Sugar and Ice: Ordering Juice in Taiwan

You can buy a wide assortment of juices and teas throughout the streets of Taipei and Taiwan. Their menus often resemble stock listings in sheer density of information. In addition to the kind of juice or tea that you wish to purchase, Taiwanese and savvy foreigners can supplement their order with a range of custom options. Rarely are these “documented” options but at least one juice vendor chain shows you some of the options at your disposal:

Sugar and Ice Choices

Here you can see that it is possible to customize the amount of sugar and the amount of ice which is added to your drink. You can get everything from “full sugar” (100% the normal amount added) to “no sugar” and everything from the normal amount of ice to no ice. You can also order your drink warm or hot.

I like to order lemonade or a mixture of lemonade and mandarin orange with “half sugar” (半糖) and not much ice (少冰).

Home Movies, in the Park

I am a bit sad to think I will be leaving this wonderful island in just over two weeks. I have really grown quite attached. I could easily stay here another 6 months or a year since I really feel like I have just barely scratched the surface here, both in terms of the people and culture as well as the materials that might potentially be useful to me in my dissertation research.

It is the little things about life here that really just make me smile. To give one little example, for the 3rd time in a row, as I walked home from the NTU library around 21:00, I saw a group of elderly residents of a neighborhood I pass through lounging in one of the many small parks and watching a Kung Fu movie on one of those large projector screens. The event doesn’t look very formal or organized, so I can only imagine that one of the locals dragged out the projector and large screen so the neighborhood could all watch it together.


The Panolfacticon: Disciplinary Technologies In Taipei Experimental Prison #1

DSCF6893.JPGThere is a most unusual prison in the very heart of Taiwan’s bustling modern capital. Though it lies in full view of both Taipei residents and the hundreds of foreign students who live near or study at National Taiwan Normal University (Shida) few stop to appreciate this perfect model of a postmodern disciplinary institution. It is none other than Taipei Experimental Prison #1, the best kept open secret of Da-an District.

The scale of the prison is not large, it can hold at most a few hundred prisoners, but their shouts and screams, blood chilling to hear, are audible from the street outside. The State has apparently limited the confined to younger prisoners, judging from the faces seen staring out from between the bars on the outer wall, perhaps in the hope that the revolutionary techniques of this experimental prison will soon return these convicts to society, newly molded into model and subservient citizens.

So what is it which makes this prison so unusual? How are its grey concrete walls, barbed wire fences, high walls covered in shards of glass, and metal bars any different from any other modern prison? In what way is this Taiwanese penal invention indicative of a coming larger epistemic shift?

P1000950.JPGThe first and most obviously innovative characteristic of this institution which immediate captures the attention of the careful observer who identifies the prison as such is its location. Taipei Experimental Prison #1 is strategically located right on the southeastern edge of the Shida university campus, and its outer walls border one of Taipei’s most bustling night markets: the Shida night market.

Here we can witness a new shift in disciplinary technology. Where once the body was the site of punishment, and thereafter the State focused its disciplining energies upon the mind, we witness in Taipei Experimental Prison #1 the return of body, or specifically the senses, to the fore. However, instead of scourging or severing the body of the convict, here we see the imprisoned punished and disciplined through temptation of the body itself.

This prison is the very inverse of the celebrated Panopticon. There the gaze of the State falls upon the convicted in every prison cell: it is all-seeing and all-penetrating. In Taipei Experimental Prison #1 the reverse holds true. Here, it is the prisoner who is all-seeing. From their cell windows the confined can witness all around them the decadent excesses of student freedom. Happy youth calls out to them as students prance all around the prison in unbounded gaiety. They carry not only their books for study, but all the products of their exuberant material consumption.

P1000952.JPGBut these painful sights are but the kindest tortures to behold in Taipei Experimental Prison #1, because my friends, these poor confined souls are not merely all-seeing but all-smelling. This prison is nothing less than a Panolfacticon. As the heat of the afternoon dissipates (not among the punishments of this prison, since all cells are supplied with air conditioning to prevent convicts from being distracted from the greater pains that await them), slowly the smells of the night market begin to penetrate through the open bars and vents, like a sweet airborne poison poured into the sleeping ear of a napping prisoner. The torture must be agonizing as the mouth-watering delicacies are being prepared and served to hundreds of hungry customers in the market just beyond their reach. No manner of confinement, save the torments of Tantalus in the depths of Tartarus, can more cruelly remind the prisoner of the pleasures they forfeit.

I was denied permission to enter the prison and conduct interviews with its residents so I cannot give authentic voice to the horrors experienced by those within. In fact, in an attempt to deny the atrocities that are being carried out, I was told by one guard, who feigned a look of bewilderment, that this was in fact a dormitory of the university! That they could even think to steep to such lies to cover up their crimes!

