‘Wavering on a Mountain Path’ Book Review 《山徑躊躇》書評

A woman travels to the east of Taiwan in the wake of her husband’s suicide in an attempt to discover the mystery behind a charitable donation he made before his death. Despite the charitable donation leading to somewhat of a dead end, she decides to stay on in the largely indigenous village. Her son, who suffers from autism, flourishes in this new environment, however her new romantic attachment, an indigenous man who helps her rebuild her house and teaches her son to hunt, may not be all he seems.

Screenshot of Unitas video (see link below)

Through most of the course of reading this book, I was expecting it to make a dramatic revelation, whether about autism, the dodgy dealings of the man she falls in love with in Taitung or the mystery behind her late husband’s charitable donation, but it never came. The book, as readable as it is, rejected my attempts to read it as a crime novel or psychological thriller. Nor does the author feel the need to resolve any of the questions thrown up by the narrative; instead of narrative resolution, the main character achieves a vague sort of spiritual resolution in the end, through the prism of her autistic son.

The book does pose some interesting questions itself, however, about autism, the experience of indigenous people and migrant workers in Taiwan and even about the healthiness of modern urban life.

I first became aware of this novel when the author asked me to translate an excerpt for a short video performance:

The short excerpt he provided, however, was quite different in feel from the novel in its entirety, as it was a brief venture into the mind of the protagonist’s autistic son.

These brief sojourns into an autistic mind (the author uses the term Asperger’s) didn’t capture an autistic voice for me with the convincing style of Mark Haddon’s book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but rather endowed the child with some kind of spiritual mysticism, evoking for me the lasting controversy over the “idiot-savant” portrayal of autism in the film Rain Man.

We spend most of the time in the novel observing the child from the mother’s perspective. At first she resists the diagnosis and seeks out a “cure” or some way to access the “real child” hiding under the façade of the autistic child:

當兒子被診斷確定患有「亞斯伯格症」,男人和自己都深深地被震撼驚嚇了,先想著自己當初究竟有沒有犯了什麼有心或是無意的錯誤,才造成這樣的結果。譬如有人說孩子出生下來接種的某些疫苗,可能會造成嬰兒腦細胞的傷害,因此才造成這樣生來後的缺憾;傅憶平甚至因此對疫苗產生恐懼與懷疑後,聽從某個醫生的建議,採取了所謂「生醫療育」的方法,就是認為留在小麥和乳製品裡的蛋白質,小孩因為接種了某些疫苗的影響,不但無法好好的吸收這些蛋白質,有時還會反過來滲透腸壁,經由血管進入大腦進行破壞。

Whenever her son’s diagnosis with Asperger’s syndrome was confirmed, she and her husband were deeply shaken. First of all they thought of what mistakes they’d made, whether deliberate or accidental, that had resulted in this state of affairs. For example, some people say that when a child is first born and receives certain vaccinations, they can damage the infant’s brain cells, resulting in this regrettable situation after birth; Fu Yi-ping even started to fear vaccinations and on the suggestion of a doctor, she took up ‘biomedical therapy’. This consisted of the belief that after children are vaccinated they are unable to absorb the protein in wheat and milk products, and that sometimes this protein will seep through the wall of the intestine, and cause damage to the brain through the blood vessels.

This worrying anti-vax sentiment isn’t directly challenged throughout the novel, although her husband tries to get her to accept her child:

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Applying for the new format UI number in Taiwan

I applied for the new format UI number, unfortunately the application process was a bit rocky, as the officer who served me didn’t seem to have a clue what he was doing.

Maybe he was super busy, but with no-one in the queue ahead of me for UI renewal (don’t click the normal button on entering the NIA, but the one to update your UI number) I saw him dander around laughing with colleagues and looking bored at his desk for a good ten minutes before he eventually pressed the next number button.

Finally get called up and tell him I’m applying to update my UI number. He tells me I need my passport to update it. Thankfully I’ve had some experience with NIA agents before, so I’d printed out the list of required documents for each category of foreign national:

Resident foreigners do NOT need their passport or a photocopy to apply. I told him I’d read the regulations and they said residents don’t need their passport to apply, and he eventually conceded.

