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Taiwan

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This is the third of the posts in which I explain and motivate the items on my 101-in-1001 list. The list itself can be viewed here, where you can also find a list of all posts related to the list. If you want to follow my progress in more detail, you should check my profile page at the Day Zero Project.

Cook 25 new vegetarian dishes

Even though I’m not a hardcore vegetarian, I’m going to cut down meat consumption to almost nothing (not including milk, eggs and fish). I’ve been a vegetarian for a couple of years before I left Sweden for Taiwan, so I know how to cook enough to survive and thrive, but I want to have this item on my list to expand my horizons a bit. New dishes here means finding a recipe and following it reasonably closely at least once.

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 15 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Analyse what I eat three times, one week each time

This is something I’ve done before. It’s not only useful because I gain insights into what I eat, but I also learn a lot that lasts beyond the week I’m counting. I look things up, I measure things, I pay attention. Doing this three times, one week each time, spread out over the 1001 days will hopefully prove even more useful.

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 5 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Use dental floss every day for a month

This is about creating a habit. Some dentist say flossing is as important as brushing my teeth, but still I hardly ever do the former. I have strong teeth, but it doesn’t hurt taking good care of them.

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 1 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Learn to sleep comfortably on my back

I actually succeeded with this goal on my former list, but I’ve forgotten how to do it. The thing is that I can’t sleep on my back, or at least it takes me an hour to fall asleep that way compared with the one minute I usually need. Sleeping on my back is useful because sometimes sleep conditions make it the best choice, but it’s also better for my back than sleeping on my stomach.

Perceived difficulty: 5/10
Estimated time needed: ?
Progress so far: 0%

Make sure I have enough plants to be satisfied

I love having plants of all kinds where I live, but during the last two years in Taiwan, I’ve felt that it’s pointless to buy anything since I’ve been moving around so much. Now that I’m back in Sweden again, I’m going to make sure that I have what I neeed to be happy. It doesn’t cost much compared to how much I like it. I’m moving to a new apartment this Saturday, so the quest for potted plants should start soon afterwards!

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 1 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Buy something from Hans-Werner Sahm

Hans-Werner Sahm (click for a picture search on Google) is one of my favourite artists and has been for quite a while. I haven’t decided what to buy (it might be anything from lots of postcards to full-size prints), but I am going to buy something.

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 1 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Distill memories from Taiwan into something that can be put on a wall

I have so many memories from my two years in Taiwan that it will never be possible to express them all in some form. However, I do want to create something which can remind me of all the good things I experienced there and I want to be able to put it on the wall. It will probably be a collection of photos arranged in some cool way, probably similar to what I’ve done before, but with a more careful selection of photos.

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 4 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Study three books about sleeping

We spend quite a big part of our lives sleeping and even though I think I’ve taken more care to research the subject than most people who aren’t doctors or psychologists, I still think I know far too little. I’m going to change that. I’m mostly interested in normal sleep here, but dreaming might also be on the menu. However, I’m planning to read scientific material, not dream reading or anything like that!

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 30 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Monitor everything I buy for one month

I’m by nature rather thrifty, but I don think there is a point in breaking down various everyday habits to see how they work and what they really contain. I don’t really know what I hope to find here, but I suspect that perhaps I have some misguided conceptions about my consumption patterns. A month should be enough, although longer might be preferable.

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 2 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Don’t accept second best solutions in my apartment because I’m lazy

This is serious! I’m tired of being content with second rate solutions when it comes to living. If I have the option of spending five minutes extra to tuck that cable away neatly or fix some quirk in the lighting, I’m by Zarquon going to do it. This starts when I move this Saturday and last until the end of time.

Perceived difficulty: 3/10
Estimated time needed: 1001 days
Progress so far: 0%

Get an ID card

At the moment, I’m using my passport whenever I need to prove who I am and that’s not good. The passport lasts for many years and can be declared invalid if it’s worn-out, it’s big and it’s more expensive. I do of course need a passport as well, but getting an ID card to use in all cases except travelling would make some things a lot easier.

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 1 hour
Progress so far: 0%

Update and upgrade my medical equipment

A couple of years ago, I made sure that I had medical equipment to cover first-aid situations, but also necessary things to survive for a while in more long-drawn scenarios. Since I haven’t even been in the country for a couple of years, I definitely need to go through and check what I have. Consulting a few doctors and useful websites will probably do the trick.

