Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Year's Monster


It's kind of late to be putting this up, but I forgot to do it earlier so here it goes.

One of my last duties as a kindergarten teacher was to play the part of the New Year's Monster in a play about the origins of the Chinese New Year holiday. All I had to do was don the mask (pictured above next to Hello Kitty) and run out at appropriate times and scare the kiddies--but not too much. All the kids were wearing red, a color that I, as the monster, was supposed to be afraid of.

When the appointed time came I ran out from a side room and swooped in on the kids. They were screaming hysterically, even though the only disguise I had was that mask. All the other clothes I was wearing were exactly the same as when I'd been teaching them fifteen minutes earlier. Still, they have an amazing capacity for suspending disbelief at that age.

I couldn't see a damned thing except through the mouth hole, and even that was a big blur because I was trying to move as much like a monster as I could. All I really remember seeing is one of the baby class (kids 1-3 years old) looking up at me with his mouth and eyes wide open SCREAMING as if I was dangling him over a pot of boiling oil. It surprised me so much that I almost fell over, but instead bid a hasty retreat in order to avoid being jailed for causing a child to die of cardiac arrest.

I just wish I had a picture of that face. Unfortunately the best I can do for now is show the mask I wore.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Food Street

My apartment is near Tsing Hua University, and in addition is a generally busy area. Because of this, or maybe as a result of it, there are a lot of food stands and restaurants.I usually refer to the area as "food street."When my friend was here during Chinese New Year, most of the shops were closed, so it was kind of strange to me, and not a very typical experience of the area for him.As you can see in the above picture, there are still a lot of scooters parked along the street, but normally there are cars double and triple parked all up and down the road, and there are hundreds of people milling around.
The picture above is of a typical fruit stand in Taiwan, also located near my home.As you can see from the above picture, not all of the shops are traditional. Convenience stores in Taiwan are extremely common--I even lived on a street that had two 7-elevens directly across from each other.One of the first meals my friend had in Taiwan was at a dumpling shop near my apartment. We had a couple cokes and some steamed dumplings.There are a lot of different kinds of dumplings in Taiwan: steamed, boiled (shui jiao), and fried (guo tie, aka potstickers), just to name a few.You can also get other kinds of food in my neighborhood. The restaurant above has Italian food.Here I am at the teppan yakki restaurant.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Watch That First Step. It's a Doozy.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Visit from Home: The Allure of the Bin Lan Culture



One of the first things my friend Bernie and I did when he came to visit me here in Hsinchu, Taiwan, was to stop by a Betel Nut stand and buy some "Taiwan chewing gum." I won't go into too much detail about what Betel Nut (bin lan) is, as I'm sure there is a lot of better information somewhere out there, but suffice it to say that betel nut is a kind of palm seed that people in Taiwan (and I assume other Southeast Asian countries) chew to get a kind of buzz. It is sold in small stands all over the place, and the people selling it are often scantily-clad young women.



When Bernard was looking into information about Taiwan, he came across some stuff about the betel nut girls, so when he got here, he was interested in seeing what that was all about, as well as in trying betel nut to see what it is like. I, on the other hand, had never heard of betel nut before I came here, so my reaction to the whole thing was more one of surprise than interest. For me, and I think this is true of most foreign males in Taiwan, the main point of interest is the girls. I don't mean to sound lecherous about it, but any warm-blooded heterosexual man has trouble ignoring cute, 90% naked young women.



I'd tried betel nut a couple of times before, but it never really did much for me. Probably because when I tried it I had been drinking a bit and that disguised the effects. After chewing it a few times during Bernard's visit, however, I've developed a taste for it, as well as for the ear-warming body buzz that comes with it.



One thing that always strikes me as odd about the whole betel nut culture is the contrast between the "bin lan beauties" who sell the product, and the people who buy and use the product. These guys are often heavy-set, usually come from the lower economic levels (i.e., the laboring class), have a relatively low level of education, are somewhat lacking in the social graces, and generally strike a sharp visual contrast with the cute little platform shoe wearing underwear girls who sit all day and night in their brightly lit booths.



Chewing bin lan is like chewing tobacco in that the chewer has to continuously spit. Bin lan "juice" is red, and it looks somewhat like blood. In fact, a lot of people--myself included--thought that the red splotches all over the streets and sidewalks were blood from car accidents. People who chew the stuff a lot have really bad teeth, and they look like they have been feasting on raw meat because their teeth and lips are all red (the teeth that haven't already either fallen out or turned black).



I have to back up a little here and say that not all people who chew betel nut are gross. I mean, some people chew it discreetly and don't just spit the stuff all over the place. Still, there is a certain social stigma associated with it which is not completely undeserved.



You might notice that most of the photos I have here are kind of timid. That's because most of the time the girls don't like to be photographed. We even asked one girl if we could take her picture, and she got a kind of scared look on her face and told us we couldn't. She didn't mind me sitting in her chair while Bernie took my photo, however.



I heard a story that at one time the betel nut beauties wore even less clothing than they do now. I even heard they were buck naked, but they were causing too many car accidents, so they had to start wearing g-strings and stuff.



Truth be told, most of the girls don't have very good figures. They are generally too skinny for my taste, and are somewhat lacking in the curvature department. Also, you have to wonder about the personality of someone who chooses to make a living by using her body to entice men to buy a product that is known to be unhealthy. I don't mean to sound judgmental; everyone who works for a living prostitutes him or herself in some way. It is not any different than models who pose for beer ads, but I believe there is a matter of degree that can be considered. After all, a model sits for a few hours one time to make an ad; these girls sit in those booths all day. I'm not making a moral distinction. I just wonder what kind of mental state these girls are in. At least they are supposedly well paid.



You can see that when it comes to betel nut and the betel nut culture, most of what I know comes from things I've heard from other people or that I've picked up here and there from blogs and other anecdotal sources. The nature of a blog, I suppose, makes it unnecessary to make a disclaimer like this, but I'd hate for anyone to take my comments as being somehow definitive and reliable.

Let's just say that my friend Bernard and I got a kick out of doing some bin lan chewing during his visit, as well as out of the couple of experiences we had in buying the stuff from the betel nut beauties.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A long and fruitful ten days...


My friend, Bernard Oulette, just left Taiwan bound for Seattle after spending ten days hanging out with me. We had some really great experiences that spanned many of the extremes of Taiwan's diversities.

One day we were watching two people in stuffed animal suits doing some retarded dance in the world's tallest building, and the next day we were high in the mountains visiting a family who make a living by cutting bamboo and whose living conditions, for my lack of a better vocabulary, could be described as "third world."