Anti-Korean Sentiment in Taiwan

Having spent a wonderful year or so in Korea I have had occasion to speak of my experiences to people I meet here in Taiwan. I have been surprised to see some anti-Korean sentiment amongst people I have met here.

I first got a hint of this soon after I arrived in Taiwan. At a Sichuan style restaurant here with a group of friends I was asked what I ate in Korea and I said that I was a huge fan of Korean food, and that is probably what I miss most about it now having left Seoul. My words were met with what seemed to me utter shock and disbelief around the table. It was almost like I had insulted their mothers.

One of my friends responded, “But in Korea all they eat is meat and kimchi! What is there about Korean food to like? They have no vegetables!” I tried to explain that there are many dishes in Korea that have a wonderful assortment of vegetables but my further defense of Korean cuisine only seemed to make things worse. We moved on to other topics.

Since then I have kept my ears open when it comes to the way people I have met respond to things related to Korea and sometimes I have come right out and asked, “What do you think about Korea?” or “What is your impression about Korea.” The results have been interesting. Three recent responses:

1. Taipei, pro-Blue female. “Koreans are so arrogant! You know they tried to register the Dragon Boat race with [some UN organization] as a Korean tradition that they invented?”

2. Kaohsiung, female. “I hate (討厭)Korea! I have interacted with many Korean women at international conferences and they are always talking. They are so loud and very rude.”

3. Kaohsiung, male pro-Green graduate student. Has studied Korean at university level. “I hate (討厭) Koreans! I knew many Koreans at university and they were so rude, arrogant, and obsessed with their pride. Koreans hate the Japanese. They are always trying to show how they are as good as the Chinese, and when it comes to the Taiwanese, they look down (看不起) on us.

Though they fortunately lack any rocky islets to fight over and no effigies are being burnt in street protests, I was really surprised at the really strong emotions evoked here in Taiwan. I never got “我不太喜歡” or other more moderate phrases. The sentiment was unusually direct. Of course, it is nowhere near the kinds of reactions I have seen among many young Chinese towards the Japanese (first encountering these powerful emotions in Beijing in 1997 was my first motivation to study Sino-Japanese relations and the contentious historical issues in the region). Korean sentiments against the Japanese seems, by contrast, a little more tame these days, though I may get this impression because I have been hanging out with a lot of more younger “pro-Japanese” treasonous types when I lived in Seoul.

One explanation might be a general clash of personality types. As some of the comments above hint at, the generally more relaxed and polite personality style I have found to be common on this island may simply clash a bit more with the sometimes more intense and aggressive style often found on the peninsula to the north. Obviously, I have seen plenty of exceptions to this on both sides.

Something I heard indirectly which may play is role was from a Taiwanese woman who I’m told said that though Korea and Taiwan were long lauded as two of Asia’s leading economic “tigers” some Taiwanese feel like they “lost” to the larger and more powerful Korea, thus leading to the development of a kind of insecurity complex when they find themselves compared to their more populous and culturally distinct rival.

There is no doubt that Korea has a certain degree of international visibility that Taiwan lacks. Asus does not quite have the brand power of Samsung or LG and Taiwan’s cross-straits crisis doesn’t have the benefit of an official axis of evil member next door. If my Korean friends complain that most Americans can’t find their country on a map (to be fair, we apparently can’t seem to find most places on a map, even after we invade them) then imagine the chances of them locating this little Formosan paradise. My Taiwanese friends who have a lot of international experience often refer to the frustration they feel at having to explain to everyone that they are from TaiWAN, not from ThaiLAND. Yes, they survived the tidal wave nicely, thank you (when I hear such complaints I’m reminded of my Korean friends who express their annoyance at being mistaken for Japanese when they travel, and sometimes revealing a more condescending discrimination when recounting their much greater horror at being mistaken as Chinese. As for myself, I have long since stopped caring if people introduce me as coming from Sweden or Finland, I just feel a bit sorry for Denmark, since it rarely gets offered as my homeland and, really, to be fair, the Danish kingdom did rule over Norway the longest).

Korea’s visibility extends to Taiwan as well. I see buses around Taipei plastered with huge advertisements for the latest Korean historical drama, and a Korean drama always seems to be playing on some channel or other here. Somebody must be watching them. This afternoon I ate Korean food in a food court in a Kaohsiung shopping mall, and Korean 泡菜 (kimchi) or the word 韓式 (Korean-style) is added as a prefix to many food items in many regular Chinese-style restaurants.