I told him that I’d like to apply to update my Alien’s Digital Certificate at the same time. He tells me that I can’t apply for that until I get my new UI number. This also is incorrect, I inform him, according to an email from the Ministry of the Interior:

您好,因應政府機關將於110年1月2日實施「新式外來人口統一證號專案」,您的外來人口自然人憑證可能會受到影響,相關說明如下:

一、110年1月2日以後,您的自然人憑證可以繼續使用,不會受到影響。

二、如果您有申請換發新式統一證號(1英文+9數字),您的自然人憑證也需要申請換新,才能繼續使用。

建議您在申請新式統一證號時,同時在移民署服務站辦理新的自然人憑證申請(不須要支付費用,但須主動表明並填寫「外來人口重製卡申請書」)。

另外,在移民署核發新式統一證號及本中心核發新的自然人憑證之期程中,您原有的自然人憑證將無法使用,敬請留意。

如有自然人憑證相關問題請電洽內政部自然人憑證客服中心(0800-080-117)。

內政部資訊中心  關心您

Greetings,

Since the government will launch the “New UI No. for Foreign Nationals” program on JAN/2/2021, your Alien Citizen Digital Certificate may also be affected:

After JAN/2/2021, you may continue to use your current Digital Certificates normally. However, if you have applied for the New UI No. (1 Letter+9 Numbers), your Citizen Digital Certificate must also be exchanged and renewed.

We advise foreigners to apply for both “New UI No.” and new “Citizen Digital Certificate” simultaneously at NIA service stations. (No extra fee will be charged. Please declare to NIA officers and fill out “Certificate Re-issuance Application Form for Foreigners.”)

Please also note that, during the issuing process of New UI No. and new Citizen Digital Certificate, your original Citizen Digital Certificate will not be available for use.

For any Citizen Digital Certificate related inquiries, please contact MOICA’s customer service: 0800-080-117.Information Center, Ministry of the Interior


Eventually he realizes that I can apply for both, but he struggles with the forms in front of him, and occasionally calls out slightly unnerving questions to colleagues, like, “Do I delete all his National Insurance Data?”

After a considerable amount of fiddling around, and the help of two colleagues, he eventually prints out a receipt with which I can receive my new ARC in two weeks. On closer inspection, however, the name on the form (and presumably the ID) is not mine. It’s some random American that the guy had been using as a reference for how to fill out my form.

Another ten minutes or so fumbling and then I eventually get a receipt with my name on it (time will tell if it’s actually my ID number), and he recruits another staff member to help him do the Digital Alien Certificate bit.

Will update if I’m successful, and will see if foreigners can now register for stuff that was impossible before.

You can check your UI history at the NIA website here.

Note: Employment Gold Card holders can apply for the new UI number online here, but the process is all in Chinese (even in the English section of their website).

There’s more information here (in Chinese) on what impact applying for the new UI number will have on other ministries.

What you have to do after applying for the new UI number:

Among the most important is to report the change in your ID number to the company which is providing you with labour insurance (your employer) or send this form to the Labour Insurance Bureau.

You also need to report the change to the post office if you have an account with them.

You can opt not to update your NHI card with your new number, but if you do wish to update it, you’ll have to pay a NT$200 fee.

You don’t have to tell your bank, as they will get the information directly from the MOI.

UPDATE: When I looked at my application to remake the Citizen Digital Certificate, contrary to the email I received from MOICA stating it was free of charge, it prompted me to make a payment. I called the helpline (you have to pretend to be Taiwanese to get through to a customer representative) and they changed my status so that I no longer had to make a payment. The customer service lady and her manager were quite helpful, and said that you have to make sure you emphasize “free-of-charge” when applying at immigration, and adjusted the form so that the fee was no longer required.

UPDATE 2: Have received my Alien Digital Certificate, so far have only had trouble logging into the Health Ministry website and the other government websites do not seem to have access to my data held under the previous ARC number. Will see if this changes once I receive the new APRC and send a copy to my employer.

UPDATE 3: Have received my new ARC with all information present and correct and the old number on the back.

What is it good for?

So far the new format isn’t even recognized by the Ministry of Health’s online services.

Registration on the Chinese version of the TRA website is also limited to Taiwanese nationals for some reason. Foreign residents can book tickets online using their passport number, but not create accounts. Not sure what the reason behind this is?

It seems, “format and compatibility issues” was a cover for, many services are not granted to foreign residents of Taiwan. The TRA and the HSR have a workaround with passport numbers being an alternative for foreigners regardless of residency, but only the HSR allows you to register as a member. But the real question seems to be why we’ve switched one incompatible ID number for another at presumably great cost to the taxpayer, without any real benefits.

If you’ve found an elusive benefit to the new UI format please let me know in the comments!

