Saturday, May 19, 2012

culture shock and classroom tangents

Was I expecting to experience some culture shock upon landing in Taiwan? Not really. Did I experience any? Nope. Of course I thought that might be due to the fact that I'm Chinese and am pretty Asiany so I couldn't really be impartial. I asked other foreigners, who are more foreign than I am to Asian culture, if they experienced any culture shock and they all said that Taiwan really isn't that different to them besides the food and the language barrier. So no culture shock - besides the food maybe? Even then the food isn't really weird for me or have I ever been in a situation where I went OMG WTF I JUST ATE WHAT?!?  I don't act any differently in Taiwan than I do in America. Unlike Japan where I felt I had to be super polite and courteous, bowing my head everywhere, in Taiwan I just go around swaggering and talking up a storm. Did I have misconceptions about Taiwan and have I learned a lot more of their culture since being here? Definitely. Biggest thing I learned is that Taiwanese people are not like Chinese people AT ALL. For one thing Taiwanese people are way nicer and don't make you feel like shit cause you're a foreigner. Yah I can say that cause I'm Chinese and I've met a whole bunch of these non-friendly Mainlanders. Does it apply to everyone? Of course not. Do they bug the shit out of me when they crowd up all the tourist places in Taiwan? Heck yah!

It's funny but now that I think about it, of all the countries I've visited I think Taiwan has the most positive view of America. I don't know about anyone else but while  traveling I've heard a lot of stories about people going "Oh Americans!" in this kind of a exasperated or negatively amused tone. I can't say I've experienced it myself since most people don't believe I'm an America and insist on finding out my ancestry and where my family originated from as a way to prove that they were right and that I'm not an America. Good for you people - you've discovered that a black hair, small eyed, Asian looking girl's family did originally come from China and not America like she is claiming to be a citizen of. This leads me to one of my classes insisting that I must be Taiwanese because of my black hair and brown eyes. It probably doesn't help that this is the class I review my Chinese with beforehand since its on the same day as my Chinese classes. I try to contradict the fact that I can't be Taiwanese by asking them if I speak Chinese well and expecting them to say no. In fact they said I spoke Chinese well (this might be due to the fact that I have trained them to kiss up to me :P) and how come I could understand them when they speak Chinese if I wasn't Taiwanese. Lol I tried to say its because I can speak Cantonese and that is similar to Chinese but they weren't having any of that. Then I was like I can't read or write Chinese, as a Taiwanese person that is ok that I can't do either? Which they replied with a yes because that totally makes sense that I wouldn't have taken any Chinese classes as a citizen of Taiwan and yet managed to excel in English. At my wit's end and because I was laughing so hard trying to prove them wrong I turned the tables on them. I pointed at a student and said that the student must be from China because she had black hair and black eyes and everyone from China has black hair and black eyes. I just started pointing to all of them and saying China China China which they were all adamantly against being. I had hoped that by showing them their "proof" wasn't really proof at all would convince them that I wasn't Taiwanese. I finally just pulled my T.A. into the class to tell them in Chinese that I wasn't Taiwanese. After saying how a lot of people in Asian countries have black hair and brown eyes and that doesn't make them Taiwanese, my students started asking questions like how come I'm in Taiwan, why am I teaching at the school and how come I'm not teaching at another school. My T.A. tells them that once I finish teaching at the school then I could work for another school and all my kids went NO! At this point I had no idea what they were saying but its nice to know that my class actually likes me and wouldn't want me to leave. Then the instigator of it all went I wanted a blue eyed foreigner for a teacher. In response I told her there were two other foreign teachers, that looked foreign, that she could have as teachers. To this she replied they didn't have class levels low enough for her which we said wasn't true. Then I go so do you want to go to the other teacher and she puts her head down and goes NO! Haha shes one of the students who hecka clings to me so I knew she wouldn't want to go anywhere. It's nice to hear students actually wanting to be in my class compared to others who always say how the other English teachers are better and want to be in their class. Of course they base this on the fact that the other teachers are so nice in the hallway. Right cause that's a good judge of character.

I've found myself being fascinated by the relationship between China and Taiwan. I know that back home in America, everyone is talking about elections and what candidates are doing what. Well I assume that is what everyone is talking about because we are all "adults" now but what's probably happening is that people are discussing the latest Grey's Anatomy episode or something - which left on some crazy cliffhanger! It's funny to explore a topic I never thought about to something that actually affect the lives of people I know and how that affects my life in Taiwan. If anyone has paid attention to their world history class.....zzzzzzzzzzz..... probably not then people should know that the Republic of China (ROC) led by the Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan when the Communists in China were winning and established the People's Republic of China (PRC). There is a whole bunch of crazy history between Taiwan and China but I won't bore you with it. The nitty gritty is that China claims Taiwan as part of the PRC while Taiwan sees itself as independent. However because of China's power and its claim on Taiwan, Taiwan isn't officially recognized as a independent country. Hence why there is no official American Embassy in Taiwan because the PRC will not maintain diplomatic relations with any nation that recognizes the ROC. Despite all that America is still one of Taiwan's biggest allies and maybe that is why a positive reception. Any who what does this have to do with me? Well nothing really it's just interesting to me and I just like talking about random stuff. However cause of this strained relationship, mainland China visitors must visit Taiwan in tour groups. Now all those big annoying groups of Chinese tourists make sense, they got no other choice. It's only been a couple of years where Taiwan has allowed individual visitors from China to explore the country on their own, and these visitors have to come from sanctioned cities. Pretty crazy discovering what kind of restrictions people have visiting other countries. I've asked my older students about the whole China situation and they basically say they hate China because of what China did to the Taiwanese mentioned in this post here. I asked how they felt about being technically Chinese and hating their motherland and all of them replied that they were Taiwanese. So that solves that problem there isn't any identity crisis or split loyalties for them. I went on to describe how that experience for myself as an Asian American is so different where I can't just say I'm American and be taken at face value. There is such a big fuss in the country about what kind of American everyone is from Asian to African while in Taiwan there really isn't any word that says I'm a Chinese Taiwanese person. In Chinese trying to say I'm an Asian American isn't really done, there is no classification, you just are American or you're not. If only the systems in America didn't place such an emphasis on classifying what type of American I am.

Alright I'm finished rambling. If anyone has had the honor to look through my scrapbooks and  actually take the time to read through them, which I strongly discourage cause of all the secrets and embarrassing stories contained within, most of my journaling is like the above blog post full of random stories and deviations that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. But as most of my friends say that by reading my blog it's like listening to me talk - super fast and totally random. Hope you enjoyed it :P

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