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 5 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Don’t eat meat I’ve bought myself more than once a week

Could I just have stated “don’t eat meat” or something like that? Well, perhaps I should have, but I hate imposing my lifestyle on other people, regardless of whether I think it’s superior or not. I don’t want to be the guy people feel embarrassed to invite because they know they can’t cook something nice that has not dead animals in it. I’m also going to buy meat myself now and then, usually in restaurants if the vegetarian alternatives are too few, but it will probably be a lot less than once a week. I do this mostly for environmental reasons; eating lots of meat simply isn’t going to save the planet.

Perceived difficulty: 3/10
Estimated time needed: 1001 days
Progress so far: 0%

Explore, research and evaluate the electronic book reader market

I’m convinced that electronic books have to supplant printed books, it’s just a matter of time. Perhaps the time has already come, but the problem is that I’ve been too lazy to learn enough to know that. I plan to change that by exploring, researching and evaluating the available options. My goal is of course to find an e-reading solution I like, but that would be too lofty a goal.

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 4 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Follow my no-new-books manifesto

This can be summarised as “don’t buy new books if it can’t be helped or if I really have to”. I’ve explained it in more detail here.

Perceived difficulty: 4/10
Estimated time needed: 1001 days
Progress so far: 0%

Have an economic buffer after 1001 days of at least 100 000 SEK (can be borrowed)

This might look like a weird goal. Everybody can borrow money if they really want to. Why not formulate a goal that says I should have no debts and have a certain amount of money on my bank account? Because that would be stupid. If I continue like I do now, I will be broke around the same time I graduate, provided that I don’t work a lot. This means no debts and no money and that’s a bad situation which gives me very little room to manoeuvre. My goal is to have around 100 000 SEK (above 10 000 euro) when I graduate, but if need be, I’ll borrow the money using the generous student loans. Of course, I do not intend to spend the money until after I graduate. Another option would be to work a lot, but that comes with other disadvantages. Time will tell.

Perceived difficulty: 3/10
Estimated time needed: ?
Progress so far: 0%

Re-examine the need for reading glasses

Silly wording, perhaps, because anyone that has seen me reading knows that I need glasses. The problem is that they don’t help very much, because the problems with my eyes are rather complicated. However, I think that reading glasses might help just a tiny bit, perhaps 5% or so and I should explore that further. 5% might mean that I can read Chinese more easily, for instance.

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 2 hours
Progress so far: 0%

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I have been very bad at updating what’s going on recently. The last post was written ten days ago and in that time, a lot of things have happened, at least emotionally, geographically and psychologically. I’m back in Sweden and I’m slowly coming to terms with that, regardless of what I lost when I left Taiwan. Coming back home is great in itself and the experience is only somewhat dimmed because of what I have lost.

This is not going to be a long musing on my personal feelings regarding leaving Taiwan and coming back to Sweden, however. I write merely to say that everything is okay and that the lack of posts doesn’t mean that I’m dead. I also write to say that posting will remain scarce for a while yet, because tomorrow I’m leaving for Latvia with my parents, my siblings and their families. I will be gone until next Friday, so don’t expect anything until then. I have a few topics regarding Taiwan that I want to discuss while they are still fresh in my mind, so when I get back, expect more in that direction, along with a few reviews of books I’ve read recently.

I will also try to plan what I want to do in the near future and share that with you. During the summer, I will have plenty of time to write, read, socialise, exercise and lots more. I have too many projects I have postponed long enough! I will start thinking and planning while I’m gone, even though I won’t write about any of this here until I get back.

See you soon!

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As most of you probably know, the Chinese new year takes place during the winter vacation, which starts on January 15th this year and lasts until February 22nd (this year, the actual new year occurs very late, in mid February). In practice, this means that five days and four final exams from now, I have a five week vacation. Not bad.

At first, I thought that I would go home to Sweden for a month or so, relaxing, recharging batteries and making sure that I’m ready to launch myself into another semester at the end of February. Things have changed a bit, and now I don’t think I will go home at all during the winter vacation.

Why? As usual, there are a number of reasons. Going home is expensive, takes a lot of time and contributes to global warming. All these can be motivated if the cause is good (except perhaps the last one), but I feel that I don’t have any really good reason for going home. I’m sure I will go back to Sweden this summer, so why go back now? It feels wasteful to leave Taiwan for a month, then return only for four months and then leave again. Better then to take the opportunity to learn more Chinese and spend more time with people here.