Postcode Changes in Taiwan 3 + 2 -> 3 + 3

Postcodes in Taiwan changed in Match of this year from a 3 + 2 format (eg. 10058) to a 3 + 3 format (eg. 100013). If you want to make sure to get your parcel, make sure you find out your new postcode on this site:

The site has pretty simple pull down options (in Chinese) to select your city/county and district/township. You’ll have to find your street in the pull down menu, or if you use the second box, just type in your street and select the section.

The results will look something like this:

「雙」 refers to even numbers, 「單」to odd numbers and 「全」 is all numbers (both even and odd), 「以上」 is above and inclusive of, while 「以下」 is below and inclusive of. So for example, the first entry is “even numbers 96 and below on Yanping South Road”. If you’re road has sections, this will be listed under 「段號」 (section no.), while the third is “odd numbers from 87 to (至) 117.

Using Characters to Detect Chinese Phishing Threats in Taiwan

Image by ShiiftyShift

OK, I swear I didn’t click anything… but had to sit through a cyber security lecture on phishing at work. The most interesting part of the largely common-sense lecture though was how you can spot social engineering emails through the accidental use of irregular hybrids of simplified and traditional characters and terms more commonly used in China and not in common use in Taiwan.

In the video they say some of these hybrids are “simplified characters” but many of them attempt to disguise themselves as traditional characters unsuccessfully.

I thought I’d point out some of the examples used below:

「大家可以登入健康信息統計系統提交……」

So in Taiwan you rarely here the term 「信息」 at all, and even less in the context of personal health data, whereas 「健康資料」or 「健康資訊」 are much more common. The term「健康訊息」 is also common but refers more to information about health, rather than one’ s own health data. One way to check this is to Google the terms in quote marks and check out the sources of the web pages and the context in which the terms are used.

“健康信息” returns mostly articles from Chinese media, like Xinhua and the People’s Daily in a context very similar to that used in the Phishing email:

Whereas with “健康資料” the first results you’ll see are from Taiwanese government’s health app and Taiwanese universities. The first one is also a 系統 like we saw in the Phishing email:

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Applying for quarantine subsidy in Taiwan

Photo by Kalyan Chakravarthy under Creative Commons 2.0 license

A friend recently came to Taiwan and completed their quarantine without a hitch. They were a little confused by the conflicting information about the NT$1000/day subsidy though, whether or not they were eligible and how to apply.

Eligibility requirements:

  1. In receipt of a quarantine notice
  2. Applications must be made AFTER completing quarantine
  3. No rule breaking during quarantine
  4. Not in receipt of salary or other compensation during quarantine period
  5. Have not departed Taiwan on an unnecessary trip* to another country or region with a level 3 warning from March 17 onwards. (necessary trips include siblings weddings and funerals of relatives to third degree (incl. aunts, uncles, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren) and business trips.)
  6. Filled out your quarantine notice information accurately and completely.
  7. Taiwanese nationals and ARC/resident visa holders can apply for the subsidy, while foreigners without residence cannot (from June 17 onwards).

Note: If you enter on a resident visa that you subsequently swap for an ARC and your period of quarantine overlaps with the period of residence with the resident visa you can still collect the subsidy.

If you’re still not sure, you can check your eligibility by calling the 1957 hotline.

Applying in person:

To apply in person you need to go to the counter of the District Office (區公所) of the district in which you completed your quarantine. If your quarantine hotel was in Wanhua, for example, you’d have to apply here:
10-12F, No.120, Sec. 3, Heping W. Rd., Wanhua Dist., Taipei City 108, Taiwan (R.O.C.).
Tel: 886-2-2306-4468 https://whdo.gov.taipei/

You’ll need your ARC, your passport and evidence of no income (unless you’re a student).

Applying online:

You can only apply online if you’ve already got a Taiwanese bank account. You should have your passport and ARC handy.

Open this website in Chrome:

Click on the green box 「隔離檢疫者防疫補償申請」 (apply for quarantine subsidy).

On the next page, it will ask you to tick a box, showing that you’ve read the terms and conditions and that you will provide accurate information. Then you follow the remaining prompts to fill in your personal info (maybe get a Taiwanese friend to help if your Chinese isn’t up to it).

If anyone has more accurate information on this process, feel free to send it to me so I can update the post!

There are six stages and once you’ve submitted your application, you can click the yellow box above to check on your application status or make alterations.

