I have had yet another troublesome park experience. Last night, a forty-something woman tried to kick my three-year old daughter in Youth Park, Monga (艋舺), the place I live in here in Taiwan.
My first response was to rub my eyes and tell myself I was just seeing things. But I know what I saw. We were sliding. Then my daughter said: "Daddy, I want to swing." As I was gathering up our stuff, Ahleena charged off to the swing area. She was about 20 feet in front of me, and as she ran by the swings, a woman who was on the swings purposely stuck out one of her legs so that it came close to connecting with my daughter's head. When I got there, I asked:
"What are you doing? I saw you try to kick my daughter." The woman simply ignored me and went on swinging. "Look, lady," I said. "You can't swing here. You see that sign? It says you have to be under 12 to swing. Get off." She still ignored me, so I got up so close she couldn't swing. This was enough to set her off:
"Who are you to talk to me like this?" she barked. "This is Taiwan! Who are you to bother Taiwanese people in Taiwan?"
"The sign says you can't swing if you're over 12 years old," I said. This led her into a torrent of abuse, including calling me several curse words. Now I knew my eyes hadn't deceived me, that she had indeed tried to kick my three-year-old. There were some teenagers, as usual, hanging out in the playground. She started to appeal to them, figuring this was an us and them issue, case closed. But they hadn't been paying attention. Some of them even knew me and didn't want to take her side. "I'll go get my wife," I offered. "Just wait until she finds out you tried to kick our daughter."
When I returned with my wife, the woman was sitting next to two teenagers I didn't know. They had also been swinging. "This is the [spinster] who took a kick at Ahleena," I said.
"Why did you try to kick our daughter?" asked my wife. Once again, a "foreigner" having the audacity to question her while standing in Taiwan (even if it happened to be through his Taiwanese wife) was enough to set her off. According to her, "foreigners" didn't respect Taiwan. Take me, for instance. I wasn't following the rules. If I was, I wouldn't be drinking a can of beer in the park. So I asked her, "Where is the rule that says I can't drink a can of beer in the park? I didn't litter it. Plus there are ten other people drinking a can of beer in the park, you old [spinster]."
This is what she told me: "They are Taiwanese. You are not." Did she ask me if I was Taiwanese? No.
"Do you see that sign? It says you have to be 12 or under to swing. What if the swings are calibrated for weight?" I asked.
Again she claimed I was a foreigner who didn't respect Taiwan. She called me an "asshole" in English and said I was "violent" in Chinese. Then, as she was leaving, she said: "I hope you and your family die in a car accident."
My wife has three theories for this kind of attitude:
1. My wife has met older people in Taiwan that simply dislike "mixed" children. They think that it is messing with the purity of the Han gene pool. Plus they figure that they are the offspring of soldiers and prostitutes.
2. There might be people in Taiwan who have stereotypes about "foreigners." These stereotypes lead them to believe negative things about every "foreigner" they come across. That they have not met these "foreigners," know nothing about who they are, their background or their character is of little concern. "Foreigners" are all the same to them.
3. My wife was doing some psychology. She asked me: "Did you see how she called you an 'asshole'"? She obviously understood what you said when you called her a [spinster]. I think she was jilted by a 'foreigner' and now she's taking revenge on our daughter. That could be why she wanted to kick her."
I have opened up this discussion before. People have told me that it comes down to the neighborhood I live in, Monga (艋舺). They say because of Monga's lower socio-economic position, it attracts and creates unsavory individuals. In other neighborhoods of Taipei, people are not trashy. In fact, people can be polite and engaging. And their kids, instead of hanging out in park playgrounds and harassing tax-paying, civic-minded individuals, do old-fashioned things like stay at home and study, learn how to play the piano or join constructive extra-curricular activities.
I just don't want to give up on Monga. I have met a lot of nice people here. My neighbors are nice. Lots of people do line up for buses and do not push each other on the sidewalk. What I have concluded is my karma is bad. I am attracting nutcases like a light attracts flies. One other thing I've concluded is that, as a father, I've had to be extra attentive. In the past, I'd simply read a book or ride my bike, not paying attention to what's going on around me. I have to watch everything now, and sometimes I am not liking what I am seeing.
