Typhoon Tyranny!

My Taiwanese experience got a little more authentic after this past Tuesday, September 27th as Typhoon Megi made landfall in Taiwan. And just like Miley Cyrus it came in like a wrecking ball!

Schools were closed, work was cancelled, and most businesses, except for the trusty and ever so populous 7-11’s, were closed.

Typhoon Megi was especially threatening to the country as the centre of the storm passed directly over Taiwan, moving from east to west and beginning in Hualien City.

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Before

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During

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In Hualien it brought ashore winds equal to that of a Category 4 Hurricane.

As the winds and rains of Megi ravaged Taiwan, the effects of the storm were also greatly felt in the west of Taiwan. The island’s Central Weather Bureau showed steady winds of 100km/h in Taichung City with gusts of 198km/h on Tuesday afternoon.

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Before

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During

The storm even effected Eastern China as multiple mudslides occurred resulting in at least 30 people missing.

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More than 14,700 people were evacuated in Taiwan, while millions lost power and hundreds of thousands of homes were without water. Typhoon Megi killed four people and injured more than 523 in Taiwan in total.

Prime time typhoon season in Taiwan is July to September.However these massive storms are possible from June to October and supposedly are more rare but often more fierce in October.

Check out this video from CNN’s report on Typhoon Megi to get a visual representation of what this country is dealing with.

Luckily for myself I live in Taipei, the capital located in northern Taiwan. The effects of typhoons are not felt too strongly here however within six hours of Megi hitting Taiwan, 75 mm of rain was recorded.

The radius of this storm was large and it’s safe to say it effected Taipei in a greater way then the last two typhoons Meranti and Malakas, who’s force was felt off-shore of Taiwan.

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This was the third typhoon Taiwan has been hit with in the past 2 weeks. Oh and good news folks, my friends tell me theres rumblings of another typhoon for this coming week. Strap in real tight Taiwan, you’re in for another strong shower!

Reports on Typhoon Megi: 

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2016/09/26/2003655949

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/26/asia/typhoon-megi-taiwan-weather/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/29/typhoon-megi-dozens-missing-after-landslide-hits-chinese-village

https://weather.com/storms/typhoon/news/typhoon-megi-forecast-taiwan-china

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-37503174

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Taiwanese Mandarin and Hokkien

Traveling to a country different than the one you were born in can often involve dealing with a language barrier.

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In my case, I’ve found this to be too true. Although a large amount of people in Taipei can speak a decent amount of English, it is common for people outside the city to know less, and in both situations there is still not much room for lengthy communication.

I stand by the statement made by Rita Mae Brown when she said that, “Language is the road map of a culture.  It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”

Not understanding a certain language can leave you feeling all of the above, but I really believe that you cannot completely understand another culture, or really get to know the people you meet from it it, until you speak their language.

Sure I can have basic conversations with Taiwanese people but even not being able to ask a sales person more than “How much for this?” in Mandarin bothers me.

And just when I thought I was starting to be able to detect the sound of Mandarin. I was walking down my street one day past a place where an elderly man owns a small fruit market.

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He was sitting close to the street talking to what looked like his close friend, only it didn’t sound like Mandarin. After consulting with one of my Taiwanese friends they suggested it was likely Hokkien, which instantly made me wonder, what is Hokkien?

Hokkien is a dialect that descended from old mainstream Chinese. And after some research I realized there’s several variants of the Hokkien language, Taiwanese Hokkien just happens to be one of them! But Medan Hokkien and Singaporean Hokkien also exist as spoken languages in parts of Indonesia today!

The majority of the people who continue this language are elderly Chinese men and women, as Mandarin has become the more commonly used standard. Despite this, author Kuan Eng has created, “My First Book of Hokkien Words” to help continue and teach Singaporean youth the language. hokkien

If you think Mandarin sounds difficult to learn consider the fact that Hokkien has 8 tones, instead of 4 tones like Mandarin. These tones come with strict rules of pronunciation that I think native speakers would agree are no piece of cake to learn.

Mandarin and Hokkien represent just one case of language differences. However there’s even differences between the Mandarin spoken in mainland China and Taiwan!

Often the same words are used but mean completely different things, or the words are simply completely different! Take for example the word “pineapple.” In China it is called bo luo but in Taiwan it is referred to as feng li.

