it provided a chance to document through photography a part of urban life that is normally overlooked. The two 16-year-olds befriended a middle-aged man kneeling on the street, asking for money. “He wasn’t just a beggar,” Chen said. “He was a person.” The girls spent 30 minutes talking to the man, who they described as friendly and outgoing. He had a home, he told them, but he was unable to hold down a
In the foothills of Taiwan’s mountainous spine, reservoirs are running dry as the island experiences its worst drought in decades — a crisis that risks deepening an already acute global semiconductor shortage. Taiwan is home to some of the world’s biggest and most advanced high-tech foundries, a linchpin of a global US$450 billion industry that provides the computing power for essential devices, but is extremely water-intensive. The coronavirus pandemic sparked a global run on microchips as consumers snapped up electronics — causing a dearth that Taiwan’s microchip factories were struggling to plug even before the drought hit. Those foundries are already running at