We rode a spotless high-speed train, and we careened down a rainy mountain side in a bus packed like a sardine can with people (which, by the way, scared the living bejeesus out of both of us, even if the locals seemed to think of it as something of a theme park ride).

We ate weird stuff, and Bernie even had lit candles stuffed into his ears in the middle of a teaming night market.

In the last ten days I've done more and seen more of Taiwan than I have done in the previous four years that I've lived here. On top of that, I had a friend to hang out with, someone with whom I could share these foreign experiences. My ribs actually ached for three days because this was the first time I really laughed uncontrollably in a long time.

I've got a million photos and videos to share, which I hope I'll get online soon, but tonight I am tired and dirty and all twisted up inside about how great it was to have someone from my old life finally come and share part of my new life. Now someone back home (other than my "Taiwan Refugee" friends) will finally have an understanding of what the hell I'm talking about when I visit Seattle.

Thanks, Bernard.

(By the way, I'm sure Bernie will be posting a ton of this shit on his own blog, You Tube, and Yahooh photos site, so check that as well if you feel the urge).

A final note to my friends back home: come and visit. I'll put you up and I'll do my best to show you the "town." Bernie might tell you that I suck as a tour guide, but I still think he got his money's worth out of the trip, and then some. Plus, you'll be helping poor lonely me.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Tallest, and the Foggiest Building in the world

As I mentioned in my previous post, the day before yesterday... I think... Anyway, it was Monday, and we were in Taipei so we decided to go to Taipei 101. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't very good, and the whole top of the building was shrouded in fog. Today Bernie and I have to head out to the mountains to get away from all this city stuff. We are thinking of going to some hot springs, so you can look forward to seeing some pictures of two out-of-shape middle-aged men in bathing suits in an upcoming post.

Travels with Bernie


Hello, dear readers.

What a busy few days it has been. Whew!

Bernard and I have been traveling around Taiwan, trying to get a taste of as much Taiwanese culture as possible before he has to leave.

The picture up there with me next to the word "love" is an art installation just outside of the Taipei 101 building. We went there and had a great time looking at the fog from the highest building in the world. We also got to watch the new mascot of Taipei 101, the Damper Baby (named after the giant wind damper ball suspended in the building that keeps the wind from knocking the building down) do its damper dance. I'll include some film in the near future to make it a little more clear what I'm talking about.

Right now it is late, so I'm not going to post anything else, but once that bastard Bernard gets his lazy, shiftless, no-good ass out of my house, I'll have some time to get some pictures and videos up here for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wo Shi Bin Lan La Mei

I am not going to write much about this picture. Either you've been to Taiwan and you get it, or you haven't been to Taiwan and it is meaningless.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Visit From Home


Bernie's here. Check out his photos.

I'll put some more stuff up here, but we are busy drinking beer and riding on a scooter looking at betel nut girls.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Back In The Ring



I finally have time for boxing again. We'll see how long that lasts once school starts again. For now, I'm enjoying getting back into shape.

You can see more photos onMy Yahoo Photos.

Bad Joke: A Duck Waddles Into a Bar...


A duck waddles into a bar, jumps up onto a barstool, then hops up onto the bar. He looks at the bartender and says, "Got any grapes?"

The bartender, surprised that the duck can talk, replies, "No."

The duck wheels around, hops from the bar to a stool, then jumps down off the stool, and waddles out of the bar.

The next day, the duck waddles into the bar again, jumps up on a barstool, hops onto the bar, looks at the bartender and says, "Got any grapes?"

The bartender, not so surprised this time, replies, "No we don't."

The duck wheels around, hops from the bar to a stool, then jumps down off the stool, and waddles out of the bar.

The next day, the duck waddles into the bar again, jumps up on a barstool, hops onto the bar, looks at the bartender and says, "Got any grapes?"

By this time, the bartender is getting pretty annoyed, so he says, "No, we don't have any grapes, and if you ask me that again I'm going to nail your feet to the bar."

The duck wheels around, hops from the bar to a stool, then jumps down off the stool, and waddles out of the bar.

The next day, the duck waddles into the bar again, jumps up on a barstool, hops onto the bar, looks at the bartender and says, "Got any nails?"

The bartender, caught off guard, stammers, "Uh... no. No we don't."

The duck says, "Got any grapes?"

El Subjuntivo en Mi Escuela Secundaria

El Subjuntivo en Mi Escuela Secundaria

Ojalá que hubiera trabajado más duro cuando estaba en la escuela secundaria. En esos días no pensaba que la escuela fuera muy importante. Ahora lamento que yo creía en éste. Deseo que mis amigos y yo hubiéramos estudiado más. En aquel tiempo estábamos más interesado en los novios, la música, y la moda. Es ridículo que se conciernen los jóvenes con cosas tan tontas, pero no pienso que pueden resistirlos. Es bueno que no entrara en drogas u otras cosas malas. No recibí notas muy malas, pero sé que podía recibir notas mas buenas. Mi madre esperó que mejorara. Sin embargo, es natural que los jóvenes ignoran los consejos de sus padres. Mi madre me dijo que buenas notas me ayudaría en el futuro. A mí no me pareció que buenas notas estarían tan importante en mi vida. Dudaba que fuera a la universidad, pero después de que cumplí escuela secundaria, me di cuenta de que requería más educación. Ahora creo que nunca es demasiado tarde para educar a sí mismo.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

REPORTE DE NOTICIAS DE ESPAÑA

Here are some more news reports in Spanish. This time they are from Spain instead of Mexico. Again, this was from 1996, so the news is not particularly current.

REPORTE DE NOTICIAS DE ESPAÑA
10-1-96
1. CUMBRE EN WASHINGTON
El presidente norte americano, Bill Clinton, les ha convocado a el primer ministro de Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Yasser Arafat el líder Palestino, y el Rey Hussein de Jordan para tratar de salvar el proceso de paz tras los violentos enfrentamientos de la semana pasada. La ausencia del presidente de Egipto, Hosni Mubarek, es raro con respecto a la importancia de esta conferencia. La intención de la cumbre es para restituir el proceso de paz en el oeste medio, pero en este momento los líderes están más separados que nunca. Se comenzaron los disturbios con la decisión del Gobierno de Israel de habilitar un viejo túnel entre ciertos sitios santos.

2. VACA VIOLENCIA
Unos trescientos ganaderos han manifestado en frente de el ministerio de agricultura para protestar contra la superproducción de leche. Los ganaderos tiraron leche al policía y trataron de traer cuatro vacas en el ministerio de agricultura. Como resultado de los disturbios, cuatro policías sufrieron heridos leves.