Tonight, I'm changing everything. We're taking a new route home. We're reading different books. And we're going to a new park and having some completely different for dinner. I'm doing this to change my karma.
I posted a response to the an annoying thread, hoping to have a calming influence on xenophobia that continues to occupy the imagination of my country, which is Taiwan. The moderator asked me if I was related to The Cowsills, the legendary musical band of the 1960s. I explained the connection, that all Cowsills are related, and went on to explain that Cowsills cared about Taiwanese solidarity: http://truthabouttaiwan.blogspot.com/2010/03/need-for-reason-in-taiwan.html.
I knew Billy Cowsill, lead singer of The Cowsills, for several years in Vancouver when I was a student at UBC because he rented a room out from my friend Alidor's dad, just three houses down. I remember that he drove a big boat of a car, and was sometimes obliging when we bugged him to fess up anecdotes about life on the road. He was a tall, skinny man, with an inquisitive nature. He always wore jeans, a white T-shirt and a jean jacket. I doubt he would've known the first thing about Taiwan, but would have, nevertheless, offered up a friendly opinion on it. This is my favorite Cowsills song. I think it went to number two on Billboard. The TV show The Partridge Family was also based on The Cowsills:
Posted by Patrick Cowsill at 01:46
Posted by Patrick Cowsill at 21:40
I'll just start by saying this film was much better than the other 3D film we saw this year, Avatar, which was pure crap. Let's get that out of the way right now. First, How to Train Your Dragon didn't have any corny speeches and it was not littered with corny dialogue. It didn't have the usual plot cliches, like the bad guy who just doesn't know how to die and wants to kill right up to the end. It didn't have good-old-boy caricatures, the usual twits trying to pull off a rustic American charm of let's-get-this-done-even-though-we're-really-not-that-bright because being dull and smiling all the time wins out. Why do filmmakers fantasize about this stuff?
Instead, the protagonist, Hiccup, doubts himself. He knows he doesn't fit in with his Viking clan, a point that's stressed by his lack of a Scottish accent, which separates him even further from everyone else in town. What does Hiccup do about it? Does he overcome? Does he simper that nobody understands him? Nah, he goes off with a dragon and does his own thing, fretting all the while that he's gonna catch it if anyone finds out.
My family saw How to Train Your Dragon at the Ambassador Theater in Hsimingting (西門町), Taipei, which is renowned for sound quality, a good thing if you have noisy kids because no matter how loud they are, it gets drowned out. Just a couple of points on the Ambassador Theater (國賓影城). Even though How to Train Your Dragon is a childrens' movie, an animated film no less, the Ambassador Theater does not provide child-sized 3D glasses. Child-sized glasses exist and are out there. Miramar, for example, was offering three different sizes when my colleague took his son. Such stinginess and lack of foresight on the part of the Ambassador did, however, cost them in our case as we had to exchange our daughter's pair several times. After around 20 minutes of pushing them up on her face, again and again, with butter-smeared fingers from eating popcorn, she simply wasn't able to see the screen anymore. And I couldn't eat any popcorn (and thus want to buy more) because I was occupied securing them on her face.
My daughter's third pair of 3D glasses, which also totally engulfed her face, suddenly slipped off her tiny nose and smashed to the floor, taking out a lens. I'm told they're US$40 too. When I went to get a fourth pair, I was greeted with the Grand Inquisition. "I'd be happy to answer your questions," I told my interlocutor. "Are you going to pause the film?" A few minutes after returning to my seat, an Ambassador employee was also inside, with a flashlight six rows down, looking for the lens. I mean really. You're playing a kiddie movie and charging NT$350 a ticket, but you don't have any kiddie-sized glasses. What do you expect?
It's still a great movie. If you are a kid-holder, which I'm guessing most people plainning to see How to Train Your Dragon are, avoid the Ambassador Theater in Taipei's Hsimingting (西門町) district. Call the place you're headed to. See what's what in terms of 3D eye wear. Then go and have fun.
I have a new story for Culture Taiwan, on Monga again, called Monga's Chest of Fortunes: http://ow.ly/1v0yB