Of course, I don’t get the impression the “Korea” brand is anywhere close to the “Japan” brand here in Taiwan in terms of its power. Thousands of Japanese products are sold in stores around Taiwan with their Japanese packaging and labels fully intact. The word “Japan” or “Japanese Style” is printed in big fat or highlighted characters on signs for all manner of products (especially anything related to cosmetics, electronics, and very often for food related items) in a way reminiscent of products sold in the US with “NEW! IMPROVED!” attached. Maybe my memory is off, but I don’t seem to remember anywhere near this extent of explicit use of the Japan brand in Korea.

Of course, everyone knows that Taiwan is infamously pro-Japanese. Japanese men seem to believe they stand a better chance of finding love here in Taiwan than anywhere in Asia. The postwar experience of dictatorship, the 2/28 massacre, and the importance of the long Japanese colonial period to the claims of a distinct Taiwanese national identity all contribute to this. This weekend I was introduced to a somewhat inebriated Taiwanese doctor who was told that I was doing my dissertation on Chinese traitors (漢奸). He turned to me, somewhat perturbed, and proudly announced, almost toppling over as he straightened up, “我就是漢奸!” (I am myself a 漢奸!)

When it comes to Taiwanese sentiments towards Korea, if my very limited exchanges are at all suggestive of anything, the Korean brand power, food culture, and drama fandom seen here are not incompatible with a degree of emotional disdain. Even one of the women included in the comments above who expressed a hatred of Korea and especially Korean women also says that while she loves Japanese kimonos and culture of all kinds she doesn’t like the Japanese people themselves because they, “Are so polite to you all the time but who knows what they are thinking on the inside.” This deep dislike of a purported Japanese “two-facedness” is a familiar image. I remember an elderly neighbor of my parents in Oklahoma who, after decades of negotiations with Japanese chemical companies told me something along the lines of, “Them Japs’d always lie to your face. ‘Yes’ never meant ‘yes,’ and ‘maybe’ always meant ‘no.’ And you’d never know when they might pull a Pearl Harbor on ya.” (His distrust wasn’t limited to the Japanese, however. He spent a lunch once trying to convince me that every evil of the 20th century could be blamed on the inherently demonic nature of the Englishman. I think he bore a very serious grudge against the English ever since he was arrested by an English MP in World War II when he was on shore leave in Gibraltar).

All being said, however, I was a bit surprised to find anything more than, at worst, indifference towards Korea. Instead, I might have expected a feeling of camaraderie for an economically successful and culturally rich counterpart that is similarly struggling to define itself in a challenging geopolitical environment dominated by its larger neighbors.

UPDATE: There was a surprising amount of interest in this posting but I feel my posting didn’t come across quite the way I wanted it to. I am not justifying any of the claims that I quote hear, nor do I think the feelings expressed by my informers were much more than the kinds of stereotypes we all engage in or somehow reflect some kind of genuine bubbling discontent here in Taiwan. On the contrary, of all places I have lived in East Asia, the people I have met here in Taiwan are the most cosmopolitan and open. That was precisely why the rare expressions of dislike for a particular group of people stood out such that it made me notice it and become curious since I expected the contrary to hold true among two places with much in common in their recent history and development.

2010.11 UPDATE: This posting continues to attract attention and I’m sad to see that apparently some Korean sites are linking to it. I just received an email which takes issue with my use of the word hate to translate 討厭:

One point about your interpretation of 討厭 as hate. There is a (quiet big) difference here.  Hate is more like 憎恨, 痛恨 which is much much stronger than 討厭 which can be interpreted as “I don’t like.” For example, if you are trying to do your home work and your brother keeps poking/bothering you, you will say 討厭.  Or in your word, it’s a more stronger “我不喜歡” (notice the missing 太 here since “我不太喜歡” is a little bit less strong then “我不喜歡”. The former is kind of detour a little while the later more straight-forward.)  Probably you don’t really care. But by interpreting 討厭 as “hate” makes all non-Chinese speaking people thinking that man Taiwanese “hate” Koreans which if far from true.  My wife and I have checked out many Korean dramas from our local library.  We use Korean products all the time (TV, cell phones, camera, monitor, etc.)  In fact, I just bought a Samsung camera about 3 weeks ago and this is the second Samsung camera we own.  So I’d appreciate that you can spend couple minutes correcting it. Of course, you can ask around and make sure my interpretation is correct.