3. España en el décimo puesto de la FIFA
España ha caído tres puestos y se ha colocado e la décima posición en la clasificación de la Federación Internacional de Fútbol o FIFA. El primer puesto lo ocupa Brasil, seguido de Alemania y Francia.

Videos on You Tube

I just thought I do a little explaining about the old videos I'm posting.

I bought a digital camera about four years ago. I really didn't use it much at all for the first year or so I had it, but then I found out about You Tube through my pal Bernard, and I got interested in shooting small video clips and posting them so that my friends and family could see what I was up to.

Now I have almost three hundred clips on You Tube, but not many people look at them (just as not many people look at this blog). I'm hoping to develop some kind synergy between You Tube and Blogger.

Anyway, that's why I'm doing it, so if you regularly check my blog, you will see one or two videos posted per week. I'm starting with the oldest ones first, and then working up to the newest ones. Some I may not post, as they are useless. Others I might post together.

Who knows?

The possibilities are.... more than one.

The Gang at Granny's

This is the first video I ever shot with my (then) new Sony Cybershot. It was July 1, 2003.

We were staying at a small house in Hsinchu that I was promised I could live in rent free. Because of this, I gave up the really cool apartment I had. I went home for a month that summer, and when I came back I was told that the house was no longer available. I was homeless.

The people in the pictures are, in order of appearance, me, a young woman named Melanie, my friend Wes, another friend Brigit, and a guy named Zack. We were hanging out and having a couple of beers before everyone left Taiwan for the summer.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Subscribe to Me!

Hi.

I just figured out that you can subscribe to my blog and have the entries listed on your Yahoo homepage (and I assume in other ways), just like the news or something.

All you have to do is go to the bottom of my page where it says Subscribe to: Posts (Atom), click on the link, and then figure out how you want to subscribe.

I set it up on my "My Yahoo" page just to see how it works.

Pretty narcissistic, huh?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bad Joke: Give The Frog A Loan


A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. He can see from her nameplate that her name is Patricia Whack.

The frog croaks, "Miss Whack, I'd like to take out a $30,000 loan so that I can go on a holiday."

Patty looks at the frog in disbelief and asks his name. The frog says his name is Kermit Jagger, the amphibious son of singer Mick Jagger, and he goes on to say that he knows the bank manager.

Miss Whack explains that he will need to secure the loan with some collateral.

The frog says, "Sure. I have this," and produces a tiny porcelain elephant, about an inch tall, bright pink and perfectly formed.

Very confused, Patty explains that she'll have to consult with the bank manager, and disappears into a back office.

She finds the manager and says, "There's a frog named Kermit Jagger out there who claims to know you and wants to borrow $30,000. He wants to use this as collateral."

She holds up the tiny pink elephant. "I mean, what in the world is this?"

The bank manager looks back at her and says...

"It's a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."

Cambie al pasado

5/1/96
APLICACIÓN
Cambie al pasado

1. Un crimen reciente.

Presente

A Jacinto le preocupa que los detectives no hayan encontrado todavía una pista que seguir y se extraña de que el criminal no haya dejado huellas. Piensa que no se trata de un suicidio, sino de un crimen, y se alegra de que la policía esté de acuerdo en esto.

Le da lástima que esa bella joven haya muerto y espera que capturen pronto al culpable. Teme que haya otra víctima si el asesino no es capturado en seguida. Además, le molesta que no se haga justicia.


Pasado

A Jacinto le preocupaba que los detectives no hubieran encontrado todavía una pista que seguir y se extrañaba de que el criminal no hubiera dejado huellas. Pensó que no se trató de un suicidio, sino de un crimen, y se alegraba de que la policía estuviera de acuerdo en esto.

Le da lástima que esa bella joven haya muerto y espera que capturen pronto al culpable. Teme que haya otra víctima si el asesino no es capturado en seguida. Además, le molesta que no se haga justicia.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A little bit proud, a little bit afraid

I am kind of proud of myself right now. It is Saturday evening, about twenty past six. Right about six o'clock, a jackhammer started somewhere on my street. Now, the ridiculous traffic is still my biggest complaint about life in Taiwan, but noise is a close second (you can see a few of my noise posts, like this rant about noise and this complaint that I live in the noisiest place on earth). Usually all I do is complain to people about how noisy it is, but this time I decided to take action.

First of all, a little justification for why I felt that using a jackhammer at this time was out of bounds:

Number one - Saturday is not a work day. If one desires to do home improvement work, one should do so during hours when one's neighbors can reasonably be expected to be away from home at their jobs.

Number two - Six o'clock is after normal business hours, which again suggests that if one begins to do noisy home improvement work at this time, it is likely that one's neighbors will be home and will be bothered by said noise.

Number three - I have had at least four beers, and after six months of continuous jackhammer repairs and reconstruction being done on neighboring apartments, I have finally had enough of this bullshit.

My course of action: I put on some pants (luckily I thought to do so) and walked out onto my street to find out where the noise was coming from. I soon found it about three units down the street. A guy was pulverizing the sidewalk leading up to the (illegally extended) doorway of a ground floor apartment. He was bent over his jackhammer and didn't even see me coming. I plunged the kitchen knife repeatedly into his back as the blood spurted up onto my face, chest, and arms...

... uh....

Actually, that didn't happen. What did happen was I said, "Hey! What the fuck?" and I pointed to my watch when he looked up. I went on to say, "Do you know what time it is?" Of course he didn't understand a word I said, but he got the gist. Then I said in my best Mandarin, "Xian zai bu neng," which means something like, "You can't do this now." He replied with, "Bu neng dao," which sounded good enough for me, so I turned and stalked off. Just before I went back into my apartment, I realized I would rather he didn't know exactly where I live, so I took a detour and wandered around the park for a few minutes.

Now I'm back home, happily and safely typing away on my computer. I finally took control of my life. I finally did something, instead of just whining about my problems. I feel a little euphoric, but there is a little twinge of fear nagging at me. I'm a stranger in a strange land. I'm easily recognizable in a country that is 99.99% Chinese-looking. If I offend someone--righteously or not--and he or she decides to get me back, there is little I can do to protect myself.

