9:30pm on Monday here...I just got back from the "high rent" district of Taipei (East Taipei). I've met a lot of Taiwanese today that were previously exchange students in the US or Canada. Over by the main Taipei train station I saw a street fight break out over parking before I went out for dinner. As I watched the fight, at least 100 Taiwanese people walked by at this intersection pretending that there was nothing going on. They were obviously aware and curious but afraid to watch or look or even call the police. There were a handful of people across the street watching from a safe distance. As the fight wound to a halt two mopeds collided at the busy intersection and a car came to screeching halt about a foot from the both of them. Again, people behaved as if nothing happened...
The Taiwanese have a ton of traffic, but seem more wreckless than in most places I have been. The most frightening traffic I've seen by far is in Saigon, (more cars/motorbikes and seemingly no traffic rules) though the locals there seem to be better drivers in far more dangerous conditions.
I got in a cab today and the driver struck up a conversation with me once he realized that I speak Chinese. His first question was whether or not I considered Taiwan to be a part of China. I answered truthfully, and as it turns out he is a rabid supporter of the Democratic Progressive Party and Taiwanese independence from the PRC. It was surprising how close our political views were on issues regarding Taiwan, China,the UN and even the logic (or lack of logic) in the make-up of the Security Council and its permanent members. He had a lot to say about the lack of Taiwanese unity on issues of sovereignty and his explanation of Taiwanese political issues were enlightening. Before I left his cab he implored me to educate people on the issues facing Taiwan in the US and where ever I go, and I assured him that I would do so. This is no burden for me of course, as this has been important issue to me for a long time.
I'm going to try to get to bed early tonight and make my way out of Taipei tomorrow morning. My time here in Taipei has been good for my Chinese studies, and my Chinese long form comprehension is improving quickly. (A simplified version of Chinese characters are used on mainland China for those who were unaware). I wish Chairman Mao had never abandoned tradional Chinese characters in the first place. Though when it comes to romanization of Chinese words, the PRC "pinyin" system has the Wade-Giles system beaten hands down. Wade-Giles is a joke, they don't even know how to make it work here in Taiwan...is it Hsiung or Chung? Is it Shao or Hsiao? You can look across the street in Taipei and find a different romanized spelling of the same street! I would have a nightmare of a time getting around here if I could not read Chinese.
The Thai vocab that kept slipping in to my conversations here is gone now. I think I may be able to learn to speak Thai and improve my Chinese this year, I'll be curious to see if I can pick up Vietnamese too when I get back there.
I'm off...more later.