Temple Guys Get Gogo

My friend sent me this video which I thought was definitely worth sharing. We’re used by now to seeing scantily clad women dancing as part of traditional temple culture, but now the Homei Fute Temple (和美福德宮) in Changhua County is apparently appealing to a new demographic. Not sure if the new demographic is obasans or young gay guys, but I’m impressed:

I thought the funniest thing is when one of the older guys made as if he was going to join them on the trucks.

You can check out more of the fun and games on Instagram here (check out the guy’s story while it’s still up) and here.

Update:
Apple Daily have put out an article about it now too with more details. The article seems to be implying that the target audience is old ladies as opposed to the gays. I found something interesting in some of the quotes in the article (taken from Facebook):

「都是阿罵(嬤)在搶第一排」、「真的!很少看到阿罵拍的那麼高興」
“The front-row is full of old ladies”, “Really! It’s rare to see all the old ladies filming so happily”

The interesting part of this is humorous borrowing of 罵 (to curse/to scold) to form 「阿罵」(Mandarin: ā mà) in place of 「阿嬤」(Mandarin: ā mā) to try and replicate the sound of the Taiwanese: a-má (as the ma has a falling tone in Taiwanese).

Memes in the Closet in Taiwan

I’ve met quite a lot of LGBT people in Taiwan who haven’t come out to their parents or whose parents refuse to acknowledge that they have come out. Everybody has different circumstances and given the low-level of wages, and the fact that it’s often hard for young adults to be financially independent of their parents, I understand why many feel they can’t come out.

If you’ve got friends in the closet or with parents not ready to get to grips with reality, then these memes from the Taiwan Hotline celebrating the release of 400 scene images from Studio Ghibli, will definitely resonate.

But you’re so young, are you sure you’re really gay? (Meme by Taiwan Hotline)
Stop asking whether I’m a man or a woman! (Meme by Taiwan Hotline)
I’ve told you already, you can’t catch HIV from just touching! (Meme by Taiwan Hotline)

The next one was my favourite, as it involves the age-old practice of 相親 (xiāngqīn) – whereby your parents try to pair you off with sons or daughters of their friends or friends of friends. This is a pain even for a lot of the straight people I know, as the dates are usually the nerdy studious type. For LBGT people this can be torture, as you have to put on the charade of being straight just so word doesn’t get back to your parents, and get the balance right between “I tried” and being boring so they don’t like you:

Don’t ask me to go on any more dates with sons of your friends! (Meme by Taiwan Hotline)
Bugger off, Family Guardian Coalition*! (Meme by Taiwan Hotline)

*護家盟 (the Family Guardian Coalition) are a group of organizations which are opposed to same-sex marriage legislation under the guise of “protecting family values”.

You can find all their memes, complete with the ones I didn’t really “get” here:

Taiwan Slang: 𨑨迌/企投 Rolling with the Homies 被ㄠ/被凹 Forced into or Taken Advantage of

In retrospect, I was perhaps a little harsh on the Commute For Me (台灣通勤第一品牌) podcast, as it has grown on me in the time since I penned this blog on Chinese-language podcasts from Taiwan. The interview style is quite intimate and discussions are quite frank, although you have to keep up to know who and what they’re talking about, as they don’t give their guests much of an intro.

Anyway, I was listening to their interview of hip hop artist Chunyan 春艷 and it was an interesting conversation about his life as an introvert in different subcultures (temple gangs, graffiti art, hip hop). More importantly, there was quite a lot of Mandarin-Taiwanese code-mixing, which is always fun.

I’ve listed some of the phrases below, although there were a lot more.

One of the most interesting was 𨑨迌 (normally the characters 企投 are borrowed to represent the sound):

𨑨迌 chhit-thô, which literally means to play or “遊玩” in Mandarin, but in the context of this conversation means getting up to no good in a gang context (what gang banging meant before porn redefined it), commonly referred to as “混” (hùn) in Mandarin:

“其實那裡就是不挑人 說真的 但我不能說這是陣頭 它只是一個𨑨迌(chhit-thô)”
(Actually, they are not selective at all about people to be honest. But I’m not saying that this is really a temple parade (zhentou), it’s just messing around with gangs.)
Listen here from 43:49

被ㄠ/被凹 phē au is an interesting one because the Mandarin and Taiwanese are similar enough that the bei is often pronounced in Mandarin, with the au being pronounced in Taiwanese. It means being forced into things or taken advantage of or “被勉強” in Mandarin.