I have to say that it is a really weird feeling to live in a country where I'm illiterate and can't really speak enough of the language to negotiate any kind of serious situation on my own. I can't even call the police or medical services if there is an emergency (I tried once when one of my neighbors went crazy and attacked me--the police never came). After living as a white, middle-class male in the United States for the first thirty-six years of my life, it is a truly eye-opening experience to be the marginalized minority of society. Of course, I still have about two or three times the earning power as most of the people around me, so it isn't like I'm living in an impoverished situation, but when it comes to having control over my environment, I'm at a definite disadvantage.

Not that I'm complaining... at least not any more than usual. I'm just pointing out how helpless I feel sometimes. But, hey, it is my choice to be here, right?

Friday, February 09, 2007

That Which Up I Am Giving

Well, that's a grammatically awkward title, if it I do myself say.

Anyway, today was my last day at kindergarten, and it was a little, itsy, bitsy, tiny bit sad. They actually threw me a surprise party and gave me some nice gifts, and I have to say that I was touched. I will miss a couple of the kids, and the teachers, too (even though in the year-and-a-half that I worked there I barely exchanged a dozen words with any of them due to the language barrier).

Here is a little video of playtime:


I'd also like to note that despite my previous posts that paint a negative picture of Taiwan's kids, parents, and education system, it really isn't that bad. I guess I'm just a malcontent, and I always try to pick apart the problems with things. I never mean to imply that things are any worse in Taiwan than they are elsewhere. It just happens that I am here, so this is the place that I take aim at (the place at which I take aim?).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yet another.... REPORTE DE NOTICIAS DE MÉXICO

REPORTE DE NOTICIAS DE MÉXICO
5-1-96

1. Hubo numerosas manifestaciones en el distrito federal y en el interior de la república para conmemorar el Día del Trabajo.

2. Los primeros indicios de que la economía de México comienza recuperarse en forma moderada han llegado, según el presidente Ernesto Zedillo.

3. En un entrevista Yassir Arafat, presidente palestino, dijo “Esperamos muchos de los Estados Unidos y no renunciaremos a Jerusalén como capital palestina.”

4. Hubo pánico en el metro de la Ciudad de México cuando un incendio provocó lesiones en veinte personas en la línea nueve.

5. Un avión que estaba transportando jugadores del fútbol brasileños chocó. Nadie se murió en el accidente.

6. En Roma el cantante Sting ejecutó en festividades del Día del Trabajo.

7. En Berlín hubo manifestaciones violentas sobre la ocupación ilegal de unos edificios por inmigrantes. Las fuerzas de la policía respondieron con cánones de agua.

[Porque esta transmisión era un programa especial del Día del Trabajo, se dedicó mucho tiempo a fragmentos de película muy breves de marchas y manifestaciones que ocurrieron en muchos países del mundo. Puesto que cada uno de estas historias breves era básicamente lo mismo, yo sólo incluí a unos de los más extraordinarios. Además, casi la mitad de la transmisión se tomó con una entrevista con Manuel Fraga, presidente de la Xunta de Galicia de España. A causa de esto no estaba tantas noticias como lo usual.]

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Spoiled Parents, Spoiled Kids

I got this quote from an article in the Taipei Times: People born in Taiwan in the 1970s and 1980s are commonly referred to as belonging to the "Strawberry Generation," meaning that they are less able to withstand pressure and that they aren't able to work very hard.

The way the Strawberry Generation was defined to me was that in the old days, the generation of today's grandparents, life was tough. Because of the military dictatorship, there wasn't much class distinction; everyone was pretty much evenly poor. People had to work hard for little benefit. When their children were born, however, things had improved somewhat do to industrialization. The older generation wanted their children to have everything that they hadn't had, and as a result ended up spoiling their kids. Like a strawberry, this younger generation was beautiful, but also easily bruised.

One of the things that led to the strawberry generation was the decrease in family size. Whereas in earlier generations families were quite large, only one or two children became the norm for most families. Because there were so few children, parents and grandparents tended (and still tend) to dote on them, giving them whatever they want, and refusing to ever say, "no!" to them. The result was a generation of people who understandably grew up as selfish brats.

Now the strawberry generation are the ones having children, and the pattern seems to be continuing, with perhaps even worse results. When some of the strawberry generation parents were school children themselves, the education system was fairly harsh as far as discipline goes. Students could be punished in a lot of ways, including psychologically and physically. I've been told that about ten years ago the system was reformed and corporal punishment in the elementary schools was abolished. Many of the parents who grew up in the old system apparently felt that they were physically and psychologically abused as students, so they have done their best to prevent this from happening to their own children.

I think anyone can agree that protecting children from abuse is a good thing. Unfortunately, it seems that the pendulum has swung too far to the other side. Now teachers can get in trouble for simply giving an honest evaluation of a student's poor performance. This is psychological abuse, you see. It makes the student feel bad.

The same is true if a teacher punishes a student for bad behavior. In that case, the teacher is often accused not liking the student, and plotting to get him or her into trouble.

I know this sounds crazy, but I've seen it happening. I've seen the rottenest little brat's mom come to school and complain that the teacher "always picks on my baby." Meanwhile, this child is using vulgar or sexually suggestive language (which, granted he doesn't really understand, but he does understand that it is wrong to use it), disrupting class, harassing other students, and carrying on miscellaneous other bad behavior.

I had a student once that always refused to take part in class, and instead sat there saying, "Shit, shit, shit," over and over. When I made him stand at the front of the class (he initially flatly refused, but I hauled his ass out of his chair and planted him in front of the blackboard), he taped a sign on my back that said, "fool." Well, he got me on that one, but I eventually refused to teach that class while he was in it unless his parent came to see me. When his mother did come, she apologized, but said that he would be good for now on. The brat just smirked at me from behind his mother, knowing that this was as far as things would go and that he would soon be free to return to his usual behavior.

It seems that many parents just can't accept the fact that their child behaves in an antisocial way. Part of this, in my humble opinion, is because they are so used to saving face by avoiding uncomfortable truths, that it has become psychologically impossible for them to believe anything bad about their children. Another part is that they just can't bear the thought of their children ever having to experience anything uncomfortable--such as accepting responsibility for their actions, or having to actually work hard in order to be successful.

For the most part this seems to change when kids move on to junior high. At least at that time they actually have to work hard to pass exams so that they can get into good high schools. They are also subject to corporal punishment in junior high. Still, the behavior patterns they developed in elementary school tend to carry through, and you still end up with a lot of ill-mannered youngsters.

I don't mean to sound too harsh, and I'll admit that most of the Taiwanese people I have close relationships with (other than students) are kind and generous, as well as polite. However, on a daily basis I see people carrying on in ways that show a complete disregard for the comfort and safety of those around them. It seems especially true among school kids, whether they be kindergarten, high school, or anywhere in between.