My original reason for going home, except for the chance to cool down a bit, was also that it would be exceptionally boring staying here, since most friends are either going home or will be otherwise engaged. That is, if not a misconception, then at least an exaggeration. I’m pretty sure I can keep myself occupied, partly on my own with studying, writing and exercising, but primarily with friends, Taiwanese and foreign. This means that I’m up for almost anything anybody (yes, that means you) might suggest, within reasonable limits. Staying in Taiwan also means that I save a lot of money, so spending some of it making the winter vacation worthwhile by travelling is also an option.

To my friends and family in Sweden: I miss you a lot and I’ve come to realise that more and more, especially during this semester. There are many things in Sweden that make me feel I can never truly live somewhere else permanently, and you are one important factor (I’ll write more about this shortly, as soon as I have time to write something seriously again). Don’t worry, I’ll return to Sweden this summer.

To my friends in Taiwan: Staying here means that I’ve a lot of free time on my hands (and I mean a lot). I hope this will be an opportunity to get to know you as well as your country and culture better. Don’t hesitate if you feel you have any idea on how to make this winter vacation more memorable. Wish me luck for the final exams and see you again when the finals are over!

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Happy New Year!

The New Year tradition as celebrated here in Taiwan is a lot more compatible with the Western way, probably because they borrowed the holiday from us in the first place. January 1st is a day off, but we had classes like normal on New Year’s Eve, just like on Christmas Eve. New Year’s Eve has no special place in my heart, it’s just a reason an good as any to get together with some friends and have fun. Which is what we did.

It didn’t start out that way, though. Ian, Peitsen and I were supposed to meet at the train station at around seven, but for various reasons, we went there separately. Everything was okay until I was about to get off the bus and discovered that my wallet was missing (here, you use the card once when you board the bus and once when you get off). Since I’m sure that I had when I got on and it wasn’t on the bus when I tried to get off (I stayed on and looked rather carefully), the only explanation is that somebody stole it. Very odd, considering that I was sitting down all the time and the bus wasn’t that crowded, but I really can’t think of any other reason. If somebody found it and thought it lost, they would have asked around or told the driver.

So, starting the evening with losing credit card, alien residence certificate, some money, student card, and so on, wasn’t that good, but with Peitsen’s help, we were still able to meet up with Ian, although somewhat late. From then on, the evening progressed smoothly with lots of good food at 月明’s place. She lives close enough to the Taipei 101 to see the fireworks without much effort, but I hadn’t realised the location was that good! In all, I had a really good time and my classmates are one of the major reasons I like studying at NTNU right now, so thanks a lot, again!

Since I neither believe in New Year promises (January 1st is like any other day, so if I thought I ought to change something, I would already have attempted to do that, see my post about postponement), nor use this day to summarise the year (I use my birth day, so please wait another two months!), I’ll round off this post with some photos (I suggest you head over to Facebook for other people’s photos, mine are somewhat random and some nice people are missing entirely):


在善,龍仔,良之


逸安,月明,瑞玫


Ian and I.


Happy New Year!

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Asienkunskap

Important: This is no longer my main page about studying Chinese, please visit Hacking Chinese to learn more about how to study Chinese more efficiently!

Introduction

I started studying Asienkunskap in Linköping in 2007, and during that first year of Chinese studies, I accumulated a lot of material that might be of use to other students. If not explicitly stated, everything here is written by me. This is what I currently have available:

Complete lecture notes (Nordostasienkunskap 2)
Take-home exams
(Nordostasienkunskap 2)
Papers (Nordostasienkunskap 2, projektarbete)
Reviews and reflections (course-related books)
Word lists (Short-term Spoken Chinese volume 1-3)
A list of all posts related to Asienkunskap

Lecture notes for Nordostasienkunskap 2

What follows is transcriptions of fourteen lectures relating to East Asia held by Mats Anderson and Göran Lindgren in 2007 and 2008. The files are in Rich Text Format, in Swedish and provided as is, meaning that I take no responsibility whatsoever that the content is accurate, although I believe most of it is. Click on the titles to download the files.