For more on those differences, check out this video.

With so many languages in South Asia that were previously unbeknownst to me, it’s been an interesting struggle to try and learn some basic phrases and comprehend the differences between each.

(Don’t even get me started on the differences between Cantonese and Mandarin)

However this difficult learning experience made me realize that had I never taken this amazing opportunity to travel and work abroad I would likely still have no knowledge of these languages or their existence.

In North America the popular mindset is that English can get you anywhere, and through any circumstance, but I’m here to tell you that simply knowing English will not provide you with a truly deep experience while you travel, so if you have the time and the means, the best advice I can give would be: learn another language. 

For more info about Hokkien:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwanese_Hokkien

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singaporean_Hokkien

A Drive for Democracy

Recognize the monument pictured above?

Its the entrance to Liberty Square in Taipei’s Zhongzheng District, and it acts as a reminder of the development of democracy in Taiwan. In fact, the country recently elected a female President, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, to be its leader.

Let’s face it, no democracy is perfect. However, what I think a lot of  North American people don’t realize (my former self included) is that Taiwan is in fact a democratic country, separate from its communist neighbour China.

Recently, I visited Hong Kong, a state that in 1997 was released by the UK back to China. I absolutely adored my time on the skyscraper island as I was able to experience the perfect balance of city and nature type adventures.

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(Stay tuned for an article on my favourite excursion)

During my time in Hong Kong I noticed some differences between it and Taipei, Taiwan:

  • The Subway system in Hong Kong is referred to as MTR (Mass Transit Railway opened 1979), but Taipei took a hipster approach, and named their’s MRT (short for Taipei Rapid Metro opened in 1997).
  • Both have separate versions of delicious tea, HK’s being Lai Cha Tea and Taiwan’s being Pearl Milk Tea.
  • Hong Kong drives on the left side of the street and Taiwan the right.
  • In Hong Kong the majority speak Cantonese, while in Taiwan the majority speak Mandarin.

Yet similar to Taipei, the mainland of Hong Kong is beaming with extremely impressive infrastructure, amazing shopping, and delicious restaurants. Taiwan and Hong Kong are both accented by beautiful mountains and smaller islands.

Hong Kong is an overall more international city, that actually just had an important political election.

Politics. Its the topic that isolates family members, ruins friendships, and divides nations. It’s a complicated subject to say the least, and one that I do not pretend to know much about, especially in regards to a country that I just began living in.

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But what I do know is that there are some important differences between Taiwan’s and Hong Kong’s current political structures and policies.

Currently, Taiwan enjoys a separate identity and constitution from the Republic of China. They use a first past the post electoral system, and as proven in the past election, the majority of citizens do not wish to unite with mainland China.

Although Hong Kong exercises autonomy, their situation is a little more complicated with a policy of “one country, two systems” in accordance with mainland China.

Since 2014, where young Hong Konger’s held mass street protests demanding universal suffrage (the right for all citizens to vote), the path to political independence from China is starting to become more clear, as in its most recent semi-democratic election (to determine Hong Kong’s Legislative Council) one elected political party’s leader is 23 years old.

However in response the Chinese government has announced that Hong Kong must accept Beijing’s control and oversight, their basic message being that ultimately they hold power and jurisdiction over Hong Kong.

Yet with voter turn out rising 5% in this past election and younger citizens with democratic ideals becoming involved in the countries politics, there is definitely hope that one day, despite the constraint of “one country, two systems”  Hong Kong will be able to establish a true independent democracy, similar to that of Taiwan’s.

Demonstrators hold signs and umbrellas in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy marches, at Times Square in New York

Things are about to get interesting: the millennials have spoken, attitudes are changing, and just like the citizens of Taiwan, Hong Konger’s have demanded their rights.

Okay people now here get information:

(^to the tune of Beyoncé’s formation, obviously)

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/31/asia/hong-kong-legislative-council-explainer/

http://english.metro.taipei/ct.asp?xItem=1315948&ctNode=70209&mp=122036

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-taiwan-election-timeline-idUSTRE7BC0E320111213

http://time.com/4478978/hong-kong-legislative-council-election-legco/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTR

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Square_(Taipei)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_China_general_election,_2016

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan#Democratization