Sometimes I wonder what will happen when these kids are the ones making the decisions for their country, but then, old people like me have been despairing of the younger generations for as long as people have existed. With the state of the world being what it is today, however, one might be tempted to think that we were right all along.

REPORTE DE NOTICIAS DE MÉXICO

REPORTE DE NOTICIAS DE MÉXICO
4-8-96

1. En Liberia rebeldes toman alrededor de 600 personas como rehenes y piensan utilizarlas como escudos humanos en sus combates.

2. Miembros del grupo Hezbola ataque con cohetes en el norte de Israel provocando heridas en a por lo menos diez personas. Israel respondió por bombardeo sus posiciones.

3. Taiwan empieza una serie de maniobras para mejorar su capacidad a defender contra ataques aéreos.

4. Un grupo de protestantes provocó alteraciones en Belfast, obligando la intervención de la policía.

5. Especialistas de todo el mundo analizan en Viena, Austria los efectos del accidente nuclear de Chernobil ocurrido hace casi diez años.

6. Fuerzas militares afirmen que 99 rebeldes kurdos murieron en una operación del ejercito turco el fin de semana.

7. El tribunal de los crímenes de la guerra en Bosnia Herzegovina recolecta evidencia de atrocidades.

8. En Argentina presos motines han tomado control de un cárcel y demandan una reforma del sistema penitenciario.

9. En España forman grupos pasivos contra el grupo terrorista ETA.

10. La asociación de bancos de Ecuador admite que en el país existe lavado de dinero producto de narcotrafico, pero niega que el negocio ilícito es un hecho general.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Face and the Problems it Poses

In my last post I went on a rant about discipline in schools. I mentioned that often the problem, rather than being alleviated by participation on the part of the parents, is actually exacerbated by their involvement. I think there are a couple of different reasons why this is.

I’m going to get to those reasons, but by taking a somewhat circuitous path.

The first stop along my path has to do with the Chinese concept of face. "Face" in the Chinese meaning is kind of hard to define. There are two types, mianzi (面子), and lian (脸). Basically, they have to do with how an individual appears to society. Lian has to do with how society perceives the individual's moral character, and mianzi has to do with how society perceives the individual's prestige or rank in society (this is according to Wikipedia, and it pretty much jibes with my own understanding of the concept). Since it is more important to maintain face--both one's own and that of others--than it is to actually have a good moral character or deserve one's rank (i.e., to be competent enough to hold it), it is quite common for people to lie rather than to take any action that might cause a loss of face. These kinds of lies are considered to be socially acceptable, polite, and almost required of anyone who is possessed of any social grace.

I've heard people translate these kinds of lies into English as "little white lies." As long as the lies are insignificant and are only told to be polite and won't end up causing some other kind of trouble--for example, saying to a hideous old woman, "You look nice today!" instead of saying, "Oh my god! You are grotesque!"--, there should be no problem. Unfortunately, there is no distinct line as to when a "little white lie" turns into a straight forward deception with the possibility of harmful ramifications.

I witnessed an example of when such lies actually did have what I considered somewhat serious negative consequences. I use to work at a buxiban (cram school) called Joy. It is a chain of schools all over Taiwan, and I'm sure some of them are quite good; however, the one I worked at was a horrible school, both in terms of being a place to work and in terms of the quality of education they provided. The work environment problems stemmed from the heavy class load, the large classes, the small and dirty rooms, and the utter lack of discipline. The quality of education problem stemmed from what the head teacher once told me was, "a little white lie."

This little white lie was their grading system. Basically, no student was ever allowed to fail, no matter how little English he or she learned. At the end of each term, every student was allowed to advance to the next level. I found out about this because the first time I tested a class of students, I failed all of them. The test should have been very easy. I showed each student ten flash cards and said, "What is it?" All the cards were pictures of simple vocabulary items from their text book--items that we'd been practicing in class for several weeks. Most of the students could identify only a couple cards, some none. According to the school's own grading system, I had to fail them. When the head teacher saw my grades, she was aghast.

"You can't give them these grades. The parents will be very angry," she told me.

"But none of them could answer the questions," I replied.

"It's okay. We give them a good grade anyway. Otherwise they will feel bad," she said.

"But they won't learn anything that way. How can they improve if we don't give them honest feedback about their progress?" I wanted to know.

"It's just a little white lie," was her answer.

Now, this might seem insignificant at first, but you have consider that, as the kids progress up through the levels without actually learning anything, the material gets increasingly difficult. Soon it becomes impossible for them to catch up. Since they can never correctly answer questions in class, and they fail all of their tests and have to copy their homework from some other student, they appear to be stupid. Their classmates consider them to be stupid, and their teachers often do, too. Soon they adopt the role of being the stupid kid in class, the one who can't learn English (this probably happens with other subjects, as well). The kid "knows" he is stupid, so he starts to act the fool in class, and, what is worse, stops trying. From his perspective there is no point in trying. It has already been proven that he is too stupid to learn English, so he might as well act out and disrupt the learning process for the whole class.

So, where do the parents fit into all of this? Don’t they notice that their child can’t speak any English, even though he is moving to the next level at the end of each term? Don’t they feel like they are being ripped off by a school that promises to teach their child English but doesn’t deliver? Oddly enough, and despite the expense of sending one’s child to a cram school, the parents are complicit in the deception.

As a disclaimer, I have to admit that is only partially true. It is also the fact that many of the parents can’t tell English from Swahili, so the only evidence they have to go on is the contact book that goes home with the student each week. As long as the contact book says things are fine, the parent accepts it and keeps forking over the dough.

Another disclaimer, and a kind of corollary to the last one, is that many parents don’t know anything about English except that it has been drilled into the Taiwanese psyche that unless one knows English, one will be a failure in life. It’s not so much that they are worried about their kids for the kids’ sake, but because the kids have to support the parents when the parents retire (as well as after they die—which is another topic for another day), the parents are frantic to do something, anything to get their kids some English learning.

One last disclaimer: some parents don’t care about English or anything else. They both work and they can’t leave the kids alone at home, so they put them in the nearest, cheapest cram school they can find.

All the disclaimers aside, it is often the case that many Taiwanese parents are very protective of their children, just as is the case anywhere else, I suppose. This protective attitude extends beyond physical safety (in fact, an interesting side note is that, while some parents will fly into an apoplectic fit if they hear that another student pushed their child, they think nothing of tossing the kid onto the back of a motor scooter without a helmet and then driving like a maniac through heavy traffic). The parents also are very protective of both the face of the child, and the family’s face.