Noa 2-1 – Kina 1
Noa 2-2 – Mentalitet
Noa 2-3 – Japan 1
Noa 2-4 – Japan 2
Noa 2-5 – Sydkorea
Noa 2-6 – Nordkorea
Noa 2-7 – Japan 3
Noa 2-8 – Ekonomi
Noa 2-9 – Kina 2
Noa 2-10 – Taiwan
Noa 2-11 – Kina 3
Noa 2-12 – Kina 4
Noa 2-13 – Kina 5
Noa 2-14 – Japan 4
Noa 2-15 – Japan 5

Take-home exams

Noa 1 take-home exam – Take-home exams for our course in North-East Asian culture and history. They cover (among other things) Western imperialism, Korean history, the Meiji era in Japan, comparisons of different versions of events during the Long March in China, and an attempt to summarise Daoism. I received 91/100 on this course and Per Bäck earned 90/100.
Download my exam in Swedish (.rtf)
Download Per’s exam in Swedish (.pdf): part 1, part 2

Noa 2 take-home exam – Take-home exams for our course in North-East Asian recent history and politics. They cover (among other things) economy in the region as a whole, opposition parties in Japan, negative aspects of Chinese growth, Chinese system of guanxi, and politics in South Korea. I received 95/100 on this course and so did Per!
Download my exam in Swedish (.rtf)
Download Per’s exam in Swedish (.pdf): part 1, part 2

Paper (projektarbete)

Quo vadis, Taiawn?– Since I knew suspected I might be leaving for Taiwan later that year, I decided to write my paper about the election held in March 2008, which in many ways can be said to have been a crossroads in Taiwanese Cross-Strait (i.e. dealing with mainland China) politics. The title is Quo vadis, Taiwan? and the paper was written during and slightly after the elections were held. I received full points for this assignment.
Read more about Quo vadis, Taiwan?

Renminbi: Under värdering – This is a paper written by one of my friends, Per Bäck, who studied Asienkunskap at the same time as I did. It’s about the alleged under-evaluation of the Chinese currency (yuan or renminbi), a topic which was relevant then and is still debated hotly. Per also received full marks for this paper.
Download paper in Swedish (.pdf)

Course-related reviews and reflections

Miljoner sanningar – Per Bäck’s reflections on Linda Jakobsson’s book.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

The Journey to the West – My reflections on this classic by Wu Cheng’en. Probably not the pinnacle of reflective writing, but perhaps it might provide inspiration for someone. Note that the review and the document are complete different.
Download document in English (.rtf)
Read my review

Den törstige munken och hans dryckesbröder – Per Bäck’s reflections on this the first part of the Chinese classic 水滸傳. I’ll have to read it myself some day.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

China Candid – My reflections on this book by Sang Ye. Probably not the pinnacle of reflective writing, but perhaps it might provide inspiration for someone.
Download document in English (.rtf)

Röd åklagare – Per Bäck’s reflections on this book about crime, justice and corruption in China, written by Xiao Rundcrantz.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

One Man’s Bible – My reflections on this novel by Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, a lovely book which I highly recommend.
Read my review

Vitlöksballaderna – Per Bäck’s reflections on this book by Mo Yan, telling the story of a revolt in a small Chinese village. The farmer have been forced by the government to produce garlic, and when the garlic market collapses, the people decide that enough is enough.
Download document in Swedish (.pdf)

Mei Wenti! – My reflections on this Catharina Lilliehöök’s book about living in China, a book I found somewhat deterring.
Read my review

Word lists

Important: I no longer use ZDT to learn Chinese. The lists for ZDT will still be here, but no longer updated. The vocabulary can and should be accessed from the Anki software, which is far superior to ZDT. If youh aven’t changed already, you should do so now.

Short-term Spoken Chinese – Threshold, chapter 1-30 (汉语口语速成入门) – My lists of new words for ZDT (see the Tools section), sorted into categories, one per chapter of the book. I have often left out proper names and I take no responsibility whatsoever that the lists are correct (I doubt that there are many errors, though). Please use File >> Restore Data when importing the characters to retain category structure. The file can easily be opened in any text editor for use with other software or independently.
Download list (.zdt)

Short-term Spoken Chinese – Elementary, chapter 1-25 (汉语口语速成基础)– Same as above, use at your own risk, but please report any errors you might find. Please note that proper names go in a separate category. Use File >> Restore Data when importing the characters to retain category structure. The file can easily be opened in any text editor for use with other software or independently.
Download list (.zdt)

Technical Chinese – New words from our course in technical Chinese for ZDT – Includes basic vocabulary for math, chemistry, physics and biology. As for the lists above, use at your own risk, but please report any errors you might find. Please note that proper names go in a separate category. Use File >> Restore Data when importing the characters to retain category structure. The file can easily be opened in any text editor for use with other software or independently.
Download list (.zdt)

