Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

American Thanksgiving recently came and went and I didn't do anything to celebrate the occasion- for many reasons. I don't really have a large foreign circle of friends here, and of the foreigners I knew, none have ties with the ex-pat community here or planned on attending any organized event. Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday to share with friends and family, but I only recently began celebrating it in the United States, since I grew up in Canada. Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated earlier than in the United States, on the second Monday of October. Actually it might even be a little known fact that Canadians began celebrating Thanksgiving for a successful harvest before their long harsh winters, which come sooner (hence the earlier celebration of Thanksgiving) as opposed to Americans, who not only give thanks for food harvested but also for the Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims.

My parents are here in Kaohsiung, but since I grew up in Canada, they don't identify with celebrating American Thanksgiving.

Well, I'm not complaining because we actually did celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving complete with a turkey and all the fixings at a friend of the family's place in Calgary- that was literally the day before I returned to Kaohsiung from the weekend festivities of my sister's wedding in Emerald Lake, B.C.

When holidays like this come around, I realize that the strange thing is that my folks don't really celebrate holidays of any kind in Taiwan. It's like they are in some alternate universe- where they don't celebrate any noteworthy Canadian holidays like Canada Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year Eve or Day, nor any of the major holidays in Taiwan like the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Tomb Sweeping Day, Lunar New Year. How strange in deed.

It's certainly not that they are year round grinches. When I was growing up in Canada we did in fact observe all of the above mentioned holidays, except for Tomb Sweeping Day because grave sites in Canada differ from traditional grave sites in Taiwan. On Tomb Sweeping Day in Taiwan there is an actual sweeping of the tomb and bones of deceased relatives that are kept there.

Perhaps the lack of of celebration is because we don't have much extended family in Taiwan to observe these customs with....

I also suppose that my parents are somewhat suspended between the two cultures. They've been away from Taiwan for a long time, having lived in Canada for over 20 years- so they are not accustomed to following the Taiwanese customs that occur based on the Lunar calendar nor the "Taiwanese brand" of religious beliefs that requires visits to temples to worship relatives or certain gods, to pray for good fortune, or the burning of paper money or objects for relatives in the afterlife. Nor does it seem appropriate to celebrate or observe Canadian customs in Taiwan.

I guess they don't feel the need to follow or adhere to any particular customs. This is most certainly not a reflection on their interest in Taiwanese culture or traditions, because they in fact collect Taiwanese artifacts, promote Taiwanese cultural traditions and are well versed in Taiwan's history. I wonder they'd say about my observation?

In Taiwan you can catch the news practically 24 hours a day. There’s news in the morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night. Stories are aired and re-aired. As a result I think people become overly engrossed in the latest story and the graveness of the story may even be blown out of proportion. The other day I was stricken by how confrontational and negative the news coverage in Taiwan can be. The media in Taiwan is not unique in this respect.

Friday’s top story: Seven newborns requiring hepatitis B immunizations were accidentally injected with Atracrium, a muscle relaxant. One had already died, but the parents of the remaining six unfortunate babies weren’t being clearly informed of their baby’s status. Shortly after the story broke, the characteristic aggressive coverage began. The play by play updates began, how many babies remained, what were their conditions, parents were asked to comment, and the clinical director made a statement. He said that each family involved would be offered NT$100,000 in compensation. To me these initial comments reflect the shortsightedness of many Taiwanese people and the lack of value placed on human life. I haven’t heard about any outcries from families or parents regarding the appropriateness or inappropriateness of offering monetary compensation. I think that such a statement would hardly be seen as appropriate or helpful at such a delicate time. Early investigations indicate that the muscle relaxants and hepatitis B vaccines were kept in the same freezer and that a nurse accidentally administered the muscle relaxants instead of hepatitis B vaccines. But I haven’t heard anything discussion about suspension or disciplinary action against this nurse.

There was a cloud of secrecy; parents were being kept in the dark about their infant’s condition. As I flipped through different channels, practically every channel was reporting on the same story and airing similar footage. At this point, I threw up my hands in the air. And being in particularly cynical frame of mind, I thought, here we go again… I know what’s doing to come next, tonight there will be a panel discussion by so called “experts” on the incident, but no concise resolution or reform of hospital procedures will come about. Pessimistic as it may to say this, I have observed that all too often the HOT topics in Taiwan get over reported and discussed, and we never hear about the solutions or outcomes. There are so many stories that get overexposed and discussed with no strong resolution. What ever happened to the KMT politician who was recently murdered, What ever happened to the opposition’s recent challenges regarding whether the current flag (which is also the flag of the KMT party) used by the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) truly represents the Republic of China?

Is it simply that people do not have enough resolve to implement a solution, or that the press simply does not report on reforms or outcomes because those stories don’t have novelty or tragic shock value? Too many of these hot topics seem to have fallen by the wayside as the public gets distracted by the next story.

I suppose that it’s not unusual that people seem unusually engrossed in shocking, tragic human stories. But it’s frustrating to see the media’s predictable reporting format, which doesn’t seem to yield any satisfactory results. I sometimes hope that the media could be an impetus for change, but then again, who ever expected the media to solve society’s problems?

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

I'm finally somewhat caught up on my postings. To see what's up read back through September.