你那時候去是有被挺的感覺
更多的時候是你要挺
對啊,因為是互相的 所有別的人來的時候你就要挺他
所以有時候會覺得被凹,對不對
挺你一而已 不過你要挺他五
(-So when you went there, you felt they had you back
-More often it’s you that has to have their back
-Yes, because it’s mutual, so anyone who came there, you had to have their backs
-So sometimes you’d feel forced into things, right?
-They have your back over something trivial, but you have to have theirs over something really serious)
Listen here from 44:51

Another example is captured here in people trying to get engineers to reformat their computers for free (found on a jobs page on Facebook):

(Tell us how people try and take advantage of your profession!
“You’re a doctor? You have time to do me a favor and take out this tumor, right?”
“You just have to talk right, why don’t you just do me a favor and argue my lawsuit for me! It’s pretty easy for you as a lawyer, no?”
“You’re an engineer, right? Can you fix my computer for me? You wouldn’t charge a friend though, right?”)

Other bits and pieces I thought were fun, was the use of the Taiwanese word for temple (宮kiong) in the context of a Mandarin sentence to indicate that the temple here stands in for gang affiliation – although it’s not explicit. The other one was a phrase I’ve heard a lot but couldn’t quite pin down. Looking it up in dictionaries, it is defined as “to stand up” but 徛起來(khiā-khí-lâi) seemed to imply being worked or hyped up here, which is why it stuck with me more.

kiong

我們這個(kiong)跟另外一個(kiong)的一個年輕人 有人有衝突,然後聽說等一下會有人來處理這件事情。
(A young person from our temple got into a conflict with someone from another temple, and some people were coming in a bit to sort things out.
Listen here from 28:46

徛起來(khiā-khí-lâi)

那我朋友就說,我要去打
不要啦
我要去我要去
他那時候就整個徛起來(khiā-khí-lâi)
我要去我要去
(My friend said, I wanna go fight
Don’t
I wanna go, I wanna go
He’d already gotten all worked up at that point
I wanna go, I wanna go)
Listen here from 29:09

Any additional suggestions welcome!

You can see the rap battle they repeatedly reference here:

The Ko Wen-je collab here:


And more of Chunyan’s music here.

Use your Citizen Digital Certificate to View your Labour Insurance Data on App

Another day another government app. Unlike the NHI app, you need an Alien Citizen Digital Certificate to authenticate the Labour Insurance Mobile Services App ( Google Play / Apple Store ) where you can see how long you’ve been covered under government labour insurance and if you’re registered under the government pension scheme (APRC holders).

It is likely more use to citizens than to foreigners, as I only had data listed under one field (labour insurance coverage) but useful to know how to access as legislation continues to change.

So if you’ve already got your Alien Citizen Digital Certificate and a card reader installed, navigate to the Labour Insurance Bureau’s e-desk website, which looks as below after you close the pop-up on the initial screen:

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Taiwan Podcasts 聽台灣播客(Podcast)

Podcasts have really taken off over the last couple of years but Chinese-language podcasts from Taiwan have been rather limited, with most just being radio segments repackaged for podcast platforms. However, recently more have taken off, so I thought I’d feature them here and you can feel free to share more in the comments section! I’ve focused on Chinese-language podcasts here, although there are also an increasing amount of English-language podcasts too.

Ghost Island Media:

大麻煩不煩 (In the Weeds with Lawyer Zoe Lee):
This is a great intro into Taiwan’s weed landscape, informing people of their rights in terms of getting stopped and searched by police, what to do if you’re arrested, and the progress of efforts to legalize weed in Taiwan for medical or other uses. (Links to different platforms listed on site)
5/5 Recommended

台灣通勤第一品牌 (Commute For Me):
Haven’t heard much of this and it seems a little disorganized, but the first episode explores Chinese-language slang across the Taiwan Strait. It seems to feature a lot of in-jokes and the hosts laughing at how funny they are.
Spotify
Apple Podcast
Soundcloud

股癌 GooAye
Stock podcast. Structured well and brings in a lot of cultural and movie references. 5/5 Recommended
Spotify
Apple Podcast
YouTube

Firstory Lab 最偏激的Podcast
Tried one episode which consisted of a group of guys making fun of the way a female host spoke. Maybe it gets better if you listen from the start?

If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments section below!

Readers Recommend (Update):
WetBoys 潤男的Room recommended by Erik K. (NSFW mens issues)
百靈果 Bailingguo News (bilingual news podcast) and Spotify Podcast Chart recommended by Matthew Ryan
馬力歐陪你喝一杯 DrinkWithMario recommended by William Peregoy (Interviews)
美食關鍵詞 Taster Life recommended by 三qtwn