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 08, 2003

Most mornings, on my way out I ride the elevator down alone, but the other day, the elevator stopped some 10 floors after I had gotten on and a mother and her son got on. The cute, little scrawny boy looked as though he couldn’t have been much older than 6 or 7. He looked like he hadn’t fully emerged from his sleepy state and he moved in a sleep-like fashion with eyes half closed. He propped himself against his backpack against the elevator wall in front of me, slumped over, limp and lifeless like a rag doll, his head nodded and his eyes bulged, heavy with sleep. Closing off the world around him… Looking at this kid, you would really have thought that the weight of the world was on his shoulders. As I stole glances at the little boy, I couldn’t help but empathize. I am a hopelessly incurable night owl and that particular morning was one of those many painful ones I’ve experienced on my way to work, after having gotten less than 5 hours of sleep- it’s too bad I don’t have job that allows me to dictate my working hours, especially the starting hour. This kid personified what I was feeling that morning, so seeing this display just seemed so profoundly striking that morning. I really did pity the poor kid and myself for that matter!

I wonder what keeps kids up late at night these days. I can’t suppose to know what was going on with this little boy, but I wouldn’t find it surprising to learn that most children in Taiwan are for the most part are sleep deprived or have bad sleeping habits. The children in Taiwan have no time for leisure or play. After a full day of school their parents often send them to cram schools for extra study on various subjects (ones that are already taught in school, such as math and especially English) so that their children can “stay ahead” and remain competitive for the entrance exams that they will have to take eventually for high school and university. If you ask me this trend indicates that either the quality of education in schools is substandard or that entrance exam requirements need to be revised. Students should not have to spend so much extra time studying. As a result many students are in school or doing some sort of studying from 7am to 8pm, on average 12 hours a day.

I’ve also seen families out in the night market with their young children at 10 and 11 pm. The Taiwanese take their children everywhere with them. I’ve noticed that there’s no sense of discretion in this matter. I’ve seen parents bring their children with them to smoky bars, or send them out to buy smokes- this is not generally considered inappropriate parenting… or fussy, noisy children- who might be too young for the experience- in restaurants. Family style restaurants haven’t really caught on here. I don’t think that I’ve really figured out the parenting style of people in Taiwan. Sometimes it seems as though anything goes. Especially when I see families of five packed all on one scooter.

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