I first ran into this “face” issue when, in one of my first weeks working in a public elementary school, I was asking each of the students in a second grade class to tell me their names. One kids refused, I thought, to answer. I asked and asked, to no avail. I started getting mad, thinking he was just being coy. Then I noticed the homeroom teacher signaling me. I went over to her and she said, “He is slow.”

It was then that I started to notice that in almost all of my classes there was at least one kid who was clearly learning disabled (or whatever they call it these days). In a few cases I’d have to say that the kids were downright retarded. Instead of being put in a special education class, however, parents apparently insist that their kids be enrolled in regular classes, whether it is good for them or not. It is a blemish on the family’s face to admit that one of its children has a learning problem.

The same kind of thing holds true in cram schools, though on the average the kids are slightly brighter than the average public school kids (the cram school kids are the ones that go to public school, and then after regular school they go to cram school. It stands to reason that, no matter how bad they are at either kind of school, the additional hours of exposure to the academic subjects would have the effect of raising their level over the kids who don’t go to cram school). If a kid brings home a bad mark, the parents blame the school and the teacher. Since many cram schools have been lying to the parents about their child’s progress for a long time, when someone like me comes around and starts telling the truth, the parents get riled up and the school administration starts freaking out. The end result is usually that the teacher is blamed and as a punishment is forced to make a humiliating apology and acceptance of responsibility. There seems to be no face for teachers.

The same kind of thing goes for bad behavior. I had one student, an evil little girl, who actively sought out ways to defy me and to antagonize the other students. She even spit on another student once. Once we were making grilled cheese sandwiches as part of a class cooking project, and I suddenly realized that all the cheese was gone. I figured the students had just eaten all of it. During clean up, however, I found that this little girl had swiped all of the cheese and hid it in her desk! I complained almost every day to the school administration about this girl, but her mom was adamant that it was either the other children’s fault, or that I just didn’t like her daughter and was trying to get her into trouble. It turns out that this little girl had the same kind of problems in other cram schools, as well as in her public school, but the mother refused to accept that it was anything but a grand conspiracy to take away her daughter’s, and, by extension, her family’s face.

The problem with the whole "face" system is that it is really difficult to know what is going on and where one stands in any given social situation (by social I mean anything involving other people, so it could be at work, school, or at the shopping mall). For example, it is hard for foreign teachers like me to know whether we are doing a good job or not because when we ask a direct question of the Taiwanese teachers about our performance , they invariably say we are doing a great job. Or if there is some obvious problem, it is difficult to resolve it because accepting responsibility for a problem involves a loss of face.

Rather than identifying problems and who is causing them, people tend to look the other way or blame the whole situation on bad luck of some kind. This might make things comfortable for all involved (especially the person responsible for the problem), but it does nothing to rectify the situation.

In my humble opinion, the element of face preservation at the expense of dealing with real problems is at the very least counterproductive, if not actually destructive. On the other hand, the Taiwanese people must have a completely different take on the situation, because they consider Western directness as being more or less plum loco. Apparently the fact that we say what we mean and we mean what we say is close to impossible for them to understand.

Well, it is their country, and I’m just a guest, so I guess I’ll let them do it their way. In the meantime, I hope they don’t get too offended if I occasionally forget about saving face and mention some uncomfortable truth.

That’s all I’m going to say today about it today. Once again I started out with the intention of discussing the problems with discipline in schools, and, in this instance, the role parents have to play in it, and then went off on a tangent. Maybe it is just difficult to talk about one aspect of a culture without bringing in other elements. It all seems related. Well, tomorrow I’m going to go on with another thing that I think has to do with why parents are such a pain in the ass to teachers in Taiwan. Who knows? If I keep going off on tangents, maybe I’ll never have to write about anything else.

Monday, February 05, 2007

My Last Week as a Kindergarten Teacher

Today, Monday, is the first day of my last week teaching at Antigua Art American Kindergarten. The school itself has nothing to do with the Spanish language, and it is only four or five years old, so I don't know why the name includes the word "antigua." Neither do they specialize in art. I am the only Ameircan teacher they've ever had--in fact, they've only had two other foreign teachers, an English woman who worked there for less than a year before she killed herself, and a Namibian woman who is, thankfully, still alive. The curriculum, as far as I can tell (only being there an hour and a half each day) is not American, nor even particularly Western. There is one new student who was born in the US and speaks English. Your guess is as good as mine as to where they came up with that name for their school.

I've been teaching there for a year and a half, and it has been a good experience for the most part. All the same, I'll be glad to have my mornings free--well, free is not quite the case, as I will have morning classes at NCTU starting in a couple of weeks. That is the main reason why I'm leaving the kindergarten, but to be honest, I've been feeling really burned out on working with children for about the last four years of my four-and-a-half-year teaching career.

Teaching kindergarten can be really fun, and it can be rewarding as well. You get to see kids develop from crying, slobbering, monstrous little babies (I've had students as young as 18 months--don't ask me what kind of sadistic parents put their kid in an all day kindergarten at that age), to less-crying, slobbering-not-so-much, monstrous little... monsters!

Here's the problem, and it is the same problem I've encountered in every teaching job I've had (other than the adult classes): some of the kids are wonderful, motivated, respectful, polite, funny, and smart; others are little bastards who make it their mission in life to disrupt everything the teacher tries to do. I know, I know: mom and dad don't give them enough attention at home, or grandma and grandpa spoil them, or they come from a broken home, or blah blah blah. That stuff is sad, and someone--probably these kids' real teachers or school administrators--ought to address the problem. For my part, all I expect is my thirty or forty minutes without major disturbances, which is a luxury I rarely enjoy.

Even with four-year-olds, who you wouldn't think have had the time to develop the deviousness it takes to actually be "bad," sometimes scare me with the obvious choices they make to behave in a counterproductive way. With them, the mental machinations are a little bit more apparent; you can actually see them looking for an opportunity to be naughty and then leap at it when it arises. Sometimes it is almost cute.

I emphasize "almost," because it really isn't cute. In Taiwanese society, however, they have the concept of the 小鬼, or "little ghost," in which small children are expected to be naughty and are allowed to behave in what Westerners might consider to be an antisocial manner. The idea is similar to the "boys will be boys" attitude. It is thought to be cute, but unfortunately it isn't, especially since it seems to be extended throughout childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood for some people (mostly male, though growing gender equality is spreading the joy to older females as well).