Short-term Spoken Chinese (汉语口语速成) – Complete glossary for the first three volumes in .xls format, an outstanding word list compiled and contributed by Henrik Gustavson. Not only does it contain all the words for the first three volumes, but they are also neatly arranged in various useful ways. For the automatic generation of the lists to work, changes should be made in the tab named “kapitel”.
Download list (.xls)

Related posts

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Cape No. 7



Title: 海角七號
Translated title:
Cape No. 7
Directed by: Wei De-sheng
Written by:
Wei De-sheng
Year: 2008

Cape No. 7 is without doubt the most successful film ever to be produced in Taiwan, at least if box office results are to be trusted. It has grossed almost US$ 14 million since its release in August last year, which is incredibly impressive since the budget was a meagre US$ 1.5 million. So, after watching the film, do I understand the hype? Yes, I do, and I’ll try to explain it to you.

The story takes its beginning in the 1940s, during the time when Japan ruled Taiwan. A teacher dispatched to the island falls in love with a local girl with the Japanese name Tomoko, but is forced to leave her as Japan returns Taiwan to Chinese control after the end of the Second World War. He writes a series of letters on his way home, expressing his regret to leave his beloved Tomoko, but the letters never reach her.

60 years later, in present day Taiwan, Aga (Van Fan) returns to his native home in the south after a failed attempt to find success as a rock band singer in the capital. He ends up delivering mail, thus stumbling upon the letters written over half a century ago, now sent from Japan to Taiwan by the deceased teacher’s daughter, but even though Aga tries to deliver the beautifully-worded letters, the old address Cape No. 7 is obsolete.

At the same time, a local official insists that an upcoming music event shall feature a local band instead of a Japanese, and a fashion model named Tomoko (coincidence!) is responsible to find artists and make them work together. Her struggle to make Aga join the band and work together with the various oddballs is of course further complicated by her falling in love with him. The story is told using three main languages: Taiwanese, Mandarin and Japanese, approximately in that order of frequency.

This is only the beginning and part of the reason why I like this film is that the plot works on so many levels. There are numerous seemingly insignificant threads which end up having important outcomes and each contribute to the overall picture.  Even though most of the actors are amateurs, some of them without any experience of film making whatsoever, their characters come across with feeling and credibility. The letters to Tomoko are interspersed throughout the film, creating a link to the past and expanding the scope of an otherwise fairly limited story.

However, even though the story is enjoyable in many ways, that’s not the main reason why I like Cape No. 7. Instead, the atmosphere and the feeling it conveys is almost overwhelming. It’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact reason for this, but the story and the characters touch me in a way I seldom experience. This is worth a lot, and, together with the story and convincing characters, I hereby award four and a half snails to Cape No. 7.

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Quo vadis, Taiwan?

This is the final version of my project “Quo vadis, Taiwan?”. I am reasonably satisfied with it, even if there of course always remain things to be done. Here is the abstract:

This paper is a study of the presidential election and the coinciding referendum on United Nations membership, held in Taiwan on 22nd March 2008. Two questions lie at the heart of the study: “What were the alternatives for voters on 22nd March?” and “In what ways were the ballot-casting on 22nd March important?”

In order to answer these questions, Taiwanese history is presented briefly, with heavy focus on recent times leading up to the election and to the referendum. To summarise, the alternatives were the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), lead by Frank Hsieh, and the Kuomintang (KMT), lead by Ma Ying-jeou. Both parties were prepared to lead Taiwan closer to China to a higher degree than the incumbent president, Chen Shui-bian, but differed in how far and how fast such a change in policy ought to be pursued.

The alternatives can also be said to be either pragmatic, focusing on economy (KMT); or ideological, focusing on Taiwan’s rights to international acknowledgement (DPP). The presidential election seems to have been more important than the referendum on United Nations membership. The referendum put two questions to the voters. The first, initiated by DPP, asked if Taiwan should apply to the United Nations under the name of Taiwan (done once before and was blocked by China). The second was initiated by KMT as a counter-manoeuvre, and asked if Taiwan should apply to the United Nations under any name (since the early 1990s, applications under the official name Republic of China have been blocked annually by China).

The referendum is deemed to have little practical effect, except to stir up agitation in Beijing and further isolate Taiwan from the international community by presenting her internationally as trying to change the status quo which is at present a safeguard for peace in the area.

Download “Quo vadis, Taiwan?” (PDF, 381KB)

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