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Month: August 2015

FLTA 筆記

假期裡的某一天,旅行在伸手不見五指的漆黑洞穴裡,地下水流緩緩自腳下滑過,洞穴外是接近三十度的高溫,洞穴裡長年流淌的冰涼地下水,卻讓已經穿著防寒衣的我們禁不住打了一個冷顫。看不見天光,抬頭,頭頂的探照燈冷不防與洞裡的蝙輻四目相對,反射出詭異的幽幽紅光 ,無聲地抱怨這群不速之客的無故打擾。聽不見街道上奔馳的汽車呼嘯、也不聞市井小販的沿街吆喝,「嗒…」一滴水自冰涼的洞壁落下,就打破了一室的悄然寂靜。

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Feeble Men and Double Bodies: Du Shiniang at the Metropolitan Hall Theater

What is it about the feebleness of men in traditional Chinese theater? The emperor stands by, saying nothing and looking apologetic, while his councilors suggest that it would probably be for the best if his beloved concubine were to kill herself. The scholar Xu Xian stumbles over himself, trying to escape from his loving wife, White Snake, whom he has betrayed to a monk. Once she arrives, mournful and angry, he bad-mouths the monk and re-pledges his love. Not to mention all the scholars who run off to attend the imperial exams and forget about their wives, or the long-suffering courtesans who supported them. The women are left sitting at home taking care of the scholar’s parents, starving, choking on rice husks. And after his parents have died, they beg their way to the capital to find him, at which point they are imprisoned in mills or banished into remote servitude by the relatives of the scholar’s new wife. Or maybe a letter is forged, telling them they are abandoned, and they throw themselves in the river. Thank God for a woman with a backbone: in Du Shiniang at Taipei’s Metropolitan Hall theater, we had in a single forty-minute scene

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Top Five Highlights of a Year in Taiwan

Top ten lists are everywhere these days. As readership moves online, and as viewership becomes more dependent on a catchy title to encourage a curious click, writers have become adept at condensing regular material into this appealing format. One of my favorites this year was a Foreign Policy piece by Stephen Walt entitled “How to Get a B.A. in International Relations in 5 minutes.” In a few paragraphs that take no more than five minutes to read, Walt lays out key concepts that a student of IR would actually remember five years after graduation, like anarchy, balance of power, and comparative advantage. As I took the bait and opened the article, I thought to myself, “Ah, here we go…good thing I decided not to do that double major after all, because this is everything I need right here.” While not quite suitable for an academic paper, this uber-condensed format is just fine for the casual reader. So in an effort to make this article more appealing to whomever is browsing through the Fulbright website, I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon and turn my jumble of thoughts into a consolidated list. Here you go, the top five things Kirsten will

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Contemporary Aboriginal. The Mixing.

For my Fulbright grant I chose a topic of immense richness: the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan. What I found exceeded my every expectation.  I have experienced countless encounters and exchanges, celebrated the sacred rites and important dates of the harvest and hunting calendars of the Pangcah (also known as Amis), the Paiwan, the Atayal and Saisiyat peoples.  My Fulbright grant became a mixture of scholarship and art. To begin at the beginning: I became aware of the cultural and artistic vitality of Taiwan during a short visit in 2005; and at that time I also began to learn about the Taiwanese aboriginals. I started to look into their origins. The scholarship is extensive and the science is far from settled, but everyone agrees that 9 out of the 10 branches of the Austronesian languages are spoken on Taiwan, and that the ‘Yuánzhùmín’, 原住民, the original people, have been living on Taiwan for at least 8 thousand years. Genetic and linguistic linkages establish a connection between the ‘Yuánzhùmín’ of Taiwan to other groups from Madagascar to New Zealand, Easter Island, the Philippines and greater Polynesia.  Competing models of a “Slow boat” or an “express train” to Polynesia are used by anthropologists

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Reflections on Research and Teaching English at National Taiwan Normal University

It has been nearly 11 months since I started teaching an advanced English writing course at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) in Taipei as a part of my duties as a  Fulbright senior scholar in Taiwan.  After a brief introduction to some of my NTNU English department colleagues at a lovely luncheon shortly after my arrival in August 2014, I began preparing for the advanced writing class that I had been assigned.  I ordered textbooks, developed a syllabus, and wrote a lesson plan for my first class. I was really excited about meeting my Taiwanese students for the first time. My first advanced writing class was quite the opposite of what I had expected. Having taught ESL and English composition for many years in the United States and other countries, I anticipated that my students would be adequately prepared to write academic English and quite motivated to learn.  When I stood before my Taiwanese students in that first class, I encountered eighteen tense, anxious faces and dead silence. After I passed out my syllabus and talked to them about the class, the expectations, and the assignments, I asked the students how they felt about having an American professor. I was

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Last Fragment from a Taiwan Notebook: Traffic, Turn Signals, Fate

A day or two after our arrival in Taiwan, my family and I stood at the edge of the narrow road just outside the college campus where we now lived, wondering how to cross the street. There was no traffic light, no crosswalk, no sidewalk, and no break in the traffic, which was made up almost entirely of motor scooters. Coming from America, land of the Humvee and the monster truck, a motor scooter sounds like a child’s toy, but a torrent of them is actually pretty scary. We watched for a while, looking for a gap in the flow, lurching forward and then retreating. Finally, we lost heart and went home. In the weeks that followed, we learned how to cross that street, zigging and zagging between scooters with the casual air of a Taiwanese college student out for bubble tea. We never really stopped to consider how out of character that was for us, anxious American suburbanites normally obsessed with rules and safety—tending to equate the two, really. It was like we’d left our order-loving, non-jaywalking selves behind in America, along with our two overweight cats and Big Gulp cups. Meanwhile in our travels through the city we

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Reflection on Teaching Advanced English Writing at a Taiwanese University

I have been teaching ESL for many years, both in the United States and in several foreign countries. My students hail from a variety of ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Over the years, I have taught a wide spectrum of English classes, including speaking, listening, study skills, reading, literature, and composition. When I was informed that I would be teaching an advanced English writing class at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) in Taipei as part of my Fulbright award, I was very excited. I looked forward to meeting my Taiwanese students and helping them develop their English writing skills. I had been informed that my class would consist of English majors, so I was even more interested in teaching the class. However, as I have taught many Asian students over the years, I expected that the students in my class would be a bit shy and reluctant to participate actively in class. Because I have had a great deal of experience teaching many Chinese, Japanese, and Korean students, I naively believed that I understood East Asian culture. My first class at NTNU, however, did not go as I had anticipated. I walked into a classroom filled with nineteen Taiwanese college

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