The writer is correct that 討厭 is not as strong a word as the visceral hatred implied by 憎恨, etc. but I think it ignores that the English word “hate” also has a much wider range – as in “I hate Ice Cream” or “I hate it when he does that.”  At any rate, I stand by my basic point, that I have often been surprised to see a pretty emotionally strong (and quick) response from a number of my Taiwanese friends when it comes to Korea and I think it is common enough for us to ponder the reasons for it in the absence of any major historical grievances.  Some Koreans are taking this posting as evidence of Taiwanese perfidy to feed their own anger, while some Taiwanese are seeing this is as a blanket condemnation of them. If I did not feel strongly that I should leave my writings, both strong and weak, online, I would take the posting down since it has only led to a negative effect as far as I can see. As the writer indicates, many Taiwanese have a great love for Korean products and culture. I met a number of Taiwanese students studying Korean in various Korean language programs I have attended. It is perhaps partly because of this that there is a strong reaction (though the similar feelings of some of a much older generation need other explanations) against the sudden popularity, as Kerim suggests in his comment. We see similar things in Japan with the rise of the despicable 嫌韓流 related publications that give rise to old racisms.  As Sayaka said in the comments: let us all chill out – I raised a flag here, of curiosity as much as of concern, and merely wish for all the peoples of the region to get along well.

Taiwan’s Vegetarian Buffets


I’m a huge fan of Korean food and I will sorely miss it. I’m generally not as fond of the many oily and fried foods commonly found throughout China and Taiwan. I’m a big fan, however, of the many vegetarian buffets I have been to in Taipei. For the price of $2-4 you get a plate full of vegetables, tofu, rice, and vegetable dishes, eggs, and soup. These light meals work great to balance a heavier meal.

Presidential English


“Let Obama teach you charming English”

Above is an advertisement at some kind of English academy near Chinese Culture University in Taipei. Somehow I don’t think this concept would have worked with our sitting president as a model.

Freeze! Drop Your Garbage

I just remembered an anecdote I mentioned in a longer posting here at Muninn as I passed by one of the street side trash cans here in Taipei today where, even when it is far from full, one has to concentrate to get a coffee cup through its small hole. Re-blogging the memory in question from the old posting:

[Street-side trash cans] are labeled “For Pedestrians Only” and apparently this warning is enforced. When I was walking down the street one morning I witnessed an old man ride past a garbage can on his bicycle. Stopping clumsily, he squeezed a small bag of garbage into the garbage can. Just as I passed, witnessing this, a man leapt off of the bench to the right of me…and yelled at the man while flashing some kind of official ID. I couldn’t understand his crazed shouting but I imagine it was something like, “Freeze! Garbage Police!” I watched in fascination as the young garbage cop lectured the old man, who bowed his head low and listened quietly. I didn’t stick around to see if the old man was fined, but considering the fact that eating or drinking on the subway in Taipei can get you a $1,500 Taiwanese dollar fine, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was slapped with a hefty amount for his blatant misuse of the public garbage can.

Taiwan for the Summer

My Fulbright in Korea has ended, as has a year of language study and dissertation research in Seoul. I moved to Taiwan on Monday and will be here in Taipei until the end of the summer. I’m quite fond of this island and look forward to shifting my research to Chinese language sources. I just moved into a new apartment today and am pretty much up and running in my new life here.

The Other Korean Wave

I mentioned in an earlier posting written while visiting Taiwan in 2005 that, in addition to media products such as Korean movies and dramas, there is another “Korean wave” out there.

As I mentioned in that posting, “Korean-style plastic surgery” (韓風整形) can be found advertised on the streets of Taipei. In this advertising we see a “before” and “after” shot indicating how a customer might be transformed into Bae Yong-jun:

Yong-sama Surgery

On my recent trip to Shandong, I discovered that this was not limited to Taiwan but can also been seen in mainland China. In fact, the main shopping street of Jinan (which includes a Walmart and various famous brand clothing stores) was lined on both sides for several hundred meters with an illuminated advertisement for “Korean-style plastic surgery” (韓氏整形). This time, instead of Bae Yong-jun, they chose the image of a woman in a hanbok to give it an authentic look.



“Western looking” Americans

Sayaka is back “home” in Taiwan this week. She is supposed to be doing research and conducting interviews but she also seems to be enjoying all her favorite foods while she is home and meeting her friends.

In a recent posting she talked about the differences in average salaries for those tutoring in Japanese and English in Taiwan:


She says that Japanese students tutoring in Japanese can apparently get around 350-500 yuan (TWD, NT$) or about 11-15 US dollars while Americans can make 600-1200 yuan per hour or about 19-38 US dollars. While it seems like discrimination she admits this is really just an issue of market demand. On the other hand, apparently there are places which specifically are recruiting “Western-looking Americans” to teach English, and thus aren’t accepting Asian-Americans who are equally native in the language. I wonder if this is kind of discriminatory recruiting is common, and whether it is also something that happens in Japan or Korea? I know that I don’t see many Asian-Americans as teachers on the English language school advertisements on Japanese trains and subways (the advertisements are heavily dominated by white males, followed by white females, and the occasional black male or female).