A funny thing is that I consider myself to be a relatively fun teacher. I play the guitar and sing goofy songs, make jokes and funny faces, play games, juggle, and generally clown around. I'll do anything for a laugh, much like I do in all of my social interactions. Despite this, I've often been branded as "too strict" by the Taiwanese teachers. This is often because, though I like to have a fun class, it has to be a somewhat orderly kind of fun in which the message of the lesson is not completely obscured. For example, I once dragged a kid out of class because he was chasing another kid around the room with a pair of scissors in his hand and murder in his eye. Later I found out that my preventing homicide led the homeroom teacher to complain about me as being too strict.

Basically, I want the kids to participate in the "fun" and not disrupt it. A lot of kids, however, have become expert at sizing up any activity, finding a weakness in it, and exploiting that weakness in order to bring the activity to a screeching halt. Imagine going to play golf, and one of your group screams every time another player tees off, or smacks the ball into the woods on purpose every time it is his turn. In order to be successful, any game or group activity depends on the implicit agreement of the participants to behave within certain parameters. Kids know this, and those who seek to get "special attention," either from classmates or from the teacher, realize that the easiest and fastest way to get that attention is to sabotage the proceedings.

There are ways that good teachers can deal with troublemakers, and even turn the tables on them, or, better yet, channel their disruptive energy in productive ways. I've never claimed to be a good teacher (well, I've never claimed it while sober), but I have learned some of those methods in order to survive. My problem--and I realize that it is my problem--is that I don't feel like I should have to take such measures. Kids should learn to behave from their parents, and if they misbehave in school their parents should be told and the parents should discipline them. If the behavior continues, they should be kicked out of school or put into special classes designed to deal with kids who have problems.

Unfortunately, parents are more often the cause of the problem, rather than a solution. Kids are simultaneously spoiled--given everything they want and allowed any behavior they choose to participate in--and neglected--popped in front of the TV or video game while mom and dad go off to work and/or socialize. In Taiwan, it is often the grandparents who raise the children, and these grandparents often have neither the energy nor the inclination to act as disciplinarians. So the rotten behavior becomes the problem of the teachers, whose hands are effectively tied in terms of how much discipline they can mete out.

Wow. I started out to write a quick note about how I'm feeling a little pre-nostalgic for my kindergarten job, and I got off on another rant. Now, about fourteen hours after I started, I find that it is time to go to bed. I still have some stuff to add about student discipline and my view of the problems with it, so I'll try to keep up the thread in my next post.

Una carta

4412 Francis Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98103-7120

1 diciembre, 1996

Facultad de Filosofía y Letras
Avda. Gómez Ulla s/n
11003 Cádiz
Spain

Estimados Sres:

Soy estudiante en la Universidad de Washington y tengo interés en seguir un grado avanzado de su distinguida institución. Mi curso de especialización es la literatura comparativa, y también estoy siguiendo un grado menor en Español. No me falta mucho antes de graduarme, y tengo ganas de cumplir mis estudios en un país hispanohablante. El programa que su universidad ofrece me interesa mucho. Como lo saben Ustedes, su país es muy bello y tiene una cultura muy rica. En particular, la ciudad de Cádiz es muy bonita y su historia es muy interesante. Por estas razones escribo esta carta a Ustedes pidiendo el honor de asistir clases en su universidad.

Es posible que a Ustedes les parezca un poco raro que un estudiante de la literatura quiere asistir una universidad de otro país. Permítame explicarles que yo siempre he tenido un interés intenso en la lengua española, en la historia de España y en sus efectos en el mundo nuevo, y en las obras escritas por autores de su país y de Latinoamérica. Es mi esperanza que por tomar parte en su programa, pueda lograr una comprensión más completa de su idioma y cultura, y por extensión de mi propio idioma y cultura.

Al fin de este trimestre habré cumplido la nivel 302 en el curso de estudias de la lengua española, y también un curso introductorio en la literatura de Latinoamérica. Estoy en la programa de honores en el departamento de la literatura comparativa, y mis notas han estado muy buenas. Creo que estoy listo para el próximo paso en mi carrera académica, el estudiar en el extranjero. Tengo mucho interés en las clases que ofrecen Ustedes en el programa NW Cádiz. Es obvio que las clases de la literatura y lengua española pertenecen a mis estudias en los Estados Unidos, pero las clases en la historia y cultura de España me interesan mucho también.

Finalmente, creo que mis habilidades como estudiante me ayudará hacer una contribución positiva a la comunidad de su institución. Es mi esperanza que pueda ser no solo un buen estudiante, pero un buen embajador también.

Muchas gracias por darme el beneficio de su atención.

Muy atentamente,

Michael J. McCool, Jr.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mayonnaise, or the Lack Thereof

Mayonnaise is damned hard to find in Hsinchu. I mean real mayonnaise, not that low fat or fat free crap. Neither do I mean that Japanese or Taiwanese crap. All the Asian mayonnaise that I've tried is really sweet--it is more like frosting than mayonnaise. In fact, it is sometimes used that way.

There is one dish (which I actually like) made of blanched asparagus slathered in sweet mayonnaise and topped with candy sprinkles.

Yum!

There are only two or three stores that even carry Western-style mayonnaise (by which I mean Kraft or Best Foods). Usually they are sold out of the regular and only have the low fat. One store only had Miracle whip. What a load of shite! I mean, let's be honest; mayonnaise is fat! It is supposed to be fat. If you don't want fat, don't eat mayonnaise!

Another funny thing about mayonnaise is that in Mandarin, the word for "not have" or "there isn't" sounds the same as "mayo." The word for breasts is "nay nay." So one day I was in Carrefour with my girlfriend and she noticed I was looking for something. "What do you want?" she asked. "Mayonnaise," I responded, overpronouncing each syllable--a habit I've gotten into when speaking to non-native English speakers. She was confused. "You don't want boobs?" she asked (probably feeling a bit rejected). Now it was my turn to be confused. "Huh?" She explained and we had a bit of a chuckle.

Anyway, I'm getting really impatient with the lack of mayo around here. I don't even eat it very often, but when I want to make a sandwich or something, I have to have mayonnaise. I know I could make my own, but that isn't the point. I don't want to make my own! I want to open the fridge, grab that fat jar of white stuff, scoop out what I need, and gobble down my sandwich. Why is it so difficult?

This is the stuff I want!


I even went to the new Jason's at the FE21 department store today. Jason's is all the rage. There is one in Taipei 101, and all the foreigners who can't deal with Taiwanese food just rave about how great it is. Frankly, I think it is insanely overpriced. Seven US dollars for a bag of Ruffles? I'll pass. Anyway, I went there today to see if they had any decent mayo, and all they had was fat free Kraft and one product made of soybeans that was almost $300NT. There is hope, however. There were two little "temporarily out of stock" signs where they normally have both Kraft and Best Foods real mayonnaise.

I'll tell you this much, when I do find the real thing, I'm buying out the whole stock.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Couple of Things That Are Interesting Only to Me

Here are a couple things that are interesting only to me:

First, I was messing around with the site meter that I set up on this here blog of mine, and I came across one part that shows a pie graph that breaks down the hits to my blog by language.Pretty cool, huh?

I also have a cluster map that shows where in the world people are who have visited my blog.
Something strange that I've noticed is that the cluster map hit count is different from the site meter hit count. Since I haven't really bothered to look into how each of them counts my hits, I can't really make any informed statement as to why this might be.

Alarm Bottom


Remember this post about the fire extinguisher?

Well, I just noticed that the same exact wording is on the fire extinguisher in my kindergarten. The only reason that I didn't notice it earlier is that they had put a bunch of shelves up in front of the extinguisher so that you'd never even know it was there. Apparently the fire department did an inspection (read: bribery opportunity) and they had to move the shelves.

It just goes to show you that some violations are so egregious that even bribes won't make them go away (or, it could be that the bribes offered just weren't big enough).

Sincerely,

Mike "I-feel-so-very-safe-in-a-country-where-bribery-to-circumvent-safety
-regulations-is-the-norm" McCool

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Company Dinner, Taiwan Style

Tonight I went to my kindergarten's yearly dinner. I drank a lot of wine and beer, so I'm a little drunk right now. It wasn't my idea to drink so much, but the boss kept toasting me, and then he challenged the Taiwanese teachers by telling them that if they drank beer with me (in carefully orchestrated toasts), they would get a "hong bao," which is to say that they would get a red envelope full of money (the traditional Chinese gift). So I drank and drank. God, it was fantastic.



Oh! That's not my point. I just wanted to describe the typical company dinner in Taiwan as I have experienced it. Here goes:

Basically, the typical company dinner takes place at a restaurant. Weird, huh? Chinese restaurants are different from Western restaurants in that they are generally set up for banquet-type dining. The tables are big and round, and they all have a lazy Susan in the middle. Dishes are brought out one at a time, and each person takes what he or she wants and then rotates the dish to the next person. There is actually a particular procession of dishes, but I don't know what it is. I just know the last dish is a whole fish, and then some sweet soup and fruit come out.

An interesting thing at these dinners is that people sometimes drink alcohol (called "wine" by the Chinese, no matter if it is beer, red wine, or any other kind of liquor or alcoholic beverage). Not everyone drinks, but those who do seem to be engaged in some kind of contest to see who can drink the most. Naturally when I am present I beat the shit out of all of them, but I pretend that each drink is potentially fatal just to keep up appearances.

Anyway, it isn't much different from company functions in the West, except we Westerners don't usually need much prodding from the boss to get liquored up. Hell, that's one of the benefits of having a job!

One other thing that is typical at Taiwanese company dinners is karaoke. Luckily the boss and his wife don't like singing, so we were spared the agony this evening. The teachers, however, want to have a karaoke session next week with me. They don't drink, and they will mostly sing Chinese songs (imagine a bag of cats being bashed against a wall). I am going to get loaded for this one.

I'll keep you posted.

Plants

When my friends left Taiwan, they gave me a bunch of houseplants. Some of them were kind of sick at the time (the plants, not the friends), so they died. Others I was able to nurse back to health. Yet others became sick and died in my care. I've pinched, pruned, and hacked others down to the roots. I've cloned a few. All in all, I have more plants than I have room for.

Here are some photos of a couple success stories.

First, the Christmas cactus. When I got it it looked like a pile of black octopuses. Its branches (fronds? leaves?) still look kind of sickly, but it has about doubled in size and it is blooming like crazy.


Then there are the two little trees. Granted they don't look like much, but they were little more than a few spindly sticks when I got them. I pruned them back pretty drastically, and in a few months they have branched out and are almost bushy now. One particular challenge with them is that they are in pots from which it will be difficult to transplant them, hence they are both extremely rootbound. This is especially true of the one in the little ceramic pot. I'll have to break the pot to get the plant out, and I don't really want to do that. I guess it will have to live as a bonsai.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I Like Ice Cream



I like ice cream, but it gives me the wind something fierce.

ANÁLISIS DE UN ANUNCIO

ANÁLISIS DE UN ANUNCIO

Este anuncio consiste de una foto de cuatro botellas de ron y un mapa del mundo. El mapa implica un interés muy general en todos partes del mundo. Los colores sugieren fuego o algo caliente y es probable que los creadores creen que es sugestivo de la sexualidad, pero es muy sutil. El anuncio no está dirigido a un grupo especifico con respecto de nacionalidad ni raza. Los creadores del anuncio suponen que el lector tenga interés en bebidas, por supuesto, y también en un cierto sentido cosmopolito.

El aspecto más interesante del anuncio es su falta de palabras. No hay ningunas palabras mas que Bacardi y la figura del murciélago son marcas registradas de Bacardi & Company Limited y un aviso sobre la salud. Usualmente los anuncios utilizan ciertas palabras para dar el reconocimiento de su producto a los consumidores. Sin un lema como esto, el anuncio depende en una asociación completamente visual. En esta manera los autores no excluyen a nadie, ni siquiera los analfabetos. La inclusión de cuatro variedades de el producto funciona como si decir que Bacardi tiene algo para satisfacer todo tipos de ellos quien toman el ron. La falta de un lema también sirve como si decir que el producto es de tan buena cualidad que no es necesario a decir nada.

Los autores de este anuncio quieren atraer un grupo de consumidores más o menos selecto. Es obvio que ellos quieren dirigir el anuncio a gente quien le gusta beber licor, y ron en particular. Este grupo no incluye ni niños ni los mormones ni los musulmanes ni muchos otros. En ciertos partes las mujeres no pueden tomar alcohol, tampoco. En un sentido amplio, el grupo no es muy grande. Sin embargo, para ellos quien toman bebidas de este tipo, la dirección del anuncio es más general.

En definitiva el anuncio es muy eficaz. Sin usando ningunas palabras para convencer consumidores a comprar su producto, los creadores del anuncio se pueden extender su atracción a una población diversa. Logran este completamente por medio de efectos visuales. De hecho, puesto que el uso de palabras podría funcionar para excluir cierto grupos, la falta de un lema realmente causa el anuncio a ser más eficaz.